Ixalan is upon us, in all its colorful, dino-riding, neck-biting, treasure-hunting glory. It’s a bright colorful set dominated by four distinctive tribes all chasing after an elusive lost city of gold. And given their toned-down presence it’s possible that maybe, just maybe this world will be left in one piece when we move on in the spring since the greatest villains in the multiverse, the Gatewatch, won’t be stomping around the plane like children on a model train set.
I’m here to talk about the color blue, as in Blue Monday, Blue Velvet, and no, I think you won’t cast that, because no! In Ixalan blue is heavier on pirates and merfolk than denial but as always there’s a little of that, too. Let’s get to it!
Arcane Adaption: Sure, we already had Conspiracy, Unnatural Selection and Xenograft, but for decks that want that kind of effect redundancy is nice, and the fact that it works for creature spells and creature cards that aren’t on the battlefield is a useful bonus. I expect to see this show up in a lot of Reaper King, General Tazri and Silumgar, the Drifting Death builds in the near future.
Chart a Course: This is a sneakily useful little card. Draw two for two with an option to not discard is Night’s Whisper territory, a card that already finds a home in 5,000+ decks. The competition here in blue is Lat-Nam’s Legacy, Perilous Research, See Beyond, Vision Skeins and Words of Wisdom, but only Vision Skeins is in 1,000+ decks. It’s not splashy, but it fills a hole in a lot of curves, and I expect to see it in quite a few decks in the coming years.
Deadeye Quartermaster: The Quartermaster competes with Trinket Mage/Treasure Mage/Trophy Mage as a tutor but there are builds that want all the tutors, and this will find that Sword of the Meek as well as anything. It’s also blinkable with Roon of the Hidden Realm or Brago, King Eternal if that’s your jam. And it’s a pirate to boot!
Deeproot Waters: A 3 mana enchantment that makes a 1/1 merfolk token with hexproof whenever you cast a merfolk is pretty great in merfolk decks. I’m not sure it has a home outside that other than maybe some odd Mistform Ultimus build, but it’s going to find a place in almost every merfolk tribal list I would imagine.
Entrancing Melody: This card is going to be fairly expensive to cast to steal anything worthwhile, and that’s not so great in a color that already has access to Control Magic, Gilded Drake, Mind Control, and Treachery. Still, Dominate sees play in just under a thousand decks and since this is strictly better I can assume it will find a home as well.
Fleet Swallower: Traumatize on attack seems useful, though the inability to target yourself for a big Living Death play hurts. I would guess Phenax, God of Deception pilots might want this in their arsenal as would any commander built around milling.
Herald of Secret Streams: This card is a cheaper alternative to Sapphire Drake to those looking to grant evasion in a +1/+1 counters deck, and the evasion it grants is better than flying. I’m sure some Marchesa, the Black Rose builds will be interested as well.
Jace, Cunning Castaway: It takes a special kind of man to pull off a bustier on a pirate ship, and Jace Beleren seems to think he is that man. Rocking a saucy little over the shoulder number can’t be harder that wrecking multiple planes, right? I can’t tell if that is magic coming off his hands or if he’s twirling a blue feathered boa as he dances to earn his dinner. Pirates don’t let nobody ride for free.
The rule of thumb going in is that a three-mana planeswalker is always worth consideration. So let’s consider: Three starting loyalty isn’t ideal, and neither is a single loot conditional on combat damage. He can protect himself with his -2 however, and his ult is powerful and unique. He also can auto-ult with a Doubling Season in play which is relevant to a lot of superfriends decks, and in this case the tokens he makes can then also auto-ult, cascading into an infinite amount of badly dressed Jaces. There’s probably someone out there with a deck built around Lord of the Unreal who is super hype for more illusions, too. All in all I’m predicting he won’t be that great, but planewalkers can be hard to evaluate. Regardless, he needs to get ahold of Tibalt’s tailor, STAT.
Kopala, Warden of Waves: There aren’t really any other mono-blue merfolk that care about other merfolk enough to justify leading a tribal deck, so if you want to run mono-blue fishpeople then Kopala is your sturgeon. At the very least the card has a home in most other merfolk decks he isn’t leading. This feels like a merfolk staple from there on out.
Overflowing Insight: Blue Sun’s Zenith would cost you 10 to draw seven, same for Stroke of Genius. Those are both instants though, and in a color that wants to hold mana up to see if anything worth countering gets played that is huge. Opportunity costs one less and only draws four. Recurring Insight is probably the best comparison; it will usually draw you more cards just spread out over two turns. It lets you get to that Approach of the Second Sun buried seven deep though, so that’s something.
River Sneak: There’s probably some merfolk decks that want an unblockable body, and less-tuned Edric, Spymaster of Trest lists would maybe run this, along with any other commander interested in sideways guys swinging in untouched. Too bad it’s not a rogue to trigger prowl on things like Notorious Throng.
Search for Azcanta: For two mana this legendary enchantment lets you dig for things you need early, then it flips into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin to ramp you and/or provide a mana sink that gives card advantage. It’s not amazing, but it’s quite useful at that cost. If this doesn’t have a home in 1,000+ decks at this time next year I’ll eat my shoe. Or a cake shaped like a shoe. With maybe delicious licorice laces and those hard candy bb deals for eyelets. Mmmmmm, cake.
Shore Keeper: The first trilobite in Magic! That’s all I’ve got. I’m sure it’ll be useful as a chump blocker and hand-refiller in limited but I doubt this sees much EDH play outside people getting prepared for their eventual trilobite tribal build.
Siren Stormtamer: An upgrade on Cloud Pirates and Flying Men for Edric, Spymaster of Trest decks, and Marchesa, the Black Rose builds might want a Dollar Store version of Glen Elendra Archmage to run alongside the original for recursion abuse. It’s also an activated ability for Mairsil, the Pretender to cage, and a wizard for Azami, Lady of Scrolls decks to tap for a draw. And it’s a playable pirate, too.
Prior to Ixalan there were only 20 pirates in Magic. Of those, four are vanilla (or the equivalent thereof) and six are french vanilla, so assembling a pirate-themed deck has been a ugly proposition, power-wise. Because of this the otherwise unremarkable collection of creatures below are worth briefly mentioning because somebody has to crew those Admiral Beckett Brass and Ramirez DePietro decks.
And that’s it for the blue Ixalan drops. I personally am looking for find a home for Chart a Course in Talrand where I’ll also probably look up upgrade Favorable Winds to the excellent new art in foil, Siren Stormtamer in Edric, and possibly Search for Azcanta in both Talrand and Isperia sphinx tribal.
How about you? Any blue stuff making the cut in your decks? Let me know in the comments below!