Tokens and Treasures and Treasure Tokens
The exploration of Ixalan and its themes continues …
In my previous article, I voiced doubts whether there'd be an explore deck in Standard and whether damaging one's own Dinosaur could ever be the main reason to include either the damage or the Dino. Since then we got Wildgrowth Walker and Bellowing Aegisaur, and yes, the interaction between the latter and Walking Ballista is kinda cute. I still stand by my original assessment though.
Much more interesting is a group of reprints or semi-reprints many of which clearly come courtesy of Wizards of the Coast R&D's Play Design. Newly created to address some of the problems Standard faced over the past year, this team is tasked with making sure that the format remains balanced and doesn't stagnate. The way to achieve that: print flexible, open-ended answers and maybe add some fair library manipulation.
The big shocker here is Spell Pierce! Seeing a counterspell back in Standard which is powerful enough to see regular play in Eternal formats was unexpected, to say the least. It is also the least situational of all of the above cards and a natural deterrent to the format devolving into a midrange slugfest dominated by planeswalkers. Magic with Spell Pierce is better than Magic without Spell Pierce, so that's good news.
Ixalan features token making by all four of its supported tribes. Merfolk have Deeproot Waters, Pirates have Fathom Fleet Captain, Dinos have Regisaur Alpha, and Vampires appear to have a bunch, for instance Call to the Feast and Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle. Then there's Treasure tokens and there are at least two planeswalkers who create tokens. Even if we assume that most of the listed cards won't cut it in Constructed, and we certainly do, and even if we assume that all except Vampires only dabble in tokens, that's a lot of tokens.
So maybe the upward trend of Anointed Procession's price is no fluke. In particular the combination with Jace, Cunning Castaway looks interesting. With Skyship Plunderer leading the way, Jace could use his −5 ability by the time the enchantment strikes on turn four. Then, suddenly, there's four Jaces in play and eight 2/2 illusions.
A map or a compass leading to a place where treasure is hidden—what could be more flavorful? What's more, having nonland cards transform into lands is potentially broken too! Too bad we didn't get a plain version of the mechanic yet. Probably the easiest and most reliable transformation is possible with these two:
They still make you jump through quite some hoops. But in defiance of all due warnings against best-case thinking, let's imagine some of the things one could do with them. For example, with the help of one of Modern's mana elves, one could cast and activate Treasure Map on turn two and get to Treasure Cove by turn four, which translates into up to 7 mana to be spend on other things that turn. Primal Amulet, meanwhile, could make up for the initial mana investment soon enough, especially if it helps to cast Metallic Rebuke for just 1 mana.
Realistically though, Primal Amulet / Primal Wellspring won't be used much differently than Jace's Sanctum or Pyromancer's Goggles, which is to say, not often and/or not in high quantities. Treasure Map / Treasure Cove on the other hand might just prove to be a reasonable card without going overboard with it, simply because of its ability to generate either extra mana or extra cards. Less than a week ago, at Grand Prix Turin, some players were running Magnifying Glass in their white-blue Approach of the Second Sun decks and crushing the mirror with it. A fair use and a fair comparison, I'd say, or if anything unfair to Treasure Map / Treasure Cove.
While it is plenty of fun, expect the use of Treasure tokens in Constructed to remain incidental. If only there were a 4-mana, hard to-deal-with threat in red with immediate impact; then one could even consider Wily Goblin to accelerate into it. Well, there is. But casting Hazoret the Fervent by turn three seems rather pointless.
The Doctor Will See You Now …
With this, my stint as an Insight writer comes to an end for the time being. I hope you enjoyed this trip through Ixalan with its bigger focus on Standard for a change. I'm off to German Nationals and you'll soon hear back from the dear doctor. He'll pick up where he left, I'm sure, giving you all the insight you've been enjoying every week for years now, including his unrivaled expertise in the expensive world of Eternal formats.