Rotation Grief: Rivals of Ixalan (Part 2)

The Standard Rotation looms closer with every passing day. The major meta shift will come first as a consequence of four sets disappearing from Standard. Kumagoro looks at the red, green, multicolored, and colorless cards in Rivals of Ixalan, which may be the last small expansion ever (if the Three-and-One Model sticks).

Rivals of Ixalan Red Losses

Blood Sun: This card is a case of bad timing. Blood Moon's gentler cousin, the red Sun (not to be confused with the Immortal variety) has lied in wait for nineteen months at the periphery of the Standard meta, almost completely useless until Core Set 2020 gave it purpose with both Lotus Field, to combo with, and Field of the Dead being a good target for Blood Sun hate. This triggered a renewed interest for this very narrow yet game-altering enchantment, but sadly it wasn't bound to last for long. Better luck next time, Blood Sun. Grief Factor: 6/10

Dire Fleet Daredevil: While not the most played red Pirate out of Rivals of Ixalan, this little thief of spells earned herself some street cred by being good at annoying control decks while also having a role in the aggro matchups thanks to her propensity to strike first in combat. Goblin Chainwhirler made her life harder, but not enough to prevent a fair amount of main deck inclusion. Grief Factor: 6/10

Etali, Primal Storm: The red member of the Legendary Dinosaur club from Rivals was probably the least played of its cycle, but still very popular among Timmys and with the casual crowd in general. Grief Factor: 4/10

Fanatical Firebrand: One of the mainstays of Mono Red Aggro since its inception, this weird-looking monkey-like Pirate Goblin has likely been the most frequent turn-one play of any Standard game for the past two years. All red decks, and especially the Cavalcade of Calamity variants, will miss it like air. Grief Factor: 10/10

Forerunner of the Empire: The most playable of the Forerunners, it was still a niche card, if very functional when paired with enrage combos like Polyraptor, or just to fetch and enable Ripjaw Raptor. Grief Factor: 5/10

Needletooth Raptor: A single copy of this Raptor was common in decks running Forerunner of the Empire, whose pinging was able to turn this midrange Dino's short temper into repeatable removal. Unfortunately, such decks were never top tier to begin with, and got entirely phased out with the emergence of post-M20 Jund Dinosaurs, as both Forerunner and Needletooth wouldn't work too well as a follow-up to Marauding Raptor. Grief Factor: 4/10

Pirate's Pillage: One of the odd midrange ramp spells in red, mostly used in rogue combo decks, but very important in that kind of brews, where it was able to set up a big turn five while also digging for pieces. Grief Factor: 5/10

Reckless Rage: Designed as an enrage enabler, this unusual burn spell eventually found its home in Feather, the Redeemed builds, where it functioned as cheap removal that comboed nicely with both the Angel's and Dreadhorde Arcanist's abilities. Grief Factor: 6/10

Rekindling Phoenix: Possibly the most inherently powerful four-drop creature of its era, this recurring nightmare of a firebird dominated the midrange slots of many red decklists for a good long while. In the late part of this Standard cycle, it ended up somewhat abandoned, as efficient exilers like Lava Coil and Ob Nixilis's Cruelty became commonplace, and red decks started to focus more aggressively on early plays and refueling. Grief Factor: 9/10

Rivals of Ixalan Green Losses

Deeproot Elite: One of the most prominent workhorses in Simic Merfolk, possibly the one that most signals the end of a proper Fish archetype in Standard for the time being. Hard to find a worthy replacement for a two-drop that keeps distributing +1/+1 counters to the right members of the amphibious team, whether they're unblockable, hexproof, or just need buffing. Grief Factor: 8/10

Ghalta, Primal Hunger: Timmy's vindication if there ever was one, Ghalta was the twelve-drop you never saw coming in the top tiers of the meta – especially since most of the times it would just drop for two, something that proved extremely easy to accomplish either in Stompy, Gruul, or Jund Dinos. The most expensive-yet-actually-competitive creature in Magic history after Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Blightsteel Colossus, this Ixalan-specific legend will be sadly impossible to reprint or replace. Good night, sweet tyrannosaurus. Grief Factor: 9/10

Jade Bearer: Deeproot Elite's one-drop lieutenant, and another crucial element in the late lamented Standard Merfolk. Grief Factor: 7/10

Jadelight Ranger: Arguably the most popular Merfolk of Ixalan block, despite only rarely seeing play in Merfolk lists, the twice-exploring Ranger was the third member of the Wildgrowth Walker package along with her little sister Merfolk Branchwalker, as well as a formidable three-drop on her own. She frequently filling the three-mana slot in green decks of any kind, due to her winning combination of digging for the right cards while also potentially ensuring significant board presence on turn two or three. Grief Factor: 10/10

Jungleborn Pioneer: Not as crucial in Merfolk decks as some of the other green ones, the Pioneer was still often hanging around as a nice way to add two fish to the party for the price of one. Grief Factor: 6/10

Path of Discovery: This was the kind of powerful card that doesn't see much play because it doesn't slot well in any curve and doesn't have any immediate impact on the battlefield. The Path was nonetheless occasionally seen in solid tier-two combo decks like Golgari Bolas's Citadel. There was something to be said for self-triggering Wildgrowth Walkers. Grief Factor: 6/10

Polyraptor: As entertaining as it was to see it play out, the Polyraptor combo didn't really become a thing in the meta, even when Marauding Raptor made it easier, although more prone to result in a draw if left unchecked. It still was a thing of Timmy-pleasing beauty to witness. Grief Factor: 3/10

Tendershoot Dryad: A true go-wide Saproling deck never materialized in the meta, if not in darker, more casual corners, but this junior varsity version of Verdant Force, with her double token generation, was fully capable of running away with a game without any additional help, even if the release of the splashier Biogenic Ooze ended up overshadowing her talents quite a bit, relegating this fungus-loving Dryad to permanent maybeboard status. Grief Factor: 5/10

Wayward Swordtooth: Not very popular in Dinosaur decks, which would struggle to obtain the city's blessing, Swordtooth shined instead in ramp decks that cared about putting permanents on the battlefield, like Bolas's Citadel. Grief Factor: 5/10

World Shaper: Another odd combo piece, too clunky and expensive to turn up in the competitive scene, it nevertheless earned itself a few moments of triumph in certain brilliant, janky builds where it combined with cards like Scapeshift and God-Eternal Bontu for over-the-top payoffs. Grief Factor: 2/10

Rivals of Ixalan Multicolored Losses

Azor, the Lawbringer: To be honest, Azor had near to zero presence in the meta during his time in Standard, but it always felt like a wasted opportunity, given his potential power level, especially with the pseudo-Silence ETB trigger. Perhaps if Prime Speaker Vannifar and Neoform decks had become more relevant, the exiled parun of the Azorius Senate will be telling a different story. Grief Factor: 1/10

Legion Lieutenant: The oh-so-timely two-drop anthem lord of Vampire Aggro. Grief Factor: 8/10

Profane Procession // Tomb of the Dusk Rose: Too slow to really perform at a competitive level, this enchantment was extremely impactful all the same. Even if the transformation was never attained or exploited, having access to repeatable exiling for creatures was nothing to sneeze at. Too bad the format's aggro decks developed a velocity that the Procession couldn't keep up with, while control decks didn't much care for its effect. Grief Factor: 3/10

Angrath, the Flame-Chained: Not one of the protagonists in the planeswalker scene, particularly after War of the Spark intensified the competition for the five-mana slot to unprecedented levels, Grumpy Pirate Angrath was still a versatile supporting player, being able to attack the hand, the battlefield, and the life total, and at times even to catch the opponent off-guard with an unexpected Act of Treason that could result in a win out of nowhere. He suffered for not having a clear home in the meta. Grief Factor: 7/10

Journey to Eternity // Atzal, Cave of Eternity: The Golgari-colored transforming enchantment had the easiest ways of the entire cycle to reward you with its coveted legendary land – you could use any sacrifice to get rid of the enchanted creature, or just chump-block with it. It also granted an immediate payoff in the form of the return to life of the dead traveler, ETB triggers and all. This said, the turn you cast the Aura (an operation not without inherent dangers of two-for-one-ing yourself), it would feel like you didn't really improve your board state much; the endless stream of reanimation provided by the land could feel like win-more in a deck that already ran cards like Memorial to Folly and Find // Finality; and after the printing of Hydroid Krasis in Ravnica Allegiance, the Golgari lists would rework themselves around a Sultai core anyway, limiting the number of vanity slots like this. Grief Factor: 4/10

Raging Regisaur: Less effective as an enrage enabler than the contemporary Raging Swordtooth, this Gruul Dino was still functional enough, as well as slightly cheaper. Grief Factor: 2/10

Hadana's Climb // Winged Temple of Orazca: The two unmentioned cards in Rivals of Ixalan's enchantment-land cycle (Storm the Vault // Vault of Catlacan and Path of Mettle // Metzali, Tower of Triumph) had too specific transform conditions and poor appealing in general. On the other hand, Hadana's Climb had everything: free +1/+1 counters to distribute right away, great synergy with Simic staples like Incubation Druid and Growth-Chamber Guardian, and a transformed state that could win the game on the spot. It indeed gave birth to a dedicated build, which was even very effective, if not well-positioned enough to go beyond tier-two status at best. Grief Factor: 7/10

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca: The Legendary centerpiece of Simic Merfolk, the element through which the deck would achieve inevitability and/or sufficient card advantage to seal the deal. Kumena looks like he expresses enough raw power in a cheap package to earn himself a place at the Eternal tables, but unfortunately for him, there's 26 years of Merfolk competition to face there. Grief Factor: 8/10

Merfolk Mistbinder: The oh-so-timely two-drop anthem lord of Merfolk Aggro. It wasn't as relevant in the meta as its Vampire counterpart. Grief Factor: 7/10

Zacama, Primal Calamity: Ah, Zacama. The most outrageous threat of them all, basically only there to have a larger-than-life permanent payoff for big mana combos. It actually showed up in earnest in Chromatic Black builds, which would capitalize on the mana from Cabal Stronghold. Mostly, it will be missed in MTG Arena's Momir games. Grief Factor: 6/10

Rivals of Ixalan Colorless Losses

Arch of Orazca: One of the more straightforward yet lucrative applications of the ascend mechanic. Its role of incidental card-drawing engine was partially eclipsed by the coexistence of Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin in the meta. Also, a colorless land didn't agree with many of the greedy mana bases produced by the alliance of shocklands and checklands. Grief Factor: 7/10

Azor's Gateway // Sanctum of the Sun: Like in the case of Primal Amulet / Primal Wellspring, the meta contained the occasional brew trying to break this card. It was a very minor thing, but it was there. Grief Factor: 2/10

The Immortal Sun: The strongest defense against planeswalkers in Standard is gone. Luckily, we now know Sorcerous Spyglass is back in Throne of Eldraine, but the loss of The Immortal Sun leaves the War of the Spark gang dangerously free to roam – and Karn, the Great Creator's wishboard is even emptier. Grief Factor: 9/10

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

Rotation Grief Archive

  1. M19 (white, blue and black)
  2. M19 (red, green, multicolored and colorless)
  3. Ixalan (white, blue and black)
  4. Ixalan (red, green, multicolored and colorless)
  5. Rivals of Ixalan (white, blue and black)


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