Ixalan in Modern and Legacy

Javier Dominguez


I’m Javier Dominguez, Platinum Pro from Spain, and I’m really happy to be writing for Hareruya.

In my first article, I will be talking about the cards from Ixalan that I think have a higher chance of being played in Modern and Eternal formats. While analyzing a new set, the first thing I usually do is to compare the new cards with the ones I’ve played with. Comparing cards like that is certainly dangerous because some cards are very contextual, changing their value a lot depending on the metagame they are played in, but if you are careful about not falling into that trap, it should be fine.

Let’s have a look at Ixalan!

《Legion’s Landing》

Legion's Landing

A 1/1 lifelink that might eventually transform into a land is something we could use in decks like Soul Sisters or W/B Tokens. For this card to be good, we need both sides of it to be relevant, which is rarely going to happen. It plays very well with 《Intangible Virtue》, but decks that run that card often choose to include 《Thoughtseize》 and 《Inquisition of Kozilek》 in that spot of the curve.

《Ashes of the Abhorrent》

Ashes of the Abhorrent

This hate enchantment looks worse than both 《Rest in Peace》 and 《Grafdigger's Cage》, so it is only going to be played if we really care about the lifegain part, which is unlikely. This could be used in Modern Team Unified, where splitting the graveyard hate can be a difficult task.

《Tocatli Honor Guard》

Tocatli Honor Guard

As a 《Torpor Orb》 attached to a 1/3 body, this guy could see play as a hate card if we ever see something like a 《Splinter Twin》 deck become a dominant tier 1 again. It dies to bolt, sure, but that hasn’t stopped 《Ethersworn Canonist》 becoming a sideboard staple.

《Search for Azcanta》

Search for Azcanta

《Search for Azcanta》 is one of the hardest cards to evaluate from the set. It is a decent attrition card, but for this to be good enough for Modern it needs to be played along with cards that care about being put into your graveyard. A control deck with 《Lingering Souls》 might want it for the sideboard, as it’s probably too slow for the current metagame.



《Opt》 is going to be by far the most played card of this set in Modern. While it is a reprint, for Modern purposes it’s just a new card, since Invasion isn’t legal in the format.

Serum VisionsSleight of Hand

Whether it is better or worse than 《Serum Visions》/《Sleight of Hand》 depends on the deck. Since 《Opt》 exchanges digging power for flexibility, reactive decks are likely going to prefer 《Opt》 to both sorceries. For example, U/W control often has to choose between using their mana on casting a 《Serum Visions》 or using a 《Mana Leak》 before know what their opponent is doing.

《Opt》 solves that issue while also plays better with 《Snapcaster Mage》, since if we don’t use our mana, we can flashback 《Opt》 at the end of turn. A deck like infect will also make a good use of 《Opt》 being an instant, and I’m sure there are some other decks that do not want to run a lot of cantrips that will just replace 《Serum Visions》 with 《Opt》.

Past in FlamesAd Nauseam

Combo decks like Storm or Ad Nauseam will likely still prefer to run 《Serum Visions》 or 《Sleight of Hand》 over 《Opt》. Essentially, those decks either spend their mana digging for cards, or they go for the kill. Therefore, saving mana so they can play some interaction is not a concern for them.

The big change here, specially for a deck like Storm, is the ability to play more than 8 cantrips if they decide to do so. The deck lost that option when Wizards banned 《Gitaxian Probe》, so being able to play more cantrips again will likely replace spells like 《Peer Through Depths》 , making the deck more consistent.

Overall, I expect 《Opt》 to be the cantrip played fair in defensive decks, while 《Serum Visions》 is likely going to see more play on proactive decks that do not play a lot of instants.

《Chart a Course》

Chart a Course

Ixalan really wants blue mages to draw cards! I think the power level of this card is very high, to the point that it is not only playable in Modern but potentially even in Legacy. The key here is making the discard part useful for our deck, something we couldn’t do with See Beyond. Even though 《Chart a Course》 is strictly worse than 《Careful Study》, I could see being played in Legacy Reanimator. Pitching to 《Force of Will》 is also a cool addition.

Goryo's VengeanceJace, Vryn's Prodigy

In Modern, it could be played with cards like 《Goryo's Vengeance》. Also, since those decks usually pack some small creatures like 《Jace, Vryn's Prodigy》, having the option to cast this card just as a draw 2 for 2 mana is quite powerful as well. Cheap spells that provide straight card advantage are very rare in Magic, so I’d keep a close eye on this one.

《Arcane Adaptation》

Arcane Adaptation

Based on what I’ve already experienced in formats like Modern/Legacy, this card probably has some obscure combo I can’t even think about that just wins the game on the spot. The big improvement here compared to other cards like this one is that it affects everything, not only the cards you have in the battlefield, which we’ve seen being relevant for other combos. Yes, I’m looking at you 《Painter's Servant》.

《Jace, Cunning Castaway》

Jace, Cunning Castaway

Speaking of combos, 《Jace》 can put a lot of tokens if we cast it with a 《Doubling Season》 in play, which might show up in some casual decks. If 《he》 sees play in Modern, it will be because the discard part would be very relevant, but blue has already that aspect widely covered.

《Kopala, Warden of Waves》

Kopala, Warden of Waves

《Kopala, Warden of Waves》 fights with 《Kira, Great Glass-Spinner》 for a spot in the Modern Merfolks.

Kira, Great Glass-Spinner

《Kira, Great Glass-Spinner》 is just better at protecting your creatures, since there are going to be a lot of games where paying 2 mana for resolving a removal is something our opponent will happily do. It is also a flying creature, which a minor advantadge but sometimes relevant to block fliers like 《Lingering Souls》 tokens.

《Kopala》 on the other hand is just worse at protecting our creatures from removal spells in almost all the situations. After all, if they can play two removals in same turn to kill one of our Merfolk they are likely going to be able to pay two mana anyway. 《Kopala》 does make up flying by being a Merfolk, which is often going to mean a bigger and sometimes an unblockable islandwalker.

Abrupt Decay

It looks very close, but there is one card makes me think that 《Kopala》 is going to be better in Merfolk: 《Abrupt Decay》. While it’s the typical clean answer to 《Kira, Great Glass-Spinner》 out of BG decks, it gets affected by Kopala’s tax, and I think it’s a relevant improvement, even though 《Abrupt Decay》 is not heavily played as it was before.

What’s even better, since our opponent won’t know if we have 《Kira, Great Glass-Spinner》 or not in the deck, they will usually first spend the other removal like 《Fatal Push》, saving 《Abrupt Decay》 for a potential 《Kira, Great Glass-Spinner》. If they sequence their spells this way, that makes 《Kopala》 even better.

If it ends being really close, the best play will just be to play one of each, because that way we would be able to ignore the legendary drawback.

《Entrancing Melody》

Entrancing Melody

A 《Control Magic》 that can steal a 《Death's Shadow》 for only 3 mana is something we’ve seen in 《Threads of Disloyalty》, a card that gained some popularity with the rise of 《Death's Shadow》 decks. Historically, 《Threads of Disloyalty》 was used to steal Jund’s premium 2-mana threats, 《Dark Confidant》 and 《Tarmogoyf》, and against those decks 《Entrancing Melody》 is likely worse than the aura, since being immune to 《Abrupt Decay》 isn’t enough to justify paying one extra mana

Control MagicThreads of Disloyalty

What could really push this into being better than 《Threads of Disloyalty》 is the fact that it can be replayed with 《Snapcaster Mage》.

《Kitesail Freebooter》

Kitesail Freebooter

Here the creature type Human is the most relevant part of the card. Being Human Company a very robust archetype with a big weakness to combo, I could see this being worth a splash there to fix that matchup. We’ve had creature decks play 《Tidehollow Sculler》 in the sideboard for years, and I think this is just an upgrade for Human Company decks.

《Ruin Raider》

Ruin Raider

The power level here is clearly lower than 《Dark Confidant》, but if a deck really wants to have more copies of that effect, I could see this Orc doing some work for that deck. The best shell for this card is likely a BR Midrange deck that just tries to overload on removals and bombs like 《Liliana of the Veil》 and 《Blood Moon》.

《Shapers’ Sanctuary》

Shapers' Sanctuary
This is an enchantment I expect to find in Infect’s sideboard. Acting as a narrow 《Leovold, Emissary of Trest》, the trick here is that you can draw a card when they cast a removal and then counter that removal with something like 《Vines of Vastwood》 or 《Dispel》. Infect decks have trouble when the opponent overloads on removal and this is a very good weapon to fight that, and they even play well in multiples.

SpellskiteWild Defiance

We’ve seen cards like 《Spellskite》 or 《Wild Defiance》 in the past in this kind of decks, but I think 《Shapers’ Sanctuary》 just outclasses them. In a deck without countermagic like Elves, this could be playable, but those decks actually suffer more against mass removal than against cards like 《Path to Exile》, so I think it’s unlikely for this card to show up there.

《Old-Growth Dryads》

Old-Growth Dryads

I don’t think this is a good card, because even in RG Hyper-aggro decks the drawback is just too bad for us, since it makes them able to catch up easier. It would be obviously strong against an opponent without any basic lands, but that’s quite unlikely in Modern right now.

《Kumena’s Speaker》

Kumena's Speaker

I’ve seen Merfolk splashing green for 《Collected Company》 in a few decklists, and going forward they’re likely to play this green Merfolk as well if the manabase can afford it. While it is clearly worse than 《Cursecatcher》, the lack of early drops has always been a weak point for this deck in certain matchups, and 《Kumena’s Speaker》 might be able to help in that department.


The big problem with this guy is getting enough green sources to play it on turn 1 along with enough islands and 4 《Mutavault》, but if the mana works, the size should be good enough.

《Growing Rites of Itlimoc》

Growing Rites of Itlimoc

I think this card is overrated. It replaces itself providing some card selection, but three mana for that effect is very expensive if we compare it to something like 《Oath of Nissa》. When it flips, it becomes a better 《Gaea's Cradle》, which is a very strong effect, but if we pass our turn with four or more creatures in Modern after paying 3 extra mana we are likely in a very good spot if our guys don’t die to a sweeper.

Oath of NissaGaea's CradleEzuri, Renegade Leader

The best way to play 《Growing Rites of Itlimoc》 is probably elves with 《Ezuri, Renegade Leader》, since if we flip it with the legend in play we are going to be able to protect our army from most non-Damnation sweepers. Overall, this feels like a win-more card to me.

《Sorcerous Spyglass》

Sorcerous Spyglass

Initially, this looks like a worse 《Pithing Needle》, because playing one more mana in a card like that is a huge change.However, I can see 《Sorcerous Spyglass》 being better in some scenarios.

Pithing NeedlePhyrexian Revoker

One of them is the different colorless decks that see play in Legacy and Vintage, where you want to play the 《Pithing Needle》 effect maindeck, but naming a card in the dark will lead inevitably to make some bad calls.

With 《Sorcerous Spyglass》, you will not only make sure what to name, but you will also get to see your opponent’s hand before you craft your gameplan. Those decks have access to cards like 《Ancient Tomb》, so paying the extra mana for the information is likely going to be worth it. Also, seeing the hand plays very well with effects like 《Phyrexian Revoker》.

The other situation where I think we might see《Sorcerous Spyglass》 is in Modern on certain matchups where you would potentially want this effect against some cards, but you don’t really know if they are playing them or not. For instance, playing Monogreen Tron in Modern against Abzan, you would like to have something to deal with 《Fulminator Mage》.

Fulminator MageGhost Quarter

However, if you wait until they play it, it’s likely going to be too late, but it is also a bad proposition to name it if you don’t even know if they are playing it. In that situation 《Sorcerous Spyglass》 will give you some valuable information, because you can see your opponent’s hand and then choose between 《Fulminator Mage》, 《Liliana of the Veil》 or 《Ghost Quarter》 knowing what they have in hand. I think 《Sorcerous Spyglass》 is good enough to see some play across the formats.

《Unclaimed Territory》

Unclaimed Territory

Even though this is strictly worse than 《Cavern of Souls》, 《Unclaimed Territory》 is going to improve the manabase of tribal decks like Slivers a lot. In older formats, 《Cavern of Souls》 is mostly used to play around countermagic, so I don’t see this one being played there.

《Field of Ruin》

Field of Ruin

Modern is fast enough that 《Ghost Quarter》 is the preferred land disruption card for most decks, and 《Field of Ruin》 is just too slow to compete with it. The best comparison here is 《Tectonic Edge》 where I think《Field of Ruin》 might just be better in some decks. If your deck runs a lot of basics, I can see this one being better since it can even help our mana in decks like U/W Control. Also, it combos with 《Crucible of Worlds》 quite well.

Ghost QuarterTectonic Edge

As always, experimenting with the new cards is one of my favorite parts of Constructed Magic. I can’t wait to try all the cards I’ve talked about!

Thanks for reading!

Javier Dominguez

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