Gameplay in Ixalan Limited

Oliver Polak-Rottmann

Oliver Polak-Rottmann

Hello to a new article, this time about Ixalan limited. A lot has been told about the format so far, so I will not walk you through the archetypes or anything like that.

A lot of Hareruya Pros wrote stuff about limited, so check them out if you are new to the format, this will be more of an advanced article on gameplay advices.

Watch your trades!

In this format it is very important to know when to offer a trade and when to accept a trade in combat. In some formats it is good to trade of creatures in the early turns, in some it is bad but this format gives us something different. The reasoning for this is the existence of the three common creature enchantments and 《Pirate's Cutlass》.

Pirate's CutlassSwashbucklingMark of the Vampire

When you have any of those cards in your deck you are less likely willing to trade off your creatures as they might grow later and therefore get better. You always want a pirate on the battlefield when you have a 《Pirate's Cutlass》 and you preferably have a flier in play when there is a 《Mark of the Vampire》 in your deck. That means you not only have to evaluate which creatures are fine to trade, you always have to think what is left in your deck.

The same is also true when you are on defense and have to think what your opponent might be able to do. They might be the ones with a lot of enchantments so you might be interested in trading their small creatures away, especially when they have either flying or lifelink.


But there are not only enchantments, there are plenty of combat tricks as well at very cheap cost. 《Skulduggery》 is probably the strongest combat trick in the format and 《Vampire's Zeal》 is also very efficient. Make sure to pick combat tricks up, they can really change the outcome of a game as a lot of combat is happening. Make sure to not get blown out against one trick with a double block! Your life is a resource in a fast format like this and sometimes it is just correct to take a few points of damage to set you up for better trades or counterattacks.

River Heralds' BoonJade Guardian

Everything I just talked about changes when you play against a dedicated Merfolk deck. Not only do they have 《One With the Wind》, they also have plenty of +1/+1 counters, so you are incentivized to trade their creatures, but you always have to be careful to not get blown out by 《River Heralds' Boon》, which is their strongest card. In addition they also have 《Jade Guardian》, which might not look that great on paper but Hexproof is the real deal on this card. So if you get the chance to trade off with a 《Jade Guardian》 you should do so.

Watch your tempo!

The format is pretty fast, so tempoplays are very important to succeed. That goes hand in hand with the topic of trading creatures, but the essence of the statement is that sometimes a bouncespell is as good as a removal spell or sometimes even better because most of the time they are cheaper or they are Instant instead of Sorcery.

Depths of DesireFirecannon Blast

At the World Championship Christian Calcano First Pick, First Pack took 《Depths of Desire》 over 《Firecannon Blast》 which came to the surprise of most players, including me. Christian has a different approach on draft formats in general but this pick really made me think a lot. I still think I would go with the 《Firecannon Blast》 there, but it underlines my statement that’s why I wanted to point it out as sometimes things might be different than they seem.

He understood the tempo of the format quite well and tried to settle with a more aggressive route without focusing on the creaturetypes too much. 《Blight Keeper》 seems like a very bad card, but Christian showed all of us that the little bat can steal a lot of games as it comes down on turn one, is the perfect carrier for 《One With the Wind》 of 《Swashbuckling》, activates your raid triggers and can end games should you enter the lategame.

Watch the signs!

That is more draft than gameplay advise, but you should take it into account unless you want to go a different route. When you are supposed to draft Merfolk, do it. When Vampires are open, you should move in. It is especially important because if you are in the wrong colors you will not get enough playables and screw yourself. The overall powerlevel in this set is rather low and therefore getting the right amount of playable cards is crutial. But how to get the signs?

PouncePious Interdiction

Follow the articles of other Pros to get a feeling of what is important for which archetype as this topic basically fills an article on its own. Just one thing I really want to mention is that two cards, that usually would be signs for an open color are not in this format: 《Pounce》 and 《Pious Interdiction》. Most of the time they would represent the best commons in their colors, they are not this time around due to the arguments earlier: there are too many tricks and too many bounce spells which basically negate your gameplan and therefore are not reliable enough. This does not mean those cards are unplayable, they are just not as great as they might seem.

Watch your Sideboard Options!

As things are you might end up short on playables but there are a lot of Sideboard cards you might want to pick up during the draft.

Spell PierceLegion's JudgmentDual Shot

Cards like 《Spell Pierce》, 《Legion's Judgment》 or 《Dual Shot》 are great options but you much rather not have them in your maindeck as they are to situational. Having them might give you the advantage in the right matchup though.

As the format is not among the favorites between the Pros there is still a lot of ground to cover and things to learn. You could go crazy with Treasures and buy your wins with greed or you can go with a solid 16 Land aggro deck. There is plenty of stuff to discover and the creaturetypes do not necessarily need to be followed.

I have played against UW-Mill Decks in the format and that certainly is outside the box, just make sure to know what you are doing and what you can efford regarding your manabase. Even though the format is pretty fast, it is not a format where you can start playing 14 or 15 land decks as the curve usually is topped by a few 4 and 5-Drops and you need to hit your landdrops.

New HorizonsBlossom Dryad

Don’t let yourself get tricked by missleading numbers of treasure producers or semi-accelerators like 《New Horizons》 or 《Blossom Dryad》. As there are hardly any manasinks in the format you also should opt to not play 18 Lands as that might also decrease your chance of winning. Really expensive dinosaurs are not really the way to win in this format.

Going forward I am already really looking forward to the new set and I am curious if we will get more creaturetypes or maybe see the return of the changelings or tribal cards. While it might seem a little like Lorwyn we are not quite there yet and I really hope for some change with the new set. This Weekend the Pro Tour is coming up and maybe some team found a different approach to attack the limited format.

The Scarab GodHeart of Kiran

For constructed I expect and hope for some new decks and an exciting PT for the watchers and us players. Will the Energy Shell take over once more, will 《The Scarab God》 and his Zombies conquer Albuquerque or will the Vehicles drive us crazy again? Check it out at this weekend’s Pro Tour and stay excited for more articles to come.

Thanks for reading and until next time


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