How tribal is Ixalan?



Usually when we have tribal centric limited formats the drafting part becomes a game of “spot the creature type” once you have established which tribe you should be in.

Thinking back to Zombies is Amonkhet for example. This is because most tribal sets have tribal payoff cards that become better the more of a certain type you have, increasing their value with each card that fits the bill.

Lord of the AccursedBinding Mummy

If you have a 《Lord of the Accursed》 or something like 《Binding Mummy》 that triggers with each Zombie in this case; creatures with that subtype become much better then their original rate. This has the effect of making you prioritize them above better cards on rate in your colors.

For Ixalan this is generally not the case. Even though in name it is a tribal set and the two color combinations that do not fall under a tribal theme are hard to make work (U/W and B/G). The number of actual payoffs is quite low, with basically one at common for every combination as well as some uncommons.

The most important part though is that those payoff cards don’t really scale with the number of creatures of the correct type. Most just require you to have one in play to get the effect. See 《Headstrong Brute》 or 《Tilonalli's Knight》.

Headstrong BruteTilonalli's Knight

So the goal during drafting one of these tribes (or really: supported colorpairings) is to have enough of the creature type to consistantly have one in play rather then have as many as possible. This means that you are basically just drafting the colorcombination ad hoc without special consideration for creature type, since you will almost automatically get enough for your tribal payoff. In the colors they belong to there will be a lot of creature of the right tribe so getting enough is trivial.

During drafting it is therefore much more important to draft according to your curve needs with a high priotization for tricks and and early drops rather than focus on the creature type. If the powerlevel of two cards at the same point in the curve is very close, taking the correct tribe will obviously be the decider.

The only scaling payoff card for a tribe at common is 《Kinjalli's Caller》, since the mana you effectively gain from him is increased by one for each dinosaur you play during the course of the game. 《Kinjalli's Caller》 is also somewhat special in that he allows you to constuct your deck differently when you have enough of him.

Kinjalli's Caller

If you have 3 or even 4 you can essentially view all the dinosaur cards in your deck to cost one less then printed at the top right corner. 《Kinjalli's Caller》 is effectively a green white multicolor card, so you will get him late if you are in the correct colors. R/W dinosaurs is usually much more aggressive with a low curve, so having a 0/3 creature that makes your already cheap creatures one cheaper is unattractive.

Green white is a currently underdrafted rampstyle archetype where you play above curve cards on curve thanks to 《Kinjalli's Caller》 to successfully stall the board and then win with big dinosaurs.

Pious Interdiction

Since most of the format cares about attacking you will get a lot of cards important for your deck later then usual so you can pick 《Pious Interdiction》 and other removal early and worry about the creatures later. Both high toughness blockers as well as high casting cost finishers usually come around late since you will be the only one at the table who wants them.

The plan is to just put creatures with high toughness on the table and block. If you trade for a trick, sure. At some point they will run out of tricks and be unable to attack on the ground and you should save your removal for their flyers. Then they will draw more 2-drops and the like while you will at some point overpower them with your 《Colossal Dreadmaw》 or 《Thundering Spineback》 or 《Belligerent Brontodon》.

Colossal DreadmawThundering SpinebackBelligerent Brontodon

The latter is especially good since you can usually attack with everyone the turn you play him making your board filled with 《Ixalli's Diviner》, 《Looming Altisaur》 and the like suddenly very scary and can even win on the spot.

《Shining Aerosaur》 and to a lesser extent 《Pterodon Knight》 are also very good once you have stalled the board and even though other white drafters will also be interested in those you can use earlier picks on them since you will have to worry less about getting your curve filled up due to your strategy.

Ixalli's DivinerShining AerosaurPterodon Knight

Basically G/W dino ramp is the only good defensive strategy in the format that isn’t heavily reliant on specific rares and many decks will be unprepared to deal with it. The way you usually get into it is by starting with 《Pious Interdiction》, 《Ixalan's Binding》, 《Grazing Whiptail》, 《Savage Stomp》 and similar cards. Or it is a decent backup strategy where you can go once you are in either green or white and the other color you were attempting to draft falls flat.

Ixalan's BindingGrazing WhiptailSavage Stomp

Since most of the cards for the G/W archetype are replacable and go very late you can usually switch into it while still getting enough playables. If this is the case and you don’t have enough pacifisms make sure to pick up at least two 《Crushing Canopy》 though, since big flyers like 《Air Elemental》 or any creature with 《One With the Wind》 can be one of the few ways for you to lose after stalling the board out and this way you can get very good answers very late.

Crushing CanopyAir ElementalOne With the Wind

G/W is an archetype that I have had a lot of success and fun with in a format that is otherwise pretty high variance so I hope you can do the same in the future!

Some general observations about the format that you should always keep in mind:

A decent amount of the early drops are above rate if you are aggressive, see 《Tilonalli's Knight》,《Headstrong Brute》. This combines with the fact that removal is somewhat expensive while tricks are very potent and cheap and Raid being a thing, to make the format very aggressive.

There is more evasion than usual in this set: there is more flying at common than in any recent set, as well as menace and even unblockable. In addition to this there are a decent amount of cards that have an effect when attacking (《Territorial Hammerskull》).

Territorial Hammerskull

Together with the aforementioned tricks this creates an environment where blocking is rarely a winning strategy and racing becomes the norm. Exceptions are random guys you dont mind trading for a trick.

So: trade of dorks, race with the rest. This also means that card advantage while not so hard to come by loses a lot of its merit since it is not about last man standing. While lifelink and recurring pumpeffects (read aura and equipment) get better then normal.

SwashbucklingPirate's Cutlass

There is a derth of playables since a decent amount of common slots are taken up by unplayable cards (at least one, mostly two in each color). Also the dropoff in powerlevel between the better commons and the fillers is immense. This means that it is essential to be in the right color combination and preferably early on. Try to figure out where you should be between pick 4 and 7 in pack one.

Tricks are essential to this format and you should expect your opponents to have them. So respect them, when they have open mana. This means engage in creature combat only if you are willing to trade your guy for a trick or if you have a trick of your own. This also means that if they have a guy that they are unlikely to want to trade for a trick bluffing gets pretty safe. Be wary of bluffing into their possible trick though. Otherwise, go ahead; every damage matters in a race!

Atzocan ArcherSailor of MeansGlorifier of Dusk

Four is the “Magic number” of the format in terms of toughness, since most of the creature have either 2 or 3 power. This makes everything with 4 toughness more valuable since they require a trick to get through.

Thank you for reading,


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