The new set, Lost Caverns of Ixalan, has finally been revealed completely, and thanks to that we were able to analyze and select the cards that will possibly be seen frequently in the beloved Commander format from now on.
The cards we selected aren't necessarily ranked - they were chosen based on how useful they are to the format, embracing various decks that can use them well. Some cards that are too niche and are only useful to a certain commander might not be here, but they aren't necessarily bad in this format.
For instance, Huatli, Poet of Unity is a great new card in this format, but just in a few decks, and not in a broad sense. With that in mind, let's go straight into our review!
This is an Unearth in White, but the creature comes in tapped. As time goes on, more white Reanimates appear, and bring an interesting potential, such as Helping Hand. Decks with a low cost outside Black can access this card, which becomes a true helping hand when you're trying to get some lost resources back.
This card stands out tremendously because it is an uncommon card. Its potential practically belongs on a rare card. It costs very little, provides a good body (1/4), and brings two very strong effects - it applies a certain degree of Stax on your opponent's artifacts and can also be a board wipe for certain artifacts.
Paying 1 white mana to break all your opponent's Treasures, for instance, is a possible and satisfying play with Dauntless Dismantler.
We don't have only creature Reanimates, but also artifact or enchantment Reanimates. Abuelo's Awakening is a great card on its own without paying its X cost, just Reanimating an artifact or enchantment.
With the X cost, and paying the extra mana that would be left, this card guarantees the survival of the animated permanent a bit better, which is now a 1/1 Spirit. It is a good card for targets such as Omniscience and Darksteel Forge and the like.
This is a great low-cost removal for White, is an instant spell and on top of it, has a drawback that is almost irrelevant considering what the card does.
Get Lost can destroy 3 types of permanents, and, as a consequence, your opponent will get 2 Map tokens. Being quite honest, I was disappointed by the Map token. Offering Treasures would be an issue, but the opponent Exploring twice isn't anything that would make a real difference in the game.
Artifacts decks have gotten many reinforcements, and Thousand Moons Smithy fits this to a tee. Besides creating an artifact-creature that can potentially grow more and more, Barracks of the Thousand, in its transformed form, creates even more of these tokens. It's worth saying that transforming this artifact isn't hard at all, considering the decks this card will play in.
As another addition to Control and/or Stax decks, Unstable Glyphbridge can be a great 2-for-1. Face up, we have a good removal for a fair cost. And its transformed side, Sandswirl Wanderglyph, is basically an Angelic Arbiter, with just a few differences between the two.
Having these two functions makes this card stand out a bit, and, consequently, it might appear in a few matches.
It would be weird to not comment on Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation. As much as many will say that just tripling creature tokens is this creature's issue, I can say this has made it fair - after all, no one would like to face this added to an Academy Manufactor and any potential token creator. Ojer Taq will show up frequently in the classic Token Swarm decks from now on.
We selected just a few blue cards, but among them, we have Braided Net. Being able to disrupt your opponents quickly and efficiently will always be great. Its transformed side, Braided Quipu, is definitely where the card shines - we see various artifact token decks nowadays, be them Treasure, Clue, Food, etc.
The point is: this card will always provide a huge amount of card draw, and on top of it, returns to your deck afterward to torment your opponents again. This is one of the, if not my favorite cards from the new set.
Even though I said I wouldn't highlight niche cards, Deeproot Pilgrimage stood out because it severely upgraded Merfolk decks, particularly Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. It can also be a combo piece with this same commander we mentioned, using Intruder Alarm. It can be in almost any Merfolk deck.
One of the cards that was embraced the most by the community was definitely Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel. Many already liked its previous version, and now, with its new version being released, many new decks will be born based around new interactions on how to use Malcolm in the best way possible.
Proliferate, Clones, Mutate - the sky is the limit! Only time will tell whether the hype around Malcolm will last or not.
Not only as a highlighted card in this list, but standing out even for cEDH or Duel Commander, we have Tishana's Tidebinder. After all, disabling an opponent's artifact, planeswalker or creature (including the commander), besides countering the activated or triggered ability they tried to do is quite problematic - for the opponent. Control decks in general will love using this card.
We can see in this card how time is generous with the quality of removals - Hero's Downfall cost 3 mana and was a rare, whereas Bitter Triumph is an uncommon and costs only 2. The additional cost of paying 3 health isn't anything, after all, life is a resource and the important part is removing whatever is problematic.
But what makes it a noteworthy card is that this additional cost can be both paying 3 mana or discarding a card - which means, besides being a great removal, this is a possible discard engine.
I can say this is my favorite black card in the new set.
What can be better than a Living Death, if not a Living Death that is a 6/6 and Flies? This is Bringer of the Last Gift. Its high cost makes it seem less interesting, but we're talking about Black - Crypt Ghast, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers and various other ways of producing huge amounts of mana make this creature's cost irrelevant. It might show up in several Reanimate decks from now own.
Starving Revenant is the type of card that is extremely recursive if used correctly. This counts its ETB effect only. Its second ability of Descending 8 makes it possible for this card to be used in various Wheel 4 decks. 4 mana for a 4/4 that does all that is noteworthy. As said before, if used correctly, it can create a tremendous advantage and really bother opponents.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Exsanguinate, Torment of Hailfire and several other cards have just gotten some relevant resources. Particularly to me, it wasn't necessary. The cards listed above are already very strong, and got even stronger with Bloodletter of Aclazotz. Besides providing 3 Devotion, it has a low cost and also a good body - 2/4.
This is a card that will be quite problematic to face in Commander from now on, and it will show up quite frequently to boost the power of several cards.
Chaotic removals such as Chaos Warp are always welcomed when we think about Mono Red, and Zoyowa's Justice is the newest addition in this sense. Even though it can potentially bring something quite problematic after it resolves, the idea is to remove whatever's bothering you at that moment. It might be popular in Mono Red decks from here on out.
If used correctly, Brass's Tunnel-Grinder can fit into almost any deck. It isn't difficult to trigger its Descent, to then hit its transformed part, Tecutlan, the Searing Rift. After all, giving a permanent spell Discover and having two spells for the cost of one can be good. Besides the possibility of untapping this land and using it again, and consequently Discovering again, and so on and so forth.
It is a great card and can appear in several deck builds.
Both as a commander and as one of the 99 cards, Inti, Seneschal of the Sun has potential in this format. It brings a low cost with a discard engine, exile, and still grows creatures and gives them evasion.
It does a bit of everything and makes up for, in a certain way, for the card that you will "lose" by exiling the card on top of your deck. It is a great card, but it might not show up as much around. I hope it does show up and people do discover its potential.
We couldn't forget to mention Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might. As a commander or as one of the 99 cards in your deck to ping damage, Ojer Axonil can show up a lot from now on, mostly in red builds or similar with direct damage. Its ability to return to the board is also interesting, and, considering the theme of the deck it fits into, it can easily be activated to return to the battlefield and create even more problems for your opponents.
As my favorite green card in the set, we have Spelunking. It can see play in literally any and every deck that uses any type of ramp, considering it will make your lands go in untapped. This card, besides all this, draws a card when it goes in, which makes it viable in a deck with a blink theme.
It costs little mana for a great effect that can really speed up games played by Green players.
It isn't a Nature's Lore or Three Visits, but, even then, it is still a welcome card to ramp spells - Glimpse the Core has its degree of utility, particularly if the player decides to use new Caverns in that same deck. It can see play both in Mono Green decks and others that use ramp in general.
Twists and Turns is a fascinating card. Its effect works much better in decks with the Explore theme, but, even then, it can be used in other decks in general. After all, its transformed side, Mycoid Maze, is basically a Search for Azcanta transformed, with the difference that it can select only creatures.
Considering its extremely low mana cost and how easy it is to transform this card, it has a lot of potential in the format.
One of the first cards to be shown in spoilers and a true nightmare as it is a great threat, we couldn't forget Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant. Its ETB isn't dependent on it being cast, which means, if this card is blinked, Reanimated or placed on board anyhow, its effect triggers.
It will probably be used as a finisher, be it in a combo or through combat damage, or whichever ways you can use it to take the most advantage of Ghalta's ability. Not to mention, of course, its 8 mana body for a 12/12 that Tramples. It will certainly appear in several decks from here on out.
The Skullspore Nexus has a lot of potential in the format. Both as it can be discounted and consequently is castable for little mana, and because it creates tokens any time your non-tokens dies, and as it doubles the power of the targeted creature, creating the possibility of using combat tricks, and, when the creature dies, create an even stronger token.
Just the fact it creates a token when a non-token dies is noteworthy, as it can be a piece in some combo. It might appear frequently in several archetypes in future decks.
Ojer Kaslem, Deepest Growth is a strong card. It can place big creatures on board, and, in the worst-case scenario, a land; the bigger its power, the bigger its selection. With Double Strike, it triggers that twice, putting even more creatures and/or lands into play. It is a great commander and a regular card among the 99, and it easily fits into any deck focusing on big creatures. Its built-in evasion also guarantees that this ability is triggered, and its transformed version gives you an easy condition to meet when you return it to the board as Ojer Kaslem.
Not as much as a commander, but as a great card among the other 99 in Aristocrats decks, we have Bartolomé del Presidio. It is a great card as a sacrifice source, growing itself not only with creatures but also with artifacts, which is a plus.
Using it as a commander allows you to have a combo piece in the command zone, considering many combos in the Orzhov color combination only need a sacrifice source.
This is another interesting card that can highlight the Explore ability. Having some control over your top deck can make Nicanzil, Current Conductor a great ramp commander at the same time you'll have interaction with the Explore ability. It might not show up around a lot, but I'll give this mechanic an honorable mention, as it will be a very fun "rogue" commander.
Just because it prevents opponents from playing spells on your turn, Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar is very strong, even more so because of its low cost. 3 mana for a 3/3 body with this effect is already strong, and, to make it better, it counts with a card draw effect. Both as a commander and as the other 99 cards, it is a card with a lot of potential in this format.
This cute grandpa has also won over the community. Abuelo, Ancestral Echo fits well both as a commander or as part of the other 99 cards. It protects itself well, has evasion, and will see play in several decks with a blink theme, with an ability similar to Eldrazi Displacer.
Squirming Emergence is a card that will catch many players off guard when they least expect it. It can target practically any type of permanent, and is a Reanimate for 3 mana that, despite specific, fulfills its role really well. Several self-mill decks and the like can bring this card to the game and take advantage of its recursion as much as possible.
This is a very impressive card, particularly. The Ancient One can be used in several mill decks in the Dimir color combination, or even be a commander. 2 mana for an 8/8 that can easily meet its requirement to attack or block is very strong, even more so with its activated effect that draws cards and mills your opponent even more. It is a very noteworthy card that has its space almost guaranteed in this format.
As decks with an exile theme have been growing in popularity, Quintorius Kand is almost a mandatory slot, as it is a possible win condition for decks of this type. Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival or Rocco, Street Chef are decks that take advantage of Quintorius well, both for its passive effect and any of its Loyalty activated abilities, after all, all three are quite useful, in general.
Even though it only goes in exile decks, it is a strong card for this archetype, besides its win condition potential, so you can expect to see it quite frequently in Commander.
Sovereign Okinec Ahau is a very strong creature that defends itself well thanks to its Ward 2. You just need to trigger its ability once to make your creatures grow more and more through each attack declared with Sovereign Okinec Ahau.
It shows a lot of potential as a commander in an aggressive deck, and as another one of the 99 cards in this genre of deck.
Without her spark and as a possible commander now (this time as a creature), we have Saheeli, the Sun's Brilliance. It is quite similar to its initial version, Saheeli Rai, when it comes to abilities. It looks quite combo-centric in general, but from this card several very fun builds with her as a commander might sprout.
As one of the other 99 cards, it fits into almost any deck, considering how versatility it is.
As Solemn Simulacrum's lost brother, we have Scampering Surveyor in Ixalan, which, despite not creating card draw like its brother, can search the new land subtype - Caverns. Later on, we'll show a few interesting Caverns in this format, so, if you use them, Scampering Surveyor is welcome in your build.
As a wild card for almost any deck, we have Matzalantli, the Great Door. It can transform when played in almost any deck, and its transformed side, The Core, is very useful. It is a useful card that fits into almost any build.
Roaming Throne seems to be useful only in Typal decks, but this is an absurd card precisely as it creates this extra trigger for anything. Choosing any creature that is very strong in your deck with a triggered ability is already reason enough to use Roaming Throne, or even copying your commander's ability. It is a wild card that can find space in almost any deck currently.
This is another card that can easily slot into any deck: The Millennium Calendar. If it is played on turn 1, and you have a land drop every turn and activate it each turn from the second one onward, it's an almost guaranteed win. It is extremely easy to grow this artifact, and, for its low cost of any mana color, it can wreak havoc. Even more so if the deck interacts in any way with it, be it with Proliferate or any other effect.
It is an interesting win condition for total control decks that need to win in some way.
Chimil, the Inner Sun is a very powerful card - after all, making all and only your spells non-counterable is considerably strong, besides its Discover 5, which can be a spell or card draw.
Its cost is relatively high, but, in the right decks, this artifact shines. It isn't something that would go into absolutely any Commander deck possible, but it can go in a considerable amount of them.
The Discover 4 land cycle can see a lot of play in the format from here on out, considering they come in tapped and considering the amount of new interactions with Caverns. After all, they come in tapped, and, when you have extra mana, there is no reason to not play it. In a worst-case scenario, it is an extra card draw for 5 mana.
Not all decks will adopt these Caverns, but it's worth testing them out.
Pit of Offerings is a great alternative to Bojuka Bog in decks without Black. Of course, it doesn't exile everything from a single graveyard, like Bojuka, but it can target up to 3 graveyards, which means, you can remove only what is indeed problematic from opponents that use graveyard resources. Besides being able to create mana from the colors exiled, which makes it a really versatile land.
Echoing Deeps is another type of Vesuva, but it is one that looks at the graveyard instead of the battlefield. It is a very interesting land that works really well in self-mill decks or even in decks that use important lands, such as Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Cabal Coffers, Gond Gate, Baldur's Gate, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and the like - after all, if this land is removed, Echoing Deeps gives you the possibility to access it again.
It is interesting to imagine how Cavern builds will be, considering we can use Scampering Surveyor, which can search for this land, for instance.
Its only downside is that it comes down tapped, but it would too much to ask considering how much this card does. It is a good land that can see play.
Lost Caverns of Ixalan surprised me a lot. I wasn't expecting much besides what they released last time in Ixalan, but it seems like I was wrong. We have a new type of Cascade, so to say, and another ton new and fun cards that will really add depth to Commander. I can barely wait to use several cards I discussed above and see what happens.
Did you miss any cards? Did you think one of these cards isn't all that good? Share your thoughts!