The Lost Caverns of Ixalan: Best Pioneer and Standard Cards
10/11/2023 · 10 min read
Back to Ixalan
Lost Caverns of Ixalan is on the horizon, and it looks like we're in for another set that's poised to shake things up across various formats. Reflecting on my last article where I broke down Wilds of Eldraine , I nailed some predictions while others didn't quite hit the mark.
Today, I'm going to dive into the cards from this upcoming release that have really caught my eye for both Pioneer and Standard, and discuss where they might fit into the current meta.
My Top 5 Pioneer Cards
#1. Get Lost
It looks like one of the most compelling removal options for the color to drop in recent times. It's not that we're lacking in various alternatives that accomplish similar outcomes, but Get Lost uniquely wraps up three types of removal in one package—a feat no other card in the current format can claim.
Let's take a look at some of the available choices at the same mana cost:
It doesn't deal with enchantments.
This doesn't hit planeswalkers.
It doesn't hit either planeswalkers or enchantments.
It does not interact with enchantments.
Perhaps the closest card to what Get Lost achieves, yet it operates more as a tempo play than as a removal, which in the right deck could actually be more appealing. However, I still firmly believe that Get Lost holds the upper hand in comparison.
Get Lost introduces a novel feature to the game; it's a versatile removal spell that targets three distinct card types, all of which are highly pertinent in the current metagame. The first deck that springs to mind is Monowhite Humans. This deck could seamlessly swap out Ossification for Get Lost, thanks to its better removal capabilities. Plus, Monowhite Humans isn't particularly bothered by the downside associated with the map tokens.
Here's a solid deck where it could fit in effectively:
(5 - 3)
62% in City Class Games Showdown IV | Ciclo 1 Ano 2 @City Class Games [169 Players] — 04-Nov-2023
|4 Dauntless Bodyguard||$0.35|
|4 Hopeful Initiate||$5.49|
|4 Recruitment Officer||$0.79|
|1 Kytheon, Hero of Akros||$4.99|
|4 Thalia's Lieutenant||$1.79|
|4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||$1.29|
|4 Coppercoat Vanguard||$0.99|
|4 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar||$9.99|
|3 Brutal Cathar||$3.49|
|1 Extraction Specialist||$0.79|
|1 Brave the Elements||$0.49|
|1 Declaration in Stone||$0.49|
|2 Castle Ardenvale||$0.59|
|2 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire||$7.99|
|4 Portable Hole||$1.49|
|2 Destroy Evil||$1.29|
|4 Wedding Announcement||$17.99|
|1 Brutal Cathar||$3.49|
|2 Reidane, God of the Worthy||$0.79|
|2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar||$2.29|
I believe it's a fantastic addition because now, the deck even has more answers to one of its biggest problems: Temporary Lockdown. Being able to counter Lockdown, Sheoldred, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria all with the same card? I'll take 4, please!
#2. Dreadmaw’s Ire
This card leans more toward sideboard tech, but it's an excellent sideboard option against certain key cards, especially Witch's Oven in the Rakdos Sacrifice matchup. I can envision decks like Boros Heroic and Boros Convoke running a few copies, with Heroic gaining a slight edge due to its synergy with Dreadhorde Arcanist enabling recursion.
Decks like Boros Convoke can really leverage this card, especially when running Regal Bunnicorn builds. The trample effect it bestows is a huge boon, almost giving the deck an Embercleave-like vibe, which seriously punishes any chump blocks.
#3. Bitter Triumph
Abzan Greasefang is a formidable force in the current meta, but it's got its Achilles' heel, particularly when it comes up against Karn, the Great Creator. Karn's ability to lock down our crew abilities is a major pain, and to add insult to injury, it can tutor up some targeted hate against our strategy. To shore up this weakness, the list has recently incorporated Murderous Rider into the mix.
This gives us a fighting chance to take Karn off the board, although it does come with a steep price tag of three mana.
Bitter Triumph seems to fit perfectly into the deck, even being played on curve at turn 2 (just before a turn 3 Greasefang) and it comes with a drawback that's actually beneficial for the deck, making it easier to discard Parhelion II while also removing an obstacle. It's a card that, in my opinion, could change the level of the deck, as it allows for dealing with more problematic cards while simultaneously getting vehicles into the graveyard.
#4. Molten Collapse
So here's the scoop on the Rakdos Midrange builds – we've seen Dreadbore being utilized in the past, but Molten Collapse is a game-changer, no doubt about it. This card is basically an uncommon now because Molten Collapse is just a strictly superior version. Not only is it an upgrade, but the deck can smoothly pull off either mode of Molten Collapse if it's descended that turn, which for this deck? It's a piece of cake. You've got Bloodtithe Harvester and the blood token it creates, not to mention the discard synergy with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Kroxa, and the like. Molten Collapse is poised to become a real powerhouse in the current meta.
The ability to remove non-land permanents equips our deck with the tools necessary to manage a wide array of cards from numerous diverse decks, such as Witch's Oven, Portable Hole, Shaper's Sanctuary, Chained to the Rocks, Mox Amber, Curious Obsession, Vessel of Nascency, as well as Blood, Clue, and Food tokens,etc.
Rakdos Midrange greatly benefits from its versatility, which is something I highly value. I'm also considering running a few copies in Rakdos Sacrifice, which provides an even smoother path to combo off with Witch's Oven plus Cauldron Familiar. This could give us an advantage, particularly in mirror matches, where we might even remove an opposing oven.
#5. Amalia Benavides Aguirre
When the spoiler dropped, it didn't really grab my attention, but the buzz around the potential combo with Wildgrowth Walker piqued my interest. Here's the breakdown of the combo: with Amalia and Wildgrowth Walker on the board, you only need to trigger explore once. Doing so, you'll net 3 life off the elemental's ability, and with that 3 life gain, Amalia's explore ability triggers once again, creating a loop. This can escalate quickly until Amalia becomes a 20/20, wipes out all opposing creatures, and potentially closes out the game in a single swing. Even if it doesn't clinch the win right there, you'll be sitting on a hefty life total, giving you a significant edge over your opponent.
It might look like a fragile combo on the surface, but in a GW Collected Company deck , slotting in this kind of combo by splashing an additional color feels almost like a free roll given the rock-solid mana base we've got in the format. Plus, there's already a strong foundation in place to start constructing a deck around it.
My Top 5 Standard Cards
#1. Ixalli’s Lorekeeper
If there's one card that gets me hyped about the potential for a competitive Dinosaur deck in the format, it's definitely this one. Mana dorks are incredibly powerful across multiple formats, and having a Llanowar Elves equivalent for dinos in Standard is a major step toward making that deck viable. Ixalan brought some solid dinosaurs, and being able to ramp them out a turn earlier with Lorekeeper, while also fixing our mana to potentially splash two or more colors, is exactly what a competitive deck needs. Another card that could elevate the deck's competitive edge is Intrepid Paleontologist, which not only serves as another mana dork but also acts as graveyard hate. Plus, it has an ability that lets us potentially recast our own dinosaurs, or even those of our opponent that have hit the graveyard. The deck has a promising foundation, and I'd be thrilled to see it become a contender in the competitive scene.
#2. Geological Appraiser
It's not a Bloodbraid Elf, but anyone who's been in the eternal formats or played Standard during the cascade era knows how busted that mechanic can be, and these two abilities share some similarities.
Getting two cards for the price of one is always a welcome deal, especially with a reasonable mana curve like this. It could be a solid addition to Monored , though recent decklists have been sticking to a maximum curve of three. Depending on the build, you might shift towards a more midrange gameplan, and this card is pretty fair in that respect. The lack of haste does give me pause—it's something to consider when evaluating its true value. However, I'd definitely keep an eye on this card and others with the same ability, because we're well aware of the potential they have.
#3. Glimpse the Core
It's been quite a while since Standard has seen a non-creature two-mana ramp card, and this is a significant boon for Domain Ramp strategies within the format. Even if it only fetches a basic Forest, the deck is already heavily reliant on basic lands. This new addition could really elevate the deck's performance and consistency.
The deck operates with some key pieces on curve, but for a ramp deck, it might actually be more beneficial to have a ramp option available on turn two. There have been some lists that have experimented with Courier's Briefcase, and I find it to be a pretty intriguing choice.
However, it's important to note that it's effectively a one-shot ramp since you have to sacrifice the Briefcase. Depending on the deck's strategy, we could consider slotting in a utility land to activate the secondary ability, but honestly, I don't see it being all that impactful.
#4. Warden of the Inner Sky
This card could have been a significant addition to the UW Soldiers archetype , if it weren't held back by its sorcery-speed activation. However, given that it's a one-drop Soldier—a type of card the deck is slightly short on—it presents an intriguing option for the strategy. Integrating this card could enhance the performance of cards like Harbin and allow the deck to lean more heavily into the tribal theme, especially with synergies from Valiant Veteran.
Certainly, this card also holds significant potential, especially within Boros Convoke strategies that deploy a substantial number of creatures and artifacts. It could also enhance Monowhite Humans, making Luminarch Aspirant a more compelling play at the two-drop slot.
#5. Treasure Map
Alright, let's break this down. We're talking about a card that I've personally put through the wringer back in its Standard days. This is a turn-two play that's nothing short of clutch, offering some serious card selection that can really shape the early game for a variety of decks. As the match progresses, it transitions smoothly into a role that provides either ramp or additional card draw, which is invaluable.
This card's versatility can't be overstated—it's a real Swiss Army knife for the format. I can see it slotting into midrange decks like BG Midrange with ease, but it's not limited to that archetype. It has the potential to shine in a multitude of decks, especially in those grindy matchups where every resource counts, or even as a main-deck staple.
Seeing this card get a reprint has me stoked. I'm rooting for it to see a ton of play, because it's got all the makings of a format staple. The flexibility it offers is just too good to pass up.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan set is barely out the gate, but it's shaping up to shake things up across several formats. I'm really rooting for it to make a splash in Standard and Pioneer in particular, since I feel both scenes have been a bit on the stale side lately, and a breath of fresh air would do wonders. A meta shake-up like this could be a boon for the entire community.
Catch you all on the flip side!