Hello everyone! Another week has passed, and with it, the Ixalan prerelease! This weekend I will travel to Providence, Rhode Island with two good friends and do battle with some new Dinos and Pirates at Grand Prix Providence. After going 4-0 at the Two-Headed Giant prerelease with my friend Jed and Jace, Cunning Castaway, I have learned some things about this format that make certain cards much better than they seem.

First off, this sealed format often comes down to board stalls. This means that flyers are not only important to keep in your deck, but also very important to keep alive. One match this weekend came down to us blocking our opponent’s alpha strike with the help of my Dreamcaller Siren, and then attacking back for 4 with our flyers. The only way we were able to win that game is by recognizing that we had to be on the offensive as soon as their flyers were dead, and had we not started attacking two turns earlier, their topdeck Dire Fleet Ravager (16 life!) would surely have spelled the end for us.

With this info out of the way, here are some cards that look bad or decent at best, but have impressed so far in this Sealed format:

Pterodon Knight

While this card does not necessarily look bad, and is definitely quite playable, I think some people would pick other 4 drops over this. If you have more than 5 Dinosaurs in your deck, Ptero-don’t ever cut this card, as it allows you to win the game while most of your Dinosaurs sit back and block. It is also very relevant that it outclasses most of the other flyers in this set, as it allows you to be the one who dictates the pace of play.

Shining Aerosaur

This card also looks quite decent, but is in fact very, very strong in this format. The fact that it blocks every single other flyer except Glorifier of Dusk, Air Elemental, and Deathless Ancient, all of which are uncommons, is huge. Most of the cards your opponents will play will be commons, and if you can get this card down and bait one or two removal spells beforehand, it could easily assure you win the game. Aerosaur also blocks almost every single creature with mana cost lower than it in this set, which is great if your opponent is playing a low to the ground strategy. Most of the damage based removal in this set also does 3 damage, which Aerosaur dodges. I could sing the praises of this shining beast all day, but it’s best to move on to another songbird.

Air Elemental

This card is a mythic uncommon. Well, maybe it’s not that good, but it sure does give you a breath of fresh air when you manage to cast it, as it is a huge beating in the air, and can block literally any flyer your opponent can conjure up in this format.

One With the Wind

Apart from sharing half a name with the card One with Nothing, this enchantment is straight gas. It allows you to pick up your Dinosaur, which was probably terrifying already, give it more power, and then hurl it at your opponent repeatedly until they drop dead. I think this card is very good, and while it does leave you open to two for ones, you can sequence things in a way where this will let you win the game. For example, when you cast your bomb creature, don’t immediately put this on it, as they will surely want to kill that creature anyways. Once your opponent has cast one or two removal spells, you can usually assume the coast is clear and fly your Dino out of it and into the red zone.

Storm Sculptor

I know it doesn’t have flying, but you’re gonna have to give me a pass on this one. Storm Sculptor certainly doesn’t look exciting, but believe me, when you have a relevant ETB effect and play this, the value you sculpt is absurd, and to add on to that, you now have an unblockable 3 power creature every turn, which ends the game very quickly. One of my favorite plays this weekend was returning my Fathom Fleet Cutthroat, making my opponent reluctant to block, and with your new unblockable threat, every point of damage is relevant.

Skymarch Bloodletter

While this card may not at first seem like something to write a letter home about, it ends up being extremely powerful when looked at in the context of the format. Wind Drake is already playable in sealed, and this creature is a two point life swing as soon as it comes into play. Bloodletter definitely is more at home in an aggressive deck with a curve, but also does its job in control and midrange strategies, and oftentimes hits for 6+ points of damage, which is very strong in this format.

Atzocan Archer

As much as I hate this card, I have to say it lines up insanely well against the format. It blocks every flyer that costs 4 mana or less, and can even block my friend Shining Aerosaur at 5 mana. Atzocan Archer can block for days, which increases the number of board stalls. If you can play this alongside a few flyers, the game will surely swing heavily in your direction.

Grazing Whiptail

Whiptail is like a large, overfed version of Atzocan Archer. In all honestly, this creature just blocks, and does a good job at it. Put a counter on it, and it blocks every single flyer in the set and kills it. Don’t go stuffing your deck with Whiptails, but I would definitely play at least the first two copies you open if you are solidly in green.

Cobbled Wings

Ah yes, my favorite way to make a thousand ton ship fly: two leather wings. As I predicted in my previous article, Cobbled Wings is, in fact, quite a solid card in this format. Now, I’m not saying that you should go ahead and throw three into every deck, but the first one will frequently find their way into many decks. Wings is a good way to push through damage, and putting it on anything larger than a 4/4 will seal the game in a few short s(wings). I believe this to be better than One With the Wind, as it does not open you up to a two-for-one, but still accomplishes the feat of winning the game in the air.

As a final note, I would like to say that with this grindy and board-stall type format, other cards shine. Some of these are mana sinks, which I would heavily prioritize putting in your deck. Anything that can get you value turn after turn should be able to advance your position, which will eventually let you pull ahead of your opponent and turn the corner.

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week with my brand new Grand Prix trophy!

Riccardo Monico

For more Ixalan limited analysis, read my article from last week here, where I discussed the set’s uncommons and how they will impact the format.

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