Ixalan limited has me really excited. New formats always provide a new puzzle to solve for players, and this one particularly has a couple of unique factors about it, including the built-in tribal archetypes, interesting mechanics, and the general toning down of rare power level, the latter of which was a major concern of players in Amonkhet. In this article I’ll be taking a look at 4 archetypes from Ixalan limited and analyzing the cards that fit within them. I’ll run through each common and uncommon that could fit in these archetypes and separate them into categories to better understand what’s going on in each archetype. Let’s jump into it.

R/G Dinos

Let’s start with the archtype that a lot of players were excited about entering this format, Dinos. This deck comes in several different forms. There’s a R/W Dinos deck that wants to play aggressive creatures and flyers, a G/W Dinos deck that focuses on ramping into big creatures that control the game, a R/G Dinos deck that plays powerful midrange threats and gets the best of both the R/W Dinos and G/W Dinos deck, and a Naya Dinos deck that can realistically take the form of any of the previous archetypes. For the sake of this article, I’ll be focusing on R/G Dinos.

Good – The Cards You’ll Want Every Time

                   

Ok – The Cards You’ll Want Some of the Time

               

This archetype tends to be overdrafted (especially now that we’re at the beginning of the format) because it has a wide array of cards that can be included in this deck and it’s big, flashy, and all of the cards look individually strong. R/G Dinos has a lot of very strong commons, including Pounce, Grazing Whiptail, New Horizons. However, for a really good Dinos deck, getting your hands on a valuable uncommon or two is crucial. Charging Monstrosaur and Raging Swordtooth are the best of these, but don’t undervalue Otepec Huntmaster or Drover of the Mighty. They’re likely just as valuable as the aforementioned cards.

I’ve liked this archetype a lot so far, and find that it has a large amount of flexibility to it. Aggressive beatdown, grindy midrange, and big flashy ramp are all possible within this archetype, and how you draft (and your preferences) will determine what sub-archetype you end up in. Additionally, since Dinos are popular and I’ve found that people overvalue the archetype as a whole, reading signals and getting into R/G Dinos is easier than with most archetypes.

U/G Merfolk

U/G Merfolk is an archetype that I’ve found to be quite potent if drafted and played correctly. It doesn’t quite have the tribal synergies of something like Vampires, but it does have quite a number of valuable commons and uncommons that will put in work. Decks within this archetype vary from having almost no tribal synergy to having a lot of tribal synergy, which makes it an interesting one to draft.

Good – The Cards You’ll Want Every Time

                   

Ok – The Cards You’ll Want Some of the Time

                 

The big benefit to drafting U/G Merfolk is that your deck gets exponentially better the more Merfolk and Merfolk payoffs you get. That being said, U/G “Pile of Cards” is also a viable archetype in this format, as the blue and green cards that weren’t intended for the Merfolk archetype can still get the job done. Getting a solid Merfolk deck doesn’t take a lot, and cutting the strategy tends to pay off, as you’re very happy to have multiple copies of all of the archetype’s good commons. The uncommons are less necessary in this strategy, but they do take the decks from solid to very good frequently.

I’ve found that reading signals for this deck can be really difficult. Sure, if you get passed a late Shapers of Nature and understand that the deck is very likely open. Beyond that, Vineshaper Mystic and River Heralds’ Boon are good cards to look out for. However, most of the cards you’re happy to have in a U/G Merfolk deck can also be valuable additions to U/B Pirates or R/G Dinos, so getting a later than expected One With the Wind or Deeproot Warrior isn’t quite as much of a signal as you may initially think.

U/B Pirates

U/B Pirates is another deck that players were really excited to try out in this limited format, as it’s an unexplored tribe in Magic’s history. What we’ve learned is that this archetype in Ixalan has a number of powerful and low-costed flyers along with low to the ground threats. In general, this deck gains an advantage over the opponent by getting to cast its spells before the opponent does. However, it has quite a bit of flexibility, allowing it to be tailored to your preferences or based on the cards that you have been getting passed.

Good – The Cards You’ll Want Every Time

                        

Ok – The Cards You’ll Want Some of the Time

                     

This deck is very flexible, and I’ve found that’s it’s open quite a bit, especially since Siren Lookout, Vanquish the Weak, and Contract Killing are all premium commons in the format. Additionally, the second rate cards for the U/B Pirates deck are still very solid, making you able to, more or less, force U/B Pirates and frequently come out with a solid to good deck, even if things don’t go right.

Unlike the previous archetypes we looked at, U/B Pirates doesn’t rely that much on its uncommons. They certainly make the deck better, as they tend to be better costed creatures or solid removal or bounce, but they aren’t necessary. It’s easy for a One With the Wind or a Mark of the Vampire to win a game on their own, so don’t be afraid to suit up some creatures and get in the red zone. Give U/B Pirates a go if you haven’t yet, it’s a lot of fun!

B/W Vampires

Good – The Cards You’ll Want Every Time

                           

 

Ok – The Cards You’ll Want Some of the Time

                   

What you’ll immediately notice here is that a lot of the cards put into the Good category above aren’t actually Vampires, but are in black and white. This is because the B/W Vampires deck is frequently more of a B/W Go Wide strategy that has some light tribal synergies. The only card that really rewards you for having Vampires is Bishop of the Bloodstained, as the other cards that reference Vampires are still good on their own, like Deathless Ancient. That being said, this deck gets exponentially stronger the more Vampires and payoff cards that you are able to get.

Drafting this deck is a ton of fun, as I’ve found it to be more frequently open than other archetypes in this format. Additionally, it’s a deck I find myself in more often than I initially assumed due to the fact that the black cards and the white cards are individually powerful, making you not need to commit to the archetype until you are sure it is the direction you want to go in.

Wrapping Up

I’ve been a big fan of this draft format so far, and I feel like it’s been a nice refresher after Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation draft which led to some very uninteractive games. The tribal elements of this set have made it very interesting to play, and the format seems quite deep, so I’m looking forward to drafting some more! Hopefully this article helped boil down the main 4 archetypes in this format into easily digestible bits and that this gives you a better feel of what cards you should be prioritizing for each strategy.

I’ll see you next week.

If you’re looking to get a bit nostalgic, read this article from Riccardo Monico, where he goes over what he believes to be the 10 most influential cards printed in the last 3 years.

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