Exploring Rivals

This coming Saturday is a very special occasion for the Magic community. Not only will it be the first release of the New Year, but it will be the last small Standard set to be released by Wizards of the Coast before they move to the single block standard rotation. Rivals of Ixalan also has a lot riding on it in the eyes of the Magic community. Ixalan didn’t have the greatest of impacts on Standard, and many players have found the current Limited format ‘dull’ and ‘uninteresting’. It is hoped that Rivals will ‘save’ Standard and Limited, but will it? Will Wizards final small set go out with a bang, or with a whimper? Well since spoiler season has officially ended and we now know what is in Rivals of Ixalan, let’s have a look and see what the near future holds for Limited, Constructed and Beyond have in store for the wonderful world of Magic.

When four Tribes go to war

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I liked Ixalan Limited. I know lots of people had their criticism about it. I’ve heard it be called ‘boring’, ‘dull’ and even ‘too much like a core set’. But for me, the Dino/Pirate plane has been a ton of fun. It might be my love of tribes, but I’ve played more Ixalan than any other set released in the last couple of years, even if as a fan I am in the minority. But, with the Rivals coming out Limited is going to get a real shot in the arm.

The best tribe coming out of Ixalan was Merfolk (my personal choice of archetype), and they are only going to get better with Rivals. Not only are they going to get a new Lord with Merfolk Mistbinder (at uncommon), but we really get to double down on +1/+1 counter synergies with cards like Jade Bearer and Deeproot Elite. They even get to add to their Unblockable arsenal with Mist-Cloaked Herald and River Darter. But it’s not only the fishmen who get to have all the new toys. Vampires also get an uncommon Lord with Legion Lieutenant and some fun lifelink strategies with cards like Famished Paladin and Paladin of Atonement.

Pirates also get in on the action with a greater variety of cards that should please most players and their favoured game plan. Daring Buccaneer and Swaggering Corsair will appeal to the aggressively minded players among us, while the more controlling people of our community get to have fun with Sea Legs and Dinosaur Hunter. And while Dinosaurs still appear to be the weakest tribe of Ixalan, they too have received enough reinforcements to make them a viable threat. Thrashing Brontodon, Charging Tuskodan and Majestic Heliopterus are all great picks in the uncommon slot, while Sun-Collared Raptor and Overgrown Armasaur make decent common choices for the deck.

Overall Rivals of Ixalan seems to have doubled down hard on the four tribes, but it has at least guaranteed that drafting them will be easy and effective (a real concern coming into a small set). I believe that, in terms of Limited, Rivals will make up for what a lot of players felt like was a ‘bad’ draft set. And even if I’m wrong, you know I’ll be drafting Blue/Green and having a ton of fun doing it.

Battling Temur

It’s no secret that the Standard format seems to be in a bit of a rut. While there are lots of cool and interesting decks in the current metagame, the dominating powerhouse that is Temur Energy still hold a monopoly over Standand. Much like Jund before it, Temur is a potent midrange deck that values its competitors out of the game, thanks in no small part to the namesake Energy mechanic. Taking up between 20-40% of the metagame at any one point it is no surprise that players have become disenfranchised with the deck and Standard as a whole. The hope of many is that Rivals will add enough cards to the current tribes of Ixalan, and as a result shake up the current metagame to a point where Temur isn’t so dominant. But will it?


Again, Merfolk players seem to be the ones to benefit the most from Rivals upcoming release, and many people have speculated that the time of the fishmen is nigh. Merfolk always seemed like a deck that was ‘almost there’ in terms of tournament viability, just needing a few key pieces to make it work. With cards like Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca and Deeproot Elite, Merfolk are well positioned to be an aggressive alternative to Temur Energy.

At the last Pro Tour, Mono-White Vampires was a deck that took many players by surprise with it’s ability to both go wide and stay in the fight thanks to its ability to throwing out life linking tokens. It is very likely that these little bloodsuckers might also show up on the top tables during the coming weeks and months, possibly making use of creatures like Famished Paladin or enchantments like Radiant Destiny.


Dinosaurs and Pirates also got some interesting new toys like Warlike Marauder, Dire Fleet Daredevil and Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Sadly though, I doubt that either of these two tribes will find the success they deserve. The issue is that Dinosaurs and Pirates are simply outshone by the more powerful tribes of Ixalan, as well as the ever-present energy decks. That doesn’t mean that these two creature types will be absent from Standard, far from it. But in terms of a Dino deck taking down a GP in the coming months, I’m very sceptical.

Kaiju Battle Royal

All is not lost for lovers of these scaled behemoths, however, as Wizards have gifted us with some great additions for EDH. Oh, and I don’t mean Elder Dragon Highlander. No, it’s time for some Elder Dinosaur Highlander. Inspired by some of giant Kaiju’s of Japanese cinema, these six powerhouses are great additions to commander.

Personally, I love the look of King Ghidorah,…I mean Zacama, Primal Calamity. Not only is it a great alternative commander for my Gishath, Sun’s Avatar deck, but also makes a great addition to the ninety-nine thanks to its versatility in handling threats. Overall, we will be getting nine new legendries thanks to Rivals, and commander is certain to become more interesting.

And that’s our quick overview of Rivals of Ixalan. I personally am looking forward to Wizards final small set, and it is looking like it might just be the shot in the arm the game needs. But what do you think? Will Rivals be a success? Will it change Standard? Will Limited be more ‘fun’ to play? Let us know your opinions in the comments below, and don’t forget to like a subscribe to keep up to date on all the goings on here at Master of Magics. Until next time remember, Good Luck and Have Fun.

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