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Magic: The Gathering Rivals of Ixalan – Our 10-ish Favorite Uncommon Cards

by Ron Duwell | January 14, 2018January 14, 2018 10:00 am PST

Uncommon has always been my favorite rarity level to look at when a new set of Magic: The Gathering comes out. As someone who mostly plays Limited formats, I know that rares are not likely to appear in my pool and that a large number of the common cards are just not worth my time.

However, cards that are uncommon carry a lot of punch and appear more often than you might expect in your Draft or Sealed pool at Friday Night Magic. Rivals of Ixalan will finally be available next weekend, and these are the Top 10-ish uncommons we most want to see when opening our packs.

But before we start counting down officially…

HM: Jungle Creeper

I just wanted to write about this one since it’s a really good Magic card. The obvious problem with it though is that Black/Green is not an officially supported color combination in Ixalan or Rivals of Ixalan. Finding a home for Jungle Creeper could prove to be tough.

If you can, it will easily become a solid addition to any deck even without tribal synergies. Once you are able to generate enough mana, it’s a blocker that never truly dies. Block, trade, get him back, block, trade, get him back. He’s also a 3/3, meaning he can swat away 2/2’s with no problem, and in the meantime of all this generation, you’re building your hand and board state. Jungle Creeper provides just enough blockades to help you creep into your long game plan.

The most obvious place to put this monster is splashed into a Blue/Black Pirates deck. Treasure should be easily available until you’re able to dig up a Forest or an uncommon dual land, and Black/Blue is the only color combination in Ixalan that really wants the game to drag out.

Jungle Creeper is just a solid Magic card, and it’s a shame he doesn’t have a natural home in Ixalan. Don’t feel bad for the unsupported White/Blue uncommon though, Resplendent Griffin. That card sucks and doesn’t need a home.

10.Curious Obsession

 

Auras are back in Rivals of Ixalan after making a huge mark on the previous set, and Curious Obsession is the most interesting of the bunch. For one blue mana, you get +1/+1 worth of stats and the ability to draw a card whenever that creature deals damage. The downside is that if you don’t attack with ANY creature, not just the enchancted one, you lose the Aura.

This is not likely to happen because if you’re not attacking in Ixalan, you aren’t doing it right.

As for the power, the most obvious targets are on something that can’t be blocked like Mist-Cloaked Herald, River Sneak or Storm Fleet Sprinter This card will turn those into legitimate threats that not only promise to pound away at your opponent with boosted stats but also to draw you a lot of cards. Cheap flyers like Kitesail Corsair are also ideal.

However, even if you put this on a normal 2/2 or 3/3, it is still likely to overpower opposing blockers, clearing the way for card draw the next time.

Again, Auras look decent in Rivals of Ixalan, but this is one that might go the distance and become highly sought after.

9. Swift Warden/Silvergill Adept

I fought, twisted, and kicked myself to pick one of these over the other, but I couldn’t. Merfolk is the best of the four tribes at the uncommon level, and when you can draft the premiere uncommon cards, your deck will likely be unstoppable. These are the two premiere uncommon Merfolk in Rivals of Ixalan, and if you see either of these, be prepared to take them and dedicate yourself to the fish.

In Green, we have Swift Warden. In a Merfolk deck, this will counter a removal spell and get you a 3/3 on the battlefield. Not bad. Even outside of Merfolk, this is useful just as an ambusher. Merfolk cards don’t generally branch off into other tribal decks, but there is use to be had with this guy in a Green Dinosaur deck.

Same with Blue. You definitely want Silvergill Adept in a Merfolk deck, ideally on turn-2 and with another Merfolk in your hand. That will give you an aggressive creature and card advantage, both things that Merfolk decks need. When not used in a Merfolk deck, casting this for five mana isn’t ideal, but it’s tolerable.

There you have it. I talked myself into Swift Warden being better since it is better outside of Merfolk, but seriously, if you pick either one of these first, second or third, you’re going to be in Merfolk, so it doesn’t matter.

8. Stormfleet Sprinter

Oh man, I’m in love. Blue/Red has always been one of my favorite color combinations since it can play both aggro or control. And while Stormfleet Sprinter is no Stormchaser Mage, it embodies exactly what the Blue/Red Pirates deck is looking to do in Ixalan: ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK!

If you play this on turn-3, there are few reasons not to just start bashing. Two damage, easy as pie. Turn-4 gets a little more interesting. Maybe you lucked out and nabbed a Pirate’s Cutlass, meaning you effectively have a 4/3 unblockable creature. Better yet, maybe you splashed for black in your Pirate deck and have a Mark of the Vampire. Oh man! There’s no coming back from that… maybe you also have BOTH!

As mentioned before, tying Curious Obsession to this guy will draw you free cards every turn, and Storm Fleet Sprinter also safely triggers Raid, a mechanic that pops up a lot in the Pirate decks.

It’s not foolproof since removal works effectively against this guy. Luckily, Rivals of Ixalan has access to Negate at common, and Ixalan still provides an opportunity to nab up Spell Pierce. Both should help protect your investment.

Not a stunner or a bomb, but I love the Blue/Red deck too much to not write about it. There are so many ways to exploit this guy, and I hope to achieve every one.

7. Deadeye Brawler

Deathtouch on a 2/4 is just cruel and unusual. The only way to kill this guy is to double block him, meaning you’re losing not one but two creatures, or to block him with a 4-power creature or even higher, something you’re probably not going to want to trade so lightly. These stats alone make Deadeye Brawler a good card.

Digging further, Ascend is a mechanic you’re not likely to trigger in a game of Limited Magic, but of all the color combinations, Blue/Black is the most likely thanks to its gameplan being a lot slower and having a heavy reliance on Treasure and Artifacts. If that’s the case, your opponent will have to start blocking this guyeventually  since you’ll easily start drawing enough cards to close out the game.

Obviously, an opponent can’t attack into this guy with an Ixalan 2/2 or 3/3. That’s just a deathtrap.

All in all, this is a perfect control card that has the potential to gain a huge advantage in the late game. Good stuff.

6. Needletooth Raptor

Enrage never took off like enthusiasts were hoping for in Ixalan. The new mechanic instead became a backup plan and something that happened incidentally on occasion. In Rivals of Ixalan, the tables seem to be turning in that Enrage benefits from both easier means of triggering it and payoffs that make it worth the trouble.

Needletooth Raptor is the best Enrage card at uncommon. Dealing 5 damage to a creature in Ixalan is huge, enough to flatline just about any threat that an opponent will put down.

First of all, any opponent who openly attacks into this creature is just asking for trouble. The only way they can benefit from it is if they have only one creature on the board since the 5 damage will not have a target, negating Needletooth Raptor’s value. He alone is enough incentive to ward off three or four creatures all by his lonesome.

The most likely transaction with Needletooth Raptor will be a trade with another 2/2, either by blocking or being blocked, and then using the 5 damage to wipe out another big baddie. However, Rivals of Ixalan has enough ways to trigger Enrage. Simply ping Needletooth for 1 damage and let him soar. He combos exceptionally well with Forerunner of the Empire, in that you can summon him to the top of the deck, play him on the next turn, and immediately ping himself for a single damage when he hits the battlefield.

Every Dinosaur after that also triggers his Enrage. Five damage whenever you play a Dinosaur… yikes. Rare and common levels both have other cards that make Enrage worth the effort as well, but this guy is a superstar that can bring the deck together.

5. Legion Lieutenant/Merfolk Mistbinder

Another two cards I can’t choose between, so I’ll just write about both. Legion Lieutenant and Merfolk Mistbender both accomplish the same goal in that they provide a 2-drop “lord” card, +1/+1 for all members of the same tribe, for the two tribes that needed it the most.

A Vampire lord is huge in that all of the Lifelink creature tokens created in the Vampire deck suddenly jump from 1/1 to 2/2. That’s a lot of life you’ll be gaining back if you go wide.

As for Merfolk, the Green/Blue tribe needs, by any and all means necessary, to stay ahead of the curve and be larger than opposing creatures. Without a boost in power and toughness, it’s really easy for Merfolk to fall behind and get crushed by Dinosaurs or get traded off with Lifelink Vampires. Merfolk Mistbender makes it that much easier for your Merfolk to rumble with and survive against any opposing creatures put in their way.

Vampires and Merfolk both needed lords in Rivals of Ixalan, and that’s just what they got. Expect them to perform in their roles perfectly.

4. Baffling End/Reaver Ambush

Ugh, how boring. I always hate writing about Black and White removal spells since every set gets at least one at uncommon, and in every set, they are premiere cards. I’d rather be writing about some cool creature or neat combo, but nope. With each of these cards, you get to exile any small creature. Clean and easy. And in Ixalan, there are a LOT of worthy targets for Baffling End and Reaver Ambush.

Don’t forget, both cards double in power once an opponent drops an aggressive Aura like One With the Wind on those small creatures.

If they are able to remove Baffling End, which is unlikely in a game of Limited, they get a 3/3 Trample in return. As for Reaver Ambush, there is no hope for payoff on the opponent’s front.

Effective, but boring. Next!

3. Thrashing Brontodon

I love the flavor on this card. You drop a Dinosaur into an art museum, and it just thrashes the entire place. However, workers do have to step in and kill the Dinosaur to get it to stop… how sad.

Thrashing Brontodon is solid even without the added ability. A 3/4 for three mana is ahead of the curve and it will easily overpower any other creature in play when it comes down. Ixalan blessed us with Ripjaw Raptor, which is similarly ahead of the curve at 4/5 for four mana, but at three mana, this is the best you’ll find. Be prepared to attack and block with Thrashing Brontodon.

The added Artifact/Enchantment-hate ability works well in Ixalan because of the powerful Auras which have worked their way into the game. With Thrashing Brontodon in play, One With the Wind and Mark of the Vampire become a worry of the past. Once a 3/4 creature stops being worth keeping alive anymore, you can trade Thrashing Brontodon away for a genuine threat.

Huge creature in the early game, excellent removal in the late game, always a threat on the board. Never pass, always play.

2. Raging Regisaur

We’re pushing the boundaries of acceptable uncommons here. Raging Regisaur is actually a 5/4 for four mana once it starts attacking, which is a huge set of stats on such a robust creature. As a 4/4 defender, it’s still good, but you never want to be defending with this card.

Why? Because that extra point of damage goes the extra mile to make this one of the best cards in the set. Can I make a list of things it can do? It can…

  1. Trigger Enrage, making it an extra way to set off the Needletooth Raptor
  2. Pick away at Vampire tokens or one-toughness creatures
  3. Deliver the extra point of damage to finish off a big creature or chump blocker
  4. Hit the opponent in the face for an extra damage

There are so many ways to use this creature. It’s just disgusting how good this card is… but it’s not the king. Not quite.

1. Ravenous Chupacabra

Every once in a while, there is an uncommon card in Magic that makes players really question just how powerful uncommon cards should be. Red aggro decks dominated in Ixalan because of access to Charging Monstrosaur, and Green emerged as a frequent victor in Aether Revolt thanks to Ridgescale Tusker. These cards appear three times as often as rare cards, and they are just as powerful if not more so than a good many. By the end of a format, these cards overperform so well and have been overplayed so often that everyone is just sick of them.

Fans often refer to these cards as “Mythic Uncommons,” and Rivals of Ixalan has an easy choice here.

Ravenous Chupacabra kills any creature when it comes into the battlefield. Dead. That’s it. No more. Your opponent is down a creature, and you are up a 2/2.

You might think that this is the end of it, but nope. Rivals of Ixalan has common access to cards like Crashing Tide and Deadeye Rig-Hauler, which can bring the Chupacabra back to your hand for yet more destruction. Siren’s Ruse is also still around for the ability to blink this card in and out of the battlefield. If you haven’t guessed, Blue is the best color to pair this guy with, but any color should be worth it.

If your opponent manages to kill Ravenous Chupacabra, March of the Drowned or Recover can easily get it back. Graveyard recursion is a thing in Ixalan, and these are just the common cards!

All in all, this card is sick, and it will give you an easy advantage every time you play it. Pick this over anything except the biggest, baddest rares in the set, and even then, be sure to think twice about it.


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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