And we’re closing out Ixalan with the big cards that we most want to play with but most likely won’t get to. These are the best Rares, and you’ll be lucky to scoop one of these first pick during your drafts over the coming months.
1. Burning Sun’s Avatar
Burning Sun’s Avatar is a 6/6 for six mana, which is great, but if you want to play him, you better be sure you’re hardcore into Red. Those three mountains do not allow for an easy splash like Charging Monstrosaur.
While a 6/6 is enough to close out most games, this one comes with a landfall Searing Blaze on top, dishing out 3 damage to a creature and 3 directly to the player’s face (or to a pesky planeswalker). This is a huge tempo swing and unless they play something big, they won’t get around this so easily.
2. Hostage Taker
Hostage Taker would already be one of the best Rares in the set by exiling a creature and adding a 2/3 to your board presence. However, this comes with the added ability of stealing that creature right out from under your opponent’s nose.
And you don’t even need proper mana to do it! Any mana will do to make that creature your very own. Before you get excited about nabbing Dinosaurs away from your opponent, keep in mind that Hostage Taker has to survive for this ability to work, and ramping into enough mana to steal Dinosaurs might be a bit much. Aim for the biggest creature you can potentially steal on the very next turn or maybe even a two or three-drop on the same turn.
That’s the safest way to get the most value out of Hostage Take and get a huge swing in your favor.
3. Vraska, Relic Seeker
Oh look, a planeswalker. That’ll be good in Limited, right? Vraska is ridiculous. She can crank out 2/2 menace creature for positive loyalty points, giving her an upper hand on Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
She can remove any threat from the board, other than another planeswalker, and she’ll get her mana back with the Treasures she generates. Not bad.
AND she’s only three turns away to take your opponent to 1 life… no problem since she makes creatures that can defend her every turn to get her there in the first place!
At least she costs six mana to bring down and requires two different colors to cast her. Even though Green and Black do not form an established color pairing in Ixalan, you’ll definitely want to splash for her, and you definitely don’t want to be staring her down.
4. Vona, Butcher of Magan
Vampires got a pretty sweet bomb this time around too. Lifelink and Vigilance is a dangerous combination since they can work together to gain you life both attacking and blocking. Already, that’s a sweet deal for five mana on a 4/4.
But wow, just look at that ability. Pitch 7 life, destroy anything. The seven life might seem a bit harsh, but remember, in the vampire deck, you’ll be gaining a whole lot of life anyway through either Vona or other vampires. You’ll have enough to spare to get rid of an opponent’s bomb creature. Life is just as useful as a resource in Magic these days, not just for keeping you alive.
The Vigilance also means that Vona can both attack and use the ability in a single turn. Attack, tap afterwards, destroy their biggest creature, either hit the player or take out their second biggest creature, gain four of those three life points back. Congrats, you just took a huge chunk out of your opponent and suffered only a Lightning Bolt’s worth of damage.
5. Regisaur Alpha
This is my favorite Dinosaur for constructed play, but in Limited, it is also a bomb. 7/7 worth of creatures for five mana with no strings attached is unheard of in Magic. Toss in the fact that this comes over two creatures and the 3/3 has both trample and haste, meaning it can attack this turn it comes down.
Further down the line, every Dinosaur can attack the turn it comes into play. Just… whoa.
The only thing holding this card back is that the main Dino alpha himself can’t barrel in alongside his buddy. He has to wait a turn. If you can copy him, that’s 14 points of haste damage for five mana! But you’ll only be able to pull that off in Constructed.
6. Hualti, Warrior Poet
The gameplay sticks to the story here with Jace being lost on a strange plane and finding himself vastly underpowered. Jace, Cunning Castaway is merely a decent planeswalker in this set, giving center stage to Vraska and this newcomer, Hualti, Warrior Poet.
Hualti’s plus ability is nothing really to write home about unless you desperately need life or are already stabilized and need to drag the game out another turn or two to get more value out of her ultimate ability. The second two abilities account for an absurd amount of power and everything you crave from a five mana planeswalker.
For the loss of zero loyalty points, you get a 3/3 Dinosaur with trample. Already, I would rather take these over Gideon’s Knight Allies. No question.
However, her ultimate ability has so many applications, it sends her into overdrive. It can clear the board of annoying 1/1 token creatures. It can slip in your biggest Dinosaurs or smaller aggro creatures by removing their ability to block. And if you really need to, you can use one of those loyalty points to trigger Enrage on one of your own Dinosaurs. Since it is X, you can distribute two of these useful points of damage the turn she comes down and still keep Hualti around to spit out Dinosaurs every turn… that is, if you don’t win the turn you cast her.
7. Ripjaw Dinosaur
Another brilliant Dinosaur in the Rare spot, this one has the distinction of being a 4/5 for four mana. Sound familiar?
Let’s not rate this card TOO highly though. No trample and no life swing hurts its potential, but the card draw you can get from this guy is amazing! At 4/5 on turn four, this will survive most combat encounters, and your opponent is going to have to make tough choices. Take 4 damage OR sacrifice a creature (possibly two if they want to kill this thing) and let you draw a card?
On a more basic level, does your opponent attack into Ripjaw Raptor OR not? I mean, even if they send in two creatures, one will easily be blocked and you’re getting to draw an easy, free card. Attacking into this creature is a really bad idea, and if your opponent does, it means he has a Raid trigger or a combat trick. If that’s the case, play around as necessary.
8. Vance’s Blasting Cannons/Spitfire Bastion
You like drawing cards? You like dealing direct damage to creatures or players. This Red Rare is just up your alley since it can do both for a relatively cheap price! The only complicated thing about slamming this card into the battlefield is deciding when you want to flip it. Sometimes, you would rather draw two cards a turn rather than deal an easy 3 damage.
Once you get enough card advantage and have the enemy on the ropes, let ’em fly!
9. Carnage Tyrant
Another Dinosaur that will prove better in Constructed decks, but still, this is a card you’ll want to take every time you see it. It can’t be countered, it can’t be targeted by removal spells, and with 6 toughness, there’s not really a lot that can jump in the way to kill it outright. Settle the Wreckage is the only board wipe in this set, and that’s the only thing that can bring it down effectively…
…except the Skittering Heartstopper. Gotta love Deathtouch to counter cards like these.
There are definitely better Rares than him for Limited, but I don’t care. Carnage Tyrant is on my hit list, and I want to win as many games as I can with him.
10. Fathom Fleet Captain
This one is a little more “fun” than it is “good,” but there is no substitute for this in an aggressive Pirate deck. This man builds an army worthy of Mordor almost on his own, and he can do so with the help of his Pirate buddies and their treasure. A 2/2 menace is a really solid creature, meaning that Fathom Fleet Captain can let your board state get out of control and make blocking impossible if an opponent doesn’t deal with him right away.
It takes a turn or two to get him going, but once he does… look out! Your board will be covered with Pirates.