By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
I do not always need to play every set release of Magic the Gathering, and I patiently waited for Rivals of Ixalan. I hoped it might offer a few gods inspired from Mesoamerican culture and make the game more of an archaeological adventure. That is, to include “traps” to trip up the opponent. While neither happened, it did not stop me from checking out the prerelease over the weekend instead of glossing over the cards online.
Sorry, Jace Beleren, but I forgot about you. I am more interested in finding the fabled El Dorado (Orazca). Six of the seven cards belong to Rivals, and these mana generators work well in both casual and competitive games. Path of Mettle flips to become Metzali, Tower of Triumph. This card deals direct damage to creatures while Azor’s Gateway transition to become Sanctum of the Sun can help bring out those high-cost Elder Dinosaurs into play faster.
Because of the good variety of cards I obtained, I built two decks than one. My vampires did not fare as well but I did see how these cards from my deck and my opponent’s worked. This set adds more meat to the four tribes. In a sealed format, Tetzimoc, the Primal Death is nasty. Each colour has its own Legendary Elder Dinosaur and to face one is not necessarily tough. I needed to get a Ravenous Chupacabra or Impale out fast if I wanted to survive.
True to folklore, the Chupacabra did not want to appear when requested. Even in real life, to coax this urban legend out in a card game is tougher when I only had one in my pool. I’m buying more to build a proper Black/White deck featuring both this creature and its Lurking cousin. I enjoy Magic the Gathering much more when it brings urban legends and any world mythology to life instead of being “inspired” by it.
Overall, my feelings have changed about the Ixalan series since the first set came out. I am okay with how the designers have interpreted the Sun Empire (loosely based on Aztec culture); they are the ‘masters’ of the dinosaurs and wear their feathers. While it should be the other way, the huge reptiles are divine figures whom the Sun Empire worships — if only the designers emphasized an anthropological perspective, I would have been impressed. If the design team wanted this set to mirror the culture, then they should have included a few Jaguar cards. Thankfully, there are cards from other series to fix this problem. To offer no variation of Dark Ritual, Blood Rites or Ritual of Rejuvenation is odd. The ‘sacrifice’ mechanic needed to be played up instead of downgraded.
Although the Eldrazi is now long gone from Standard games of Magic the Gathering, I will have to make a set using the rules established for Modern. To make combinations with this block and Amonkhet will certainly sate the Ancient Aliens enthusiast in me. Yes, I have been watching too much of this show lately, but it’s entertainment!