Ixalan season is fast approaching. Half the cards in the set have been spoiled. While we don’t know the full scope of the Limited environment, we can start to see it develop. Themes become themes by being repeated and emphasized. Here are six uncommons that emphasize some themes. I expect they will be strong Limited players.

I have an odd feeling that Duskborne Skymarcher will be a powerhouse. Judge’s Familiar became a multi-format all-star that won two Pro Tours. People have called one-mana 1/1 fliers Lava Axe because they can attack freely for a few turns when played early. That’s mostly a joke, but there’s enough truth to that folly that it sometimes becomes true insight.

Even so, the general verdict one one drops in Limited is that they need to provide value beyond just their efficient power and toughness. Sludge Crawler was quite good because it was both a late-game mana sink and a threatening early attacker that enabled the processor mechanic. Cliffside Lookout provided ally triggers and pumped your team later on. Duskborne Skymarcher‘s ability isn’t as good as either of those, but it has evasion naturally. The pump ability, while not powerful, is flexible and annoying to play against.

This is a card your opponent probably has to think about. That style of grindy play fits the white-black archetype generally. The vampires here may want to get it for a little early and then a lot later. Maybe you can crew some pirate ships too—the attacker-pumping ability is basically the same effect that vehicles provide anyway.

Two mana draw two cards? That’s really good. You have to attack first? That’s a problem in some decks, but even “control” decks in Limited have attackers. Maybe you can’t cast this for full value on turn two, but that’s not when you need to draw cards. You want more cards after you play the ones in your opening hand. But even if you are stuck with a ton of lands in hand, the fail case of casting this as a pseudo cycler that also loots is pretty good. Think of it this way: if you cast Chart a Course on turn two on the draw without playing a one drop, you’ll have to discard end of turn anyway. It’s Tormenting Voice with serious upside.

It also suggests that blue is kicking up the tempo on Ixalan. The spoiled pirates have unearthed breathless whispers of faeries. Spell Pierce is back with Lookout’s Dispersal in tow. Maybe those one drops with upside are going to be where you want to be.

A new Blightcaster for exploring? How much exploring will we be able to do? You get either a free land off your deck or a scry plus a +1/+1 counter. That’s a lot of value for a creature mechanic, which makes me think explore creatures will be top picks in draft. Once you can reliably trigger Lurking Chupacabra twice in a game, it’s a huge value engine. But can you reliably have the five-plus explore creatures necessary to get that consistency? It’s probably easier than having five enchantments for Blightcaster, so I have hope.

Also, we now welcome el chupacabra to the multiverse. Cryptozoologists of the world rejoice. I’m not sure that’s an ocassion to celebrate, exactly; but let’s not kid ourselves. El chupacabra has been here all along. We just didn’t have proof.

What a strange and beautiful card! Red gets its version of Bounty of the Luxa. Is the provoke ability a drawback? It sure doesn’t have to be. Red control decks can be tons of fun in Limited, but usually the color pushes too hard in the aggressive direction. I want to play solid blockers like Raptor Hatchling—the new Dragon Egg—and drop Trove of Temptation to ramp into giant finishers.

I’m not sure it’s even a drawback at all. When does your opponent have a good attack in Limited and not take it? Rarely, and when they do, it’s usually a mistake. But there are plenty of times when your opponent has no good attacks—you want them to attack. This card might be absurdly powerful. At the least, it is cool.

This is a much more efficient body than Lurking Chupacabra, making it an easier early pick. Vanilla two-mana 1/3s are at least passable sideboard blockers, and this can be a lot more than that. You only need to trigger this once to make it a strong card. If you can do it two or three times in your first six turns, Wildgrowth Walker turns into a behemoth and you gain a ton of life. I think this is a better version of Graf Mole, a card that did a ton of work in Shadows over Innistrad.

Will exploring be as good as investigating, or as reliable a basis for a draft deck? The ability seems better up front because you don’t have to pay any mana later to get full value. But for that reason, R&D can’t just throw around free explores like they’re Alex Bertoncini. You can only explore so much, putting a realistic cap on how big Wildgrowth Walker can be. I’m pretty happy with a two-mana 3/5 that gained six life, however.

Are you going to first-pick Pillar of Origins? It really depends how many players in a draft can play either Vampires, Pirates, Merfolk, or Dinosaurs—but listing four tribes (each of which is multicolored) suggests that you’ve got at least a fifty-fifty shot of drafting a tribal deck. And in a deck where most creatures are the same type, this card is amazing.

Is it good outside dedicated tribal decks? Metallic Mimic was pretty good. You would either name the type of the next creature you planned to cast, or name a type that you hoped to play a few copies of later in the game. Of course, Metallic Mimic leaves behind a serviceable two drop if you don’t get more tribal value from it, while this card could end up being an expensive Lotus Petal. Consider Pillar of Origins as a weird two-mana Lotus Petal with flashback? Play it turn two to ramp into whatever four drop you have, and maybe later you draw another creature or two that share its type. Could you splash Hostage Taker with this thing if you have a couple pirates in one of your deck’s base colors? Don’t be surprised.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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