Ixalan is here, and with the full spoiler out it’s time to dive in and take a look at what this set has to offer. Originally I was going to write a primer for the prerelease, but since PV and Emma Handy among others have written extensively about the format already I decided to focus on Legacy instead. These are the Ixalan cards most relevant to Legacy play.

Shaper’s Sanctuary was the first card that caught my eye out of Ixalan, and for good reason. For just one mana you get a very powerful effect; and it being an enchantment means that, aside from Abrupt Decay, it will be difficult for your opponent to remove. Shaper’s Sanctuary is going to be at its best in green decks with many creatures, and shines against decks with a lot of spot removal that aim to win by attrition. Because of how difficult it is to remove it will often get to stay in play for many turns, and thus it has the potential to draw you a lot of cards over the course of the game.

Take for example the scenario where you’re playing Infect against a Czech Pile opponent. If you can resolve Shaper’s Sanctuary, then suddenly every removal spell they play will let you draw a card, and then it will be very difficult for them to run you out of gas. Granted it’s not for every deck, and it’s probably better suited for the sideboard than the maindeck, but I think Shaper’s Sanctuary is powerful enough that it might find a home in Legacy. This is also a card that’s difficult to evaluate, and I’m excited to find out exactly how good it is over the next few months.

Kopala, Warden of Waves is similar to Kira, Great Glass-Spinner in many ways, and is a potential replacement for her in Merfolk. They’re both 2/2s for three mana that help protect your creatures from spot removal. Kopala lacks the evasion that Kira has, but being a Merfolk means Kopala will often have Islandwalk anyway. The main difference between the two comes from how their abilities differ from each other, and this will likely be the deciding factor when it comes to determining which is a better fit. Kira, Great Glass-Spinner straight up counters the first spell or ability that targets one of your creatures, meaning that she’s almost a guaranteed two-for-one. On the other hand, her ability only affects the first spell or ability that would target your creatures, making her weak to cards such as Karakas, Maze of Ith, Umezawa’s Jitte, and Izzet Staticaster. Ultimately I think Kira’s ability will prove to be stronger in general, but it’s by no means a case of one being strictly better than the other.

The main draw to Kopala is that he’s a Merfolk, which means he works with all of the deck’s Merfolk synergies. Not only does this make him a potentially much bigger threat in a deck with Lord of Atlantis and Master of the Pearl Trident, but it also means you can reveal him to Silvergill Adept and cast him off of Cavern of Souls. The builds with Tidal Courier will almost assuredly prefer Kopala to Kira, but those versions are also a lot less common.

Another interesting thing to note is how Kopala’s ability works with Phantasmal Image. With Kira, Great Glass-Spinner the opponent could just target your Phantasmal Image and you’d be forced to sacrifice it. With Kopala on the other hand, they still have to pay the additional mana, provided that it’s copying a Merfolk. Time will tell whether or not Kopala will be making any waves in Legacy, but at the very least I expect people will try him out.

This is an interesting new Death & Taxes-style hate bear, and one that has a lot of potential at that. It’s true that Death & Taxes has a few enters-the-battlefield triggers of its own, but there are enough decks in Legacy that rely on creatures with ETB effects that Tocatli Honor Guard might be worthy of a slot in Death & Taxes. This is a card I’m not hoping to see out of my opponent’s deck when I’m playing Goblins, and the same is true for many other decks as well. Tocatli Honor Guard stops a lot of Elves’ shenanigans, and prevents Aluren from going off at all. Even something as simple as making opposing Baleful Strixes and Snapcaster Mages worse could be enough to justify playing a copy of Tocatli Honor Guard in your deck.

This one I’m a lot less excited about, as it’s almost always going to be worse than Thalia, Heretic Cathar. It’s true that it can trade with a flipped Delver of Secrets, but I just don’t see that making up for the fact that it’s an overall weaker card.

Two mana to draw two cards is a very solid deal, and it doesn’t take much to enable Chart a Course. You probably don’t want this in a deck that doesn’t want to be attacking anyway, but the fact that it’s still a useful topdeck even if you have to discard a card means I’m not worried as long as I can expect to be attacking relatively often.

I’m not sure if this is going to be better than Night’s Whisper in UBx decks. Paying two life isn’t a huge cost, but the fact that this pitches to Force of Will could be relevant. In any case, Chart a Course is a good card draw spell, and is a potential consideration for blue aggressive decks.

This is a two mana Pithing Needle that let’s you look at the opponent’s hand. Information is good, and often underrated, but the extra mana is such a big cost that I think Sorcerous Spyglass is going to be worse the majority of the time.

The exception, and the reason I’m excited about this card is Chalice of the Void decks where Pithing Needle costing one mana rather than two is actually a drawback. What’s even better is that those decks tend to play a lot of fast mana, especially in the form of sol lands. This means that you will often be able to play Sorcerous Spyglass on turn one. Just imagine playing this turn one on the play and naming a fetchland in their hand, and it becomes clear that this card has the potential to steal games.

Unclaimed Territory is worse than Cavern of Souls, but for any deck that’s in the market for additional copies of Cavern of Souls it’s still a welcome addition. At this point, there is only one deck that fits that description. Slivers—or “Meathooks”is not a deck we commonly see in Legacy, but it’s a deck nonetheless. The issue is that many versions of Slivers play noncreature spells like Brainstorm and Swords to Plowshares, and in those decks a classic mana base of fetchlands and dual lands is better. Still, other builds are more similar to Merfolk in how they’re constructed, and those players are going to be very happy to have Unclaimed Territory.

Ixalan gives us two new pieces of graveyard hate: Sentinel Totem and Ashes of the Abhorrent. Sentinel Totem is somewhere between Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus. Comparing it to Tormod’s Crypt, it’s rare that you’d want to pay an extra mana for a scry, but the fact that it hits both graveyards means it’s a lot better at shrinking Tarmogoyf. Relic of Progenitus hits both graveyards too, and it also draws you a card, but the fact that you have to pay mana to use it means it’s often too slow against fast combo decks such as Reanimator—especially on the draw. I’m not super optimistic about Sentinel Totem, but I’m higher on it than when I first saw it, and I’ll probably pick up a copy or two to see how they perform.

Ashes of the Abhorrent on the other hand I’m very skeptical about. It’s both expensive and narrow compared to other graveyard hate options. It doesn’t stop Reanimator or Life from the Loam, and it’s only somewhat useful against Dredge. It’s only really effective against Past in Flames (and I guess technically Zombardment), but so are most of the other options available. The life gain means it doubles as a sideboard card against Burn, but it’s just too narrow for me to be excited about it. I suppose there’s some weird corner case scenario where your deck has a very specific set of graveyard interactions of its own where you’d want a more narrow form of graveyard hate, but I just don’t see it.

Sandro is a Magic player from Stockholm, Sweden. He’s been playing Goblins in Legacy for years. Follow him on Twitter @SandroRajalin

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