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Hey gamers! Lost Caverns of Ixalan (pre)releases this weekend, and along with it comes a handful of cards celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Jurassic Park movies. Do people still know who Michael Crichton was? He wrote the Jurassic Park novels, and was a legit literary celebrity in the 1990s. Plenty of his work has been made into films and TV, and if you like Jurassic Park and want to see what else came from that mind, the wikipedia is here.
Overall, I find Lost Caverns of Ixalan to be a bit of a forgettable set. I can’t find many interesting in-world characters, and the mechanics are either really easy to understand but low on flavour (Descend) or overly complicated and clunky (Craft with) or a slightly different spin on Cascade that wasn’t necessary (Discover). I’m really turned off by DFCs (Double-Faced Cards) and the extra fiddling they require. It’s either hard on those sleeves, or requires a whole subset of other placeholder cards, and the payoffs are hardly worth it. Unless a DFC is so unique and special that it demands play, I’m going to ignore them.
So today I thought I’d focus on the 10 things in Lost Caverns of Ixalan that I feel are facepalms, or groany little fails. Stuff that makes me roll my eyes and wonder what the hell is going on with Wizards/Hasbro/The Universe. After that I’m going to take another look at the Hot Takes I hotly took when Ixalan was just getting spoiled. Here we go!
10 – Goblin Tomb Raider is in No Way Inspired by Tomb Raider, the Game Franchise.
This not an appeal for Lara Croft’s proportions to appear on a Magic Card, but this could easily have been a female goblin with a white top, brown shorts, and a ponytail. There’s also a large piece of flavour text that is almost as much of a missed opportunity.
9 – Triple Tokens
The new white god, Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation, is the kind of design you either love or hate. It’s on this list, so how do you think I feel? This is a gateway to unmanageable boardstates where opponents get the opportunity to quit in frustration, or else do the even-worse resolution math.
Here’s some cards that really break this stupid card by making a non-legendary copy of it (3 actually): Helm of the Host, Irenicus’s Vile Duplication, Cadric, Soul Kindler, Delina, Wild Mage, Quantum Misalignment, Storm of Saruman, The Sixth Doctor, The Apprentice’s Folly and Vesuvan Duplimancy. I’m sure there’s a few others. Double Major doesn’t quite work, as you have to get Ojer Taq in spell form to resolve first. Ratadrabik of Urborg takes a little work, but can make it happen by reanimating Ojer Taq with the copy trigger on the stack so it sees the copy being made.
Like all the other triple cards, this is so win-more, it’s laughable, and expect to have plenty of games where an opponent who could have killed you half an hour ago struggles with their own token management because they also have Anointed Procession and Doubling Season out and didn’t expect that to result in math.
Oh yeah and it doesn’t die. It ramps the owner’s mana instead, then comes back later. So the boardwipe I used to try and deal with the token army doesn’t deal with Ojer Taq unless it exiles. Great.
8 – 1000 counters
Speaking of stupid math I don’t want to do, here’s The Millennium Calendar. Oops my hand slipped. Sorry about your counters. How many were on there?
Losing 1000 life to The Millennium Calendar is another thing not covered by ‘Protection from Everything.’ It also should mill the opponents for 1000 into exile instead of taking 1000 life.
7 – This has got to be the Wordiest Set Ever
I was looking for an obvious example, but there are so many. I like wordy. These posts are rarely short. But there’s a point where it becomes a major barrier for new players who don’t understand what their cards do, and for existing players, who have played the game for most of their lives, but still don’t understand what the cards do. There was probably a more succinct and snappy way of saying that, but I have to push on to the next entry, or else the shareholders become rabid at the thought of a slackened pace.
How do you grok Unstable Glyphbridge as a new player? How can you evaluate it for play? Same goes for longer serving players. I know what it does, sorta, and it’s good, but it’s so difficult to place the effects within any kind of game sequencing that I’m just going to play simpler cards and move on.
6 – Not Just Wordy, But Also Lots of Aclazotz
So what card will be the most mispronounced out of this set? My vote isn’t for the Mayan/Incan/Spanish Armada-inspired names, like Ojer Pakpatiq, Deepest Epoch, Sovereign Okinec Ahau, Amalia Benavides Aguirre, Matzalantli, the Great Door, Bartolome Del Presidio, Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath, or Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar. Those are all great, and are going to plague the content creators who make videos like crazy! But they’re not the card destined for the most mangles. That goes to Broodrage Mycoid.
Why? First off, what the hell is ‘Broodrage’? Seriously, like so angry from just having spent time with the offspring? But it also is totally going to be said as ‘Bloodrage,’ especially considering there are already 3 cards with Bloodrage in the title, plus Blood-Chin Rager and Rageblood Shaman, and Bloodrage kind of makes sense as a Vampire thing, or a variation to Zombification in pop culture.
We’ve also got a pair of Myconid cards. Not Mycoid. Myconids have been around for decades as monsters in a variety of games. Mycoid is rarely-used term for having fungal characteristics. Myconid actually fits better, as an established noun. I would like a nickel for every time a Broodrage Mycoid is called Bloodrage Myconid, which it probably could have been called. This might even have been a typo, though they also used mycoid on the card Twists and Turns which transforms into Mycoid Maze.
5 – Uchbenbak, The Great Mistake is Less Interesting Than Many Card Typos
It’s fun when a card has a typo. Or wait, maybe it’s sad. I’m not sure. But either way, it’s mildly interesting. Like I thought Uchbenbak, the Great Mistake was going to be.
First off, killer name. Second, cool art. Big skeleton monster with lots of hands. Very Eldin Ring. Third, it’s a Skeleton, which has been an under-supported type across Magic’s long history, so that’s cool, and a Horror, which is also a thing. You can put a slime counter on him with Sludge Monster and he just shrugs.
And then the wall of text. I’ve been down on wordy, but that text box has got to be full of something cool, right?
It’s a medium sized french-vanilla beater that can come back from the graveyard once. That’s what all that text is for. It’s more or less Unearth. Swap out all the text for Unearth with the drawback of needing 8 permanents in the yard and Uchbenbak is very very sad indeed. And really not interesting. I’m not sure 4 toughness is enough to even make this that good in Limited (Draft). If this is your Commander, sending this to the graveyard to be brought back for value seems like a harder way of simply recasting it from the Command Zone.
Yes, you can ‘loop this’ with Soul Diviner by removing the finality counter for value, but will you? This is one they should have screwed up a little.
4 – Visual Chaos
Cards in this set can have +1/+1 counters, lore counters, time counters, loyalty counters, finality counters, bore counters, net counters, chorus counters, stun counters, landmark counters, and point counters. That’s 11 different kinds. If you open one of the ability counter cards from the Jurassic Park stuff, that goes up by a full order of magnitude. Oh and there’s a -1/-1 counter card in there, too. Counters are meant to be a reminder, like finality counters, but like a string tied around your finger, they lose their impact when there’s a whole lot of similar reminders close by.
Finality counters also step on the already-existing ‘corpse counters.’ Obviously, from those heavily played and very well-known cards Isareth the Awakener and From the Catacombs. Corpse counters also appear on the oracle text for Scavenging Ghoul, doing something different in regenerating the ghoul. I hope someone manages to get a finality counter and a corpse counter on the same creature at some point.
There are multiple alt-art treatments of cards and DFCs. There are a lot of cards that modify power and toughness. Some for a turn, some permanently, some by changing the creature’s base stats. And some, like on the gnome token pictured above, require constant counting.
Yeah. That’s gonna be a lot of fun for prereleases, drafts, etc.
But what this all is really doing is lowering the playability of the game by making it difficult to assess/keep track off/manage your cards. Making the game less playable is really one of the last things the company should be doing.
3 – Colossal Dreadmaw Did Not Get an Alt-Art Treatment
It’s not even in the set. I mean, what’s the point of anything?
2 – The Jurassic Cards Feel Half-Revealed
Is this just me? I feel like there’s another bunch of Jurassic World-inspired cards yet to be spoiled. But… there isn’t.
There are representatives of the franchise, like Ian Malcolm depicted at the moment where he explains the fundamental scientific principle (Chaos Theory) to the book’s plot in layman’s terms. Great move. There’s also Chris Pratt and his motorcycle and dino friend, and Dr. Henry Wu with his back turned for some reason. We got Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s characters melded together, and the big Jurassic Park facade, and some movie moments on the other cards, but I feel like a lot is missing.
There are some notably absent cast, like Bryce Dallas Howard entirely and all the kids. Some characters are barely there, like the Raptor Wrangler Muldoon, known for the line, ‘Clever girl.’ He appears in the distance in the card art for Hunting Velociraptors and provides the flavour text. He seemed like the most obvious character to make into a legend, as a traditional hunter specializing in dinosaurs. John Hammond, the park’s creator, another potentially strong choice for a legendary design, only appears like Muldoon, in card art and flavour text.
We also saw none of the vehicles, like the iconic jeep or bubble cars, and while the Welcome To… saga destroys walls, none were designed for the set. These are a bit of a reach, but I’d prefer specific canon JP stuff to non-legendary dinosaurs which are already all over the base set and commander precons.
Something Jurassic Park hasn’t really done in it’s multi-movie romp is create a lot of memorable dinosaurs. There have been signature moments of course, but they’re with the species, not the individual. Take the T-Rex in the first movie. It was big and scary and ate a guy on the toilet, but it would be interchangeable in those scenes for any other T-Rex or similar sized predator. It had no individual character, and since it didn’t manage to get any kind of name or nickname in 30 years other than the T-Rex in the first movie, its tough to build a Magic Legend around it. They did manage to make a couple of legendary raptors, and Indominus Rex, Alpha, but that’s as far as they got for legendary dinos.
Like I said, this could just be me. Maybe I’m just sad that there’s no Dennis Nedry card, that we’d all call Newman. The card that has Nedry’s face on it doesn’t even look much like Wayne Knight. Bah humbug.
1 – Dinosaurs Still Have No Identity But We Finally Got More Skeleton Pirates
What do dinosaurs do? In Magic terms, I mean. What’s their deal, their jam, their modus operandi? I built a dinosaur deck ages ago, back when original Ixalan was still pretty fresh, and it was pretty much dragons without flying or many cool support cards. The game plan was beatdown with medium-large creatures that maybe had trample. It wasn’t great.
One way to look at what a creature type does is through the lens of their keywords. Trample doesn’t help much with making a type unique, and while some dinos are flyers, most are not. That leaves Enrage.
Some of the Enrage stuff was okay, but with only 18 dinos (and one dragon) with Enrage, some of which were not printed at the time, it was tough to build around the concept. Even now, that’s not enough for a creature-base for a Commander deck, and the effects vary in power and payoff enough that any one enabler might not be appropriate for all your Enrage guys. Like Wayta, Trainer Prodigy making two creatures fight. Great in theory, but not all of those Enrage matchups will work out for you. Some need a repeatable single point of damage, not to be mauled by something bigger.
Another way to look at what a type does is through their legendaries, which provide a reliable modifier for that type from the Command Zone. They form the basis of the strategy that your dinos work towards. But it’s not varied.
I’m discounting the mono-colour dino legends, like Ghalta, Primal Hunger and Etali, Primal Storm, none of which lend themselves to playing other dinosaurs specifically. There also are barely enough dinos in colours like blue, black and white that you couldn’t build a whole Commander deck around them, even with Changeling support.
The multicoloured legends, like Pantlanza, Sun-Favored, and the reprinted Gishath, Sun’s Avatar, and even Atla Palani, Nest Tender, plop dinos into play like crazy, but that’s all. While the pairing of Owen Grady, Raptor Trainer and Blue, Loyal Raptor gives dinos keywords, you’re still trying to win with a bunch of random beaters, now with some evasion maybe, or double strike. The rest, like Zacama, Primal Calamity, Indoraptor, the Perfect Hybrid, Indominus Rex, Alpha, and the various dinos from Ikoria, don’t need any other dinosaurs, and would probably do better if not limited to them.
What do dinosaurs do? In Magic terms, I still don’t know.
Bonus! Hot Takes Revisited
Recently I did a Hot Takes post about Ixalan! Let’s see how I did!
Hot Take #1 – Ixalan Brings More Dinos, but Doesn’t Solve Their Identity Crisis.
I think I covered that above. We’re going to say I called it.
Hot Take #2 – Lands on the Backside of Legendary Creatures is Dangerous
This one is still to play out, but the Ojers look pretty dangerous. My concern is Modern Horizons 3 and the potential for a DFC that’s a legend on one side and a legendary land on the other. There are a few lands, like Cavern of Souls, Cabal Coffers, and some others that are not okay from the Command Zone every game turn 1, but I’m afraid we’ll get there. And soon.
Hot Take #3 – Jurassic World’s Humans Will Outnumber the Dinos
Again, I think I covered it, and this was more about the legends than overall numbers. We got 4 legendary JP humans and 3 dinos. Called it.
Bonus hot take: 2/2 for Ian Malcolm is hilarious. It should be 0/1 or 1/1. I bet we get some absolutely stupid numbers on Human Legends in this set.
I don’t think this got there. The weirdest P/T numbers among the JP cards are Henry Wu, InGen Geneticist at 1/4, and Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists at 2/5. In the Lost Caverns main set, a 1/4, a 1/5, and a 4/4 are as wild as it gets. Consider me wrong and pleasantly surprised!
Hot Take #4 – A Mystery Will be Resolved… With Another Mystery
This was way off. I figured we’d pick up the Jace/Vraska storyline in Ixalan, including the twist that the Jace & Vraska that got compleated were actually illusions created by Jace, Cunning Castaway or something. Or maybe the gang finds an amnesiac Jace on a sandbar with a Contested Game Ball. I’m pretty disappointed, honestly.
Hot Take #5 – We Will See at Least One Exciting Type Support Card
Like a T-Rex trying to facepalm, hopefully this post brought you a chuckle.
Thanks for reading!