The Lost Caverns of Ixalan - A cEDH Set Review

Jake FitzSimons • November 14, 2023

Dauntless Dismantler by Dibujante Nocturno

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands | Allied & Shards | Enemy & Wedges | cEDH | Reprints | Minotaur | Budget

G'day, explorers and goal-scorers, Jake FitzSimons here to review the best new cEDH cards from Magic's 98th expansion, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Our second trip to Ixalan after 2017's eponymous Ixalan, this year's offering brings a host new tools to cEDH, including two anti-Dockside cards, a Selesnya Grand Abolisher, and a Jurassic counterspell featuring Samuel L. Jackson. Yep, Samuel L. Jackson. We're three years into Universes Beyond at this point, so I don't know why I'm surprised, but here I stand.


Charismatic Conqueror

Yes, it is a Winota card. A non-Human bear that creates more non-Humans is precisely the sort of thing that Winota, Joiner of Forces abuses to get as many triggers as possible, a la Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss. It's not only easier to cast than those two, it can trigger significantly more often if your opponents aren't interested in paying their taxes, and if they're, great, they're not developing at the rate they'd like to. The bigger question is whether Charismatic Conqueror has enough power or utility to see play anywhere else.

For one thing, it's strong against a Dockside Extortionist played for ramp and value. Your opponent is either forced to have all their fast mana enter as slow mana, or they'll give you an army in a can thanks to Charismatic Conqueror. Unfortunately, Dockside Extortionist is often played by someone who intends to win the game that same turn, in which case Charismatic Conqueror does stone cold motherless nothing. A player making ten Treasures in a single turn isn't going to care if it means ten tokens for the Charismatic Conqueror player, they're planning on wrapping the game up before those tokens can actually do anything. 

It also has a unique interaction with itself in the event that two opposing players both have a copy of Charismatic Conqueror in play. Because the Vampire doesn't have a "nontoken" clause on its trigger, it's possible for each player to trigger their Charismatic Conqueror in response to the other, creating an infinitely cascading chain of Vampire tokens for both players. I'm really looking forward to that coming up in a real game, because I know when it comes down to it, I'm not going to have my token enter tapped. I'm no chicken. 

Dusk Rose Reliquary

A possible upgrade to Portable Hole for decks with disposable fodder they're happy to sacrifice. Without the mana value restriction Portable Hole is constrained by, Dusk Rose Reliquary is free to take care of an artifact or creature of any size, and the ward 2 will hopefully keep that permanent exiled for a bit longer. It's fine, but I wouldn't expect to see it outside of decks like Oswald Fiddlebender or Shorikai, Genesis Engine

Dauntless Dismantler

Dauntless Dismantler is an easy choice for the best cEDH card from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Charismatic Conqueror has a decent interaction with format-warper Dockside Extortionist, but Dauntless Dismantler totally nullifies the pesky Goblin. We already see a similar effect in cEDH by way of Blind Obedience, a rare but powerful card used to asymmetrically slow the game down in stax decks. While Dauntless Dismantler only curbs artifacts, the creature-tapping effect of Blind Obedience wasn't especially useful outside of stopping Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combos anyway, and the Dismantler makes up for it with an amazing activated ability akin to an overloaded Gorilla Shaman

While one white and double X is a hefty price if you're looking to blow up Arcane Signets and Fellwar Stones, paying just a single white mana to destroy every Mox Diamond, every Mana Crypt, Chrome Mox, Mox Opal, and Mox Amber is an unbelievably efficient rate. Which isn't to mention cards like Lotus Petal and Jeweled Lotus (cards usually impossible to remove because the owner will crack them) that will enter tapped and have a full turn of vulnerability to Dauntless Dismantler.

Get Lost

White already has something similar to Get Lost in the form of March of Otherworldly Light, but Get Lost is the more efficient option when you're looking to hit just one target or you're looking to tech against planeswalkers rather than artifacts. Giving an opponent Map tokens usually won't matter unless they're awash with mana, and in the right deck, that might even be an upside if you can follow up Get Lost with a Dockside Extortionist.  

Helping Hand

White finally gets its own version of Unearth, a card that sees sporadic play in decks with associated combos (Inalla) or decks looking to double dip on Dockside Extortionist, or both. Helping Hand gives white a chance to do the same thing, but aside from lacking cycling and making the creature enter tapped, white just isn't well poised to take advantage of this right now.

Illustrious Wanderglyph

A five-mana token-producer with a built-in anthem probably doesn't make much cEDH sense in 2023, but players of yesteryear will remember that Tendershoot Dryad was a powerful finisher when Blood Pod was still a thing. And whereas Tendershoot Dryad only buffed Saprolings, a totally absent creature type in cEDH, Illustrious Wanderglyph hits all artifact creatures, boosting not just the Gnome tokens but cards like Esper Sentinel, Ethersworn Canonist, and Phyrexian Revoker, mainstays in the white stax decks that could consider Illustrious Wanderglyph. The big Golem is even an artifact itself, opening up possible tutor lines for Oswald Fiddlebender decks.


Kitesail Larcenist

It's been a long time since Grasp of Fate was a cEDH staple, but Grasp of Fate didn't have ward or flying. Kitesail Larcenist does, making it a quality Tymna attacker and, thanks to being a Pirate, a way to trigger Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator. Granted, ward 1 won't deter someone with a targeted removal spell, but it sure helps ward off Orcish Bowmasters that will need to pay a whole {3} to bring down this Pirate.

Kitesail Larcenist will almost always have three great targets, even if they're all opposing commanders. For as long as Kitesail Larcenist sticks around, it's an incredibly efficient three-for-one. It's also worth remembering you can target your own permanents as a way to squeeze out some extra mana on a crucial turn or to remove a permanent you'd rather be rid of anyway, like a tapped Mana Vault.

Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel

Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel is another attacker for Tymna the Weaver and Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator decks, just not quite so useful as Kitesail Larcenist. A looting effect on every swing is fine, and getting four Chorus counters on Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel is a nice reward if you have a big payoff spell in hand when it finally goes off, but it's not going to happen often, and it's better to ignore for the sake of evaluating it. The best thing that Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel really has going for it is flash, making it a flexible tool in decks that want to hold up counter magic whenever possible. Ultimately, I don't think Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel will see much play longterm because Ledger Shredder and Faerie Mastermind already do similar jobs a lot more efficiently. 

Tishana's Tidebinder

Usually I turn my nose up at Stifle-adjacent effects, and I'll leave it to my esteemed colleague Drake Sasser to explain why. My gut tells me to feel the same way about Tishana's Tidebinder, but a Stifle with legs is a lot more appealing when it turns off all abilities of the card it stifled. That means nothing for cards like Thassa's Oracle with all their value baked into their enter-the-battlefield, but it can be significant against commanders like Kinnan, Kenrith, or Najeela. You're not just countering an activation, you're turning a crucial creature into a vanilla stat block, ruining value and combo plans alike. It's an awful lot less efficient than just countering the card in the first place, but in a sufficiently reactive deck looking to play a control game (something like Talion, the Kindly Lord), it's worth testing. 


Altar of the Wretched

If you happen to have a disposable commander that you'll comfortably sacrifice for advantage, you're probably playing Dargo, the Shipwrecker, and you might be interested in Altar of the Wretched. Rewarding the sacrificer with cards and mills instead of Treasures, Altar of the Wretched is a little like Ruthless Technomancer, just without quite so much combo potential. Still, sacrificing Dargo for seven cards to hand and seven cards to the graveyard is an impressive payoff and could open new lines for Mardu and Grixis Dargo brews. Oh, and it's the first transforming card on this list, but the Wretched Bonemass half of the card may as well be flavor text for all the good it will do in a cEDH game.

Bloodthorn Flail

Bloodthorn Flail is not an exciting piece of Equipment, and as a Koll player, I consider myself something of a connoisseur. What makes Bloodthorn Flail even worth glancing at is what it takes to equip it, namely, the discarding of a card, making it a free discard outlet as long as you have a creature in play. That already exists by way of Putrid Imp, but that's the only other example: Bloodthorn Flail is the second-ever free discard outlet at one mana in black. This could be exciting news for The Gitrog Monster decks, if not for some glaring issues.

For one, Bloodthorn Flail is an artifact, which makes it susceptible to Collector Ouphe and Null Rod in a way that Putrid Imp and Noose Constrictor just aren't. For another, well... it's an artifact, which means it can't be brought into play with Finale of Devastation or Chord of Calling or tutored by Worldly Tutor. Equip is also a sorcery-speed effect, quite unlike the actives on the alternatives. In any case, don't forget about this card the next time you're looking for a One with Nothing with extra steps. 

Francisco, Fowl Marauder

It's not often we see the old-fashioned Partner commander mechanic like we do on Francisco, Fowl Marauder. We see a lot "Partner with", we've seen Backgrounds, the cringe-inducing "friends forever" and most recently Doctor's Companion, but Francisco, Fowl Marauder is the first traditional partner we've seen since Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. Putting aside that history, does this foul two-drop stand a chance in cEDH? I wish. 

When Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator first leaked, I was among many who tried to build around the Pirate theme, hoping the Treasure production would make up for otherwise low card quality. Sadly, the payoff just wasn't worth it: Malcolm did not do for Pirates what Yuriko did for Ninjas or Magda for Dwarves. I want to think that adding an explore trigger on top of a Treasure-maker would be enough for Cloud Pirates to see the light of day in cEDH, but I just can't see it getting there. Explore is pseudo-card advantage, especially in cEDH decks light on lands, and Francisco, Fowl Marauder can't even enable itself thanks to the 0/1 statline. 

The coolest thing about Francisco, Fowl Marauder is the combo line with Walking Ballista and Agatha's Soul Cauldron. Simply exile Walking Ballista with Agatha's Soul Cauldron, place a +1/+1 counter on Francisco, Fowl Marauder and activate, targeting someone's face. The Bird will deal one damage, triggering its own explore, and as long as there isn't a land on top, you can gain a counter and put the card you looked at back where it began. This whole combo can also be setup neatly with Final Parting. It's an interesting backup that takes minimal deck space, but most of the time Thassa's Oracle + Demonic Consultation will be easier and safer to execute. 

Now, you could partner Francisco, Fowl Marauder with other commanders, but that comes with two questions. What are you doing with the Pirate synergy, and what can Francisco do better than an alternative mono-black partner, like Tevesh or Armix? 

Stalactite Stalker

Stalactite Stalker is another possible enabler for Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow decks thanks to being mostly unblockable for the early and middle stages of the game. Gaining a +1/+1 counter on your end step whenever you descend is cute and it will come up reasonably often thanks to fetchlands and lost creatures in combat, but it's slow growth and not enough to make a huge difference in combat. The real value of growing Stalactite Stalker is setting it up for its own activated ability, the chance to remove a crucial creature on demand. It is an instant-speed removal tool; just remember that it's still three mana and Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is very tight on spare mana. Unfortunately, Stalactite Stalker still falls well shy of the optimal Yuriko enablers because the existing options are already that good. 

If Stalactite Stalker shows up anywhere in cEDH, it'll be in the 99 of those poor souls out there still trying to make Raffine, Scheming Seer work. At least the counters will stack up fast!


Savage Order

To my knowledge, there are only three Dinosaurs that have ever seen a modicum of play in cEDH: Nezahal, Primal Tide, Etali, Primal Conqueror and way back in the day, Runic Armasaur. If you really, really love Nezahal, Primal Tide for some reason, give Savage Order a try. Realistically, I just can't bear to leave the green section of a cEDH set review totally empty two sets in a row.


Zoyowa's Justice

Where Abrade actually destroys an artifact or creature, Zoyowa's Justice shuffles it into their library and discovers equal to its mana value, a mechanic that operates a little like Chaos Warp. Unlike Chaos Warp, the discoverer can find a card that isn't appropriate to cast right now and choose to put it in their hand. This sounds worse, but Zoyowa's Justice doesn't have an upward limit on mana value, only a lower one, and the majority of permanents you want to bring to justice won't be zero mana anyway. Returning a card to the library can be a downgrade to actually removing it, but doing so becomes a huge upside if they were planning on reanimating the permanent or setting up for an Underworld Breach turn. It also allows for "gotcha" moments where you remove something after the owner sets up the top of their library with a Vampiric Tutor or Imperial Seal.

As to which to run, Abrade will usually be the more reliable card and avoids the chance of a huge discovery, but if you're in a low color red deck and you're desperate for flexible removal, Zoyowa's Justice is worth considering.


Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar

We saw a "Grand Abolisher in the command zone" this time last year when Myrel, Shield of Argive was spoiled for The Brothers' War, and while they didn't reach the same heights that Grand Abolisher itself did, Myrel continues to see play in the 99 of certain decks. Granted, Kutzil, Malament Exemplar is more restrictive with a Selesnya identity, but makes up for it with a cheaper cost and conditional card draw. 

The card draw is extremely commander-dependent as the vast majority of cEDH creatures can't manipulate their own power and toughness and have no way of doing it to other creatures, but for decks that can tweak creature sizes, Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar will do a very good impression of Tymna the Weaver. The easiest of all is Jetmir, Nexus of Revels, a Naya stax commander with an on-demand anthem effect, a Jetmir deck will turn Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar into immediate card advantage. Ellivere of the Wild Court, the newest stax commander from Wilds of Eldraine, will have similar success thanks to the placement of Virtuous role counters. 

Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar's status as a legendary creature also makes it an enticing option for both Sisay decks, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain and Captain Sisay. For those two, Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar is awfully close to a strict upgrade from Myrel, Shield of Argive. Just keep in mind that, for all her strengths, Kutzil only stops opponents from casting spells, it has no impact on the activated abilities of artifacts, creatures, enchantments, or anything else. 

Permission Denied

Two-mana counterspells aren't in vogue right now, and much as I want to like Permission Denied, I'm not sure this Jurassic Park scene is going to change that fact. Ask yourself, how often do you see Dovin's Veto? It sees play in some Azorius decks and the occasional Jeskai deck, but overall it's been on a steady decline for years. Permission Denied isn't even as good as Dovin's Veto! It might be a Negate combined with a Silence, just realise that Silence has the major advantage of being cast preemptively long before a stack war begins. 

Sure, Permission Denied will Silence the whole table if it resolves, but if you're fighting a stack war when you use it, anyone with any countermagic is just going to cast it then and there, rendering it as useful as any other counterspell. The cheekiest play I can think of is casting an innocuous noncreature spell and countering it with your own Permission Denied to Silence everyone, but aside from the fact that doing so costs two cards, are you really that desperate for silence effects? Permission Denied is a trap and I wouldn't suggest running it unless you've exhausted every one mana counterspells and the superior two mana ones like Mana Drain, Delay and even Arcane Denial

Tetzin, Gnome Champion

Unlike Altar of the Wretched, both halves of Tetzin, Gnome Champion are interesting and possibly worth building around in cEDH. The Tetzin, Gnome Champion side is a mild card advantage tool, at the very least milling away cards and the very best placing a crucial artifact in hand. As a one time enter the battlefield effect, Tetzin isn't much to phone home about, but in conjunction with blink spells or a repeatable effect like Displacer Kitten, it can turn into a reliable engine. Meanwhile, The Golden-Gear Colossus, clunky as it is to assemble, can flip Chrome Host Seedshark Incubator tokens with ease. To be entirely honest, I don't know if I'm fully grasping what makes Tetzin, Gnome Champion interesting to brewers, but if you're one of those people, check out this great list.

The Ancient One

The best thing we can say about The Ancient One is that it goes infinite with Dramatic Reversal + Isochron Scepter, but I'd like to remind you that it is currently November of 2023 and the Isochron combo just doesn't hit the way it used to. Besides, we're already drowning in Dimir commanders that go infinite that way; Toxrill, the Corrosive, Rona, Herald of Invasion, Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator and Kels, Fight Fixer. None of them are exceptional, but at least they all bring some utility to the table beyond being a rarely active 8/8 beater. Sure, The Ancient One can kill a player in three swings, but that's still nine swings to kill the table and the big fella doesn't even have evasion. If you want a cheap Dimir commander that can do a lot of damage, just play Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow

Colorless and Lands

Dino DNA

If John Hammond thought resurrecting Dinosaurs was a good idea, I wonder what he'd say to resurrecting Dockside Extortionist Colossal Dreadsides? That's right folks, another set, another card that goes infinite with Dockside Extortionist. Call me crazy, but I'm starting to think that card might be fundamentally broken? Dino DNA is another in a long list of cards that can make as many Dockside Extortionist as the activator can afford, and thanks to the mana explosion from that stupid bloody Goblin, that number can quickly become infinite.

Granted, Dino DNA one to play, another one to exile a Dockside Extortionist and a whopping six to start churning out copies, which makes it a lot more expensive than alternatives like Emiel the Blessed or Temur Sabertooth, but this Jurassic mistake has the distinct advantage of being able to go infinite with anyone's Dockside Extortionist. Woe betide anyone who mills or loses their Dockside while a Dino DNA is on the board. In extremely Dockside Extortionist-heavy metas, this might just get Dino DNA over the line, but I'd sooner stick with the more efficient options available already.

Roaming Throne

Roaming Throne is a new force-multiplier for decks looking to go all-in on triggers for the same creature type. Right now the only decks in cEDH that fit that bill are Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow and Magda, Brazen Outlaw. Yuriko already has similar options in the form of Sakashima of a Thousand Faces and Sakashima the Impostor, neither of which see much play, and Nanogene Conversion, which is starting to see play, but Magda isn't quite so spoiled with options. For the little Kaldheim dwarf, Roaming Throne is bound to be an instant staple as it mixes the best parts of Xorn with being an artifact creature, a crucial element in Magda, Brazen Outlaw's winning combo line. Ward (2) is also a solid deterrent on early turns where mana margins are razor-thin. 

Explorer? I Hardly Know Her!

All things considered, white is the major winner from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, with the most cards worth considering and the best of the bunch by way of Dauntless Dismantler. With Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar better suited in the 99 than the command zone and The Ancient One and Francisco, Fowl Marauder looking like more effort than they're worth, I don't imagine we'll look back at The Lost Caverns of Ixalan as all that legendary. However, I am confident we'll be seeing Dauntless Dismantler and Charismatic Conqueror for years to come, at least as long as Dockside Extortionist is legal and likely for a while thereafter. 

Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a Magic fiend. He's either the johnniest spike or the spikiest johnny, nobody is sure which. When he isn’t brewing or playing cEDH, he can be found writing, playing piano, and doting on his little cat.