The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Set Review: Allied/Shards

Nick Wolf • November 12, 2023

Admiral Brass, Unsinkable by Jason Rainville

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

Terrible Thunder Lizards

Hello, everybody. I'm Nick Wolf and this is a review for a sliver of cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan and its associated Commander decks. Normally I review cards that already exist, which is a lot easier from a "reading new cards" standpoint. But it's fine, we'll all learn about Caves together.

All kids go through a phase of being obsessed with either Dinosaurs or trains. We can be fairly certain into which of the two categories the designers of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan fall, but imagine with me for a moment what the set would have been like had they been a bunch of train enthusiasts instead.

Join me, if you would, for a journey into a cave full of allied two-color pairs and three-color shards. We're going to go through so many Caves, I might as well change my name to Nick Cave


The Ancient One

There are so many characters from film, TV, comics, literature and even American history named "The Ancient One" that this borders on Universes Beyond. There's a bald Tilda Swinton, there's the Kennewick Man, and there's even evidence to suggest that "The Ancient One" was a nickname of Abraham Lincoln

None of those bearing that mantle in the past are an 8/8 for two mana, however. Unless?

Like many undercosted and overpowered God creatures before it, Magic: The Gathering's Ancient One must satisfy arbitrary requirements in order to do the thing that creatures are known to do, which is attacking and/or blocking. In this case, that's Descend 8. What does that mean? Thankfully, this particular God comes with an instruction booklet that tells us in order for it to manifest (not manifestFYI), it must see eight or more permanents in your graveyard. That's pretty easy to accomplish in Commander, especially if The Ancient One is the "One" set aside from the 99. 

This particular parameter is promising, as it sidesteps the usual answer for most requirements of sacrificing or owning permanents solved by Treasure, Treasure, and more Treasure. You can't Treasure your way to eight permanents in the gravy. Likely, you'll be dumping things straight into the drink from either the top of your library or your hand, and like any good God, The Ancient One provides a shortcut to reverence for a simple tithe of four mana. And you can indulge as many times as you can afford. 

Where will you take The Ancient One? Reanimator? Voltron? Self-Mill? Non-Self-Mill, a.k.a. relationship straining? No matter what you choose, The Ancient One can get you there, albeit maybe not expediently. 

Sovereign Okinec Ahau

A spiritual successor to another cat king, Okinec is all about helping friends become their best selves. In another life, Okinec would be the person you know screaming "One more rep!" at 5:48 a.m., and you want to straight up kill the bastard in the moment. However, that first time you carry a laundry basket down a flight of stairs without throwing your back out, you're compelled to send a thank-you note. 

Well, you can't. Okinec doesn't have an address. He's a cat that lives in a cave, and also he's a fictional character. 

Artist's Rendering

In terms of Commander, there are really two categories of triggered abilities on legendary creatures, and there's a gulf of power level between them. On one side, there's the "when so-and-so attacks" triggers, like Okinec here, that (unless you're giving out haste at the crossroads like guitar lessons) need an entire turn cycle to do anything besides eat a kill spell. On the other side, there's the "when what's-their-name enters the battlefield" triggers, that are like sorceries with legs. The latter are generally more powerful.

Don't get me wrong, Okinec can make your skinny creatures into gigantic ones, but eventually there'll be diminishing returns. Is a 25-power creature really all that stronger than a 15-power creature? I'm willing to be proven wrong, but I feel like if you were looking for a shakeup on the list of popular Selesnya commanders, Okinec ain't it.

Admiral Brass, Unsinkable

Jason Rainville's mom returns to terrorize the high seas with her swashbuckling ways, this time tricorn in hand and not on head. That's a good thing, because it gives us a chance to share that connection once more:

This time around, Admiral Brass isn't so much into forced conscription as she's about promoting from within. Likely to feel like a water criminal version of Gisa and Geralf in practice, Brass provides a different approach to Pirates that players can enjoy. There are some damn good Pirates out there, from Hostage Taker to Dockside Extortionist to Port Razer, so having a way to allow them a second act right there in the command zone for free will be very powerful, and very annoying. Which is the M.O. of a Pirate, if we're being honest.

The downside, if you can call it that, is there isn't much room for innovation on Brass's crew. An Admiral Brass deck will look pretty similar from player to player: a hardy base of Pirates, a few spoonfuls of Reanimator, a slice or two of evasion, and if you're feeling fancy, a garnish of Hex Parasite/Aether Snap to remove finality counters from your Pirates. Probably better than your average Pirate gruel, but it's still a pretty rote recipe.

Editor's note: This is a Bonus Review because Nick for a moment forgot what "Allied" colors meant. Enjoy.

The Mycotyrant

And here we have an Elder Fungus, species unknown. I'm no mushroomologist, but I've always been curious since fungi have been a thing in Magic about which variety they're supposed to represent. What's the closest real world analog? Is it Puccinia sambuci? Or maybe they're Armillaria ostoyaethe largest known organism on Earth. We'll likely never know. 

What we do know, however, is that Slimefoot, the Stowaway has competition now for top Fungus commander, in the sense that unlike Slimefoot, The Mycotyrant actually cares about both Fungi and Saprolings, instead of making you choose. In fact, The Mycotyrant is the first legendary creature ever that actually has both Fungi and Saproling printed on the card. I'm old enough to remember a time when Thelon of Havenwood was our only Fungus option and we were happy with it, but that's neither here nor there.

As for The Mycotyrant, what we have is an aggressively costed Fungus factory, encouraging us to dump permanents into the graveyard on our turn in order to let nature take its course and generate black mold. If, say, you're employing the services of a Hermit Druid or Underrealm Lich, you'll be able to make more fungi than you'll know what to do with. What you do with that trove of Stachybotrys chartarum is up to you: crank out mana with a Phyrexian Altar, nuke the board with Attrition, just attack a bunch with a Coat of Arms out. Just don't breathe it in.

Gishath, Sun's Avatar

The biggest Dinosaur in town already has a storied history of dominating Commander games, and now even more players can get their hands on Gishath. Head over to our Reprint Review to read all about it. 

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Set Review - Reprints Pt. 1

Don Andres, the Renegade

What Admiral Brass abandoned, Don Andres inherited. The Don is all about acquiring that which was once someone else's, which is a strategy that a certain subset of players absolutely love, and another certain subset absolutely abhor. It's likely you fall somewhere in the middle, but Don Andres might push you to one of those extremes soon enough. 

As a commander, Don Andres is much more open-ended than its Commander Deck associate in Admiral Brass. You get a destination instead of a roadmap, so it's up to you how to get to where you're going. You know you want to purloin and appropriate and abscond both creatures and spells, but where to start? Well, right here in this review, as is its purpose.

The first part's pretty easy. You want to hire other players' creatures to be members of your crew, either through Bribery, Treachery, and similar means, or the siren song of the otter-loving Empress Galina and other tempting creatures. You'll be wanting to get your apologies ready ahead of time for filling your deck with cards like Blue Sun's Twilight, Agent of Treachery, or just straight-up Blatant Thievery. And if budget is not a consideration, Gilded Drake

The second part is also pretty easy, if we're being honest. Just load up on those old chestnuts Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Thief of Sanity, Etali, Primal Storm, and Praetor's Grasp. At the end of the day, the hardest part will be convincing your table to play decks with good stuff to steal, and hoping that your one friend forgets they have a Trostani Discordant deck in their backpack.

Lastly, you might as well play Notion Thief while you're at it, because if you're playing this deck, it's basically a heel turn. Just remember, Don Andres only cares about the real thing. Making token copies or clones of things won't do anyone any good, so skip the Narset's Reversal in favor of Desertion and do your best to stay clear of Homeward Path.

Pantlaza, Sun-Favored

Follow the Dinosaur to the Discovery Zone, which is a phrase that could have been 90's marketing material.

The legendary Dinosaur heretofore referred to as Pants does one thing, but it does it very well. With discoverwe get a pseudo-cascadeand that little variable of X on Pants tells us we want the dinos with the biggest tails. In Naya colors, which might those be? Well, I'll tell you:

Obviously I could keep going, but these are your options for toughness of eight up to 12. One thing to keep in mind with Pants is that the word "cast" is not involved in that triggered ability. It'll go off just on a dino visiting the battlefield in any manner, so a one-mana Cloudshift on Gigantosaurus is just free real estate.

The only question that remains is who picks out Pants's outfit, because those scarves could use some pop. I suggest a fringe next time.

Wayta, Trainer Prodigy

While we didn't get any Enrage creatures in the main The Lost Caverns of Ixalan set, we get a banger of a commander for the strategy in Wayta from the Commander decks (which are not coincidentally chock-full of reprinted Enrage dinos). The lore of a character who points at two of your own creatures and tells them to punch each other in the face reminds of the best parts of playing with action figures as a kid, clapping them together to simulate epic battles. But beyond Enrage, Wayta's just incidentally the new best "fight" commander printed to date.

The real fun starts, however, when you realize that second ability on Wayta isn't restricted to Enrage. 

For a long time, I played an Ashling the Pilgrim deck dedicated to adding more and more gunpowder to the keg that is Ashling until it exploded. In that explosion, the aim was to include cards like Brash Taunter, Stuffy Doll, Arcbond, Ill-Tempered Loner, Mogg Maniac, Coalhauler Swine, Blazing Sunsteel, and Fiendlash. I've always wished I could have played Boros Reckoner in that deck. Now I can.

But let's keep going. Maybe we want to make double the bugs with Broodhatch Nantuko or Hornet Nest, or double the Squirrels with a creature enchanted with Druid's Call. What about a lifegain deck centered around Pious Warrior, Phantom Nishoba, and Metropolis Reformer? Maybe we want to exile twice as many cards with Feldon, Ronom Excavator for some reason, or draw twice as many cards and make twice as many friends with Flumph. Maybe we want to really broadcast our masochistic tendencies by doubling the damage from Firedrinker Satyr or Jackal Pup. I can't say the possibilities are endless, but they are plentiful. 

Or, and follow me here, how about Wayta Slivers?


Abuelo, Ancestral Echo

Sorry son, Grandpa is a ghost now.

Abuelo wants to be a kinder, gentler Brago, King Eternal, sliding in among the "Commanders that Blink Stuff" hierarchy somewhere in the middle, between Roon of the Hidden Realm and Yorion, Sky Nomad. Nearby on the list are Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward and Oji, the Exquisite Blade. In other words, Spectral Grandpa has company, in much the same way that everyone's got a favorite flavor of Pringle. Will Abuelo be someone's favorite Pringle? Surely. But at the end of the day, a Pringle's a Pringle. 

Wail of the Forgotten

Assuming you can satisfy the Descend 8 requirement, you're getting a ton of value from two mana's worth of investment. Or more specifically, you get a Recoil and a Strategic Planning (or Ransack the Lab if you're less of a planner and more of a vandal) on a BOGO sale, so if you're in the market for either of those two spells in Commander, Wail of the Forgotten is a bargain. If, and it's a big IF, you can Descend 8. Because if you can't, you're actually losing out on that deal.

Molten Collapse

Here's another modal spell, this time much easier to get options out of. Instead of needing a static number of dead things in the graveyard, Molten Collapse only requires you to have a dead thing be dead on the turn you play it, which is much better in the early game than something like Wail of the Forgotten. 

There's been a lot of buzz that Molten Collapse is the final nail in Dreadbore's coffin as a usable Rakdos kill spell, and that's probably true. Is it better than Terminate too? Maybe, though it pains me to admit it. However, it'll be important to remember that Molten Collapse is a sorcery, so don't try to cast it on opponents' turns. 

In terms of Commander playability, removal spells like Molten Collapse represent the best option in a lot of ways, as the modal nature of it means you can generate a two-for-one. Doing so is good in Limited and it's good in Commander, which is why you still see Return to Dust frequently in the 99 of lists today. Kill a problematic creature or planeswalker, and also melt your buddy's Sol Ring for fun. Win win.

Palani's Hatcher

Not to be confused with Derian Hatcher, Palani's Hatcher is a Dinosaur that makes other Dinosaurs go fast and make babies.

Considering that Palani's Hatcher fits perfectly in an Atla Palani, Nest Tender deck, I suspect that was done intentionally. However, from a biology standpoint, an Egg cracking while having both Alta and her Hatcher in play implies there are two critters in each Egg, one Dinosaur and one Terastodon. One thing to note is the haste provided by the Hatcher will come in handy, as the Eggs hatch at the beginning of combat, allowing the dinos inside to immediately turn sideways. 

Commons and Uncommons

Master's Guide-Mural

Ixalan's version of a roadside billboard, Master's Guide-Mural provides us with our first exposure to craft in Allied/Shard color combos. And craft is where this particular uncommon gets its value, as if that bit didn't exist, we wouldn't be talking about a five-mana artifact that makes a Golem and does nothing else. For the low low cost of seven more mana and one other artifact in play or in the graveyard, Master's Guide-Mural becomes Master's Manufactory. 

As the name implies, the fun in this card is its role in a ridiculous contraption. First, turn it into a creature with something like Sydri, Galvanic Genius, Xenic Poltergeist, Karn, Silver Golem or similar. Then, play an Intruder Alarm. Then, make infinite Golems. All it takes is an investment of 12 mana and at least three cards, which screams "Commander" if you ask me, especially if you use all those Golems to win not by attacking but by triggering something like Halo Fountain.

Uchbenbak, the Great Mistake

Is this the best name of a legendary creature since Uurg, Spawn of Turg? That's probably subjective, but yes.

Once again we see a Descend 8, this time allowing The Great Mistake to undo its error by returning back to life from the graveyard. Pretty neat.

Unfortunately, the card is basically just a Craw Wurm with extra words. Steve Belledin killed it on the art front, and we'll always have "The Great Mistake" to play if we want to make a joke about our younger siblings being a Magic card. Really, the only thing bad about this one is all the words in the text box.

Zoyowa Lava-Tongue

Likely the top new card in terms of Scrabble score, Zoyowa Lava-Tongue is a 2/2 Goblin Warlock that urges you to crawl further and further from the light, into the realm where pain and pleasure blur and the heat of the earth becomes ice. He's even got a little headlamp to help you find your way. 

Another in a long line of classic "no good choice" cards that prompt your opponents to choose the least of the presented evils, Zoyowa suffers from the fundamental problem every similar card suffers from. Even if none of the choices are particularly good for an opponent, they'll always choose the least worst one, which means you lose your agency in the interaction. Most of the time, they'll just take the three damage. Just ask Athreos, God of Passage players who never get their favorite creature back.

Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath

The actual top card in terms of Scrabble score, Gishath's pride and joy provides us with a way to get a 2/3 Dinosaur with our Rabid Bite. I'm going to guess we won't see this particular Dinosaur factor into the list of most popular Gruul commanders. Even if you filter out all the mythics and rares and judge it solely among its fellow uncommons (of which there are 20), I'd put Itzquinth somewhere next to Jerrard of the Closed Fist and Strider, Ranger of the North.

Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar

The clause of "your opponents can't cast spells during your turn," otherwise known as the silent treatment, used to mean something. And drawing cards in Selesnya used to mean something. Now, you can do both on an uncommon Cat and no one bats an eye. 

Sure, Kutzil isn't exactly format-breaking, but I could see it leading a deck built under certain rarity or cat-related restrictions. 

Flying Our Own Free Flag

There we have it. A total of 16 cards that are either an allied two-color pair, or a three-color shard (and one I wrote before realizing I forgot that black and green aren't friends). We just talked about all of them, as in there aren't any commons in these color combos, in the main set or the Commander decks.

Of these, which ones have gotten your cockles up for Commander? Planning to build a new deck led by one of the 12 legendary creatures we talked about here? Let us know, down below.