The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Set Review - Black

Mike Carrozza • November 7, 2023

Aclazotz, Deepest Betrayal | art by Steve Prescott

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The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is upon us, and as we know, a return to Ixalan means that creature types matter. There's also a set mechanic based around the word "descend" (it's more complicated than just that), so you know that there's going to be some graveyard shenanigans. And what color loves the graveyard? Let's get into it, my black card lovers, it's time to review the offerings from Ixalan's latest visit. 


Aclazotz, Deepest Betrayal

We begin the mythics section with a character referenced on the backside of Arguel's Blood Fast. Aclazotz is a massive Bat God and comes with a lot of text. Having mass discard on attack is solid, and what's more, if you're already in a dedicated discard deck, Aclazotz is likely to fill your hand up with more nonsense. 

You'll be making a Bat token to chump with on crackback when your opponents are forced to ditch lands which helps you go in for a swing with confidence. It also gives your opponents incentive to discard cards they would need; not saying that lands aren't needed, but you get the idea. Let's not forget that your opponent who needs to cycle that Ash Barrens is also adding a Bat to the swarm. 

The backside is at the very least a land that taps for black, which is such a high floor for a creature that dies. The ability to flip it back into a flying, lifelinking Bat God 4/4 with lots of upside is present though only likely to come up when in a discard deck, if I had to guess. 

All said, that's where I think Aclazotz will find a home. The Haunt of Hightower decks, Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, and of course, my Anje Falkenrath discard deck that loves to see Necrogen Mists and the like. However, its incidental token-making and hand disruption might lead to see inclusions in Thalisse, Reverent Medium or Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, both decks I love. Speaking of token-making, this can be an absolute beating in a Ratadrabik of Urborg deck. 

What it comes down to when thinking of your meta is whether or not any discard is going to help or hinder you. There are a ton of reanimation strategies out there so if you're giving this a whirl, make sure to go hard. 

Bloodletter of Aclazotz

Oh, boy! It's like a Wound Reflection you don't have to wait to trigger for your turns. 

This is a house for turbo-charging a game. Run it in any strategy and it's going to be a presence. Eriette of the Charmed Apple hurts for more, Zulaport Cutthroat means all your dying creatures deal two to your opponents, Gray Merchant of Asphodel enters and even with just Gary and Bloodletter, that's 10 per opponent right there. 

On a creature, this effect means reanimation strategies will be interested in it or, even better, clone strategies. What about any deck Sakashima of a Thousand Faces would feel at home in? Turn your Blood Artist trigger into a real stroke of death. Can I interest Araumi of the Dead Tide players in a new toy? Encore the Bloodletter, and each one on their own will deal 16 damage, essentially. And that's just the Bloodletters! You might have a Massacre Wurm to follow up with or something, but either way, life loss around the table being doubled and doubled and doubled and doubled...that's a hell of a way to end a game!


Altar of the Wretched

This is a Set Booster exclusive card, and while there are bits and pieces of it that I enjoy, there's something about it that feels off. Maybe it's because it's an Altar without a free sacrifice ability like my beloved Phyrexian Altar, Ashnod's Altar, and Altar of Dementia, but I digress.

The enters-the-battlefield ability on this artifact is really solid for decks that meet the criteria of "having at least a big nontoken creature" and "wanting a full graveyard". I'm talking Muldrotha, the Gravetide, Elenda, the Dusk Rose, heck, even the goofball Lord of Tresserhorn.

That said, the backside is a crafted Soulflayer variant, and I'll just be blunt: I have never cared for that kind of design. Not for Urborg Scavengers, Cairn Wanderer, or Eater of Virtue. I maintain that the only really good one would be Rayami, First of the Fallen, and even then, that's as the commander. If I already control all these creatures that I would have to use to craft the Wretched Bonemass, why would I want to make them a fragile stack under one creature? This is why I think the front side alone might be worth a consideration. Not my speed. I'm sorry to the fans of this style. 

Bringer of the Last Gift

This is Living Death for an extra three mana on a flying 6/6. It's on a creature, which can matter for some decks like ones that want to companion their Umori, the Collector or if you want to use creature tutors, but I will say just playing Living Death is the way here. The ability is technically an ETB, but it only triggers if you cast Bringer of the Last Gift. It does trigger when you use Chainer, Nightmare Adept, Conduit of Worlds, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, Muldrotha, the Gravetide, or Wondrous Crucible because they all cast the Bringer of the Last Gift.

Let's not forget this is a Demon, so Be'lakor, the Dark Master will love this for damage or a mass draw. So these would be the edge cases where I would favor Bringer over Living Death. I think it's just really cool to have this on a creature now. A card to keep an eye on. 

Corpses of the Lost

I'm a little lost on this one. Decks that want Skeleton kindred shenanigans will snap this up, but really where my head goes is the third ability, which will allow you to cast this again, so you'll get another token and the enchantment entering to trigger Constellation triggers and such. 

I don't see this being a big deal until we get a Skeleton commander, honestly. Do Anikthea, Hand of Erebos or Narci, Fable Singer feel like the right homes for this? Potentially! This is a format where cards are picked by the player, so if this sings to your heart, go for it. However, I am underwhelmed. 

Dusk Legion Sergeant

Right out of the Commander precons, this Vampire is a bit of board wipe insurance for your Vampire kindred decks or your Changeling/kindred-kindred decks. Giving a board of nontokens persist brings them back a little weaker but surely triggers a few ETBs. I think this will have a home in Edgar Markov decks easily and might earn its keep in an Elenda, the Dusk Rose deck. I think this is so straightforward, there isn't much else to say!

Francisco, Fowl Marauder

Now we have partner Pirates in all the Grixis colors!

Francisco, Fowl Marauder can get a job done over the course of a game. Francisco, much like Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator and Breeches, Brazen Plunderer, triggers off of Pirates dealing damage to opponents, and not just combat damage. With that in mind, there's already some spicy tech for Francisco when you use something like Agatha's Soul Cauldron, a card that impresses me more and more. Add Triskelion or Walking Ballista to the mix, and as long as you can get +1/+1 counters on the Bird, all you really need is a nonland card on top of your library and you choose to keep it on top and it's a big game over for your opponents. Shout out to @listenerelf on Twitter for pointing it out. Blew my mind!

The Grim Captain's Locker

This card is on the short list for cards I love in this set. As a graveyard player and reanimation lover, The Grim Captain's Locker is a real chef's kiss of a good time. Don't get me wrong, exiling cards from your graveyard is definitely a cost, but four mana for any creature in your graveyard? And it's a cast trigger, so it'll work with Bringer of the Last Gift? Amazing. You can have a huge turn for eight mana and eight cards from your graveyard. 

And if there's nothing worthwhile in your graveyard, you get to surveil every turn cycle. My The Ever-Changing 'Dane, Araumi of the Dead Tide, and Lyzolda, the Blood Witch decks will all be trying this one out. 

Master of Dark Rites

I go back and forth between "I feel like this didn't need the restriction!" and "This is still great with the restriction and all!" 

Requiring a creature sacrifice is well within what I'd expect here. Tap, sacrifice a creature, get a Dark Ritual? Yeah, that's way too powerful. That's turning a token creature into a Black Lotus, for god's sake! That said, keeping the mana restricted to Demon, Cleric, and Vampire spells means that it'll likely only see play in those kindred decks or in the odd deck where your commander happens to be one of these types. 

The art on this card is absolutely stunning, though. 

Preacher of the Schism

Three mana for a 2/4 deathtouching creature in relevant types is enough to raise any eyebrows. A Vampire Cleric that makes a 1/1 Vampire token with lifelink when you attack the player on the throne is enough for that mana with these stats. Add to that the fact that there's a good chance you'll be in a commanding position in decks that want this, with the most life or tied for it, and you'll get a card for your trouble? It's a fine card! Edgar Markov is the obvious first commander to come to mind, but Evelyn, the Covetous and Anje, Maid of Dishonor decks are sure to find a slot for the Preacher. Maybe this is a new card for this Nalia de'Arnise or Burakos, Party Leader decks since they like the combat step as well. 

Promise of Aclazotz

You would have to be making some pretty great creature tokens for this card to jump out at you, but I can think of a few decks. It even gives you an Adventure to get you kickstarted with a decent token. 

Ratadrabik of Urborg, Mishra, Eminent One, Runo Stromkirk, The Scarab God, and Anikthea, Hand of Erebos come to mind for commanders, but Nightmare Shepherd, Preston, the Vanisher, Back from the Brink, Mimic Vat, Dollhouse of Horrors, City of Death, and God-Pharaoh's Gift all come to mind for the kind of cards that would be in the 99 along with Promise of Aclazotz. Is this worth it in decks that only make small vanilla tokens? It could be as long as you can benefit from a creature of a certain type ETB or death!

Either way, it's cool to see a black card with populate.

Queen's Bay Paladin

As far as Vampire cards go, this is pretty strong. It's reminiscent of a creature I've been looking at brewing: Olivia, Crimson Bride. Whereas Olivia can reanimate any creature, Queen's Bay Paladin is limited to the Vampire creature type. 

Of course, in a dedicated Vampire deck, this Paladin should slot in nicely to bring back some haymakers that have been got with a Beast Within. Just make sure it's not a creature you want to die, because finality counters replace death triggers with exile, which, if you know me, you know I don't like that much at all. 

Does this card allow you to capitalize on some Vampire ETBs again, though? Yeah! And that's good enough for some folks. I think having a way to get Malakir Bloodwitch, Patron of the Vein, or Champion of Dusk out again makes for a solid card, but it will of course be in Vampire decks like Strefan, Maurer Progenitor (did you expect me to say Edgar Markov?) and the like. 

Skeleton Crew

Now, this card right here, folks? This is what we call a banger. 

Skeleton Crew takes a more focused page out of Tormod, the Desecrator's book. Where Tormod doesn't care what type of card is leaving your graveyard to reward you with Zombies, Skeleton Crew will only bless you with Scary Pirates if those cards are creatures. 

The Skellies have another thing going for them which is that they've got a built-in way to reanimate themselves to play, albeit for six mana. It's a little expensive, but it's built-in and I think that's worth it. Coming from a guy who plays Death Tyrant, I know I'll be popping this in the same deck. Which deck, you ask? Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, my pride and joy. That deck also has a small number of Pirates that turn Coercive Recruiter into a more annoying card, because Skeleton Crew makes Pirates any time I reanimate a creature from my graveyard, or use Phyrexian Reclamation, or escape, or encore, I'll be getting a Skeleton Pirate, which is just tasty.

The deck I anticipate seeing this pop up for most on EDHREC is going to be Syr Konrad, the Grim. With all those tricks to get creatures in and out of the graveyard, Syr Konrad will have the backup of the Bone Boyz to keep the graveyard dance going. All this without even mentioning the anthem for Skeletons and Pirates? Banger!

Souls of the Lost

Some are shorthanding and calling this black Tarmogoyf, but the ceiling is higher than that. In a dedicated self-mill deck, this card will likely often be in the double digits for power and toughness. This is a big beat stick for two mana and a discard/permanent sacrifice.

For Commander purposes, I don't believe Souls of the Lost will be seeing much play outside of self-mill, aggro, or Fling decks. Ziatora, the Incinerator might be the best spot for this card right now. 

Stalactite Stalker

This little guy will grow on most of your turns, sitting there like a ticking time bomb for one of your opponents' creatures. A one-mana 1/1 with evasion in relevant creature types for kindred decks (Goblins and Rogues are very popular) would be enough for some decks! Having an onboard kill spell stapled onto this feels like a solid pick for any decks that like a two in one. Am I at all interested in this personally? Maybe I would be if I still had my Anowon, the Ruin Thief. Once this gets big enough, you can also feed this and Souls of the Lost to the Altar of the Wretched from the set boosters!

Starving Revenant

If you've got eight permanents in your graveyard, this is a Psychosis Crawler that also gains you a life per card drawn. That's pretty sweet on a 4/4 for four. That said, the ETB is wild. The way this is worded, no cards are staying on top of the library. Sure, you surveil, but whatever you don't dump into the graveyard ends up in your hand and costs three life.

If you do hit the Descend 8 threshold (not to be confused with Threshold) before this enters the battlefield, each card will cost you two life a piece instead. This is a strange card. Araumi of the Dead Tide has been mentioned a few times times in this review, and I guess any commanders like it might be happy to see Starving Revenant in the 99. If you encore one of these, you might be paying 12 life for six cards, but more likely, you'll be milling cards and then slamming the card draw spell you've been holding onto; draining each opponent for three life per card you draw sounds amazing. Nekusar, the Mindrazer has a new toy to play with. Is this the year we see Nekusar wheels rise back to popularity? 

Tarrian's Journal

This card is a solid role-player for decks that want creatures in the graveyard or those who don't mind trading some tokens for draws. Let's be real, there are a ton of basically "free" tokens that get made all too easily. Tap, sac, draw a card? Sign me up. It requires a tap to activation, so it's once a turn, which reminds me of Idol of Oblivion. The big difference for me with Tarrian's Journal is that the backside is a land that allows you to cast a creature from your graveyard. You won't get a death trigger out of that creature because it'll have a finality counter, but design has been big on ETBs for a long time now so this will be worth it. Hex Parasite anyone? 

Let's see this in Thalisse, Reverent Medium or, better yet, Ashnod the Uncaring decks. Ashnod lets you draw two cards per sacrifice to the Journal which is an incredible rate. 

Terror Tide

I don't know.

There are wrath effects you can control. Terror Tide doesn't feel like one of those. This is going into self-mill decks or decks that want to kill a board of creatures that are lower on the toughness scale. Damnation is a card, Toxic Deluge is a card, Blood on the Snow costs two more but that's a card, Crux of Fate, there are other wraths. Even Mutilate feels like you can control it better in the right deck.

I'm not too impressed with this one. 

Throne of the Grim Captain

This is my Rule Zero pick for the set. If you want to put together a deck with Throne of the Grim Captain in the command zone and bring it to a table we share, my vote is yes. Go for it. 

Its conditions are not easy to meet unless you've got the classics like Conspiracy and Maskwood Nexus, but they're doable. With three eligible Merfolk and five eligible Dinosaurs, you might have to rely on some Changelings as well. The mill two on the front can help you get the necessary pieces in the graveyard for crafting. Kindred-kindred decks might welcome this absolute house on the back end, but ultimately the hoops to jump through feel like a deck specially made for Throne of the Grim Captain is the way to go. 

Uncommons & Commons

Bitter Triumph

This is a pretty cool kill spell, reminiscent of Infernal Grasp, but if you've got a madness deck, this is a slam dunk.

Chupacabra Echo

It's an echo because it's not as strong as the first one, but this Chupacabra can deal with pesky indestructible creatures if your graveyard is deep enough.

Fanatical Offering

This isn't Deadly Dispute, but much like Reckoner's Bargain, Fanatical Offering is a solid card following in its footsteps. Map tokens can only be activated at sorcery speed, so it's not like this is going to be 2B to potentially draw three cards, but it is possible if it's your main phase. It's not a bad lil' common. 

Greedy Freebooter

A quick little Pirate who wants to die for your Treasure. Shambling Ghast is the more flexible version of this, but Greedy Freebooter gives you two effects for one death. 

Skullcap Snail

If you're going to have a creature blink in and out of play or dance around from graveyard to the battlefield and back, may I suggest a little Snail who'll send your opponents into topdeck mode.

Synapse Necromage

I've mentioned I have a Lyzolda, the Blood Witch deck. Any card that makes three useful bodies, I pay attention. Goblin Bombardment or Ashnod's Altar and a reanimation suite put this card right in the pile of cards I need to test in my deck.

Tithing Blade

An edict effect on an artifact that doesn't require you to sacrifice anything is pretty sweet. The backside is innocuous enough, but combine it with more effects like this, like Sanctum of Stone Fangs, and you'll have a real death-by-a-thousand-cuts situation on your hands.


Ixalan strikes again with really cool and interesting designs. There will be loads of cards to test out and try from this set for folks like myself who love the graveyard. What do you think? Are there any cards that you're stoked for? What about cards you'll be scared to see played against you? Sound off! Thanks 🙂

Mike Carrozza is a stand-up comedian from Montreal who’s done a lot of cool things like put out an album called Cherubic and worked with Tig Notaro, Kyle Kinane, and more people to brag about. He’s also been an avid EDH player who loves making silly stuff happen. @mikecarrozza on platforms