Top Cards from Lost Caverns of Ixalan (LCI) for Traditional Cube

Ixalan was not a plane that I was a huge fan of though, I thought the aesthetic for the set was really good, but other than Legion's Landing and Rampaging Ferocidon, nothing else really stood out for me (I'm not big on dinosaurs). It was the last time, I played paper standard with this janky monowhite aggro deck that felt pretty good to play. With the announcement of the return to Ixalan, I was indifferent about it as none of the mechanics really stood out to me. Then spoilers hit and this has been the most excited I've been for Magic set in recent memory. Many of the cards feel powerful to play from an initial glance and many of them are looking to be able to easily make it into cube.

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I have switched the format to a top 10 list. These are easier to read and more importantly, most cards in a set will not make it into a cube. How I rank the cards is based on both power level and innovation. When evaluating by power level, I'm scaling it off of unpowered vintage. By innovation, I am referring to cards that either smooth out the drafting process by overlapping into a bunch of decks or open up new archetypes in cube. The cards need to still be powerful or at least playable as they need to still be competitive versus other cards. Ultimately, your cube, your choices, address your needs. You may not even need to get anything from the set.

The List

Inti, Seneschal of the Sun is insane as a two drop in red. It feels like a standard version of Laelia, the Blade Reforged, which has been absurdly powerful in the cube format and nowhere else. It works as soon are you drop it into play, making it a decent draw even at midgame. The ability to give a +1/+1 counter and trample is huge in every aggro deck. Opponents will often try to use creatures that are capable of blocking safely or trade with your creatures to deter your offense and preserve their life. This function mitigates that strategy. The "exile rummage" effects is what pushes this card over as lets the player dig further into their deck to win. As a bonus, the card is also a legendary creature, so anyone with the legends subtheme benefits and Yoshimaru specifically becomes even more viable. 

Something about Aclazotz, Deepest Betrayal feels peak. Black's 5 drops are abysmal when compared to the other colors, though that isn't enough of a reason to run the card because who CMC/MV balances their cube? As a whole package, the card feels like a control/midrange finisher that keeps your opponents crippled and stabilizes the game. Lifelink and flying make it an insane blocker. The discard ability always guarantees that you are ahead in terms of card advantage and makes it difficult for your opponent to properly navigate against it. The bat token ability is important as it keeps Aclazotz relevant after death and is more versatile than it looks. It triggers whenever your opponent discards a land, this means other methods will trigger it like Liliana of the Veil or their own Thirst for Discovery. It's recursion should be fairly easy to trigger as your opponent shouldn't have too many card by the time this card is played unless you're against control. I see this card being a powerful addition, though not necessary to black.

Bonehoard Dracosaur is absurd. Plain and Simple. This card is pure value from the first activation and needs to be answered asap. It has a solid body for defense and offense. The real attraction to the card is that it is a source of card draw and can potentially generate tokens to take over the game. This ability sets the card up to be an amazing top end for red decks as it generates gas to keep going. The one thing going against this card is that red players historically have tried to end games early. With how powerful red's early drops, the likelihood of this seeing play is reduced. This relegates the card to shine in bigger red strategies like Ramp and Wildfire, where the card draw is a bigger deal since those decks run out of cards but are not necessarily is a winning position. Big include if you support slower red strategies.

Get Lost might possibly be among the top white removal standing toe to toe with other historic favorites like Swords to Plowshare and Council's Judgment. Fateful Absence was already a solid card at the time of release as it became the fastest spell that allowed White to deal with planeswalkers. Get Lost is shaping up to be a solid upgrade to that as it also hits enchantments. The trade off of giving your opponent 2 map tokens should be better than the one clue token as not every deck can use maps. With how map tokens are looking currently, this opens up this card to function as an Altar's Reap if you are wanting those tokens. We'll see how map tokens really play but this should be a powerful addition to all cubes.

Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel reminds me that Welkin Tern was a solid cube card at one point, then we got Rattlechains, which blew my mind and was a staple for me for a very long time, then Faerie Mastermind was release this year. Now enters Malcolm who might have become one of the best Welkin Tern variants. It comes with Flash instantly making a great choice for all cubes. Unlike the other variants, Malcolm can loot when it connects with your opponents, which is good for the same reasons as Inti's rummaging mentioned earlier.

Helping Hand is White Unearth. Unearth and cards similar to it have been seeing an increase of variants over the past couple of years and they all have scaled well into the current era of Magic since smaller creatures have been becoming more powerful. Helping hand is another cog in this machine that finally makes small creature recursion into a real competitor among cube's various archetypes. Being 1 mana is a big deal as white has never had it this cheap. It is normally tacked onto other effects and larger creatures. Where it currently stands the archetype only gets better with time and Helping Hand is an auto include in them if not now, then into the future.

Maybe I'm old, but Spyglass Siren reminds me a lot of Thraben Inspector and I like it for that reason. This fits into the awkwardness of blue decks not having a real turn 1 or 2 play. What sets is apart from other flying men is the versatility of the map token. It sets the card up to being a 2/2 flier, which is a solid clock for tempo decks and a deterrent against other aggro deck, or you can draw a land. Even should the card be removed like Thraben Inspector, you can still get value out of the map token later. There will be come who compare it Delver of Secrets,  but the consistency of this card makes for a better gameplay experience. If you support blue aggro, this might be the best choice for the 1 drop slot.

Trumpeting Carnosaur is probably the most explosive card on this list. To play it at face cost is expensive but you ain't doing that unless something has gone wrong or you're in ramp. The body is a bulldozer with its slightly overstatted numbers and trample. The discover 5 is huge as it will net more value for the amount of mana you paid for it, keeping it competitive against other choices for this slot. The discover ability is an ETB ability, thus if you're in the business of flickering/cloning your creature, this becomes an amazing target to overwhelm your opponent in value. Where the card gets really spicy is the ability to discard it to play it as a removal spell.  This flexibility allows the card to thrive in more decks as every deck needs removal. This ability is huge in Reanimator decks as like other cards that can discard itself, it lowers the number of discard spells you need to play. Thus as a whole package the playability of the card actually encompasses all spectrums of Red decks, making it a option for cubes looking to curve upward without compromising their early gameplay.

Bitter Triumph is looking to be one of the best removal and versatile removal spell for cube. It competes with classic options like Doom Blade and Go For the Throat. What makes the card better is that you are able to target planeswalkers, but this is offset by an additional cost of 3 life or discarding a card. The option is particularly interesting as you can use it as a discard outlet for whatever goals you have in mind. The 3 life is intense though it should be manageable in most match ups other than against aggro. Easy card to at least try.

Sentinel of the Nameless City has me wondering "Why is this a card?" This card packs a ton of value for just 3 mana and is desirable in many different green decks. The body is already overstatted being a 3/4 with vigilance. Though there are larger creatures already available, what pushes it is the map token generation. Map tokens allow players to draw lands, mill their library, and grow their any of their creatures with an affordable activation cost. Slap this on to a creature that generates them every enter and attack trigger and this is a recipe for value town plays. The value and versatility of the card as a whole makes it on par or better than Courser of Kruphix, which has been a staple of forever (unless it's been power crept already and I'm too old to realize it). Great addition for your green section.

The End Step

After finishing this review, it is looking like a huge boon to cubes of varying levels because of map tokens. Explore was one of the stronger mechanics to come out of the original Ixalan, although many of those cards aren't mainstays in cube at this point. They expand explore to colors outside of Green and Blue. I expect many cubes to have deeper graveyard synergies and for cube designers to possibly redesigning elements of their cube to accommodate for this. I am looking forward to prerelease and drafting this format while it remains in season. Let me know below what you're looking forward to. 

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