Open the door, get on the floor, everybody cast a dinosaur in our Lost Caverns of Ixalan review!
Welcome my friends, to The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Magic’s second trip to the Mesoamerican-inspired plane. A plane that features the likes of dinosaur-riding Aztecs, Mayan merfolk, conquistador vampires, a coalition of pirates and now a lost underground civilisation. Follow along as we deep dive into this latest set in our Lost Caverns of Ixalan review.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Review – Story
A year on from the Phyrexian invasion, the many people of Ixalan have been digging towards the core of the plane in search of a new resource. However, they soon find themselves in another world. The Lost Caverns set takes on the trope of an underground world as we find that there’s an ancient civilisation sealed in the innermost part of the plane, which has its own sun.
The Oltec people are the progenitors of the Sun Empire (the dino-riding Aztecs) and have sealed themselves away to protect the core of Ixalan from a new threat: fungus.
Another part of the story focuses elsewhere on the plane as we get introduced to the Mycoids, a race of fungal creatures. Though to put it more aptly, it’s a single giant, world-spanning creature that is made up of much smaller parts. A hivemind ruled by a being known as the Mycotyrant.
Introduced to the plane a millenia ago, it sat waiting in the caverns below the surface, just for any unwitting being to venture in. The moment anyone is injured by a Mycoid, spores will enter the wound and rapidly infect the host, turning them into food and new bodies to spread the colony.
So in short, the story of Ixalan has a lot of events going for it, giving us a lot of interesting cards to play with.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Review – What’s in the Set?
This is magic’s ninety-eighth expansion (getting so close to that hundred!) and you can expect 291 regular cards plus the usual assortment of showcase cards sprinkled throughout. In addition to the standard cards, Wizards have brought out their new Universes Beyond collection and some special bonus cards that you can pick up, but we’ll get to them later. For now we need to see what makes the new cards tick.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Review – New and Returning Mechanics
Our first new mechanic to feature in this set is a transforming ability for artifacts. These double-faced cards will ask you to pay a certain amount of mana and exile cards of certain types from your field or graveyard to transform them into much more powerful cards. No workbench required!
This new mechanic wants you to look into your graveyard. Specifically, it cares when a permanent card is put into your graveyard from anywhere. There are some cards that care about when a permanent enters your graveyard and others that care about the total number in there. In both cases, it gives a new strategy to graveyard-based decks.
This new ability is a rework of an old ability called Cascade. Where Cascade triggers when you cast a spell with Cascade, you exile cards from the top of your deck until you hit something of lower mana cost and get to play it for free. Discover works very similarly but you’re mostly given a set specified mana cost to look for.
Unlike Cascade where if you don’t cast the card it goes to the bottom of your deck, Discover gives you the option to put the card into your hand instead. A little bit of a trade-off but I can see this mechanic getting out of hand quickly in the right scenario.
Our only major returning mechanic is the iconic Explore mechanic from our first trip to Ixalan. A creature-specific mechanic, it states that when a creature explores you reveal the top card of your deck. If the revealed card is a land card, you put it into your hand, but if it’s not a land you place a +1/+1 counter on the creature and then choose whether or not to keep the card on top of your deck or put it into your graveyard. Once only specific to a small number of creatures, now thanks to the new Map tokens any of your creatures can explore.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Review – Showcase Art, Universes Beyond & Special Guests
The brand-new showcase art for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is truly something else. Being based on Mesoamerican culture, many of the showcase cards feature art in a stylised way similar to that of the cultures’ own art style.
Wizards keeps finding new IPs to partner with for some truly outrageous and amazing cards. This time around we have some booster insert cards, much like the Transformers in the Brothers War set. These cards can be found in set boosters, collector boosters and bundles. And this time around, there’s no more fitting addition than Jurassic World.
That’s right folks, but it’s not just Jurassic WORLD, it also includes characters and events from across the series. Yes, you can in fact find an Ian Malcolm card sporting the likeness of the legend himself Jeff Goldblum. The cards are available in approximately 10% of set boosters and every collector booster in foil and non-foil. You may even be one of the lucky people who will find an embossed foil version of one of the cards that features the Jurassic World T-Rex logo.
The final lot of special cards I want to talk about are called “Special Guests”. These are 18 cards that are reprinted with unique art and flavour text to match the flavour of the plane. They’ll appear in “The List” slot of set boosters but may also appear in collector boosters.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Review – Commander Decks
Finally, we can’t forget about the commander decks and we have 4 to talk about, all of them focused on a different creature type.
As the name suggests, this is a red/green/white dinosaur deck that focuses on getting big creatures out and ramping (getting lands from your deck onto the field) to get them out faster.
Explorers of the Deep
This one is a blue/green deck focused on merfolk. Specifically, it’s focused on making a lot of them and pumping them with +1/+1 counters and pump spells. It also has a small sub-theme for the explore mechanic.
This one you can really sink your teeth into. It’s a black/white vampire deck focused on sacrificing your own creatures for extra value and creating tokens.
But really, those other three decks pale in comparison to this blue/black/red pirate deck. Why? Because it has the best buoy in all of magic Francisco, Fowl Marauder. Wizards, please make more awesome birds like this boi. Also, the deck has a focus on bringing creatures back from the graveyard and buffing them up.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Review – Conclusion
So there you are folks, our latest look into the plane of Ixalan. I’ve been super excited for this set to drop and it focuses on a heap of cool creature types and has a crossover that I know people will love. I hope everyone enjoys the set as much as I do.
A review pack was kindly provided by Wizards of the Coast for the purpose of our Caverns of Ixalan review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our Wilds of Eldraine review and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about upcoming Magic the Gathering sets!