Rivals of Ixalan is here and it's time to explore how the new set will shake up Ixalan draft and sealed. In a quest to understand that, the limited community has submitted over 55,000 individual card reviews for the community set review. That's an amazing response, and I want to take a second to thank each and every person who contributed. If you would like to add your grades the commons and uncommons can be rated here, the rares and mythics here and you can see what the rest of the community thinks here.
And where more than one person voices a Magic opinion, there's disagreement. While last time we looked at the resulting controversial commons and uncommons, it's now time to see what Rares and Mythics in Rivals of Ixalan we could just not agree on.
What does disagreement look like? Let's take a look at a non-controversial card to see.
Rekindling Phoenix is great, and accordingly the average community grade is an A. However is Rekindling Phoenix A+ great? Some players think so. Maybe it's only "B" great? Some players think that too.
The bigger the spread of grades, the more disagreement. With an average of almost 300 grades per card we can measure this mathematically. What follows is a list of the eight most controversial cards in Rivals of Ixalan, and each one has the community split. Is it a hidden gem? An uplayable trap? Only time will tell. For each card I'll start by discussing what makes the card controversial, then offer my take...
...which, given these cards, is guaranteed to be controversial.
8. Captain's Hook (Community Grade C+)
The controversy: The upside is that Captain's Hook is cheap to equip, provides evasion and let's you have a freaking pirate dinosaur at your beck and call.
The downside is its upfront cost is a tad expensive and that you are going to have to pry this out of your creature's cold dead hand if you want someone else to take up the mantle of pirate captain.
How do those two sides balance out? The community has more players that think this is a good card (B/C level) than think it's unplayable, so C+ it is.
What I think: Captain's Hook feels like it will be very good at chewing through an opponent's defenses. Your newly commissioned creature is going to get enough power to trade with most blockers, and it won't be hard for a medium sized creature to be able to trade for both the creatures your opponent will be obliged to block with.
Maybe you'll have to board this out against a blue player packing a handful of Disperse effects, but otherwise that play pattern is going to make it very good in decks that are either aggressive or prone to board stalls, which described most of the decks I piloted in Ixalan limited. Controlling decks won't be interested in this, but it's going to find plenty of other homes.
7. Storm the Vault (Community Grade C-)
The controversy: Storm the Vault offers the possibility of transforming into this:
If you have never had the pleasure, Vault of Catlacan is a better version of one of the most degenerate cards in the game - Tolarian Academy. So what makes this card controversial?
For starters, this is limited, and neither half of this card does much to help your board state. At best Storm the Vault can help ramp out some treasures, but only if you can pay 4 mana and if your creatures can connect with your opponent.
If you do manage to Storm the Vault and open it, you'll have access to a ton of (blue) mana, but is the payoff worth the setup price?
The consensus seems to be that Storm the Vault is below average at C-, but there's a sizable contingent of players who deem this card unplayable - this card has the most F's of any on the list.
What I think: This effect is not worth it. Hard to cast, expensive and with a heavy setup cost - the investment required by Storm the Vault means the payoff better be backbreaking, and it simply isn't.
Even if you do somehow manage to flip this, Rivals of Ixalan doesn't abound with ways to turn your heaps of blue mana into victory.
6. Arch of Orazca (Community Grade C+)
The controversy: Spell lands like Arch of Orazca are a nice way of sneaking a little extra power into a limited deck while maintaining your spell count. Even if in some games Arch of Orazca is doing its best Waste impression, the extra upside and low opportunity cost makes it a potentially easy card to slide into a deck.
However, there's no such thing as a free arch. You still are diluting your mana sources and Arch requires you to jump through some hoops to get your spell ability.
Overall, the community is optimistic about Arch of Orazca, and a majority of players like it and the overall grade is a above average C+.
What I think: I might have an irrational love for spell lands. Even spell lands playing hard to get by having their ability trapped behind the high bar of Ascend and then still only rewarding you for spending six mana.
Most two colored decks can get away with 1-2 lands that tap for colorless as long as they do something spicy, and if Rivals is anything like original Ixalan, there's a good chance we'll be hard up for late game mana sinks. Yeah you have to spend your turn drawing one card, but if you are hellbent and topdecked a land you weren't doing anything with that mana anyways.
5. Timestream Navigator (Community Grade C-)
The controversy: What costs 1U and grants extra turns? Well, technically, Timestream Navigator. The prospect of getting a Time Walk with legs has some players thinking that this card is among the best in the set - but the fact that it's contingent on Ascend and bolted to an aenemic 1/1 has other players thinking Timestream Navigator is not worth it.
These two camps almost average out - and overall the community has the Time Pirate rated as a C-.
What I think: The first problem here is that even if this were just a six mana timewalk, I would not be terribly excited. Timewalks, especially in limited, can be depressingly underwhelming.
Second, Timestream Navigator is not even that good. She needs to survive a turn, and her stats make her nigh useless as a creature. In addition, in a certain percentage of games, you won't be able to achieve Ascend, and you'll be left overpaying for your Fugitive Wizard.
However, if you do manage to dig down to the Timestream Navigator on the bottom of your deck, it's worth mentioning that she does provide infinite turns: Play her, on your next upkeep tap her to get your extra turn, redraw her for the turn, play her, post pictures on twitter.
4. Polyraptor (Community Grade B-)
The controversy: Expensive, powerful creatures are a mainstay on the "most controversial" list. Polyraptor is certainly expensive at 8 mana, and certainly can be powerful since if they ever start multiplying your opponent is going to be quickly swarmed out of the game.
However, to get multiple copies you need either your opponent's cooperation or a sweet combo, may I suggest this one:
With that upside the community has decided that Polyraptor's average grade should be a solid B-.
What I think: Even if I get to 8 mana, the 5/5 I get feels too beatable for my liking.
Whether my opponent swarms around it, flies over it or just untaps and kills it, I can't see myself playing Polyraptor.
3. Azor's Gateway (Community Grade C+)
The controversy: If you manage to loot away enough cards you can open the gateway to this:
Which should take care of any mana problems you have. On the surface this is similar to another card on this list, Storm the Vault and offers a similar reward - a land that can produce oodles of mana. However, instead of conditionally offering treasure tokens, Azor's Gateway offers cheap, repeatable card filtering - a much more powerful effect.
The community thinks this card is above average, and gives it an overall grade of C+. However, there is a significant portion of the community that thinks this cards should only sometimes or never be in your deck.
So what should we think about Azor's Gateway?
What I think: This is one flip card I actively don't want to flip. While occasionally the heaps and heaps of mana flowing out of Sanctum of the Sun will be something you want, in most limited games the card selection the Gateway offers will let you win any game that goes long. Packing away 5 life for emergencies is gravy.
Cheap, colorless and powerful are qualities that are going to make Azor's Gateway a high pick.
2. Zacama, Primal Calamity (Community Grade B-)
The controversy: Zacama, Primal Calamity is the second huge creature on this list and triples down by being even bigger, more expensive, harder to cast and more game ending.
Resolving Zacama, Primary Controversy will result in a game win, so it has that going for it, but the community is split on whether the format can support a huge, expensive Nayasaur. On the whole the community likes Zacama and ranks it as one of the better cards in the set, B-.
What I think: While Zacama, Player Crusher will indeed be nigh unbeatable when cast, I think nine mana is just too much to ask.
1. Form of the Dinosaur (Community Grade C+)
The controversy: It's hard to get more controversial than a card that can kill you. And Form of the Dinosaur can do exactly that.
The upside of Form of the Dinosaur is that it gives you the ability to kick the ever-living snot out of opponent's creatures, and has the ability to pull the game back from the brink by resetting your life total to 15 life.
The downside is that once you go Dinosaur you can't go back. You are now on the hook to lock jaws with every single creature you opponent plays, and all the while your life total will be taking a hit.
This is a dangerous card, and the community has reacted by giving it the whole spectrum of possible grades. On balance the community thinks this card might be better than average, C+.
What I think: My thought process on Form of the Dinosaur went like this: It's weird that this splashy rare has an actual downside. Where's my "may" clause? I guess Dinosaurs don't do discretion. What would this card play like if you could choose not to fight? What are the board states where being forced to fight are going to kill you?
And much to my surprise, I found myself liking this card more and more. In imagining the better version of this card I realized that the situations where you choose not to fight were often already pretty terrible board states. So while that drops Form of the Dinosaur from the "A" range in my mind - it can't rescue a bad game singlehandedly - in most other situations it's going to wreck your opponent's plan, then his board and take over the game.
Those are the 8 most controversial limited cards in Rivals of Ixalan. What cards am I wrong about? Where is the community misjudging the cards? Do you have a better read on the environment? Let us know: rate the cards yourself.