The exciting plane of Ixalan is finally right on the horizon and, to quote Lee Sharpe, "pirates and dinos and Vraska oh my!" Ixalan is our first hardcore tribal set since Lorwyn block and is bringing in all sorts of cool new toys (read: dinosaurs). We've seen the full spoiler, we've seen the pre-pre-release, but we've still got some time before release weekend so let's dive right into Ixalan while we're still ahead of schedule.
Ixalan clocks in at 279 cards, counting the 10 dual-faced ones as single cards. They come in all the usual colors and flavors, and with the usual handfuls of reprints. The set size is pretty average and this time around we get 29 reprints including the basics, making just short of 90% of the set shiny and new. There's plenty of spice in the old cards, like Opt and the checklands, but the shining stars are definitely the new tribes.
Colors are a little weird in Ixalan because for the first time the factions are not split across even color groups. Rather than the usual color pairs, shards, or wedges we have two three color tribes and two two color tribes: Grixis (UBR) Pirates, Naya (WRG) Dinosaurs, Simic (UG) Merfolk, and Orzhov (WB) Vampires. The mono-colored cards come in between 42-44 cards each, with green at the bottom and UW at the top. Various permutations of the tribe colors show up with 1-2 cards each with 9/10 pairs represented and both the full Grixis and Naya.
The color identities in Ixalan change very little from the colors. None of the non-land cards have a different color identity from their color. Three of Ixalan's lands are also of colorless identity so the only shift from color to identity is the other 25 lands moving over to their respective color combinations. The flip cards are still counted singley here but it doesn't matter because the colored ones flip into lands of the same identity and the artifacts flip into colorless lands.
Creatures are far and away the most common card type in all sets but here in Ixalan it's especially true. This set features 143 creatures beating out the next most common card type (38 Lands) by over 100 cards. This is obviously due to the heavy tribal themes in the set which require a lot of creatures to make work; dinosaurs and pirates especially need a lot of creatures as they weren't supported tribes until Ixalan. Lands are slightly inflated here as the 10 dual faced cards all become lands but none of them are lands on the front face.
The tribal types are incredibly prominent in Ixalan. Three of the four most common creature races are the racial tribes: 35 Dinosaurs, 20 Vampires, and 20 Merfolk. It might seem odd that humans would still beat out the important tribes but 27 of those 43 humans are part of the pirate tribe seen below. The orc, goblin, and siren races are also members of the pirate tribe making the top six races part of the tribal theme. Magic's first trilobite, Shore Keeper, also deserves an honorable mention here.
Only one of the four tribes on Ixalan is a class rather than a race: pirates. With 39 pirates the tribe is actually the most represented and appears across humans, orcs, goblins, and sirens. After the pirates we get the usual assortment of classes, though Ixalan has quite high representation of shamans and clerics that fit well into the Meso-American style. Knights and soldiers appear frequently in the Ixalan vampires as well as befits the conquistador aesthetic.
There isn't much to say about the rarities in Ixalan. It follows a pretty standard downward curve topping out at 101 commons with 15 mythics at the low end. Each basic land received four beautiful printings as well.
The CMC distribution in Ixalan is a beautiful curve, a real drafter's dream. The only 0-cost cards in Ixalan are lands so we can really start at CMC 1, where we find a whopping 32 cards. The set curves up to about 60 cards at CMCs 3 and 4 and then drops down to 8 with plenty in the 5-6 range and a few in 6-8. Most of those high-CMC cards are the big dinosaur payoffs but there are many dinosaurs in the 3-5 range as well. The other tribes are much cheaper than the dinosaurs and explains much of that high 2-5 CMC concentration.
The Keywords & Mechanics
Flying beats out other keywords in pretty much every set, so we'll ignore it here. The next four most common keywords are all either new to Ixalan or major returning mechanics. Raid, returning from Khans block, shows up on 14 cards in the pirate fleet and comes in second after flying. The new explore mechanic comes in close to Raid with 12 cards and the dino mechanic enrage pops up on 7. Transform (from Innistrad) and crew (from Kaladesh) also return with 10 and 5 cards respectively representing pirate ships and legendary Ixalan locations. The thematically important mechanics appear 48 times across 143 creatures and a few spells, and that doens't count cards that care about those abilities otherwise (i.e. do 'X' when a creature explores). The other more common abilities (haste, menace, trample) are also very thematically appropriate to the tribes. While the keywords are not exorbitantly common Ixalan features a wealth of abilities that are not keyworded across all the tribes.
I was both excited and hesitant when Ixalan was first announced. Pirates and dinosaurs is a slippery slope to lol-so-random after all. I must admit that I was dead wrong to be worried; Ixalan looks absolutely amazing and I couldn't be more excited to start brewing up some pirate shenanigans. Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll join us next time when we're ahead of schedule for Rivals of Ixalan!