New Horizons - The Lost Caverns of Ixalan and Jurassic World

15 Nov
by Matt Grzechnik

What’s New, Ixalan? 

As our final set to wrap up the year, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan brings back competing factions and delves deeper into the mysteries that lie beneath the surface. 

This release serves as a palate cleanser, offering a departure from kindred creature-focused themes and instead embracing an action-adventure narrative, with 291 cards to explore the hollow world.

Welcome to…Universes Beyond 

In addition, this set also features more cards from outside the Magic: the Gathering IP, with Universes Beyond: Jurassic World Collection. The inclusion of these cards in booster packs mirrors the rate of Universes Beyond: Transformers booster inserts in last year’s The Brothers' War. 

Jurassic World adds a fun, thematic element, and works much better as a booster insert than a fully-fledged set. However, there are several issues with the release that suggest it was hastily assembled.

For instance, there's a discrepancy between the premium and borderless versions of cards. Welcome to . . ., the Gaea's Cradle for Dinosaurs with extra steps, is only available with its back side as borderless, likely due to challenges in embossing both sides with foil. Then there’s Swooping Pteranodon (Borderless), a card dealing what can only be described as "fall damage" to creatures. The issue here lies in the need for clearer wording. 

A real shining star from this set is Permission Denied (Borderless), a fusion of Dovin's Veto and Render Silent. While limited in playability, this will more than likely find a permanent home in EDH, and is currently averaging $14.

Welcome to . . .
Swooping Pteranodon (Borderless)
Permission Denied (Borderless)

Vampires, Merfolk, Pirates... and Gods? 

Returning to The Lost Caverns, let’s focus on the array of creatures. The same factions are still present from the first Ixalan sets, but now accompanied by an additional cycle of Gods that seamlessly fit the set’s theme. These mono-colored Gods transform into lands upon death and transform back once certain conditions are met. While not inherently explosive or game-breaking, each of the Gods complements a certain distinct playstyle, rewarding players who lean into them. 

Leading this notion is Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation, currently valued at $35. Being one of the few tripling effects in the game, Ojer Taq is an upgrade on the previously printed Mondrak, Glory Dominus. Considering similar projections and anticipating post-prelease pricing, the average will likely fall closer to the $25-$30 range before experiencing an upward climb. 

On the other hand, we have Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might. Having already dropped from its previous average of $49 to a more manageable $12, this card exhibits the potential to grow over time. Recent trends in cards printed for EDH, specifically in red, lead me to conclude that burn-style decks may start to become a reality sooner rather than later. Until then, my plan is to acquire a few copies of the red God as they bottom out.

Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation
Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might

Echoing Despair 

Caves are a new land type introduced in the set to further emphasize a journey through the underground. While these won’t spark much financial consideration, one out of the eighteen stands out slightly - Echoing Deeps. This card enters play as a copy of any land in a graveyard - a rather unique ability that lacks representation within the game. 

Objectively, it’s a build-around card rather than a seamless addition to any constructed deck. Averaging just shy of $8 ahead of release, this card's fate may resemble that of Rebuild the City. During the prerelease period of March of the Machine: The Aftermath, Rebuild the City was holding a similar price range before sinking back into the bulk rare pricing of $0.30. 

The other seventeen Caves include some light interaction between them, forming a small draft subtype strategy. But this is where the value of Caves starts and finishes - as specifically created limited cards that may appeal to niche enthusiasts outside of the draft/sealed environment.

Echoing Deeps

Modern Caves and Caverns 

The real news surrounds previously printed cards mentioning Caves, like Caves of Koilos, which are not being errata'd. Instead, the set reintroduces the most famous cavern in Magic, Cavern of Souls. Originally printed in Avacyn Restored with an average of $40, Cavern of Souls has experienced several reprints. Being a semi-frequent addition in Masters sets and recently as a box topper for The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, the price points have reflected this change so far. With a gradual decrease in price for subsequent printings and the new Ixalan variant averaging $26, Cavern of Souls is at the lowest it’s been in the last eight years. 

Cavern of Souls (0410d) (Borderless)
Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos (Neon Yellow) (WPN Exclusive)

Adding to the booster fun is the return of the Neon Ink treatment first featured in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. In a small percentage of Collector Boosters, players may expect to find differently treated Caverns of Souls with specific coloring patterns. Previously we saw this treatment on Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos, which also included different rarities for specific colors. In the case of Hidetsugu, the blue, red, and green treatments came in only 1% of Collector Boosters, creating astronomical jumps in price.

Cavern of Souls
Cavern of Souls
Cavern of Souls
Cavern of Souls (0410c) (Borderless)

X Marks the Spot

Our return to Ixalan brings both familiar concepts and a brief adventure without strings attached. While it’s premature to speculate on its impact on Standard, besides Cavern of Souls being legal for the foreseeable future, some cards show potential for breaking through into eternal formats. 

From my own experience and speculation, both this and the previous set will fade into memory sooner rather than later, along with the ideas and mechanics that were introduced in them. For now, let's observe how the journey to the middle of the plane influences the metagame. 

Join me in the next installment of New Horizons, where kindred competition continues in Commander: The Lost Caverns of Ixalan.

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Matt Grzechnik
Matt Grzechnik

Matt Grzechnik started playing Magic with the release of Dragon's Maze. Since then he has tried and experimented with all of the formats before discovering his love for EDH and Pauper. Piloting the same Jund deck for the last 10 years, he now tries to both understand and break Sealed as a format.