The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is the last Standard set for Magic: The Gathering in 2023, and it is due for release on 17 November.
The story of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan takes place one year after March of the Machines, as different factions of the surface inhabitants of Ixalan scramble underground to the core of Ixalan to get access to the powerful resource cosmium.
The discovery of ancient caves and Chimil, the sun at the core of Ixalan below the surface of Ixalan, comes with a new set of mechanics for the brave surface explorers, and they are: Craft, Descended, and Discover.
The first new keyword to appear in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is Craft.
Cards with Craft are double-faced cards, and Craft is an activated ability which allows players to transform a front-facing card into its back face for something better by exiling some permanents or cards from the graveyard, and paying some mana.
In the case of Unstable Glyphbridge, its front face is an artifact doubling up as a board wipe, but that is not all with the card!
The player controlling Unstable Glyphbridge can activate its Craft ability at sorcery speed by paying three generic and two white mana, exiling Unstable Glyphbridge, and also exiling another artifact the player controls or an artifact in the player’s graveyard.
Unstable Glyphbridge then returns to the battlefield transformed into its back face Sandswirl Wanderglyph (if the ability resolves). Sandswirl Wanderglyph is now a flying 5/3 artifact creature with some backbreaking effects!
The second new keyword to appear in the set is Descended. Some cards in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan have the ability to check if you have descended.
You are considered to have descended if a permanent card has been put into your graveyard from anywhere. The word anywhere is particularly important, because it can also trigger if you mill permanent cards from your library into your graveyard.
This however will not apply to creature tokens or any other tokens (such as Role tokens released in Wilds of Eldraine) hitting the graveyard because they are permanent tokens and not permanent cards (which is the exact requirement for Descended).
When the requirement for Descended is met, players will get additional benefits such as adding a +1/+1 counter on Stalactite Stalker at the beginning of their end step.
There are also three other closely related keywords Descend 4, Descend 8, and Fathomless Descent that will appear in this set. These keywords care about how many permanent cards there are in your graveyard.
Cards with Descend 4 or Descend 8 will get additional benefits if there are four or eight permanent cards in your graveyard respectively.
Meanwhile, cards with Fathomless Descent just get more powerful when there are more permanent cards in your graveyard.
The last new keyword to appear in the set is Discover which allows a player to dig somewhat deeper into the library with the potential of casting another spell for free!
Discover always comes with a numerical value which determines the mana value of the nonland card you can potentially cast for free.
When you cast a spell that has Discover 10 in the case of Hit the Mother Lode, you exile the top card of your library one at a time until you find a nonland card with mana value of 10 or less.
You can then either choose to cast it for free, or put the card into your hand. The rest of the cards you have exiled are then put on the bottom of your library.
Discover has an element of luck to it, especially when you are not able to manipulate the top of your library. However, the ability to put the card you have exiled into your hand instead of casting something you might not want at a particular point in time makes Discover a much more unique experience compared to something mechanically similar like Cascade.
Returning mechanic: Explore
With every new set on a familiar plane, old mechanics that were previously present on the plane sometimes make a return, and for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, the keyword Explore is back again.
First introduced in the original Ixalan block, Explore is a keyword found on creatures. When a creature explores, the player controlling the creature reveals the top card of their library.
If it is a land card, the player may put it in their hand. If it is a nonland card, the creature gets a +1/+1 counter instead. The revealed card then either stays on top of their library, or the player can choose to put it in their graveyard.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan also introduces a new type of tokens called Map tokens. Map tokens are colourless, and they can be tapped and sacrificed with one generic mana.
When that happens, target creature you control explores. This can only be activated at sorcery speed, so do note you cannot activate the ability of a Map token at your opponent’s turn to potentially buff your blocker!
Refreshed ability: Finality counter
Besides all the new and returning mechanics, an existing ability is now getting an update. Sometimes, creatures can be returned to the battlefield or cast from the graveyard or even from exile.
A lot of the time, when these creatures die, they are exiled instead of being sent to the graveyard. This effect is now expressed using finality counters in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan.
This is particularly intriguing, because counters in Magic: The Gathering can potentially be removed, moved around, doubled, and more.
You can potentially move a finality counter from your own creature to your opponent’s, or even to another creature of yours, if your deck has the capability to do so.
With the effect now expressed as a finality counter (and in the future), I wonder what this bodes for the future of such effects!
Jurassic World, Special Guests and more
In addition, 26 new cards from the universe of Jurassic World are also making their way into The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Set boosters and Collector boosters, as well as in Secret Lair products.
Opening either an Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists, or Ravenous Tyrannosaurus, is a beautiful tie-in to the plane of Ixalan where dinosaurs were first introduced to Magic: The Gathering.
Besides the Universes Beyond collaboration with Jurassic World, players can also potentially open 18 fan-favourite reprints in unique borderless Special Guests frames in the slot usually meant for The List in boosters.
Players who buy any box of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan boosters will also get a Treasure Trove Box Topper. Each Box Topper contains one of twenty borderless cards, 19 of which are reprints outside of the plane of Ixalan. Players can only get a foil Box Topper if they buy a Collector Booster box.
Do note that all the cards mentioned in this section are not Standard legal. I am a little bummed I can't see a Ravenous Tyrannosaurus in a Standard deck, but hey at least the dinosaurs are back in Lost Caverns of Ixalan!
Lost Caverns of Ixalan will be available as Draft Boosters, Set Boosters, Collector Boosters, Commander Decks, Prerelease Packs, Bundles, and Gift Bundles.
Jay is a content creator who likes to hoard vintage photographic lenses, and loses too often in Dota 2 and Magic: The Gathering after work.