Flavour Watch: Ixalan Edition

Riley takes a break from his usual Modern content and takes a hard look at the flavor implications for Ixalan, and what that means for us.

Evaluating new cards is a key skill for wizards of all types, and nowhere is this skill more abundantly showcased than during preview season. As we all race to identify the next constructed staples and limited powerhouses, it’s important not to forget another critical aspect of evaluating these new cards. Ixalan is already regarded as one of the most engaging and flavourful worlds we’ve seen, and broadly speaking, this is spot on. However, there are some cards that call for a closer examination from a flavour perspective – it’s my great pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural MTG.one Flavour Watch.

Walk the Plank

walk the plank mtg card

The fact that this card is universally hailed as a flavour slam dunk absolutely mystifies me. Yes, it resonates strongly with a well-established piratical trope, and the art on both versions of the card capture its thrust exceptionally well. All the same, however, Walk the Plank has a bigger plot hole than that scene with Joey Pants eating steak in The Matrix.

I understand the concept – Walk the Plank can’t destroy Merfolk because they wouldn’t be bothered by being forced off a ship into the sea. Well, that’s not without its own issues, as the sharks below could still chomp away at a Merfolk as it tried to escape. After all, it’s not going to be able to bonk all of the sharks on their snoots.

Disregarding that minor detail, are we really to believe Merfolk are the only creatures who should be immune to walking a plank? What about fliers? Imagine forcing a Dreamcaller Siren off the end of a plank at swordpoint. “Erm, okay, fellas,” she would say, “I suppose I’ll just… fly away rather than be devoured by the hungry sharks below?” Similarly, the idea that something like a Kinjalli’s Sunwing would do anything other than the old Andy Dwyer spread-your-wings-and-fly is laughable.

It doesn’t stop there, however – with the reintroduction of Vehicles in Ixalan, Walk the Plank will allow you to destroy a ship by making it walk off a plank from another ship. Ships can’t even walk! Moving away from Ixalan – are we to accept that this card can slay creatures like Lorthos, the Tidemaker, an octopus the size of a building? What about Catacomb Slug, a creature with no legs? Walk the Plank is riddled with more holes than Swiss cheese, and is one of the tricksiest flavour violations we’ve seen in a long time – especially given that it’s packaged and passed off as such a flavourful card!

Hostage Taker

At first glance, Hostage Taker is a vibrant and flavourful card. She swoops in and snags her hostage – be it a creature or a precious artifact – no worries, job done. From here on out, however, things become a little trickier. Classically speaking, a hostage taker will then use the hostage as a bargaining chip to leverage something from their antagonists – for example, a flight to Mexico City and $200,000 in cold hard cash. In this case, however, it’s not so.

Hostage Taker seems to have a pretty deep narrative to it. Rather than negotiate from power with the hostage’s life on the line, here it seems that some pretty ferocious Stockholm Syndrome sets in for our hostage. Assuming the Hostage Taker survives, the hostage itself ends up playing on the same team as its captors! Given that the whole point of taking hostages is to at some stage return them if all goes well, it seems as though this card missed the mark somewhat.

Makeshift Munitions

I know goblins aren’t known for their intellectual fortitude, but this fella is being optimistic to the point of cloth-eared foolishness if he thinks a lump of statue is going to cut it for a cannonball. It’ll be blown to smithereens, and the only damage it’ll inflict on an enemy crew is perhaps a mild cough as they breathe in a lungful of dust. And that’s only if the winds are in their favor!

Additionally, do we have a consensus on what represents a single point of damage? There’s an element of consistency with Hornet Sting and Taste of Blood – a small puncture to the skin is equivalent to one damage. But then you look at the puncturing going on in Gut Shot, which is a fair bit more brutal than either of those other cards, just how much puncturing can still fall under the one damage threshold? In any case, I suppose it kinda lines up with Makeshift Munitions – whack more or less anything into a cannon, and it’ll do an amount of damage ranging between being stung by an insect and having your guts ripped out with a spear.

Kinjalli’s Sunwing

The addition of Dinosaur as a creature type has been an exciting event for Magic, with huge prehistoric monsters finally taking their official place in the Cavern of Souls Misclick Lottery™. Wizards even went so far as to errata 14 previously-printed cards to include the new creature type. A change everyone can get behind, I’m sure – developing such an exciting and effortlessly fun tribe like Dinosaurs should have everyone’s support.

And it would have mine, too, were it not so indiscriminate in its implementation! Kinjalli’s Sunwing, an alleged “Dinosaur” that joins us with Ixalan, is quite clearly a Pteranosaur of some nature. In other words, it’s about as much of a dinosaur as an Plesiosaur or an Ichthyosaur! It is of extreme concern to me that this flying reptile can be revealed to Gishath’s ability or given haste by Regisaur Alpha!

To compound the issue, Reddit user feralfantom noted while discussing the errata that it had been applied with judicious correctness to old cards – Lathnu Sailback wasn’t included in the change, because as we all know, Dimetrodons aren’t dinosaurs. While we have new “dinosaurs” being handed out like day-old bread, we have exacting scientific correctness guiding the errata process! I have to imagine this can only mean that a further errata will be published, to rectify what will doubtless become known as the Sunwing Solecism™.

Commune with Dinosaurs

I don’t know what’s going on with this one. The latest green “look at X cards and snag a Y from among them” is a super perplexing one. The two people aren’t communing with dinosaurs at all – they’re using this poor bugger as a makeshift clipboard to fill out their map! Look at the expression of the Triceratops itself: “er, are you alright there, fellas? My face is up here if you’re looking to commune rather than use me as a writing desk…”

Dragonskull Summit

dragonskull summit mtg card

The comeback tour of the Magic 2010 “checklands” has been met with rave reviews and sold-out shows – everyone is happy to have Glacial Fortress and company rejoin us in Standard. And with incredible new art, too! Drowned Catacomb fits perfectly with the flavour of this new world, and both Rootbound Crag and Sunpetal Grove are serviceable additions. Dragonskull Summit, however, called for some deft maneuvers from a flavour perspective.

The flavour text justification for why we have the word “dragon” appearing on a card in a set overrun by dinosaurs is pretty gutsy. Oho, some magical nerd started calling dinosaurs “dragons”, did he? Hm, very interesting, very convenient. I’m not sure that I can come along for the ride, but I certainly respect the brazen attempt to get this troublesome flavour issue under the radar.

The Arms-in-the-Air Cycle

It’s pretty firmly established that players like card cycles more than Lance Armstrong when he took up origami – something about the symmetry and balance of five- or ten-card groups of cards is very pleasing to those with organised minds. Ixalan brings us a very intriguing cycle indeed – Priest of the Wakening Sun, Kopala, Warden of Waves, Revel in Riches, Captain Lannery Storm, and Waker of the Wilds comprise the latest five-colour cycle of cards.

All these cards, of course, involve those depicted with their arms in their air like they just don’t care (with the notable exception of Captain Lannery Storm, who has kept one hand on the ship’s wheel – safety first). At this stage, what this cycle means for Arms-in-the-Air Tribal remains to be seen. Dedicated AITA players will welcome the dearth of new options in Ixalan, and with strong existing options such as Cogwork Assembler, Channeler Initiate, and The Locust God, we may yet see Five-Colour Arms make its mark in Ixalan Standard.

Quick Hits

Lightning Strike

lightning strike

Must have been a pretty fast-moving storm – poor old Grick didn’t get to say a single word between spotting it on the horizon and getting fried by a billion volts of lightning.

Ruin Raider


“I’m just sick of getting hair in my eyes, you feel me?”

“Say no more fam.”

Storm Fleet Arsonist

How bad are the Storm Fleet’s finances if they’re forced to strap an anchor to a harpoon and pretend it’s an axe?

Goring Ceratops

“It’s not a phase, dad! Get out of my room!”

Storm Fleet Aerialist

A rare image of the Nerevarine attempting to flee Morrowind after encountering the local wildlife.

Unfriendly Fire

So… just regular fire, then?

Ravenous Daggertooth


I can’t comment on the Ravenous aspect, but they look like regular enamel teeth to me.

Rile

Even after I posed for hours for the card art, they still managed to misspell my name. Still, it’s a good likeness.

Now My Watch Begins…

We’ll be back to regular Modern programming next week, but the Flavour Watch never truly ends. I’m always looking for new tip-offs for flavour violations, so please make sure you get them to me on Twitter: @rileyquarytower. Be sure to follow @mtgdotone for the latest content as well!

Riley Knight

Riley Knight is a member of the Magic coverage team, and has covered top-level events around the world since 2014. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, his favourite formats are Modern and Cube. Riley enjoys playing most of his Magic during his opponent’s end step.

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