We’re returning to Ixalan, the plane featuring extremely unusual creature mashup. There are Dinosaurs, Vampires, Pirates, and Merfolk. You’ll be able to find all of them in the four The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks.
In this article, you’ll find everything there is to know about them. First, we’ll take a look at their contents, then explore the decks themselves. Then, for each deck, we’ll discuss its theme, and review both main and secondary commanders. You’ll also discover all four decklists, alongside the new cards. Finally, we discuss which deck is best to pick for different players.
Since there’s a lot to talk about, let’s get right to it.
Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander Decks – Contents
There are four different Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks. Each of them contains:
- 2 foil cards (the two commanders)
- 98 non-foil cards (with the two foil cards, this makes a 100-card ready-to-play deck)
- 1 Collector Sample Pack with two cards (with alternate art or in foil)
- 1 foil-etched Display commander (a thicker card, not for tournament play)
- 10 double-sided tokens
- 1 life tracker
- 1 cardboard deck box (find a Commander precon’s deck box review here)
- Helper, reference card, and a strategy insert
Among the hundred cards in each deck, 10 are brand-new cards. The rest of the deck consists of reprints. You can order the decks on Amazon. Here’s a quick overview of them:
|Explorers of the Deep|
- Colors: White, red, green
- Theme: Dinosaurs, ramp
- Main Commander: Pantzala, Sun Favored
- Veloci-Ramp-Tor Upgrade Guide
We’re starting off with a real banger of a deck. While its name might be a clever pun, the precon isn’t a joke. How could it be, when it is centered around one of the biggest, baddest creature types in Magic? (And in real life too – at least once upon a time.) Of course, we’re talking about Dinosaurs, which are extremely popular in Magic, especially considering how little support they received over the years.
Sure, there was Pygmy Allosaurs way back in 1995, and a few Lizards/Beasts that kinda looked like Dinosaurs, but that was pretty much it. Thankfully, in 2017, the first Ixalan set introduced a ton of powerful Dinosaur cards. You could say that Carnage Tyrant is quite an upgrade over the aforementioned Pygmy Allosaurs. Afterward, these creatures only appeared in Ikoria, and occasionally in a random set, but never as major theme.
That is until now, when they’re showing up in a 100-card Commander deck. This is a great precon whether you’re a player who likes to cast big creatures, or if you just want to collect some Dinos. Both old and new Dinosaurs appear in the deck, which is a great starting point for a collection.
Anyway, all Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks come with two themes, and that includes this one. As the name suggests, the secondary theme is ramp. For new players – this term refers to putting additional lands from your deck directly onto the battlefield. (With cards like Rampant Growth.)
This doesn’t even feel like a separate theme, but more like a support for the main one. Dinosaurs are powerful, yet expensive creatures, so ramp can help you play them sooner, thus providing more impact.
Pantzala, Sun Favored
Five mana 4/4 isn’t exactly the biggest Dinosaur out there. However, it does use the new discover mechanic. So, what does that do?
To discover X, you exile cards from the top of your library, until you exile a nonland card that costs X or less. You can put it into your hand, or cast it for free. You read that right, this mechanic is basically a “fixed” cascade, as Wizards stated. However, it seems it’s a newer version of cascade, as there are scenarios, where this mechanic is better.
Imagine you hit Heroic Intervention with a cascade spell. In most scenarios that isn’t ideal. However, with discover you can just put it in your hand, and use it when it’s going to be good.
On top of that, the X in Pantlaza’s effect depends on the creature’s toughness, and not its mana cost. When you cast Ghalta and Mavren you get a card for 12 or less mana. It’s great that Pantlaza also triggers from other Dinosaurs coming into play. The ability can only trigger once each turn, which is a bit of a bummer, although probably necessary.
The card will play nicely with ramp effects, you can get it out early with ramp, and if you hit additional ramp with discover, that’s fine too. There are plenty of expensive Dinosaurs that will be happy to use the extra mana.
Wayta, Trainer Prodigy
The secondary commander is a fascinating card. When you first read Wayta, it can seem out of place in this deck. Most of its abilities look incredibly weird.
Haste doesn’t make a lot of sense on a creature with one power. However, it does allow you to use its activated ability on the turn you play it. And what an ability it is!
For three mana you can make your creature fight another creature. Cool, a removal spell on a stick. But that’s not all. If you fight two of your creatures, the ability costs only a single green mana. But why would you want to fight your own creatures? Perhaps the last ability will explain this.
If one of your creatures is dealt damage, and that triggers an ability, that ability will trigger one more time. All of the signs point towards the enrage mechanic, which was the key mechanic when we first saw Dinosaurs on Ixalan. For example, this deck contains Ripjaw Raptor, which draws you a card whenever it’s dealt damage.
However, there are just four total creatures with enrage in this precon. So, while Wayta is still playable, it’s best to use it as a part of the 99. If you do want it to use it as a commander, you’ll need to rebuilt the whole deck.
Here are the other 8 new cards, first printed in the Veloci-Ramp-Tor deck:
Best Reprints in the Veloci-Ramp-Tor Deck
For each deck we’re also going to check how well it did considering the quality of reprints. The Dino deck did surprisingly well.
There are plenty of good Dinosaurs, there are smaller ones such as Runic Armasaur, as well as the big Zacama, Primal Calamity. While not a Dino, Xenagos, God of Revels is still an amazing inclusion, as it fits nicely in the deck and it price was climbing before the reprint.
Who Should Pick the Veloci-Ramp-Tor Commander Precon?
If you’re an experienced player, feel free to skip these sections. You probably already know which Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander precon you want. This advice is meant for less enfranchised players, who want to make an informed decision.
Veloci-Ramp-Tor is perfect if you want to play big and powerful creatures. Dinosaurs certainly fit the bill. You don’t mind having a slightly weaker early game, while setting up for future turns. With this precon you’re going to do just that, and reaping rewards in the late game. For the win, you’ll attack your opponents with dominant creatures for big chunks of damage.
If this description fits you, you should most likely pick the Veloci-Ramp-Tor deck.
- Colors: White, Black
- Theme: Vampires, sacrifice
- Main commander: Clavileño, First of the Blessed
- Blood Rites Upgrade Guide
Next up, it’s a the iconic Magic creature type, one even more popular than Dinosaurs. We’re talking about Vampires, which is the major theme of the Blood Rites precon.
Contrary to the Dinos, which are making their first precon appearance, Vampires were in two Commander decks already. Strefan, Maurer Progenitor was the commander of Vampiric Bloodline, which was a popular deck, albeit not as much as its predecessor. That would be Vampiric Bloodlust, likely one of the most popular precons ever, and led by Edgar Markov. It’s possible that Blood Rites will also follow in their footsteps, as there are still plenty Vampires’ fans.
Typically, whenever Wizards revisit a theme with these decks, they tend to add a twist. That’s also the case here. If you check the box, you’ll notice two lines of text: “Spawn Vampire minions.” and “Sacrifice to flying demons.”
So, one of the themes will be sacrifice. This theme often appears in Magic, particularly in black, so that isn’t a big surprise. It’s interesting that the box specifically mentions sacrificing to flying Demons. However, that’s just something the main commander does. The deck doesn’t have specific Demon-based payoffs.
The other theme of the deck are Vampires and their tribal synergies. The deck can make plenty of small Vampires that you can use a sacrifice fodder. (That’s a term for creatures you don’t mind sacrificing.) All in all, the deck allows you to play the traditional Vampire theme with a sacrifice twist.
Clavileño, First of the Blessed
Clavileño is a three mana 2/2, with only a single ability, but it’s still quite wordy. Let’s break it down. It will trigger whenever you attack, so you don’t need to attack with it. Thus, you can benefit from the trigger on the turn you play it, which improves the card significantly.
However, just attacking won’t be enough. You’ll need to attack with a Vampire that isn’t a Demon. When you do so, that Vampire becomes a Demon, and acquires a powerful when-it-dies trigger. That ability will net you a card and create a 4/3 flyer.
What’s especially interesting is that this effect doesn’t work just until the end of turn. If your Vampire dies later, you still draw a card and make a 4/3.
This makes Clavileño a perfect commander for this deck’s themes. You play a cheap Vampire early, or you create a token. You cast Clavileño, attack with the Vampire, and it becomes an amazing creature to sacrifice – be it on your turn or any else. Furthermore, you don’t even need to sac it, if it dies for any other reason, you’ll also reap the benefits.
So, this is quite a nice commander, even if you decide to build your own deck around it. While it might be a bit shoehorned into a very specific strategy, that might actually be a benefit. There are already plenty of good stuff commanders anyway.
Carmen, Cruel Skymarcher
If Clavileño is a commander for a very small niche, Carmen is a bit more flexible. It ignores the Vampire theme, but just goes hard on sacrifice theme.
It might seem weak as a five mana 2/2 flyer, but its first ability allows Carmen to grow into a respectable threat quickly. Whenever a player sacrifices a permanent, you put a +1/+1 counter on Carmen and you gain a life.
Did you notice something interesting? The ability says “a player”, which means when an opponent sacrifices a Treasure or a fetch land, the ability will trigger. Similar abilities typically care about you sacrificing stuff, but this is a major upgrade.
However, that’s not all. When Carmen attacks, you get to bring back a permanent card from your graveyard to the battlefield. The only catch is that it must cost less than Carmen’s power. This shouldn’t be too big of a hurdle. Thanks to the first ability, you’ll be able to bring back most of the stuff in your graveyard.
It looks like Carmen will be an amazing card for any sacrifice deck. You can also easily use it as your main commander with this precon, as there’s a lot of support for the sacrifice theme.
Blood Rites Additional Spoilers
You can find other 8 Blood Rites exclusive cards here:
Blood Rites Decklist
Best Reprints in the Blood Rites Deck
If you thought only the Dinosaur deck received good reprints, you’d be wrong. Vampires also bring some heavy hitters.
There’s the iconic Elenda, the Dusk Rose, it’s still expensive, and a perfect fit for the deck. It’s amazing that it was reprinted here. If it weren’t its price would likely skyrocket. Then there are other strong and popular Vampires, such as Bloodghast, Cordial Campire, and Twilight Prophet.
So, the reprints here practically make up for the price of the deck, and that’s without counting the new cards.
Who Should Pick the Blood Rites Precon?
This deck is obviously great for anyone who wants to play with Vampire creatures. Furthermore, this precon offers the sacrifice theme, which is typically among more intricate strategies. There are a lot of small decisions and small value plays to be made. Winning can be achieved through “thousands of small cuts”, but is also complimented by some large threats too.
If this sounds fun to you, then Blood Rites is the best among Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks for you.
- Colors: Blue, Black, Red
- Theme: Pirates, reanimator
- Main commander: Admiral Brass, Unsinkable
- Ahoy Mateys Upgrade Guide
This deck focuses on Pirates. Interestingly, among the four tribes featured in these precons, this is the one with the least support. Before this set, there were only a little over 120 Pirate creatures in Magic. Nevertheless, there are still many players who like to cast them. Their numbers might increase when this deck releases, as it’s bringing us a totally fresh take on Pirates.
That’s great, as the deck’s secondary theme (or subtheme) is reanimator. This strategy gets’s named name from the iconic card Reanimate. It’s a strategy that plans to put expensive creatures to the graveyard, then return them directly to the battlefield. While this requires some work, it typically saves you a lot of mana.
However, most of the reanimation comes from your main commander. While the rest of the cards might also use some graveyard synergies, they aren’t that focused.
Admiral Brass, Unsinkable
Five mana for 3/3 raises some concerns, as those are not good stats. However, if you play Admiral Brass in your first main phase, and she survives just for a while (at least until beginning of combat), you’re getting a powerful reward. You can bring back a Pirate from your graveyard with base power and toughness 4/4.
But that’s not all – the token also gains haste! And a finality counter! Oh wait… That’s not actually a bonus. It just makes sure that you only get a one time use out of that Pirate. (Unless you return it to your hand, as then it doesn’t die, and isn’t exiled.)
Even if you get back a random Pirate, this ability is quite strong. But what if you return something particularly useful, such as Port Razer, which may allow you to do the whole thing again. Or Timestream Navigator for some extra turn shenanigans. You can even use something that’s already pretty broken, like Dockside Extortionist to gain a ton of Treasures. There are certainly many possibilities.
The first ability really pairs nicely with the second one. In a deck which wants to use its graveyard, milling four cards is a major upside.
All things considered, it’s understandable why Admiral’s stats are on the weaker side for a five drop. The text box is just that powerful.
Don Andres, the Renegade
Don Andres’ design leans into stealing stuff from your opponents. Your stole creatures get a nice boost with +2/+2 and become Pirates. If you cast a noncreature spell that isn’t yours, you’re rewarded with two Treasures.
There are a lot of cards in these three colors that allow you to do use your opponents’ cards. However, not that many are included in the original decklist. Thus, Don Andres can be a fun part of the deck, but if you want to make it your main commander, you’d to make some changes to the deck. Otherwise, it just won’t be that good.
Ahoy Mateys Spoilers
Ahoy Mateys Decklist
Best Reprints in the Ahoy Mateys Deck
This deck might seem a bit lacking in reprints compared to the other two. However, one card saves the day. It’s the black Commander staple, and one of the priciest enchantments Black Market Connections. The card’s price tag was around $30 on the secondary market before the reprint. So, it’s amazing to see its return here.
Nevertheless, there are still some other solid reprints. For example Port Razer, Pitiless Plunderer, Herald’s Horn, and Windfall. As you can see even this deck ended up pretty solid in the reprints department.
Who Should Pick the Ahoy Mateys Precon?
Are you a fan of unorthodox strategies? Do you like to play games, where you can take completely different actions to victory than your opponents? Want to use your graveyard as a resource? Is your favorite movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean?
If you answered yes to most of the above questions, then you’ll probably enjoy playing with the Ahoy Mateys deck.
Explorers of the Deep
- Colors: Blue, Green
- Theme: Merfolk, +1/+1 counters
- Main commander: Hakbal of the Surging Soul
- Explorers of the Deep Upgrade Guide
The last of the four Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks features Merfolk. First, there’s a focus on +1/+1 counters. They appear in a lot of Commander precons, since they’re popular and can be used in many different ways. For example, in this deck they’ll play nicely with the other theme, which is explore.
Explore is a mechanic that first appeared in the original Ixalan set. Whenever a creature you control explores you reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land, you put it into your hand. Otherwise, you put a +1/+1 counter on a creature that explored. Then you can put the revealed card back on top of your library, or into your graveyard.
The deck will most likely include additional synergies for doing so. Possibly there will be cards that reward you whenever you explore or give you a way to play the extra lands you draw. Similar to the Pirates deck, this one will also need quite some support from the new cards.
Hakbal of the Surging Soul
When this deck was first previewed, we were a bit worried that it won’t have much focus on Merfolk. Nothing about them was mentioned on the deck box after all.
Thankfully, the first Hakbal’s ability already shows us our worries were for naught. At start of your combat, all of your Merfolk will explore. You’ll get to draw some lands, or put +1/+1 counters on your Merfolk. It depends on both the top of your deck and your decisions.
The second ability is the most Simic (green-blue) ability. Draw a card or put a land into play. It triggers when Hakbal attacks, and while it’s a bit unoriginal, it’s still good. Also, it’s a great way to use the extra lands you’re drawing while you’re exploring.
This is certainly a great commander for players who like to play with both Merfolk and typical green-blue strategies.
Xolatoyac, the Smiling Flood
This is one happy Salamander! It brings not just smiles, but flood counters that you can put on lands. You can use that to enable Islandwalk, or better yet to untap your lands with its second ability.
Note how it doesn’t say permanent with a Flood counter. Any counter goes! It’s likely that you’ll have +1/+1 counters on most of your creatures, so you’ll be able to untap them. If you have ways to use that (for example with instants and stuff like Cryptolith Rites), you’re going to be in a great spot.
Xolatoyac provides a nice deckbuilding challenge, as you can use less played cards, such as Vivid Creek for more value. Six mana is perhaps a hefty cost, but the effect can be very strong, if you build your deck right.
Explorers of the Deep Spoilers
Explorers of the Deep Decklist
Best Reprints in the Explorers of the Deep Deck
With three precons having spectacular reprints, the fourth one might be lacking, right? Wrong. The Merfolk deck also keeps on giving.
Who Should Pick the Explorers of the Deep Precon?
This precon is obviously great for anyone who likes fishy creatures (Merfolk).
Additionally, this deck is a good pickup if you like drawing cards, and having many options available. This deck will allow you to (at least somewhat) control the randomness of your draws.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to grow your creatures, as the deck uses plenty of synergies with +1/+1 counters. So if you like playing with plenty of dice, that’s another reason to buy the Explorers of the Deep.
Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander Precons – FAQ
Before we wrap up, here are answers to some frequently asked question about these decks. We’re starting with two more significant ones, then we’ll move to others.
Are Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander Decks Worth It?
For the most part, Commander decks are the one MTG product, that’s almost always worth buying. That’s especially true, if you like the deck’s theme and you want to play with it.
There are multiple reasons for that. First, you’re getting a complete ready-to-play 100-card deck. You can simply open it, and you’re ready to play.
Furthermore, you know exactly what you’re receiving. You might open 10 boosters and end up with nothing good. That’s not going to happen with these precons, as Wizards tend to include at least some valuable reprints and/or powerful new cards in each one. Thus, you can recoup some value if you ever decide to sell or trade some cards in the deck.
Even if you enjoy the randomness of a booster pack, you experience some of that thanks to the included Sample Collector booster. Sure, you might just get a cool-looking bulk rare, but sometimes you can open a chase, valuable card. After all, it’s basically just a freebie, in an already good product.
Typically Commander decks that feature specific creature types (as these do) are quite popular and fly off the shelves. Besides, these also bring a bunch of sought-after reprints. Last but not least, these come with the regular price tag, which is a big plus, as compered to the pricier Commander Masters precons. All signs point towards this being one of the best precon releases in recent years.
Which Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander Precon is the Best to Buy?
Well, this really depends on what you’re looking for. If you simply want to acquire a deck that’s going to be fun to play, we’ve already mentioned some suggestions, but here’s a recap anyway:
- You enjoy casting big creatures and smashing you opponents with them. It doesn’t matter if it takes a while, once you play a big Dinosaur, you’re happy. In that case, you should go with Veloci-Ramp-Tor for sure.
- Vampires are your favorite creature type. You aren’t really playing Magic until you put a bunch of them in play. Nevertheless, you won’t mind sacrificing them to pay for some powerful effects. Without a doubt, you’re a player who’ll enjoy Blood Rites the most.
- Ahoy Mateys will be a better choice is you’re always discovering new mechanics and synergies. That goes double if you like Pirates as well as reanimator strategies.
- Your play style is best described by the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” You’re in no rush to finish the game quickly, but prefer small incremental advantages. If a strategy involves +1/+1 counters, you enjoy it even more. The Explorers of the Deep seems the perfect precon for you.
Are you still unable to decide, since you like all of the decks? You could just buy all four decks, and use them as a self-contained board game.
Whenever your friends come over you can simply use these precons. No one needs to bring their own deck. On top of that, you get to avoid discussing which player brought the too powerful deck. Just select one deck for each player, and you’re ready to go.
On the other hand, if you care about stuff like long-term value of the decks, the things gets messier. Usually the decks that do best excel with multiple factors. They feature a popular theme, contain valuable reprints, and a new card that can slot into multiple Commander decks. If a deck check all of these boxes, it’ll typically be good value, long term buy.
It’s hard to make any predictions even though we know the decklists. Based on the themes, our bet is on either Dinosaurs or Vampires, both of which are popular creature types. On top of that, they both excel with multiple spectacular reprints, which doesn’t hurt.
Additional Questions & Answers
There will be four different decks.
There are two 2-color decks (Blood Rites: Orzhov/WB, Explorers of the Deep: Simic/UG), and two 3-color decks (Veloci-Ramp-Tor: Naya/WRG, Ahoy Mateys: Grixis/UBR).
Yes, each deck comes with an included 2-card Sample Collector booster pack.
There are two cards in each Caverns of Ixalan Sample Collector booster. One is rare or mythic, and the other an uncommon. Each card uses an alternate frame, and at least one of the two is foil.
There will be 10 new cards in each deck. Thus, there will be 40 new cards total, unless some of the new cards appear in multiple decks.
Most likely yes. Wizards try to balance the decks released together. Even when they don’t completely succeed, that’s mitigated by the multiplayer setting and the variety of 100-card decks. Therefore, you can use the four decks as a self-contained board game.
The release is the same date as for the main set, which is November 17th, 2023.
Most certainly, yes. It’s been a while since we’ve got so many good reprints in every precon of a set. You can find the highlights above, in the Decklists sections.
That’s all about the Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks. How do you like this product? Did it meet your expectations? Let us, and our readers know in the comments below. You can also write a comment if your question wasn’t answered. We’ll make sure to get back to you as soon as we can.
Did you decide to get a new Commander deck. If so, you might want to also get some accessories for it. You can check our suggestions for best Commander deck boxes and best MTG sleeves. We selected them with durability in mind, so they should last you for quite a while.
If none of the four decks was to your liking, there’s no need to worry. You can find a full list of Commander precons here. Over a hundred of them were released so far, so there’s bound to be something that you’ll enjoy. If you want to explore more about this set, you can find more information as well as main-set Lost Caverns of Ixalan spoilers here.
Until next time, enjoy Magic, and may these decks bring you the cards you were looking for.