Life finds a way as Jurassic Park joins Magic in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan

November 19, 2023

This week, Wizards of the Coast launched The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, the newest set for Magic: The Gathering, last seen back in 2018. The setting is Mesoamerican-inspired, with sun temples and picturesque villages set atop high mountains, combined with lots and lots of dinosaurs (and pirates), which also makes it the perfect launching pad for MTG’s latest ‘Universes Beyond’ collaboration with Jurassic World, with a limited number of cards that can be found.

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan itself is all about treasure hunting, with the story depicting four factions racing to find the lost source of Ixalan’s powers in the titular caverns. These four factions are depicted in four Commander Decks, with the ‘Dinosaurs of the Sun Empire’, ‘The Brazen Collection of Pirates’, ‘The Legion of Dusk’ and the somewhat less-excitingly titled ‘Merfolk’. Among these there are plenty of powerful creatures to uncover, like Gishath Sun’s Avatar, which carries vigilance, trample and haste, and can quickly allow you to fill your battlefield with dinosaur cards with its attacks. Quintorius Kand, a Legendary Planeswalker, deals 2 damage to every opponent and heals you 2 life whenever you cast a spell from exile.

There are also some new mechanics to get your head around, including ‘Discover’, which allows players to exile cards until they find an appropriate non-land card of the same or lesser mana value that they can then cast or put into their hand. ‘Craft’ allows you to pay mana and exile certain components to transform artifact cards into cards with powerful effects, such as ‘The Enigma Jewel’. Finally, ‘Descended’ creates effects depending on how many permanents you put into your graveyard every turn, for instance The Mycotyrant creates a 1/1 black Fungus creature token for every ‘descent’ that turn.

Beyond this, there’s also quite a lot of beautiful art on display, particularly in the borderless varieties, with some stunning takes on basic land cards and some heavily stylised and Mesoamerican-inspired artwork, such as the rainbow-coloured version of Quintorious Kand, and Huatli. Very rare ‘Cosmium Neon Ink’ cards that radiate light are also hidden exclusively in Collector Booster packs,

Of course, what will grab most people’s attention, especially if they aren’t already MTG players, is the inclusion of Universes Beyond Jurassic World cards in this set. There are 26 collaboration cards available to find in Set Boosters, Collector Boosters and some Secret Lair drops, and these range from characters and creatures from both the original Jurassic Park series to the newer ones from the latest Jurassic World trilogy. Some standouts I was able to find include the OG ‘Ravenous Tyrannosaurus’ from the first Jurassic Park, which draws strength from devouring your own creatures, the Cresting Mosasaurus, Indominus Rex and Indominus Raptor from the Jurassic World films, and even Dr. Ian Malcolm – Jeff Goldblum himself – which introduces a variety of ‘Chaos Theory’ to the gameplay.

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is certainly one of the more attractive and beautifully designed sets to come out from MTG in recent years, both due to its pulpy yet original setting, and the freedom the artists have been given in using various artstyles and techniques (including the Cosmium Neon Ink) that frequently expand beyond the borders of every card. Indeed, in my draws from my collection of set boosters, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many beautiful and creative art prints in a single set before – although it’s also possible that I’m just a sucker for dinosaurs, and especially if Jurassic Park is involved in any fashion. The Lost Caverns of Ixalan includes Set Boosters, Draft Boosters, Collector Boosters, Commander Decks, Prerelease Packs, Bundles and Gift Bundles, and is available now both for tabletop and on Arena.