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MTG Lost Caverns of Ixalan Mechanics: descending into the depths, crafting treasure and exploring a new world

A new perspective on an old world.

Huatli, Poet of Unity art from MTG Lost Caverns of Ixalan set
Image credit: Tyler Jacobson/Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering news has been on an absolute tear recently between news of a big partnership with Marvel coming in 2025 and revealing details for its upcoming Fallout crossover. Today returns to the trading card game’s core multiverse with more information on the upcoming Lost Caverns of Ixalan set, which features ravenous fungi, ancestral spirits and several competing factions racing towards the centre of the plane’s hollow core.

Lost Caverns of Ixalan marks MTG’s first return to the eponymous plane and its Central and South American-inspired cultures. Players loved the initial worldbuilding done in the original block (Ixalan and the smaller Rivals of Ixalan), which included motley crews of pirates, vampiric conquistadors, jungle dwelling merfolk and the Sun Empire’s dinosaur-centric society.

Like its predecessor, Lost Caverns of Ixalan will be a set focused on typal themes with each colour associated with a different faction or group that is either exploring Ixalan’s hollow, inverted core or already living in this mysterious new world that only opened up in the wake of the Phyrexian Invasion. Several main characters from MTG’s lore are returning, including fan-favourite couple Huatli and Saheeli, the pirate Admiral Becket Brass and at least one bloodthirsty conquistador bent on fulfilling the prophecy of their undead god.

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Three new mechanics will be introduced in Lost Caverns of Ixalan’s set, all of them loosely themed after exploration to mirror the journey downward into the plane’s hidden world. The first of these, Craft, will be found on double-faced cards, which also make a return from the original Ixalan block. Permanents with Craft will allow players to exile them with an additional cost representing the materials used to transform them from a mundane artefact or equipment into something more wondrous - represented on the card’s flipside.

Material costs will differ from card to card. Some may simply ask for a certain number of artefacts or creatures, while others might require nonland permanents with activated abilities. These materials can be paid from the battlefield or a player’s graveyard in any combination, and once paid the Crafted card is exiled so its reverse side can then enter the graveyard. Expect to see this ability on several relics, treasures and other mystical items in the set.

Descending is a new mechanic that will appear in three different forms on cards in Lost Caverns of Ixalan’s block: Descend 4, Descend 8 and Fathomless Descent. All three care if you’ve Descended during your turn: a permanent card has entered the graveyard this turn. It’s a simple state with a new name so that players can know when cards with Descend on them activate. Many cards will simply trigger extra abilities as long as you’ve already descended. Exploration is a dangerous activity, and losses are to be expected.

If you see a number or the word “Fathomless” next to Descend, those abilities ‘turn on’ once there are at least four or eight permanents in your graveyard - that means instant and sorcery cards don’t count. Fathomless Descent cards’ power will grow with the number of bodies, er… cards in your graveyard, so players can choose the right moment to unleash their effects on the battlefield.

The last new mechanic, Discover, is similar to a lot of other abilities in MTG that allow players to interact with the top cards of their library. Discover’s unique take involves paying a mana cost listed next to the Discover keyword (which will vary by card) and then exiling cards from the top of your graveyard until you hit a spell with that mana value or less. Then, you can either cast the spell without paying its mana cost or put it in your hand. The rest of the cards go to the bottom of your library in a random order.

A handful of flavourful and fun mechanics from players’ first trip to Ixalan will also return on certain cards, and Explore (which works differently from Discover) has received a slight upgrade. Map tokens created by specific cards are artefacts with a built-in Explore ability that can be activated by tapping the token, paying one mana and then sacrificing it. You get to choose which creature on your side of the board explores, meaning any card in your deck can benefit from the library interaction or +1/+1 counters.

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Finally, let’s talk about Finality Counters. Magic: The Gathering designers have used this set to introduce new terminology for an already existing mechanic. Certain cards return things to the battlefield from the graveyard for the length of one turn, whereupon they’re exiled instead of returning to their controller’s graveyard. Now, that will be expressed with a Finality Counter that can be moved, removed or otherwise manipulated. This is a bit of housecleaning that also opens up new deckbuilding doors as more cards with this rules text are created down the line.

Lost Caverns of Ixalan launches worldwide on November 17th following a prerelease event weekend beginning November 10th. MTG Arena players will gain access to the new set starting November 14th. IF you want to see more about the special treatments and this set’s Jurassic World tie-in, read more about it here on Dicebreaker.

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Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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