Kopala, Warden of Waves
September 16, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 3.50
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Ixalan will no longer be part of Standard soon, so I thought it might be interesting to look back at some cards from the last part of Magic to use the traditional block structure. To be honest, I’m surprised it took them so long to try something different with that structure. One of the weaknesses of Theros, for example, was that it started out strong but its style of trope-conscious design had clearly started to run out of material in the second and third sets.
Ixalan will probably be remembered more for introducing dinosaurs than for its Mayan merfolk cards – I was waxing lyrical about its dinosaurs on Instagram the other week – but Kopala is definitely of interest as an individual card. He’s the right color to fit directly into the mono-blue merfolk decks that are semi-regular mainstays of the non-rotating formats. They’ve been well beyond a critical mass of lord effects for a long time, and they get even more overwhelming when they can’t be removed on curve. The most similar card in Modern is Kira, Great Glass-Spinner from Betrayers of Kamigawa, who has appeal because it actually costs the opponent a card; you do have to weigh that against the more relevant creature type.
Kopala, Warden of Waves was actually a card that got a bit of attention on Ixalan‘s release as a tool for Modern Merfolk. While Kopala doesn’t offer true protection, the soft-protection of making targeted spells more expensive is a thing that Merfolk has a lot of use for. The major weakness of Merfolk can sometimes be the reliance of its lords and their susceptibility to kill spells, and forcing those burn spells and other kill spells to cost more can give the deck a bit of an insurance policy. Hitting abilities is also nice as a shield against the incidental activated abilities that might be a problem. Triggered abilities are ignored (like Ravenous Chupacabra), but most of those tend to be expensive enough.
Kopala is a good piece to a Merfolk deck in both Standard and Modern, though mostly as a sideboard piece. Protective abilities are nice, but this isn’t as good as you’d like for the mainboard. Additionally, a 2/2 for 3 with little combat ability is not great on its own, and Kopala relies on other Merfolk to hold its own. Still, I see it lingering in Modern as Ixalan rotates out as a one-of tech piece for Merfolk.
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