We find ourselves only days away from the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths on Arena, and it is a monster of a set. This is, surprisingly, Magic’s first venture into the world of movie monsters meets the Monster Hunter games series. This is a world of beasts that can push themselves to the evolutionary brink at a moment's notice and the few bastions of civilization that attempt to survive the onslaught.
The big question on everyone’s minds is, “Can Ikoria compete with Standard’s established top decks and engines?” There’s only one way to find out.
This is one of my favorite times of the year. New set means it’s time to brew and we have a window where almost anything is possible until the metagame solidifies. That’s what I’ve been doing and I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised by what the set has to offer.
Ikoria is a monster set that just so happens to have a light wedge and enemy color pair theme in the set. What I mean by a wedge in the context of Magic are the three color pairs that we refer to now with the names of the Khans of Tarkir clan names (Abzan, Jeskai, Mardu, Sultai, Temur). The enemy color pairs are colors that conflict philosophically and often mechanically (Boros, Golgari, Izzet, Orzhov, Simic). These aspects of the set are also combined with the utility of Hybrid Mana, which can be paid with one of two different mana. For example, a blue/red mana symbol can be paid with either blue or red mana. This fact came in handy throughout my brewing process.
Consider Us Very Intimidated.
First and foremost, my decklists within this article will be written out instead of my usual mtggoldfish images. That being said, the first card I really want to take a look at hasn’t caused any real discussion in the community. That card is Lore Drakkis.
Lore Drakkis does recursion in a way that breaks the pattern that we have become accustomed to. Typically there are tight constraints on how and what you can recur from your graveyard. Lore Drakkis has low opportunity cost to employ said recursion. The first “combo” that comes to mind is two Lore Drakkis and an Unsummon. What you want to do first is Mutate a Lore Drakkis with the second Lore Drakkis, this provides you with two triggers; returning two instants or sorceries from your graveyard to your hand, one of which is the Unsummon that you use to return the Mutated Lore Drakkis back to your own hand. Each instance of this loop being performed allows you to get back any spells that you need at the time and your copy of Unsummon. Standard has a number of power spells that become very difficult to combat if they are continually being recurred (Sinister Sabotage, Quench and the new Neutralize).
Given the Hybrid Mana cost in the Drakkis’ Mutate ability, this creature could be placed in a deck that is mono blue or mono red. This would only require a small splash on part of the makeup of the lands in said deck. Steam Vents and Temple of Epiphany make this a trivial matter in the case of Lore Drakkis in those decks. If you are going the mono blue or Izzet route, I strongly recommend using Sea-Dasher Octopus in those lists. It is a power tool in conjunction with the Lore Drakkis.
This Is A Dangerous Path! You Are Meddling With Forces Beyond Our Comprehension...
Another card that has caught my eye is Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast. The planeswalker of the set that is native to Ikoria. Mono red planeswalker up to this point have been a variation on the same concept, Lukka breaks this theme. Lukka’s card, as with his character in the Sundered Bond e-book, is about creatures.
Mainly I want to focus on his second ability and how to abuse that ability to our advantage.
The first combination of cards that came to mind were token producing planeswalkers or enchantments and End-Raze Forerunners. I definitely want to do something in the sort of Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, Dovin, Grand Arbiter or even the brand new Vivien, Monster’s Advocate. All three of the mentioned planeswalkers create tokens incidentally or through their activated abilities. So then we would create said tokens and then use Lukka’s second ability to exile a token and flip over the top card of our library until we hit another creature card. In this case we will construct our deck in such a way that the only other creature to hit is End-Raze Forerunners.
This could be something that is placed in a planeswalker based shell similar to the way the early Fires of Invention deck were constructed. Basically, we’re looking at a midrange style or tap out control deck that is Jeskai based. This would mean that we have no way to actually cast the Forerunners if we draw it and that can be okay if planned for properly. Another way that this plan could be utilized is through various value creatures that you want to play in your deck anyway. The type of deck that I’m referring to would also allow Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast’s first ability to be a useful tool. A Gruul style of deck would most likely consist of Questing Beast, Gruul Spellbreaker, Skarrgan Hellkite and the like. Klothys, God of Destiny and the new Vivien would also play well in this type of strategy.
Gruul midrange is a deck that has bounced between tier one and tier two of standard throughout this last season. We have a previous list that could simply be updated with the new cards, potentially giving the archetype new life in Ikoria standard.
It's The Monster's World And We're Just Living In It.
There is so much that we have yet to discover in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Magic’s newest set contains so many powerful cards that I’m not sure we’ll have the time to try everything. That’s definitely not a terrible problem to have though. While the paper release has been pushed back until May, the Arena release is still on schedule for this coming Friday. I plan on participating in the Friday Night Magic style tournaments that Goblin Traders is hosting on the same day as the Ikoria release. Keep an eye out for a video on the Destroy Target Permanent Official YouTube page and here on goblintraders.net of the games I play in the event.
Good luck, I hope you lose!