(Editor’s Note: this article was written before full card list was released.)
Hello everyone! Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is around the corner! Today I have for you my quick overview of the most interesting cards we saw during the preview season. As I’m mostly a Standard player, I’ll look at new cards from that format’s perspective! I’ll try to pick my favorite one among all rarities, and then give you a bonus at the end of article. Please note that while I’m writing it there are only 164 cards revealed, so my ranking might change later!
Favorite Cycle – Cycling
I know the hype about the new set comes from Mutate and Companion abilities. I understand that and it makes a lot of sense. Those are great, fresh and will see a lot of play, but I would really love to point out how important for Standard is to have cards with an emergency mode. The biggest issue for formats without access to early library manipulation like 《Preordain》, 《Serum Visions》, or 《Brainstorm》 are non-games, when one player casts their spells, and the other doesn’t. With cheap Cycling ability you can replace your powerful lategame card while having mana issues early, which in the end reduces number of non-game significantly.
This can also help players to play a fair game versus War of the Spark planeswalkers like 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 or 《Narset, Parter of Veils》! Cycling is an ability, so you can use it during your opponent’s turn, to sneak a blocker with 《Shark Typhoon》, or give trample during combat with 《Titanoth Rex》. It will make games way more interesting, and players with Terefi won’t be 100% safe anymore!
Personally: 《Narset of the Ancient Way》
People who follow me lately know that I love two decks in the current Standard. Sultai Control that I used to play both Magic Fest Online, and Jeskai Planeswalkers – brew that originally came from a viewer of my Twitch stream. We played this deck a lot, and I can tell you – it’s the best anti-aggro deck in the Standard right now.
《Narset of the Ancient Way》 seems like a great addition to the second deck. We didn’t have any good planeswalkers for four mana to play on curve before 《Sarkhan the Masterless》. Now we have one that works as removal, card filtration, life gain source, mana ramp AND we get powerful ultimate on top of that which works perfect with the rest of our deck! HYPE!
Objectively: 《Fiend Artisan》
Objectively I have to say I’m the most hyped about 《Fiend Artisan》. For two mana we get insanely versatile and powerful creature. People compare it to 《Birthing Pod》 (which is banned in Modern by the way), and I don’t think it’s even the right comparison. With Pod you have to keep the chain so it’s not easy to find what you want at any time. Artisan lets you find everything as long as you have enough mana. You can sacrifice a Goat token and find 《Korvold, Fae-Cursed King》!!! Not impressed? In the right deck, it will be bigger than 《Tarmogoyf》!
Still not enough? Remember it gives you two black devotion! 《Gray Merchant of Asphodel》, mind jumping onto the battlefield? In a team with 《Nightmare Shepherd》 and 《Ayara, First of Locthwain》 it might do great combos. Even though I believe we can do better than Mono Black Devotion (I imagine Golgari or Abzan self-mill-toolbox-creature deck will be THE 《Fiend Artisan》 deck) this it what I’ll try as soon as Ikoria hits MTG Arena. It’s more of a 《Tarmogoyf》-aggro approach than 《Birthing Pod》-combo one, but you can take advantage of finding Grey Merchant when the game slows down.
4 《Castle Locthwain》
-Land (25)- 4 《Gutterbones》
4 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》
4 《Fiend Artisan》
4 《Yarok’s Fenlurker》
4 《Murderous Rider》
2 《Ayara, First of Locthwain》
2 《Midnight Reaper》
4 《Nightmare Shepherd》
2 《Rankle, Master of Pranks》
4 《Gray Merchant of Asphodel》
Favorite Rare – 《Death’s Oasis》
Another great piece for my “Abzan self-mill-toolbox-creature deck”! Everything goes well together and I really hope I’ll be able to turn my vision into reality. I’ll wait with brewing until we see the full set, as decks like this often rely on commons and uncommons! If I figure out something great, you might be sure I’ll write about it later! Looking at what other white/black/green cards do (《Eerie Ultimatum》, 《Nethroi, Apex of Death》) seems like Abzan will be all about self mill! Great news for 《Fiend Artisan》! Also, a guy named Grzegorz made an art for this card, so I hope you don’t mind, if I’m a little biased 😀
Favorite Uncommon – 《Parcelbeast》
Finally, voice of players was listened, and we didn’t get broken Simic Mythic this set (hopefully, there are still cards to be revealed :P)! Time for the broken uncommon! 《Arboreal Grazer》 even fell from a tree hearing it might be playable again! Ramp decks had a great match up versus other midrange and control decks, but had hard time against aggro. 2/4 body for just two mana is all ramp players ever wanted! It’s hard to kill, stops early creatures from attacking thanks to two power, and provides card advantage if we have a spare mana.
What’s important, Mutate keeps abilities from other creatures, so if you use it on 《Leafkin Druid》, you won’t randomly mana screw yourself (although with Druid on the battlefield it will most likely be correct to play the beast for its full cost on turn three). On top of that it’s an Elemental, which works great with 《Risen Reef》. I’m excited!
Honorable Mentions – 《Heartless Act》 and 《Bastion of Remembrance》
《Heartless Act》 is the best 《Doom Blade》 ever printed in the history of Magic: the Gathering. It might get a little worse in Standard with Ikoria caring that much about counters, but in other formats it should replace 《Ultimate Price》, 《Doom Blade》, and 《Grasp of Darkness》 straight away.
《Bastion of Remembrance》 is a nice variation of 《Blood Artist》. The biggest issue with building Aristocrats decks in the past was how easily key cards could die. One 《Shock》 on the Artist, and your synergy doesn’t work. Bastion is an enchantment which makes it much harder to kill. Unfortunately three mana slot in the Red Black Sacrifice is already occupied by great cards, so it might be hard for the Bastion to see a lot of play today. Let’s wait for Standard rotation and see what we can build around this card!
Favorite Common – 《Fire Prophecy》
We shouldn’t expect too much from a common, but I love the idea of cheap removal, that might help you set up an early game. Also, the art is great!
Vintage Bonus – 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》 + 《Black Lotus》
Ikoria seems like a powerful and interesting set. Brings new and fresh mechanics that might change how we build decks. Will Companion be a must-use keyword? Will we start every game with 8 cards “in hand”? Let’s wait for the rest of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths cards, and then start brewing in a way we never brewed before!
Thanks for reading!