My Thoughts and Favorite Archetypes in Ikoria Limited

Marcio Carvalho

Marcio Carvalho

Introduction to Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Limited

Hello everyone, Marcio here and I’m back to dive into another Limited format; Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths!

I’m going to start by saying that for the first time in a while I’ve been playing sealed way more than draft, and I’m having a blast! Some of the pools you get are so deep that I don’t actually think 20 minutes for deck construction is enough time to find the correct build: Being a multi-color set with a lot of fixing means it’s a lot harder than normal formats where you just choose the guild of your bombs and complete your deck with some fillers.

1 Mana Cyclers

Drannith HealerStartling DevelopmentMemory Leak

The first thing I noticed when I started playing this format was the high number of 1 mana cyclers. While I love the mechanic, I think this large amount of cards with cycle 1 actually hurts the format. All my sealed decks at this point have the goal to see what rares/bombs I have and play all the 1 mana cyclers to thin my deck and find those cards way more often than I should. This has been leading me to run six-ten 1 mana cyclers even if they are off-color! On top of that, I also get to play less lands (I’ve been playing around 15 lands if I have a high amount of cyclers) or even less if I also have 《Farfinder》 or 《Fertilid》 in my decks. It might sound obvious, but playing less lands also help you from flooding, which can be quite common in a format with so much card draw.



Another interesting fact about Ikoria is the introduction of Companions. A lot has already been said about their impact in Constructed, but they also bring another huge factor to weight when building your decks in Limited. Let me go ahead and give you my take: PLAY THEM ALL!!! Resources are so precious in Magic in general, but more so in games of Limited. Starting the game with 8 cards in hand is such a good advantage and there is worth building your deck around them most of the time.

This statement is valid for both sealed and draft. Of course in sealed you are totally dependent on the kind of pool you open (as it controls if you are going to be able to meet the requirements for your Companion), but in draft I’m going to go and try my best to draft around them if I open or get passed one of them early. Even 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》, it’s playable but it’s much harder to build a 60 cards deck.

These are my top 4 Companions for Limited:

Lutri, the SpellchaserJegantha, the WellspringGyruda, Doom of DepthsObosh, the Preypiercer

Not only they are very powerful, but also they are the easiest Companions to build around.

My Favorite Draft Archetypes

Now let’s dive into some of the draft archetypes I like the most currently:

White/Red Cycling

The most powerful strategy in this format is White/Red Cycling. It’s not close. As I said before, I think they went a little bit too far with the number of 1 mana cyclers in this set, but the card that makes this strategy go over the top is 《Zenith Flare》.

Zenith Flare

Are you behind on the battlefield? Your opponent’s creatures are better than yours? They have more powerful rares or a great Companion? Well, nothing matters if you can just 《Fireball》 them out of the game for only 4 mana at instant speed. The fact that the format is not fast does help, and it means you’ll have plenty of time to cycle the most of your deck and finish them with this card. On top of that, most of the other cycling payoffs help you cheap away your opponent’s life total so you get to finish the game even quicker. This card should have been rare in my opinion.

Valiant RescuerSavai Thundermane

《Valiant Rescuer》 and 《Savai Thundermane》 are the other uncommons that can lead you to toward this deck. Both of them are very strong and figure among the best uncommons in the set.

Other than the 3 cards we just mentioned, here are the key cards you are looking for this deck:

Drannith StingerPrickly MarmosetSnare Tactician

I’ve been quite impressed with 《Snare Tactician》, he can stop your opponent from attacking on its own, buying you enough time to find your finisher.

After you have a few of those, all you want are 1 mana cyclers (you can use a few 2 mana cyclers too, but even off-color 1 mana ones will be better). On the land count, I would say the range is between 13 and 15 lands, but it will all depend on the number of cyclers you have. I tried 12 lands once, but it was probably pushing it a little too much.

Let’s talk about the 2 other archetypes I’ve been having success with.

Black/White Humans

Whisper SquadCheckpoint OfficerNightsquad CommandoPerimeter Sergeant

This is the go “wide” deck of this format (that we normally see on Green/White in other sets). 《Perimeter Sergeant》 really can make you attack for a lot of damage really fast, which goes against the flow of what the rest of the format is trying to do. Coupling with a few good removal spells (《Pacifism》, 《Blood Curdle》 and even 《Mutual Destruction》, as you easily have a couple of tokens to sacrifice), it’s hard for your opponent to stop you from dominating the board quickly.

PacifismBlood CurdleMutual Destruction

On the uncommon side, 《Bastion of Remembrance》 can give you the reach that you need to finish off the last points of damage, while 《Sanctuary Lockdown》 is a 《Glorious Anthem》 effect that also lets you remove blockers! To finish, 《Dire Tactics》 is a great cheap unconditional removal spell that you gain access for being Black and White.

Bastion of RemembranceSanctuary LockdownDire Tactics

Blue/Red Spells

Blue/Red Spells is the last archetype I’ve been having success with.

PyroceratopsSpelleater Wolverine

Both 《Pyroceratops》 and 《Spelleater Wolverine》 are heavy hitters that can get out of control really fast in this deck with full of removals and tempo spells like 《Fire Prophecy》 and 《Frostveil Ambush》.

Fire ProphecyFrostveil AmbushGust of WindGo for Blood

Notice that there is also a lot of cycling going on here, so 《Drannith Stinger》 can also be a good addition. But the cards that take this archetype over the top are this 2 uncommons:

Lore DrakkisSprite Dragon

I take both of them very high early in draft to dive into this archetype if possible (If you are lucky you will take them just after opening a 《Lutri, the Spellchaser》!).

Top 3 Best Commons in Each Color

To finish off, I will be giving you my overall top 3 best commons in each color from my experience so far:


Blood CurdleNightsquad CommandoDead Weight


Thieving OtterCapture SphereDreamtail Heron


Ram ThroughEssence SymbioteMigratory Greathorn


Fire ProphecyRumbling RockslideDrannith StingerPrickly Marmoset


PacifismCheckpoint OfficerVulpikeet


Well, I hope you are enjoying this format as much as I am, and that my initial thoughts will be useful! As usual feel free to hit me on social media as my opinion on the set will evolve the more I play. Have fun and stay safe!

Márcio A Carvalho (Twitter / Twitch)

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Marcio Carvalho

Marcio Carvalho Portugal’s top pro player. And he is a member of Hareruya Latin. He owns the title Draft Master of season 2015-2016. As shown in his results, he is a limited format specialist. His daily effort toward Magic earned this result, with an episode that he has picked 287 copies of Clutch of Currents in the Battle for Zendikar draft. Read more articles by Marcio Carvalho