Two Great Archetypes in Ikoria Draft

Luis Salvatto

Luis Salvatto


Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths limited is a rollercoaster!

Drannith StingerSnare TacticianZenith Flare

At the very beginning it was all about Cycling (the new and fancy way to kill your opponent with a huge 《Zenith Flare》 after you cycle all your deck to find it).

Valiant RescuerReptilian ReflectionSavai Thundermane

Didn’t take too much time to realize that you can play a 12 lands deck, with 10+ 1cmc (Converted Mana Cost) cyclers and some uncommons and having a deck that sometimes looks like another different format than draft.

It worked for a few weeks, until most drafters realize that hate draft some picks is important if you want to play against non-busted decks.

Nowadays that Cycling is kind of under control, Mutate decks are more present, and everything looks more balanced.

I realized that all the combinations of colors have a good way to go. A good hint is to look at the multicolored/hybrid uncommons, and try to build a deck around them, so if you realize that a combination is open, and you know how to go for it, you can easily have a winning deck in any combination (yes, Green White vigilance too!!).

This plus having situational cards with cycling make Ikoria a really fun and skill intensive set to draft, the best from the last sets for sure.

I still believe that a good Cycling deck is stronger than any other combination, but the difference is not as big as I thought in the beginning.

Knowing all of this, I introduce two archetypes that I really like!

The Core of My Favorite Archetypes

Do you want to win more in Ikoria draft? Play black!

This article is about two strategies that involve black commons and they work really well in this limited.

Three Key Cards for the Strategies

《Bushmeat Poacher》 and 《Durable Coilbug》

Bushmeat PoacherDurable Coilbug

Let’s start talking about “la resistencia” (their nickname on my stream which means resistance in English). The combination of 《Bushmeat Poacher》 plus 《Durable Coilbug》 gives us some kind of inevitability, with 8 mana we have a chumpblocker, 2 life, and 1 card, all the time.

When you play Magic, you need to know what will happen if the game goes long, and there are some strategies that need to close the games fast (most aggro decks and some tempo decks) so you need to hurry up.

In this case, having “la resistencia” implies that if the game goes long, we will win since we have a way to heal us up and draw cards in the way. We want to go to the late game, find the key cards that we drafted to win (any bomb, or key uncommons) and close the games.

The important fact about this strategy is that the core cards are commons so it is really easy to find them in the draft.

《Whisper Squad》

Whisper Squad

Another key card is 《Whisper Squad》, each day that I draft, I like more and more this little guy. When you have 4 or more 《Whisper Squad》s in your deck, you can play the games knowing that at some point you will have access to all of them, so you need to build your deck properly to exploit those 1/1s.

Mutual Destruction

Not only it is good by itself having multiples bodies for 1 card, but also it gives us the perfect curve when you have it in your opening hand, you don’t need a 2 drop and you will use all your mana the very first turns of each game, which give us the advantage of “curving” our opponents.

In both strategies that I will present today, we want 4+ 《Whisper Squad》, 2 or 3 《Durable Coilbug》, and 2 or 3 《Bushmeat Poacher》.

Black Red Tokens

Let’s start with my favorite archetype nowadays, Black Red Tokens.

Key Cards

Bastion of RemembranceWeaponize the Monsters

Those two cards give us the possibility of wining the games even without attacking, and when you have both, each of your bodies are 3 damage and heal 1, pretty much unbeatable.

There is two other ways on commons to put multiples bodies in play:

Nightsquad CommandoForbidden Friendship

They have multiples bodies, and enable you to survive long enough to kill your opponent slowly and effectively. Of course you will need good removal and good cards besides the ones that make the strategy operate, but that is the same for every single draft deck. If you open a good rare, you will play it, and you want as many 《Blood Curdle》/《Fire Prophecy》 that you can get.

Blood CurdleFire Prophecy

I will show some decks that show how this deck should be built.

Sample Deck

As you can see, the deck was turned around putting multiple bodies (they play really well against spot removal), having good removals and one of the key enchantments.

Special Mention

There is another good synergy in this archetype that works with this little boy (you can get them really late in the packs).

Spelleater Wolverine

If you cycle on turn 1 (any of the sorcery/instant cyclers), then turn 2 《Forbidden Friendship》 or 《Fire Prophecy》, turn 3 this guy, you untap on your turn 4 ready to attack with a potential 3/2 double strike, and when you hit once it is almost 30% of the life total of your opponent, too strong!

Black White Humans

Now is turn for some Black White Humans!

Key Cards

Bastion of RemembranceSanctuary LockdownGeneral's Enforcer

Those two enchantments are the premium ones when you want to go in this way, and of course that we need 《Whisper Squad》 as many as possible, some 《Bushmeat Poacher》, and when you have 《Bushmeat Poacher》 you also want some 《Durable Coilbug》.

About 《General’s Enforcer》, nothing to explain, good body, good lategame, and works really well against 《Zenith Flare》 and more (exiling stuff in the graveyard is sometimes crucial like 《Boneyard Lurker》 and 《Unbreakable Bond》).

How this deck operates? This deck plays in a different way than the RB, besides having some similar plans, this deck wants to attack all the time.

There are some good commons that are easy to find in the draft that make this deck work.

Perimeter SergeantNightsquad CommandoDaysquad Marshal
Coordinated ChargeLurking Deadeye

With multiple human bodies, 《Perimeter Sergeant》 is very good, and sometimes you need to wait to attack with 《Whisper Squad》s until they can swing with 《Perimeter Sergeant》 to get the +1/+0 effect at least once before it trades for another card.

《Daysquad Marshal》 plays a similar role of 《Nightsquad Commando》 besides I prefer pay one less mana, but if you don’t have enough 《Nightsquad Commando》/《Whisper Squad》 you can rely on the Marshal. The problem is that you don’t want many 4 drops and in 4cmc compete with 《Bushmeat Poacher》 and 《Lurking Deadeye》. 《Lurking Deadeye》 is the perfect card to make your attacks good after a good blocker arrives.

《Coordinated Charge》 is very very good when we play it, and when we don’t need it, it is a bit expensive paying 2 mana, but still you can cycle the card and keep playing.

Special Mention

Unlikely Aid

If you don’t have 《Lurking Deadeye》 you can play this combat trick which is really good when you attack with your 《Perimeter Sergeant》 because you can save him and will have another attack.

Sample Deck

Some examples of Humans.

Don’t be afraid about playing less lands when you have cycles in your deck, since this kind of decks can operate with just 3 mana, and if we play 17 lands we will flood a lot and without 《Bushmeat Poacher》 + 《Durable Coilbug》 or 《General’s Enforcer》, we don’t have good use for all that mana.

Suffocating Fumes

Special mention to 《Suffocating Fumes》, the card works in the same way as 《Coordinated Charge》, sometimes is really good, and when it is not, you just cycle it. The fact that this deck attack with a bunch of small creatures, means that 《Suffocating Fumes》 can transform a bad attack into a really good one.

Conclusion and Bonus Decklists

I have been successful with those kind of decks and I want to give a special thanks to Kyle Rose since I learned a lot about Ikoria limited watching his stream.

I hope that you find this kind of decks interesting and give it a try!

Bonus track: some fun decks mixing both archetypes!

Luis Salvatto (Twitter / Twitch)

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Luis Salvatto

Luis Salvatto After breaking onto the scene with a Top8 at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in 2016, Luis became the first player from Argentina to win a Pro Tour in 2018 at PT Rivals of Ixalan. This feat put him in a position to fight for the Player of the Year title which went down to the wire with a play-off against Seth Manfield. Salvatto emerged victorious and secured the prestigious Player of the Year title and became recognized as one of the best South American players of all time. Selected for the MPL in 2019. Read more articles by Luis Salvatto