Saturday 18 April 2020

Ikoria Conclusions and Additions

Well this is a funny old set. Smacks more of an "Un" set and a Commander set's lovechild than it does most usual releases. It has a very Ixalan feel too it aesthetically as well which is certainly at the more cartoon end of the spectrum that magic goes to. I am not averse to this, I like the variation and experimentation both in feel and in function. If this will help secure another generation or demographic of players to pick up the game then that is great. Just so long as we continue to have the historically inspired realism of some sets and the darker grittier feel of others and the wholly new and experimental ideas too then I am more than happy.

Power wise this set is interesting. There is still power creep but only in some places and senses. I would describe this set as one of the weaker ones recently put out in terms of top end power. Even so, I am now at the point where 6.5 cards are in the test bracket and only those 7/10 and above look like lock in cards for the most part. It had been sitting at 6.5 for a fair while. This change or jump is just due to the sheer volume of new cards rather than continual and linear power creep. Even terrible sets add a bit to the cube and so naturally over time the bar rises. It just so happens that this set seems to mark the point where the bar rose to 7/10. It was 5/10 when I started doing these reviews! I am sure I have significantly lowered my rating of cards as well so in practice the creep is far more than 5/10 to 7/10 suggests. Over all I suspect Ikoria will add fewer cards to the cube than most new sets.

I am not sad about low power level, I think the creep is a bit fast at present and should be curtailed so as to preserve the longevity of the game. Clever design lets you sneak cards out for older formats like modern and vintage without the need of pushing stuff to Oko levels of potency where it can affect all formats. I don't recall Paradoxical Outcome being a big deal for standard! What I am sad about is lack of diversity. With balance as good as it is in general these days combined with the sheer volume of cards we now have it all feels a bit samey. Other than the companions everything just feels like a reworked something else, or some other things mashed together. This is very obvious in the cards I expect to remain in the cube. I can refer to almost all of them as "the new X" where X is some existing card and you would likely know what I was referring to. Much as that is where danger lies I would like to see some more outside of the box cards, such things feel a little lacking of late. The wedge enchantments come the closest to such things but all are sufficiently narrow that they are not going to impact my cube world all that heavily. Ideally some of the outside of the box cards would cost less than four mana so that we could have some variation in the early game a little more.

The companion mechanic is the big deal from this set. It is the new thing Ikoria brings to magic. The 10 offerings range from the complete garbage all the way to the broken covering good ground in between. I think the two best cards from the set are both companions (Izzet and Orzhov) and I think a couple of the other companions (Selsenya and Boros) are going to be pretty huge for some other formats. Even the utter trash companions are going to get used and wind up in a variety of places. The power of having a free and known card is not to be under estimated. We now effectively have one card combos! A statement so utterly senseless in a pure linguistic sense you could assume how silly of a thing it is in-game without even knowing the first thing about the game! I am not sure how I feel about companion overall. In principle I like it but I feel like the design has been a little careless and perhaps inconsiderate of formats outside of the competitive constructed formats as far back as modern. You could argue this was the case already with things like Underworld Breach coming out in the last set and plenty of other examples. Given that this was a set supposed to cater to commander players it really feels like a pre-release ban of Lutri for commander is a big old fail. I am a little fearful of the impact these companions could have. Hopefully minor, in which case great. If they dominate standard or just show up too much then it will be really tedious. Decks will be less diverse, as will metagames. I feel like they should have just been more cautious on power level. They knew to make most of the cycling one cards very under powered but they failed to apply that obvious less to the companions. Either the effects on them are too big and thus are too easily built around to be abused, or the cards have too insignificant of a condition and are a free addition to empower already good decks, or they are just slightly too good in their own right. A card you would play normally is quite the bomb when you just always get it for free. Concerns and quibbles aside, these are the cards I am interested in from the set and where I think I will be using them.;

IN (best to worst)

Lutri, the Spellchaser (assuming I don't ban it!)
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Shark Typhoon
Extinction Event
Fiend Artisan
Fire Prophecy
Weaponize the Monsters
Sprite Dragon
Mythos of Nethroi

To test with some expectation

Narset of the Ancient Way
Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast
Vivien, Monsters' Advocate
Luminous Broodmoth
Vadrok, Apex of Thunder
Voracious Greatshark
General Kudro
Sea Dasher Octopus
Fight as One
Of One Mind
Suffocating Fumes

To test with low expectation

Boon of the Wish Giver
Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt
Shredded Sails
Chevill, Bane of Monsters
Migration Path
Obosh, the Preypiercer
Ominous Seas
Bastion of Remembrance
Lavabrink Venturer
Forbidden Friendship
Eerie Ultimatum
Ruinous Ultimatum
Sleeper Dart
Memory Leak
Gust of Wind

Things straight into the cube reserves for constructed only

All the remaining cards that cycle for one generic mana
Crystal cycle
Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Umori, the Collector
General's Enforcer
Death's Oasis
Call of the Death-Dweller
Keep Safe
Reconnaissance Mission
Mythos of Snapdax
Dire Tactics
Drannith Magistrate
Skull Prophet
Valiant Rescuer
Rielle, the Everwise
Escape Protocall
Cunning Nightbonder
Sanctuary Lockdown
The Ozolith
Hearltess Act
Garrison Cat
Emergent Ultimatum
Song of Creation
Kaheera, the Orphanguard
Zirda, the Dawnwaker
Offspring's Revenge
Bonder's Enclave
Springjaw Trap
Titan's Nest
Survivor's Bond
Raking Claws
Mythos of Illuna
Aegis Turtle
Light of Hope

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