Sunday 5 April 2020

Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths Preliminary Review Part I

Huntmaster Liger 0

Too expensive, vanilla and fiddly. You need things to line up a bit too well for this to do enough.

Keruga, the Macrosage 0

This might be one of the worst cards of all time! At least in companion mode it is. The notion of a deck with no 1 or 2 drops is comically bad in any competitive format. You don't get a big Living End win payoff either, just a couple of cards and a vanilla dork. Bleh. Not enough for a deck slot and absolute suicide to use as a companion. Scary new mechanic at least. Both in the sense that companion is mechanically awkward to check in real games and in that it is powerful having access to an extra card in your hand. Commanders for normal magic basically.

Illuna, Apex of Wishes 5

Mutate is pretty fascinating as a mechanic as it has so many different things at play. I considered just doing an article on the mechanic itself as a sort of grounding exercise but it seemed a little foolish to do so without having played with it yet. One thing I am fairly confident of is that we will not see much if any mutations onto creatures with mutate in cube. That means Illuna is getting one shot at the trigger at best, less on average with targets getting killed in response or just not having anything to mutate onto. So, the floor of this is a 6/6 trample for 5. Powerful in principle but just a dork and in three colours making it appalling. Does the option on the mutate make up for that? Possibly but probably not I would say. Just all a bit expensive, fiddly and unpredictable. Mutate can give effective haste which is one of the best things about it for Illuna. The trigger has a high ceiling, ideally say flipping over a big planeswalker. It can also just find some mana dork, or perhaps a threat you don't wish to lay as it is an over extension. Without setup the mutate feels like it is going to equate to little better than draw a card. So, is 6 mana in two colours and say a 1/1 token for a 6/6 flying trample haste and a card good? Well, it is better than the normal mode but it still doesn't feel bomb like given the hoops we are jumping through. Worth a test I would say but expectation is pretty low. Illuna rarely poses a serious problem and that is what you want your big cards to do.

Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast 6

This seems very strong but a little at odds with itself as well. The best use of the -2 does not work well with the +1. The best use of the -2 seems like it is just a Polymorph effect which you can use in a deck with dorks. Play only one, two, or whatever drop dorks are appropriate and then a couple of fatties. That way you can fairly consistently just cheat out a massive dork for five mana. A modern deck full of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Snapcaster, Dreadhorde Arcanist and then Lukka plus Emrakul sounds fairly real. The +1 certainly helps you find these fodder cheap dorks but it is a combo deck and will likely run fewer dorks than aggro and even most midrange decks I suspect. When you are hitting one or fewer dorks on average on the +1 it is fairly lame, you really want it closer to an average of two hits. Even so, a fine enough value ability you can scale. A little awkward in that it actually has a pretty real cost in 40 card decks, you can't just sit there pressing it and growing Lukka as you will mill yourself out very quickly. This means Lukka needs that -2 to put in work, you can't just run him as a source of card advantage with a dash of utility and reach. I think the -2 can be used well outside of combo. A little like you use a Birthing Pod or Recurring Nightmare. A range of dorks across the curve with good EtB effects. In a well built deck for Lukka you should be able to sac off a couple of dorks in play and aim at hitting the effects you want with a good deal more precision that you might expect. While I will certainly be trying this out as it is so fun, interesting and different I suspect it is not going to last. Red has insane 5 drops and Lukka has two big failings. One, no self protection. You can't even be reliably aggressive with it such that it isn't a problem. That is what makes Chandra, Fire Artisan such a strong card. The second failing of Lukka is that he scales so much with deck composition that he is effectively quite a narrow card I think. Despite looking like not being great for limited cube I think this guy will see plenty of action in many constructed formats. I am certainly looking forward to trying him in cube too.

Vivien, Monster's Advocate 6.5

Well this does a lot of things and it does them well. Those things are all roughly the same in that they gain you value in the form of putting dorks into play at zero card and often reduced mana. Much as I like my walkers to have diverse abilities I am OK with the samey ones on this as they all work towards winning the game well and do have differing applications. Making 3/3 tokens isn't broken but it is decent, the ability to tune them a little is really useful too. Protection against fliers is lovely for a walker to have. The -2 is very potent in some settings, it is tutoring and both card and mana advantage (unless finding 0 CMC dorks!). It has some combo applications with the tutor side even if it is fairly slow for such things. It might be a bit overkill with all the other abilities going on but it is nice utility to have. The library shuffle could even be a valid use! The only other thing you are using loyalty for is safety . So how good is Vizier of the Menagerie on a planeswalker rather than a 3/4? Certainly a lot better. It doesn't lead to over extensions when working or basically just be an awful Hill Giant like card when not working. It is just reasonable value. Not as good as Oracle of Mul Daya or Mystic Forge in the artifact decks but still a nice way to generate card advantage. You will wind up taking some weaker lines, less tempo, less mana efficient, etc, just to cast things off the top rather than from hand. I think this is a lot better than Garruk, Primal Hunter and better than Nissa, Vital Force (who is the weakest walker in my cube in this slot). That should mean it gets a slot but all told Vital Force probably shouldn't so perhaps this will get the cull before too long. Solid card regardless. Relatively low starting loyalty is a mild concern but 3/3 reach dorks should help out reasonably well with that!

Zilortha, Strength Incarnate (Godzilla apparently) 2

An inverted Doran than turns X/Y dorks into effectively X/X dorks rather than Doran who makes them Y/Y, for combat and normal damage at least. You can still kill Zilortha with a Toxic Deluge for 3 but for most other things he is just a 7/7. There are probably plenty of abuses for a low toughness dork that is actually massive. While this is cute the idea of running loads of how power low toughness dorks to go with it seems terrible. Even if you had this as your commander it isn't always going to be around. A 7/7 for 5, even with trample is not very exciting. It is slow and far up the curve and gold. Bleh.

Luminous Broodmoth 6

This is a bit like Nightmare Shepherd and probably better. It doesn't exile your stuff and returns things generally better with flying rather than stats reduced to 1/1. Black however does have more to do with sacrificing stuff and more EtB trigger dorks which scale really well with this kind of effect. I am not sure where the Broodmoth fits in. White has far better aggressive plays it can make like Sublime Archangel. This might be OK against mass removal but against spot removal it is a massive fail. You want such things on cheaper, less relevant bodies. See Selfless spirit. Broodmoth is a strong card and worth testing but I expect not making the cut with so many outstanding white four mana planeswalkers on offer.

Zagoth Mamba 2

A nice cute little mutate enabler that has no chance in cube with a low floor and no where near enough support for the synergies. I can see this being run in a themed constructed deck but that is it.

Drannith Stinger 4

Not enough card for the drafting cube despite being cheap and flexible. This will shine in Ikoria booster draft. It will also be great as a potential win condition in some combo decks. Pretty easy to win on turn 3 with this and a Fluctuator. Pretty easy to find this too in a deck built around Fluctuator! We are probably not all that far off a reasonable synergy deck using cycling in an aggressive way which will be another home for this card outside of the limited settings.

Cloudpiercer 0

Far to expensive for just a bit of looting. Beyond that this is just a dork. Even supporting mutate synergies this isn't cutting it.

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