Ikoria is on our doorstep! With new spoilers coming in every day we still are not close to knowing all the cards in the new set. What I can talk about is what we do know, as of the time I'm writing this article (April 8th in the afternoon).
Today I'm highlighting the multicolor cards that will make an impact on Standard. Ikoria clearly pushes the power level of cards that are multiple colors, and this is a good thing. There needs to be a reward for making sacrifices to your manabase.
The massive mythic creatures with mutate are clearly a highlight of Ikoria, and this cycle noticeably requires three different colors of mana to cast. When looking at this set of creatures, upon initial impression they may look completely broken (or in this case, Brokkon), but we should take a step back and try to actually evaluate this card as best we can. Remember how people thought Polukranos, Unchained was way too powerful? It ended up actually being perfect for Standard in terms of power. Large creatures can be deceiving sometimes.
The power from Brokkos, Apex of Forever comes from its ability to mutate, and this is a mechanic we have never actually seen in action. With that being said, being able to mutate is huge. Sultai colors traditionally have access to some self-mill, and Brokkos can be abused out of the graveyard. This is going to play well in decks with other creatures, so that there will be consistently a creature to mutate onto. The good thing is that even if you don't take advantage of mutate, this is still a big-ole trampler for five mana. We will be seeing plenty of Brokkos.
Vadrok, Apex of Thunder looks like the evolution of Mantis Rider, and creates an incentive to play an aggressive Jeskai creature-based strategy. The power from this card is going to come from its ability to mutate and cast something out of the graveyard.
The issue with Vadrok will be whether or not the other pieces of a deck playing this card work well alongside of it. It has been a while since Jeskai Tempo was a Standard player, as I don't think this is a fit in Jeskai Fires.
Look, it's an Abzan card! We continue along the mutate cycle with Nethroi, Apex of Death, and clearly there is a very high upside with the mutate here. The issue is that it's seven mana to mutate, and then you need to have both a creature on the battlefield to mutate onto and a bunch of creatures in the graveyard for this to work.
Nethroi screams "combo card." It could end up being similar to what Rally the Ancestors was for a while back in Standard, but it still is very mana intensive. It has the upside for sure, but there is also a chance it never truly sees much play in Standard.
Illuna is a solid value play. However, it is very similar to cascade when you use the mutate, in that it is pretty tough to know what you will get, unless there is a way to manipulate the top of your deck.
There is nothing wrong with a large flyer, but currently I don't see this being played over Hydroid Krasis.
This card is going to make a splash, because it is already good even if you don't mutate it. Doublestrike is a big deal, and if you combine Snapdax with a pump effect the damage it can deal could be massive. Also, being able to mutate onto a creature and create a new creature that has doublestrike is a big deal. This can be used as a removal spell as well, and we have been really wanting a Lightning Helix sort of effect in Standard.
Let's transition away from tri-color cards into two-color. These cards won't take quite as much work in order to play them, based on their mana cost.
When looking at mutate we see specifically the distinguishing between Humans and non-Humans. Clearly a card like General Kudro of Drannith will not work well in a mutate-oriented deck. However, there are going to be some incentives for playing Humans instead, and General Kudro is going to be a key piece of Human-based tribal decks. Imagine it alongside Hero of Precinct One, which churns out a bunch of Human tokens.
This is a build-around, but the card is good enough to make building around it worthwhile. Being able to disrupt the graveyard is really nice too. When we look at a format where cards like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath are dominant, General Kudro starts to look even better. We really needed a good way to disrupt opposing graveyards a bit, and this fits the bill. Then we also have the removal element! In the right deck it shouldn't be unreasonable to have two Humans that would be worth sacrificing to get rid of a big creature. This is one of my favorite cards previewed so far.
Chevill works extremely well alongside removal spells. The idea here is to put a bounty counter on an opposing permanent, get rid of it, get your value, and keep going. Decks that play Chevill will likely also want a card like Murderous Rider to deal with whatever gets a bounty counter.
The other really powerful aspect about Chevill is how it will affect small creature decks. As much as I hate to say it, this is essentially my worst nightmare when playing Mono-Red Aggro. As Mono-Red is currently constructed there are not any ways to deal with this, and the deck plays 1 toughness creatures that tend to trade off in combat.
Chevill could end up being a sideboard card. It is much better against small creature decks compared to control, for example.
Remember Arclight Phoenix? Yeah, that is still a card in Standard. There are a number of ways to discard cards for benefit in Izzet, and with Rielle in play all of your discard effects get incrementally better, because of the cards you will end up netting from Rielle every time you discard a card. I see this as a perfect fit in an Izzet deck that is primarily noncreature spells, so Izzet Phoenix is really the perfect home for it. Expect to see a resurgence of this sort of strategy.
This isn't a multicolor card in the strictest sense, because you can play it without being Golgari, but I would be very surprised to see it outside of Golgari. The reason is that Golgari is known for being able to fill up its graveyard, and can be built with value creatures that you want to sacrifice. The key is having expendable creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers. Think about a creature like Burglar Rat as an idea of a creature that you want to be sacrificing to Fiend Artisan.
Here we go, let's try to tackle companion.
Honestly, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the impact companion cards will have, especially in terms of deck building. Lurrus is very clearly built to go into an extremely aggressive deck. The effect it provides is extremely powerful once you get it into play, as any deck that meets Lurrus's requirements will very likely have permanents to get back that have gone to the graveyard.
The key to a card like Lurrus is going to be the build-around options, and how big the deck constraint on building around the companion ends up being.
I suspect with Umori, the Collector that the card type will be creature. Having a deck of only creatures isn't so unreasonable, and the fact this is a hybrid card means we could see it in a Mono-Green deck for example. Some green creature decks already have very few spells, but the fact that your opponent will know you don't have any noncreature spells in your deck is definitely a downside (remember, players have to reveal companions at the start of the game). Umori in and of itself isn't super powerful, but getting to play a companion that from your sideboard is a very big deal, and makes adding a companion worth considering.
This is the exact card that Jeskai Control decks have been waiting for. You can use this for some additional mana and life gain, and then the loot effect that is actually a removal spell is really sweet. Jeskai decks will likely play the full four copies of Narset of the Ancient Way because if you do have one stuck in your hand, you can loot it away. There won't be many creatures in decks with Narset of the Ancient Way, which is typical of a Jeskai Control deck.
Many of the rares in Ikoria provide big flashy effects for a significant mana investment. The Ultimatums are really the perfect example of this, as this is a very prohibitive mana cost for a very powerful effect. This is a build-around, and I'm not sure it will see much play, but if it does we will need to see good ways to fill up the graveyards in the Abzan colors.
Ikoria has more cards that you need to build your entire deck around than I have ever seen in one set. Companion requires you to make some concessions for a very big payoff, and Cat lovers can get excited about this one!
The reason it is tough to evaluate a card like Kaheera is that it's not necessarily about how good Kaheera is, as the card does clearly have a lot of upside in the right deck. What determines whether this card will be good or not are the various creatures in the deck. Right now, Elementals are the tribe that is the most played of the various creature types you need to play Kaheera, though Elementals are traditionally Temur-based.
Death's Oasis is a card that works great in an Aristocrats deck with cheap creatures and sacrifice outlets. It will take some brewing to make it work, as there isn't a deck in Standard this immediately slots into.
Ikoria is full of really strong multicolor cards, and this is clearly a major focus of the set. I loved Khans of Tarkir Standard, and it looks like Ikoria is showing many similarities. The other piece of this is that very few of the cards immediately go into existing tier 1 strategies. This means that the format is going to get completely shaken up, which is generally a good thing.
Companion is going to create an extremely interesting constraint around deck building like we have never seen before, but it is also very exciting. Since you get such a ton of value by having access to a companion, I wouldn't be surprised if the format warps into the question of which companion you choose to play.