Many people are fans of Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths. But many, many people are NOT fans of Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths. This article is for the latter group.
What your fans see:
What everyone else sees:
Hey, it's Chomper, Apex of the Sharp Teeth!
Your Release: Inarguably Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths will go down as the largest cluster you know what of a release in Magic's fabled history of things going wrong. The timeline will be as such:
Arena Release: April 15th, 2020
MTGO Release: Uhhh
Actual Release: April 17th, 2020
Actual Actual Release: April 24th, 2020
Actual Actual ACTUAL Release: May 15th, 2020
Release Events: Whenever from the comfort of your own house? Congratulations, you win!
None of this is Wizard's fault unless you hold them accountable for the Covid-19 pandemic, which if you're one of those people that believes it's all 5G's fault, you likely do.
Your Theme: Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths was designed by a 12 years old that snorted Pixie Sticks on a dare, but soon found the rush of sugar to be far too alluring so they just kept on a snortin' away for a few months while locked in a room.
For those of you at home wondering what Ikoria is all about, imagine you and your friends having an imaginary tree house war where none of you have trees. The enemy is a *checks notes* mutated cats and dinosaurs and more cats. This set makes Ixalan's theme of battling pirates and raptors seem loose at best.
Not willing to simply commit to every creature being a Krosan Cloudscraper, they decided to add Godzilla into the mix. Yes, a man in a giant rubber suit is somehow analogous for fierce battles between Kaiju that will rupture an entire plane. This is like when your uncle would dress up as a ninja turtle for your birthday party. We all know he's not Michelangelo. To pretend otherwise is outright disrespectful.
To really drive the point home there is a huge tie-in between the Kaiju universe and Ikoria. This might sound super awesome—again, pixie sticks—if it wasn't 300-foot-tall gargantuans being played off as 6/6 creatures. You're supposed to tell me that Void Beckoner would lose to a Verdant Force in combat? Verdant Force isn't even as tall as a tree and Spacegodzilla came from space and is the size of a mountain. Don't lie to us. Don't lie to your fans. Don't act like this is now canon. It makes my fedora shake with anger just thinking about it. No sir, I don't like it.
Aside from upsetting an entire fandom (i.e. me), Ikoria will focus on the relationship between these beasts and "bonders."
Hold on, what does that look like?
Not in this article.
Your Mechanics and Cycles: The premier and newest mechanic is mutate! How does it work? No one knows! Sure, we all think we do, but none of us actually do. Do you mutate on top? Do you mutate on the bottom? What if they kill the creature you're targeting with mutate in response? What if they kill your mutated creature? What if your mutated creature is blinked?
These are questions no one is able to answer, and I've seen L2 judges correct themselves multiple times trying to fumble over what happens.
This is like if bestow fell down the stairs and got a concussion. It's as if they were trying to remake it but not really remake it, but sort of remake it while not remaking it? Doesn't make sense, does it? Neither does mutate!
Mutate comes with the Apex cycle, which is apparently cats and beasts that have mutated into edgy teenagers. You don't get it, Mom, I'm the Apex of the Hunt.
This thing looks like a bad tattoo. It is absolutely on a shirt at Hot Topic somewhere.
They were created when the wall holding the creature type dartboard inexplicably collapsed under the weight of its own absurdity and they just started picking up the pieces and calling it a day. "Elemental Dinosaur Cat Beast Nightmare Legend?" Print it.
You also printed a cycle of tri-lands with cycling that we will all now refer to as Tricycle Lands since they look like they were developed by toddlers.
Next up are the Ultimatums, which I can't recall a single person asking for, but here we are.
Ruinous Ultimatum is very fun and very interactive. You'll have it cast against you in a game of Commander and you'll have to stop playing because it will be a good time overload. Your idea of happiness will change and morph around how much you're going to enjoy seeing this cast in a pod by someone other than you. Scoop up your cards and throw them into the air to celebrate.
If you're anything like me this card says "Put the top 5 cards of your library in your hand. Pout." Draw five for seven is a sick rate if you enjoy depression.
"Oh I'll target my Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskellion. I guess that's game haha. My deck never does this. Might as well target Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter to make sure no one gets any creatures. Bring back Gaea's Cradle, ummm what else? Why you are all leaving?"
This one is totally normal.
None of us can see this going poorly. There are no combo pieces that Sultai decks can search up that will end the game on the spot. Nope! Not one!
What's New that Sucks: Companions were printed as cards that you get to just play from your sideboard. This means after you reveal it at the start of a game you functionally have an eight-card hand that adds an entirely new dimension into the game…one that no one asked for, but here we are with ten new ones.
In order to cast these companions your deck must meet certain criteria. With Yorion, Sky Nomad you'll have to play 20 extra cards in your starting deck. Lurrus of the Dream-Den wants you to play only permanents that cost two or less mana. Keruga, the Macrosage requires your deck to be terrible. See? There's something for everyone. Except Commander players.
Lutri, the Spellchaser was deemed "too hot for legality" in Commander right off the bat. Why? Because it would be a free card every deck in those color combinations would play, and it's good. It's pretty much how every color combination must look at companions. None of them provide a massive benefit that will make you want to create a deck theme around them, because your deck would have to be actively worse to meet the criteria for them. Yorion, Sky Nomad isn't even playable in the first place. If you don't meet the companion criteria you can't play it. So either you build a deck around one card that isn't your general or you build one around it that is, but has a random extra card on the outside that will usually do nothing and not fit your themes. Brilliant!
For those of you who enjoy your Constructed formats screwed up, just wait and see what happens when you combine Gyruda, Doom of Depths with Spark Double and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries! On the early access accounts it was a delight to watch those cards work in concert to completely mill out opponents in the mid game and create a stack larger than most buildings. Good times for all. Enjoy clicking "yield to all" in the future.
What's Old that Sucks: You can already tell this Limited format is going to follow the path of:
Week 1: It's all about drafting early creatures
Week 2: This format is all about tempo
Week 3: You can't beat the bombs
It's very formula driven and doesn't bring a lot new to the genre. This will continue the trend of people whining about Limited and acting like it's a completely new set of circumstances they are living through. Very unique and has never happened before. I look forward to my opponent mutating an Apex creature and me scooping up my board of 3/2s for three and moving on to the next game.
What Might Not Suck: They did it! They brought back cycling!
Cycling is my favorite mechanic of all time and is amazing in both Limited and Constructed formats. It always gives you something to do with your mana, and because of how many of the cards are worded, you're going to get value beyond just drawing a card when you cycle, and that makes for very interesting game play.
The new cycle of Mythos cards is just plain good. A lot of them offer incredible effects for playing three or more colors, and they bring a lot of interesting modes to Commander games, particularly Mythos of Snapdax which is an extremely nuanced spell that will bring a lot of politics into play.
That's it for this week. Sorry, but Ikoria sucks.