Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Limited Set Review – Green
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Start with the White & Introduction link above, for all background information!
I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began in New Phyrexia. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube drafts, I’ve drafted more sets than I can count on every platform through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited 30k or so gems from it at this point, and have made top 100 mythic several times. Self-reflection and critical analysis are paramount to Limited improvement, and that theme features in many of my articles on the subject. My profile picture is the promo art for Mulldrifter, my namesake!
I’ve played Magic off and on for the last 20 years. I just checked to confirm that and it blew my mind a little bit. I started with 6th edition and began playing ‘competitively’ with Odyssey. My handle is actually a really good Limited card from the Odyssey block. Anyway, Magic Arena got me back into the game, and I have been drafting infinitely since closed beta and have finished top 1000 Mythic nearly every ranked season.
This may shock and awe some of you but, in the Mutate format, big creature stompy has some real legs, some of which more resemble colossal tree trunks… Ikoria certainly lives up to its marketing as the Timmy dream format today. Get ready to stampede over some poor unsuspecting opponents!
- S: Ridiculous bomb; has a huge effect on the game immediately, and threatens to dominate it if unanswered. (Dream Trawler, Kiora Bests the Sea God, Archon of Sun’s Grace)
- A: Very powerful card, often approaches bomb status, pulls you strongly into its colour. (Drag to the Underworld, Pharika’s Spawn, Shimmerwing Chimera).
- B: Great playable, happy to first pick, pulls you into its colour. (Elspeth’s Nightmare, Voracious Typhon, Iroas’s Blessing)
- C+: Good playable that almost never gets cut. (Favored of Iroas, One with the Stars, Skophos Maze-Warden)
- C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut. (Loathsome Chimera, Deny the Divine, Mogis’s Favor)
- C-: Mediocre playable or good filler, gets cut around half the time. (Stampede Rider, Scavenging Harpy, Phalanx Tactics)
- D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot. (Sleep of the Dead, Setessan Skirmisher, Hero of the Games)
- F: Mostly to totally unplayable cards. (Field of Ruin, Underworld Breach, Inspire Awe)
Adventurous Impulse is a lot less exciting in a Cycling set – they occupy the same sort of role, so there’s not really a need to dedicate a slot to this effect. I think you would rather just have cards that do things to cycle into.
This card hardly ever makes my decks in other formats and I don’t see Ikoria being any different. Noncreature slots are much better served by removal or cycling/utility spells.
The problem with the Brushwagg is that it’s a 1/1; it doesn’t have meaningful impact until you’re able to use the ability. In most sets, this would be mostly garbage; it is helped a bit by Mutate this set but honestly I think that’s pretty overblown – Trample isn’t a great ability to grant, and i don’t think the Mutate decks lend themselves that well to wanting Brushwagg as a card in the first place. Other mutate fodder cards will actually do something beforehand: they’ll block for those decks, they’ll generate some kind of value even if it’s just in the form of making a 1/1, but this activated ability isn’t that useful when you’re trying to play a midrangey Mutate deck.
There are much better mutate targets than this and it doesn’t do much on its own. One drops are usually not worth running in Limited unless you are playing a very aggressive deck, they scale well, or have a lot of synergy with your archetype. I don’t think this checks enough of those boxes.
This card is the actual nut. Being a 5 mana 6/6 is huge, and this will dominate the board if that’s all you do with it, but the Mutate ability is even better. You hit for 6 immediately, get a free permanent off the top – obviously that could be a land so it might not be fantastic but Green can use lands better than most – and then you have a huge threat that remains in play and threatens to fetch up two more permanent cards if they don’t kill it immediately. It competes with Boon of the Wish-Giver for best single colour uncommon, and I think even wins that exchange by a little. Also a decent splash, though slightly worse in that role!
Auspicious Starrix is just insane. If you are ahead on the board dropping a 5 mana 6/6 can seal the deal, and getting a free permanent if you spend 1 more mana and have a Mutate target is unbelievably good. If it isn’t answered immediately it is even possible to keep piling on with further Mutations. This is the type of uncommon that is going to be taken over many rares and should hardly ever be passed.
This is not Theros: Beyond Death, don’t maindeck this card. It’s a medium sideboard card, since there’s still not a lot it hits; look to pick this up on the wheel over total trash.
Good lord, I hope no one was planning on playing Enchantment-based decks in Constructed. But yeah this is Limited and there aren’t too many targets for it in this set. In bo3 it is an alright sideboard card in case you match up with that guy who drafted five copies of Pacifism.
Bristling Boar was a reasonable card in both M19 and M20, since this ability is often surprisingly relevant. I think it’s on about the same level here since Mutate doesn’t actually help it; it’s really bad Mutate fodder, as the ability isn’t worth putting yourself down a 4 drop.
Bristling Boar is a core set staple and tends to fare pretty well. It isn’t really what you want to have in your 4-drop slot but it is more than serviceable.
Charge of the Forever-Beast
This card will generally deal at least 3 damage, at which point it’s great. There are enough creatures in most Limited decks, especially in the Mutate format, that you’ll generally find a reasonable one even if you’re topdecking, especially since you’ll be playing more 6 and 7 drops in your decks that just cycle away. That being said, it is hurt by the fact that you might need to wait a while, and it sometimes won’t kill what you want/force you to sandbag creatures and such. I consider this a high C+, and could see moving it to the low B range.
Drawing this late could be awkward but this is as close to a burn spell you are going to get in Green. There are a lot of high power creatures (especially in Green) that allow this to remove anything you want. This is great firepower to have in your deck, especially in a set that is going to present many 2-for-1 opportunites.
The best thing about this card is the art, continuing the trend of giant kitties. As a Limited card, this is a lot of stipulations for not that great an effect. You give them a free turn, you need a creature with some form of evasion or they can just chump, it opens you up to removal blowouts, and it’s 7 mana! This is a format where you’re playing extra 6 and 7 drops because they have cycling, so there’ll be less room for this. This is a low D, and I considered giving it an F, but that enormous tail moved my heart so I’ll show mercy…
Colossification is the best Timmy bait I have seen in a while. That said, Ikoria may just be slow enough for a card like this to be playable. There is enough trample in the set for this card to reliably read ‘I win next turn unless you can remove this creature or kill me,’ and 7 mana doesn’t seem like an unreasonable ask for that.
This adds up to a lot of value in your decks that have lots of mutates, and moves up to a C+ there – if you can ever get two triggers, you’re just getting a fantastic rate; 2 life really adds up over time too. Still, I’d just take it at high C for now, since this format has a lot of 2 drops that are decent early and late that compete with this.
This is another great common, it has been a while since we’ve had a set with so many. Mutate decks are going to love having as many of these in their 2-drop slot as they can find, and for good reason. Curving this into something like Vulpikeet could run away with a game rather quickly.
This is an effect that is strong in Golgari, or just if you’re splashing Golgari uncommons like Boneyard Lurker or Back for More. I’d be happy to play this in any deck though, since it has a solid statline, and a little upside when you mutate onto it and can deal a bunch of damage immediately with a big creature. It’s a high C, and a C+ in Golgari.
3-mana 3/3 is a fine rate as it is, and Trample/Graveyard synergy makes this a really good common for a lot of decks. Between this and Essence Symbiote so far, Green already has some solid early threats at common.
4 mana 4/4 is above rate and this ability is great; it won’t be that hard to get Humans for this.
Green and White are looking very complimentary in IKO. Even without any humans this is well worth running in any deck, so the ability and splashability are all upside.
Fertilid is slow but it represents a lot of value in fixing/decks that can make good use of the ramp. You can chump with the body and then remove the second counter, so it’ll often gain you a few life later on. Most decks will be on the slower side in this format and I think splashing is going to be great this set, so I’m usually happy to have it. If you mutate it, you keep the counters, which can lead to some great swings, and you can usually recoup the card disadvantage by removing counters. The curve of t3 Fertilid t4 double ramp is pretty strong; I consider it a high C because I think it meshes well with what green wants to be doing this format.
Fertilid is a tough one to rate because it is going to be so dependent on the speed of the format and your deck composition. If you are able to be this greedy at 3-drop and have several 5+ mana spells in your deck I like it, but I am somewhat skeptical. Fertilid is a great value card, though.
Strictly better Mammoth Spider is a strong sideboard card against Blue, and will make your maindeck as filler much of the time also. You’ll mostly go for Reach, but I think Vigilance will actually come up a fair bit in topdeck mode, for when you want to pressure them and simultaneously stop their small creatures from attacking.
Mammoth Spider does well in core sets, and although the power level of IKO is going to be higher than those I still think this card will be okay filler in a pinch. In GW it can bring in some additional Vigilance synergy as well.
A 3 mana +3/+3 trick is awful, but this card is saved a little by granting Trample permanently and immediately dealing a bunch of damage with it; it’s reasonable to set up two or three turn lethal with this in some spots. That being said, it doesn’t add enough to the mediocre base case for this to quite make the C range, though it is a high D.
The trend of combat tricks that are awful except they leave an interesting counter continues. It ends up being a pretty simple call, though. If your deck really likes Trample this is likely worth a slot, if Trample isn’t really needed than neither is Fully Grown.
A 4 mana 4/4 is a solid rate, and this has some nice abilities to boot. Reach on this means it outsizes pretty much every flier, trample can be painful for them especially if you mutate it. Mutate is more of an afterthought on this card – if you have some good fodder, you can get it out early, or you can save it to trigger your other mutate effects. There aren’t tons of Artifacts and Enchantments to destroy, but if you ever nab something like a Capture Sphere or Pacifism, it’ll be absolutely disgusting, and a good reason to mutate it to ensure you get that. I like this at high B for now, since I don’t think it scales quite as well into the late game.
There are enough relevant Artifacts/Enchantments to make this A material for me. Worst case scenario you cast a 4/4 Reach/Trample for four and feel really happy about it, and there is plenty of upside from there depending on Mutate effects and what your opponent has in play.
This is mostly a 3 mana 2/3 Reach, which has always been an okay card. Sometimes in desperate scenarios, you’ll mutate this for no value to stop a flier, but usually you want to wait and use it to get extra value from your Mutate cards that actually do things, like Dreamtail Heron or Chittering Harvester (or, god forbid, Auspicious Starrix). Still, it’s nice upside that you can enhance your other creatures that way, and two +1/+1 counters is good value.
It is usually going to be best to play this for 3 and target it with mutate because the alternative is playing it as an enchant creature that gives +2/+2 and Reach. It can also grow over time if you keep mutating, but how many cards are you going to risk stacking up for this effect? This one seems pretty good but may be worse than it looks.
This is a huge creature that’s saved by the cycling; the cycling is fairly expensive at 2 rather than 1 but I don’t expect the format to be really all that fast (though the good red aggro decks will be great, especially at first). This form of evasion comes up a decent amount, since they’ll often be forced to chump block a 7/7 but this won’t let them and will force them to make riskier plays like double or triple blocking (at which point, your cards can really blow them out).
Thanks to its ability, if this is the top dog on the board your opponent is in big trouble. Once again 7 mana tends to be a lot in Limited, but the amount of ramp in this set makes me think we will be seeing some Sandwurms before Dune comes out at the end of this year.
4 life is a lot, but especially in Green, you’ll be running extra 6 and 7 drops with cycling so there won’t be room for this. In your average set, this would get a higher grade, but this is a bad format for it.
Honey Mammoth is too vanilla to be more than mediocre filler. It is far from unplayable but Ikoria has better options. Still, 6/6’s can do some work especially if it can obtain Trample.
Trample is a weaker ability to grant than the rest of the cycle, but there are several trample cards (or those that grant trample counters) at common across Red and Green, and as with the rest of the cycle, if you get two counters with one activation off this, it will just run away with the game and they better have removal quickly. This also just has a solid statline. Remember, you still don’t want to play mediocre cards like Brushwagg before you have like 3 of these, or other reasons to want them. This is a low B, since I think it is the worst of the cycle, but still good.
Speaking of Trample, this guy comes at a good rate and has a lot of targets in Green. In some decks this should perform at a high B while while in others it’ll be more like a C+. I think this guy is about as good as the rest of the cycle (except his Blue Flying counterpart).
This blocks well and the things you’re ramping into will mostly be creatures anyway in Green – especially those 6 and 7 drops you’ll be running more of because they have cycling. Sadly, this does make it significantly worse for splashing purposes since you’re more likely to splash noncreatures than creatures, especially in Green which lacks removal, but this card is still really solid and a high C+.
1/3 is actually a great stat line for a mana dork, and creatures are what you are primarily going to be playing in Limited. Adding mana of any color is especially great in a format that heavily rewards wedge (3-color) decks.
There is a massive difference between X and XG. Whatever you cast this for, it will be below rate on curve, at least in the early turns. That being said, I think this is an exceptionally good set for this sort of card. It benefits a lot from Ramp (which this set has more of), since at a certain point if creatures are big enough, it matters less and less precisely how big they are, and you just want ways to use your mana, and it’s decent with Mutate – remember your Mutated creature will keep all the counters so you might well just be able to one shot them in the late game using something as innocuous as a 4/4. This is a low C, but I think deserves that grade in this set, despite being mediocre in others.
In a ramp/mutate deck I wouldn’t mind playing this, but it is a below average uncommon. Mutating is the best case scenario since you can have Ivy Elemental go on the bottom and the +1/+1 counters rise to the top. But, you are either overpaying for it early in order to mutate it or casting it as a vanilla fatty late, neither of which are particularly exciting to me.
Kogla, the Titan Ape
I don’t really think there is much to be said after you read that first line. The third ability is also really busted, if you get that far, but why even bother? Get a coffee or something instead.
Kong is an absolute windmill slam of a card that you should feel fantastic about opening because that is the only time you’ll ever see it.
Lead the Stampede
This costs a lot of mana, and whether it’s worth running depends entirely on your creature count. With 15 creatures in your Draft deck, you’re only likely to hit 2 or more creatures 65% of the time (to calculate this stuff, check my article here – I used a 39/15/5/2 calculation on the StatTrek hypergeometric calculator), which is a really mediocre rate. At 18, this rises to 77.5%, which is a lot better, but still a pretty significant failcase. I think you need to be running minimum that for it to be reasonable, and more like 19-20 before I’m happy to run this card, and at that point it’s pretty good – with 20, it has a 52.5% chance to draw 3 even and 19 has 47.5%. Reaching creature counts that high is unfeasible for most Limited decks, so I’ve left it at merely C-, but if your deck looks set up for it then take it much higher, more at like C+ range.
Statistically this is going to be Divination (+ or -). While that isn’t a bad card to be running, having to reveal what you find does take away some of the mystery.
Migration Path can be very decent in decks with lots of high end i.e. the ones with loads of really expensive cyclers this set, especially those that have high end in lots of different colours, and those should take it more like a C+. That being said, a lot of decks just won’t want it – you really need your Titanote Rexes and Void Beckoners, your
Your curve needs to be very high to want a 4 mana ramp spell. If that is true for your deck it is worth a slot due to the cycling option if it isn’t worth a hard cast. It is worth reiterating that if you don’t foresee hard casting a spell at least as often as cycling it, it probably shouldn’t make the deck.
I’m pretty happy with this: it enables your splashes and gives you your card back (albeit maybe not in the form you necessarily wanted), and then later on may give you even more lands for your double spelling purposes. This is a card you’re even reasonably happy to sacrifice real cards like 2 drops to mutate, since the leap from 3 to 5 mana is big enough. In the late game, it falls off a lot, but you can still use it to get value with your cards with better mutate effects. This is worse in decks which can’t make good use of the mana; you really do want to be set up for it, but I think most green decks will be with the cycling 6/7 drops.
I like that the ramp gets around the 2-for-1 disadvantage of mutate, similar to drawing in Blue or causing a discard in Black. Green has some seriously good common creatures, just make sure you are running enough (5+) mutable 2-drops to get the most out of this thing.
I’m kind of into this card – it’s the exact card that you really want cycling on, because it’ll be really awkward in a lot of spots, say when you don’t have a creature, when their untapped targets are low value/have deathtouch, or when you’re fearing their removal. That being said, often it’ll just kill a creature, it’s great with tramplers, and it can act as a finisher. This is still a pretty low C+ though and it gets far worse in multiples, but I suspect Green will need to run this kind of effect.
This isn’t great if you are behind (their creatures are tapped because they are beating your face or you are creatureless), but the Cycling helps in those scenarios. On the plus side this is hard removal and damage most of the time due to the prevalence of Trample in Green.
Ordinarily, I would give this a C- since the statline is reasonable, but honestly I think you can do better with your 3 drops this format – you’d rather have those with Mutate or other synergies so you get value off your other cards , and this is a generally high power format so I’m moving this down to a very high D. This works reasonably with Keensight Mentor in Selesnya, but there aren’t really other Vigilance payoffs, so it is just that card.
Green has some great commons but this is not one of them. The only reason I would ever want to play this is if I had a Vigilance theme going but even then this is mediocre filler.
Mythos of Brokkos
Regenesis at sorcery speed for 4 mana is better, but still not really exciting; it works well with cycling, since it mitigates a lot of the potential flooding downside and you can cast it earlier/have it rot in your hand less. This is another one of those Mythoses where you don’t really splash for it – you just play it for the base effect, and hey if it happens naturally while you’re splashing some other card, then great (though sadly Humble Naturalist doesn’t work for this). With Survival Trick at common, the need for this kind of effect is reduced. I consider this a high C and certainly the worst Mythos.
This is the worst Mythos by a decent margin. Tutors and recovery spells are generally bad in Limited. The fact that this will often net two cards makes it better, but still not very good.
I wouldn’t play this card maindeck in this format, but it’s a fine sideboard against Blue decks; you want to wait for it to wheel and take it over bad playables for the most part.
Plummet has been printed in three of the last four sets and frankly I am getting tired of seeing it.
Rabid Bite at instant speed is fantastic, and this even has some upside with tramplers, of which there are quite a few at common this set. As always, you do want to have good statlines on your creatures, so this won’t be amazing in every deck and I wouldn’t splash it all that often, but the base rate is superb.
+1/+3 is not a good trick statline; it doesn’t ambush creatures well at all, and will be awkward and situational. A reach counter isn’t worth that much most of the time; you can sideboard this in against decks with lots of small fliers, but you’ll still get blown out by removal, bounce, and better tricks often that way.
This is even worse than Fully Grown.
I like this card, since it benefits a lot from cycling and reduces the costs associated with it that I mention in the mechanics section. This strikes me as a cheap and solid 2 for 1 late game if you have some good cyclers. I would run the first copy of these in most of my decks with a reasonable split of humans and nonhumans, which won’t be that hard to get; I was going to give it C+ but have moved it to high C because it’s worse in multiples, and not all decks will have that split. I think at 2 mana, it’s much better than Mythos of Brokkos if you have a reasonable deck for it (and this card made me lower my Mythos grade, since there’s less need for Mythos’s effect with this at Common).
This has all of the same problems as Mythos of Brokos and is even more restrictive.
Thwart the Enemy
When I’m evaluating cards for my deck, I look at average case not best case scenario. I think this is mostly a trap card at 3 mana; cards like this have always played out extremely clunky in my experience. It’s not that common for statlines to match up 1 to 1 perfectly (this is why I gave Clash of Titans a C+ also), and especially not with more than 1 creature, so usually you try to use this to multiblock one creature or ambush one of their blockers in combat, having waited potentially for a long time for the right opportunity, and then get blown out by instant speed removal/any disruption they have, or they just don’t play into your obvious open mana if you’re trying to use it on the defensive. The average case for this is unexciting payoff for a lot of setup. I also don’t think this is a particularly good format for it; Mutate means there are a bigger creatures earlier and more with weird statlines/evasion, so you’ll have to go for risky multiblocks more. This is far worse than Make a Stand from M19, because the power boost that card gives you allows to trade up/deal a bunch of extra damage for free, and that makes the card actually worth it. I think it’s a fine sideboard card against aggro especially go-wide, where stopping one turn of pressure is actually valuable, or for for Green decks against other Green decks with a lot of similar statlines, but consider it a low D that I’m never looking to maindeck.
I think this card is worse than it looks. One-sided fog has a lot of potential upside but it is very situational. This is the type of card that sits in your hand until you have a few creatures on the board and you need to attack through some blockers or defend against an attack. But, what if that scenario doesn’t present itself? Then you are left holding a 3 mana Fog and wondering why wizards didn’t grant this particular card Cycling. I also think this card will get countered pretty hard by removal spells. That key stack block/prevented trade you were hoping to negate can easily get shut down if your opponent can interact with your creatures before it resolves. In Eldraine blocking didn’t tend to happen until both players had untapped lands due to all of the playable combat tricks. I think this format is going to have a similar dynamic. I still like Thwart the Enemy as a one of in a lot of decks but it is important to consider the limitations of this effect.
9 mana is incredibly hard to reach for most decks, so you’ll end up cycling this card really a ton, and as I state in the mechanics section (I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but it’s important!), Cycling has some real costs, and trample is too weak an ability to really alleviate those. That being said, there’s a lot of ramp in Green, and that gives me higher hopes for this card, and I don’t think running 1 is unreasonable in many decks; it does get significantly better if you have Trample payoffs like Hornbash Mentor and Monstrous Step. I would caution against taking this card highly; your deck does need to have some synergy with it, and you’ll rarely want more than 1.
Look, nine mana is a lot. 11/11 Trample is a safe bet to win you the game if you can resolve it, though.
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate
Vivien generates free value with her static ability, protects herself in an absurd way even stopping fliers in their tracks, and has a powerful minus that can quickly overwhelm your opponent if she lives just one turn, and which the static helps enable. Make no mistake, she stands with the mythic planeswalkers of old on how absurd she is in Limited.
An experimental frenzy for creatures that shoots out free 3/3’s that protect itself every turn? Yes, please. 4 starting loyalty is Vivien’s weakness so take care to be in a position to protect it when you play it. In one of my drafts in the streamer event today I was able to kill her twice in the same game (it was in a Golgari recursion deck) with my flying/bounce/tap-down effects and win the game. But ultimately Vivien needs to get answered immediately or the game is over.
There are few enough targets that I would never be happy to main this (playing cards to cycle them 90% of the time has downsides I’ve been over a lot, especially when they cost 2), but there are a couple of high value ones at common & uncommon, so I could see it as a 23rd card in some decks. I would take the first copy of this over most Ds in best-of-three, since it’s a good sideboard card.
Poor Green, having to shoulder the burden of all of these sideboard cards.
Green has a surprising number of good removal options this set, and it is clearly the flagship mutate colour; while other colours can have mutate-based decks, Green offers many of the best ones and good support for them. That being said, I don’t expect Green to be one of the best colours for a few reasons:
a) it has the Mutate creatures, but not good fodder. It will have to rely on colours like Red which have stuff like Forbidden Friendship or on picking up Farfinders a lot (and Farfinder is going to be drafted aggressively, because it’s great at everything it does). The set isn’t heavy on that in general, and every Mutate card is hurt by this; it’s an inherently risky strategy because there aren’t many cards that recoup the loss in card advantage.
b) The fixing is good enough that every colour can splash; there’s less reason to go into Green. Don’t prioritise fixing too much when you are in Green, it should mostly just come to you since there’s so much of it. That being said, always remember that you need it if you’re trying to splash, and in pack 3 if you don’t have it, you really need to rectify that.
c) The awkward slow value role which Green inhabits is better done by Blue and Black, which have overall much higher power level cards. The answer to this is to focus on your midrange pressure, attack well, and sneak through as much damage as you can.
That being said, I don’t think Green is a bad colour by any means either, and it may just overwhelm Blue and Black by having an endless stream of large creatures that it can cycle away early, or by sneaking through enough Trample damage on its solid midrange beatdown plan. I still recommend, especially with the advent of human drafts, that people just draft what’s open (I explain what that means in my first very article for the site which you can find here). It’s worth being cognisant of what the colours need to succeed, and hopefully I’ve made that clear, but really don’t worry about colour ranking too much!
I am really liking a lot of the stuff Green has to offer. The clearest themes are Ramp/Mutate and there are some truly excellent commons here. I am most interested in exploiting mutation with this color, and there is some serious curve out potential with cards like Essence Symbiote. In terms of individual card power level Green is probably in the middle of the pack, but I think it is going to end up being played frequently due to how well Green can partner with other colors. 3+ color decks at the very least are going to need to include Green to open up mana fixing options unless they find multiple copies of Farfinder and/or tapped lands. But more on that tomorrow when we tackle Multicolor/Artifacts/Lands!