The preview season for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020 has officially kicked off today, and we have quickly been overloaded with new cards, cosmetics and mechanics to get our heads around over the weekend as Wizards of the Coast is cramming it all in 10 days! Each day, we will be rounding up all the spoiled cards in chronological order with a brief review on each card according to the schedule. Remember, you can always check out the most up to date card gallery right here.
In the first day of previews, we have already seen a lot of what the set has to offer – from the new mechanics Mutate, Companion, keyword counters and the return of Cycling, Mythic Rare Apex Beast cycle, to all the Godzilla Series alternative art being revealed.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters
The official Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Trailer was the first thing that was shown to the world during the Announcement Stream, which everybody should definitely check out! The cinematic showed Vivien, one of the central characters of the expansion, fending off large monsters in the new world of Ikoria. At the end, we are shown Godzilla, King of the Monsters.
It should go without saying that this card is not part of the main set, but a promotional Godzilla Series card that Wizards of the Coast has partnered with Toho International to bring to Magic: The Gathering products. You can think of these as “skins” to the original card, and the card name is shown underneath – for this particular one, it is Zilortha, Strength Incarnate. We will go into further below!
Vivien returns in Ikoria as one of the central characters, as we have seen in the trailer. She can be obtained via the preorder bundle, available now until the set release on April 16. We still do not have a way to obtain the Planeswalker Showcase cards from Theros Beyond Death, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for these to be available on MTG Arena anytime soon. As for the card itself – she’s no Nissa, and seems fair enough for 5 mana providing a defensive body on arrival and an Experimenal Frenzy passive effect. The tutoring effect absolutely cannot be underestimated if you know the history of older cards such as Green Sun’s Zenith or Birthing Pod.
Lukka is a new character to the Magic: The Gathering World, and like Vivien can be obtained as part of the preorder bundle. Another creature based planeswalker, and simiar to Vivien, the -2 loyalty ability looks quite powerful at first glance though it is more random similar to the Cascade mechanic. I really like the flavor of commanding your beasts to charge at your opponent!
Lots more strange beasts to come, including this Nightmare Pangolin creature type…
Keruga and Lutri are two of the ten legendary creature cards featuring the new Companion mechanic! These cards were first revealed in the Announcement Stream, but this unique mechanic has been explained further in the DailyMTG mechanic article. Essentially, if your starting deck follows the Companion rule, then the legendary creature can serve as your chosen companion on the side – similar to how Brawl Commanders work. Make sure to check out the link above and read more about how it works!
Interesting enough, this will have implications on other formats. Lutri was preemptively banned from the Commander format before it was even released because its requirements are are naturally achieved in a singleton format. It will also be a challenge to make it work in Limited formats, and it will surely be rewarding if you are able to do so and increase the power level of your deck.
The “build your monsters” motto alludes to the new Mutate mechanic. You are stacking the cards on top or bottom of each other for their Mutate cost and inheriting their abilities – essentially merging them together! Another seemingly complex mechanic, Matt Tabak explains this in more detail in the article above. MTG Arena obviously will make this much more intuitive. Similar to Adventure cards in Throne of Eldraine, we will have special Showcase card styles for Mutate cards.
Keyword counters, as the name suggests give abilities to permanents (mostly creatures) like how a +1/+1 counter works. In MTG Arena, tracking this is trivial but in paper we get punch-out counters to represent these keywords. Judging by what we see in the image provided, we can expect the evergreen ones that we are all familiar with.
Cycling returns, and we can expect it to have other bonuses for cycling them as we will see more of below.
Illuna, Apex of Wishes / Ghidorah, King of the Cosmos
Illuna is one of the legendary creatures in the Apex cycle of Mythic Rares, and each represents a tri-color “wedge”. Each card also has its Showcase card, and a Godzilla Series card. Illuna is represented by Ghidorah, as shown above. Seeing a big 5 mana creature automatically makes me think of Fires of Invention, and its ability also bypasses the two spell rule imposed by it.
Luminous Broodmoth / Mothra, Supersonic Queen
Another Mythic rare reveal from the Debut Stream, people have rightly seen the interaction with Uro and Kroxa as they can keep looping back and forth. Kroxa will actually eventually killing your opponent, whereas Uro will deck yourself so will need a way to stop the loop. Unlike with Hushbringer, this might actually see play because of the potential to go “infinite”.
Void Beckoner / Spacegodzilla, Void Invader
Here’s an interesting story with this card, other than being a great limited card that features both mechanics of the set in one card that can be used as a combat trick or a late game finisher. Its Godzilla Series card was unfortunately initially called Spacegodzilla, Death Corona, named after one of its abilities Corona Beam and made it past the first printing cycle and will be distributed as such. In MTG Arena, it will be renamed to Spacegodzilla, Void Invader.
Gigan, Cyberclaw Terror / Gigan, Cyberclaw Terror
A pretty harsh deck building restriction here, and looks more like a fun card than anything.
Reprints: Pacifism and Essence Scatter
Essence Scatter makes its way back to Standard and is likely the best art depicting it!
Vadrok, Apex of Thunder / Rodan, Titan of Winged Fury
The third Apex to be revealed, and a little bit more cost efficient. It does not deviate too far from being a Jeskai flavored card, and being able to recast a spell for no mana seems like a very powerful ability.
Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt / King Caesar, Awoken Titan
Snapdax is an exciting Mythic dinosaur that combines a solid 3/5 double strike body with a powerful removal spell and pseudo-haste if mutated, which only costs 1 more mana and can lead to some pretty absurd swings!
Titanoth Rex / Godzilla, Primeval Champion
Godzilla, Primeval Champion is the Godzilla Series Monster version of Titanoth Rex. This card’s limited playability really depends on how much ramp there is in the set since 9 drops aren’t usually castable in Draft, and the card’s power really hinges on that since Cycle + give something Trample isn’t worth 2 mana in most decks. Perhaps we’re just meant to feast our eyes on this art, which evokes old Godzilla movies fantastically!
Pollywog Symbiote / Babygodzilla, Ruin Reborn
Babygodzilla, Ruin Reborn is the Godzilla Series Monster version of Pollywod Symbiote. It looks to be a solid 2 drop for decks with plenty of Mutate cards in both Limited and Constructed; it has double synergy with Mutate in that it is a fine card to be Mutated itself after it has made your spells cheaper. 1/3 is a solid body for being a roadblock against most Standard aggro decks too!
Umori, the Collector
Umori is a rare Ooze with another interesting Companion stipulation. This is a pretty harsh Stipulation to have to abide by, but we could see Umori crop up in some all artifacts or enchantment decks, or just be a fine maindeck inclusion in Ramp decks that don’t want to try to Companion him but want their giant payoffs to cost less while playing a 4 mana 4/5! The ability to name whatever you want makes it a pretty versatile card; I suspect this will be played more standalone than as a Companion.
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos, eat your heart out! We get access to a premier uncommon for Limited, and still a potentially decent card in Constructed (especially Artisan, but perhaps Standard too!) in Grimdancer, which allows you to pick the two abilities that are best for the situation you’re in on arrival! In the later game, you’re often going to want to go for deathtouch, if you’re being beaten down then you’ll want lifelink, and if you’re the one beating down then you’ll want menace! Simple enough, but having so many choices and all of them good makes this a very solid card.
Gem Destroyer / Anguirus, Armored Beast
Anguirus, Armored Beast 3G
Creature – Beast (Rare)
Whenever this creature mutates, destroy target artifact or enchantment an opponent controls.
Anguirus, Armored Beast is the Godzilla Series Monster version of Destroyer of Gems. This is a powerful uncommon for both Limited and Constructed, mutating at a very cheap cost and granting a lot of stats on a pseudohaste body in return! If you mutate and your opponent doesn’t immediately kill it, they risk having one of their artifacts/enchantments removed immediately. I suspect that if Standard Green Stompy decks are happy to run good Mutation fodder, Destroyer will have a home in them for a long time (and it’s straight nuts in Limited).
Sprite Dragon / Dorat, the Perfect Pet
While personally I don’t think this has enough cat in it to be “The Perfect Pet”, it is a strong contender! This sweet dragon looks to be an upgraded version of Stormchaser Mage, a card that has seen sporadic multi-format play. It’s not all upside since you are now vulnerable to 1 damage effects/Shocks, but this is a fantastic card for Constructed, and obviously a really solid card in Limited too.
Brokkos, Apex of Forever / Bio-Quartz Spacegodzilla
Bioquartz Space-Godzilla is the Godzilla Series Monster version of Brokkos, Apex of Forever. Brokkos has a huge body, but the real value is in its repeatable graveyard recursion ability which allows you to transform any creature you have in play into a 6/6 Trample over and over, and keep its abilities. In decks with lots of tokens or disposable creatures, this is super valuable, but even making your Risen Reefs into huge threats in the late game is a good place to be!
Kogla, the Titan Ape
Not at all a subtle King Kong reference, this card looks like Feasting Troll King version 2: Unlikely to see competitive constructed play but another green creature to add to our collection to use one day. It tries to get value when it comes into play and when it attacks – and it does not have to connect to the opposing player! The third ability is the more interesting one, asking you to play other Humans to protect itself.
Rest of the Godzilla Series Cards
And then we have the rest of the Godzilla Series cards revealed by mtg-jp.com. We have the rough translation for these cards in the respective pages – use the links below (from top to bottom):
- Huntmaster Liger / King Caesar, Ancient Guardian: Already known card.
- Eternal Phoenix / Destroyah, Perfect Lifeform: A more tame version of Rekindling Phoenix – it’s hard to evaluate the mutate ability accurately at the moment, but it could be comparable since the mechanic gives your other creatures pseudo-haste.
- The Wandering Monster Idaro / Godzilla, The Inescapable Catastrophe: A build around card, though I wish it would count as a spell when you cycle it so it can go into Izzet Phoenix decks!
- Nethroi, Apex of Death / Biollante, Vegetation Form: Could be an alternative to Korvold in Abzan Sacrifice decks.
- Mothra’s Giant Coccoon: Not sure what to make of this card, are we really expecting to mutate a lot?
- Keika Bat / Battra, the Dark Destruction Beast: Another catch-all but expensive black removal spell that also comes with a formidable body.
- Crystal Giant / Mechagodzilla: A solid card that reminds us of Kunoros, Hound of Athreos which does not see play except this can go in any deck. Would any of the aggro decks want this?
A perfect duet with Stormfist Crusader, which makes combat very difficult for the defending player. Looking at Standard now, this might not do much in the current metagame but only time will tell.