Top Mythic Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Standard Decks & Metagame Breakdown – April 2020 Season Week 4
Ikoria’s in full swing and we’ve now been Companion-jousting for a whole two weeks! Last week, it seemed as though Lurrus was going to crush all comers but the meta has now presented plenty of challengers, both old and new, to Emperor Kitty’s throne and one of them seems to have snatched it out from under him! Moving the cat off your chair so you can sit down is quite the faux pas among cat owners, so we might see him throw quite the furniture-scratching hissy fit next week…
Our data this week comes chiefly from tournaments: the Standard Metagame Challenge, the fiercest competition we’ve seen as of yet, and the ongoing MagicFest Online Qualifiers. As usual we’ve provided a full metagame update below, but you can click here to skip to the decklists if you want to see those right away!
Check out last week’s update & decks!
Lurrus Sacrifice Decks
Let’s start with Emperor Kitty since he’s always on everyone’s minds these days anyway, and people are directly building around and protecting him a lot more this week rather than just having him as an amazing 2-for-0 value card. Last week, we saw him redefine Cat Oven by, well, adding more cats, but this week we see him be more willing to venture into the Ovens himself, with Kaya’s Ghostform there to protect him. T4 Lurrus + Ghostform is a devastating combo since it counters the first removal spell used on Lurrus each turn (exiling doesn’t work either) in a repeated fashion, because you just re-attach the Ghostform using Lurrus’s ability on your turn (I wonder if putting “permanent” instead of “creature” on Lurrus might’ve been just a teensy bit of a mistake…). It also gives him free attacks and puts that decent lifelink body to good use – if they block and knock the Ghostform off, you can just use Lurrus’s ability a second time main phase 2 (yes, that is legal!) to attach it again or to get something else back. With Oven and Ghostform, you can get a free food token off him each turn too, since you’re just getting a free activation when he comes back anyway. Should they actually have two removal spells and get through all that, the lists this week are running more copies of Call of the Death-Dweller so the Cat Nightmare never truly stays dead!
Rakdos and Mono Black Lurrus mostly look the same apart from the Ghostform tech and some more Acts of Treason (no doubt to combat the midrange creature decks we’ll see later on), but the Orzhov Lurrus deck is a really interesting development, choosing to use Alseid of Life’s Bounty to fill the Ghostform’s role (it won’t let you bring stuff back twice per turn, but it will protect your other stuff, be a reasonable card without Lurrus, and give you lifegain triggers for Pridemate/allow them to attack for lethal out of nowhere) and have Ajani’s Pridemate as a giant recursive threat. We may well see Orzhov be the best place for Emperor Kitty when all is said and done. Lurrus might’ve lost out to some other decks this week but his decks evolve each week, and I fear the Cat-astrophe isn’t close to being over in Standard either… still I am glad that the metagame is looking healthier this week and it looks like the Catpanion may be merely very good rather than taking over this particular format!
Fires of Invention – Keruga, Kaheera, or Yorion?
Kenrith is really giving Aragorn a run for his money at this point; the Return of the King Yet Again doesn’t quite have the same ring to it! Fires of Invention is proving once again that savagely cheating on mana while having great control tools and busted midgame turns all adds up to a whole lot of winning, as various Fires decks absolutely conquered the Standard Metagame Challenge.
As the title gives away, there are three Companions vying for position right now as Fires’ best friend:
So far the dreaded Dinosaur Hippo is still winning (not words I thought I’d be saying last month!); ease of adoption goes a long way since there are basically no costs to having her, you just get to do whatever you want anyway since Adventures are busted with her. Jeskai Keruga had the best results at the Challenge, and is likely the best deck in Standard right now; check out my guide here!
Delmo best evoked the Spirit of Invention, taking Gruul Kaheera Fires to 7 wins at the Standard Metagame Challenge, a deck mostly eschewing 3 drops thanks to one of Companions’ greatest advantages: the guaranteed curve play. This deck used that advantage to morph Gruul into a much more midrangey deck, abusing Fires best by running millions of 5 drops while retaining the advantage of always having a 3 drop on turn 3 to attack with and buff your other stuff, as Gruul beatdown is very interested in doing. We see Delmo attack other Fires decks, Wilderness Reclamation, and those pesky Ovens with his suite of Enchantment and Artifact hate, including both Thrashing Brontodon and Gemrazer, and clearly that paid dividends for him in a big way!
Yorion Fires is still finding its feet, it would seem. There were several 4-colour planeswalker builds that did well at the MagicFest Online Qualifiers, but it was mostly absent from the Metagame Challenge. That being said, I still have high hopes for it; I believe of the three, it’s the worst deck for Fires of Invention since you’re far less likely to draw the namesake card, but it has the most space to do whatever it wants, and Yorion is such a strong card that whatever it wants is going to be pretty powerful. One major advantage is in your ability to run the classic Fae of Wishes-Fires combo, something Keruga prohibits. I expect to see it more once builds of it are a bit more refined; building an 80-card deck is certainly harder than a 60, since there’s a lot of wacky stuff it might be right to play at that point.
That being said, it’s not as though Yorion hasn’t been making his mark in a different way…
Bant Yorion Ramp
Well, the Nissa-Krasis Ramp decks really are ones you can never count out, as much as you might want to, but I’m happy to report that they’re at their most interesting in a long time! Yorion forcing you to run 80 cards means there’s a lot of cool fringe stuff you can now find room for, like Tamiyo, an excellent grind engine that’s busted with Uro, loves to be flickered, and has some sweet upside against Priest of the Forgotten Gods. The new Bant decks emphasise glacial; having 80 cards means that decking is very much on the table, especially against Control decks and other Ramp decks, so they eschew big over-the-top answers for more all-round solid value cards and removal options – which makes them better than ever against Aggro and Lurrus, where they used to be iffy. Settle in for those 40 minute mirrors if you plan to play this deck!
With the King’s return, so too must the Usurper, the Villain, the Big Bad… I might’ve discussed a lot of other decks first, but the new Reclamation decks are incredibly strong; it makes sense that Fires’s rising tide would raise its archnemesis and notoriously bad matchup also. Still, perhaps Emperor Kitty will save us, because Reclamation is much worse than Fires against aggro/drain! This is perhaps the best Uro deck in the format, since it relies on the card so much to give it longevity in those matchups. The adoption of Shark Typhoon means that it can go over decks like Fires in a big way; Fires + Typhoon means you don’t have to tap out the turn you slam it, and you can immediately begin to generate giant Shark tokens. It also serves as an answer to Teferi, ambushing it and sometimes meaning you don’t even have to counter it. In turn, this makes the deck much less reliant on Expansion//Explosion but even more reliant on Wilderness Reclamation – it’s more important than ever to have those Elspeth Conquers Deaths and other Enchantment hate for the opposing side. We could see Fires adopting more copies of that card/Mystical Disputes to try to mitigate its disadvantages in this matchup; we’ll see how that shakes out.
I suspect Reclamation would be being played more if more people had practice with it, so get out there and claim your advantage!
Why are Companions so Good?
I see a lot of people saying Companions are so powerful because they’re an eighth card in your hand and, while that sounds good, I think that is actually majorly underselling them. In my Lurrus paragraph, you can see that the decks this week have been heavily abusing the fact that he’s a guaranteed play every game; that’s where much of the strength of every Companion lies. If you build your deck to have tons of cards that are great to flicker, Yorion is going to be much better in it than just a random eighth card in your hand would be – let’s say you’re resetting a planeswalker or casting extra spells with Fires, or just drawing a card off Fblthp, that’s truly terrifying amounts of value that the 8th card in your hand wouldn’t necessarily give. As we saw with Kaheera, you don’t need that many 3 drops in Gruul with her anymore, and that’s a massive advantage because you can focus on other areas of your curve and lose nothing. With Keruga, well you just get a bunch of extra cards for free, usually at least 1 or 2, so Keruga isn’t just an 8th card in hand there either; for extra value, you can throw more 3+ CMC permanents into your deck, prioritise cards that stick around to guarantee the draw, and eschew spells and other stuff that won’t trigger her. Building around Companions is where the future of Standard lies, and I expect the decks that best abuse them to be the best ones in the coming weeks, so get out there and get building with that in mind!
And there’s more…
There are many other cards that fit into existing archetypes, create new ones or even resurrect old ones. Some examples include:
- We’re seeing Esper lists at high mythic looking to best abuse Yorion’s Flicker with the classic Thassa/Agent of Treachery combo; they very much resemble the old Azorius Flicker lists pioneered by folks like Martin Juza, but clearly being 80 cards has taken its toll and forced people to run a third colour, though perhaps they would’ve wanted to for that Oath of Kaya + Yorion flicker action anyway!
- Obosh vs Lurrus is an ongoing battle of Sacrifice decks that Lurrus has been winning but perhaps not for long… Obosh allows you to run Mayhem Devil in Rakdos and gives it deadly double damage pings, Rotting Regisaur or Woe Strider wherever, and makes your Serrated Scorpion and other direct damage sources all the more terrifying (EDIT: not Cauldron Familiar since that’s life loss rather than damage!).
- Dimir Flash, like Reclamation, has been looking to prey upon the uptick in Fires decks with its great pressure backed up by cheap disruption. I suspect the deck is too bad against the Sacrifice decks to be amazing in the meta, but certainly it will savage some best-of-three queues.
- Andrea Mengucci’s sweet Umori Mutate brew ramps out Illuna and Auspicious Starrix to fill the board and make future Mutates more and more terrifying; an effect we’ve seen in Limited a lot already. This is a deck that’s great against those that don’t have lots of unconditional removal/cards like Elspeth Conquers Death, and really bad against those who do, so we’ll have to see how the meta shakes up to see how real a force it will be!
Tune in for our ongoing MagicFest Online coverage! We have breakdowns of the hundreds of decklists each event presents us as they come out.
MTG Arena Mythic Standard Decks of the Week
Here are the full list of known Mythic decks over the past week shared by the players, sorted by the deck archetype name with their highest placement noted (if known). You can also view all of these decks in our Standard deck section.
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This column is our weekly roundup of Standard and Historic decks players are using to climb the ranked ladder on MTG Arena! Our goal is to curate and post a variety of deck archetypes and interesting card choices at the end of each week to help you keep up to date with the latest trends in the metagame. If you have any decks you want featured, please tweet us at @mtgazone or give us a shout at our Discord.