Predicting MTG Arena Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Meta


by in Magic: The Gathering Arena | Apr, 17th 2020

Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, the next MTG Arena expansion, is very heavily slanted towards three-color decks, as a “Wedge” expansion. So, with that in mind, the expansion could shake up the meta with some new decks that we haven’t seen in a while. Is that likely? I’m not 100 percent sure! But this week, we’re going to pick a few decks that are coming up to see how they’ll change, and predict some fun decks that could be strong in this new meta!

Some of these decks are going to be familiar, or at least, the color combinations will. Temur’s going nowhere, but I think it will drift away from Wilderness Reclamation, and instead, lean towards other cards like Song of Creation. There are some deck archetypes that I’m very curious about, like Selenesnya Vigilance, where none of your creatures tap to attack (or as few as possible), and punish people for daring to stand against you. I’m very excited about this expansion! If this article gets out before Wednesday, then feel free to check out my livestream over on Twitch, where I’m going to be playing some of these decks, doing some drafts, and just hanging out.

Without further ado, let’s get into the card games! As of this writing, the expansion is brand new, so there’s a lot to see. We’ll find out how it shapes up, but let’s predict some fun decks for IKO!

Temur Song of Creation (Blue/Green/Red Combo/Mid-Range)

Temur Reclamation was fun, but it was reliant on one card to get the win. You bait and control until you can blast someone down in one or two shots. That’s a neat idea, but this one? I like this way more. This deck is built around more mana ramp than your body has room for, and swinging with a gigantic creature at the last second. It also runs Fae of Wishes! With Fae of Wishes, you want to have as varied and annoying a sideboard as you can.

The MTG Arena meta is going to shake up with Ikoria, and there are a lot of new cards that are terrific in the sideboard. We also have three-colored lands now! They also count as “Basic Lands”, so I imagine they can be fetched for in other metas/modes of play. But our sideboard, it has incredible, frustrating cards, including one of my favorite ways to win! This deck runs the Cavalier of Thorns+Thassa’s Oracle combo, meaning we’re going to mill ourselves down very hard. Then all you have to do is sneak out a Jace at the very end, and mill yourself out to win the game! That’s why he’s hiding in the sideboard.

Sure, it’s nice to give your 20/20 Beanstalk Giant Flying and Trample, but why swing if you don’t have to? I also want to find room in the sideboard, as an aside, for Colossification, just for that win-con.

How Should It Work?

So, Temur Song is built around a few very important cards. We use Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Song of Creation, Fertile Footsteps, and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath to ramp as much mana as possible. With at least one Song and Dryad in play, you get to play three lands a turn. Then you use Uro to play/draw extra cards, and Beanstalk Giant’s Adventure to pull more lands too. That’s so much mana! Simic isn’t the only deck in the MTG Arena meta to mana ramp, even in Ikoria!

We only have one new ramp card, but it’s enough. Song of Creation lets you play an additional land on each of your turns, and anytime you cast a spell, you draw two cards. During your end step though, you discard your hand. So you better make them all count! So what do you do about those cards constantly falling into your grave? That’s where your Sideboard comes into play. Underworld Breach is here to cast cards from the grave, for example.

Then you have Tamiyo, Collector of Tales to pull direct cards from your graveyard back to your hand. Those are your two “get stuff from the grave” cards. Ideally, though, you’re going to be putting all those lands into play (untapped), and then play all the spells you have/need. Then you put the extra stuff into the grave at the end of your turn. So, what’s our real win con?

The first win-con is Beanstalk Giant. It has X/X where X is the number of lands your control. So that’s a cap of 27. It doesn’t have trample or anything though, so we need a way to fix that. Enter the new Mutate keyword! Illuna, Apex of Wishes is one of the new legendary creatures with Mutate. When you attach it to a creature, it gains both Flying and Trample. Whenever this creature Mutates, you exile cards from the top of your library, until your exile a nonland permanent. You can then put it onto the battlefield, or into your hand. That’s the great thing about this deck; we aren’t running spells in the mainboard! This is an all-permanent deck. Well, we’re running one spell in the mainboard. . .

So, you build up your collection of lands and constantly draw. Or you cast Genesis Ultimatum, the one spell in the main deck! With this three-color spell, you look at the top five cards of your library. Then you put any permanents there in play that you want, and the rest goes to your hand. Then exile Genesis Ultimatum.

Thanks to only running that one spell, every other card in the mainboard is permanent! You could draw five lands there, and put them all into play without any consequences. So that’s one way to win: lots of lands, Beanstalk Giant, mutate Illuna onto it and swing lethal. You can also bring an Embercleave from the sideboard to make it even better. But there’s another way.

You have Thassa’s Oracle to bounce your Cavalier of Thorns every turn. That lets you put a land from the top of your deck into play and the rest of the cards go to the grave. You keep doing this, and then towards the end, Fae of Wishes Jace, Wielder of Mysteries from the sideboard, and put it into play. Then simply mill yourself out and win! Your opponent loses, and there’s nothing they can do about it. These are both efficient ways to win, and you know me by now – having more than one win con is a pleasure for me.

MTG Arena Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Key Cards

This deck doesn’t use a ton of new cards, but the ones we are using are very potent. I’m also going to do something I seldom do: highland a basic land! So to speak, anyway. So I’m going to look at these new cards, and what they bring to the deck.

Ketria Triome (Rare Land – Forest, Island, Mountain): I can’t remember the last time we saw triple lands. I think the last ones I truly remember were the ones from Homelands when I was in high school. There could have been more since, but that’s what I remember. So, now we have these Triomes for each of the triple color factions. This one is Green/Blue/Red! It comes into play tapped, which is fine, but it’s also got Cycling (for 3 colorless mana) if that’s what you want. But what makes it so great, is that you can tap for any of the three colors. It doesn’t “thin the deck” out, but simply gives you more options. If you could drop this turn one, it’s the most ideal land drop. So turn two and on, you have at least one of any color you need. I’m glad to see these Triomes.

Genesis Ultimatum (7-Cost Green/Blue/Red Rare Spell – Sorcery): This is such a good Ultimatum. This is a card that’s going to see play in a variety of metas, I think. You get to look at the top five cards of your deck and put any permanents you see into play, or into your hand. Are you running a bunch of 8/10 cost nonsense? Put them into play! Now sure, you can’t mutate that way, and you can’t use effects that trigger off casting, because this “puts it into play”. This is how you get four Beanstalk Giants in play if you got that lucky. For your Mutate cards, your Fae of Wishes, Brazen Borrower, stuff like that, you put them into your hand instead, so you cast them as spells later.

Song of Creation (4-Cost Green/Blue/Red Enchantment): I was torn between this or Illuna, but I see this being far more impactful in terms of getting the board state how you want it. Song of Creation lets you play an extra land a turn for each copy of it in play, and lets you draw more cards for casting spells. However, you have to discard your hand at the end of each turn. Ideally, this will thin the lands our of your deck, so you can play them, alongside Dryad of the Illysian Grove (so you can play at least two more lands a turn). This can make alternate win conditions much easier too, with Jace.

Temur Song of Creation Decklist

2 Genesis Ultimatum (IKO) 189

3 Fae of Wishes (ELD) 44

2 Cavalier of Thorns (M20) 167

3 Forest (THB) 287

3 Island (THB) 281

3 Mountain (THB) 285

2 Temple of Abandon (THB) 244

4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259

4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257

4 Breeding Pool (RNA) 246

3 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (THB) 229

4 Beanstalk Giant (ELD) 149

4 Ketria Triome (IKO) 250

4 Song of Creation (IKO) 210

3 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove (THB) 169

4 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115

4 Brazen Borrower (ELD) 39

2 Thassa’s Oracle (THB) 73

2 Illuna, Apex of Wishes (IKO) 190

1 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries (WAR) 54

1 Underworld Breach (THB) 161

1 Escape to the Wilds (ELD) 189

1 Genesis Ultimatum (IKO) 189

1 Disdainful Stroke (GRN) 37

1 Negate (M20) 69

1 Mythos of Illuna (IKO) 318

1 Domri’s Ambush (WAR) 192

1 Ashiok, Dream Render (WAR) 228

1 Flood of Tears (M20) 59

1 Embercleave (ELD) 120

1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales (WAR) 220

1 Barrier Breach (IKO) 145

1 Planewide Celebration (WAR) 172

1 Mass Manipulation (RNA) 42

Final Thoughts

I think that Temur Song could be a Tier 1 or 2 deck in the coming meta update with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths in MTG Arena. I love how flexible the sideboard is too. If your opponent is running graveyard retrieval, you have a sneaky Ashiok, Dream Render. You have Mass Manipulation to start stealing things, Planetwide Celebration to bring permanents back from the grave/gaining life. You have counterspells, a card for almost any situation. This is a clever deck that, even if the other players get rid of one strategy, you have a back-up, and can bring stuff back from the grave to keep yourself ahead. You can bring tons of mana into play, and just cackle as your Giant swings with Trample, Flying, and Double Strike. Ka. Bam.

Abzan Graveyard (White/Black/Green Midrange/Combo)

I know this is the second “mid-range” deck in a row, but that seems like it’s going to be pretty popular with the new decks. Abzan Graveyard wasn’t “new” before, but it is getting a new lease on life with some of these cards. In fact, 19 of the main non-land cards are new, shiny Ikoria cards! Some of the ones I highlighted previously during the spoilers, that I was excited to see, are making a debut in a deck. That’s exciting! This is a deck that is never really out of the running, as long as cards are falling into the grave.

One of the things I pointed out previously as well, is that I like decks that aren’t hinged on just one card. Could Lotleth Giant be our win condition? Oh yes. Mill forever, until we have one in the grave, and then keep a Blood for Bones to bring it back. Or play one normally, sacrifice it with Blood for Bones, while you have Luminous Broodmoth in play. We’ll get to that though. This deck runs some wild cards and looks like it will be very expensive to build in real life.

That’s another reason to love MTG Arena though! Let’s get started! Don’t forget to bring a shovel, we’re going grave digging today.

How Should It Work?

The main win-condition feels like it will be finding cheap, annoying ways to get Lotleth Giant into play more than once. We have so many ways to make that happen too. If you’re worried about it going into the graveyard early, don’t be! Let’s consider the ways we have to bring cards back:

  • Death’s Oasis (Molderhulk dies – goes to hand)
  • Boneyard Lurker (when Mutating – goes to hand)
  • Nethroi, Apex of Death (when Mutating – returns to play)
  • Blood for Bones (into hand or into play)
  • Eerie Ultimatum (any number of permanents come back with different names – returns to play)

So, you see? You have options! That’s not even including bringing it back from death, or finding it in your deck and bringing it to life that way! So let’s talk about that part first. Fiend Artisan is one of these shiny new cards and is essentially a new ‘Goyf. The Fiend Artisan gains +1/+1 for each creature in our grave, and we have so many ways to put them there. You can pay X Colorless + 1 Black or Green, and tap it and sacrifice a creature. Then you go to your library, find a creature with that X cost or less, and put it into play.

So, if you have 8 mana free, and a creature to sacrifice, you can just go to your deck and play Lotleth Giant! Why’s he so darn great though? When he comes into play, you deal 1 damage for each creature card in your graveyard. If you play Lotleth this way, with Luminous Broodmoth in play, I want to get back to that. When creatures you control die, that doesn’t have flying, they return to play with a flying counter if the Broodmoth is in play. So you play Lotleth when you’re close to winning. Use Fiend Artisan’s ability, or Blood for Bones (sacrifice a creature), or Vraska, Golgari Queen (sacrifice a creature ability), and it just comes back again, and triggers once again!

Boom. The game’s over, and you win! You can win by swinging ith Netroi, Lotleth, and Fiend Artisan if you want. But why do it if you don’t have to? Nethroi, Apex of Death is another card I want to look at though. Whenever this Deathtouch/Lifelink creature Mutates, you return any number of creature cards to the battlefield, with a total of power 10 or less. So you can mutate Nethroi, and just bring back Lotleth!

So, you might be asking “How can we put creatures in the grave to do all these annoying shenanigans?” and take heart, my friend. That’s what we’re going to discuss now. Virtually every permanent seems to do that. Skull Prophet is a Mana Dork that you can also tap to put cards in the graveyard. Gorging Vulture puts 4 cards of your deck in the grave, but gives you 1 life per creature that goes this way. Mire Triton mills the top two cards of your deck and gives you life.

So, you see, you have so many options. Oh! There’s also Woe Strider to sacrifice creatures, to bring them back with Broodmother! If you want, just build up an army of Flyers if your opponent has none, and swing out that way. There are so many choices! Make sure you can get that Eerie Ultimatum in hand if possible. It’s not a must-have, but boy does it make things fun! That’s how you pull a ton of creatures back into play easily, without muss or fuss. I’d only use that when it’s time to win the game, or if you want to just bring back Lotleth to win.

“The grave is no bar to my call.”The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan

MTG Arena Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Key Cards

This is one of those “we’re running so many Rares/Mythic Rares” in the main board. So, I’m sorry about that, but it isn’t going to be cheap to build. Especially with all those new Triple Lands. It’s almost like you have to dedicate yourself to one concept at a time unless you have plenty of Rare Wildcards stored. That aside, I think this deck will be a lot of fun to play and be satisfying to win with.

Fiend Artisan (2-Cost Black or Green Mythic Rare Creature – Nightmare): The beauty of the Fiend Artisan is that it’s Black or Green, so it can go in so many decks. It’s incredibly powerful, based on that alone. Being a 1/1 for 2 though, it has enemies (any Red deck, for example). But it also gains +1/+1 for each creature card in the graveyard, so you won’t want to play it without creatures in the grave. But what makes this card so darn good is its ability to fetch a creature out of your deck to put into play is nothing to sneeze at. It doesn’t let you use them as Mutation fodder, but likely still triggers those fun “enters the battlefield” abilities. Who are the most ideal cards to use this on? Luminous Broodmoth, Lotleth Giant (at the end of the game), or even another Fiend Artisan. Honestly, almost anything works here.

Luminous Broodmoth (4-Cost White Mythic Rare Creature – Insect): Oh, Mothra. You’re going to appear again in this blog, I promise. She’s very flexible, the Luminous Broodmoth, and as long as a creature has come into play, it can come back! As a ¾ with Flying, it’s already fantastic. Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s not legendary, so it can be in play multiple times if that’s your want. Whenever a creature you control without flying dies, you return it to the battlefield under its owner’s control, with a flying counter on it. So Molderhulk dies? Now it’s back, but a 6/6 Flyer! Nethroi, Apex of Death die? It comes back as a 5/5 Flying, Deathtouch, Lifelink! It’s ludicrous! This is mostly to help trigger your win-condition in a fun, uncontrollable victory kind of way. The only way this can be stopped is if Luminous Broodmoth dies before it’s time to win the game. But you’ll make sure that doesn’t happen. Hopefully. She exists in this deck to make sure things come back at least one more time. As a point of fact, if these creatures are brought back after this in some other fashion (Nethroi, Eerie Ultimatum, etc), and die again, Broodmoth will bring them back again, because that Flying Counter was gone upon death. Things just keep coming back.

Death’s Oasis (3-Cost White/Black/Green Enchantment): Death’s Oasis is another very fun way to mill cards, and put stuff back into your hand. It doesn’t put them into play, but it does give you the option to use creatures as a Mutation if such is your want. When a nontoken creature you control dies, you put the top two cards of your graveyard into your graveyard. From there, return a creature card with lesser converted mana cost than the creature that died, from the graveyard to your hand. So if Molderhulk dies, you can get a Lotleth from the grave, or Nethroi. Just a thought! Or you can pay 1 mana, sac Death’s Oasis, and gain life equal to the greatest converted mana cost among creatures you control. Best case, it’s 9 life back. That’s why we run two! Keep one in play, then sacrifice it at a crucial moment, and put the next one out!

Abzan Graveyard Decklist

1 Temple of Silence (M20) 256

4 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253

4 Godless Shrine (RNA) 248

4 Temple Garden (GRN) 258

1 Temple of Malady (M20) 254

1 Plains (THB) 279

2 Forest (THB) 287

2 Swamp (THB) 283

3 Molderhulk (GRN) 190

1 Eerie Ultimatum (IKO) 184

2 Lotleth Giant (GRN) 74

3 Nethroi, Apex of Death (IKO) 197

1 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241

2 Boneyard Lurker (IKO) 178

2 Vraska, Golgari Queen (GRN) 213

2 Luminous Broodmoth (IKO) 21

3 Blood for Bones (M20) 89

2 Death’s Oasis (IKO) 182

2 Gorging Vulture (M20) 102

2 Woe Strider (THB) 123

3 Skull Prophet (IKO) 206

4 Fiend Artisan (IKO) 220

4 Mire Triton (THB) 105

4 Indatha Triome (IKO) 248

1 Dirge Bat (IKO) 84

Final Thoughts

There might be other combos here I’m not seeing, too! I like the idea of the deck though, but of course, graveyard decks have serious things to stress about. You might have your graveyard exiled card by card (or all at once) for example. Or cards that prevent you from fetching from the graveyard, that’s another worry. The biggest one for me, is the game going on too long, and running out of cards because mill triggers keep going off. You have enough damage in this deck so that hopefully, that does not come to pass. We also have Molderhulk to help us get land cards that get milled away, so that’s another positive. It’s all about surviving until Lotleth, so keep that in mind! I think Black/White might be this deck’s biggest nightmare, thanks to Orzhov’s ability to get rid of our grave, and then punish us for it. But it’s all just theoretical for now!

Cycling in Some Flavor (Jeskai/Boros Cycling)

So, I’m sure there’s going to be Cycling in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. I know this. There are simply too many cards for it to not exist. But the question is: what flavor of Cycling deck will there be? Either way, it’s going to be built around Zenith Flare as one of your (if not your best) win condition. It deals damage to a target based on how many Cycling cards are in your graveyard. I feel like the most likely decks are going to be Jeskai (Blue/White/Red) or Boros (Red/White).

I feel like both decks have their pros and cons, so I’ll include an extra decklist for the Boros Aggro/Cycle deck. I just feel like three-color is going to be the way for the most part in the MTG Arena Ikoria meta. Only time will tell, as always. This is going to be a deck focused around building up those fun cycling cards and slowing the game down. Can we win without Zenith Flare? Oh yes. Shark Typhoon can do some fun things as well, or a late-game Rielle, the Everwise.

How Should It Work?

Most of the cards in this deck have some kind of synergy with your Cycle ability. For example, Flourishing Fox. This is a 1-drop that gains a +1/+1 counter every time you Cycle another card. It’s also got a Cycle cost of 1, and that’s going to make it plenty useful. Then we have Savai Thundermane that deals 2 damage to a creature anytime you Cycle a card (but you pay 2 mana for the privilege).

Maybe you’d rather make some tokens to block or attack with? Is that what you seek, friend? Valiant Rescuer is a white creature that when you Cycle a creature, you create a 1/1 white Human Soldier creature token.

Then there’s Drannith Stinger, which deals 1 damage to each opponent whenever you Cycle a card. If you get a few of these out in play at once and have control of the board, you can, in theory, hit someone for 4 damage anytime you Cycle a card. Just cycle those 1-drops, and laugh as you melt someone’s face. We have Neutralize and Brazen Borrower to also control the board, alongside Savai Thudnermane’s creature damage. In theory, you could win just with Drannith Stingers, with proper board control. We also have Shark Typhoon to reward you for casting non-creature spells, of which we do not have many. Shark Typhoon’s in the deck to make X/X Blue Flying Sharks thanks to (again) Cycling.

Our ultimate, easiest win condition belongs to Zenith Flare. This is, of course, bent on your opponent not exiling your graveyard. Zenith Flare hits for 4, and as an instant, can come up anytime, much like an RKO. Zenith Flare deals X damage to any target, and you gain X life, where X is the number of cards in your grave with a Cycling ability. That means you don’t have to “actually” cycle. They could have died, or been discarded! You can use it to kill planeswalkers or creatures, but the best use of it arguably is battering someone in the noggin with it to win.

Another alternate win condition in this deck is Ominous Seas. I’m so glad it’s only a two-drop, too. Whenever you draw a card with this in play, you put a foreshadow counter on Ominous Seas. Once you have 8, you can remove them to create an 8/8 blue Kraken creature token. Unsurprisingly enough, this card also has Cycle. As far as non-lands go, two cards don’t have Cycle in this deck. Brazen Borrower and Rielle, the Everwise!

This is a deck you take your time with, get those cheap creatures in play and take advantage of Cycling, or simply casting the spell and making sure you have Cycle cards in the graveyard. The hardest part of the deck, in my estimation, is knowing when to cast a spell, and when to Cycle. With Ominous Seas in play, that Cycling is going to play in though, since when you Cycle, you discard the card, and draw a new one. You could win without Zenith Flare, thanks to Flourishing Fox and Drannith Stingers being available. It would be a bit more of a slog, but it’s doable.

MTG Arena Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Key Cards

There are just so many ways to build this deck, but for the most part, I think there are three cards that are going to be in it no matter what, thanks to simply how much they do for this deck archetype. Zenith Flare makes the deck. We wouldn’t have a Cycling deck without it if you ask me. The best part is having the ability to cast it as an instant, too. But what helps us get that sweet win?

Drannith Stinger (2-Cost Common Red Creature – Human Wizard): Commons being viable? Oh yes. Ikoria has given us a plethora of Common/Uncommons with some pretty serious beef behind them. You can Cycle this card for 1, but you want at least one of them in play before you start doing that if you ask me. This is a 2/2 for 2 (1 red), and anytime you Cycle a card, in addition to the card draw, each opponent takes 1 damage. I’d love to find a way to make a Mono-Red Cycle deck with Torbran, as an aside. You could run Drannith Stingers, Torbran, and just laugh menacingly, as you deal 3-6 damage per Cycle. Having more of these in play just means that damage stacks, so keep that in mind to set up your final killing blow.

Savai Thundermane (2-Cost Uncommon Red/White Creature – Elemental Cat): A red/white Lion that deals damage to creatures for a measly 2 mana. That’s the hard part though. In addition to the Cycle cost, you have to pay that Mana cost for Savai Thundermane’s ability. It slows down your ability to do more in the early game, but in the mid to late game, when you (hopefully) have plenty of mana on board, you can just pick off plenty of enemy creatures, and set up an ideal board. This is one of your best ways to control the flow of attacks, by simply killing things when they come into play.

Zenith Flare (4-Cost Red/White Uncommon Spell – Instant): Pew Pew! I’m so glad this isn’t a Sorcery! It’s a four-drop, which is largely irrelevant. You probably aren’t going to be casting this a bunch of times in a game, unless you’re in a real serious bind. The most ideal time is in the mid-game when you have a nice full grave full of cards, and your opponent tapped out, thinking they’re going to win the game as soon as their next turn rolls around. You can do this by making sure you have lots of creatures in play, like 1/1 tokens and 8/8 Krakens tokens, to force the other player to burn through their mana pool. Then you, say, have 15 Cycle cards in the grave, and ZAP! 15 damage! GG.

Cycling in Some Flavor Decklist

3 Drannith Stinger (IKO) 113

4 Flourishing Fox (IKO) 13

4 Go for Blood (IKO) 122

4 Raugrin Triome (IKO) 251

3 Neutralize (IKO) 59

3 Ominous Seas (IKO) 61

4 Shark Typhoon (IKO) 67

4 Valiant Rescuer (IKO) 36

3 Zenith Flare (IKO) 217

4 Hallowed Fountain (RNA) 251

4 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254

4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257

1 Raking Claws (IKO) 131

3 Plains (THB) 250

2 Mountain (THB) 253

2 Island (THB) 251

3 Savai Thundermane (IKO) 205

4 Brazen Borrower (ELD) 39

1 Rielle, the Everwise (IKO) 203

Final Thoughts

This is a deck I want to like. I’ve seen it work first hand, but I’ve also snuffed one out through the might of Mutations. But it’s got a really fun concept, and you run the risk of having your graveyard being removed, and being without your key winning condition. That’s the greatest danger. Well, that and simply being demolished by big, flying, mutated abominations. But it’s a cool concept, and you can hit someone with the ol’ Big Zapper during their turn, as soon as they run out of mana to counter you. That’s what makes it fun. You spend all that time Cycling, drawing new cards, buffing your creatures and making creatures to defend with. You even have flying defenders potentially, thanks with the Flying Sharks! This is a deck that can do a lot, and if you want, you can just make one huge shark and swing out with it.

Alternate Cycling in Some Flavor Decklist

4 Flourishing Fox (IKO) 13

4 Fight as One (IKO) 12

4 Giant Killer (ELD) 14

4 Drannith Stinger (IKO) 113

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p>4 Valiant Rescuer (IKO) 36

2 Regal Leosaur (IKO) 202

4 Drannith Healer (IKO) 10

2 Will of the All-Hunter (IKO) 38

2 Unbreakable Formation (RNA) 29

3 Zenith Flare (IKO) 217

4 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254

9 Plains (THB) 279

7 Mountain (THB) 285

4 Faerie Guidemother (ELD) 11

3 Venerated Loxodon (GRN) 30

1 Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis (THB) 14

3 Shredded Sails (IKO) 136

2 Devout Decree (M20) 13

2 Fry (M20) 140

1 Blazing Volley (IKO) 107

2 Gideon Blackblade (WAR) 13

2 Banishing Light (THB) 4

2 Drannith Magistrate (IKO) 11

The Relentless March of Godliness (Mardu Aggro – White/Black/Red)

One of the new features in MTG Arena’s Ikoria expansion, is the “Companion” keyword. If you meet their strict deckbuilding rules, you can start with that companion as a castable creature, outside of your deck. Don’t get it twisted though – you can still run them in your deck even if you don’t, but you have to draw into them as normal. So, let’s talk about a really annoying deck type: aggro! Will Red Deck Wins still be around? Yes, of course it will. Be serious for a minute! But Mardu Humans needed a little something I think to make it truly ferocious. Enter Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths! It’s mostly about its massive, mindless killing machines, but we have some incredible human cards in this expansion.

How do you feel about Judith, the Scourge Diva being indestructible? Or using Lurrus of the Dream Den letting you cast your 2-cost permanents from the grave once a turn? Sounds good, right? Well, surely we can’t have that many 2-drops in this deck, can we? Oh, just 18. 18?! We have other great stuff too though! Stormfist Crusader as an immediate threat, and Luminous Broodmoth to make sure things that die always come back at least once.

And of course, there’s good ol’ trusty Embercleave! Between those, the new three-colored land, and more tokens and creature than you can shake a stick at, Mardu Humans is going to be absolutely wild. Nothing in this deck is expensive except for Embercleave and Sorin, and Embercleave can come out for 2 mana at the cheapest (which is ideally, the best way to do it). So what do we do with these humans?

How Should It Work?

This feels sort of like Terminator 2: Judgement Day’s start up. It’s a rag-tag bunch of humans in a plane fighting a hopeless battle. Instead of unstoppable robots, we have giant monsters to contend with. This deck has a really fun concept too, to ping away at the player without even having to swing at them! Let’s talk about that as a way to win, if your cards are played right.

Fireblade Artist is a Human? He sure is, buddy. During your upkeep, you can have him sacrifice a creature you control to deal 2 damage to a player or planeswalker. Luminous Broodmoth brings back non-flyers back once with a flying counter. So you can sacrifice them a second time! You have up to 4 Fireblade Artists though, so in theory you could do it four times a turn. However, why sacrifice your major creatures, when you don’t have to?

Hero of Precinct One gives you a 1/1 human creature token whenever you cast a multi-colored spell. We have. . . a lot of those. Then General’s Enforcer can also exile cards from a graveyard, and if it’s a creature, you get a 1/1 Human Soldier creature token. Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord can also bring back creatures, that is a Vampire in addition to other types. So you can use those every turn to sacrifice creatures and ping away at the other player, while building your army of Humans.

We also have Tajic, Legion’s Edge with Haste/Mentor, that also prevents non-combat damage to your creatures (other than him). So Mentor can buff some of your attackers, and General Kudro of Drannith gives your Humans +1/+1 (other than him, again). He also lets you sacrifice two humans (making those tokens important again), to destroy a creature with power 4 or greater. Tired of seeing one creature mutate bigger, and bigger, and bigger? Wait for it to attack, and then have two men pay the ultimate price.

We can win by simply overrunning the other player with human soldiers, but I like the Fireblade/Hero/Luminous Broodmoth combo the most. That turns the deck into a mid-range instead of aggro, but I’d wager it’s still likely very fast. Ultimately, we want to play tons of humans, churn out obnoxious tokens, and abuse Fireblade Artist to make someone very sad that they chose to do battle against this endless horde of humans. The plane may be overrun by gigantic monsters, but the human resistance is strong. You cannot break the spirit of man! If you don’t want to just slowly whittle away at someone through sacrificing creatures, you can just slap Embercleave on your favorite creature, and laugh as it batters someone into bits and pieces.

You almost always have options with Mardu Humans. There are so many creatures we can play in it, too! We don’t need a lot of spells, only really frustrating creatures. I’m not even 100% sure we need Embercleave in the deck, but it’s going to be satisfying nonetheless. Embercleave is always fun. Another I’m not necessarily sold on is the Stormfist Crusader. I love it because it gives card draw, is cheap, and a human. But each player loses 1 life on your turn for it. If you can’t get a life lead early, this can come back to haunt you. I’ve had more than my fair share of games where the other player won because I out-damaged myself with Stormfist. As long as you have Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord in play, your creatures have lifelink though. So defend him with your life if you want to make them truly sad!

MTG Arena Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Key Cards

I like how flexible this deck is. You can swap out one or two cards for something else you need, like, say, Rix Maadi Reveler. Those are neat, but I might consider putting in Fervent Champions instead! They’re a great turn 1, and a constant come back with Lurrus of the Dream-Den. I’m very tempted to make that happen, so we can bring him back to be a sacrificial lamb whenever we need him to be.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den (3-Cost Black or White Rare Legendary Creature – Cat Nightmare): Though we aren’t using it as a companion, it’s still very important to this deck. Why? Because during each of your turns, you can cast a permanent spell with a converted mana cost 2 or less from the grave! That means if any of your useful, important humans dies (other than the legendaries), you can just play them again! Fireblade Artist get killed? Stormfist Crusader take a dip? General’s Enforcer died so your opponent can try to kill Judith, the Scourge Diva? Just cast them again! If it wasn’t for our awesome legendaries, we could almost make this a companion, but that’s okay. We’re patient. This may be an aggro deck, but we can slow it down and make them hurt.

General Kudro of Drannith (3-Cost Black/White Mythic Rare Legendary Creature – Human Soldier): He’s a 3/3 that gives your other Humans +1/+1. If only he wasn’t legendary, that would make him a must-play Lord. That said, he’s still great. Even your tokens get boosted by him. This makes Tajic and Judith incredibly strong, since with General’s Enforcer, they’re also indestructible! But when he comes into play, or another Human comes into play, you can exile a card from your opponent’s graveyard. If your opponent is playing an annoying graveyard deck, spam tokens and stuff to make sure the important cards never see the light of day. Plus, General Kudro can sacrifice two of your humans to kill a creature that’s power 4 or greater. This will come in handy against an assortment of Mutate decks, because those creatures will wind up being massive. I also like this as a response to Embercleave. They declare attack, it goes through, but instead of dealing damage, the creature dies! Beautiful.

Fireblade Artist (2-Cost Red/Black Uncommon Creature – Human Shaman): Though it has haste, we probably aren’t going to be swinging with it, unless your opponent assuredly has no way to harm or stop the damage. His big deal is sacrificing creatures. With Luminous Broodmoth, Hero of Precinct One, and General’s Enforcer, we have a steady supply of constant, easy to sacrifice creatures. If you can get 3 or 4 of these out by some miracle, it’s going to cause nothing but havoc. Even if it’s just 2 damage a turn, that’s going to add up before too long. With enough chump blockers and creatures, you can just make your opponent wait for their own inevitable demise. With Lurrus in play, even if Fireblade Artist perishes, they’re going to come back in a new, exciting way. Well, maybe not new or exciting, but like MC Chris on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, he’s gonna come back!

The Relentless March of Godliness Decklist

2 Plains (THB) 279

4 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254

4 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245

4 Godless Shrine (RNA) 248

2 Mountain (THB) 285

2 Embercleave (ELD) 120

3 Luminous Broodmoth (IKO) 21

1 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord (WAR) 217

2 Lurrus of the Dream-Den (IKO) 226

2 Swamp (THB) 283

3 Judith, the Scourge Diva (RNA) 185

2 Tajic, Legion’s Edge (GRN) 204

4 Fireblade Artist (RNA) 172

2 Rix Maadi Reveler (RNA) 109

4 General’s Enforcer (IKO) 188

4 Dire Tactics (IKO) 183

4 Stormfist Crusader (ELD) 203

4 Hero of Precinct One (RNA) 11

4 Savai Triome (IKO) 253

3 General Kudro of Drannith (IKO) 187

Final Thoughts

Mardu Humans is going to be a whole lot of fun, that’s for sure. We even have a few non-humans in it, but they’re going to key to success. It’s going to be very satisfying to use Luminous Broodmoth to bring back something that was sacrificed! It doesn’t matter how it dies, only that it dies in the service of the cause. I love how many different ways we have to win, and how satisfying would it be to trample someone down with an endless supply of really annoying human tokens? Keep Judith, the Scourge Diva in mind too! Whenever your tokens die, they live on, in that they deal 1 damage to any target!

You can just send in your fresh tokens to die, or sacrifice them, and use that damage to either hurt the player, or kill their important cards/tokens! That’s what makes it so fantastic, the various ways we can harm the other player. Also consider Hero of Precinct One plus Lurrus of the Dream-Den. If you sacrifice a spare, say, General’s Enforcer or Stormfist Crusader, you can re-cast them every turn from the grave, and make more Human tokens for Judith Fodder! If you have multiple heroes in play, that is just more and more tokens. This is not a kind deck, and though it could still use some tuning, I like where it’s at right now.

I Wanna Ride My Bicycle (Boros Cycling – Aggro/Combo):

Now, I’ve been torn on which version of a Zenith Flare deck I wanted to include. This is yet another deck that has so many different variations. But one thing is consistent, Lurrus of the Dream-Den exists somewhere. Why, though? Because bringing back creatures you had to cycle (or chose to cycle) is really fun. 

So today we’re talking about the “Cycling” mechanic. It was introduced back in Urza’s Saga (Oct. 1998), so when I was in High School. It’s an interesting discard mechanic, where you pay a specific cost, and discard the Cycling card in question. Then you draw a new card. It’s been used in a bunch of decks, and helps for casting cards from the graveyard.

However, Cycling came back in a huge way in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, so it’s taking MTG Arena by storm in a few decks. Specifically, our win condition is going to be the Instant Zenith Flare. The longer the game goes on, and the more cards you put in the graveyard, the harder this is going to hit. Even better since it can be cast on your opponent’s turn. It’s just a matter of finding the perfect time to hit them with the ol’ Kikoho like Tien Shenhan. For 4 mana, you deal X damage to a target, where Xis the number of Cycling cards in the grave. You don’t have to cycle them, either. They simply have to be there, and have Cycling in the text. For context, 33 cards in this deck have Cycling! Since we simply don’t pay much in the way of casting costs, we aren’t running a lot of lands (19 total). The only expensive card in the deck is technically Zenith Flare!

Though Boon of the Wish Giver costs 6 mana (2 blue), we’re likely almost never going to pay that cost (though drawing 4 cards is nice). That only happens in the late game, when we’re really fishing for a Zenith Flare to round the game off with. This whole deck is predicated on cycling though. Four of our creatures do something when we Cycle. So we can win with creatures, or we can zap someone into pieces. 

How’s It Work?

The whole deck is built on keeping a Zenith Flare around to win the game with. Having one in hand and your opponent not knowing is the deadliest weapon. So after we get say, six or seven lands, I’d try to keep four mana open at all times. Make your opponent have no idea when that bolt from the heavens is coming. 

Our deck runs nothing but inexpensive cycling costs, too. 1 or 2 is the average. Since none of our permanents cost more than 2 mana, we can turn-3 Lurrus of the Dream-Den if we want. It helps in this deck, believe it or not! All of our creatures have cycling costs, so we can say, Cycle Drannith Healer to trigger our other Cycling abilities. What do our creatures synergize with in terms of cycling?

  • Flourishing Fox: Whenever you cycle another card, put a +1/+1 counter on Flourishing Fox
  • Valiant Rescuer: Whenever you cycle another card for the first time each turn, create a 1/1 Human Soldier token
  • Drannith Healer: Whenever you cycle another card, you gain 1 life
  • Drannith Stinger: Whenever you cycle another card, Drannith Stinger deals 1 damage to each opponent.

So with a few mana on the board, you can say, cycle a Flourishing Fox, get at least one cycling trigger depending on the state of the board, and then cast it from the grave for the turn. That way you get a cycle trigger, a new card in hand, and you still cast the creature you want. The more mana you have free, the more nonsense we can do here. 

In theory, if your opponent doesn’t a lot of creatures, or you simply build a token army, you can beat someone simply by Drannith Stinger constantly pinging them for 1. Since Cycling isn’t a “Sorcery” effect, you can do it during your opponent’s turn, if you want to conserve mana during your own turn. You want to cycle often, so you can fetch for that Zenith Flare, and make your creature abilities trigger. 

We have some very costly cards in this deck (mana costs), like the aforementioned Boon of the Wish-Giver. Frostveil Ambush also costs 5 but has a Cycle cost of 1. I wouldn’t stress about holding these. But the trick in this deck is to learn when to cycle. You can do it anytime, but having things that make it worth doing is important. If you can get 3 of those Flourishing Foxes on the board, and start cycling a storm, they become very big very fast. Personally, I had a hard time making this deck go, but I was receiving some really rubbish starting hands. 

Key Cards:

Now you might be asking “Why aren’t you highlighting any of the blue cards in this deck?” and that’s pretty simple. Those cards are here just to cycle. In the late game we can hard cast them for a few useful abilities, but their whole purpose to me is simply as cycling fodder. These cards, however, give us an incredible chance to win the game!

Zenith Flare (Red/White Uncommon Spell – Instant): This card is literally our biggest win condition, after all! This card is the perfect counter to decks that mill, like Gyruda Combo. After all, you want those cards in the graveyard. They would have to get all four of your Zenith Flares in order to easily beat you, and that’s frankly, not very likely. The more cycling cards in the grave, the more damage this will do to any target (like the player). Did they tap out? Is it their end step? Blast them and win the game! In fact, decks that mill you for any reason make your win condition that much easier to pull off.

Flourishing Fox (Uncommon White Creature – Fox): The Flourishing Fox is my favorite creature in this deck. Y es, even better than Drannith Stinger’s constant damage. What can I say? I like big creatures. They great, swell and gain +1/+1 each time you cycle a spell. So if you have two or three of these on the board (not hard to do at 1 white mana), they can be really hard to deal with. I’ve seen a match where they were 10/10, 9/9, and 8/8 respectively. All you need is a way to prevent it from dying to board wipe. Luckily. . .

Chance for Glory (Red/White Mythic Rare Spell – Instant): Confused why we put this card in? Chance for Glory, after all, can kill you! You gain an extra turn, and during that turn’s end step, you lose the game. But your creatures gain indestructible (not until end of turn). This is an Instant, mind. So your opponent burns their mana casting something to blow up the board like Shatter the Sky. In response, cast Chance for Glory, give them indestructible! Your opponent loses their creatures, you get an extra turn, and then you have a hoard of angry, unstoppable jerks. This is still a gamble though. If they can block you out somehow or stop your damage, you can still lose. But you get one more turn to Zenith Flare or attack! This is a really sneaky, surprising play.

Decklist:

4 Hallowed Fountain (RNA) 251

2 Thrill of Possibility (ELD) 146

3 Mountain (THB) 285

4 Plains (THB) 279

4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257

4 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254

2 Chance for Glory (GRN) 159

4 Zenith Flare (IKO) 217

4 Startling Development (IKO) 68

4 Go for Blood (IKO) 122

4 Frostveil Ambush (IKO) 52

2 Footfall Crater (IKO) 118

3 Boon of the Wish-Giver (IKO) 43

4 Valiant Rescuer (IKO) 36

4 Flourishing Fox (IKO) 13

4 Drannith Stinger (IKO) 113

4 Drannith Healer (IKO) 10

1 Lurrus of the Dream Den (IKO) 226

2 Deafening Clarion (GRN) 165

2 Citywide Bust (GRN) 4

2 Grafdigger’s Cage (M20) 227

4 Scorching Dragonfire (ELD) 139

3 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58

1 Light of Hope (IKO) 20

Final Thoughts:

This is probably one of my favorite Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks. White/Red, and Black/Red are fun, but having the ability to keep bringing back our cycling creatures that die is really pleasant. He isn’t a requirement to make the deck go, but it’s nice anyway. Zenith Flare is a deck that, the longer the game goes on, the easier it is for you to win. This is dependant on your opponent not erasing your graveyard though. That’s very feasible, especially in this meta. It’s brilliant, and it’s frustrating. Plus, this deck doesn’t run a ton of Rares/Mythic Rares! We run in the mainboard, 12 rares and 2 Mythic Rares. Everything else Common/Uncommon, because this expansion has so many good uncommons. Learning how/when to Cycle is key, and each situation will be different. 

For the most part, I found that simply cycling the blue spells is key. There’s a version of this deck that runs those spells but doesn’t even run Blue mana. Because the implication would be they are literally only there for cycling fodder. However we do run some Blue dual lands, because there are times when “draw four cards”, even at that cost, will be worthwhile.

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