Lurrus, the Standard King

Rone

"Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling Dinosaur Hippo to the leaping Bird Serpent." Well, maybe that's not exactly what Mufasa said. Either way, Lurrus of the Dream-Den apparently "can't wait to be king."

The Magic world has basically exploded in the last ten days due to the latest mechanic from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths: companion. It seems that mutate, cycling, or the ability counter theme all pale in comparison to this unique rule that basically allows you to start the game with a nonrandom, nondiscardable extra card. The impact has been humongous. Companion has basically crushed every online tournament during the digital release weekend, from Standard to Vintage. While not all is said and done yet, our main protagonist, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, has emerged triumphant so far.


Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Rather than fixing these pet partner shenanigans — which will be Wizard's job — this article is going to focus on where the Cat Nightmare has landed in the Standard metagame. We'll take a look at a couple of decklists and break down how Lurrus fares against other companions.

1. Rakdos Sacrifice Before Lurrus


Before Ikoria became legal, Rakdos Sacrifice was fighting the good fight against Monored Aggro, Temur Adventures, and Sultai/Bant Ramp. After Magic's World Championship XXVI, it became obvious that Kannister's Jund Food had to evolve into straight Rakdos to compete against the almighty flashy sword. The deck's core consists of the Cat/Oven combo plus Claim the Firstborn from Throne of Eldraine along with {c=Priest of the Forgotten Gods} and Mayhem Devil from Guilds of Ravnica block as the sacrifice payoffs.

Theros Beyond Death's mainly added Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Woe Strider and thus more consistency and a better top end to the deck. Other options included Mire Triton and Tymaret Calls the Dead to fuel the graveyard-based synergies.

2. All Hail the Cat King


The Lurrus King

The first time you try out Lurrus , you'll immediately realize that the raw power of its static ability is enough upside to give up on any 3-mana permanent. Unlike any other companion, the Cat Nightmare prevents you from playing additional copies in the main deck. It would have been an interesting question too whether one is enough to justify the limitations. But this isn't really an issue once you include Call of the Death-Dweller as a reanimator effect in case the Cat hits the graveyard.

A cat walks into a Magic store and sits down.
Shop tender: "What can I get you?"
Lurrus: "A Mire's Grasp."
Shop tender finds the card, and slides it over to the cat. The cat looks at the card, then smacks it right off the store counter onto the floor. Shop tender looks at the cat questioningly.
Lurrus says, "I'll have another."

Lurrus's ability gives you the chance to cast an extra permanent spell every turn as long as it is in play, which on turn five onward is almost any key card of the strategy. Starting with the creature suite, Lurrus can target any of them. Depending on the board state, you will choose one or another:

  • Lurrus + Serrated Scorpion with Witch's Oven in play — works when opponents are low on life and ends the game quickly.

  • Lurrus + hasty creatures — bringing back Dreadhorde Butcher or Robber of the Rich is key to maintain the amount of pressure on the board; Butcher always deals some damage when it dies and the red Robin Hood steals cards for maximum card advantage.

  • Lurrus + Kroxa — recasting Kroxa against an empty-handed opponent feels like a Lava Spike every turn and if you get up to six mana, you can chain the casting of Kroxa and the escape into one another.

  • Lurrus + Rix Maadi Reveler — choosing to play the Rakdos Shaman from the graveyard for its spectacle cost will refill your hand. Like Kroxa, here's a virtual 4-mana creature in a deck that's not allowed to include any.

Additionally, Lurrus can rebuy any other permanent aside from lands. In particular, the ability to regrow Witch's Oven comes in handy, something that a black-red strategy normally cannot do and that becomes vital in the mirror match. Moving onto the removal suite, Dead Weight and Mire's Grasp are your repeatable ways of dealing with small creatures; however, these are best left for sideboard matters against creature-based matchups.

The fact that Lurrus starts in the sideboard gives itself protection from discard spells, so you can decide the perfect timing to cast it based on the board state. Indeed, the Cat Nightmare allows you to play around mass removal — Shatter the Sky, Storm's Wrath, Deafening Clarion — force opponents to fire them off by putting pressure on the battlefield and then rebuild your board state by slamming Lurrus alongside a threat on the next turn.

Finally, a 3/2 body with lifelink constitutes decent stats, especially when you have to win a race in aggro matchups. Overall, this brand new Rakdos Lurrus archetype is here to stay as one of the most solid decks in the current Standard metagame.

3. Conquering the Arena

Since Ikoria's tabletop release has been pushed back to May 15 due to obvious reasons in some countries, we can only test new cards via digital platforms, either Magic Online or MTG Arena. Luckily, a good friend of mine, Pablo "psierr_" Sierra, has shared all his game results with me. In total, he completed 60 matches on Arena's Top 1,200 ranks with the deck between April 17 and 24. Let's dissect the lessons learned.


Regarding some card choices, Mire Triton replaces Tymaret Calls the Dead as a way to fill the graveyard that doesn't clash with Lurrus's companion restriction. Filling the graveyard obviously helps with Lurrus itself and with escaping Kroxa, and the body becomes relevant when dealing with huge creatures thanks to its deathtouch ability. Three copies of Call of the Death-Dweller are necessary to return Lurrus to the battlefield in a world where every piece of removal is aimed at its head. Meanwhile, a singleton copy of Mire's Grasp main increases the variety of removal the deck has access to.


mtga metagame
Data from 60 Traditional Standard matches played on MTG Arena's Mythic Top 1,200 between April 17 and 24

The early Arena Mythic metagame shown here puts Lurrus Rakdos Sacrifice as the early top-tier contender and the deck to beat for the upcoming weeks. That's the reason why Pablo chose to run four Robber of the Rich to maximize his chances in the mirror match, achieving an impressive 77.8% win rate there as well as an overall 70% win rate against the full metagame.

Of course, the deck wasn't known as well and as widely as it is now, and so it caught many noncompanion decks off-guard. Don't expect to replicate this exact performance when piloting the deck now, in a world full of Yorion, Sky Nomad, Keruga, the Macrosage, and {Gyruda, Doom of Depths}. Speaking of the devil, how does Lurrus cope with other companions? Let's find out what Pablo had to say.

Yorion decks (W/U/x Control, Bant Midramp, Temur Elementals) — the worst pairing in the metagame. Yorion 80-card decks have now access to a larger number of tools to present and develop different types of game plans, opposite to our semi-lineal aggro strategy. Our target is to win the race before they stabilize the board. Scorching Dragonfire and Noxious Grasp are our best sideboard cards. One can also consider including some copies of Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display on the draw, to smash their possible {c=Graffdigger's Cage||Cages}.

Keruga decks (Fires of Invention) — The outlook is better than before. Now our deck is faster and can disable our opponents' strategy before they are ready to set up their key turns. Although it's still a tough matchup to win postboard. We don't expect them to board in {c=Graffdigger's Cage} because of Keruga's restriction. We board out Claim the Firstborn, Mire's Grasp as well as one each of Call of the Death-Dweller and {c=Priest of the Forgotten Gods}. We bring in Act of Treason, Pharika's Libation, and Epic Downfall, plus Duress on the play and Noxious Grasp on the draw.

Gyruda decks (usually played in a Bant/Simic Ramp core) — slightly favorable, but one needs to play carefully around the turn opponents will go off; run, Simba, run! In both gameplay and sideboarding, we need to maximize the number of creature removal options we present on turn four: activate Priest's ability or cast Pharika's Libation to force our opponent to sacrifice Gyruda while its ability is on the stack.

4. Other Lurrus Sacrifice Variants

On a wider perspective, the Rakdos shell might be the most stable but that doesn't mean it's the only viable one. Lurrus can also be found in Orzhov, straight monoblack, or even some Abzan brews, also known as Indatha.

Starting with Mono Black, the pro player Ondřej Stráský was quick to post his successful version, in which there are no mana issues but a full playset of Castle Locthwain to gain some card advantage in the long game. Compared to Rakdos, the average casting cost is lower, with a total of 24 cards for 1 mana, featuring Whisper Squad as another Ikoria addition to the deck, next to Heartless Act as the most efficient 2-mana removal available.


Moving on to Orzhov, it has indeed posted some good results, includes a ton of cool synergies, acting even more like an "Aristocrats" strategy than Rakdos. Here, you actively want to sacrifice your creatures over and over to drain life either with the Priest, Cruel Celebrant, or Lampad of Death's Vigil. Fiend Artisan combined with Whisper Squad can fetch more friends to the party, until you get to a point where you can sacrifice your whole board and win the game on the spot.

White also grants access to interesting options such as Hunted Witness as two bodies for only 1 mana. Ajani's Pridemate as a beefy muscle Cat that grows bigger with all the lifegain effects. At last, Alseid of Life's Bounty acts as Lurrus's personal bodyguard.


5. Conclusion

To sum up, I believe we live in strange times, as Wizards seem to feel the need to push cards and mechanics to a point where they warp the whole game around them. After the Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and more specifically the Oko, Thief of Crowns fiasco, it looks as if companion is even more broken. Sooner or later Wizards should address the issue. In the meantime folks, bow before King Lurrus, until the sun sets on its reign, which I am sure will happen at some point.

Finally, thanks again to Pablo for his help and data to write this article! Feel free to challenge him on MTG Arena under Mezzenas#25164 during the lockdown and, why not, you can also challenge this humble writer at MtgCalyArena#16449.

Keep safe and stay healthy!
Rodrigo Martin


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



6 Kommentare

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Thorond0r(2020-05-02 01:04)

Stopped playing any sanctioned format until this madness is addressed. Will not spend my money and time in this nonsense. Meanwhile, enjoying Old School ‘94.

Rone
RonePro(2020-05-02 12:33)

Hello Thorond0r, sadly tabletop magic is still a bit far away in the schedule and at that point, I am confident Wizards will address the companion issue

Didiboi(2020-04-28 21:38)

The big problem is: He’s not only king of Standard :(

Rone
RonePro(2020-05-02 12:31)

Didiboi, sure it is the true ruler of Modern and Legacy atm, but not for long I hope...

mätschik(2020-04-28 10:34)

Thanks for concrete data and insight. That solidifies my opinion about companion on a more scientific base: horrible idea from wotc...

Rone
RonePro(2020-05-02 12:30)

Hi mätschik; thanks for your comment. After some testing, I strongly agree with you about companion more specifically in older formats, where Lurrus definitely needs an emergency banning sooner or later.

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