Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths takes us to a world unlike any Magic has seen before. On 15 May 2020, game stores across Europe and America will tremble at the footfalls of monsters both unusual in size, color, and ability. People have already called this variously the most surprising, innovative, wildest, or plain weirdest Magic: The Gathering release of our lifetime!
Big news concern the keyword abilities companion and mutate. Companion adds a touch of the Commander experience to regular Magic. There are ten companions in the set, all legendary creatures. Before a game you can reveal one from your sideboard or from outside the game, if your deck at the time matches a certain deckbuilding restriction, and then you can cast it from there during that game.
For example, Keruga, the Macrosage requires your deck not to contain any nonlands with converted mana cost below 3. In return you get a Dinosaur Hippo for 5 and a thematically fitting enters-the-battlefield ability that may draw you between one and a bunch of cards. Whether this or any of the other companions will be worth it in competitive Constructed remains to be seen, but each companion is an extra card out of nowhere, and lots of people were quick to point out the potential for abuse.
Cardmarket also got to preview one such card. Jegantha, the Wellspring can be your companion on the condition that your deck does not contain any card with two of the same mana symbol in its casting cost. Once played, Jegantha then provides a big body and a mana-generating ability that will fuel even the craziest undertakings, from Conflux to Niv-Mizzet Reborn. One particularly promising possibility is pairing Jegantha with Rhythm of the Wild in Standard for an immediate huge pay day.
Then there's mutate. A number of creatures in the set have the ability to be cast for their mutate cost, in which case they "merge" with a non-Human creature already on the battlefield. The resulting creature takes on all abilities of both and the base stats and characteristics of one. If the target of the merger becomes illegal before resolution, the mutant simply enters the battlefield on its own.
If, however, the resulting creature gets destroyed, every piece of it is gone. Naturally, this comes with the burden of blowouts. To make up for it, many of the of the mutants feature abilities that trigger whenever they mutate, even for the initial mutation. For example, one could mutate Gemrazer on a creature on turn three, destroy an opponent's artifact or enchantment and have one's early drop upgrade to a 4/4 with reach and trample. At this point, the opponent better have a removal and won't even be up a card, if they do.
Amidst all the new, the set also sees the return of some fan favorites from the past. Cycling is back, and so are abilities that trigger whenever you cycle another card or when you cycle the card itself, such as with Yidaro, Wandering Monster. Almost fifteen years ago, the original Ravnica block had already experimented with spells of a certain color having bonus effects when mana of some other color was spent to cast them. Now, cards such as Mythos of Snapdax take the concept to its extreme.
But, it's not all monsters and mayhem. The world also features a Human civilization with some tribal synergies. Finally, for the first time ever, Magic uses counters which grant creatures some keyword ability like flying, menace, or deathtouch indefinitely. Booster packs will even include special punch-out cards of such.
Do you dare to venture into a world of monsters and mutants?