Ikoria Spotlight: Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- Andreas Reling
With companion, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths introduces a very dangerous keyword. Let's take a look at Lurrus of the Dream-Den and list some ideas this powerful card has provoked. Will it change the face of nonrotating Constructed formats like Legacy and even Modern? Let's find out!
The Purrfect Companion
"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet."
Meeting the Restriction
Each companion first asks the deck builder to meet a restriction that limits the cards they can put into their deck. Then the player can cast their companion from the sideboard once per game. Since having access to an additional card in every game is a huge benefit — especially when it's a powerful, legendary creature — it's necessary to impose a crippling limitation to balance companions. In Lurrus's case, however, some archetypes and strategies fulfill the condition basically by default.
Companion — Each permanent card in your starting deck has converted mana cost 2 or less. (If this card is your chosen companion, you may cast it once from outside the game.)
Modern and Legacy decks are pushed toward efficiency and always try to achieve their goal with the cheapest spells available, taken from a tremendously big card pool. As such, many already run almost no permanent cards above 2 mana or avoid them at all. These decks can sacrifice their fifteenth sideboard slot and start every game with a 3/2 lifelinker that generates card advantage turn after turn! Of course, not every deck can make use of Lurrus in the same way, but some are set up perfectly to abuse the effect. Even if not — it's still a free eighth card in your opener! Sure, some decks need to find replacements or cut some powerful permanents they would include otherwise. Nevertheless, I believe many decks will be able to compensate and will be rewarded with much more in exchange.
The first thing that crossed my mind, when I thought about existing decks that could meet the requirement and cast Lurrus, was Modern Boros Burn. The deck aims for a low mana curve and therefore naturally includes no permanents that cost more than 2 mana. With its splash for white, it can reliably cast Lurrus on the third turn. And since all twelve creatures in the deck are prone to die quickly, as opponents try to avoid taking more damage than necessary, Lurrus's ability should be able get some creatures back from the graveyard in drawn-out games.
Many games between Burn and interactive decks come down to a topdeck war. Lurrus will improve the strategy's ability to buy time for drawing the lethal burn spell and its ability to present another flurry of deadly threats after running out of initial resources.
While this existing deck doesn't exploit Lurrus to its fullest, it still looks very impressive to me how much this card adds to the archetype for the low cost of the fifteenth sideboard slot. There may very well be Modern shells that make even better use of the Cat Nightmare; this was only my first thought.
Other ideas that come to mind are Blue-Red Gifts Storm which meets the criteria and can cast Lurrus with Manamorphose to get back the important mana cheaters Goblin Electromancer and Baral, Chief of Compliance, Jund cutting Liliana of the Veil and Bloodbraid Elf to incorporate an even better grind ability, or Idiot Life strategies revolving around Martyr of Sands or Serra Ascendant. The possibilities are endless.
While Lurrus seems to be the perfect fit for Death's Shadow strategies, don't be quick on cutting Street Wraith. Buying back Mishra's Bauble and the Shadow sounds appealing, but Street Wraith I deem way too important for the deck to function to remove. I could see Lurrus making an appearance in Mardu Shadow main decks though. Don't forget, you can simply ignore the companion ability and its condition and play those cards like regular Magic cards!
Average converted mana costs per card are even lower in Legacy and a popular evergreen strategy does already meet Lurrus's deck-building restriction. Storm can make good use of a card advantage machine recurring Lion's Eye Diamond and Wishclaw Talisman; can use some help keeing pesky Narset, Parter of Veils or Karn, the Great Creator off the battlefield; can benefit from buying another crucial turn against opposing attacks; and can increase the storm count by two in classic tutor chains by casting the Cat and making up for the mana cost by rebuying a Lion's Eye Diamond.
For example, two copies of Dark Ritual, one Lion's Eye Diamond, and an Infernal Tutor previously were enough mana to win on the first turn via Past in Flames and Tendrils of Agony, but it was one spell short of a lethal storm count. With Lurrus in the sideboard, those four cards alone alongside a single land are a successful turn one kill, which makes the strategy quite a bit better. Another cute interaction Lurrus enables for Storm decks is that it creates a kind of soft lock with Hope of Ghirapur.
Also, Storm decks need to go all-in at times and risk losing their whole hand against a counterspell. Traditionally, it is very hard to get back into those games after the first attempt because rebuilding a functional combo hand from scratch is almost impossible in most scenarios. But with Lurrus, Storm can recover the just lost Lion's Eye Diamond and Wishclaw Talisman to try again two turns after the misery — without the need to topdeck anything in the meantime!
There are other decks that might be able to incorporate Lurrus: Grixis Delver needs to cut True-Name Nemesis, Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft, Bedlam Reveler and/or Gurmag Angler but receives a very potent threat that can get back Delver of Secrets, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Young Pyromancer. Golgari Depths will be happy to get free recursion for Vampire Hexmage and Elvish Reclaimer, further enhancing its ability to play longer games and win without the combo of Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage while meeting the deck-building requirements without effort.
It's not been long since I learned of Lurrus's existence and I can't stop thinking about the endless possibilities the card offers. While I'm excited for all these experiments and opportunities, I'm also concerned about the number of games that will begin with players revealing Lurrus. The card might be too powerful and could warp metagames in many different formats. What do you think about Lurrus? Do you have some interesting deck ideas you want to share in the comments? Let me know!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.