CheshirePlaysGames's picture
By: CheshirePlaysGames, Albert Caynes
Jun 15 2020 12:00pm

Coming in to Ikoria, we were told there would be a sort of “build your own beastie” mechanic, little did we know it would basically be Bestow Lite, but instead of enchantment creatures, beasts that meld together and have some really cool effects when they do. I'm not going to lie, there are a lot of aspects I really like about Mutate, as well as some I think are a little horrible.


You may only Mutate onto a non-human creature and that makes a lot of sense considering the set's designated sub-name is “Lair of Behemoths”. Also it feels like a breath of fresh air taking the focus off humans, it really feels like humans have had enough love.
When you mutate, the mutating creature can go on the bottom of the stack, or the top. The new “creature” will take on only the top creature card's power/toughness and type. All abilities carry over from the stack of creatures.
Yeah so this is the part that sort of gets under my skin. There is an underlying flaw of Mutate that actually makes its mechanics a little worse and lose the flavour of MUTATION that should be present. The creature doesn't take on other creature types. SCIENCE TIME: Mutation on a living being is a change in the DNA sequence. This means you are no longer whatever you were, you are now altered. You were a cat and you mutated with a bird? Congratulations, Cat Bird. An Octopus mutates with a Wolf? WOLFTOPUS...Sadly, this isn't the case when it comes to Mutation in Magic: the Gathering and I can only assume this is because of how card types and tribal effects work, leading to some sort of game imbalance. Also, you would think the mutation would make the target stronger, but this is actually more akin to symbiosis, whereby the host organism is made mentally stronger, but remains with the same physical attributes.


When the host mutate stack is exiled or destroyed, the whole stack moves to the new designated zone. If the creature dies, that whole stack goes to the graveyard. This means that every single target removal played against you is a one for one or better as a base scale. This means that single target removal on a stack of creatures becomes a board wipe essentially. That’s not to say its a bad mechanic, because you can very much negate this drawback via indestructible, persist and Hexproof, but if you want it you'll have to WORK for it. Also, if you're playing Mutate, don't forget ways to get creature cards back from the graveyard or shuffle them back.
Part of the "issue" is watering down your deck for answers. But that’s actually not correct at all, you're building to a specific theme for the deck, and as such you're including more cards to support your deck and make it more successful and trying to somewhat negate the weaknesses. Base creatures with Hexproof or indestructible or artifacts/enchantments are heavily in favour here to protect your mutate stack, as are cards like Eerie Interlude but there is a little something we need to discuss about exile return effects. The stack will be exiled as a stack, however when it returns, the stack returns as an army of singular creatures. This can be factored in with cards like Craterhoof Behemoth so we exile our stack at the end of the opponent's turn so we have a hasted army of small nippers made VERY big, thanks to Craterhoof.


Another big problem is that 34 Mutate creatures spanning five colours is clearly not enough for a full two or less colour deck, so no matter what you will have to be a bit more creative. my hope is that this mechanic returns sooner rather than later as going to mostly single sets moving forward feels like a big issue when you're introducing new mechanics. Usually we would have two or three sets to span a new mechanic over more cards. Also, the c20 Enhanced Evolution mutate deck has a total of four mutate creatures not found in Ikoria, a little disappointing to be honest and slightly baffling when you look at it from a product sales point of view. You would expect that the less Ikoria mutate creatures you include, the more Ikoria product players will buy to try and get normal/foil/alt art versions of the cards. Plus, those alt art cards are GORGEOUS. It looks at though M21 won't have any, so I hold out hope that the Commander Draft set coming later this year has more Mutate creatures for us to bolster the ranks.


Given how few mutate creatures there are currently, we really can't make a full mutate themed deck, but what's the best way to use mutate to full effect? You can either go the route of Voltron, making a mass stack of bodies to form a singular amazing commander creature, you can use mutate as more of an extension of your deck with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or for combo potential such as Vadrok, Apex of Thunder with Underworld Breach and mass density of wheels such as Wheel of Fortune and Smothering Tithe infinite combo. There are multiple ways you can use mutate to it's full effect, you just need to protect the stack at all costs.
One of the best ways to really take advantage, is to use bounce effects and a cheap base creature. This way, you can keep replaying a commander such as Illuna, Apex of Wishes with something like Erratic Portal or Crystal Shard. Another is Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt on an Infect creature or the Inkmoth Nexus AND DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT, you’ve thought about it too and yes it's as good as you might think. Especially when you can also use Snapdax as a Voltron style commander in colurs that can give black's infect creatures, red's additional combat steps and white's equipment hunting. Cloning stacks also seems to be a very solid choice, as the stack is a single creature so the clone will copy the entire stack as though it were one alpha, just make sure you don't try and copy your legendary creature.


In closing, mutate is not at this stage a tier one strategy. It might not even be a tier two strategy. However it is a great compliment to some commander decks and the legendary creatures are pretty good at just being a commander and providing value for your deck. So give mutate a chance and don't write it off just yet. -Chesh