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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
May 19 2020 12:00pm
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IKORIA: LAIR OF BEHEMOTHS

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 Giant monsters ahead! Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is Magic's first foray into the world of the titular plane of Ikoria, where titans walk the earth, but look very differently than the ones from Theros, as they're inspired by the kaijus of film and television. It's a groundbreaking set in the most literal sense, debuting radical new mechanics like mutate and companion, while returning a very impactful one with cycling.

 In Ikoria's monster-filled ecosystem only Human exists as a humanoid race, which means no familiar creature types like Merfolk, Vampire, Zombie, Goblin and Elf are in the set, and most of the classes only make a small appearance, as the monsters of course don't have jobs, while the Humans around these parts are mostly Soldiers.

 Ikoria is, by design, all about the monsters, and they mainly come in five "Apex" types: Cat (representing white), Elemental (blue), Nightmare (black), Dinosaur (red), and Beast (green). Kaheera, the Orphanguard lists them all – while picturing some adorable pups of each race.

 All these types combine among each other and with other subtypes quite a lot, generating a large number of double types, but reducing the tribal components overall, since very few of these combinations repeat the same tribe more than once or twice. There's also a quantity of rarely seen creature types belonging to tribes that previously had fewer than 10 members, namely Antelope, Egg, Goat, Gremlin, Hippo, Jellyfish, Monkey, Octopus, PangolinScorpion, Whale, and Wolverine, and even some very old ones that had never generated new black-border cards since their original appearance, like Brushwagg and Squirrel, plus the newly introduced Otter and Shark. The set also contains several sub-mechanics, from which derive an exorbitant quantity of cycles.

 The aesthetic alternates wildly between the main inspiration of the giant monsters movies, and a cuteness-based design that may feel a bit at odds with the main theme, but has actually some foundation in the source material, especially in the Japanese Godzilla franchise, whose influence has been reinforced through a partnership with the Toho Corporation; it's a cross-promotion of unprecedented magnitude for Magic, leading the box toppers and the Buy-a-Box promo to become alternate versions of 19 creature cards in the set, depicting characters from the Godzilla universe.

   

 Time to look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 265 (+10 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 228
  • New creatures: 132
  • Reprinted cards: 37
  • Reprinted creatures: 6 (Bristling Boar, Fertilid, Frenzied Raptor, Frost Lynx, Greater Sandwurm, Ivy Elemental)
  • New Legendary creatures: 23
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 1
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 5
  • Creature types affected: 60
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+32), Beast (+20), Nightmare (+18), Cat (+17), Dinosaur (+15), Elemental (+15), Soldier (+11), Birds (+6), Wizard (+6)

Antelope: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 10

 Related Tribes: Lizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: When Angels and Advisors aren't there, Antelope gets the rare chance to reign supreme at the top of the list. This weird-looking specimen is our first example of Ikoria's more low-key "build your own monster" theme that doesn't make use of mutate, instead just letting you choose between two or more of the nine keyword counters supported by the set. In this case, I guess the Antelope side contributes vigilance and the Lizard side provides reach, making it into a strictly better Mammoth Spider. As an Antelope, it's definitely among the cream of the crop; in general, it's just a playable Limited creature.


Ape: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 27, online: 24

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Ferocious Tigorilla is just another Limited player from the modal cycle, but Kogla, the Titan Ape is the curve-topper Apes never really got (Gargantuan Gorilla was an upkeep cost nightmare, Grunn, the Lonely King a glorified vanilla beater). And that's because they had never gotten a proper King Kong adaptation until now! The original giant monster of cinema, set to cross paths with Godzilla once again in the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong, has been translated into Magic in the most exquisite way. Large size? Check. Aggressive behavior prone to fight? Check. Propensity for actively destroying man-made artifacts and buildings? Check. Devotion boarding on obsession for a little human that Kong will go to great lengths to protect, displaying almost supernatural resilience? Check! The idea that Ann Darrow was actually Kong's bonder is particularly brilliant, and especially supported by the 2005 Peter Jackson remake. But Kogla is not just the most accomplished top-down design in Ikoria, it's a bonafide competitive card, a fattie that's capable of impacting the board right away, and then provides different angle of attacks (too bad trample couldn't fit in the package), and even the possibility of comboing with the ETB triggers of Human cards. Well done.

 And now that I think of it, Ferocious Tigorilla's art is another King Kong reference, is it not? I mean, minus the tiger part. That's just weird.


Assassin: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 57, online: 54

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: A more expensive Vraska's Finisher with flash. The ambushing potential is good, but the Finisher could also destroy planeswalkers, which are the more relevant permanents you'd want to turn a scratch into lethal against.


Bat: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 20, online: 18

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Let's talk mutate. Using the mutate alternate cost is cause of inherent card disadvantage, since, unlike its champion mechanical blueprint, the creature (or creatures) at the bottom of the pile won't come back except under specific conditions (e.g. after bouncing the pile back to hand or flickering it). In order to make up for that, it's important for the mutate triggers to do something impactful, and creature removal is definitely up there with the most desirable effects. Now, six mana for a Murder might seem a lot, but this Bat is more flexible than it looks, as you can just hardcast it with flash at the end of the opponent's turn, and mutate something cheaper onto it, which will also get to attack immediately in the air on top of everything else. Of course, all this means Dirge Bat is not very exciting as a tribal card, because there aren't other Bats with mutate. But whenever you'll want to try your hand at any tribal mutate deck, if it contains black, it's guaranteed to feature some copies of this guy.

 Dirge Bat has a Godzilla Series Monster version depicting Battra, which is Mothra's dark counterpart from 1992's Godzilla vs. Mothra; however, it's one of three that, due to an internal error, appear only in Japanese boosters.


Bear: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 24, online: 18

 Related Tribes: Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Bear and Wolf, together at last! If you don't have some Human around, this corpulent guy is just a 4/4 for four, which is decent, but not enough to warrant play, even in a Bear deck. Then again, it's not too hard to imagine you may have something like Noble Hierarch just waiting to be given the chance to drop all her hieratic posturing and ride a freaking wolfbear into battle already.


Beast: +20

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 398, online: 389

 Related Tribes: Bird, Cat, Dinosaur, Elemental, Elk, Lizard, Nightmare, Rhino, Shark

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: With Beast we hit one of the five nodes of the set, an "Apex tribe". The Apexes are a cycle of five three-color creatures, one for each of the enemy-colored wedges that establish the multicolored identity of Ikoria. Each Apex, meant to represent the most fearsome and respected legendary monster of its clade, bears three creature types, bringing together three of the five tribes linked to the colors of mana: Cat, Elemental, Nightmare, Dinosaur and Beast (as MaRo recounts, they all needed to feel iconic for their color, but also wide enough to allow for a variety of visual flair in the artwork). The evaluation becomes tricky, then, since each of the five Ikorian mega-tribes has access to three of the Apexes.

 Unsurprisingly, Beast is the green representative. It comprises Brokkos, Apex of Forever in Sultai colors, Illuna, Apex of Wishes in Temur, and Nethroi, Apex of Death in Abzan (quick note: the five wedges got new names, but since Ikoria is not a faction-based set, and the Tarkir names have been in use for more than five years, they'll probably stick, despite being ill-defined at the time). Here's the thing about the Apexes: they're all first-rate cards that require some build around and a specific mana setup. At the same time, they're the most powerful instances of mutate, which is a parasitic mechanic – it might look like it's not, since you can mutate onto any non-Human creature that ever existed, but then you just limit yourself to one trigger. As noted in the case of Dirge Bat, in order to offset mutate's intrinsic card disadvantage, you need strong triggers, and once you got one, you want to exploit it as much as possible – and the only way to accomplish that goal is by putting more mutate cards together in the same deck. This said, Illuna is arguably the best of the bunch, since for starters it's a 6/6 frampler for five, and its mutation cascades into one free nonland permanent (you even get the option to put it in your hand rather than onto the battlefield, to avoid wasting X-costed cards like Hydroid Krasis, or additional copies of Illuna that you may want to mutate under another creature to circumvent the legendary rule). Six mana is a steep cost, but can also be paid all in Simic colors, which is a synonym of ramp. And the trigger is matched in power only by Illuna's best Beast pal Auspicious Starrix. Dedicated mutate decks in Standard right now hope for one of these two cheat-into-play effects to hit resident Overrun on a stick, End-Raze Forerunners.

 

 Brokkos has a cool built-in graveyard recursion, though it only work with mutate, so you'll need to procure another creature first. It's the only Apex without a trigger, but also the only one whose mutate cost is the same as the regular cost, and in fact even easier to cast color-wise (most mutate costs are slightly lower than the hardcasting cost or equal to it, except when their trigger generates high value). Also worth noting how each Apex's mutate cost potentially require only two colors, and centers around their primary, which redefines what Tarkir had established: Sultai is based in green, not in blue; Temur is based in blue, not in green; Abzan is based in black, not in white; and so on.

 

 And speaking of Abzan, Nethroi is the more combo-oriented of the three bestial Apexes, as well as the one demanding more mana and more work to get where it wants to get, which is resurrecting a certain number of creatures, possibly generating in the process some kind of specific interaction that either wins the game or dominates the board. A 5/5 with deathtouch and lifelink is not a bad deal still, and the mutate trigger can be repeated later, but all in all Nethroi doesn't seem to compare too favorably to similar midrange creatures like Yarok, the Desecrated or Muldrotha, the Gravetide, unless a particular build is realized to enable its ability as the main focus.

 All the Apexes have been turned into Godzilla Series Monster cards. Illuna plays the part of King Ghidorah, Godzilla's archenemy that debuted in Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964) and was last seen in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). Nethroi has been given the role of Biollante, the botanical monstrosity from Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). And Brokkos is one of two depictions of SpaceGodzilla, the alien version of Godzilla that first fought the Earth's champion in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994), and uses organic crystals as tools and weapons (perhaps the inspiration for the crystals that punctuate Ikoria's landscape and are linked to the monsters' mutations).

  

 Other noticeable Beasts from Ikoria include the large trampler with cycling Titanoth Rex, a prime target for reanimation since it can pitch itself; and the excellent Gemrazer, which mutates for three mana, destroying an artifact or enchantment per mutation, and is otherwise an appealing 4/4 with reach and trample. These two have also been given Godzilla versions, the former as Godzilla himself in his signature look from the Heisei era (1984-1995), the latter as Godzilla's one-time adversary turned best friend, Anguirus, which looks like a direct inspiration for Gemrazer to begin with.

 

 Quartzwood Crasher is one of the five "keyword lords", and perhaps the most powerful of the cycle, able as it is to generate a trample token at each connection of both itself or another trampler, and overall supplying a sizable semi-evasive body for just five mana. It makes for one of the set's heavy hitters at that point of the curve, as well as an unforgiving wielder of Embercleave. Another keyword lord is Frondland Felidar, who cares for vigilant creatures by transforming them into tappers, a much weaker result than Crasher's.

 

 Kaheera, the Orphanguard is instead one of the ten companions, the controversial creatures that have thrown Magic for a loop, since now, if your list fulfills their deckbuilding clause, you can start the game not just with an extra card in hand, but with one that can't be taken away by hand disruption and it's guaranteed to be relevant to some extent. In the case of Kaheera, its clause is fairly easy to meet, just limiting your creature presence to one of the five Apex types, so essentially asking for a mixed tribal build. The payoff is a 3/2 for three that boosts those creatures – not the flashiest of companions, but a pretty solid one. Also, another way to have it as a companion is just not running any creature card at all (which is different than saying you have no way to put creatures on the battlefield); in this case, Kaheera's ability won't do much, but the certainty of counting on a creature that's always in the back pocket can be crucial. Imagine a Natural Order deck that doesn't have to worry about finding sacrifice fodder. Such is the power of companions.

 All the Beasts mentioned above are still just the tip of the iceberg here. As an Apex tribe, Beast comes with a lot of mutate creatures. Parcelbeast is one of the highlights, as it can mutate for just two mana, and then it can tap to cast Explore for one; this makes it one mana more expensive than Coiling Oracle overall, but the effect is repeatable, and there's a 2/4 body connected to it – another way to counterbalance mutate's card cost. More directly giving you extra cards are the ramp from Migratory Greathorn (outstanding on turn two after dropping an accelerator on one, especially one with flying, like Birds of Paradise or Gilded Goose); the graveyard recursion from Boneyard Lurker and Lore Drakkis; the bounce from Pouncing Shoreshark; the token from Trumpeting Gnarr; and of course the cascade from Auspicious Starrix, probably the most productive non-Apex payoffs for mutate: unlike Illuna, Starrix also hits lands, but it really makes you want to build a huge mutate pile under it, and eventually cascade into so many permanents at once that either you'll deck yourself or the board will be thoroughly and conclusively owned (probably involving more cooperation from End-Raze Forerunners).

   

   

 Porcuparrot takes a different approach, turning its mutate pile into a pinger of increasingly stronger consequence. The nature of mutate also suggests you to try and build your own death ray with the bizarre-looking bird, and among the Ikorian Beasts we can already find the perfect mutate base for that in Boot Nipper (but any one of the many non-Human one-drops with deathtouch will do). Essence Symbiote is instead an all-purpose mutate platform, another key element mutate decks necessitate to start their mutations on. Ideally, it has to be something cheap with a keyword to carry over into the pile; so, while one should aspire to better starting material, even unassuming, throwaway cards like Mosscoat Goriak can be weaponized by mutate.

  


Bird: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 259, online: 246

 Related Tribes: Beast, Elemental, Fox, Goat, Serpent

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Birds are deeply involved in the mutate trade too, with Porcuparrot, Vulpikeet and especially Dreamtail Heron, which just straight draws you cards upon mutating, the most surefire way to replace the cards you lose by burying creatures under the top of a mutate pile. It's also the only one of these three whose name doesn't sound right out of a children's book.

 Avian Oddity has an useful cycling trigger, but it's a bit too expensive to cycle at three mana. Stormwild Capridor is an actual oddity, trying to replicate universal damage combo enablers like Boros Reckoner and Truefire Captain. The Capridor only grows, though, so you also need to connect with it to seal the deal, albeit being a flyer definitely helps achieving that goal. The pairing of Capridor with something like Star of Extinction can be fun, but generally speaking it's more of a zany card.

 Very serious business is instead meant by the most prominent of these new Birds, the companion Yorion, Sky Nomad, the ETB version of a universal blinker like Brago, King Eternal. With Yorion you can't reiterate the trigger, but you aren't required to attack to activate it either, so it happens immediately; plus, Yorion's body makes for a more threatening clock. But what puts it over the top is, once again, the companion mechanic itself, i.e. the fact that by running Yorion from the sideboard you'll be sure to have it ready to cast once the ETB effects to re-trigger are many and relevant. And the game hasn't been stingy with those lately either, from simple effects like the Omens, to the best of the Sagas, to curve-toppers like Agent of Treachery. To understand how much of a powerhouse Yorion is, consider that several extremely successful competitive decks in Standard, Pioneer and Modern are currently going out of their way to run 80 cards, only to get access to the flickering air serpent, as its services are worth even the lessened consistency of a diluted library.

 Last but not least: not a Bird, but still good in Bird decks is Skycat Sovereign, which creates flyers with the Bird type and gets a boost from them all (well, except those that aren't capable of flight, which include Porcuparrot), while dropping for just two mana.


Brushwagg: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 2

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: And then there were two. Almost 24 years after Mirage gave us the first Brushwagg, the oddball tribe doubled its ranks (not counting the pretend test card Interplanar Brushwagg from Mystery Booster). The name and artwork of this card are clearly an in-joke, and so is its very existence, to be honest. But hey, it's actually a decent one-drop for mutate decks, and it's seeing play in Limited at least. In another 24 years Brushwagg might become a proper three-member tribe.


Cat: +17

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 202, online: 195

 Related Tribes: Ape, Beast, Dinosaur, Elemental, Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Cat is the white-based Apex tribe of Ikoria. Its three Apexes are Nethroi, Apex of Death in Abzan colors, Vadrok, Apex of Thunder in Jeskai, and Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt in Mardu. We've seen Nethroi as a Beast, and the Cat tribe has probably an even harder time enabling its graveyard shenanigans efficiently. Vadrok and Snapdax are the cheaper Apexes. Vadrok's free Snapcaster Mage routine is obviously great in a spellslinging deck, but you still need to find the right balance with creatures and noncreatures, since you'll still need the former to mutate onto, and possibly other cards with mutate to keep the recursion going, as the spell isn't exiled after Vadrok has cast it. On its part, Snapdax casts a Warleader's Helix and provides its mutate pile with double strike, which is potentially devastating. Again, none of the Apexes is bad, albeit none of them is a no-brainer slam dunk inclusion you can jam into every deck either. If anything, the steep color requirements should give any deckbuilder pause.

 

 Godzilla Series Monster corner: Vadrok's alter ego is Rodan, the colossal Pteranodon that debuted in the self-named Rodan (1956), by Gojira director Ishirō Honda, then joined the Godzilla universe eight years later in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Snapdax is King Caesar, which should actually be Shisa (it was misheard by the original translators), from the name of the lion statues that act as Okinawa's divine guardians. It's a protector, defending its island against Mechagodzilla in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), so the black mana in Snapdax's cost doesn't really fit. But of course the Godzilla cards haven't been created as top-down designs, so the creative team was forced to make do with what they had at hand.

 

 Cat also shares Kaheera with Beast, and being a more naturally aggressive tribe, it could use the Orphanguard's boost to a better effect; vigilance seems especially useful to have. And since Kaheera can at the same time start the game in the companion area (aka the sideboard) as well as with three additional copies included as regular cards in the maindeck, it could represent a good new lord for the tribe, potentially combining with Frondland Felidar's "vigilance matters" ability, thus allowing to simultaneously attack and tap the eligible blockers.

 A different kind of lord is Skycat Sovereign, which wants to be in a flyer deck, but still generates Cat tokens to be boosted by somebody else, maybe even by fellow flying feline Pride of the Clouds. Another one is Cubwarden, which can add to the battlefield three lifelinking bodies for four mana. Cats also have a second companion to their name, and it's one of the more heavily played ones, Lurrus of the Dream Den. Its clause is stern enough, but the Cat tribe can put together an outstanding lineup of members with CMC 1 or 2, including classics like Savannah Lions, Wild Nacatl, Qasali Pridemage, Leonin Arbiter, Ajani's Pridemate, Steppe Lynx, Fleecemane Lion, and Whitemane Lion. Recurring all of these with Lurrus is going to be a blast, even if it's unique among the companions in that it doesn't fulfill its own requirement, so no extra copies of it can be included in a deck it accompanies. We talk more about Lurrus is in the Nightmare section.

 For the rest, white is not the most mutate-friendly color, so Cat's mutate enablers and their bases are somewhat lacking.

   

 Although, Huntmaster Liger, whose trigger proceeds geometrically (if you mutate a Liger onto another Liger, they have both mutated twice, so the total boost is +4/+4; with three, it's +9/+9!), has the honor of representing a second version of King Caesar, this time with the correct color and subtype.

 More interesting are Garrison Cat for sacrifice decks (which are Lurrus's bread and butter, by the way), and Savai Thundermane for cycling decks, shooting Lightning Helix like it's nothing.

 


Cleric: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 397, online: 372

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Not much here except for Drannith Healer, which is a secondary component of the Ikoria-fueled cycling archetype. The two Mentors are barely relevant, the lifelink one has some playability in Limited.


Crab: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 27, online: 26

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: There's a Crab in Ikoria. That's all we can say about this guy. It's not even an actual hybridized monster, just a regular crab.


Demon: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 108, online: 105

 Related Tribes: Kraken

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Demon Kraken Gyruda is perhaps the flashiest of the companions. It's just too easy to build a deck containing only cards with even converted mana costs, and have most of those be able to retrigger or replicate Gyruda's ability (just in Standard we have Spark Double, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Charming Prince), thus digging deeper and deeper into the library, with the ultimate results of either dominating the board via Gyruda's copies and other big hitters, or milling the opponent to death, or even self-milling ourselves and then winning with Thassa's Oracle or something along those lines. A full-fledged Gyruda deck, which is allowed to run the remaining three copies of the sea monster in the starting list, is certainly a one-trick pony, but it's surprisingly effective, and can easily accommodate or even favor tribal synergies like those one can find in the Demon tribe, with cards like Griselbrand, Razaketh, the Foulblooded and Vilis, Broker of Blood firmly in Gyruda's Rolodex.


Dinosaur: +15

  

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 109, online: 108

 Related Tribes: Beast, Cat, Elemental, Hippo, Nightmare, Turtle

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: What an amazing progression the Dinosaurs are having. Introduced so late in Magic history (after a first timid appearance in Ice Age, and its removal around Lorwyn time in 2007, the subtype came back only with Ixalan, so less than three years ago), they're already a more populous tribe than Demon. In Ikoria, they're the red Apex tribe, which gives them access to Illuna, Apex of Wishes in Temur colors, Vadrok, Apex of Thunder in Jeskai, and Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt in Mardu. On top of these, they also host a trio of Godzillas incarnations, which feels perfectly natural.

  

 The Gruul Godzilla, inspired to the original Gojira of the Shōwa era (1954-1975), should have Zilortha, Strength Incarnate as its regular card name, but no Zilortha card has been produced to begin with, because Godzilla, King of the Monsters is the set's Buy-a-Box promo and only exists in Godzilla form, a choice that has been the subject of some controversy (although Mark Rosewater stated they're gonna print a proper Zilortha eventually). It's not a very appealing Buy-a-Box promo, anyway; it wants to be surrounded by creatures with high power and low toughness, a la Ball Lightning, and it makes them more resilient, but cards like Ball Lightning don't need to be more resilient in the first place, so this is for the most part a French vanilla 7/7 trampler for five, which is functional but not particularly exciting.

 The other two Godzillas are cyclers, but only Titanoth Rex is able to be reanimated; when it does, it usually leaves a mark ("there's always a bigger monster", but no bigger than the Rex!). Yidaro, Wandering Monster, which is adapted as the protagonist of Hideaki Anno's brilliant Shin Godzilla (2016), has a peculiar form of cycling that shuffles it back into the library, with the eventual hope of cheating a hasty 8/8 trampler into play once you cycled a copy of it for the fourth time – which is feasible, but perhaps a bit too much on the casual side to make the cut in competitive play. The apparently harmless Imposing Vantasaur is instead seeing a vast amount of Limited play, in virtue of cycling for the minimum amount of one colorless mana, thus matching the kind of velocity that cycling decks are after.

  

 Quartzwood Crasher and Labyrinth Raptor are the lords of two of the "keyword tribes": trample and menace, respectively. As mentioned earlier, the massive Crasher is one of the most threatening of them, but the Raptor is also good. Building around menace can be a rewarding aggro strategy, and a lord pumping a team of hard-to-block creatures fits the plan perfectly, especially when its other ability forces a sacrifice. This and the menace Bonder together are quite the... menace.

 Keruga, the Macrosage is a companion for decks that don't run anything in the lower part of the curve, a restriction that happens to fit Fires of Invention lists to a tee. A 5/4 vanilla beater for five is nothing exceptional, but it could draw you a few cards, so you can see it as perhaps a Divination (or more) that leaves a big body behind. And it's important to reiterate how companions represent the eighth card in your hand, so they're often worth the sacrifices that they demand, especially when they're minimal.

 For the rest, not a lot of memorable non-Apex mutate creatures among the Dinosaurs; just a couple of build-your-own-monster modal cards that use keyword counters (Momentum Rumbler is kind of interesting in its progression from first strike to double strike), and Pyroceratops as a Limited payoff for spellslinging strategies.

    


Dragon: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 202, online: 200

 Related Tribes: Faerie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Not an Obligatory Dragon in Ikoria, but a cute little hasty one that can quickly grow to an alarming size in spellslinging decks. Not sure why this wasn't a Drake instead, but it's probably just because Drakes can't have nice things.

 The Dorats referenced in the corresponding Godzilla Series Monster card are a trio of genetically engineered pets that mutate (!) into King Ghidorah in 1991's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.


Druid: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 193, online: 189

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: For being a non-monster tribe, Druid doesn't do too bad for itself in Ikoria, offering three different two-drops with substantial applications. The creature specialist Humble Naturalist fixes for any color of mana and has a sizeable butt, while the Golgari-oriented Skull Prophet doubles as a self-miller. The mythic Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy requires mana dorks or mana rocks to unlock his ramp, but comes with a built-in mana-sink ability that's able to cheat anything onto the battlefield, even Emrakul. In a dedicated deck, especially in older formats and Commander formats, he works splendidly as both enabler and payoff rolled into one, for a negligible initial amount of mana investment that translates into a high rate of replayability from the command zone. And he's immediately online too, as both Kinnan's abilities know no summoning sickness and works in the opponent's turn too (which means you can use Kinnan to counter a spell via Frilled Mystic). Very clever design.


Egg: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 6

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Mysterious Egg only works with mutate cards, and even there, it's not exactly a must-include, but the Egg tribe can't be too picky, I guess. On the bright side, its Godzilla card is Mothra's signature egg, the stage at which the giant moth always starts her movie adventures. Too bad it's one of the three box toppers that have only been released on the Japanese market.


Elemental: +15

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 445, online: 438

 Related Tribes: Beast, Bird, Cat, Dinosaur, Elk, Fox, Jellyfish, Nightmare, Otter, Serpent, Whale

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Elemental tribe represents blue in the Apex cycle. This translates into Illuna, Apex of Wishes in Temur colors, Vadrok, Apex of Thunder in Jeskai, and Brokkos, Apex of Forever in Sultai.

 As with the other Apex tribes, with which it's heavily connected, Elemental features some amount of each of the mechanics of the set, from mutate to cycling, plus other sundry stuff.

   

 One of the highlights is Slitherwisp, a three-mana 3/2 flash critter, which would already be playable but it's brought over the top by being the designated lord for the flash keyword, and not just the kind of lord that contents itself with boosting its subjects; Slitherwisp draws you a card and directly hits the opponent every time a flash card is cast, which goes beyond "keyword tribal" with creatures (just imagine if Mark Rosewater's idea of turning all instants into sorceries with flash would ever become reality!). This little Nightmare single-handedly made Dimir Flash into an actual thing people play and win games with.

 Another peculiarity of Ikoria's Elementals is having not one, not two, but three companions among their ranks. Jegantha, the Wellspring is a big guy that taps to cast even bigger guys, provided they have WURBG in their mana cost (Slivers beware!); otherwise it's just an oversized mana dork that can tap to generate one, maybe two colored mana you can reasonably sink into a spell. Its companion clause is easy to fulfill, though, and Niv-Mizzet Reborn decks have had their interest piqued. Speaking of requirements that are easy to accommodate, Lutri, the Spellchaser was preemptively banned in Commander and Brawl because, well, its companion clause is not a restriction at all in a Singleton formats, so every Izzet deck would just get an extra card in their starting hand entirely free of charge. And Lutri is a handy way to copy an instant or sorcery, so it would be a big deal. At the opposite side of the spectrum, Zirda, the Dawnwaker might be the companion that's more hard to satisfy, as it requires for all the nonland permanents in the deck to have an activated ability, which is not trivial and removes a lot of options in deckbuilding. On the other hand, the discount to such abilities that Zirda provides can lead to infinite combos (here's one for Standard: infinite mana with Faeburrow Elder and High Alert), so here's where its banning in Legacy came from: the Grim Monolith synergy was quite nasty, since you only needed to draw into the Monolith to go to infinity town with it, as the foxy elemental was already in your virtual hand from the get-go. Its tapping to prevent one block is kind of random, but I guess Zirda needed an activated ability of its own to be allowed as additional copies in its own deck. Singleton enthusiast Lutri, on the other hand, can only include one copy, but that's still one copy more than Lurrus is permitted to run in its lists.

  


Elephant: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 56, online: 55

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Is this guy a reference to Winnie the Pooh?! Famous giant monster Winnie the Pooh?!


Elk: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 21, online: 20

 Related Tribes: Beast, Elemental, Unicorn

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Elks are on the rise since Oko, Thief of Crowns put a big spotlight on them. Now they get a companion in Jegantha, and especially a super-mutate card in cascade-enabler Auspicious Starrix. It is auspicious indeed. Even Splendor Mare is not a bad card for Elk standards. Although, isn't "mare" used only to refer to female horses? You don't call an elk a horse! It's quadrupedal racism!


Faerie: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 95, online: 92

 Related Tribes: Dragon

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: It's all already contained in its name, it's a Sprite that's also a Dragon. And there's a strong chance Faerie tribal cares more about this little guy than Dragon tribal does.


Fox: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 28, online: 26

 Related Tribes: Bird, Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: There definitely are some notable Foxes in Ikoria. Zirda the "activations matter" companion is a fox. Flourishing Fox, one of the pillars of the cycling archetype (well, after Zenith Flare, that is) is, as its name implies, a fox. Reasonable mutate enabler Vulpikeet is, as its Latin name implies, a fox whose parent had some intimate encounter with a parakeet we don't want to think about. And Farfinder is a very cute fox with a very pretty human friend, and is held in high esteem by all Limited players, since it fixes your mana beautifully and then supplies vigilance to a mutate pile. Interestingly, Ikoria (as well as its associate act Commander 2020) has dramatically increased the number and scope of the colorless creatures that are neither artifacts nor Eldrazi. Previously, this was a semi-exclusive prerogative of Ugin-affiliated Spirits (and technically Morophon, the Boundless, even if its identity is actually the opposite of colorless). I'm not sure where the flavor resides in this case. Artifacts are colorless because they're mechanical and soulless. Eldrazi, to emphasize their being alien entities from the Blind Eternities, where the mana is weird. And Ugin's lackeys, because the Elder Dragon studied Eldrazi and became the multiverse's primary expert on colorless magic, which is supposedly very hard to handle for regular beings. So how come that little fox just went, "Eh, I don't feel like any color"? At least with the Mysterious Egg, one could argue its nature is uncertain (although, that's not exactly true; it's not like an egg doesn't know what it's going to hatch).


Frog: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 27, online: 26

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Pollywog Symbiote is, alongside Essence Symbiote, the foundation of mutate decks, especially in Sultai or Temur. It drops fast enough, and accelerates mutate creatures ahead of schedule, even when they're not cast for their mutate cost at all. Plus, it provides an instance of looting every time a mutant joins the field (again, whether they actually mutated or not), which helps dig for more mutate cards, maybe with the aim to build a colossal Auspicious Starrix pile. And last but not least, it's a non-Human body that itself can serve as a starting point for mutations. A Frog is very apt to represent all of this, because they're natural metamorphers that pass through different stages during their life cycle. Too bad no Frog has mutate, so its fellow tribesmembers don't have any use for the Symbiote.

 An evolution process is also what Godzilla's asexually produced son Baby Godzilla went through across a trilogy of movies from the mid-Nineties. But you still don't call any Godzilla of any size a frog if you hope to live to see another day.

 Also, is it me or the regular art for Pollywog Symbiote is an impossible view? From what point of observation would we be able to see so clearly the submerged half, while also being facing the part that's out of the water? Are we looking at an aquarium? Is this a stealth M.C. Escher homage?


Giant: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 164, online: 158

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: This is Ikoria's only artifact creature, linked to the mysterious crystals scattered all around the plane. Giants don't have much synergy with artifacts, but there's value in a three-drop 3/3 that any deck can play and becomes more and more of a threat turn after turn, collecting keywords like it was a mini-Akroma. You could play it alongside Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig and the mana would still hold up to scrutiny. Also, maybe you want to play The Ozolith (which is the largest of the mentioned crystals, by the way) in such a counters-heavy deck.

 Crystalline Giant makes for one of the three box-toppers that have been only distributed on the Japanese market. It aptly represents Mechagodzilla, the robotic doppelgänger of the great lizard that debuted in 1974 in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, and proved popular enough as his antagonist to reappear in half a dozen other films (and a ton of video games) over almost 40 years.


Goat: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 9, online: 7

 Related Tribes: Bird

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: For some reason this guy makes me smile. Maybe it's the overly dramatic stance despite the inherent ridiculousness of a winged goat. Or the name "capridor", which somehow makes me imagine it's speaking Spanish. Still, it's the ninth Goat ever printed (a tenth is coming in Commander 2020, which we'll review next), and it's playable enough, so mad respect.


Gremlin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 10, online: 9

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Gremlins are also barely in the double digits, but this guy doesn't contribute much to their cause. It's an acceptable one-drop in a pinch, but the cost attached to the non-tactical pinging is pretty annoying.


Hellion: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 18, online: 17

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Hellions are fiery yet odd creatures, so it feels appropriate that they get to host the companion that makes all the odd-costed sources burn twice brighter. Obosh, the Preypiercer is the counterpart to Gyruda, Doom of Depths, and arguably even more successful than the powerful Kraken. Essentially it's a Torbran, Thane of Red Fell that doesn't limit itself to magnify just the red sources. Not coincidentally, the even-costed Torbran cannot partake in the carnage when Obosh is hired as a companion, so red aggro players must choose their allegiance, and some of them are indeed choosing the Hellion, despite its aversion to Embercleave – such is the allure of the extra starting card. Sacrifice decks are also embracing Obosh, renouncing a former centerpiece like Priest of Forgotten Gods. Cauldron Familiar doesn't get enhanced, since loss of life is not damage, but Obosh can otherwise double all kinds of one-drops the mentioned decks usually run, from Gutterbones to Scorch Spitter and Footlight Fiend, and is a powerhouse with premium odd-costed sources like Mayhem Devil, Judith, the Scourge Diva and Weaponize the Monsters.

 Fun fact: according to a story card, Vivien counted Obosh's legs, and they're 347, because of course they were going to be an odd number. Also, it's the monster she faces in the trailer, right? (That video is conceptually flawed, by the way. It makes Vivien look like a monster hunter who happens to have a monster sidekick who does her bidding).


Hippo: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 6

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Keruga, the companion for decks that just randomly qualify for it in virtue of not being very active during the first couple of turns, is also the game's sixth Hippo, the second rare, the first legendary. And, man, saying that it's the best of them is an understatement – although Defiant Greatmaw is alright.


Horror: +2

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 199

 Related Tribes: Hellion, Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Obosh is also a Horror, which is a huge tribe with not a huge competitive lineup, so any strong addition is welcome. Void Beckoner is very good too: a cycler that doubles as combat trick, and can maybe be reanimated later, even if there are many self-discarding fatties that can play that game, and most of them do it better (you need look no further than Titanoth Rex).

 Godzilla has battled its duplicate from outer space too, but SpaceGodzilla is sadly more known as the promo card that was retired due to its truly unfortunate epithet that came out at the worst possible time. MTG Arena has replaced it, but tabletop and Magic Online won't.


Human: +32

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2366, online: 2183

 Related Tribes: Assassin, Cleric, Druid, Rogue, Scout, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant... or is it?

 Highlights: Human is the only race that uses classes on Ikoria (those monsters are too lazy to learn a craft!), and with mutate leaving them on the outside by design, they needed a different mechanic. The simplest solution was of course just having them go tribal with a few lords, and that's where General Kudro of Drannith and his own General's Enforcer come in. Kudro provides the classic +1/+1 boost to his fellow Humans, some graveyard hate that's more relevant than ever, and even a bit of removal for large creatures at the cost of two of yours ("weaponize the people"?), which is steep but could be worth it if you eliminate a major finisher by sacrificing two puny tokens. The Enforcer makes Kudro and other legendary Humans indestructible (nice synergy and flavor there), has a favorable cost/body ratio, and can generate Human tokens that his general can sacrifice for the cause of killing monsters. Or you can just chumpblock with them, or one of the hundred other things Human tokens can be useful for.

 These are the Humans who hate and fight the monsters of Ikoria. At the other end of the spectrum, we find the concepts of the Bonders and Mentors, the Forbidden Friendship between the two warring groups, which mechanically translates into sort of a middle ground between the Human and non-Human synergies. As a result, Ikoria contains several cards that reward you for playing a mix of both worlds, like Exuberant Wolfbear, Patagia Tiger (which is Lukka's monster pal), Fight as One, Of One Mind, and especially Winota, Joiner of Forces, a build-around card capable of very explosive turns. Even Kogla, the Titan Ape wants you to bring his prospective girlfriend along. And look at this heartwarming in-card saga about a boy and his monster (cool story, bro, but your inter-species Cathartic Reunion can't really steal the spotlight from the Nalaars').

  

 Or what about Gustin the Proud Wildbonder's coming-of-size tale?

 

 Humans also get noncreature help, with a strong tribal-based piece of removal and an anthem enchantment. Oh yeah, Humans really needed more help.

 


Insect: +3

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 169, online: 165

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The high impact of Ikoria onto the Insect world comes all from Luminous Broodmoth, which was paying homage to Mothra even before the Godzilla Series Monster promos came to be, and it's indeed one of the most accomplished kaiju adaptations, since Mothra is benevolent and magnificent, if inscrutable. Her card costs the same and plays similarly to Nightmare Shepherd, but it's even more powerful, since the tokens have the same basic stats of the deceased creatures instead of being 1/1s, and they even acquire flying in the process, which could be devastating. She has not been properly exploited in Standard yet, but the impression is that it's just a matter of finding her the right home. There's time until her rotation in Fall 2021 for that to happen.

 For the rest, Durable Coilbug offers dependable recursion in Limited, and Adaptive Shimmerer is the third and last nonartifact colorless creature in the set, and the reasons for it being colorless are just as inexplicable. It's meant as a base for mutate (all creatures composed of +1/+1 counters are prime mutate targets, since the counters transfer to the pile), but it's too expensive to work in that regard, and unremarkable otherwise, even in flash tribal.


Jellyfish: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 10

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Here's another tribe that Ikoria brought to a round ten members. Glimmerbell is not Hydroid Krasis by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a cheap flyer with some defensive capability, so it works perfectly as the first brick in a mutate pile. The concocted monstrosity can put the untapping to some use, too, but that function also leads to combos, from casual ones, like Colossification, to even more fantastically casual ones, like the Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter+Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy+Leyline of Abundance infinite mana combo. I guess, having Zirda as companion also helps there.


Kraken: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 15

 Related Tribes: Demon

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: We already talked about the amazing two-threats-in-one Demon Kraken companion Gyruda. Let's now talk about its Godzilla Series Monster counterpart! Gigan is a very threatening space monster with a buzzsaw embedded in his chest that tag-teams with King Ghidorah against the dynamic duo of Godzilla and Anguirus in 1972's Godzilla vs. Gigan. It returns one year later serving a different Big Bad in Godzilla vs. Megalon, as well as in the cult TV series Zone Fighter. He's considered one of Godzilla's fiercest opponents, despite the fact that the movies in which he appears are quite awful.


Leech: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 13, online: 12

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: There were already more than ten Leeches before Ikoria, but the tribe is still small and, well, filled with terrible trash, so a member that can ambush a creature at instant speed and maybe even kill another different small enemy in the process (or even not so small if it's a Hydra) has to be one of the highlights, even if it costs six mana and has a very frail butt itself. In Limited, it's one of the desirable curve-toppers in black.


Leviathan: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 21, online: 20

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The mutate trigger of Archipelagore is not worth six mana per se, unless it's repeated multiple times, then it becomes an alpha-strike-enabling Sleep. This cycle of uncommon creatures with expanding mutations has better representatives, though, and above all Auspicious Starrix, which affects the board in a more permanent way, even at the first try. Plus, the times you have no mutate targets at hand so are stuck hardcasting a 7/7 vanilla for seven aren't going to feel good. And once again, if we evaluate this as a Leviathan, it's even worse: as the tribe's only mutate card, it won't find other ways to increase the trigger's effect than more copies of itself.


Lizard: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 54, online: 52

 Related Tribes: Antelope, Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Three low-rarity Lizards that are various shades of filler, but in a very dignified way, because all three are cards you can play without feeling too ashamed. Lore Drakkis might even be considered worthy of Constructed, since it mutates for two mana (the lowest cost at which mutate naturally shows up) and the recursion is consistently useful.


Mole: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: The Mole subtype was randomly introduced four years ago (in Shadows over Innistrad, of all places) with Graf Mole, then it remained dormant until now. Both Moles aren't terrible cards, but don't have the chutzpah required to make the cut in any kind of Constructed field. Both also feel quite disconnected from their setting. Maybe it's because they live underground.


Monkey: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 6

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Another creature that's designed to be excellent in Limited, but it's not good enough for Constructed. However, unlike mutate, the "cycling matters" mechanic plays in a less parasitic way, because there are a ton of cycling cards to be added to your Constructed decks if you want, including lands, and cycling itself has a self-contained use, so you won't need other cards that care for it. Which is especially relevant in a tiny tribe like Monkey, now able to field a potentially large first striker as a three-drop. By the way, a marmoset is a clawed monkey from South America.


Nightmare: +18

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 51

 Related Tribes: Beast, Cat, Dinosaur, Elemental, Horror, Pangolin, Snake, Squirrel

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The last of the Apex tribes (well, in alphabetical order), Nightmare represents black and has access to Nethroi, Apex of Death in Abzan colors, Brokkos, Apex of Forever in Sultai, and Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt in Mardu (can we note how goofy of a name "Snapdax" is? Feels like a working name that they forgot to change before release).

 Other important new members that are, for once, entirely exclusive of the tribe (a very unusual occurrence for the Apex types) are Fiend Artisan and Hunted Nightmare. The creepy-looking Artisan is the most expensive card in the set, at some point sold for north of $30 apiece. It looks striking enough, as it can tutor a creature per turn to the battlefield by paying their casting cost plus one (kind of a Green Sun's Zenith deal), while also acts as a sort of Tarmogoyf, a two-drop beater whose body quickly grows to threatening proportions. It's all a bit of a virtual evaluation, though, since the Artisan is not being played much in Standard, and not at all elsewhere. In Standard, it's mostly appreciated by Orzhov Sacrifices decks because it falls within Lurrus of the Dream Den's acceptable CMC range, can be cast for just black, and suits well the overall strategy of sending stuff to the graveyard, thus providing a sizable presence on the board.

 Hunted Nightmare can't be played while Lurrus is your companion, but it's another solid addition to the Nightmares lineup, in their favorite color. It's a 4/5 with menace for three mana, but of course there's a downside, as you need to give a deathtouch counter tor the opponent that they can use as they please – so technically your Nightmare is going to die soon, and in exchange you just removed the least impactful of the creatures on the other side of the board. Yeah, but what if the opponent doesn't control any creature to put the counter on? Or just one, and the Hunted Nightmare will still connect undisturbed thanks to menace? Or maybe they don't want to give away the creatures they have anyway. As I said, very solid.

 Moving onto the remaining rares, two of the "keyword lords" are the Dimir-colored Slitherwisp for flash and the Rakdos-colored Labyrinth Raptor for menace. The most powerful and controversial companion, Lurrus of the Dream Den is also a Nightmare – as is its phantom hyphen: Gatherer and the Wizards website have it as "Dream-Den", MTGO and Arena go with "Dream Den", and our own parent site MTGOTraders has the hyphenated form for the regular version, unhyphenated for the promo (which is probably a smart way to have it show up regardless); it's DOM vs. DAR all over again! (Asked about it by the Scryfall team on Twitter, Matt Tabak said that the printed version, sporting the hyphen, is always correct by default", which is untrue on so many levels).

 This guy is wreaking havoc in older formats like Vintage and Legacy (except, not anymore! And look at the damn hyphen!), where the cards it allows in the deck to be recurred turn after turn are some of the most powerful available in the format, and the number of infinite combos you can do with this setup is enormous. The thing about companions is, they didn't design them with Vintage and Legacy in mind, because they stopped designing cards thinking of their effects on the Eternal formats, long ago. Those formats are on their own, their power level is already barely sustainable and their role within the Magic universe at large is smaller and smaller; they're now more scatterbrained grandpas than weird uncles to the formats that are actually supported by Organized Play.

 Back to Nightmares (of a different flavor), they seem to have some affinity with mutate, although their mutate cards aren't the most fruitful. Boneyard Lurker is fine, Cavern Whisperer has some applications in Limited, but Insatiable Hemophage is hands down the worst member of the geometrical mutate cycle: it costs too much to mutate for an effect of little consequence, at least for the first few iterations. In spite of this, it's very popular with the casual crowd.

    

 A few other Nightmares are pretty okay, especially those that subscribe to the modal sub-mechanic, mainly Grimdancer, which lets you choose two keywords out of three, all relevant, for a reasonable cost and body. Zagoth Mamba is a viable mutate base.

  


Octopus: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 9

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Sea-Dasher Octopus is the first Octopus that costs less than four mana; in fact, it even costs less than three, since you'll always want to mutate it at instant speed for two on an unblocked creature, so the resulting pile can immediately draw you a card, Curiosity style. It's like an Octopus Ninja! The tribe's range is still minuscule, but they're getting a few good members lately, with cards like this one, Mesmerizing Benthid, Sharktocrab (which, yeah, is an Octopus too, despite its portmanteau of a name not calling too much attention to it), and even Octoprophet.


Ooze: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 28, online: 27

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Ooze is one of Mark Rosewater's favorite tribes (and mine as well!), so we should always be on the lookout for new strong specimens. Umori, the Collector delivers in general. Maybe it's not the low-cost, high-synergy member the tribe would need (for one thing, it doesn't care about +1/+1 counters, which is Ooze's primary identity), but it slots right in at four within the ideal curve of Experiment One, Scavenging Ooze, Predator Ooze and Biogenic Ooze (the great and wonderful Prime Speaker Vannifar is not really designed to be just a cog in the Ooze tribal machine). Making Biogenic Ooze and Acidic Slime one mana cheaper is maybe not crucial, but still appreciated, and the body is substantial enough for its cost. Elsewhere, Umori is a companion for decks that go with just one card type, most notably mutate lists in Standard, which are entirely composed of creatures. There's potential for other types, too, especially artifacts, up to Vintage Shop builds – as reiterated several times, if you can accommodate a companion with minimum effort, why shouldn't you? It's an extra card out of literally nowhere (well, the sideboard, but it's not a zone of the game), and in the case of Umori, you get a mana discount for your entire deck that takes the form of a reliable beater and can get online pretty fast in the Eternal formats.


Otter: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: The Mustelidae dream is getting real! The game now includes subtypes for Badger, Ferret, Otter and Wolverine! How long until Marten and Weasel join the fold, too? Also, why is this happening again?

 Otter debuts with a much-discussed companion (due to its preemptive banning in Singleton formats, as mentioned earlier) as well as their own Thieving Magpie, except non-evasive, but you can still outfit it with some pinging aura or equipment and draw cards as happily as an otter.


Pangolin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 4, online: 3

 Related Tribes: Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: A brief history of the Pangolin tribe. First introduced in 2018 with Reckless Pangolin in the Chinese-market exclusive starter set Global Series: Jiang Yanggu & Mu Yanling (which also saw the very first appearance of the two titular planeswalkers), it was a one-member tribe until the original Prowling Pangolin from Onslaught, which was previously briefly an Anteater, was changed that same summer (alongside silver-bordered Bumbling Pangolin from Unstable). A third black-bordered member was retconned last January, when Ridgescale Tusker also got the Pangolin subtype. And now they're four. Such a complex story for such a small, largely insignificant tribe. They look cool, though, so there's that.

  


Phoenix: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 23, online: 22

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Unlike most of her sisters, Everquill Phoenix must work to ensure her own immortality. Basically she requires a non-Human creature already on the battlefield (and willing to disappear into a mutate pile), otherwise she'll just be an underwhelming, if still playable, 4/4 flyer for four with no other abilities. The rebirth is also not happening automatically and takes one mana, but also virtually results in haste for the reborn Phoenix, provided the mana is available before untapping. The artifact token being red and called Feather is a nice touch, too – although it stretches the flavor definition of artifact, since nobody actually built the Phoenix's feather; maybe it should have been an enchantment.

 Destoroyah is Everquill Phoenix's Godzilla Series counterpart. It was Godzilla's adversary in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), the final film of the Heisei era, and it's the aggregate form of a colony of microscopic crustaceans slowly mutated (!) over the years since they were hit by the mega-bomb that killed the original 1954 Godzilla. Destoroyah evolves during the film, acquiring the capability of flight, and since it's a collective organism, it can revive itself, so a Phoenix is not a bad fit to represent it.


Rhino: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 36

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Not an amazing turnout for Rhinos, they only get this uninspired cycler, the weakest in the group of creatures that grant their keyword when cycled. Sudden first strike can make for a a combat trick, but this guy is mostly filler.


Rogue: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 258, online: 243

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Chevill, Bane of Monsters, Ikoria's leading monster hunter, has all the markings of a chase mythic: low cost in a popular combination of colors, relevant keyword, and the ability to draw cards and gain life every turn. The problem is, Chevill's mechanic, while certainly flavorful, is very clunky to pull off. For starters, you'll have to wait until the next upkeep to put a bounty counter on a target. And then you'll need removal for that target. And you can't accumulate counters and then mass-remove them in a big burst of life and card advantage, since only one at a time is active, and it can't even be moved. Chevill is still a reasonable two-drop (so inside the Lurrus range), but far from a hit.

 Cunning Nightbonder is one of the Bonders, representing the Humans from Ikoria that have developed a special relationship with the monsters; Kinnan is the most striking example of the concept, but resides outside this uncommon cycle, which is more about the iconic keyword overlapping the hybrid color pair each Bonder stands for. In the case of this Dimir one, the keyword is flash, so she plays well with the flash lord Slitherwisp (which we can assume is the monster depicted in the artwork), and within the Dimir Flash archetype in general.


Scorpion: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 10, online: 8

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Scorpion reaches the tenth member. This little one-drop is surprisingly in high demand, due to its quality of being great fodder in sacrifice decks, especially those where Obosh, the Preypiercer is there to double the death-triggered damage to a whopping four. Which, for just a one-mana investment, is definitely a good deal.


Scout: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 145, online: 139

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Just like Frondland Felidar is the least interesting of the keyword lords, its complementary vigilance-based Bonder does very little for the game in general and for the Scout tribe in particular. And that's not even Frondland Felidar in the art!


Serpent: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 36, online: 35

 Related Tribes: Bird, Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Yorion is quite possibly the most powerful of the companions, while Lava Serpent is a versatile card that can be cycled in the early game (especially in decks where cycling carries added value) or cast as a haste fattie when it aligns favorably with the mana and board development. So all in all the Serpent tribe, which is far from being one of the fanciest in the game, is well-represented in Ikoria.


Shark: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 7, online: 6

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Shark starts its run (or re-starts, since originally Giant Shark from The Dark bore the subtype, which was removed in 2007 during the Grand Creature Type Update) with a bunch of retcons. One more Shark is also coming in Commander 2020, but the two that debut the subtype in Ikoria are both quite good. Pouncing Shoreshark adds proper instant-speed Unsummon to mutate's bag of tricks, while Voracious Greatshark updates Mystic Snake and Frilled Mystic's counterspell on a stick deal, now requiring just one color and resulting in a bigger body. The CMC is a bit higher and the countermagic's field of action slightly reduced, but the outcome of this design remains impressive, with the Greatshark able to ambush much larger enemies than any of its predecessors. It appears flash is considered a Shark trait, perhaps translating their surprise attacks in the water. You shouldn't have gone swimming in the middle of the battle, Fervent Champion!

 Last but not least, although not technically a creature, Ikoria gifted us with an amazing shark-related homage that revolutionized the endgame of several draw-go decks, primarily Temur Reclamation – you don't have to look at what the card does (it's almost never cast), just at the cycling trigger. The semi-uncounterable, instant-speed, cantripping cycling trigger that puts a large flyer onto the battlefield during the opponent's end step.


Snake: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 87, online: 79

 Related Tribes: Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Unlike their marine cousins, the Serpents, Snake doesn't have a very worthwhile presence in Ikoria. On paper, this Mamba should feel attractive as a mutate base, providing a morcel of free removal at each mutation; but it's actually rarely seen in action, with mutate decks favoring either the Symbiotes or creatures that contribute keywords or counters to the pile.


Soldier: +11

   

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 682, online: 624

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Soldier cards in Ikoria fall into two broader categories: either are Human tribal cards, like General Kudro of Drannith or General's Enforcer (plus a few minor ones), or they strictly belong to the cycling archetype. In fact, one of the four main staples of Lurrus Cycling in Constructed is a Soldier, Valiant Rescuer, who's in charge of the deck going wide (whereas Flourishing Fox is the "go tall" element and Drannith Stinger is the burn). Snare Tactician is one of the main appeals of drafting cycling in Ikoria Limited, but has not really a place in Constructed decks, where the tapping ability might not be doing much. The same can be said for Checkpoint Officer, which can go into any white deck but is not really Constructed material.

 Lavabrink Venturer makes use of the "even or odd" theme that appears a few other times throughout Ikoria (with Gyruda and Obosh, as well as Extinction Event). As Mark Rosewater recalls, it's a mechanical element that dates back to Ice Age's Chaos Lord, then was reprised in Lorwyn with Ashling's Prerogative and in Battle for Zendikar with Void Winnower, before being moved to the Un-Sets (elsewhere, he also notes how hard it is to find the right flavor for it, as well as its general weirdness in how it plays out on the battlefield and in deckbuilding). The Venturer is reminiscent of Haktos the Unscarred, too – the protection she gets is much more limited (half the casting costs can still harm her, rather than just one), but you get to choose, so there's a degree of control based on the current board state. It doesn't ensure safety, though, unless you're playing against a deck with Gyruda or Obosh as companion, in which case she becomes your secret weapon, even if a three-powered body is not a very fast clock on its own (but hey, it works for True-Name Nemesis).

 Whisper Squad is a neat variant on the concept of creatures that search for more instances of themselves, a la Squadron Hawk or Growth-Chamber Guardian. Yes, the Squad are small, but they appear directly on the battlefield, so you can immediately have two of them out for three mana, then the other two for another four. Sacrifice decks appreciate the fuel.


Spider: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 55, online: 54

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Just one Spider, but it's a nice mutate card that provides reach and two +1/+1 counters to its pile. Otherwise it's a Netcaster Spider without the combat trigger (in fact, you can see that trigger turned into its mutate ability). It's not must-play even in mutate lists, but it's not bad.


Squirrel: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 3

 Related Tribes: Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: He did it! Mark Rosewater finally brought his beloved Squirrels back into black-bordered Magic! Helica Glider is the first Squirrel to appear in a Standard-legal set since Odyssey, so in almost 20 years! It's just a harmless modal creature that's not too impressive, cost-wise, in either of its modes (although, making a flying squirrel is fun), and the color is a departure from the previous ones, but it was about getting a paw in the door for the ostracized rodents that were deemed too silly for regular sets. Once Otters are in the picture, you can safely say that ship has sailed, fast.

 


Turtle: +2

  

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 New Tribal Total: 20, online: 18

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Aegis Turtle is clearly meant as a mutate base, in that you drop it on turn 1, and it defends you until it can be turned into something bigger. There are better ways to accomplish that, but it's functional, and five is a lot of toughness for a one-drop.

 Yidaro, Wandering Monster is both the first legendary Turtle and the first red Turtle. Ironically, I think it's meant as a homage to Gamera, but still had to accommodate an alternate art depicting the latest Japanese incarnation of the protagonist of Gamera's rival kaiju franchise.


Unicorn: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 20, online: 17

 Related Tribes: Elk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: All right, maybe you can call a unicorn a horse, but I'm sure that actually sounds like an insult among unicorns. They're majestic creatures! Except for Majestic Unicorn. That one's just mediocre.


Warrior: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 721, online: 704

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Two members of the Bonder cycle are Warriors; the Gruul one grants super-trample and the Rakdos one super-menace. Their stats are a bit below curve otherwise, so they're mostly for casual or Limited play. Same goes for the two Mentors, who happen to care for the same two keywords, despite being monocolored.

 Winota, Joiner of Forces (freshly banned in Brawl) is the only real highlight here, as she single-handedly gave birth to an entire Standard archetype where you trigger her cheat-into-play-from-library ability by attacking with non-Humans like Gilded Goose, Arboreal Grazer and various tokens, hoping to hit Human heavyweights like Agent of Treachery or Kenrith, the Returned King. This simple strategy has proved very effective, and Winota's body is resilient enough that she can at least survive most direct damage spells, chiefly Deafening Clarion. Side note: I find hilarious that the Bonders cosplay as their companion monsters. Winota even lost an arm when bonding with her giant raccoon, but still wears those funny ears and raccoon eye makeup.


Whale: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 7

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Wait, are dolphins whales? I don't think that's correct, it's more like the other way around, at least in the case of the killer whale (which is in fact a dolphin). It sounds like saying that chimpanzees are gorillas. Regardless, the Whale tribe now has a member that costs less than four mana. A second one is coming in Commander 2020, which include two new Whales. Things are moving up in the Cetacean world.


Wizard: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 728, online: 710

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ikorian Wizards include the Bonder and Mentor that care for the flying keyword, and Drannith Stinger as one of the main payoffs of the cycling archetype, the one that lets you win without even attacking or targeting, just by cycling cards non-stop while one or more Stingers are out. Drannith Magistrate was clearly designed as a hate card with larger formats than Standard in mind. In those, he completely shuts down flashback (including Snapcaster Mage), suspend, cascade, madness and whatnot. But he's pretty busy in Standard too, what with the format having escape, adventures, Light Up the Stage, Dreadhorde Arcanist, various Chandras, Bolas's Citadel and now Vivien, Monsters' Advocate, just to name a few. Most notably, his ability hinders companions, but also commanders, which eventually resulted in his banning in Brawl. He's not exceedingly in demand right now, but it's good to have such a potent sideboard option available on a cheap permanent with a non-shockable body.

 The mythic Wizard Rielle, the Everwise is a combo piece that immediately found a home in Izzet Phoenix decks, since she makes all the enabling looters/rummagers like The Royal Scions, Thrill of Possibility and Cathartic Reunion so much better. Plus she grows into a threat in the meantime. You can also try more outlandish builds centered on her, like a Song of Creation combo deck, where Rielle makes the enchantment's last line of text more manageable, as well as more advantageous when working towards a self-milling endgame.


Wolf: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 52, online: 48

 Related Tribes: Bear

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Wolf and Bear, together at last! Wait, did I already do this bit? Anyway, Wolf has a more competitive lineup than Bear, and this guy doesn't really qualify (Mayor of Avabruck is a Human, but you hope he doesn't remain so for long, and Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves is an Elf). Sorry, Wolfbear! You're not exuberant enough.


Wolverine: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 8, online: 6

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: I will not care for any new Wolverine until they make one with regeneration, retractable claws, and "snikt!" as a flavor text.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


NON-APEX NON-COMPANION BEST IN SHOW
(click on any them to go to their review)

   

   

   

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THE APEXES
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE RARE MUTANTS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE UNCOMMON MUTANTS (The "X" Mutants)
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE COMMON MUTANTS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE HYBRID MUTANTS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

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THE KEYWORD LORDS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE KEYWORD CYCLERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE MODAL MONSTERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

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THE FAMOUS HUMANS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE BONDERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

THE MENTORS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

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THE COMPANIONS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

    

    

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS