Unassuming Cards Not To Overlook For Ikoria: Lair Of Behemoths Limited

There’s more to Ikoria than flashy rares and mythics! Ryan Saxe shares his early picks for key Limited cards.

Garrison Cat, illustrated by Sidharth Chaturvedi

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The best Limited decks are always more than the sum of their parts. Consider the card Thrill of Possibility. It’s not a particularly good Magic card and prior to Theros Beyond Death it was a filler-rate common. However, in Theros Beyond Death, Thrill of Possibility is a top red common.

Thrill of Possibility

Context is king. The context of a Limited format provides the framework for card interactions. Maximizing interactions between cards is what yields a deck that is more than the sum of its parts. Thrill of Possibility climbed to the top of the red commons because of how well it played with the rest of the cards in the set. Theros Beyond Death was filled with graveyard synergies and instant-speed synergies. In retrospect, this isn’t surprising, yet nobody pegged Thrill of Possibility early in the format, let alone prior to release. How can we attempt to discern what kinds of cards in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths will surprise us as cream of the crop?

Maximizing interactions between cards is what yields a deck that is more than the sum of its parts.

The important question to ask is: what are the kinds of interactions to optimize for? Ikoria‘s mechanics are mutate, cycling, companion, and keyword counters. Additionally, there are themes around instants and sorceries, Humans versus non-Humans, as well as flash. And there’s a lot of overlap, which makes me confident that many cards that look unassuming will turn out to be great.

Garrison Cat Forbidden Friendship

Mutate requires a non-Human creature. “Humans” is also a theme in the set, as clearly demonstrated by Sanctuary Lockdown. Garrison Cat looks like a worse version of Hunted Witness and Hunted Witness was already bad the last time we saw it in Guilds of Ravnica. But maybe a non-Human to mutate on that leaves behind a Human will be worth more than lifelink plus convoke synergies. Maybe mutate will push towards decks with lower curves in order to capitalize on early, large, mutated threats.

While Garrison Cat isn’t likely to be a great card, it’s the kind of card that’s important to look at because it’s in the set for a reason. Maybe it will have an impact on Limited. Maybe it won’t. But discerning the unassuming cards that wheel early on in a format, yet happen to be crucial pieces to the best decks, is one of the best ways to get an edge in Limited.

If Garrison Cat turns out to be a solid role-player, then I expect Forbidden Friendship to be one of red’s best commons. It provides both bodies immediately and has additional spell synergies. Forbidden Friendship and Lore Drakkis make quite the Turn 4 combination, and don’t forget any Inspired Charge or Trumpet Blast variants will require Forbidden Friendship in multiples. The card looks like just another Dragon Fodder but it’s so much more than that. It’s possible that the haste alongside two relevant creature types is approximately the same value as another token. If that’s the case, this is as impactful as Hordeling Outburst

Hornbash Mentor Fight as One Exuberant Wolfbear

When approaching a new Limited format, it’s important to internalize that cards are included in the set for a reason. Hornbash Mentor, Fight as One, and Exuberant Wolfbear communicate that decks shouldn’t just be Humans or non-Humans. Decks in this format will contain both and a balance between the two provides access to some powerful effects. This further cements the importance of cards that can play both roles, such as Forbidden Friendship.

This set is chock-full of intermittent mechanic interactions. Every theme. Every mechanic. Every synergy. There’s purposeful overlap everywhere. This is incredibly exciting. It suggests archetypal depth. Boros can range from a classic aggressive deck, to a dedicated cycling deck…to maybe even a Human plus non-Human go-wide mutate deck. There’s a lot happening, and it’s impossible to know for sure what will emerge as the most unassuming commons. But spend some time thinking about it.

Below is a set of cards with mechanical overlap. Look through them. Maybe that’ll give you an idea about which cards in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths you can be ahead of the curve on!

Bastion of Remembrance Valiant Rescuer Forbidden Friendship

Pouncing Shoreshark Lore Drakkis Dreamtail Heron

Keensight Mentor Fertilid Flourishing Fox

Sanctuary Smasher Splendor Mare Titanoth Rex

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