fbpx

My Recent Deckbuilding Challenges Of Ikoria Limited

Ryan Saxe makes the case for synergy over power in Ikoria Draft with his latest trophy win! Would you make the choices he did?

Unbreakable Bond, illustrated by Randy Vargas

SCG Tour Advertisement

Ikoria is about as focused as a Limited format can be. Moving forward, I will be using it as the premier example of “draft a deck, not a pile of good cards.” Many Limited formats have a fine line between pursuing synergy versus pursuing the highest card quality in a vacuum.

Not Ikoria.

I believe it’s correct to take cards like Bastion of Remembrance and Sanctuary Lockdown over Blood Curdle if Orzhov Humans is a potential avenue for the draft. Premium removal is still premium, but synergy payoffs are higher priorities in this format. Therefore, there are scenarios where Prickly Marmoset and Snare Tactician are higher picks than Fire Prophecy.

Time and time again I am faced with building my deck, and struggling with cutting cards. I find it difficult to cut cards that are likely to be good in your average Limited format. For example, I don’t play every copy of Dead Weight in my black decks. Take a look at this deck from my friend Alex:

Ignore the five copies of the second-best uncommon in the set, as this was pretty early in the format. However, note that there are two copies of Cathartic Reunion in the deck and two copies of Checkpoint Officer in the sideboard. In many Limited formats, inefficient tappers are solid cards, and Cathartic Reunion without graveyard synergies doesn’t ever make the cut. In Ikoria, I only want to play Checkpoint Officer in Orzhov Humans, because it has a Human synergy. In cycling, it’s just too inefficient and I would rather spend my mana cycling. Cycling can be prone to flooding, and Cathartic Reunion helps mitigate that risk, making it a more impactful inclusion than a classic Limited card that has a notable effect on the battlefield.

The following draft is a bit different from the classic archetypes in the format, but it presented some very difficult deckbuilding decisions, which we will address at the end.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!

Snare Tactician is a common that makes games against the cycling deck feel unwinnable. Last week I was still in the “you should probably force the cycling deck” mindset, and I would have taken it here since nothing perfectly goes with my first pick. However, now the cycling deck is contested enough, I don’t believe it is correct to take Tactician over a powerful uncommon.

Pouncing Shark is a good card, but it isn’t as busted as I thought it would be. I was expecting Shark to completely take over a battlefield with the threat of activation and commonly eat a creature in combat. While both of those scenarios happen, neither is common. There is a real risk in mutate-stacking without card-advantageous triggers. Don’t get me wrong, the card is fantastic and you should take it highly, but I no longer have it in the highest tier of uncommons. But I do have it as a higher Pack 1, Pick 1 than Unbreakable Bond. However, I took Unbreakable Bond here.

Starting the draft with Quartzwood Crasher has a large influence on the lens through which I consider cards. While I am open to navigating into a deck that doesn’t play the rare, I believe it is correct to strongly bias towards it because the power-level is through the roof. Green decks can splash easily, and often want multiple copies of Greater Sandwurm. I have found the best variants of green in this format have access to Sandwurm plus a reanimation effect, since the reanimation effects are very easy to splash. Given that all reanimation effects in Ikoria are uncommon, there is a Sandwurm in the pack that could wheel, and I started with a great green card to reanimate, I believe that it is correct to take Unbreakable Bond.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!

Almighty Brushwagg and Ferocious Tigorilla are great commons to go with the rare in the pool. If I had to choose between the two, I would take the Almighty Brushwagg. It helps facilitate an amazing curve with Migratory Greathorn, which is already a card I am looking to pick up. That being said, I think the general power-level of the card is too much lower than both Cavern Whisperer and Humble Naturalist to justify taking here.

Cavern Whisperer has been impressive, but still isn’t a common I like taking this early. Rakdos-splash-Crasher is a potential avenue, especially since Cathartic Reunion is a great common discard outlet for reanimation strategies. But I think the most common avenue given this start is Gruul, splashing Unbreakable Bond. That deck is unlikely to be interested in Cavern Whisperer.

Humble Naturalist is what I took here, as it maximizes the best draws with Crasher and also makes Greater Sandwurm easier to cast. I ended up in a Gruul deck with reanimation spells and Greater Sandwurms, but didn’t end up playing Humble Naturalist! Why?

While this deck had a lot of top-end, it could never capitalize on a Turn 2 Naturalist because there are zero four-drops it can cast, and only two five-drops. Even though it is a good card in the abstract, the way this deck is structured, it is likely to be a useless card as the game progresses. Maintaining a strategy of always curving a hard-hitting three-drop into removal, with a reanimation backup plan, felt optimal. Naturalist does not assist that plan consistently, and hence I believe it was correct to cut.

Don’t be afraid to cut “good cards” in Ikoria Limited. Identify the plan of a deck, and trim cards that don’t assist that plan (even if the card is considered good or even a removal spell). A recipe for success in this Limited format is drafting decks with a high synergistic focus. It may be difficult at first, but it’s crucial for success.

SCG Tour Advertisement