Magic: The Gathering - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, the latest set for the trading card game, is here, plunging us into a world of mutating monsters and battle-hardened humans.
The best way to have fun with a fresh set is to play Limited Draft, one of MTG’s most popular formats. This helps you get to know the new cards in Ikoria, which include strange critters like elemental otters and demon krakens.
It may be difficult to play a physical game right now, but you can get your first taste of drafting an Ikoria deck for free using the TCG’s digital board game counterpart Magic: The Gathering Arena.
Magic: The Gathering Ikoria draft guide
- Blue/White Fliers: Control the skies for a soaring victory.
- Red/White Cycling: Don't let up with draw after draw.
- Red/Green Trample: Steamroll your opponent with unstoppable creatures.
- Blue/Red Spells: Conjure up a win with powerful instants and sorceries.
- Red/Black Menace: Unleash an unblockable barrage.
- Blue/Green Mutate: Build momentum before racing ahead.
- Blue/Black Flash: Spring sneaky ambushes to steal a win.
- White/Black Humans: Use tokens to whittle your rival to nothing.
- Black/Green Graveyard: Play the long game by outlasting your opponent.
- White/Green Vigilance: A deck with the element of surprise.
Sussing out what creatures and spells work well together is tricky. Without a guide to drafting Ikoria, it’s easy to end up with a random assortment of cards that doesn’t feel much like a deck at all. Luckily, we're here with this Magic: The Gathering Ikoria draft guide to help get you started.
Understanding what your deck is trying to achieve is the key to winning any Limited game of MTG. Luckily, there’s a shortcut: each set comes with ten archetypes, pre-made strategies, one for every possible dual combination of Magic: The Gathering’s mana colours. Identify an archetype that’s fairly open (meaning other players at the table aren’t grabbing all your best cards) and stick to its game plan, and you can’t go too far wrong.
So, without further ado, read on for our guide on how to draft Ikoria - and get ready to meet the ten archetypes of Magic: The Gathering's latest set.
1. Blue/White Fliers
Control the skies for a soaring victory
With this deck you want to fill the skies with a steadily growing army of winged creatures, pin down anything your opponent has that can block you with removal spells like Pacifism, then swoop in over your adversary’s head. If the game goes long you can restock your hand with Blue’s superb card draw spells and just keep on going.
The deck’s stars include Wingspan Mentor, which can buff your entire team, and Dreamtail Heron, a sizeable flier at common rarity that makes good use of mutate, Ikoria’s main mechanic, to net you card advantage.
2. Red/White Cycling
Don't let up with draw after draw
These Magic: The Gathering mana colours always skew aggressive, but in Ikoria they’ve got an extra trick up their sleeve: cycling. This mechanic lets you spend a small amount of mana to pitch a card into your graveyard and draw yourself a new one. The idea is to use creatures like Flourishing Fox and Savai Thundermane to generate value without losing card advantage.
When drafting an Ikoria deck in this archetype you’ll want the majority of your cards to have cycling, making this a bit of an all-or-nothing strategy, but it’s very strong when it comes together. Bear in mind that you can take off-colour cycler cards just to chuck them away, but only do this if the cycle cost is cheap.
3. Red/Green Trample
Steamroll your opponent with unstoppable creatures
In Red/Green, big trampling creatures are the order of the day, steamrolling through your opponent’s blockers and dealing damage on the other side.
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is a little light on obvious trample pay-offs, but a focus on good quality creatures twinned with fight spells like Ram Through or Go for Blood can help you draft a Limited Ikoria deck that’s able to brawl with the best of them.
4. Blue/Red Spells
Conjure up a win with powerful instants and sorceries
The last few Magic: The Gathering sets have been getting experimental with this colour combo, but for Ikoria we’re back to the tried and true spells-matter deck. In this archetype you want a high number of instant and sorcery spells so you can zap the small creatures and counter the big ones.
It’s a little finicky to build a Magic: The Gathering deck along these lines when drafting Ikoria, as you need to find a balance between strong spells like Fire Prophecy and creatures that benefit from those spells like Sprite Dragon. There’s nothing worse than facing down a powerful creature with no blockers of your own and nothing but niche sorceries in your hand.
5. Red/Black Menace
Unleash an unblockable barrage
This archetype relies on hard-to-block creatures with the menace ability. Pair that with the two best MTG mana colours for removal and the strategy is clear: keep the field as free of opposing creatures as possible and attack, attack, attack!
When drafting Ikoria, Porcuparrot becomes a spectacular card in these colours, since it’s not too hard to mutate a creature with Deathtouch and then tap it to slay something every single turn. Grab every copy of Blood Curdle you find: this card is key to your game plan, but also happens to be one of the set’s best commons, so they’ll be snapped up like deadly hotcakes when drafting Ikoria.
6. Blue/Green Mutate
Build momentum before racing ahead
These MTG mana colours are a little weaker when it comes to spells but excel at ramping up to get large monsters onto the field quickly.
Blue/Green has the most mutants, and you often want to build your own giant super-beast, triggering multiple abilities with each mutation. The mutate deck has some fantastic ways to generate value. Primal Empathy and Parcelbeast draw you extra cards every turn, and if they’re not shut down quickly you can run away with the game.
7. Blue/Black Flash
Spring sneaky ambushes to steal a win
Magic’s sneakiest colours, in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths the Blue/Black deck uses the flash ability to throw down creatures like Blitz Leech and Lurking Deadeye during your opponent’s turn, setting up devastating ambushes.
This archetype is fairly flexible. Don’t worry if you don’t have a ton of cards with flash, as there are fairly few pay-offs that demand it. Between card draw and removal spells, the colours are strong enough to hold their own, even without synergy.
8. White/Black Humans
Use tokens to whittle your rival to nothing
This deck archetype deploys legions of humans in an aggressive go-wide strategy. You’ll want to find ways to make the most of your puny 1/1 human tokens, so look for cards that buff them up or kill them off to drain your opponent with Bastion of Remembrance. This deck relies heavily on quality uncommon cards to do the heavy lifting, but fortunately there are many to choose between when drafting a Limited Ikoria deck.
Along with Bastion of Remembrance, top picks when drafting Ikoria include General’s Enforcer, which generates a nigh-on endless supply of tokens, and Dire Tactics, a cheap and very powerful kill spell, with no downside in the humans deck.
9. Black/Green Graveyard
Play the long game by outlasting your opponent
There are a number of truly enormous monsters with cycling in Ikoria, so a good trick is to cycle these into the graveyard early, then revive them ahead of schedule to do some damage. This archetype’s creatures just won’t stay down, so you can often win simply by outlasting your opponent and waiting till they run out of gas.
10. White/Green Vigilance
A deck with the element of surprise
This is the least supported colour combo in the Ikoria set - while there are many common creatures with the vigilance ability in both White and Green, they’re all a bit pants.
That’s not to say it’s a total wash; the life-gaining Alert Heedbonder is the bane of any aggressive deck, for example, but you’ll usually want a powerful rare card to bring you into these colours. If you happen to get hold of a Frondland Felidar, you can move into a Green/White deck safe in the knowledge that you’ll probably be the only one doing so.
So there you have it, that’s our guide to drafting Ikoria. As you grow in confidence, you’ll start to build ever more complicated decks, perhaps even throwing in a third colour now and then, but these ten strategies will remain relevant at any level of Limited play. Happy drafting!