As the Lord of the Rings MTG set suggests, Wizards of the Coast has been doing more and more crossovers in recent years. While some of these featured crossovers come in their own set, like Lord of the Rings, sometimes cards featuring ideas from outside the Magic: the Gathering universe appear as promos. With Commander Masters underway, one card that stood out as an interesting reprint is Zilortha, Strength Incarnate. Zilortha, at least the way its stats were designed, is not a new card, per se. However, this is the first time the card will be featured as Zilortha itself.
While that may sound confusing, this card was actually debuted as “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.” This means that Zilortha originally appeared as a promo from the set Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, specifically highlighting the Godzilla franchise. The stats and abilities for Godzilla, King of the Monsters and Zilortha are the same. In fact, the card Godzilla, King of the Monsters even features the name Zilortha, Strength Incarnate in small letters underneath the name Godzilla, King of the Monsters. While Commander Masters is featuring specifically Zilortha, including with new art, it’s worth looking at how Godzilla, King of the Monsters originated in the world of MTG.
The Godzilla series of cards were designed to be featured as alternate art versions of cards in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Wizards of the Coast directly partnered with Toho Corporation, the renowned Japanese film studio responsible for the creation of Godzilla.
In Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, 18 cards from the main set were given alternate art treatment. Each card was even given a cool Godzilla-themed name, received borderless treatment, featured the original name of the card under the Godzilla-themed name (and was mechanically the same as that card) and were featured as box toppers, as well as a full-art variants obtainable in the main set.
Of these 18 cards, 15 were part of the core series, while the other three were part of the Japanese series. The three cards in the Japanese series were only ever printed in Japanese, while the core series cards were printed in other languages like English. As you may imagine, this made the last three cards quite a bit rarer.
The Godzilla crossover was actually the first time Wizards of the Coast released a Universes beyond product with a different intellectual property, and was, therefore, the first time that alternate treatments for a main set card were introduced. As such, as mentioned, the 18 cards that appeared in the Godzilla promotion had in-universe variants in the main set of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. The catch, however, is there’s actually 19 Godzilla cards.
The last card that was NOT part of the main set for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths was indeed Godzilla, King of the Monsters. This Godzilla card was actually a promotional item. Let’s zoom in on Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the last remaining card in the Godzilla series.
The Buy a Box Promo
Godzilla, King of the Monsters actually appeared as the Buy a Box (notably not the same as a Box Topper!) promo for Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths. All of the cards from the Godzilla series utilized Godzilla-themed names above the original names of these cards. However, as the Buy a Box promo, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, also known as Zilortha, Strength Incarnate, was never featured as its in-universe variant. While you could also open Godzilla, King of Monsters in Collector Booster packs, Zilortha was nowhere to be found.
The only difference between Godzilla, King of Monsters’ Buy a Box and collector booster iterations is that the Buy a Box promo was foil, whereas the card could appear in nonfoil in collector booster packs. For this reason, the nonfoil version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters is actually worth more than the foil version, as there was simply less supply of the nonfoil version.
Commander Masters is finally bringing everything about Zilortha to light by revealing the card’s own unique printing and artwork, separate from the Godzilla series. This artwork has notably appeared on MTG Arena prior to this, but still long after the actual release of the Ikoria set. Let’s take a look at Ikoria’s missing behemoth, making its first in-universe paper appearance.
Commander Masters Edition
Zilortha, Strength Incarnate is a neat dinosaur receiving its own card outside of the Godzilla series for the first time. This Creature has a very unique ability that states that lethal damage dealt to any Creatures you control is determined by their power rather than their toughness. What this means is that Zilortha and other Creatures you can control will only die if the damage dealt to them matches their power. Zilortha is a Creature with seven power and three toughness, for example. If you were to cast Lightning Bolt targeting Zilortha, it would not die. It would simply have three damaged marked on it. Likewise, if you block Zilortha with a Creature like Rampaging Baloths, only the Baloths will die.
This means that high-power Creatures synergize extremely well with Zilortha. Cards like Thunderblust that have high power and low toughness become much more difficult to kill in combat with Zilortha in play. Zilortha may not be the strongest Commander possible, but at only five mana, it still packs a punch with seven power. Importantly, Zilortha is not only receiving a different artwork and its own card separate from the Godzilla series, but it also is being downshifted from mythic rare to rare. This should make the card easier to obtain and more affordable.
The Godzilla series certainly was an interesting idea, but it’s nice to see Zilortha finally getting its own card variant. Having Buy a Box promos not appear in the main set can be an issue in itself, as the Nexus of Fate coverage debacle showed (Nexus of Fate was only available in foil, and due to curling, was often required to be proxied in players’ decks at tournaments, which was not ideal for viewers watching coverage). So, while Zilortha isn’t the flashiest card ever made, it’s nice to see it here nonetheless.