Released in April 2020, Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths was the first MTG set released during the COVID-19 lockdowns and the still ongoing pandemic. As such, it was difficult for players to get ahold of cards during this time, which meant many players went to MTG Arena instead. Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is all about epic and kaiju-esque monsters. Using a mechanic called Mutate, you can ‘mutate’ creatures onto one another in order to build a bigger, and more powerful monster to win games.
The set did leave a sour taste in players’ mouths thanks to the introduction of Companion, allowing you to have a creature available outside of the game. You have to meet certain criteria to run a companion, but this became effortless which warped various MTG formats such as Standard, Pioneer, and Modern until the mechanic changed in June 2020.
Despite these design hiccups, there is a lot of value in the set since fluctuation impacted accessibility due to the pandemic. Some of these will become valuable over time due to how flavorful the cards are to the Ikoria theme.
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy
In Commander, Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy encourages infinite combinations which include generating an infinite amount of mana. Using Basalt Monolith, you can generate infinite mana since Kinnan will cause it to generate one extra mana. With four mana, use three of that to untap Basalt Monolith. Rinse and repeat.
Then, you can run something like Thrasios, Triton Hero which has an ability to draw/put cards into play. You can use that excess mana to sift through your deck until you find a win condition. Unsurprisingly, Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy sees heavy play in competitively-leaning Commander builds as it’s able to do so much. Plus, Simic is a powerful combination in MTG so expect to see the Human Druid crop in Commander pods often in the future.
One of the more impactful Commander cards from the set, Drannith Magistrate negates the ability to cast your Commander from the Command zone. When previewed, there was plenty of discourse on whether the card should be legal given how much it shuts off your Commander. However, it requires you to draw and play the card which in a singleton format, isn’t always a guarantee.
Extending outside of Commander, you see the Human Wizard crop up in Modern sideboards as it tackles Cascade strategies since they can’t cast the spells off the Cascade trigger. Expect this card to go up over time due to Commander application, especially within the competitive realms of the format. Admittedly, it’s a hard one to reprint given the attachment to Ikoria, and you don’t want too many of this effect available in Commander.
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate
Headlining the set is Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate who enables you to cast creature spells from the top of your library. You also have the option to look at the top card of your library at any time, without showing the card to your opponents.
In Commander, you can use Vivien to create 3/3 Beast Tokens, or to put another creature into play if you cast a creature spell on your turn. Typically you’ll want to run the Planeswalker in Green-based creature builds to get the most value off Vivien’s passive and activated abilities. As you’re in Green, there’s a very good chance you can cast this earlier than turn five given the amount of ramp available. Vivien’s passive ability is desirable in Commander since it allows you to dig through your deck, and having many copies of this ability in your deck is desirable.
Read More: 10 Best Planeswalkers In Commander
If you are into Birthing Pod effects, then Fiend Artisan is one to consider. It didn’t see play in Standard, but has some eternal application in Pioneer and Modern. Granted, it’s more restricted compared to the New Phyrexia artifact, but does see play in Commander.
Even with the combo potential in mind, the Nightmare Creature can get out of hand if your graveyard is big enough. In Commander, you can use to grab combo creatures such as Vizier of Remedies and Devoted Druid to generate infinite mana. There are various ways to grab impactful cards, or cards with interesting ‘enter the battlefield’ effects. It’s an unusual effect on a creature, which can also double up as a Tarmogoyf with extra abilities.
Read More: Spice Up Your MTG Group With Random Decks
Gozilla, King of the Monsters (Zilortha, Strength Incarnate)
From the Ikoira: Lair of Behemoths buy-a-box promos, Godzilla, King of the Monsters brought the kaiju theme to the set. With the uniqueness of this card, it’s generated a decent value with MTG and Godzilla fans alike.
Even then, the card is decent too. In Commander, being able to determine lethal damage through power rather than toughness is a decent ability for Gruul. Given the card is a 7/3, you are able to meet Ferocious and other abilities that require high-power creatures to meet. It could be a fun build around for a Gruul Commander, and go as aggressive as possible.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Companions are what made Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths memorable for the best and worst reasons. Even with the errata, the Companion cards are still seeing play in Modern as they’re ‘free’ with little deckbuilding restrictions. The most popular of these companions is Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
In Modern, you see plenty of decks featuring the Cat Nightmare and a set of Mishra’s Bauble since it’s free card draw. Mono-White Hammer runs Lurrus as a companion, which happens to be one of the best decks in Modern at present. There’s plenty of discussion on whether the card should be banned in Modern given that it already is in Legacy, as it encourages narrow deckbuilding. Outside of constructed, the card is powerful in Commander especially in the 99 if you have a low enough mana value to return these to play.
Another card that sees play in Commander is Luminous Broodmoth which also offers plenty of combo potential. Despite being in White, you are able to pair this with Solemnity which will remove the flying counter on the creature that is recured, meaning you can recast it again. It goes particularly well with a sacrifice outlet such as Viscera Seer, or Ashnod’s Altar if you want to generate colorless mana.
As such, the card is creeping up in price as it’s able to do so much for so little return. Not to mention it’s a 4/4 flier independently, which makes it able to get into combat if required. With the number of cards entering MTG these days, it won’t be long until we see another card that would work excellently alongside the flying insect. [toolitips]Luminous Broodmoth[/tooltips] is one to keep an eye out for, as it only takes one card to increase the value further.
Read More: The 10 Best Mono-White Commanders
One that saw heavy Standard play is Shark Typhoon. The enchantment offers a unique cycling ability that allows you to create a Flying Shark token at instant speed. Sometimes, you may cast it for the whole six mana but often you want the token instead.
It sees regular play in Modern and Pioneer in dedicated Control builds especially Azorius or Jeskai. As the enchantment offers a win condition and card draw rolled into one. Not only does it reference the cult movie Sharknado, but the card is also rather good in multiples, so you don’t see much in Commander as a result.
Indatha, Savai, Ketria, Raugrin, and Zagoth Triome
What makes Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths an attractive set is the Triome cycle. These cycle of lands offers three different land subtypes while only coming in tapped. These were heavily played in Standard for the duration of their legality, which also sees play in Modern and Pioneer too.
Given Modern emphasizes on fetch lands, the Triomes are excellent alongside it. As such, you see these features in Midrange or Control strategies as you can afford to have the land enter tapped. If you draw it late on and don’t need the land drops, you can cash it in for card draw exchanging three mana as a result. There are rumors we’ll see the rest in Streets of New Capenna, which is a multicolored set that focuses on the shards such as Bant, Grixis, and Naya. Either way, these Triomes are fantastic for Commander since it helps you play three, four, or five colored cards easily.
Read More: How Many Decks Is Too Many?
Unsurprisingly, the most valuable card in Ikoira is The Ozolith. Given that Commander cares about the distribution of counters, it’s easy to see why the artifact is in demand. For one mana, The Ozolith allows you to move counters from a creature onto The Ozolith, then onto another creature when you’re at the beginning of combat. It’s a surefire way to stack up those counters and put them onto a creature so you can get aggressive. Going further, you can put the counters onto your Commander to deal enough Commander damage to win the match.
Sometimes, you see the card crop in Modern in Hardened Affinity-style builds alongside Arcbound Ravager to make the most of the Modular mechanic. These effects are desirable in Commander as it plays with cards such as Doubling Season which are evergreen in the format. It’s unlikely we’ll see a better effect for one mana, so expect this card to go up in price the more popular Commander becomes.
Read More: The 10 Best Artifact Creatures In Commander