Do you want to win Ikoria Lair of Behemoths Draft? Want to earn lots of gems while drafting on Arena? Our Ikoria Draft Guide will help you do just that!
First, we’ll take a look at mechanics and see how they affect Ikoria draft. Afterwards, we’ll check the best commons for each color. Then we’ll examine all archetypes and what they’re trying to do.
We’ll also rank the colors and the archetypes at the end. We did over 50 drafts of Ikoria, and reached Mythic rank, along the way. So naturally, we updated the article with everything we learned along the way.
UPDATE: If you’re looking forward to drafting the newest set, you should read our New Capenna Draft Guide.
Okay, let’s start with Ikoria mechanics.
There are four mechanics in Ikoria Liar of Behemoths:
- Cycling (if a card has cycling, you can pay its cycling cost and discard it from your hand to draw a card)
- Keyword Counters (flying counter gives flying, trample counter gives trample, etc.)
- Mutate (creature with mutate can join with non-Human creature to combine abilities)
- Companion (if you follow a specific deck-building rule, you can play your companion from outside the game)
You can learn more about mechanics here.
All mechanics are present in all five colors. Cycling has lots of synergies in Red-White, and we talk about it in the archetype section. Mutate makes all removal spells even better, particularly the instant speed ones.
At first, we thought that companion mostly won’t matter that much in draft. Well, we have to admit that we were wrong about that. Companions proved to be a very important part of Ikoria draft. We talk more about them in the second part of the article.
But first, let’s take a look at best commons, cards that you’ll want to draft often.
Best Commons for Ikoria Draft
There’s not much to say about Pacifism. It always ranges from good to great. This time it’s surely on the great side, since the presence of mutate makes it even better.
Pick them high, play all of them – this is a candidate for the best common in Ikoria overall.
Vulpikeet is one of the bread and butter common mutate cards. It provides interesting decisions, as no mode is clearly superior from the other.
2/3 flyer for 4 mana with upside is usually an okay deal. On the other hand, if you have a 1/1 non-Human around, you can see this as a three mana Aura, that gives your creature +2/+3 and flying. This is also a pretty sweet deal.
What we learned from cards that offer us two options is that they are much better that each card separately. This makes Vulpikeet second-best white common.
3. Snare Tactician
Snare Tactician might not look the most powerful card at first sight. However, it’s a really strong card in a white aggressive deck with cycling card. You can easily tap their best blocker and enable attacks. Since your cycling cards draw you more cards, you can find more cycling cards to keep going.
Once you have two of these in play, they go bonkers. End of opponent’s turn cycle, tap two blockers. My turn cycle, tap two blockers. You’re out of blockers? Guess you’ll die.
White seems really deep and has plenty of good commons. Patagia Tiger is one of those. A big flyer that significantly pumps one of your humans is a very strong card.
We also expect Checkpoint Officer to over-preform. Tapping down strong mutate creatures will probably be good, even at cost of two mana.
Speaking of mutate creatures, Helica Glider is great to mutate on, as well as being a perfectly fine card on its own.
1. Dreamtail Heron
The problem with mutate is that you can easily lose two cards to a single removal spell. Dreamtail Heron draws you a card whenever you mutate it, no need to worry about card disadvantage.
Heron is probably one of those creatures that you want to mutate first and not just play it for five mana. If you manage to mutate it, you get it for just four mana, it draws you a card, and it has pseudo haste – meaning it can attack immediately. Don’t forget that even when you mutate afterwards, you’ll draw a card.
2. Capture Sphere
Blue Doom Blade returns! Okay, okay, it’s not nearly as efficient or good. But as far as blue is concerned, this is as good as it gets. You’ll want to get this when you’re in blue.
3. Essence Scatter
Essence Scatter is also a very good common, thanks to its low mana cost. You can use it to counter cheap creatures, so you won’t fall behind early. However, you’ll be happier when you use it on something big, and there are a lot of big creatures in Ikoria draft.
Of One Mind is fine even if you’re paying the full cost. Add an occasional cost reduction, and you get an excellent deal. You’ll be happy to draw Of One Mind in various parts of the game.
Gust of Wind can be a powerful bounce spell. However, you probably don’t want more than two copies, and it naturally gets better if you have flyers in your deck.
1. Blood Curdle
This is the premium common removal spell in Ikoria draft. Four mana is a fair deal to kill anything at instant speed. Instant speed is incredibly important in format with mutate creatures.
Menace counter will also come in handy, but you’d already happily play Blood Curdle without it. Pick your Curdles highly, as they’ll certainly improve your win rate.
2. Cavern Whisperer
Another mutate card makes the list. Five mana 4/4 with menace is serviceable, although not particularly exciting. You really want to play this for its mutate cost, put it onto expendable creature, make them discard and attack for four.
There are also some menace synergies in red and black, which can make this card even better.
3. Mutual Destruction
Mutual Destruction wants you to do some work, so it won’t be so mutual. But destroying a creature for one mana is very good, which makes it worthwhile.
One simple thing you can do is to sacrifice a creature that’s under a Pacifism or something similar. You can also sacrifice an expandable creature, such as 1/1 Human token.
Now, if you have some creatures with flash, this card becomes real good. You can then sacrifice creatures in response to opponent’s removal spells.
Two cards with flash also proved to be very good. Playing Blitz Leech during opponent’s combat might get you a clean two-for-one. If six mana doesn’t prove to be too much, this one might even move up in rankings.
The second one is Lurking Deadeye. Chump a big creature with a 1/1 dork and then flash in Deadeye to finish it off.
Bushmeat Poacher is next in line of powerful black commons. This effect is very nice to have, and every black deck will want to have at least one Poacher.
1. Fire Prophecy
Three damage at instant speed for two mana? This would already be a very solid card. Add an extra ability, and you get the best red common for Ikoria draft.
That extra ability really does make a difference. If you’re missing a land drop in the early game, you can discard something expensive. In the late game, you can discard a land you don’t need. That’s a good thing to keep in mind, so you don’t play all of your lands in the late game. Keep one in case you draw Fire Prophecy.
Out of 138 creatures in Ikoria, 83 of them have toughness 3 or less. That means Fire Prophecy kills 60.1% of creatures without any other help.
Rockslide is yet another solid removal spell in red. It will usually deal at least 4 damage to a creature. This kills 109 different creatures, or 79.0% of all creatures in Ikoria. And it gets better! With just five lands, you can kill 13 additional creatures, which brings the total to 88.4%.
Even though it’s a sorcery, you’ll be happy to play all the copies of Rumbling Rockslide you can get.
3. Go for Blood
Go for the Blood is a fight card. Fight cards are usually very good when you have a creature of a proper size available. The only problem appears when you don’t have a big enough creature.
That’s when cycling comes in. It makes Go for Blood more versatile. Don’t have a proper creature? Just draw another card.
1. Ram Through
As we mentioned before, fight cards are usually pretty solid. This is no different, with several upsides. Your creature never takes damage, so it’s more of a punch than a fight. It’s also an instant, which is a very real improvement, especially in format with mutate.
Then it also has a trample bonus, but that’s just cherry on top. The card is already good, and you’ll want to get multiple copies in every one of your green decks.
2. Humble Naturalist
Two mana cards that give you mana are usually great in limited. You can only use this one to cast creatures, but you’ll still play it and be happy with it. Most cards in your draft deck are creatures anyway.
Okay, 3/4 for four mana is underwhelming. You’ll want to mutate this onto something small to get a land in play. If you manage to do that, that Greathorn can become pretty… great.
Don’t sleep on Thwart the Enemy. It’s not your usual Fog. It prevents damage only from your opponent’s creatures. On a clogged up board, you can set up nice blocks, and take out multiple opposing creatures with no cost to you. Of course, it’s not great in every situation, so you probably don’t want more than one.
If you have plenty of mutate stuff, Essence Symbiote becomes a really powerful card. Even if you mutate just once, it’s a very strong two drop.
We already went through all colors, but this time around we got some interesting colorless cards, so let’s take a look at those.
This fox might look unimpressive, but don’t let its cute art and low stats deceive you.
First, this set has three-color themes. That makes getting any basic land from your deck very desirable. Second, it’s a non-Human! You can mutate on it. Since you already got the enter-the-battlefield effect, it’s a perfect card to mutate on.
We believe that Farfinder will prove to be better that it looks.
The second interesting card is Mysterious Egg. It’s unplayable until you have at least four mutate creatures. Then it actually becomes a better card with more copies of mutate creatures you have.
Still, you probably don’t want to mutate multiple times on it. You don’t want to get blown out with a single removal spell, so as the saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
Now we move forward to archetypes. Although there are three color themes, you can expect to often stay in just two colors.
Blue – White: Flyers
Blue-white once again got its signpost deck – flyers. There are 18 creatures with flying (or flying counters) in this set. Only five of those aren’t playable in a white-blue deck.
So if you stick to the time tested strategy of flyers + ground blockers, you’ll do just fine in Ikoria draft.
Black – White: Humans
You want lots of humans in this archetype. Then, you can take advantage of two potentially strong enchantments Sanctuary Lockdown and to a lesser extent Bastion of Remembrance. You also unlock a powerful removal spell in Dire Tactics.
The deck will probably win the game by gaining small advantages here and there, and possibly close the game with a spell like Coordinated Charge.
Red – White: Cycling
Cycling deck is one of our early favorites to try. You’ll play a ton of cards with cycling and then use cards like Savai Thundermane to take extra advantage from it. There are two important things you should keep in mind when playing this deck.
First, you can play off-color cards with generic cycling costs. Take Frostveil Ambush for example. You probably want it in this deck, even though you won’t ever cast it. Cycling for one mana is just very good here.
Second, because you’re playing so many cards with cycling, the danger is that you’ll run into too many lands. That’s why you have to make a different lands-spell ratio. Let’s say you have 10 cards you can cycle for cheap, you might even go down to 14 lands and be happy with it. This archetype will turn deck-building rules on their head.
Green – White: Vigilance
Ten cards in green and white have or provide vigilance. You get some payoff in cards like Alert Heedbonder. The best card to take advantage of the vigilance theme is probably Keensight Mentor, who gives all of your vigilant creatures counters. If you have it or Frondland Felidar, then it’s worth going for a vigilance theme.
If you don’t have it, don’t bother too much with it. Play efficient green and white creatures, and you’ll do perfectly fine.
Blue – Black: Flash
Like casting spells on your opponent’s turn, making them guess what you have? You can do that to some extent with this blue-black deck.
There are 15 cards with flash that you can play in these colors. The easiest way to take advantage of them, is to play counterspells like Essence Scatter or Neutralize. Your opponent played something good? Counter it. They played something irrelevant? Play a creature.
The other way, of course, is to open Slitherwisp and just go to town with your flashy spells.
Blue – Red: Spells
Here’s yet another archetype returning. Noncreature spells matter in red and blue.
Sprite Dragon is a perfect signpost for this archetype. What’s up with this name, though? What’s next, Coca-Cola Angel?
Anyway, it can sometimes be hard to get a right mix of noncreature and creature spells in this type of deck. Cards like Cathartic Reunion are therefore great, since they help you get the right combination.
Blue – Green: Mutate
Black – Red: Menace
There are nine creatures or ways to get menace counters in red and black. Since menace only works when you’re attacking, this is a very aggressive deck. What you want to do is to play cheap creatures and attack early.
These two colors have some of the best removal, which works great with menace in two ways. You can kill one of two blockers before combat, to make your creatures unblockable. On the other hand, if you have a big creature with menace, you can force them to double block, then use a removal spell to get a two-for-one.
Black – Green: Graveyard
As we’ve come to expect black – green is once again doing graveyard shenanigans. There are 11 cards that interact with graveyard in these two colors.
Returning creatures from graveyard is really good witch cycling cards. You can cycle your expensive creatures early and get them back in the late game.
Imagine cycling Void Beckoner and bringing it back with Back for More during opponent’s combat. Fight one creature, block another and then attack on the following turn. You’r opponent won’t be coming back for more.
Red – Green: Trample / Big Creatures
Red – green does what it always does. Cast big creatures on curve and attack you with them. This time, they won’t be stopped by small chump blockers, because there’s a lot of trample going around. And if you have Proud Wildbonder in play, they’re practically unblockable.
If you want to win with big creatures, this is the archetype for you.
There are some three-color set, so that might suggest there are three-color decks available, right? Well, not really.
What usually happens is, that you get a three color bomb, like Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt, so you’ll splash it in your regular black – white deck with two sources of red mana.
Also, most Ultimatums are secretly traps. They look strong and powerful, but most of the time they just mess up your mana and you lose, because you have an uncastable card in your hand.
So let’s just take a look at three color combinations and see what they’re trying to do and how good their cards actually are.
Red – White – Black
This color combination doesn’t have a very clear theme, except that it apparently includes the colors with the best removal spells and therefore its cards reflect that. Sure, Ruinous Ultimatum might be hard to cast, but once you do, you just win the game on the spot.
Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt is also insanely good. As with all the Apex creatures, you should keep in mind that you don’t actually need all three colors to put it into your deck. You can easily play Snapdax in white-black or white-red deck. You’ll only get to mutate it, but that’s all that matters with those, since you get their effect immediately.
White – Black – Green
This color combination focuses mostly on the already established graveyard theme from black-green. Most often, the white will be your splash color.
Nethroi, Apex of Death is a great card to play. On the other hand, we’re not so sure about Eearie Ultimatum. It looks like it should win you games, and when you do cast it, it does. The problems are when you can’t cast it.
That happens quite often. Some games you won’t even get to 7 mana. When you do, you might not have the right colors. And after all that, the stuff in your graveyard might not even make the difference.
Besides, we haven’t even mentioned the times that you won’t be able to cast other cards in the early game because you stretched your mana base to support Ultimatum. All of this makes us pretty wary of picking this one early.
Black – Green – Blue
This combination is actually very similar to the previous one. Blue replaces white, but you still want to be base black-green, and you care about your graveyard.
However, Emergent Ultimatum is nowhere close in power level. You might read it and go – well, I get my second and third-best card in play, how is this not good? The problem is that your best cards are often multicolored, and you’re not casting this Ultimatum early, so you might’ve already drawn your good cards.
Once you put that into account, you’re getting like your third and fifth-best card, which is not worth the seven mana. We’d suggest you to avoid playing it if you want to win your Ikoria draft.
Green – Blue – Red
Nothing describes this archetype better than simply value. You’ll play good cards in all three colors, with the main one being blue. You might also play a lot of mutate creatures.
Illuna, Apex of Wishes is great for the top end of your mutate curve. Of course, it’s perfectly fine as a 6/6 flying trampler already and doesn’t need any support to be good.
Genesis Ultimatum is somewhat clunky, but you can try to use it as your finisher, if your deck mana base can support it.
Blue – Red – White
This archetype is basically an extension of the red-blue spells matter deck.
For Vardox, Apex of Thunder, as mention before – you won’t even need white mana. As red-blue already has some problems with the right combination of noncreatures vs creatures, this is the combination that will usually have the lightest of splashes for white.
You can often end up in a cycling deck in this color combination. You splash one color and have access to best one mana cycling cards in the format, alongside Zenith Flare. What’s not to love?
Inspired Ultimatum is often not worth it, because cycling decks tend to go low on lands, which makes it harder to support that kind of mana requirements.
Ikoria Draft Guide: Power Rankings
Okay, so here are the power rankings. These are made after a bunch of drafts we did, but keep in mind, that colors are very balanced in this draft format.
You can easily win with any color combination, even the ones that are on the bottom of our rankings. These rankings simply represent which colors are the best preforming for us.
As we said, colors are all pretty close together in power level. Even though red is the last one, it’s far from unplayable or anything like that.
Best Two-Color Archetypes
- Red – White
- Blue – Red
- Blue – Green
- Blue – White
- Black – Green
- Black – White
- Black – Red
- Green – White
- Blue – Black
- Red – Green
Two color archetypes are pretty fun to rank. They are mostly pretty close together in power level. However, there is one archetype that really stands out. It’s red – white cycling.
Perhaps we should just call it the Zenith Flare deck – it can easily be blue – white or red – blue, with a splash for Flare. It’s just the most powerful thing you can be doing in the format. However, it doesn’t always come together, so don’t just always force it.
Best Three Color Archetypes
- Blue – Red – White
- Black – Green – Blue
- White – Black – Green
- Red – White – Black
- Green – Blue – Red
These really depend on the rares and mythics you’ll open, so keep that in mind. Any one of these three colors can preform extremely well with correct cards.
Should You Play Companions in Ikoria Draft?
Each companion has a deckbuilding rule. If your deck follows that rule, your companion starts the game in your sideboard. You reveal the companion at the start of the game. You can then cast the companion from your sideboard once per game.
All in all, it’s kinda like Commander, just without returning to the command zone. So you’re basically starting the game with an additional card in hand. You can also just ignore the whole companion stuff and just put the card in your deck.
There are 10 companions in Ikoria. Should you play them as companions? Before we started drafting the format, we thought half of companions will be playable.
As it turns out, companions are even better than we thought at first. You can play all of them, depending on how early you get them. So here’s a quick recap, for each companion. Some even have a separate article on how to draft them.
Always Worth It
The following companions are always worth it, even if you get them in your third pack you can still try and build around them.
Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Gyruda wants you to make some sacrifices. You must remove all odd cards. Thankfully, that’s manageable, as two drops are very important to any draft deck and you can play those. You’ll want to play lots of them, because you’ll play them on turns two and three.
You might want to consider going up to 18 lands, as you really want to cast Gyruda on turn 6 and get your payoff – a 6/6 creature that brings something good along. Probably. The risks are present, but the guaranteed reward mitigates those.
Find out more about how to draft Gyruda here.
Lutri, the Spellchaser
The next great companion is Lutri. You basically have to play singleton, which shouldn’t be too hard in draft.
There are two things to consider when building around Lutri. First, how many good cards do you have to remove from your deck in order to play it? Five medium cards? Sure. What if you got lucky and have two copies of a great rare? Then Lutri becomes a bit less desirable, but might still be worth it.
Second, try to draft some nice spells to copy with Lutri. You want something like three or four good targets, to fully enable it. Something like Cathartic Reunion is really great, since you don’t have to discard two, when you copy it. Get that value!
Yorion, Sky Nomad
For all players who don’t know which cards to cut from their draft decks – here comes Yorion! What about playing 60 cards in draft? It’s worth it when the reward is a guaranteed 4/5 flyer on turn 5. With upside!
In a 60 card draft deck, you’ll probably want 25-26 lands. Let’s say you went with 26. That means you need 34 non-land cards. So you’re basically playing 11 extra cards you wouldn’t otherwise.
This set is especially friendly towards Yorion, because of cycling. You can play off-color cards with generic cycling costs, to get enough playables. We go into more details about Yorion draft here.
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Don’t try to draft 5-color draft deck around Jegantha, just because of its ability. Just play it as your companion, for a guaranteed 5/5. You can even splash it in your deck!
We’d suggest you take a look at how many powerful rares you’d have to cut in order to enable Jegantha. If the answer is one or less, it’s mostly worth it to do so. This way you start the game with an additional 5/5 for five, which is nice.
You can find a sample Jegantha draft deck here.
Keruga, the Macrosage
Keruga is both powerful and fun to build around. You need to make some smart deck building decisions, but the reward is certainly there.
Not having one drops is whatever, but two drops are really important. So to make this deck work, you’ll need to have enough three drops that are good defensively. You can expect to be on the back foot most of the game, and you should build your deck accordingly.
However, once you do stabilize, you can then play Keruga and bury your opponent in card advantage. We wrote more about drafting Keruga here.
Worth It Early in Draft
Umori, the Collector
You’ll draft a deck with just creatures, and Umori will shine in that deck. Creatures are bread and butter of most draft decks anyway, so it shouldn’t be too hard.
Draft creatures that have spell-like effects, so you’ll still be able to interact with your opponent. We wrote in depth about them in this Umori Draft Guide.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Lurrus is a very special card. You’ll want to draft your deck in a totally different way. It’s not just about drafting low-costed permanents – you need to have a strong plan.
That plan goes pretty deep, so you can read all about it in this Lurrus Draft Guide, where we explain all the details on how to draft around Lurrus.
Obosh, the Preypiercer
When drafting around Obosh, you want to be really aggressive. In order to do so, you need to play lots of one drops, since two drops are a no-go. Of course, you also want quality three drops and a few five drops.
Basically, play your odd cards and try to be aggressive. You can also bridge any gaps in your mana curve by playing cycling cards.
Kaheera, the Orphanguard
Drafting around Kaheera is pretty straightforward. You pick creatures in appropriate creature types and some good non-creatures spells, and you win the draft. Hopefully.
Zirda, the Dawnwaker
Zirda is perhaps the hardest companion to draft around on its surface. However, once you realize that you want to be a cycling deck, the rest is easy.
All permanents with cycling fulfill Zirda’s requirements, since cycling is an activated ability. Try to get a Zenith Flare or two, and you’re good to go.
Don’t forget – you can also just play companions in your deck as normal cards, if you can’t manage to fulfill their restrictions.
That’s the end of our Ikoria Draft Guide. Do you have a particular cards that’s over preforming? Let us know in the comments below.
If you want more Ikoria, you can find all Ikoria cards here.
If you don’t want to miss an update to this guide, give us a follow on Instagram or Facebook. You’ll be among the first to find new strategy articles, Magic spoilers and also memes. Join us, we’ll be happy to have you.
Anyway, that’s all for today. Until next time, may you win plenty of Ikoria drafts.