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Insider: Ikoria Might Be the Most Important Set Since Alpha

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Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is one of the most powerful sets ever printed - and has drawn comparisons to sets like Urza’s Saga and Alpha itself. It will go down in history for its Companions, which have re-written the rules of the game and are now defining every format, from Standard all the way back to Vintage.

They are on track to warp the market just as much as metagames and are driving big price changes on Magic Online. The paper market is following behind with some clear Companion-driven price increases this week, and likely many more to come - with a week of online play now in the books, things have only just begun.

Standard rotation is coming this fall, and with paper events currently shut down, I wouldn’t bet too heavily on the format in the short-term. I’d stay far away rotating away that isn’t an Eternal staple, which may be as good as useless at this point. Instead, I’d focus my Standard plays on more recent cards and looking at the fall after rotation when these cards tend to increase.  A good example would be Thassa, Deep-Dwelling - it’s used with Gyruda, Doom of Depths in its deck that is all over Standard, and has potential in a blink-based deck around Yorion, Sky Nomad.


A prime target is Dreadhorde Arcanist, which has spiked from under 15 tickets to 23 in the past week, on the back of heavy Legacy play. It goes hand-in-hand with Lurrus, of the Dream-Den, which has increased the relative value of 2-drop creatures it can play from the graveyard. Already a staple Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration decks, it’s now a  4-of in the variations archetype that have embraced Lurrus and risen to the top of the metagame. 

At under $3, it’s easy to see the potential of the multi-format Eternal staple - it ‘s also used in Pioneer’s Boros Heroic deck, which has broken out with the addition of Lurrus.

Lurrus and Dreadhorde Arcanist are used in Grixis Delver, but have also brought about a revival of an old Delver wedge - Jeskai. It has been incredibly successful this week, winning both the Legacy Challenge and the following Legacy Super Players Tour Qualifier, and part of it is due to the addition of Meddling Mage - another great two-drop to cast with Lurrus.


It’s also great against Lurrus, and all of the companions, by stopping the opponent's ability to play it. It doesn’t require good guesswork or a Peek effect to know they have it, so it’s a great tool to stop a card that gets around things like Thoughtseize, which might explain why this deck has outpaced Grixis.

It’s also used in Humans, which won a Modern Super Qualifier with three of Ikoria’s General Kudro of Drannith, and could see a rise in popularity.

It’s not really used in Humans, although maybe it could in a new black-heavy version with the general, but Dark Confidant has seen a rise due to being a good two-drop that shares a color with Lurrus. Its price has been falling for months, but it has just seen a big spike in MTGO, and some clear paper growth of a few dollars over the past few weeks makes me think it will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. 


Lurrus has been especially good to Pioneer’s Sram Auras deck, where it’s easy to cast and full of great things to cast with it, as well as being an extra body to enchant. The deck has already become one of the most popular in Pioneer, and looks to be here to stay as one of its new defining archetypes. Sram, Senior Edificer spiked to over $6 in February after its breakout but fell to under $5. Now it looks to have stabilized with some growth, and I expect it will head higher - on MTGO it peaked over 7 tickets. 


Back from the Dead

Watch out for Arclight Phoenix, an old staple that has fallen on very hard times, from $20 to $6 over the past 4 months. But now it’s starting to grow on MTGO, from under 5 tix to 7 now, because it received a big gift from Ikoria’s Sprite Dragon. This creature has emerged as an Eternal staple in Legacy and Vintage, it’s being used with Arclight Phoenix in Pioneer and Modern, and could potentially bring it back into real contention.


The G-Factor

The X-factor in every format is Gyruda, Doom of Depths, which started off very strong and brought some massive MTGO price spikes before being banned due to a programming bug, but is now back in play. It works with Clone effects, the most important in all formats being Spark Double that ignores the legend rule. Its MTGO spike has carried over to paper, where it approximately doubled to around $6.50.


One of the most drastic MTGO spikes was Clever Impersonator, used in the Pioneer version, so I like its two paper printings under $2.  Other targets that have risen on MTGO include Sakashima the Impostor, which is similar to Spark Double for Modern and Legacy versions, and the powerful Progenitor Mimic.  


Helping the deck actually kill the opponent in all of these formats is Dragonlord Kolaghan for haste, so some paper growth could follow its MTGO spike, from around half a ticket last week to nearly 5!


A potential penny-spec that could theoretically offer the same sort of returns is the Wispweaver Angel, had for about a dime, which is being used in the Pioneer version. It can be repeatedly copied by clones to get around the legend rule while blinking Gyruda to keep the triggers going.


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