Five Decks for Five Formats from MtG Ikoria

Ikoria: Lair of Timmies is proving to have a much more far reaching effect on formats than just commander. Here are five different decks for five formats of Magic: the Gathering.

Standard: Temur Ultimatums

Jeskai Fires has been one of the best decks in Standard for the last 6 months, and it is all due to a simple card called Fires of Invention. When it was first spoiled, nobody really thought anything of it until we realized how easy it was to cheat spells off of it. A whole archetype devoted to cheating out Planeswalkers and Cavaliers spawned around this one card, and it continues to be a strong contender. Today, we are going to throw out all of the things that make that deck good and go BIG.

With the printing of Ikoria, we have finally finished a beloved cycle of cards that are way too hard to cast. The ultimatums promise big rewards if you can cast them so let’s not worry about that and cheat them out using Fires of Invention. We need 7 lands for that, which brings us to the third component of the deck, ramping as much as humanly possible. These 3 factors of the deck combine surprisingly well, and allow cards like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim to help fill in when Fires of Invention is absent.

You probably shouldn’t play all 5 ultimatums in the same deck, but I couldn’t help myself. Eerie Ultimatum can bring you back against any grindy deck. Genesis Ultimatum says draw 5 and just cast any permanents you get. Ruinous Ultimatum completely stops your opponent in their tracks. Emergent Ultimatum says you get to cast 2 out of 3 of Agent of Treachery, Drakuseth, Maw of Flame, or Kiora Bests the Sea God. Finally, Inspired Ultimatum may seem like the weakest, but it’s exactly what this deck needs to stabilize and draw to it’s wincons.

Edit: I’ve been informed that Emergent Ultimatum doesn’t work with Fires of Invention. You can only cast two spells per turn, and if you fires out Emergent you’ll only get to cast one of the two cards you search for. I did say playing all of the ultimatums wasn’t optimal.

Pioneer: Abzan Humans

Lair of Behemoths also means tiny little annoying humans surprisingly. With the new lord, General Kudro of Drannith, humans may finally have what it needs to compete in Pioneer. Combine that with one of the best removal spells in the format in Dire Tactics and humans went from being fringe to good. I chose to go with a simple Abzan list, focusing primarily on white and black cards, splashing for Collected Company.

This list shares a lot of similarities with Spirits (my tribe of choice) but ends up as a far more aggressive version. With eight one-mana 2/1’s, the intentions are pretty clear but humans also get a lot of unique options due to being such a deep tribe. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Precinct Captain are card advantage in a low to the ground aggro deck. Kytheon can become a Planeswalker pretty easily, and there are three different lords in the deck with Thalia’s Lieutenant, Benalish Marshal, and General Kudro. Thalia, Heretic Cathar can provide some much needed disruption and you can round things out with a Collected Company.

This is just one version of a deck that is otherwise infinitely customizable. 4-5 color decks can exist with Unclaimed Territory, opening up the options even further. A knight subtheme is possible, as well as a multicolor theme with Hero of Precinct One. It’s going to take a lot of tinkering to create the best version of humans, but there is a lot of potential in this archetype coming out of Ikoria.

Modern: Lukemrakul

One drop, three drop, Lukka, Emrakul. Out of all the new Planeswalkers in the set, I sure wasn’t expecting to get a combo card that can cheat out a huge spaghetti monster. If that was the entire goal of the deck, it would be easy to shove a bunch of elves into this deck and try to get to five mana as fast as possible. But good modern decks have layers (or abuse layers in the case of KCI) and we want to do more than just slam a 15/15 on turn 4.

Here’s where 3 drops come in. If we are going to play a bunch of turn one accelerants, having something powerful to do on turn two is critical. Blood Moon, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Legion Warboss all provide this effect in spades. The earlier they come down, the more devastating they can be for the opponent. With a few Embercleaves, it is extremely easy to overwhelm your opponent if they aren’t prepared.

This gameplan can easily be dealt with by remvoal spells and Ice-Fang Coatls, however. No worries, simply follow up your Rabblemaster with Lukka and go find a 15/15 annihilator 6, protection from colored spells eldrazi. Even if a 1/1 flying deathtouch snake can trade with Emmie, at least they won’t have anything else afterwards.

Pauper: Astral Snare

Cycling is a really cool mechanic, and Wizards has done a lot to create build around cards for it. In eternal formats for the bourgeoisie you get cards like Astral Drift and Astral Slide. The proletariat format doesn’t get fancy cards like that, but we do get Snare Tactician which is basically the same thing if you squint hard enough.

Cycling does more than just trigger our 3 mana do nothings. Cycling a big fatty into the graveyard such as Striped Riverwinder gives us a juicy reanimator target with very little work involved. With how much cycling this deck can do, it’s really easy to setup this combo as almost every card in the deck is capable of digging. When you’re not digging you’re playing a pseudo control game with Drannith Healer and Snare Tactician slowing the opponent down.

Cycling has never been a deck in Pioneer, but perhaps with the addition of cards that actually care about cycling this weird Esper control deck can do something. You can even forgo the control route with an early Cunning Survivor and just swing for massive damage each turn. If they are playing Tron, that’s basically your only hope of winning anyways.

Legacy: Gyruda Belcher

If all you want to do is go fast with no brakes, look no further. Companion is a fascinating deck building requirement, but as is Legacy tradition the brand new mechanic has already been broken. With 0 being an even number, it’s extremely easy to cast a turn one Gyruda in Legacy.

How does this win us the game though? If you are able to constantly reanimate Gyruda, or a copy of Gyruda you can mill both players out simultaneously and your opponent will lose on their upkeep. (Finally, Mill is viable!) Using fancy arithmetic and mathematics and capitalizing off the hard works of others, I was able to use a Hypergeometric calculator to determine that all you need is 23 targets in order to get a 90 percent success rate and continue the chain. With cards like Griselbrand fortunately costing 8 mana instead of 7, we get to play with even more broken cards.

How fast does this win the game? As soon as turn 1 with as little as two Lion’s Eye Diamonds. I bet you’re shocked to see Lion’s Eye Diamond, an otherwise unplayable card, having a broken effect with companion. Could this even get banned? There are plenty of other fast mana cards available as well such as Sol lands, Grim Monolith, Lotus Petal and more that can keep the degeneracy going when you play a turn one Griselbrand. Just hope that in game 2 your opponent doesn’t play a turn 0 Leyline of the Void. Also I’m not bothering figuring out a sideboard for this deck, it was hard enough creating the main deck.


Commander players were rightfully excited when we saw Dinosaur Nightmare Cat but this set has a lot to offer for every format of Magic. I hope that these decks inspired you to play some games or even create your own brew from Ikoria. All it takes is an idea, and a lot of patience for scrolling through hundreds of cards on Scryfall. If something from Ikoria is exciting to you, share it in the comments below!

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Cube Review: Ikoria Commander 2020

Cube Review: Ikoria Mono-Colored

Cube Review: Ikoria Multicolored

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