Ikoria Limited Strategy Part 3: Ally-Archetypes!
By: Intrepid_Tautog - 04 May 2020
When it first stumbled into my den, I thought it a weakling with a deathwish. No claws. Blunt teeth. And a build even a hatchling would find feeble. Certainly, this lowly creature desired an abrupt end. That, or it was simply too foolish to know a raptor den when it saw one. I didn't know whether to pity or salivate.
Then something surprising happened. The suicidal being's poor eyesight must've finally caught a glimpse of my brood. Any other creature worth a spit would've seen us immediately, but this thing had to be practically on top of us. It jumped and let out what I assume was a cry of terror. Could've been a defensive bellow. Hard to tell with squeaks. Had to tilt my head a moment to contemplate the meaning of the sound. I didn't have to think for long.
The intruder planted their feet and lifted a pointy object in my direction. A stick? That was its grand show of strength? The weakling was clearly no threat. Better to let my young practice their hunting on than kill outright. I motioned to my oldest to move in. The little one lowered its neck and sprinted forward, as unafraid of the creature as I. To my surprise, the stick lowered. Did this poor meatsack come to accept its inevitable fate?
My eldest lunged. It ought to have been quick and clean. I still cannot believe, much less understand, what transpired next.
The two became friends.
In our last episode, our heroes (that's us!) explored W/B Humans and W/R/u Cycling as the most highly-supported Aggro builds in Ikoria Limited. Today, we'll venture out to the fringes and investigate the less-supported ally-color options available. Can we build viable aggressive decks in not-so-obvious color combos? Let's find out!
Much of the time, a format's multicolor cards point you in thematic deckbuilding directions. Ikoria's primary color breakdown is similar to "Khans of Tarkir" in that it's more enemy-color centric. However, there are a handful of ally-color options, and they very clearly spell out what each allied pair wants to be doing. In short: it's all about the keywords, baby!
You're highly unlikely to run into any vanilla creatures in this format. Heck, even if it starts out that way, that lowlyisn't likely to stay vanilla for very long. The introduction of ability counters ( , , ) anchors keywords to color identity perhaps more than ever before. Ikoria is stuffed full of keyword abilities like a mutated turkey. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's actually a literal mutant turkey in the set somewhere.
Eh, close enough.
On the surface, the Ally-color combos appear to reward you for maximizing quantity of a given keyword. So our goal will be to collect as many of that keyword (and it's payoffs) as possible.
Let's dive into some archetypes!
Quick Disclaimer: As this is strictly-limited we're talking about, Rares and Mythics will be largely ignored. However, when it comes to the keyword themes, a cycle of Rares do warrant some discussion, as they illustrate the point beautifully:
All of these beasties are amazing pay-offs in their respective decks. Each rewards having a critical mass of the keyword they champion. Of these,and strike me as the strongest on their own, without additional keyword support. Both have the ability to hit for serious damage and generate additional bodies without additional instances of flying or trample. That's some serious power. and are fine by their lonesome, but really want additional keywords to live up to their full potential. is the only one that requires additional instances of Flash, as otherwise it's just a hard-to-cast . Playable, yes, but nothing fancy.
Archetype 1: B/R Menace
Sadistic as they are, the Rakdos gang are at least upfront and honest. No sneaky agendas. They're simply all about killing things and dealing damage. Wall-to-wall violence. And menace makes for a nice way to get around said walls so you can attack with impunity.
It's fitting that Rakdos feature Menace, as the ability requires multiple blockers, and this color pair happens to be very good at removing blockers. As such, your goal is simple: swing away and kill impediments. You're far less concerned about your own life total. Getting in for damage is where it's at.is everything you could ever want in that regard. Kill a potential blocker and make a threat harder to stop. All in one spell. Black/Red naturally have access to other great removal like , which can grant additional reach to kill an opponent, , (Yea, kill two blockers!), and .
But everyone knows Rakdos and removal are the Chocolate/Peanut Butter of Magic. We can kill all the blockers in the world, but we still need to get in for damage.is just the ticket, making already-difficult-to-block Menace creatures (itself, included) even more difficult to block. As an ability, Menace has a nice way of incidentally opening up your opponent for 2-for-1's. If you're able to kill one of the two blockers prior to damage getting dealt, you'll often kill both creatures. Well, as now makes your opponent require three blockers per attacker, that opens up the chance for the glorious 3-for-1. is also fantastic as a "Menace Lord" that teaches another creatures the ability. Each color has one of these and they are all valuable additions.
The Bread and Butter:
Making up the rank and file is an assortment mid-rangy beaters, and a nice little sacrifice outlet if you can get it going. We're stretching the definition of "Aggro" here, as cards like, , and Cavern Whisper lean more mid-game than early. As our mid-game creatures largely have Menace built-in, don't be afraid to hand the ability out to smaller threats like early or . Getting damage in often is more important than getting it in via one or two big swaths.
Rakdos limited decks often feature a Sacrifice-theme to go along with their kill-crazy attitude. There's a whisper of that here, and fortunately for us, Menace facilitates it.effects like are typically used by Boros Aggro decks to removal a blocker (hopefully a big one) and temporarily enlist for the alpha strike. Rakdos tends to steal the creature, smack the opponent with it, then eat it themselves. Downright mean! should often be discounted in your deck, and with all the giant monsters running around, stealing a kaiju, attacking its former owner with it, and then feeding it to a or is very doable goal. This nasty little combo isn't a stretch to put together by any means.
Because you're less focused on your own life total than killing your opponent, defense can be lacking at times. Thatis more important to your deck than you might think. If your opponent is able to get threats to stick, especially threats that can counteract the 1-for-1 removal you're slinging, you're in trouble. , , , , and all have the ability to generate additional bodies or return fallen comrades. This not only makes spot-removal less effective, it also provides your opponent with more blockers. Even the 1/1's generated by and company can become annoying. As such, plan to use removal to clear the way whenever possible, but if one of the above value engines makes an appearance, priority number one transitions over to getting rid of it before you're overwhelmed.
Archetype 2: W/G Vigilance
On the other philosophical side, we've the tree-hugging Selesnya color combo. Very zen. Very in touch with nature. But more than willing to use said nature to bash your face in. And with Vigilance as their thematic keyword, blockers will be hanging around to stifle a backswing.
White/Green's payoff cards are less intuitive than Black/Red's. Vigilance makes for a nice defensive ability, but it's just that. We still need a way to win. Part 1, the combination of and is easy to assemble and can often be too much for an opposing deck to deal with, especially if that deck is slower or needs time to set up. Green also offers as an additional common target. can provide some hefty life gain over time, but honestly, I find it's best role here is just to serve another body for .enables that in an efficient and often surprising fashion. As I mentioned in
Also aiding in the switch from defensive-to-offensive is, who's ability to pump the team is more valuable here than in any other color combo. Fliers and menace creatures are already evasive, and things that Trample already tend to be big. But Vigilant creatures are known more for big butts than anything else, so the +1/+1 counters are vital. Overall, I feel the explosive nature of the combo is the only big payoff for Selesnya. But there is another factor the color pair can draw on...
The Bread and Butter:
White/Green seems best suited to utilize a blend of Humans and non-Humans, packing an assortment of cards that reward you for having both.can easily serve as a 2-for-1 combat trick, will frequently have two targets, and and should frequently have Human targets to assist.
You've also access to some solid removal spells. Vigilance actually works wonderfully with, enabling you to get in an attack first, then eat something. , , , and will do great work, as well. White's mutation triggers tend to pump the team ( , , ), making Green's removal more effective. Course, Green itself has a tendency to bring big monsters with it ( , , ), so there's that, too. Like with Rakdos, Ikoria's Selesnya deck tends to stretch the definition of Aggro out a little more towards the midrange.
My takeaway is this: the Vigilance synergy seems to center mainly on the+ some other big-butt Vigilance creature. And/or the inclusion of . That can be game-winning when established early, but if it doesn't come together, focus less on Vigilance and more on your tribal cross-synergies and Mutation to help close things out. is a fantastic 2-drop that does great things in Selesnya.
At the end of the day, our little combo is based on an Aura sticking to a creature. And that creature has to live. The toughness-factor usually helps keep the enchanted beastie safe from the likes ofand , but other removal spells that easily shut it down ( , , ). And let's not forget that even a humble little or Grim Dancer would have no trouble with an enchanted Serval. Further, without the , our and are very quickly outclassed. A defensive ability like Vigilance leds itself to low-power, high-toughness creatures, which help keep us alive, but do little to dent the opponent. Thus, it's important to buff up our team via Mutate as the game stretches on and get as much value as possible from our cross-tribal synergies.
On that note, while the cross-tribal synergies can be powerful, proper balance of creature type quantity can be tricky. You'll want mainly non-humans, both for thecombo and the potential Mutate targets, but try to include at least a few Humans in the mix like , Alert Herdbonder, , and .
The Roundup: What are the less Aggro-Centric ally colors looking to do?
W/U Flying - Less Aggro, more Tempo-Control
The classic Azorius "Skies" archetype! White and Blue seek to lockdown the ground with defensive creatures (, , ) while chipping away via evasive damage ( , , , , ). The deck is very tempo oriented, happily stopping threats via , , and while the evasive creatures do the damage.
U/B Flash - Sneak around, draw cards, counter spells, then once they've got nothing left, move in for the kill
Supervillain-style control is what U/B is all about. Dimir wants to establish total dominance over the opposing plays either by countering (, ), outright killing ( , ), or nullifying opposing threats (Containment Sphere, Mystic Subdual). Along the way, any end-of-turn openings in mana will be taken advantage of via Flashing in threats ( , , ) to kill the opponent with in-between countering/killing all their stuff.
R/G Trample - HULK SMASH!...in the mid-to-late game.
Gruul was never the most subtle clan, and that most certainly holds true for Ikoria. R/G seeks to go midrange-to-lategame, casting sturdy creatures (, , ) and buffing them further via Mutation, pumping, or both. As one can expect, Trample goes quite nicely with that gameplan. Removal ( , , ) is deployed more in the early game to stay alive against aggressive decks. If the deck survives long enough, larger threats ( , , ) will begin to outclass many opposing creatures. Then it's only a matter of clearing the way ( , ), smashing in, and boosting creatures as-needed ( , ) to seal the deal.
I hope you're enjoyed our adventure into the wilds of Ikoria Limited. Lots of big Kaiju running around to make life difficult for as aggressive explorers! Hopefully, our travels have taught us enough to survive the brutes and snatch victory from their gargantuan jaws (of defeat)!
Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment below and/or reach out to me on Twitter if you have any questions!