Ikoria Previews: Top Takeaways Part Two

Last week we started our drive into the world of Ikoria, looking at what we know about the story and the set’s tie-in with the Toho universe of giant monsters. Today, we will be having a look at the new and returning mechanics that we will get to play with when Ikoria is released. Some of this are fairly simple and others are, well… not?

Don’t worry, will get to all that. But if you want to catch up with last weeks article you can check it out here. While you are doing this, why not like and subscribe to keep up to date with all the content we produce here at Master of Magics. Alright, now with all that out of the way, lets get to the mechanics.


First up we have a returning, but much-loved mechanic in the form of cycling. For a set that revolves around giant beasties, cycling feels like a really good fit. After all, when your playing a game of magic hitting the right beats on the mana curve is a vital part of succeeding. You really want to make sure you are doing something productive at every step of the game, which can be hard when your hand is full of giant monsters you just couldn’t bring yourself to cut from your sealed pool. Cycling allows you to cantrip those big bombs when they are doing nothing but sitting in your hand due to mana screw. This is perfectly represented with Titanoth Rex.

A 11/11 for only nine mana is pretty good for an uncommon, but when its in your starting hand it might seem less appealing. But if the rest of your starting hand is just straight gas, then Titanoth Rex is still keep-able as we can either hold out till we get the mana to cast it, or cycle it to give one of our other creatures a trample counter. A solid addition to the set I think you will agree.

Oh, and speaking of counters…

Ability Counters

Ikoria bring with it a new mechanic in the form of ability counters. Now, giving a creature first strike or trample that originally didn’t have it is nothing new, but it is most of the time this was done with a permanent that gifted the chosen creature with said ability (such as equipment or auras) or as a temporary boon as the result of casting an instant or a sorcery.

Ability counters change all that, by giving you a way to permanently buffing a creature in the same manner as +1/+1 counter’s and the like. This is good for a number of reasons. Firstly, counters are much harder to interact with. when a creature swings in with an enchantment that grants trample, if you don’t have a way of destroying the threat all you have to do to disrupt your opponent’s plans is take care of aura. Cast a destroy enchantment spell before damage and watch as your opponent’s bomb is chumped by your 1/1 token.

But with a counter, you will be left with fewer ways of handling such threats. Of course, creature removal is always an option, but in any limited format these as precious and you will want to be sparing with them. As a result, ability counters can make it very tricky for your opponent to accurately judge what is the biggest threat in your deck. Don’t underestimate this mechanic, that’s all I’m saying.


Ok, this one a little confusing. Scratch that. Its hella confusing.

Part aura, part creature and all complex, mutate is arguably the poster mechanic for Ikoria. Rather than me going through the deck step by step, why don’t we just listen to the dulcet notes of Matt Tabak explain the basics of it all.

Ok, so hopefully that explained it a little better than I could. While this mechanic sounds a bit all over the place, I certainly like the way it works. I am most looking forward to using it, not in games of standard or limited, but in games of commander. Depending on how many creatures there will eventually be in any section of the colour pie with mutate, there is the potential for making some fun and thematic Voltron style decks. Let’s take a Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt as an example.

As a 3/5 with double strike for only four mana, Snapdax is already a decent beatdown commander to smash faces with. But if we were to fill our deck with a bunch of mutate creatures, not only do we get multiple ways of triggering his mutate ability, but we have dozens of ways to customise Snapdax to fulfil any battlefield role we might need.

Let’s say we are struggling to get through some damage then we can add on a Cavern Whisperer to give menace. Or perhaps our life total is looking a little low, and we decide to mutate a Cubwarden into the mix. Throw in some ways to get these creatures back from the graveyard (easy enough in black and white) and the possibilities are almost limitless.

Sure, mutate might be confusing. But it’s the fun kind of confusing, and that’s ok in my book.


The last mechanic of the day, but certainly not the least is Companion. Companion allows you to choose a card to be your table friend, allowing you to have access to it from the very start of the game. The way it works is you chose a card with Companion to be, well… your Companion. You can then cast this card once from outside of the game (i.e. your sideboard) giving you in essence an addition card at the start of the game.

There are some caveats however. Each Companion has a deck building stipulation that you must adhere to if they are to be your friend. This means if you want to have access to them from the start of the game, you will need to construct your deck in a certain way, adding another level of complexity to deck building. Of course, you could just include them in your main deck and not have them as a companion if you would prefer.

Also, don’t worry commander players. Even though you don’t have a sideboard you can still have a companion, which begs the question. What commanders would benefit most from having an animal friend?

And that will about do it for today everyone. I hope you are as excited about Ikoria as I am. What are you most looking forward to trying out? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to keep up to date with all the content we produce here at Master of Magics.

We also have a Patreon so if you want to support future content for the site consider becoming one of our Patrons. Just a $1 a month would do so much to help us create more of the content you enjoy. If you have any ideas for new and exciting decks you want me to look at you can contact me directly @MTGTengu over on Twitter. But until next time remember no matter the game you play or where you play it, Good Luck and Have Fun.

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