Ikoria Set Review - Gold Pt. 2

(Inspired Ultimatum l Art by Tyler Jacobson)

The Tour de 'Koria

Hello, friends! You thought you wouldn't have to deal with me for a week because of set reviews, huh? Well, think again! There was no way I would sit by idly and let Ikoria set review season pass me by! Get ready to deal with me and my antics just like every other week!

In this article, I'll be going over all the non-legendary, non-Mutate gold cards cards. Ikoria has a ton of multicolored cards, and we really didn't want to throw Amos Byrne to the Wolf Bears. Speaking of Amos, he is covering the multicolor legends and Mutate cards in part one of the gold cards review, so make sure you go check out his review before or after reading this one!

Aside from two cards, the gold cards from Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths are part of five-card cycles. Due to this, I will be setting this review up in a similar manner. I'll be getting the two odd cards out of the way first, then I'll be reviewing each card as part of their respective cycle for ease of navigation, reading, and review.

With that out of the way, let's dig into these new cards!

Narset of the Ancient Way


I've been waiting since Dragons of Tarkir for Narset to become full Jeskai again, and it finally happened! Her being mono-blue in War of the Spark scared me a bit, but she came through!

Narset of the Ancient Way, like most planeswalkers in our format, doesn't stand out all that much. She fits perfectly into existing Jeskai decks as incremental life gain/mana ramp, card filtering, and removal, but that's really it. She's definitely not as unfit for the format like Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, or Mu Yangling, Sky Dancer, but she isn't an Elspeth, Sun's Champion or Ugin the Spirit Dragon, either.

I'd say that she is exactly at that midpoint where most other 'walkers wind up in our format: they either fit a deck's theme or are forgotten about entirely.

That being said, any Jeskai deck that cares about noncreature spells, like Kykar, Wind's Fury, Elsha of the Infinite, or the original Narset, Enlightened Master, could definitely find a spot for her if they wanted. She isn't backbreaking, but she helps you along with your gameplan and helps smooth your deck out with her ramp and filtering. She's well-rounded, but doesn't excel at anything particularly, so using her is entirely up to personal preference.

To absolutely no one's surprise, I plan on using her quite a bit. ?

Fiend Artisan

Fiend Artisan reminds me of Prime Speaker Vannifar and Birthing Pod, in that I have no idea what to do with it. I'm a noncreature kind of guy. Pod effects and creature combo aren't in my wheelhouse, especially when they're in...Golgari colors...*shudder*

That being said, EDHREC has a wonderful Pod Theme, which really helps me out with this kind of evaluation.

The are two big differences between Fiend Artisan and other pod effects. The first is that Artisan will constantly get bigger the more creatures you feed to them, giving you the option to have Artisan transition into an actual attacking threat or blocker late game, if necessary. The second is that you have to pay the creature's mana cost plus an additional Golgari hybrid to pod it out. This cuts out the efficiency and easy combo potential that other pod engines, like Prime Speaker Vannifar have, since they don't require activation costs.

That being said, unlike with other pod effects, it trades the efficiency for flexibility. No other pod effect allows you to choose the mana cost you need. You can grab your Melira combo pieces, Mike-Trike, or value creatures whenever you want as long as you have the mana available. You won't have to start a pod chain, you can just pick and choose.

Most G/B/X decks will love to add Fiend Artisan to their arsenal, whether as a combo piece, value engine, or a combination of the two. I can see Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and Muldrotha, the Gravetide being the first commanders to welcome Artisan into the fold, and probably the decks most likely to include it when the dust settles.

Ultimatum Cycle

The Ultimatum cycle makes its triumphant return after ten years! The last time we saw these heavy-colored spells were in the Shards of Alara block, and these ones do not disappoint. If things get better with age, then that goes double for these Ultimatums, which blow the previous five out of the water.

  • Ruinous Ultimatum is an incredibly strong board wipe. A one-sided Planar Cleansing is something that nearly every Mardu deck will want as long as they don't want to stick to a low curve. There isn't a whole lot to say that the card, itself, doesn't. It's simple, clean, and absolutely devastating for your opponents. I like this card a lot and plan on running it whenever I can.
  • Inspired Ultimatum is not the flashiest of the cycle, but I think it has the best baseline, and I will die on that hill. You always know what you're getting with this card. While other Ultimatums care about your graveyard, searching your library, or wiping away everyone else's nonland permanents, this one is simple. There are no stipulations to get full value out of it. You get to fill up your hand, get 1/8th of your health back, and remove a threat. That is solid. Will it win you the game? No, but it doesn't have to; it just has to do enough for the mana cost, and I think it does.
  • Eerie Ultimatum has the best ceiling in the cycle, and it'll win games when it goes off. For seven mana, you basically get back every permanent card from your graveyard. For decks like Karador, Ghost Chieftain or Kethis, the Hidden Hand, it can close out games on the spot. I don't know any Abzan deck that wouldn't want this, though be careful. If someone exiles your graveyard, you'll have a dead seven mana card in your hand until you can set up for it again, but if they don't, you'll be flying high.
  • Genesis Ultimatum is a big, splashy spell that definitely feels Temur. Playing all the permanents you can off of the top five cards of your deck is quite strong, especially when you're in the colors that have access to Brainstorm, and Soothsaying. It won't always be reliable, which is a pro to some and a con to others. There is enough wiggle room with it where you can set up the top of your library, or at least often hit one to two things with it. If your deck is mainly permanent-based, I think this one is a shoo-in. You won't often whiff on it, but there is always that chance, so be careful. I think this Ultimatum is more fun than strong, which equates to me liking it quite a lot.
  • Emergent Ultimatum is a cross between Tooth and Nail and Gifts Ungiven. It has the restriction of only being able to look up mono-colored cards, but it can look up any type of card. This means that we want to make our opponents' choices as hard as possible for them. Omniscience, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, and Enter the Infinite is just one such combination that puts your opponents in a pickle, so have fun with that. This Ultimatum seems a bit niche, but in more-tuned decks, or ones that want this effect, it will shine and win games.

Mythos Cycle

The Mythoses are three-colored spells in disguise. I'll be evaluating these based on two factors: how strong they are when you cast them for a single color, and how impactful their "upgraded" version is if you decide to spend all the colors on it.

  • Mythos of Snapdax is a souped-up Divine Reckoning at its baseline, while its ceiling is a four-mana, color-intensive Tragic Arrogance. Being a four-mana Tragic Arrogance with upside is always good, but you end up working real hard to get it to function like a spell that simply costs one mana more. This Mythos is not a bad card, though, and Zurgo Helmsmasher, Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt and other decks that care about a singular creature will love it. Other decks may just want to play Tragic Arrogance instead though, since it's less color-intensice and produces the bonus effect for minimal effort and just a single mana more.
  • Mythos of Illuna is not what I was expecting as the blue Mythos, but I'm not disappointed. For four mana, this Mythos is basically a sorcery version of Clever Impersonator, which is solid. If you decide to copy a creature and want to pay the full color cost, it can also potentially double as a removal spell! What I like most about this Mythos is that the added color cost is not nearly as integral to this card's performance as it is to the other ones. If you aren't copying a creature, you never need to pay the other two colors, and even if you are, it isn't necessary unless you want it to fight, anyway! That's a lot of flexibility and a fantastic floor. Thumbs up from me!
  • Mythos of Nethroi, aside from being one of the most poorly worded cards I've ever read, is a solid single-target removal spell. Its baseline is Murder, and its ceiling is an instant-speed Maelstrom Pulse. I'm in on this card, and I think it replaces less-efficient Orzhov removal in Abzan decks, like Mortify.
  • Mythos of Vadrok is honestly pretty disappointing for EDH. It seems interesting in 60-card constructed formats, but for us, I think it falls a bit flat. Burning creatures/planeswalkers for five damage is negligible for its primary effect, and Arresting them for a turn is neat, but there's more efficient removal, and better ways to have our creatures break through our opponents' defenses. You also need to pay an absurd RRUW for this effect, and it isn't worth it except in the most niche circumstances. I'll pass on this Mythos nine times out of ten.
  • Mythos of Brokkos is a Mythos you really want to hit the ceiling on. At baseline, you're paying four mana for a boosted Find from Find//Finality, which seems pretty tame for what Sultai can normally do. If you can pay the full colored cost, though, this Mythos lets you pull any card from your deck and dump it into your yard. While you can only snag permanents from your graveyard to your hand with this Mythos, the card you tutor for for doesn't have to be a permanent. This allows you to be a bit tricky and pull Flashback or Aftermath spells out of your deck if that's something you're interested in. Overall, I think Mythos of Brakkos is begrudgingly fine, but I think you really want to pay the full four to get full value out of this one, which seems like a lot to ask for from a color combination all about free value.

Rare Wedge Enchantment Cycle

These wedge enchantments are pretty sweet. They signify what this wedge usually wants to do, and each can fit into a bunch of preexisting decks. Not all of them are the most creative design-wise, but they accomplish what these colors want to do and do it well.

  • Offspring's Revenge is similar to Nightmare Shepherd since it, too, makes a 1/1 token copy of a creature in our yard when you exile it. There is a pro and a con to this card compared to Shepherd, though. The upside is that you can exile these creatures at the beginning of combat, and you aren't locked into doing it only when they die. The downside is that this effect is not a 'may'. You don't have a choice. You have to exile a creature each turn, which which has the potential to mess up your Mardu graveyard shenanigans. Overall, I think this enchantment is a bit weak, but it works out great in a deck with a lot of ETBs and decks that don't care about their graveyard all too much.
  • Whirlwind of Thought is Jeskai Ascendancy-lite. Four mana is a bit much to ask for a do-nothing enchantment, but if you are able to untap with it, the world is your oyster, since nearly each spell will cantrip into another. This can see play in combo decks where people are already playing Ascendancy, or in average Jeskai decks, too. It doesn't ask a lot of you and is able to produce a ton of value. If your deck is at least 1/3rd noncreature spells, I'd say play it and enjoy drawing your cards!
  • Death's Oasis reminds me of a Scrap Trawler for creatures, with the added text to gain some life. Much like Trawler, Oasis can be used in two ways: as a value engine, or a way to facilitate combos. How you use it is entirely dependent on your deck. Regardless, I would say that any Abzan deck that wants to fiddle with their yard will want to add Death's Oasis to their deck. It will help you out-value your opponents and help you stock yard for reanimation shenanigans for basically no cost.
  • Song of Creation is one of those cards that make you tilt your head and go "huh?" when you read it the first time. There is a lot of value to be had here. Song of Creation can help your tear through your deck, play extra lands, and even allow for some graveyard fun since you'll be discarding your hand anyway. If you're playing a deck that just needs to grease your wheels and you don't plan on playing cards during your opponent's turn, I'd look into Song of Creation to help churn through your deck and play as many spells as possible. Animar, Soul of Elements comes to mind as a perfect commander to help sing this song.
  • Titan's Nest has the potential to be absurd in just about any Self-mill list. Not only do you get the front side of Search for Azcanta, but you have the option to give all of your colored, non-X spells Delve, one of the most busted mechanics of all time. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, eat your heart out! This is a very strong card when utilized properly. Don't be afraid you exile your graveyards for this level of mana ramp. Your graveyard is more than just a second hand, it is a resource, so don't be afraid to use it!

Rare Ally Keyword Lord Cycle

Of all the cycles in Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths, I think this may be my favorite. I love "keyword tribal" cards, and these five creatures push into the kind of design space. It makes me super excited to see what other designs like these we'll get moving forward, but for now, let's focus on these five friends!

  • Skycat Sovereign is a great addition to any Flying decks, Token decks, or any deck already running Pride of the Clouds. There isn't much to say about this flying feline except it is well-costed, can pump out tokens, and can supplement a bevy of different strategies. It's one of my favorites from this set, for sure.
  • Slitherwisp is a cute little Elemental Nightmare with flash that draws cards and hurts your opponents. That's a great combination. Unlike the Skycat, I think Slitherwisp is a bit more niche, as it is entirely dependent on how you build your deck and can't slot in terribly easily. Decks with a bunch of Flash spells will want it, but not many others.
  • Labyrinth Raptor is great for aggressive decks, as its abilities are absolutely brutal for breaking through your opponents' defenses. It's well-costed and super hard to block, so that makes me like it a bit more than Slithermuse. That being said, aside from hyper-aggressive decks, or something like Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, I'm not sure what deck is in the market for a small, angry dino like this one. It shines with other menace creatures, but isn't dependent on them...but it also doesn't do much aside from being an annoying threat early. At the end of the day, I'd say it is right above its Dimir counterpart in terms of usefulness.
  • Quartzwood Crasher absolutely horrifies me. Left unchecked, Crasher and other trample-friends can create an army of huge stompy dinos that can easily overwhelm the board. Crasher easily slots into a bunch of decks, too. Gishath, Sun's Avatar, Xenagos, God of Revels, Ghired, Conclave Exile, Gahiji, Honored One, Surrak Dragonclaw, Stonebrow, Krosan Hero...there are a number of lists that eagerly want to add Quartzwood Crasher to their 99, and for good reason. This card is strong, and doesn't take much to build around. It also fuels itself as its own tokens have trample. I'd say this card is the best of the cycle hands down. Expect to see this dino at a lot of tables.
  • Frondland Felidar isn't as big as the Crasher or as easy to incorporate into a deck as the Skycat, but there are some homes for this kitty. Of course, it's an obvious inclusion into Arahbo, Roar of the World and Kaheera, the Orphanguard decks. Aside from them, though, any decks that incorporate just a handful of vigilance creatures or cards like Heliod, God of the Sun, Ajani, the Greathearted, or Brave the Sands may want to include it. Its floor of always tapping down the scariest creature at the table is solid, and only gets better the more creatures you have that synergize with it. I think it's a fine card, and it can fit into decks just as a solid creature with a good ability.

Bonder Cycle

From here on out, I won't be going as in-depth on the uncommon cycles, as their applications are a bit more limited for our format compared to their rare cousins.

The Bonder Cycle consists of five Humans that provide bonuses to creatures with specific keywords. This cycle consists of: Joyous Skybonder, Cunning Nightbonder, Sonorous Howlbonder, Proud Wildbonder, and Alert Heedbonder.

All of the Bonders basically shake out to have the same general assessment: if you feel like you have enough creatures with the associated keywords to support them, play them. Flying decks want Joyous Skybonder, just like decks with a lot of trample want the Proud Wildbonder. A good metric to judge these by is the Rare Keyword Lords above. If you want one of those, you'll most likely want the Bonder, as well.

Uncommon Enemy Creature Cycle

At uncommon, we have a cycle of enemy creatures that can be cast for two mana: General's Enforcer, Sprite Dragon, Skull Prophet, Savai Thundermane, and Parcelbeast.

Some of these have homes, like General's Enforcer in Human decks and Savai Thundermane in Cycling lists (though it is a bit expensive to trigger), but the other three are a bit up in the air.

Sprite Dragon doesn't pull enough weight to be included in most Izzet or Jeskai lists. It's not impactful and is a terrible top deck late game. With Skull Prohpet, I'm not sure if graveyard decks are in the market for a two-mana mana dork that can mill cards. Once again, it isn't impactful, and it's awful late game. I could see Meren of Karador wanting this, maybe, but not much else. Parcelbeast is definitely a solid card, but the Coiling Oracle slot has been getting pretty cramped lately. Thrasios, Triton Hero, Risen Reef, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath...there are a lot of cards in Simic that have effects like this, and I'm not sure if Parcelbeast makes the cut anymore.

None of these are standout cards, but they are great for lower-powered or budget decks. For example, not every player can afford Uro, in which case Parcelbeast is a great substitution.

Uncommon Enemy Noncreature Cycle

Finally, we have the cycle of uncommon noncreature spells: Dire Tactics, Channel Force, Back for More, Zenith Flare, and Primal Empathy. Much like with the cycle above, there are a few standouts and a few duds.

Channeled Force is another tool for decks that like drawing cards: Nekusar, the Mindrazer, The Locust God, and Rielle, the Everwise. It's a solid card on its own, and can also be a budget Wheel of Fortune, if necessary. Zenith Flare is solid for Cycling decks, specifically, since it can easily be a card that deals 15 damage and gains you 15 life. That being said, it is basically useless in any other deck.

The other three cards are solid, but often will be passed over for better options.

Dire Tactics is good Orzhov removal, but Orzhov has the best removal, anyway. It's going to be hard to choose this over Swords to Plowshares or Anguished Unmaking. Back for More is a reanimation spell that doubles as removal...which other cards in Golgari can do better. This color pair's removal, as well as its reanimation capability, is through the roof. You often won't need to use a six-mana spell to get there, either. Finally, Primal Empathy, much like with Parcelbeast, feels like it has just been outclassed by other Simic cards as of late. Why wait until your upkeep for an effect when most Simic cards give it to you right now, and often with a bigger reward? I'm not even sure if Atraxa, Praetor's Voice would want this.

Getting the Gold

Wow. That was a lot of cards. 38 to be precise. No wonder why we had to split the gold cards into two reviews; it felt like another Ravnica set all over again!

Ikoria, Lair of Beemoths is one of my favorite sets in recent memory, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Kaiju, wedges, interesting and wonky mechanics; there are so many things about it that I love. These multicolored cards, in particular, are very high quality compared to other sets, too! Nearly each one has a potential home, even most of the uncommons, which is a treat to see! There is definitely something for everyone in this set.

Make sure to give your thoughts below! Let me know which of my assessments you agree or disagree with! Half of the fun of a new set is all the discussion on the new cards!

What are some of your favorites? What cards are you excited to add into your preexisting decks? Leave your thoughts or other cool interactions below, or feel free to @ me on Twitter anytime. It’s always open to Magic (and Jeskai-related) shenanigans 24/7.

I’ll see you all again on Tuesday! Until then stay safe, wash your hands, and enjoy Ikoria!

Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.

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