Ikoria Set Review – Green

(Colossification | Art by Johan Grenier)

Let’s Get Ready to RUMBLE!!!!

Green is the color in each set where we can find our lovely powerhouses, those massive creatures and effects that do nothing but stomp and smash, and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is no different. With an abundance of multicolored cards across two sets, there are only a few mono-green cards that may influence the Commander format, and almost all involve making big creatures or smashing things. Let’s see what they are!


Mythics & Rares


Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate

Similar to Kogla, who we’ll get to in a minute, Vivien is an amalgamation of many sought-after effects in green. 4% of green decks run Vizier of the Menagerie, whose effect is fairly similar to Vivien’s passive ability. Casting creatures off the top of your library can be extremely powerful and provides significant card advantage, and, for that ability alone, Vivien is likely to see significant play in creature-heavy decks like Yeva, Nature’s Herald, Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, and potentially Animar, Soul of Elements. Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire and Hua-Tuo, Honored Physician are happy to exploit some cool synergies, too.

Aside from that, Vivien can generate a 3/3 token with your choice of vigilance, reach, or trample. Which one you choose will depend on the situation you’re in, but being able to choose between defensive vigilance, flying protection, or extra trampley damage is just great utility. Remember, though, that Populate won’t give your new token the keyword counter.

Most important is Vivien’s tutor effect. This can lead to some explosive plays, a la Wild Pair. We already know Craterhoof Behemoth is strong, but now you can cast the Behemoth with an empty battlefield, tutor out Avenger of Zendikar, which will enter the battlefield first and make tons of tokens, whereupon Hoof will stomp into play and buff everything up. You would need extra haste for the whole team to attack with more than just the Behemoth, though.

Especially given the above scenario, Vivien may actually really enjoy being paired with red… casting Avenger of Zendikar and fetching out Purphoros, God of the Forge or Ogre Battledriver before it hits play sounds really great. I’m personally excited to use Vivien’s -2 ability right before casting a Ghalta, Primal Hunger to search for… well, anything at all. The possibilities are endless!

I would expect this to show up in many creature-based green decks. Each of these abilities is great for what those decks already love to do, and each helps in every stage of the game. She makes creatures to help outpace enemies early, provides card advantage in the mid game, and can use the final ability to create a nasty combination of creatures that will help seal the deal. If War of the Spark taught us anything, it’s that planeswalkers with passive abilities can be very strong, indeed, so keep your eye on Vivien.


Kogla, the Titan Ape

Kogla is the King Kong of this Godzilla set, and while he may not have received any alternate card art, does he really need one? He basically embodies everything King Kong is. More importantly, Kogla embodies some of the best effects in green for Commander. Let’s break it down into three pieces:

  1. In Throne of Eldraine, we received Thorn Mammoth, which now sees play in over 1,000 decks. Thorn Mammoth is insanely useful for being a huge body that’s able to throw itself at a creature of your choice when it enters the battlefield, doubling as a removal spell. Kogla does the same thing, potentially killing a threat upon entering the battlefield.
  2. Trygon Predator has been around for years and sees play in 4,700 decks, or 6% of decks that can play it. While it is in Simic and not mono-green, it has the extremely useful ability of destroying an artifact or enchantment every time it deals damage to a player. Kogla improves upon this ability both by being mono-color, meaning it can fit into more decks, and by triggering on attack rather than on combat damage. This means that problematic enchantments and artifacts can be destroyed before blockers are declared, and damage doesn’t even need to be dealt.
  3. Lastly, Temur Sabertooth is one of the most abused creatures in green for infinite ETBs. Its activated ability lets you bounce any creature to your hand to be able to play repeatedly. The indestructible clause is often not even relevant. Whether you’re bouncing Reclamation Sage over and over to wipe a board of artifacts, Eternal Witness to get back a massive graveyard, or Peregrine Drake to generate infinite mana, it’s very useful. Kogla differs in that it can only target Humans. This limits its uses, but could still easily see play repeatedly returning Ghired, Conclave Exile, Roalesk, Apex Hybrid or Hazezon Tamar to your hand to capitalize on their ETB abilities, or just to protect a Human commander.

Overall, Kogla probably doesn’t have the potential to be a commander for anything other than a Timmy-style big creatures beatdown decks, of which there are plenty of better options to choose from. Rather, it’ll more likely see play in the 99 of green-inclusive EDH decks that use it as a tool for removal or supporting Humans/ETB strategies.


Colossification

Leading up to the set release, Gavin Verhey spoiled that we will receive an Aura that gives the largest buff in the history of Magic, even larger than the legendary Eldrazi Conscription. This is that card. For seven mana, you can increase your creature’s power and toughness by 20!

It’s a steep price to pay, and it does tap the enchanted creature, but +20/+20 may be worth the cost. Throw this on a creature during your second main phase, after it has already tapped or attacked. This makes any commander with at least 1 power immediately lethal, and according to this Scryfall search, the only green-inclusive commanders I could find that have 0 power include things like Ghave, Guru of Spores, which don’t actually have 0 power, so the only commanders that Colossification doesn’t turn into a one-hit threat are the planeswalker commanders like Estrid, the Masked.

Immediate one-hit K.O. is pretty big. Just add some evasion. Better yet, add some flash with a Vedalken Orrery to completely take your enemies by surprise, because they’re probably not going to let any creature with this much power stay alive for very long! Or pull out the ol’ Sovereigns of Lost Alara trick and throw this onto a creature that’s already attacking!

Commanders with natural evasion are the biggest winners here, I think. For example, the new Ukkima, Stalking Shadow + Cazur, Ruthless Stalker. Ukkima is unblockable, so it’s lethal with this Aura, but if someone removes Ukkima, well, they’re still going to take tons of damage! Even Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca can become unblockable, so this may take people by surprise. Dinos like Gishath, Sun’s Avatar or Ghalta, Primal Hunger have some superb trample, and flying commanders like Derevi, Empyrial Tactician or Sigarda, Host of Herons don’t need to worry about being blocked.

Oh, and did I mention how nice this feels with Chandra’s Ignition or Fling?


Gemrazer

Gemrazer is one of the few mono-colored Mutate creatures that may see play outside of Mutate-focused decks. Mutate is a complicated mechanic, and whether it’s going to be popular in Commander has yet to be seen. For a more comprehensive look into that mechanic, check out Kyle Massa’s Enhanced Evolution review article.

Reclamation Sage is the best comparison for this creature, which costs three mana and destroys any artifact or enchantment when it enters the battlefield. Gemrazer costs one more, but needs to Mutate onto a creature to trigger its ability, rather than just entering the battlefield. However, for that additional mana, you do get to add the keywords reach and trample onto any creature you want through the Mutate mechanic, as well as a 4/4 body if you want it. You do need another creature in play already to Mutate onto, though.

I think the trajectory for Gemrazer vs. Reclamation Sage will wind up similar to the popularity difference between Den Protector and Eternal Witness. Folks like ETB abilities, and extra steps like Morph or Mutate get in the way, though they can be fun for the decks that take advantage of them.


Uncommons & Commons


Auspicious Starrix

As said before, the effectiveness of Mutate in Commander has yet to be seen, but based on the low number of Mutate creatures in the set, the odds are low that it’ll make a big splash. Auspicious Starrix doesn’t provide any keywords when it Mutates onto a creature, but it does provide a 6/6 body for any small creatures with good abilities you may have.

Its main draw is, of course, its triggered ability, which floods the board with permanents if you Mutate this creature a lot, which relegates this creature to a dedicated Mutate deck. This effect doesn’t say “nonland permanents”, though, so most of the time this will probably find lands. Not bad, but not mindblowing. Slots into a Mutate strategy, but its expensive cost and small payoff makes it one of the low-priority cards in that deck.


Barrier Breach

Barrier Breach is obviously strong. Permanently removing three enchantments is very good indeed. What pushes this over the top is its Cycling ability. If there aren’t any enchantments to remove, toss this away for something else!

I think Magic players may fall into the habit of still viewing this card as too situational to play, but this card provides a solution in the situations where it isn’t useful, which really shouldn’t be overlooked. Enchantments can be very difficult to get rid of for good, since many enchantress players are good at Replenishing them right back out of the yard.

This hits Smothering Tithe, Rhystic Study, and Theros Gods. All at once. At instant speed. That’s extremely good. Keep playing your Force of Vigors and artifact removal, obviously, but if your army of tokens gets routinely frustrated by Sphere of Safety, or you’re sick of that Animate Dead, or you don’t want someone else’s Cathars’ Crusade to go nuts with that Call the Coppercoats they just cast, then seriously consider Barrier Breach for your suite of sweet interaction.


Migration Path

Migration Path joins many recent additions to the pile of ramp spells that are simply better than Explosive Vegetation. At time of writing, Explosive Vegetation sees play in 29,000 decks, 19% of all decks that can run it. It’s a very widely available card, but there are many direct upgrades. Skyshroud Claim can retrieve dual lands with Forest types, such as Shocklands, or even the new Triomes. Circuitous Route can fetch basics or multicolored Gates, for budget-friendly fixing.

If you’re playing Explosive Vegetation and haven’t already changed to another version like Circuitous Route, you should replace it with Migration Path, and that’s all there is to it.


Wilt

If you’re one of the 7,379 players currently running Naturalize, this seems like WotC’s way of saying “Was Return to Nature not good enough for you!?”

Naturalize has a direct upgrade here, but I don’t think the logic here is just to upgrade one to the other. I think we can always do better than Naturalize, whether it’s with a Krosan Grip or a Return to Nature or whatever you prefer. Wilt has the option to be cycled away, which is great, but this type of effect isn’t usually dead in your hand during a game of EDH. Explosive Vegetation can be a dead card in your hand if you draw it late game, which is why Migration Path is a substantial improvement. But Wilt will probably rarely be cycled away. And if you’re not going to toss this effect away, you would probably be better off playing a super-good or more diverse version of this effect instead.

But anyway, yes, Naturalize is dead, long live Naturalize.


Titanoth Rex

Kathril, Aspect Warper usually wants creatures with lots of keywords so it can spread lots of abilities around, but it’s a little tough to get those creatures into the yard in the first place. Titanoth Rex could be a fun way to get trample into the yard very easily. If you like Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, this can also be a nice way to pump him up and make him more threatening to enemies, not to mention how great it might be to Animate Dead the Titanoth so that Jarad can sacrifice it to dome everyone for 11 damage! On that note, The Mimeoplasm is happy to have a big juicy target in the yard for tons of +1/+1 counters, or to get trample if it’s already consumed a huge Lord of Extinction and needs some evasion.

Oh, and who could forget Skullbriar, the Walking Grave? Permanent trample? Don’t mind if I do.


Ram Through

This seems like just another fight spell at first. Rabid Bite, Prey Upon, these all see minimal play, they’re not aces in EDH or anything.

But wait a moment. If the creature has trample… it deals the excess damage… to the opponent!? It’s tramplefight? Colossification, get back over here!

Ghalta, Primal Hunger is very excited, indeed, to chomp a chump blocker and deal tons of extra damage. Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar gets so big it’s almost obnoxious, and now it can deal tons of damage just by picking off someone’s mana dork. Rhonas the Indomitable gets another great fight spell that also synergizes with its activated ability if he pumps up another creature. Buff up a creature with a Kessig Wolf Run and let Ram Through deal even more damage! Xenagos, God of Revels players tend to love cards that give their huge creatures trample, and this might be one more card to add to the deck to help them deal even more damage all at once.

This may not outclass Fling effects for red-green decks that like to go crazy with huge creatures, but this is a unique effect for green that will take opponents by complete surprise if they’re not careful. Don’t overlook it just because it’s a common. This is a solid spell for a lot of the big green stompy decks, and if Rabid Bite can show up in over 1,200 decks, this can, too.


Round Over!

And with that last spell, this portion of the set review is over! What do you think of Vivien? Are you excited for Colossification? How do you think Mutate will perform in EDH? Let us know in the comments below!

While getting a degree in evolutionary biology, Christian spent all of his free time in college building commander decks after being introduced to the MTG in the Theros block. After spending the last several years building and playing biologically-themed tribal decks and surprising people with wonky builds of well-known commanders, he decided to share his thought and design process with the community, incorporating ideas from his many playgroups into articles, while also spending way too much of his life underwater. Find him on twitter @Evol_Leap!