Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Set Review – The Legendary Creatures – Command Valley

Hey guys!  It’s Peter with Command Valley and on today’s episode, I’ll be talking about the new legendary creatures from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.  If you haven’t already, please like this video and subscribe to the channel.  Subscribing to us is the easiest and cheapest way of supporting the channel as we continue to grow and we really appreciate it!  Special thanks to Game Grid for allowing us to post our content here, we really appreciate all of the support they give, and all of the cards talked about here are linked below.

Audio Link: https://rss.com/podcasts/commandvalleypodcast/42911

Now, onto the review.  I’ve chosen to go over the legendary creatures from this set because I know there are lots and lots of strategies out there that I haven’t ever considered playing, and new strategies that legendary creatures in this set bring to the Commander scene. We are already planning deck techs for many of these commanders so I’m going to go over those ones first and just provide a brief comment about those ones so we can talk in more depth about the ones that aren’t going to be talked about more fully on this channel.

Out of the apex legendary creatures, Illuna and Nethroi are the commanders we’ve decided to explore options for deckbuilding.  Illuna lets you exile cards from the top of your library until you get a permanent and put that onto the battlefield, and this ability happens each time it mutates, which is a shared theme among the apex commanders.  This is clearly a powerful effect for Temur that is looking to get a lot of permanents out, and Griffin is working on a build for this so we’ll see more to come.  Landon is working on Nethroi, who can return a number of creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield when he mutates, a very strong effect similar to Protean Hulk and a very fun strategy for Abzan.

The other mythic legendary creature we’re building a deck tech for is Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy.  Kinnan is another addition to the very, very powerful Simic cards that have come out recently, and his ability that increases mana generated by nonland permanents just screams for abuse in EDH.  Clearly, there are many ways to make infinite mana this way, and Landon hopes to exploit that in his deck tech coming soon.

Of the legendary companions, we’re building four out of the nine potential commanders.  If you’re not familiar with the Companion rulings, a companion can be put aside as a 101st card in your Commander deck if you fit the deckbuilding restriction.  It also must follow color identity, but other than that, this card can be cast at any point in the game from the Companion zone, and from there it is treated as though it were a card in your deck. Often times with these companions, the deckbuilding restriction is too steep for Commander, considering the fact that you can only have 99 cards in your deck and there’s a very fine balance between the types cards you need in your deck to make it consistent.  We’ll be evaluating each of the commanders by their playability as the companion and as the commander, but keep in mind that all of these creatures could fit in the 99, and a lot of them are not bad options to put there either!

For instance, one of the decks we’re wanting to build is Jegantha, the Wellspring, which Griffin is spearheading.  Jegantha has a powerful tap ability that taps for 5 colors, but it can only be used to cast non-generic mana costs.  It’s a very good 5 color commander that can help cast some real big creatures that are otherwise hard to cast.  It’s also a very good maindecked in an already 5 color deck.  In the Companion zone, however, the deckbuilding restriction is that no card in your deck has more than one of the same mana symbols in your deck.  That excludes a ton of very powerful, very necessary cards for a strategy like this, and it’ll end up being hard to get around in most cases.  It’s nice that this card has the flexibility to be in the command zone as well, otherwise it might be hard to justify such a strict restriction.

The other commanders we’re building are Kaheera, the Orphanguard, which Kaleb is brewing a deck tech for that is sure to be full of vigilance-synergy and those creature types, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, which Griffin is building and that is bound to be an interesting spell-slinging strategy, and Obosh, the Preypiercer, which Landon is constructing with the goal of using cards with odd converted mana costs to deal some real damage to opponents.  We’re looking forward to releasing all of these deck techs to you in the coming weeks.

And finally, to get the elephant out of the room, we have to mention Lutri, the Spellchaser.  You most likely already know that Lutri is banned in Commander because his Companion ability is part of the deckbuilding restrictions of the Commander format. It’s unfortunate that we won’t see play from him as the commander.  If you want to hear our thoughts on the Lutri banning, head over to one of our latest podcast episodes where Landon discusses Lutri in detail.

 

Brokkos, Apex of Forever

Let’s kick off our discussions of the rest of the commanders with Brokkos, Apex of Forever.  I don’t have super high opinions of Brokkos.  As your commander, he’s a 6/6 trampler with mutate that you’ll most likely cast once from the command zone, and then ideally you’ll send him to the graveyard to be mutated onto something else if he ever dies.  So is making something 6/6 with trample for 5 mana worth it?  It’s got a pretty low ceiling and I think it would belong better in the 99 of a Sultai reanimator deck such as Mimeoplasm, Otrimi, or Muldrotha.  If you can give him good keywords then he might be a viable Voltron strategy, but in the end, he’s better off in other places than the command zone.

Chevill, Bane of Monsters

Chevill is a tricky commander to think of a good strategy for.  I’m reminded of my first impressions of Athreos when it came out, as you could only trigger his ability once per turn as well, and Athreos turned out to be a pretty popular reanimator commander.  Though, Chevill doesn’t provide the same value as a creature on the battlefield every turn like Athreos does.  He puts a counter on something, assuming you don’t already have a counter on something, that you don’t own, and if that thing dies you get some benefits.  It seems like a lot of hoops to jump through to get just the benefit of drawing a card and gaining 3 life.  I see Chevill as a good enough utility creature that benefits off of opponents’ creatures dying, but getting that benefit once every couple of turns maybe seems really tough when you could be playing other cards that benefit you more when creatures die, like pingers like Blood Artist or draw engines like Grim Haruspex.  Not to mention, benefiting off of your own creatures dying seems a lot more powerful in green and black, and Chevill doesn’t want you to do that at all.

General Kudro of Drannith

Next, we have General Kudro of Drannith.  Griffin already included this in his Jirina upgrade tech, which shows that it is a useful human lord that can get some extra utility if you have a lot of humans and human token makers in your deck.  And I believe there’s a strategy similar to Jirina that puts Kudro as the commander and benefits greatly off of the graveyard hate and easy destruction of valuable pieces on the other boards.  It’s not the strongest aristocrats strategy out there (this strategy is very similar to Teysa, Orzhov Scion, but doesn’t have a way to generate tokens on its own) so I feel like you’re better off putting it with a different face commander for human tribal.

Rielle, the Everwise

Rielle, the Everwise is a commander I’ve seen a lot of talk about, and it’s definitely earned a spot as a new interesting Commander strategy.  Her first ability seems a little irrelevant but can actually end up resulting in her being really big late game if you want to go for commander damage (maybe use a Teleportal to make her unblockable, etc.).  Her real strength is the second ability, making all of your wheel and rummage effects doubly effective.  Imagine playing a wheel effect, discarding 7 cards, and drawing 14.  Especially in a spell-slinger strategy, wheeling is something that most decks with red want to do.  Having all that card advantage is going to accelerate your game and make you a real threat on the board.  Lots of strategies could make use of this card’s abilities, and I’m excited to see it at our Commander table.

 

Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt

Our Mardu Apex legendary is Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt.  A trend that I’m seeing with most of these mutate cards is that their effects are mostly decent for ETB abilities that get really busted when you mutate them multiple times.  Snapdax, however, doesn’t seem especially threatening in a Commander game unless your meta plays a minimal amount of creatures and you’re swinging hard at them.  The double strike is probably the nicest feature of Snapdax, but I’m not convinced that having something that gives one creature double strike in the command zone is really worth it in Commander either.  Even in the 99, the same logic applies and you could easily slot in something cheaper that will do just as much or more.  I’m specifically thinking of Kaleb’s Syr Gwyn deck he released a little while back; if you want double strike, there are many ways to get it, and Snapdax doesn’t feel like a needed inclusion there.

 

Vadrok, Apex of Thunder

The last of our Apex legendaries is Vadrok, Apex of Thunder.  For a Jeskai commander, Vadrok definitely presents some options for graveyard spell recursion.  Is giving a single 3-or-less costing spell pseudo-flashback enough value to have this in the command zone?  Again, if you’re not mutating Vadrok multiple times, it likely isn’t worth it.  The nice thing about Vadrok is that he won’t exile the spell he casts from the graveyard, so if you can mutate or recur him multiple times, that will definitely bring some value.  I think Vadrok has potential, but I don’t think he’s among the strongest of the commanders that we’ve seen in this set.

Winota, Joiner of Forces

Now that we’ve covered the last apex creature, we’ll talk about the last mythic human legendary.  When building Commander decks, I often get caught between two or three different strategies that I want my deck to achieve.  The problem with this is that your deck isn’t focused and you can end up with a mix of two strategies in your hand, making it impossible to do either.  I feel like Winota will force you into this vein because it basically requires you to have a semi-even ratio of humans to non-humans in your deck.  If you end up with just humans in your hand, this can feel really bad as you can’t use your commander to its potential.  The best use-case I can see for this is with angels, because (thanks to the Innistrad blocks) angels synergize very well with humans in many cases.  You could build a synergistic Boros deck off of that and, most likely, you’d end up with a pretty good balance.  Out of all the cheat-into-play commanders that I’ve seen, I will say that Winota offers probably the least, considering you can only reanimate humans and that limits your options quite a lot.  

However, I have already seen a couple of builds for this deck heavily using tokens to cheat out supportive humans, which looks like the best strategy you can build with Winota.  After seeing these builds, it made me more excited to try Winota out, and I’m interested to see what comes out of her.

 

Zilortha, Strength Incarnate

Now, the creature that seems the odd-man-out is our buy-a-box promo, Zilortha, Strength Incarnate.  Obviously, this card isn’t getting a normal print, so it’ll always be Godzilla, King of the Monsters (which I’m personally a big fan of, but understandably has received mixed reactions).  His ability is very unique and reminds me a lot of when Arcades, the Strategist came out and flipped the Defender deck on its head.  Especially in red, there are a lot of creatures with high power and low toughness that fit really well into this deck, and green can provide the pump effects needed to make an unstoppable army.  I’ll be very interested to see where this commander leads.

Kogla, the Titan Ape

Before we talk about our companions, let’s talk about the two rare legendaries that aren’t companions first. Kogla has some strong effects on him.  His first ability is basically a kill spell, his second ability is recurrable on attacking and can help take care of your enchantment and artifact removal, and his last ability makes him hard to kill if you’ve got humans in your deck.  Besides his last ability, which is only really good if you’re playing a lot of humans (and in mono-green, that’s not the optimal strategy), Kogla really only serves himself and doesn’t strengthen your board state hardly at all.  This is a great creature to cheat into play to help deal with big threats on the board, but he’s too limiting in the command zone to justify putting him there.

Yidaro, Wandering Monster

I will never recommend that you play Yidaro in Commander, period.  For starters, when he’s on the battlefield, he’s just an 8/8 with trample and haste, and while that can be pretty powerful, you’re going against 3 opponents and unless you have a way to make him practically unstoppable, he’s not going to do much for you.  Thus, to make him worth it, you have to use his cycling cheat-into-play ability.  And then what are you going to do?  Are you tutoring for him each time?  Why not just find something that’s more worth your time, like a win-con?  And don’t even think about putting him in the command zone, because in mono-red you’re not even going to get him out of the command zone without paying the 7 mana for him anyway, so what’s even the point?  This is one of the instances where a card would really, really benefit from having multiple copies that you could have in your hand, but that’s simply not the case in Commander and it’s not going to be a good option to slot into your deck.

Gyruda, Doom of Depths

Now that we’ve got those out of the way, let’s dive into the first of our five remaining companion legendaries: Gyruda, Doom of Depths.  It’s a really expensive commander (6 CMC is not a great starting point) but it can cheat some big things into play if you hit the top of your deck right.  You’d likely be able to bounce/blink Gyruda multiple times with blue in your color identity, which would allow for some additional activations.  Additionally, if an opponent mills something strong with Gyruda, you could bring that out under your control.  I’d say this is stronger in the Companion slot because the deckbuilding restriction isn’t terribly impassable and you can have a more powerful card as the commander (such as Muldrotha or Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, or another reanimator strategy with Black/Blue) and then this can be a great late-game finisher to bring out.  

Keruga, the Macrosage

Keruga offers some really valuable card draw in high CMC decks, and I feel like this works really well as a commander.  It’s giving me Uro vibes, where the goal of Uro was to recur him as many times as possible and get that card draw and ramp consistently.  This doesn’t give you ramp, but if you build your deck right that shouldn’t matter.  The Companion ability isn’t impossible to get around, but it does inherently mean that your deck is going to be slower than your opponents.  No Signets, no Sol Ring, and any ramp packages you have would have to be that high as well.  It’s stronger as the commander but I don’t think it’s impossible to play in the Companion zone.  I’d definitely consider thinking about this card in decks that already have high CMC, like anything with Simic ramp synergies, and I’d be interested to see a deck built around this as the commander.

Umori, the Collector

Our Golgari companion is Umori, the Collector. I’ll come out the gate and say that the Companion ability is going to be extremely limiting.  If you choose it, you’re most likely losing out on a lot of value.  For instance, if you play any type of permanent like creature, enchantment, or artifact, then you can’t play instants and sorceries, and vice versa.  However, as the commander, it’s going to be great and allows for a couple of different strategies; specifically, ones centered around most of your deck being a certain card type.  And that’s the keyword here: MOST.  Having the flexibility of many card types in your deck helps you out in more situations and doesn’t leave you stuck when faced with impossible scenarios.  I like the idea of this being a black/green Nylea (from TBD) allowing you to use black creatures as well as green creatures in your creature-synergistic strategies.  It’s a great card in the 99 for any of those strategies as well, as long as you have the colors for it.  Tribal decks even want this cause all of the creatures of your tribe are going to be creature spells.

Yorion, Sky Nomad

It’s a shame that we don’t even get the option to play Yorion in the Companion zone, because of Commander’s deckbuilding limitations, but I suppose it makes sense for at least one of the cards designed with this mechanic couldn’t be played to counteract the one that could always be played (Lutri).  I’ve discussed this card with our group a couple of times, and this slots really well into any white/blue blinking strategy and those decks definitely want this.  Having an Eerie Interlude in the command zone is really useful and you can definitely build strategies around that. Excellent choice in the maindeck or in the command zone.

Zirda, the Dawnwaker

Finally, we have our Boros companion, Zirda.  This is a new one, especially in red/white.  Activated ability tribal feels like something that no one wanted but could honestly be a super viable strategy.  I don’t even think putting it in the Companion zone would be that difficult, especially in a deck that also has green so you can have all of those mana dorks as ramp (even if Zirda doesn’t directly help that).  Of course, there are plenty of ways to get infinite activations of abilities off of this (looking at you, Grim Monolith) so if you’re into that, definitely go for Zirda in the command zone. Obviously, there are limitations to playing in just red and white, but maybe decreasing the activation costs of key abilities is what it needs to make it powerful.  I definitely wouldn’t give this one a pass; any opportunity to think of a new Boros strategy is a welcome one.

 

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post!  If you enjoyed, make sure you check out our other set reviews, deck techs, gameplays, and more on our YouTube channel.  We just released our 50th video this week, which also happened to be our 30th deck tech, so there’s no shortage of Commander content for you to enjoy and we’re just going to continue to make it.  We’re heavily focusing on Ikoria and C20 over the next several weeks so keep your eyes here for more content.  Thanks again, and remember to stay safe out there!

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