Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Prerelease Primer

Posted in Feature on April 14, 2020

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Who's ready for some monster mayhem?!

Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is a set all about monsters (and the bonders who tame them). It's a set inspired by everything from monster movies and ancient stories to video games and beyond. If there's a kind of monster you love . . . well, there's reasonable chance it's in this set!

For a glimpse of what you can expect in Ikoria, just take a look at this trailer:

This is one of the wildest sets I've ever had the chance to work on. With new, game-changing mechanics (have you seen companion and mutate yet?), some truly titanic creatures, a splash of three-color goodness, and even Commander decks to boot, Ikoria is a real eye-opener!

This time around, the world—our world, Earth—is in a different spot than normal, and so Prereleases are going to look a little different. But there are still ways to get in on the fun!

So, what should you expect? How can you still participate even while being socially distant? Let's run through it today!

A Behemoth Amount of Fun

Prereleases have always been my favorite Magic events of the year.

Prereleases are events where it's your first chance to try out the new set—and to me, the heart and soul of the Prerelease experience is the energy of getting those cards and playing with them. And even if you're just doing that at home, you'll still be doing it with so many other people around the world as part of the global experience and conversation. Thanks to the internet, we're all connected!

The Prerelease of a set is great because the set is totally new, the footing is fairly equal as everybody plays with the set for the very first time, and you just get to relax and have fun exploring the new cards. It's a lot of fun for old and new players alike!

If you're a Sealed Deck veteran, you may want to skip ahead to the next section, where I talk about some of the differences you can expect for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. But if you're new to the wide world of Sealed Deck, or are maybe just looking for a few extra pointers, then read on!

All right. So, let's go over perhaps the most important part: finding product for your Prerelease! After all, you can't very well play if you don't know where to get the supplies you need.

Well, you'll need to get in touch with a store. If you don't already have a local shop you frequent, be sure to check out the store locator to find one near you! That store may even offer preregistration. Prereleases are some of the most popular events we put on, so be sure to check and see if the store preregisters. Always plan ahead.

While most Prereleases are run as an in-store event, because of the COVID-19 virus, as a special exception, players can pick up Prerelease packs and take them home! In fact, we recommend it. In different areas of the world, different rules and restrictions may apply to what can be open—so please take appropriate precautions, be aware of government-level requests, and do only what you feel comfortable with. You can read more on what stores are allowed to do here.

And if you're not able to get to a local store for any reason, you can still play on Magic: The Gathering Arena! They have Sealed events starting April 16, and the play experience is much the same. It's a great time to try out MTG Arena if you haven't already.

Okay now, let's see. You have a store or MTG Arena selected, and you've taken a look at all the awesome cards in the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Card Image Gallery.

You're all set! Now it's time to actually go and open up some of those cards!

Building a Monster

Okay. So. Let's say you've ended up with a Prerelease pack in your hands. What can you expect to get?

Your box will look like this:

Box Image

Inside, you'll get six Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths boosters . . . plus, a random stamped rare or mythic rare card as your Prerelease foil that could be any rare or mythic rare in the set!

(Note that if you play on MTG Arena, you won't be playing with the additional random rare.)

Then, of course, you'll get a couple other goodies—like a spindown life counter to keep track of your life total. Actually, you know what? Let's just crack one open and take a look!

Everything Inside

Excellent! You will get a ton of goodies here.

And, of course, front and center are those booster packs. Let's talk about what to do with those next!

First things first: crack open those booster packs! Then, you'll have a stack of cards.

So . . . what now?

It's time to build your deck, of course!

Sealed Deck is a little different from normal deck building. You get to build a deck using only the cards in front of you, plus as many basic lands as you'd like. Also, unlike a normal Constructed deck where the minimum deck size is 60, you only have to play 40 cards.

The first thing you're going to want to do is figure out a method to pick which colors you'll be playing. I recommend playing two colors. You can sometimes "splash" for a third color, but in general, you'll at least want to pick two to be your core.

Some things that may draw you into specific colors are:

  • A really strong rare you're excited about
  • Plenty of "removal" cards that can deal with your opponent's creatures
  • A lot of playable cards in that color
  • A good "mana curve" in that color—meaning lots of creatures of different costs

Ideally, the colors you pick will have all four, but if two or three of those are true, that's plenty good.

Worth noting is that Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths has a light three-color theme, especially showing up on rares and mythic rares. This means that it is probably going to be more typical than usual to "splash" a third color.

Offspring's RevengeInspired Ultimatum

If you go down this path, I would make sure that the card you're splashing for isn't something you need to play early and isn't something that has heavy color requirements: splashing a card like Offspring's Revenge can be okay, because you only need one mana of your splashed color, but if you have to draw all three of the mountains in your deck to cast Inspired Ultimatum, that's going to be a tall order!

Now, you have your colors down. From there, how do you take everything you have and figure out which 22–23 cards you're going to want to put in your deck?

Here's one process that may help!

First, lay your creatures out in mana-cost order. This helps you see what creatures you're going to potentially be able to cast at each part of the game. (Don't lay out your noncreatures at this point unless they're cards you are planning to play as soon as you have that much mana—for example, you will generally cast a Savai Sabertooth on turn two, whereas Divine Arrow isn't usually a turn-two play.)

A good "mana curve" of creatures is crucial to a successful Sealed deck. You don't want to have a ton of cards at any single spot in the curve. It's important for you to have a good mix so you can play your cheap spells in the early game and your expensive spells in the late game. As a very general rule for Limited, I would look to play something like this:

  • 1 mana: 0–2
  • 2 mana: 4–6
  • 3 mana: 3–5
  • 4 mana: 2–4
  • 5 mana 1–3
  • 6+ mana: 0–2

Mana Curve

In this format in particular, the mutate mechanic makes counting your mana costs a little trickier. In general, I would lay the cards out by their mutate costs as long as they cost four or more mana—you will generally have a creature to mutate on by that point in the game.

That's far from hard and fast, but it's a good place to start. Cull your creatures down to these numbers by choosing your favorites.

Now that you have your core creature base figured out, it's time to add in spells! Pick your favorites among your colors to bring your deck to 22 or 23 cards, and then you're good to go from the spell side.

The spells you're going to want the most are what are called "removal spells"—these are the spells that permanently neutralize your opponent's creatures by either dealing damage, keeping them tapped, or just straight-up destroying them. Sealed Deck Magic is all about creatures, so you'll want to play most of the cards in your colors that can get rid of your opponent's creatures.

If you want to learn more about mana curves, you can also check out my article on how to build a mana curve by clicking here.

Interested in more tips? Here are a few more things to keep in mind for deck building:

  • You can play more than 40 cards, but you really should stick to 40 if possible. Every card you play past 40 just means it's that much less likely you're going to draw that awesome rare you put in your deck!
  • The land ratio you're looking at should be about 17 lands to 23 nonlands. This isn't right 100% of the time, but most Limited decks end up looking like this, and, in general, it's what I would want to have.
  • Play a mix of cheap-to-cast and expensive-to-cast cards. If you have all cheap, small creatures, then a single big creature can shut you down. If you have all large, expensive creatures, you risk getting run over first. Stick to a mix that focuses on the two-, three-, four-, and five-cost creatures. More games of Sealed Deck are won by casting a creature every turn starting on turn two or three than any other way.
  • Evasion is important! Often, Sealed Deck games will get into stalls where both players have a lot of creatures and neither player can attack very well. Creatures with abilities like flying ensure that you can break through these creature stalls.
  • Unlike most Magic formats, Sealed tends to be a little slower. If your deck is on the slow side, choosing to draw (go second) rather than play (go first) can be reasonable to give you that extra card.

Booster Fun

Starting with Throne of Eldraine, we debuted our new "booster fun" initiative, putting alternate, tricked-out versions of specific cards into packs. And with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, we're continuing that initiative—with many of them being tied to the monsters of the world!

They have a very striking art style and often cover up parts of the text box! Take a look for yourself:

Illuna, Apex of WishesNethroi, Apex of Death

But that's not all! One of the premier cycles in the set has these as well: the triomes! There's a custom frame made for them, and, well . . . they're quite a sight to behold:

Zagoth TriomeKetria Triome

Additionally, the planeswalkers in the set can also be opened in a special borderless version:

Vivien MainVivien Alt

They're really spectacular. Either way, you can find these in booster packs—and the borderless cards continue in the Collector Boosters! They'll look like this:

Full-art The Ozolith

And last but certainly not least . . . Godzilla is here. Like . . . actual Godzilla! And a bunch of his friends, to boot.

Godzilla, King of the MonstersMothra, Supersonic Queen

That's right: in a never-before-seen alliance, Magic and Toho have partnered together to bring you Toho monsters! When you buy a box, you'll get a box-topper that has a special Toho monster variant in it—and if you buy from a WPN store, you'll also snag a special Godzilla promo. (While supplies last.)

People have called Ikoria the Godzilla set . . . but I don't think many of you actually expected it to have Godzilla! Amazing.

Magic from a Distance

Depending on where in the world you are, playing Magic in a store may be a problem right now due to COVID-19. So, if you get product to bring home and aren't able to play in a store, what should you do?

Well, of course there's Magic: The Gathering Arena and Magic Online, which let you play the set from a safe distance. But one other thing you could try is playing over a phone or a webcam!

Growing up, me and a friend would play Magic over phone calls. As you can imagine, that was a hassle: trying to remember all the cards was a nightmare, and it would be even harder for a Prerelease!

But now we live in a much different age—an age where webcams are readily available, everywhere from laptops to even your cell phone!

Depending on the setup you and your friends have, there are many ways to do this—and if you need a place to start, check out this great article from the Commander group The Spike Feeders, or simply do an online search for "play Magic: The Gathering over webcam" and you'll find tons of options for how to turn your phone into a webcam. It plays a lot smoother than it sounds: give it a try!

All the Ikoria That's Fit to Print

If you're at your store to pick up Prerelease packs, you can also buy other things—like booster boxes! Be sure to call ahead to preorder one, and while supplies last, you should be able to pick one up.

Similarly, something new launching with Ikoria are the Ikoria Commander decks (C20)! If you've never tried Commander before, it's a great time to get started! It's one of the most popular formats in the world and a great way to play multiplayer Magic with nearly any cards you want.

Ikoria Commander decks

If you're interested in more on the format or these decks, you can read more about it here.

The Mechanics of Ikoria

As I mentioned at the beginning, Ikoria is an absolutely wild set. From mutate and companion to keyword counters and more, there's tons of stuff you should take a look at. For a more in-depth look, check out these mechanic videos (or the faq) which will hopefully answer all the questions you have:

The Monster Mash

Ikoria is a blast of a set—and now more than ever, we could use a fun activity to keep us entertained. We really tried a lot of unique and new things for this one—and I really can't wait to see what you all think!

Provided you're able to go get product or play online, definitely give it a try! You can always play online, or afterwards—Ikoria isn't going anywhere.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or even by sending an email to BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com. I'd be happy to hear from you!

I hope you've enjoyed Ikoria previews, and whenever you play with the set: have fun!

—Gavin
Email: BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com
Instagram: GavinVerhey
Tumblr: GavInsight
Twitter: @GavinVerhey

Latest Feature Articles

FEATURE

November 9, 2020

Commander Legends Prerelease Primer by, Gavin Verhey

It's time for a set like none other—and a new way of playing one of the most popular formats in Magic. When I first had the idea for a Commander Draft format nearly six years ago, I wasn...

Learn More

FEATURE

November 6, 2020

Commander Legends Release Notes by, Eli Shiffrin

Commander Legends Release Notes Compiled by Eli Shiffrin and Matt Tabak, with contributions from Laurie Cheers, Tom Fowler, Carsten Haese, Nathan Long, and Thijs van Ommen Document last...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All