By this point most die hard Magic fans have flocked to the Ikoria: Lair Of Behemoths spoilers. Online sites have exploded with articles and videos of the set. Stores have been flooded with pre-orders despite the current pandemic we are experiencing. The release of both the Commander 2020 -C20 decks, along with Ikoria: Lair Of Behemoths has been received extremely well. The set is an extreme pander-fest to Magic's most motivated player bases. Many players however, are rightfully concerned about the perceived power up this set brings.
Starting with the Commander 2020 preconstructed decks, one thing is glaringly obvious. These are some of, if not the strongest, commander products that Wizards Of The Coast has ever assembled. Returning favorite mechanics like partner, experience counters and cycling are joined with new keyword style counters that enable trample and deathtouch counters, just to name a few. Of course there is the new mutate mechanic where you can use creatures like they are voltron auras. I am excited to see these cause multiple wild triggers to go off the closer you get to mutation based perfection. We are given an instant spell slinging deck in Temur, that's green, red and blue that is just begging to be broken. They have given us the new king of hydras in Zaxara, the Exemplary and a flying group hug/aggressive snake token commander Xyris, the Writhing Storm.* These alternate commanders really round this set out. They are some of the most interesting ones to be printed. Any of the commander options bring a lot of deck building excitement. The variance that this set will bring will really cause many people to take a second look and create something new. These decks have something for each play style. They include cards that can be cast for free if you control your commander. Cards that function with extremely popular mechanics like token generation. They are stuffed to the brim with new tribal support and color expansion for popular themes like hydras, humans, soldiers, dinosaurs and a slew of nightmares. The art is fantastic bringing tons of chase commander options. They even snuck in the Locust God and many planeswalkers. Wizards Of The Coast has clearly stuffed all of their eggs into the commander basket with these decks. These are to be released, later than anticipated, along side Ikoria: Lair Of Behemoths.
Ikoria is a new plane and is filled with enormous monsters and new mechanics for people to explore. The set includes great new planeswalkers, a plethora of legendary creatures and artifacts as well as interesting new mechanics. I wrote previously about the Companion mechanic and its potential impact on commander. The new ones have been revealed and seem not to be as disruptive as Lutri but, only when you don't consider that they will add an extra card to commander decks. I do not personally play standard anymore and have no idea how this set will play out with the standard crowd. It seems there is no way for many of these to function properly though. The ultimatum cycle is just enormous mana costs that seem oddly out of place in a standard set. You have combo enabling pieces like Colossification being added with the ability to cheat it out withe cards from the Theros block easily. This set from the onset has seemed to not be designed for standard at all. It seems like a very minor afterthought that it even has to be in it. The set could nearly be commander legal only and would be strong already. Great three color fixing mana rocks and of course the Triome lands. The land cycle hits all of the commander pre-con colors, sits in the rare slot, is fetchable and has the ability to cycle later in the game if they aren't needed. The power of these lands is being severely underestimated by many online communities. Their downside is them being tapped but they can functionally replace any terramorphic expanse or evolving wilds in any of these clan color decks. These have huge commander playability and are amazing deck fixing options for color hungry commanders like Kenrith, Golos, The First Sliver and a ton of others. Even one of the companion creatures functions as a new five color elemental commander with the ability to tap for WURBG. It can't pay generic mana costs but, its a great color generator. The set is full of cards that are strict upgrades to previous versions such as wilt and its ability to outright replace naturalize with no downside and a late game draw with the cycling. We have tons of legendary creatures like Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy, a new CEDH staple in many decks that run the colors. It fits into Thrasios and Tymna and a slew of other competition ready decks. It has a mana sink built in and can generate infinite colorless mana with only basalt monolith. The set drives excitement for commander players but has one glaring drawback.
The power level included in this set and the commander decks are nearly unheard of. This is some of the hardest power spiking the format has ever needed to deal with. There is no way for this set to not majorly disrupt EDH game play, especially with the banning of a card before release. There are just so many cards here that function so well. It turns the set into a must buy. It prints pre-cons that look to be arguably 6-7 power level out of the box. There are upgrades for the most popular commanders like Atraxa with The Ozolith, Riku with the new Temur precon, Muldrotha with all the self mill and graveyard shenanigans as well as the Triome land you can cycle and then play from the grave. As I mentioned earlier there is something here for everyone in this set. There is the biggest aura power and toughness increase wise with a 7 mana 20/20 increase. Not even Eldrazi conscription adds that level of strength for an aura. There is no way to ignore the Godzilla sized elephant in the room and that is the power spike. With more commander decks slated to release with the return to Zendikar near the end of the year, there seems to be no end in sight. The question on everyone's mind is "What's next?" What is the next exciting set of lands that will compare with fetchable tri-color lands? What is the next aura that will out perform 20/20? What other cards are going to come and further break Nyxbloom Ancient along with Kinnan? We have to remember there is a Commander master draft set coming soon with 70 new legendary options to build decks around. How strong will those be if they are being introduced directly into Commander without seeing standard? Will we see more cards with the raw power of Urza? What powerful staples are going to be slotted into that set to drive its sales? Will we see doubling seasons, land tax, rhystic study, cyclonic rift and other commander favorites? Will they use these sets to shove the fetchlands back in after the disaster secret lair they tried to present players? Commander legends is a license for them to reprint whatever big money cards they will drive sale in order to promote the format and its draftability. They wont release 70 new legends without MAJOR support stuffed into the boxes and I believe mystery boosters were test ground for this upcoming set. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that I apologized publicly for my skepticism, and there was value upon value stuffed into those packs. I think the commander draft format is going to be similar with larger packs stuffed to the brim with needed reprints. Wizards of the coast was quoted saying "Commander Legends has 20-card packs, with a foil and two legendary creatures in every single pack!" As well as "These cards can be from anywhere in space and time in the Multiverse and are legal in Eternal formats like Legacy, Vintage, and Commander. It is larger than a normal set, with oft-asked-for Commander reprints and new cards alike. Tons of beloved Planes and characters are represented—plus many new ones, too!"
There seems to be no end in sight to the constant deck upgrading and building in the near future. Too many cards are being printed that are bringing the format closer and closer to a more competitive setting. We are realistically months away from decks with a power level of 6-7 sliding down to 4-5 and decks that are at an 8-9 being skyrocketed in terms of strength and consistency. Only the reserve list is safe from reprints at this time and even then, the reserve list is only functional copies. Nothing is stopping them from making watered down versions of popular cards or things like a Sliver King instead of Sliver Queen.
The power spike is coming, the wallet fatigue is coming because you are finally seeing the release of powerful cards available at random in packs. There are plenty of upsides to these reprints as commander becomes more and more accessible, but with accessibility comes the growing need to purchase these cards for your own decks. Sure a Doubling Season might be worth half of what it currently is if its reprinted, but that is an expensive upgrade for everyone who had initially held off. Magic is becoming more and more expensive even with things becoming easier to attain. Deck building variety and diversity is up and won't be going anywhere. Let's keep building decks, supporting game stores and having fun in the format we all love. With this set we should all remember we are playing with friends and be very careful of the arms race in our groups. Ikoria may be the home to giant behemoths and larger than life mutant creatures but, the biggest monster this set created is a clear power spike.