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Jumping the Shark in Ikoria

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This past week, the Ikoria previews had begun to trickle out (or rather, pour out uncontrollably), and I'll be the first one to admit that I have no idea how Preview Season works any more. It used to be that, every day, the mothership would reveal a single card (or a cycle of cards) in each of their articles for that day, while secondary sites would also get their own preview cards to spoil each day. But now...things seem significantly different.

As of writing this article on Monday night, there have been (officially, on the Wizards Ikoria Card Image Gallery) 102 cards previewed. Considering the set is scheduled to be released on May 15, more than five weeks from now, I have no idea why so many of these cards are being pushed out so quickly!

I've come to find out since writing that last paragraph, in fact, that the set is actually released in APAC on April 24th. While that makes more sense as to why the previews have started so early, now we have the new mystery of why the set is being released three weeks apart in different regions.

Nevertheless, we have 102 official previews to talk about and we're going to go over every single one in this article!

...what? No, are you insane? There's no way we're doing that. Rob and I might do a set review (over the web this time), as we always do for new sets, so I definitely want to leave some opinions for that, but we do have a ton to talk about in the next few weeks. Ikoria seems to have some of the most wild designs I've seen in quite some time, and there are a ton of cards that seem to reference - or try to imitate - old favorites. This week I'm going to give you some of my initial thoughts on the set, as well as some of my favorite new cards.

Mutate

One of the things that I will admit has me somewhat confused is mutate. Like, I get the ability, and how it works. There's just a lot going on with it. It feels a lot like bestow, and the host/augment ability from Unstable. I know I'll get the hang of it once I play with it on both Magic Online and MTG Arena (and I can't even imagine how much work went into programming for both), but right now it just seems slightly confusing.

I think one of the things that has thrown me the most is that the power and toughness for both creatures is still visible, unlike host/augment, where one creature clearly had their power and toughness written as something like +2/+2. I think remembering that the creature on top is the relevant power and toughness, even though the power and toughness of the creature on the bottom occupies the lower physical space (the area we're used to seeing it), is really the trick. I just feel like it may take some time, especially when you have three or four "mutated" creatures, and only 1 power and toughness is relevant; that seems weird to me, since they aren't buffing one another.

Voracious Greatshark

This card is absolutely incredible and it just warms my heart. Not only is the art fantastic, it just hits all the right spots. There are a couple cards that come to mind that I want to compare this to.

The first is Mystic Snake/Frilled Mystic. Both of these cost four mana (with one being a bit easier on the mana than the otter...er, other), and both of them can counter anything. Unfortunately the shark can only counter artifacts and creatures, but while that might be a downside, the upsides of being a humongous 5/4 and costing five mana with only two Blue pips are both very huge benefits. This makes the casting cost more in line with something like Draining Whelk, which is the other card I think of.

While the Shark doesn't have flying, its power and toughness also aren't dependent on the card we counter. There were plenty of times where you could need to counter a 2- or 3-drop with the Draining Whelk, leaving you with only a 2/2 or 3/3 respectively. With the shark, however, you're always getting a 5/4, which is typically going to be better than all of the cards we've compared it to.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Simic Flash deck in Standard. I think it's an elegant work of art, but I also hate playing against it, and you can be certain that the Voracious Greatshark is going to find a home in it, in some number, as the top of their curve

Shark Typhoon

Continuing with our shark theme, Shark Typhoon (which is literally just a Sharknado) is the other card I'm really excited about. On its face, we have an enchantment very similar to Metallurgic Summonings. While the cards are slightly different, Shark Typhoon actually seems like a pretty solid improvement. Despite the extra mana we're paying, we only need one Blue source, it triggers on any noncreature spell, not just instants and sorceries, and the tokens now have flying. That last part is a really big deal.

The strangest thing is that the second part of this card might be even better than just casting it. For x1u you can cycle Shark Typhoon. Let's take a look at how that scales.

1u - Draw a card.

2u - 1/1 flier and draw a card. An instant-speed Tome Raider

3u - 2/2 flier and draw a card. An instant-speed Hydroid Krasis, or a cheaper Mulldrifter that only draws you a single card.

4u - 3/3 flier and draw a card. An instant-speed Gryff Vanguard with an extra point of toughness.

Everything above this only gets better. When we're making 4/4, 5/5, and 6/6 fliers at instant-speed, that are also uncounterable and drawing us a card, we have the makings of a great card. This is reminiscent of all the cards I've mentioned, and also Decree of Justice, which was a cards that was cycled way more times than it was cast. The fact that cycling it, which also gets around Teferi, Time Raveler, is almost the more preferable mode on the card is pretty wild.

The other fact that we have a card like Escape Protocol in the format now, which is a retooled Astral Slide that this will trigger, is also pretty cool. I can see the Simic Flash deck now, cycling this to make a huge shark, drawing a card, and blinking their Frilled Mystic to counter your spell. It will be an utter blow out, and you'll for sure concede immediately, throwing your deck in the garbage can.

Godzilla!

The last thing I want to talk about are the Godzilla alternate art cards. They're absolutely ridiculous.

...ly awesome!

For real, like a lot of kids in the 80's, I remember growing up watching various Godzilla movies with my dad, and they were a blast. The fact that I can now see these characters that I kind of grew up with on Magic cards, for literally zero opportunity cost to the game, is amazing. Mothra? Baby Godzilla?! Rodan!? Come on...these are straight from my childhood, and if you don't want to play with Godzilla alternate art cards...you don't have to! Because they're alternate arts! Me personally though, I want playsets of all of them, though I'm concerned about the monetary investment that might end up costing me.

I mean seriously. Do I want to be at an event and casting "Brokkos, Apex of Forever," or do I want to cast friggin' "Bio-Quartz Spacegodzilla" I don't even know why I'm asking this question. Honestly, I didn't care at all about the Throne of Eldraine or Theros Beyond Death frameless cards. Sure, they looked cool, and okay, I actually did like the Eldraine alternate frames a lot, but I didn't like them enough to pay more for them. I can definitely see myself paying the premium for these Godzilla versions. And I can already hear my wallet crying out.

Guys, I hope you're still all staying safe and taking care of one another. Another week has gone by and, along with it, another week of quarantine. We're getting through this, we just have to keep holding on a little longer and supporting one another. I love you guys, thanks so much for reading, and be sure to leave a comment with any thoughts you may have down below. As always, use promo code FRANK5 to get 5% off, and I'll catch you all next week.

Frank Lepore

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