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Flavor Gems of Ikoria and Commander 2020

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Welcome back, Lore Fans. Today's flavor gems article is 2-for-1, and we've got a lot to talk about, so we're going rapid fire to make it all fit, and I can't possibly hit everything I loved about this set (it's my new favorite plane). First of all, if you haven't read them yet, Ikoria has two excellent worldbuilding articles in the Planeswalker's Guide to Ikoria and Worldbuilding Ikoria. I've already talked about the Godzilla Series in Godzilla: the Monster King, so I won't be covering any of that here. With those quick notes out of the way, let's dive in!

The Story of Ikoria

Lead the Stampede by Lius Lasahido

As has become fairly common, there are more 'story' cards in this set than appear as actual story spotlights. While the Story on the Cards article has gotten some criticism for not being quite accurate to the ebook, it does give you a sense of what to expect from the story. I'm not going to run through the cards myself since there's an official summary available that covers all the story cards I might otherwise hit.

Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths Flavor Gems

Clash of Titans is our "Let them Fight" moment from Ikoria. Bonus points for a name referencing the Greek Mythology creature feature, Clash of the Titans.

Forbidden Friendship, Capture Sphere, and Cathartic Reunion tell a cute mini-story of a soldier who befriends a dinosaur monster.

Proud Wildbonder and Fully Grown is a cute duology showing a bonder's relationship with his giant monster. The flavor text nicely captures the transition, from the bonder carrying the monster to the monster carrying its bonder.

Winota, Joiner of Forces is one of the first Legendary amputees in Magic (second only to Daretti, Scrap Savant I believe). She's also depicted in Unbreakable Bond and features in the flavor texts of Of One Mind and Swallow Whole. We even get some flavor text from the Planeswalker's Guide:

A bonder named Winota told me how she lost her arm trying to kill the monster that she ended up bonding with! Now she and her companion travel Ikoria helping other bonders and monsters learn to fight side by side.

Sprite Dragon is our first Faerie Dragon in decades. The original was an Astral Card, a digital-only card from the Microprose game days (known better as Shandalar).

The Mythos cycle depicts each of the apex monsters (that's each of the wedge-color Legends with mutate) in a story from an in-universe work called Tales of the Ozolith. You can see cave walls with similar cave paintings to the Mythos in Bonders' Enclave.

Wingfold Pteron is the first time we've seen Pterons outside of Mirrodin. Pterons were the dinosaurs the leonin of the plane rode, seen on cards like Leonin Skyhunter and Pteron Ghost.

Mysterious Egg is a classic monster trope, seen in everything from Pokemon to the Alien franchise. I love the flavor here, because it could hatch into anything and encourages you to mutate it into something interesting.

Easy Prey by Ekaterina Burmak\

Easy Prey is another classic trope common in monster movies. Someone, usually a bad guy, has discovered the monster and it's small and helpless. And then, surprise! It wasn't the real monster at all, and a much bigger monster is waiting for the character now that they've let their guard down.

Back for More is similar to the last trope, where the characters have let their guards down believing the monster is defeated. Whoops, there's actually twenty more minutes of running time on the film, I guess the monster might not be so dead and the heroes have been caught flat-footed.

Footfall Crater is common in movies with giant monsters. A mysterious footprint has been found, to what could it belong? You see this one in several of the Godzilla films where there's a mystery to be preserved, but the 'giant footprint discovery' trope is ubiquitous in pop culture.

Unexpected Fangs is great because it highlights the insanity of having these constantly mutating creatures on the plane. This kind of thing is another monster movie trope, where the monster reveals a weapon we didn't know it had yet, whether it be Mothra's stinger from Godzilla, King of the Monsters or the second set of jaws from Alien.

Offspring's Revenge is one of my favorite monster tropes. A flip on the Easy Prey trope, the "It has a kid!" moment is a great stinger in a lot of films. Godzilla has used this quite a bit, from Godzilla Junior fully inheriting Godzilla's mantle in Godzilla vs Destroyah, to the American Godzilla teasing that, oops, one of the baby Godzillas wasn't destroyed in the air strike.

As a quick sidebar, I don't even remotely have the space to address all the amazing creature types in this set, but I sure do appreciate them.

Non-Godzilla Monster References

Kogla, the Titan Ape by Chris Rahn

Kogla, the Titan Ape is our big, obvious King Kong reference. The art perfectly captures Kong's classic "Empire State Building" imagery, while updating it to use the Argalith from Drannith.

Yidaro, Wandering Monster may have Shin Godzilla as it's Godzilla series, but the classic version is more akin to Gamera, being a an ancient turtle.

Voracious Greatshark has a Jaws reference, "There is no boat big enough."

Shark Typhoon is an obvious Sharknado reference.

Frenzied Raptor is the posing like the T-Rex at the end of the original Jurassic Park.

I'm sure there are a lot more monster movie references that will come to light, these are just a taste!

Ikoria Showcases

Ketria Triome by Robbie Trevino

Showcases are one of the coolest new innovations for Magic sets. Let's be real here, Masterpieces were fine but if you actually wanted to collect them, they were a nightmare. Showcases are much easier to collect and are based around a mechanic or theme of the set (and use cards legal in the set). For Eldraine, those were the storybook style Showcases on Adventure Cards.

For Ikoria, they've adopted a comic book style and even hired many comic artists to do work on them. The results are fairly spectacular, and I appreciate that the borderless planeswalkers this time around are also using the same comic art style. The easy winners for best showcase cards this time around are the Triomes (one of which I've featured above). Robbie Trevino's work on these landscapes is perfectly framed and lit. The color palette pops and they're easily going to be the most gorgeous Magic cards sitting on the table.

Commander 2020 Flavor Gems

Commander 2020 released early this year, coinciding with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths to make one kaiju-sized release. The flavor of all the new cards from Commander 2020 is Ikoria, so I'll be exploring a few of them here, too.

Jirina Kudro is a major point-of-view character from Sundered Bond, the excellent ebook by Django Wexler. At first glance, Jirina is defined by her relationships. Her father is General Kudro of Drannith, the autocratic leader of the city. She's engaged to Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, the new planeswalker of the set. But when Lukka is revealed to be a bonder, Jirina shines, quickly overcoming both her naivete about the world and her extreme stance against monsters. She proves tough, resilient, and exactly the leader Drannith needs when the men in her life become obsessed with killing each other.

Gavi, Nest Warden is as close to a Gavin Verhey card as we're going to get (note the very next letter after Gavi is 'n').

Slippery Bogbonder is a reference to Slippery Bogle. I guess we can now confirm the Jesper Ejsing version as being on Ikoria!

That's about all I have time for today, but I hope you all enjoy the world of Ikoria as much as I do. As a huge giant monster fan, this set hits all the right notes and I can't wait for a return.

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