I’m currently on vacation visiting some family on the east coast while I work remote. While I’ve been missing my local house drafts and FNM, I have to make do with MTG Arena. Luckily, the newest set is incredibly well-designed and I’ve been having a blast playing it. So much so, that I hit Mythic at the end of the month only drafting for a few days.
While I didn’t write a prerelease or draft primer at the set’s release, I’m here today to show you the 7-win decks I drafted to Mythic, and what patterns I noticed on my path to victory.
Before we get into Lost Caverns of Ixalan Limited, I want to stress the advantages of Quick Draft versus Premier Draft on MTG Arena. While a few of my trophy decks are from Premier Draft, it’s usually better to Quick Draft when trying to hit Mythic. The main benefits are reducing time (not having to player draft) and bot drafting. With bot draft in Quick Draft you usually can leverage deck buildling on patterns you see. For example Tithing Blade, even though rated one of the highest Black commons in the set, is a card I noticed always wheeled in Quick Draft, so I biased myself towards Black decks and wheeling that card. This wasn’t always the case but I feel like you can get more higher velocity decks out of Quick Drafts than Premier Drafts.
During Strixhaven season, while in paper or in premier drafts I would be more flexible with what colors my seat was supposed to be, I quickly realized I could leverage Silverquil (Orzhov) cards in Quick Draft, and forced Orzhov aggro almost every draft. I hit Mythic twice during that set’s release. Knowing how to leverage the Quick Draft system can be advantageous if your goal is to speedrun to Mythic. Just a small note, but it’s something I’ve leveraged the seasons I’ve wanted to hit Mythic, especially if I was low on time.
Lost Caverns of Ixalan is a well-designed Limited set for a couple of standout reasons, but the most telling is that a lot of the two-color archetypes are pretty evenly balanced. While Red and White seem to have more powerful and synergistic cards, all of the other colors have game to them. I would probably rank Blue, Red, and White the strongest, with Black following close behind and Green being the worst. LCI being an artifact set Red and White have a lot of artifact synergies, but I’m actually pretty partial to Dimir-based descend decks that splash for good White cards.
Overall there are a variety of different decks and archetypes you can draft, but you’ll notice some patterns in the winning decklists that got me to Mythic. Without further ado here is every 7-win deck that got me to Mythic:
Additionally here’s my first draft and 7-win deck after the season reset:
While I drafted a solid Simic deck at the start of the season I think the only real reason I got to seven wins was off the back of Deepfathom Echo, which I played in multiple games on turn three on the play. Echo is a powerful card, but Simic overall is a very weak color pair in this set. Explore isn’t as deep as a mechanic as some of the artifact and graveyard synergies in other colors. Blue and Green feel more like support for better colors, and together they don’t have much to offer. If you do draft Simic you have to rely on (frog card) to ramp you out ahead of your opponent, a creature which also acts as Tithing Blade bait (the highest-rated Black common according to 17lands).
Here’s one thing I noticed that all of my post-Simic trophy decks shared: Sunbird Standard (and most had Master’s Guide-Mural).
You might think Sunbird Standard looks pretty weak overall, but there are a couple of important uses for it. As a mana rock it’s great for splashing some off-color bomb rares or uncommons, it provides a source for artifact crafting, lets you ramp out into bigger threats than your opponent, but most importantly – it’s a win condition! Nothing gives me more joy than locking down a board state, flipping a Sunbird Sentinel, and then activating a Captivating Cave to now have an evasive high-power finisher. What I also love about Sunbird Standard is that the mana you get by flipping it over is perfect for casting multiple spells in one turn, or casting a spell and activating a cave. In the decks I splashed Master’s Guide-Mural, Sunbird Standard gave me a second White source without having to mess up my mana by having too many plains in my deck. Overall this is a card that I think is highly underrated and it’s pretty telling when it was in every 7-win deck I played with after the set’s initial release.
The next major note about LCI Limited, especially in a best of one format, is that one and two drops are crucial to your deck’s success. Back during Wilds of Eldraine a consensus was made that your deck should always have something to do during the first two turns, even if that’s simply making a food token. The same is the case in LCI, and even more relevant given how much more aggressive the format is compared to WOE. LCI has powerful and evasive one-drops, as well as ways for aggressive decks to close out the game.
While the decks I drafted were not hyper-aggressive, I made it a point to bias my deck towards having a higher count of one and two-drops compared to other sets I’ve drafted. Cards like Tithing Blade are so good in this format, even with token makers, because they not only act as a speed bump for your opponent, but they put an artifact into play you can use for crafting or as a sac-outlet later on in the game. It’s crucial you know how to keep up the pressure and tempo or how to get it back if your deck isn’t as aggressive. One reason why Green is the weakest color in this set is because it doesn’t have the reach that colors like White do. Sure, Green can produce pretty big individual threats, but they’re easily out-tempo’d by cards like Tithing Blade, Lodestone Needle, Brackish Blunder, etc – cards that hinder your opponent’s gameplan while also doing something else of value!
While I would not recommend trying to draft Green in this format, I think it’s important to note what makes a good Green deck if your seat is supposed to be base-Green. First, the most important common for Green is this little fellow:
There are a few key reasons why this guy is so important. First, and most obvious, it’s a mana fixer and ramp for the bigger creatures in the format, especially if you’re in Gruul. The second reason why this card is important is that it acts as fodder for Tithing Blade later in the game after you cast some of your bigger fatties. You can do some little combos with Huatli’s Final Strike. Even just putting a Pathfinding Axejaw or Colossadactal into play on turn three is pretty big play against the Jeskai variants, especially if you win the die roll.
This is a card I’d highly prioritize in your two-drop slot if you want your Green decks to keep up with the faster decks in the format and have some built-in edict insulation.
Overall, looking at my trophy decks from my Mythic run shows which cards I’m more biased towards as a Limited player. While Black is certainly not the best color in the format the Black cards did effects that I enjoy playing with, mainly killing things and generating some sort of two-for-one value. While the format is aggressive I think my decks tend to be on the grindier side of things, mostly concerned with stopping my opponents’ first few plays and then putting together some late game combos to take control. This is also very apparent in how I play constructed, as I’m an avid Azorius Control mage. While there are definitely things to be gained from understanding a format, I think it’s also important to understand how you draft and sequence cards as a player. I don’t think I passed many Tithing Blades on my path to Mythic, and I’m cogniscent of the fact that I’ll just have more enjoyment and play out of my games putting a card like that into my deck.
LCI is a pretty unique format in my opinion. While there are certainly aggressive strategies, the games feel like they come down to assembling a particular gameplan, whether that be having a critical mass of artifacts in play, benefiting off putting permanents into your graveyard, or piecing together powerful craft artifacts. While there are certainly color pairs stronger than others I’d keep an open mind and play to your strengths.
As always, thanks for reading. Catch ya at the draft tables!