Well. It has been a week, and I can see I was wrong: the companion mechanic is really good.  On first glance, I thought companions would be good, challenging to build with, and an overall fine addition to the Magic multiverse. And then I got to play with them and see them in the wild.

This week I explain just how far off in my initial assessment of companions. Let’s look at their impact so far across multiple formats.


For the people who don’t know Ryan Saxe, he is a true Limited Guru. The fact that he’s already exhausted by companions after one week of Ikoria Limited tells us something. You might not expect a mechanic that only shows up on ten rares to make such a large impact on booster draft. But here’s the thing: when you see a companion early your first pack, it is really easy commit to drafting and building around these powerful creatures.

The various companion requirements aren’t really restrictions when you look at the set as a whole for a draft format. Eight of the ten companions are feasible to build around in draft, and the reward for doing so is a bomb-level extra card in your opening hand every game. The two that will be hard to build around are Zirda, the Dawnwaker and Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but even those two are still great to include in your main deck.

The problem is, almost every companion is first-pickable and bomb-worthy, and the consistent play patterns can create unfun game scenarios. While Ryan has been winning on non companion strategies, he has stated on Twitter that companions are still his first choice to look out for early. It turns out you should draft Pack Rat when you get the chance! At least there are enough companions to provide some diversity of experience, but I can see where the frustration comes from.


While Modern hasn’t been affected by many companions just yet, Lurrus of the Dream-Den has been leading the charge so far. In the last week with the help of Lurrus, Mishra’s Bauble doubled in price on Magic Online. Why? A lot of decks are simpy adding four Baubles to their maindeck and one Lurrus in the sideboard. Playing expensive permanents gets punished enough already in Modern, and now you miss out on a free copy of Lurrus too.

Right now Burn runs a playset of Mishra’s Baubles because of the pure card advantage with Lurrus. This is alarming simply because these aren’t cards Burn would typically want in their deck. It’s like Goblins decks paying Mental Misstep in Legacy, before that card got banned. The immediate success of Lurrus suggests that companions can change play patterns and warp decks around their power without many deckbuilding adjustments.

I also have a friend whose been playing Jund with Lurrus as well. The two expensive permanents you lose to satisfy Lurrus are Liliana of the Veil and Bloodbraid Elf. Both of those have had their ups and downs in Jund decks lately, but they easily cede deck space for the recursive companion. With Lurrus in tow, Jund has more ways of grinding out the opponent, recurring powerful two-mana finishers.

The other companions haven’t made a big splash yet in the format, but I am interested in keeping more of an eye on it after seeing what Lurrus is doing.


Legacy is where the menace of the mechanic has been popping up the most.  The three companions making the biggest splash are Lurrus of the Dream-Den, Gyruda, Doom of Depths, and Zirda, the Dawnwaker. Each offers specific interactions with cards in the metagame that more than reward building around, if you even have to “build around” at all.

Lurrus is the safest one on this list, but it has been proving its worth in Storm variants across Legacy. Being able to recur Lion’s Eye Diamond or Lotus Petal makes the storm kill easier without needing to draw so many copies of these free artifacts. I think this is the most “fair” use of companions of these three, but it still has its issues. Making it easier to storm off always poses some danger. Lurrus has had success in “fair” decks too, like Delver of Secrets. Spells in Legacy are cheap, and Lurrus plays well with Force of Will, so it can fit in a lot of decks.

Zirda, the Dawnwaker might look innocent, but it has put the Bomberman archetype back on the map. Being able to generate infinite mana itself makes the deck more explosive. Grim Monolith and Basalt Monolith generate infinite mana with Zirda in play, allowing you to win with Karn, the Great Creator fetching out Walking Ballista. If that is not good enough, you still have the original Auriok Salvagers combo in the deck.  Zirda brings a lot of consistency to Bomberman, which makes it a scarier threat to reckon with. Note that Zirda satisfies its own companion requirement, so you can play three in your main deck and a fourth in your sideboard to cast with companion.

Yet the biggest threat in Legacy right now is another companion that satisfies its own limitation: Gyruda, Doom of Depths. The deck has the capability to win on turn 1 and doesn’t need many cards in hand to accomplish that. Here’s a quick summary of what the deck is trying to do: play out Gyruda out as soon as possible, self-mill clones or Restoration Angel to keep the mill triggers flowing, and keep it up until your opponent has been decked. If the mill plan doesn’t work, it plays Dragonlord Kolaghan and has the ability to give all of your creatures haste to attack for lethal. Spark Double helps get around the legend rule as well. This deck is resilient against permission spells, with four copies of Cavern of Souls to get around Force of Will.

These combo decks are really strong and will be in Legacy for as long as companions are a thing you can play. Lion’s Eye Diamond is in all three of the combo decks listed above, because the companion effect of casting from outside your hand works perfectly with the discard-your-hand requirement of LED. I would hate to see a fun and restrictive card like Lion’s Eye Diamond pay for the sins of the companion mechanic, but it’s hard to imagine that LED stays in the format much longer—unless the good companions get banned instead.

Now that the set has been out for a week what do you all think? Were you as wrong as I was about companion? Have you enjoyed playing with them so far?

Zack a veteran grinder at this point plays most of his magic online nowadays. That doesn’t mean you won’t find him occasionally slinging spells at an Open or Grand Prix. Catch him streaming on Twitch to find where he’s at with all the formats.

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