Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is all about humongousness—the most titanic creatures in Magic’s history mutating into massive behemoths—but it’s a relatively unassuming uncommon that has me most excited to build with the set. Released with little fanfare, Call of the Death-Dweller initially appears to follow in the tradition of Unearth and Claim // Fame. In reality it’s much closer to Collected Company than it is to most one-shot reanimation effects.

Note that, per the Release Notes, you can choose to place both counters on the same creature, whether you bring back one or two. So you can set up a creature with both menace and deathtouch—for example, bringing back a cycled Nimble Obstructionist alone—or split it up as, say, a minor deathtoucher as deterrent and a beater with menace. Typhoid Rats has never seen Standard play, but when it comes stapled to another creature, I start getting interested.

It reminds me of how Footsteps of the Goryo was unplayable until we had a critical mass of creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities. Reanimation used to be about tossing out massive, expensive creatures that required significant mana investment and an attack step to reap benefits. As Magic design has evolved, the acceleration of creature stats and abilities meant that eventually we’d get Griselbrand or Ashen Rider, something worth reanimating even without attacking.

My immediate thought for Call was “Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and a one-drop” to double up on triggers; but that’s level one thought, and one tied to my personal tendencies. Let’s dive in deeper, because this card is more Victimize with no drawback, rather than a simple Unearth. In Standard, we can buy back Brazen Borrower, double-dip on Uro or Kroxa, make Bonecrusher Giant scarier, or further our Aristocrats agenda with Dreadhorde Butcher and Footlight Fiend (or Judith, the Scourge Diva). Lazav with deathtouch is also pretty compelling, as is Yarok’s Fenlurker with both menace and deathtouch, especially when it brings back Arboreal Grazer.

The only drawback is finding a way to ditch your creatures. Between the robust self-mill and Dredge strategies of Modern and Pioneer and enough discard-for-benefit cards like Cathartic Reunion and Lightning Axe, it’ should prove easy enough to ditch targets into the yard. In Modern or Commander, Call of the Death-Dweller can return Eternal Witness to give you a 2/1 menace deachtoucher that buys Call of the Death-Dweller back.

Pioneer’s targets include Prophetic Flamespeaker—who becomes a 1/3 double striking, menacing, deathtouching machine—and a whole roster of reasonable three-drops: Goblin Chainwhirler for the three-mana Plague Wind, Rotting Regisaur for huge beats, Mantis Rider or Danitha Capashen for a build-your-own Akroma, Brazen Borrower for a clock. Personally, I’m looking forward to a Sultai Modern build that brings back Vendilion Clique.

Sticking with Pioneer, you can get back Dread Wanderer and Scrapheap Scrounger. I mean, you could already, but now they’re scarier! Okay, so there are more thrilling options than that. Here’s an Incomplete Litany of Exciting Targets in Pioneer:

In Modern, it can return Lightning Skelemental, but so can Unearth; and I don’t see the counters adding much. Likewise, it could get you Memnite and Arcbound Ravager, but there are better things you could be doing with an Affinity shell.

If we want to think outside of the box, though, there are some truly fun things we could be doing in Modern:

Perhaps most excitingly, you could grab Dryad Arbor plus whatever three drop you see fit. Turn one Stitcher’s Supplier into turn two Glorespore Shaman, Satyr Wayfinder, or Grisly Salvage, into turn three Call of the Death-Dweller, into (hopefully) a milled Arbor and threat is a hell of a line of play.

Overall, I’m less excited for the card in Modern than in Pioneer. While the targets are juicier, tapping three for reanimation value isn’t going to get you there in a turn-five format. That said, there’s enough power in Call of the Death-Dweller to be worth exploring, and that power will only grow as more relevant targets are printed in sets to come. On paper, Ikoria seems like a powerful set in the Eldraine model; but it’s the more subtle power that I’m interested—the power that Call of the Death-Dweller embodies. Fear giant monsters all you want, but when your gaze is focused on them, there are all kinds of smaller monsters about your feet.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.