Vadrok, Apex of Thunder
– Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths
April 21, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
The creature types in this set are straight out of Unstable. I love it. It’s amazing how quickly we got used to it being part of the larger Magic multiverse, which goes to show how much space there is for unique and offbeat things. It is, however, undoubtedly going to cause some confusion at casual tables when somebody’s cat deck pulls out something that’s also a dinosaur.
Vadrok is an interesting card for more than just that type line, though. 3/3 flying and first strike for three mana is obviously very strong, and the very specific mana cost is far from out of the question even in Standard. Using Vadrok’s own mutate cost on something else seems like a decent play in terms of either value or card advantage. But I think this particular mutate ability likes to be on the bottom of most creations, and there’s a lot of potential here for a mutate-based “combo” deck.
With a new set comes a new mechanic, and Ikoria brings mutate to the table, a way to make any creature 62% more threatening. It functions in a way not unlike bestow from the original Theros, though these are not enchantments. Basically, the creature on top is the body, while all abilities under it are retained. Even creatures without mutate can benefit from mutating brethren, so you could mutate your Tarmogoyf into one with killer antennae and long, majestic wings.
Vadrok is part of the five-member “apex” cycle, each efficiently-costed threats in the wedge. A 3/3 with flying and first strike for three mana is already a solid deal in Jeskai colors, and Mantis Rider was a solid threat for all of Khans of Tarkir. The mutate ability makes things interesting, a free spell with mana cost 3 or less from your graveyard. To use Vadrok’s mutate as an example, you’re paying 4 mana to either give something flying and first strike or give Vadrok some other set of abilities, and you’re also getting a free spell out of your graveyard. That’s a solid deal, all in all.
I’ll admit that mutate complicates things slightly in card evaluation for Ikoria, as it seems like an ability you will want to play with to get a good feel for exactly how good it is. On its own, Vadrok is an efficient flier that can eke out more value in a long game. Dying to Lightning Bolt/Helix isn’t great for Modern and more expansive formats, but I think there’s a good bit to be intrigued by from our elemental dinosaur cat.
Constructed: 4 (I think it’s playable enough without mutate, but mutate makes it pretty legit)
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