Magic: The Gathering Lead Designer Explains Why Cycling is Back in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

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The next Magic: The Gathering set Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths has some crazy new mechanics like Mutate, Companion, and ability counters, but Wizards of the Coast is also bringing back an old mechanic in this expansion: Cycling! During a chat with Weekly MTG,Magic lead designer Mark Rosewater explained why Cycling is back in Ikoria.

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Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Rosewater explained that since most of the "famous monsters" featured in this set are big, they were finding ways to make them more playable in Ikoria: "We're looking for a mechanic that says, 'How can we play more big monsters in my deck and not get punished too badly for it.' and Cycling was a great answer," Rosewater said. "Cycling sort of says 'You can play cards you can't normally play because if you can't play them, you can cycle them away.' Cycling ended up being a really cool thing to help do some mana-smoothing, but it just let us get more monsters in this set."

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The lead Magic designer went on to say that since R&D were messing with this kind of design space when they made the Rise of the Eldrazi since that expansion also featured big creatures but had issues in the Constructed format, they learned from their mistakes before, and found that Cycling is a great solution to make big monsters more playable.

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Rosewater also said that they were finding more ways to do with the keyword counters that permanently grant creatures one of the ten abilities in this set like Flying, Trample, and First Strike, so they adding cards with Cycling effects that give out keyword counters to creatures such as how "Void Beckoner" (shown above) can give a deathtouch counter on a creature when you cycle it. WotC David Humpherys also said on the video that there's a cycle of these cards in Ikoria that grant keyword abilities when you cycle them, but not all of them have been revealed.

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Here's one of the more playable big monsters with Cycling: "Yidaro, Wandering Monster":

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That's a great Cycling card that Control players can probably use as a kill condition. If you also hard to counter this card when you play it out by cycling it out four or more times.

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You can watch Rosewater talk about Cycling at the 36-minute mark of the video below:

Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is officially scheduled to be released on May 15 (rescheduled release day).

Related: MTGArtist Seb McKinnon's Artworks For Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Revealed