When Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths was initially spoiled, people didn’t know how strong cycling would be in Standard Magic: The Gathering. When trying to solve the format, players knew that cycling cards had a lot of potential, but the mechanic just needed to find the right home. In time, Lurrus Cycling became one of the most popular decks in Ikoria Standard, and was able to win games as early as turn 4.
So what’s the problem with Lurrus Cycling? Well, the deck is too consistent. Due to the nature of cycling, the deck will always find its payoffs. This means that you can be punished very hard if you do not have the right cards to deal with Lurrus.
In this guide, I will walk you through some of the more important basics of countering Lurrus Cycling in Magic: The Gathering Arena.
What is Lurrus Cycling?
This is an aggro/combo deck which revolves around the new Ikoria cycling cards. Here’s how the deck works. First, the deck aggressively mulligans for Flourishing Fox and Drannith Stinger. Then, the deck wants to play one or both of the mentioned creatures, and spend the next few turns cycling to help the creatures deal damage. Finally, the deck wants to keep cycling until they find Zenith Flare, which acts as a finisher.
If for whatever reason the deck stumbles, Lurrus of the Dream-Den helps it get back on track. This pesky companion is a very reliable backup plan and can bring back your Drannith Stinger if you need to keep the pressure going.
What about the other cards in the deck? You probably noticed that the deck includes several random cards like Frostveil Ambush or Boon of the Wish-Giver. These cards are mostly only in the deck because of their 1-mana cycling cost, and a few of them for their utility. For example, Valiant Rescuer is a weaker payoff, but it creates a wide board very fast and can be useful in some matchups.
Lurrus Cycling strengths
This deck has two primary advantages. First, Lurrus easily goes under slower decks. There are several decks is the format right now that need to get to turn 5 in order to win. Jeskai Lukka is a great example – it’s one of the best decks in the format, but easily loses to early aggression. As long as Lurrus Cycling has a Flourishing Fox or Drannith Stinger in play, they’re heavily favored against slower ramp or control decks.
The second advantage is Lurrus’ consistency and reach. As mentioned previously, cycling allows users to consistently find the payoffs they need. Reach refers to the ability to finish off an opponent. This deck has a lot of reach, because it can just keep cycling until it finds Zenith Flare. Also, the deck has more reach in the form of Lurrus, which provides a way to bring back the deck’s most important creatures.
Lurrus Cycling weaknesses
This deck has a very linear playstyle. The deck doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility in how it wants to win. It wants to play its crucial early creatures, cycle, and cast Zenith Flare. If you can aggressively stop any of the three stages, the Lurrus Cycling starts to crumble. For example, Narset, Parter of Veils can be a great option since the card completely stops players from drawing more than one card a turn.
Also, sideboarding in cards can do more harm than good for this deck. Every card in Lurrus Cycling can cycle, so putting in cards that can’t cycle slows down the deck’s gameplan.
The second weakness is life gain. Flourishing Fox and Drannith Stinger need to deal as much damage as they can to set up for a lethal Zenith Flare. However, if you’re able to keep gaining life, this makes it hard for Lurrus Cycling to win the game with just one Zenith Flare.
How to beat Lurrus Cycling
Although Lurrus Cycling is weak to a card like Narset, control decks that would want to include her aren’t doing very well in the meta right now. Some combo decks can outrace Lurrus Cycling, too.
However, I found that the best way to deal with the deck directly is through life gain. Currently, two strong decks can achieve this: Rakdos Sacrifice and Black White Lurrus.
Rakdos Sacrifice is a deck that does a great job at out-grinding Lurrus Cycling. Lurrus Cycling tries to get you into lethal Zenith Flare range as fast as possible. However, Rakdos Sacrifice does a great job of staying outside that range, while also having no problem dealing with Lurrus Cycling’s early game creatures.
- Cauldron Familiar is an excellent blocker against Flourishing Fox, while also being able to incrementally gain life.
- Rakdos Sacrifice becomes a lot weaker if you have Grafdigger’s Cage in your sideboard. However, if Lurrus cycle decides to take out some of their cycling cards for Grafdigger’s Cage, it could drastically lower the consistency of the deck.
- Priest of Forgotten Gods does a great job of out-grinding Lurrus Cycling.
Then we have Black White Lurrus. It’s kind of ironic that another Lurrus deck would be good against Lurrus Cycling. While Black White Lurrus is very similar to Rakdos Sacrifice, it puts more emphasis on life gain. So if you’re looking for more of a hard counter against Lurrus Cycling, this is the deck for you. Here are the key takeaways with this variant.
- Lurrus Cycling doesn’t have ways to deal with Black White Lurrus’s life gain engine.
- Ajani’s Pridemate does a good job of matching Flourishing Fox’s size.
- Has several great chump blockers for Flourishing Fox.
Stay tuned to SQUAD for more Magic: The Gathering Arena guides.