Strixhaven Constructed Set Review: Part 1
Another set, another set review. As always, I will talk about every card that has the potential to see play. I will include Historic, if it’s good enough – if I don’t specifically mention Historic, consider that card to be too weak.
- Don’t forget that reviews always come with a part of speculation
- The lessons are not as easy to evaluate, as it’s tough to say right now if it’s worth it to spend some crucial sideboard slots on them.
- Right now, the lesson wishboard “(“learnboard”? “lessonboard”?) seems a bit underwhelming. Keep that in mind as I evaluate the “learn” cards
- This part will focus on the mono-colors. In part II of this article we will cover the multicolored cards and artifacts (spoiler: the strongest cards in this set are the multicolored ones)
- In the Kaldheim Set Review, I gave Toski, Bearer of Secrets a 1★, where in reality it should’ve been a 3★ at least. I’ve been pretty happy with my ratings of other cards overall and I hope you have been as well! If not, leave a comment down below and discuss with me
- Never forget that in order to evaluate cards, you need to rate them depending on the metagame. You can’t just always rate cards on their face value (you could, but it’s not very smart)
- I will include the MDFC cards in the color category of the front half of that card
- I will not rate all the “Lesson” cards individually, but I will rate the “Learn” cards instead, because they will be catalyst for the Lesson cards
- By the way – I covered the Mystical Archives cards already in this article
Learn Mechanic and Lesson Cards
For the rating of the Learn cards it’s important to know which Lessons there are. Here is every single one of them and which one is good enough to sacrifice a sideboard slot for (if you’re playing learn):
- Mercurial Transformation
- Teachings of the Archaics
- Necrotic Fumes
- Confront the Past
- Reduce to Memory
- Academic Probation
- Illuminate History
- Start from Scratch
- Basic Conjuration
- Containment Breach
- Elemental Summoning
- Fractal Summoning
- Inkling Summoning
- Pest Summoning
- Spirit Summoning
- Environmental Sciences
- Expanded Anatomy
- Introduction to Annihilation
- Introduction to Prophecy
- Mascot Exhibition
In my honest opinion, the learn / lesson mechanic is too weak for Constructed. It’s nice to have a board with some silver bullets to choose from, but the payoff is just not good enough. In some examples below I will just assume that the mechanic is good enough, so that you can get an idea of how good some cards can be if you want to play or try out the mechanic.
This article is inspired by Drifter and I will be using his rating system as it is pretty much perfect:
- 5★ All Star in many different decks and archetypes, including top tier ones (e.g. Llanowar Elves, Teferi, Time Raveler, Field of the Dead)
- 4★ Great and important to multiple different good decks, or defines an archetype (e.g. Burning-Tree Emissary, Curious Obsession, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria)
- 3.5★ Good in many different decks or important in at least one good deck (e.g. Mox Amber, Wildgrowth Walker, Phyrexian Obliterator)
- 3★ Good in at least one decent deck or filler in multiples (e.g. Lava Coil, Vivien Reid, Rotting Regisaur)
- 2★ Likely to see play in some fringe decks at least (e.g. Thrill of Possibility, Gates Ablaze, The Gitrog Monster)
- 1★ Might see play somewhere but definitely not a sure thing (e.g. Discordant Piper, Hadana’s Climb, Keep Safe)
Mavinda, Student’s Advocate
The only place I could see this in is Naya Fury, where you can recast some of your “combo” pieces. Still, I think this card is way too clunky for that, as the deck is clunky enough already. If you don’t get the discount and have to pay 8 (is that a typing error? that’s so expensive), it’s pretty much unplayable.
People compare this to Dreadhorde Arcanist a lot. It is a bit similar, but at least 10 times worse. The fact that you still need to pay the mana, even if you meet the requirements, is quite unappealing.
Maybe there is a place in the Feather, the Redeemed decks. I still think it’s too bad, but it’s not impossible here, as resiliency is something that this deck needs once the creatures are removed.
Show of Confidence
It looks a bit like nothing and I already wrote this card off, but then I remembered that this works nicely with Goldspan Dragon. Each of the copies will target Goldspan Dragon again, which can create an absurd amount of mana. You think that this sounds too janky? Well, the Naya Fury decks play Unleash Fury and Barge In in their decks, so it’s at least something to think about.
I don’t really see a reason to play this over Doomskar or Shatter the Sky. Sure, it hits more things, but your opponent gets 2 cards back if you play it for 4 mana. It’s maybe alright to play this for 6 mana in some spots though – it is a 6 mana sweeper that basically nullifies everything whatever the Sultai Ultimatum decks bring onto the table. It can also remove an entire board with The Great Henge on the battlefield – but don’t read too much into this. On turn 6 this is much weaker than it sounds, as they can just rebuild their board much easier at that stage of the game. I’m just not a huge fan of clunky sweepers, and there is a reason why Realm-Cloaked Giant doesn’t see play, even though it has another creature stapled onto it.
This card has potential. 2/2 body is bad in a world of Bonecrusher Giant, but this might still be worth it. Remember, Luminarch Aspirant or Clarion Spirit are all playable cards despite Bonecrusher, because they are powerful enough. The fact that this doesn’t just work once a turn, but multiple times is getting me more and more excited – and it even pumps itself, too! This can lead to a lot of damage for just 2 mana and you should not underestimate this.
This card is incredible! The floor of this card is that it doesn’t deal damage at all, but in the right deck, this will rarely be the case. Even if you only trigger this once, then it’s already a 1 drop that hits for 2 consistently (with potentially even more damage) and it always has the threat of activation, which makes combat math hard for your opponent. Also, note the creature type: 1 mana wizard is a big deal for party decks, especially with Archpriest of Iona. All in all, it’s a lot of potential for just a 1-drop, which can easily fly under the radar.
Not only is this hard to trigger, it also only works one per turn. This is too much work just to make your 1-drop bigger.
I think this is worse than it looks, but it still has some nice applications. It’s nice that this can delay your opponent’s Sagas (at least for the first ability), but most of the time Reidane, God of the Worthy is just better. This also makes The Great Henge triggers a bit more expensive, and it’s going to be very costly for Rogues if they need to pay 2 mana for every land drop.
I’m still not fully convinced, as these kinds of hate cards always need to be able to apply some amount of pressure unless they completely lock your opponent out (like Drannith Magistrate winning against Naya Adventures almost alone). I will keep my eyes on this and this will certainly see some amount of play.
This card is a bit strange, but I think it’s not good enough. Yorion does the job already and is much better than this card, as it has less restrictions on the targets. I don’t think that the counters matter too much in the decks where you play Yorion, and to use this card as a way to protect your board from a sweeper is easier said than done, considering the mana cost.
Remember Majestic Myriarch? What the hell happened here?
The floor is still a 2 mana 2/2 in a Bonecrusher world and most of the time the keywords will not be incredibly strong on this. I had this card much higher at first, but I’m convinced that this is (sadly) not as good as it looks.
I think this card is great! It’s exactly what I described above: Hate cards need to lock your opponents out very well and if they don’t (which this card doesn’t), they at least need to apply pressure elsewhere. 3/1 flier is a good stat line in that regard and the fact that the exiled card still costs 2 more, even if they kill Paulo, makes it a good card that will see play for sure.
1 mana 1/1’s need a lot to convince me that they are playable and this doesn’t have the upside of maybe hitting for 2 sometimes (like Scorch Spitter or Fervent Champion). I know that there is the Conclave Mentor archetype, but this is still not very effective.
This card could be easily overlooked. Essentially, this reads like “Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. Draw a card”, but you get to choose which card out of the lessons you want – in that regard it’s probably better than drawing a random card on average. Remember that white cards want to play noncreature spells in this set – we already covered Clever Luminancer and Leonin Lightscribe, which are fantastic cards. In that sense, Guiding Voice is 2 spell triggers for Magecraft and that is awesome. I am not completely convinced, but it could be an important role player.
I give this a bit of a higher rating for the same reasoning as with Guiding Voice. This is great against opposing creature decks and serves as 2 Magecraft triggers again. It’s a bit more expensive, but I think that’s okay.
Now this is a bit too weak for the Magecraft archetype. If you have to put this into your deck, it’s probably not a good deck.
Professor of Symbology
This is a lot worse than Guiding Voice if you play it in the same deck, as it’s just one Magecraft trigger and the 2/1 body isn’t impressive. But it could just be a totally different card – just a cheap midrange card that trades and gets you value. I just don’t really know how to fit this anywhere so I’ll just give it a cautious rating.
Mila, Crafty Companion / Lukka, Wayward Bonder
Remember Valki, God of Lies? That card is better than Mila and it doesn’t even see play outside of Sultai Ultimatum (the only reason this sees play there is because it’s cheated into play). If you think about it, the static effect is also a weaker version of Midnight Reaper while also being legendary – and the Planeswalker abilities are just okay for 6 mana. Maybe I am underestimating this card, but I’m not impressed.
Selfless Glyphweaver / Deadly Vanity
I’m not impressed, yet again. 3 mana for this effect is a lot and Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate is much better for the same cost (albeit being blue white). Add to that that the premier sweepers in the format are exile-based (Shadow’s Verdict, Extinction Event) and you get a mediocre card that will most likely not see any play at all.
Shaile, Dean of Radiance / Embrose, Dean of Shadow
In Magic wonderland, you get multiple creatures into play and they all get bigger. In reality, Luminarch Aspirant is miles ahead of this. The second half is also just way too slow for that kind of effect, even though I like that it can kill opposing x/1’s.
I know what I said about the learn spells earlier, but -4/0 for 2 mana is not it.
I will not underestimate 4 mana cards again that can draw a bunch of cards (looking at you, Toski). If this sticks, you draw an insane amount of cards and that can easily carry the game. Now you know the drill guys – 4 mana cards that get the Bonecrusher treatment? Big warning signs here, but at least it’s easy to play it in the later stages and immediately get value out of it.
Divide by Zero
This could be a decent card for control decks. You can cast this as a tempo play – but it replaces itself with a silver bullet out of your “learnboard”. Control decks always have the problem of not having enough good answers in game 1, depending on what they’re facing, so it’s nice that they can have a flexible card like this.
This card is sweet, but I think that it’s too expensive for what it does.
This card has to be a huge trap. Ramping your opponent is always pretty bad, so is giving them free scries. And if you play it for more mana, you could just play Gadwick, the Wizened instead.
Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios / Journey to the Oracle
This is another perfect example of a trap to me. 8 mana is way too much for a card that doesn’t win almost immediately (Ugin, the Spirit Dragon doesn’t even see a lot of play and that card is pretty strong).
As with the Journey to the Oracle card half: assume you play this on turn 4 – you already played 4 lands out of your hand already. Your hand needs to have a lot of lands now – but without spells you didn’t really defend yourself in the early turns.
Dryad of the Illysian Grove has the same problem in Standard: There aren’t enough ways to get enough lands into the play to make this work, and ultimately it will just be a risky card to play with, while not having enough upside.
This card looks like it’s flexible, but that doesn’t mean much if all the modes are fairly weak. If you cast this for 5 mana, this is also just decent and nothing more, considering how many other things you could do in this format for 5 mana (Elder Gargaroth, Goldspan Dragon).
This card looks good to me – you essentially draw 2 cards, but one of them is a silver bullet out of your “learnboard”. Paired with instant speed, this card could be good, but always keep in mind that the “lesson” cards don’t pack too much of a punch.
Tempted by the Oriq
I like these effects in general as they are nice 2-for-1’s. These cards basically read as: “destroy target creature, create a token that’s a copy of it”, which is a reasonable spell for 4 mana. I dislike that this doesn’t “scale” like Entrancing Melody does – Entrancing Melody saw limited amounts of play, but it’s a much better card. If the whole format slows down after rotation, this can be decent, but for now I think it’s a bit overpriced.
This is a decent counter for control decks. Cards like Essence Scatter have the problem of being too narrow sometimes – even creature decks pivot to planeswalkers post sideboard. This hits both, and exiling things is always a nice bonus to have with escape creatures and Lurrus of the Dream-Den in the format. It’s still a bit worrying considering that Planeswalkers are not the primary expensive threats of this format, instead it’s huge sorceries like Emergent Ultimatum or Showdown of the Skalds, so I doubt it will see play right away.
I’ve heard the argument that this is a weaker version of Delver of Secrets, but I don’t think this is true. First of all, the difference between 2 power and 3 power on a 1-drop is huge – second, it’s not a permanent boost. That is the case for Clever Luminancer as well, but that card’s upside is much higher despite the lack of flying.
Test of Talents
I’m getting excited for this – this can give you the edge against a lot of decks that only play a limited amount of situational instants or sorceries. The biggest example right now would be Sultai Ultimatum – that deck is much easier to beat if they cast their spells 1 by 1. But it’s also great against hard counters like Saw It Coming – decks can usually only play a limited amount of them, and if you get rid of all of them it can be extremely potent.
The control decks here will be happy as well for the same reasoning. Sultai Ultimatum exists there as well and the logic remains the same – Test of Talents could be a card that will see play throughout all formats, even beyond Standard and Historic.
Solve the Equation
3 mana tutors usually don’t see play and I don’t expect this card to be much different. It can be nice to always find Emergent Ultimatum, but that’s fairly narrow and probably also too weak.
Lash of Malice
Cheap removal always has the chance to see play and it’s a turn 1 answer for Edgewall Innkeeper, which is important – but it also hits Seasoned Hallowblade. It has the upside of pumping your creatures in a pinch as well and it triggers Magecraft, should you want it. All in all, it’s just a solid card.
Plumb the Forbidden
If you sacrifice a creature, you get 2 mana Village Rites that costs you 2 life. You can sacrifice more creatures if you want to, but that seems like a steep cost just to draw some cards.
This card reminds me a bit of Charming Prince, where every ability is kind of underwhelming.
This can be good for the creature decks that play Collected Company. Having a creature that can exile graveyards can be a good sideboard piece for your deck.
2 mana equipment that learns got me all excited, but +1/+1 and lifelink is not what I wanted. If you want lifelink, Shadowspear is just mostly better, so don’t get too excited about the Quill.
This seems good to me if you’re in the right deck and it definitely has potential. This will always deal at least 3 damage if it doesn’t die to a sweeper and it floods the board quickly, which gives you a good advantage against creature decks – the fact that the 1/1 tokens drain is a huge upside. I love that you can have multiple copies of the witch on the battlefield and that you can get multiple tokens each turn so it can definitely be a great thread in the right deck.
Cards like this never excite me too much, as giving your opponent the choice to sacrifice something else instead of their problematic creature always bums me a bit. I don’t want my 3 mana removal spells to be this situational and the 2/1 body with flying for the fail case will not save this card.
The floor of this card is Eat to Extinction without the card selection bonus, which is okay. Giving your opponent a card after removing something seems horrible, but it’s at least just a bonus option that you have if you really need to be efficient with your mana on some turns. That being said, not even Eat to Extinction sees a lot of play and I don’t think that this will either.
Mind Rot doesn’t see play and this exiling the graveyard is pretty irrelevant right now. In a very value oriented, slow format that also cares a lot about graveyards this could be okay, but we are worlds away from that.
Liliana of the Yale seems like a decent, fair planeswalker to me. She can protect herself, pressures the opponent via the passive (which could be much stronger than it looks) and is a constant flow of card advantage. Planeswalkers of this kind always have a good chance of seeing play as they are just well-rounded, solid late game threats.
Pestilent Cauldron / Restorative Burst
This card is way too expensive for what it does, which seems to be a recurring theme for this set. Sure, you can get 1/1 pest tokens for no mana, but you always have to discard a whole card for it, which seems pretty weak. The green half is also unbelievably expensive and I can’t see a place for it in a constructed format.
Valentin, Dean of the Vein / Lisette, Dean of the Root
This is a bit unassuming, but it’s a lot of text on just a 1-drop. Right now, exiling your opponent creatures is not so important (only against Rogues maybe, but this card still doesn’t do enough in that matchup). The backside is added gravy, but there is not much room for this in Standard as of now. Keep in mind that this is another card that can enable Lovestruck Beast.
It’s not the strongest here, but Cauldron Familiar is a thing and this just stops that. It’s also a vampire, so it could be a nice addition for the Vampire deck.
Cards like this usually don’t impress me. It costs quite a bit of mana to get card advantage out of this, but the biggest problem is that there really isn’t a deck for that. You need to make use of your graveyard, but you have to assume that this is just not efficient enough if you want to make it work. I’ve been tricked by cards like these in the past (Magmatic Channeler for example) and I won’t be again.
Crackle with Power
This card is extremely narrow (you can only play this in decks with a lot of fast mana or access to a lot of lands), but this can be a nice niche payoff for “bigger” decks, because you can even target your opponent’s life total directly with this. Still, given how narrow it is, I like my rating here and it might even be a bit too high.
Situational sweepers are a huge red flag for me, especially if they are expensive on top of that. Even if you happen to be a dragon deck, this is still way too situational to get a good rating.
In my dreams, this allows me to cast Ultimatum on turn 4. In my painful reality, this will happen once in a lifetime.
The spot for this card has to be elsewhere; a deck with low mana values and removal spells that uses this as a top end to keep getting value. The effect is really strong, but the stat line and the mana value sadly is not.
I hope this + Embercleave will prove me wrong, though!
I don’t think this is playable here, as we don’t have the payoff.
This card will get the “potential” 2,5 stars. It’s only good in specific decks, but if they get together, this can be an important piece. I say that because of the combination of this card and Birgi, God of Storytelling – this allows you to replay the Ignus an infinite amount of times, so it can be the operator for Aetherflux Reservoir or Grapeshot. Will this be good? No one knows, but it’s still something to keep an eye out for.
This isn’t bad. It’s a bit expensive for removal, but you get access to your “learnboard”. If the “learnboard” happens to be too bad, this is obviously unplayable, but with new cards I always want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Red also does not have a lot of standalone cards. It gets clearer and clearer that mono-colors are supportive in this set.
You need specific decks, but turn 2 mana 5/4 can jumpstart some nasty openers. Even if you don’t play it on turn 2, you usually want this to play with a lot of tokens, and these decks sometimes lack some bigger beefers. Sacrificing something isn’t an easy cost, but at least the Jund Sacrifice decks finally have some other green card to play other than Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.
Alright, now we’re talking. This is exactly the type of spellslinger payoff that you want, although it is a bit weird that this is in green. That alone might be enough to put this off, but I love 2-drops continue growing their pressure into the later stages of the game. You can easily play this on 2 and then just play a bunch of protective spells and ride this to victory. 2-drops that always need to be reckoned with always have a good amount of chance to see play, so I love this.
This has the potential to be another late game finisher. I remember the times when everyone laughed about Emergent Ultimatum because your opponent had a choice – all it takes is enough good threats to make some of these cards work. I can’t really give you the perfect setup or which creatures you want to get with this, but I know that this card can be powerful. It is incredibly expensive (as everything else in this set), but it does have some potential.
This card is interesting. In some sense, it’s better than your usual ramp spell, because it’s not dead in the late game (and it also synergizes with cards like Cultivate, which are also bad in the late game otherwise). In another sense (and probably the most realistic one), you don’t want to rely on wonky ramp spells – imagine you play this on turn 2 in order to ramp and your opponent uses Bonecrusher Giant. Overall I think that Wolfwillow Haven or the likes are better, but I could be wrong about this one.
I am a bit higher on the learn cards as I used to be, but the decks that want to play ramp spells, don’t want to play this. You’d rather have Cultivate in most spots and the fact that this doesn’t fix your mana is a huge deal breaker.
This is a cool sideboard card. Right now, it hits Goldspan Dragon and Embercleave or The Great Henge at the same time. I always love cards like this as they are not dead if your opponent doesn’t draw the one specific card and it’s always a nice addition to have. We do have Shredded Sails right now, but this is green and also an instant, so it does have a good right to exist.
At first, I was thinking of spots to fit this in. The most obvious choice is Sultai Ultimatum, where you don’t care too much about what your opponent is ramping into because your expensive spell overpowers theirs. But then I thought about how Migration Path exists and how that card is probably just better here.
This only gets Basics, which is a problem, and your opponent untaps with the additional land first. That risk is too much and paying 6 mana for this effect is completely not worth it.
And that’s it for the mono-colors! Honestly, they are not impressive and most cards seem kind of underpowered. Not saying that this is a bad thing, but that’s how it is. Most of this set’s power lies on the multicolored cards though – so keep your eyes peeled for part II of this review.
Stay safe, wizards!