Strixhaven Constructed Set Review: Part 2
Welcome to Part II of the Strixhaven review! In this one, I will cover all the schools (multicolored cards), the colorless and the land cards. For more info on my criteria check out the first article.
As already mentioned before, the multicolored cards is where most of the power of this set lies, so pay attention, students! Without further ado, let’s start!
Blot Out the Sky
We have to read this card like that: Make a bunch of 2/1 fliers with the occasional upside of sometimes blowing up non-creatures. That… Os just too weak. It’s an expensive card and you don’t even get some tempo back on the board since you can’t even block the same turn (they wouldn’t block well anyway, but still). Decks that want a scaling threat like this can usually just play Starnheim Unleashed instead, so it blots out the chance of this to see too much play.
There’s a huge problem with this card: It wants your deck to play a lot of tokens for the anthem ability, but it also requires a lot of nontokens so that you can get the triggers. Covered with the fact that it’s expensive (and rough to cast), I dramatically dislike this.
I like this a lot – it might not be a main deck staple, but a sideboard one for sure. This covers so many angles and this color pair usually doesn’t have too many troubles to deal with creature with other removal spells anyway. This is essentially disenchant with updated upside. The same is true for Historic, or even formats like Modern or Pioneer. Flexible answers always have a place in sideboards.
I believe that a majority of players who remember the Thought Erasure days will overrate this card. I have two good reasons on why this is not as good: First, discard spells are getting worse and worse. With cards overall getting stronger, there are less and less decks that have a few powerful cards – discard spells get worse when the whole deck is strong.
Just think about Edgewall Innkeeper – your 2 mana discard spell will look ridiculous when they just redraw these cards while impacting the board with Adventure cards.
Second, a +1/+1 counter is much weaker than Surveil. Yes, it helps your creatures, but I have a hard time imagining that creature decks want to play too many of copies of this to begin with. I don’t want to humiliate this card, but I am just not impressed.
Killian, Ink Duelist
I mean the stat line isn’t bad and there’s a lot of text on this. The main problem as always is that in order to make this work, you have to play a bunch of pump spells.
I don’t want to be this guy again, but yes, Bonecrusher Giant is still in the format and this sadly doesn’t seem worth it (in comparison to Clever Luminancer, Leonin Lightscribe or Elite Spellbinder). I got a lot of flack in my Kaldheim set review because I dismissed a lot of creatures because they simply died to Bonecrusher Giant. I want to clarify once again that you cannot just rate cards without looking at the format involved and if every red deck is playing a walking 2-for-1 to stomp your 2-drops, it’s simply awkward.
I will say that Clarion Spirit did a bit better than I gave it credit for, but Dragonkin Berserker for example is still something that is horrible in the current meta. Just a quick sidenote, let’s continue.
Now I am not a huge fan of this, because your opponent will always get something out of the trigger (yes, that’s how it works). But – Rankle, Master of Pranks is always much better than it looked at first glance and this actually wins against Goldspan Dragon in combat, which can be quite important in future standard. The reason why I don’t like this too much is the fact that it doesn’t do much the turn it enters the battlefield, but the same thing can be said for Elder Gargaroth. Let’s just say that I am carefully optimistic here.
Sorcery speed, really? If you always get: “Target opponent sacrifices Elder Gargaroth, return target Seasoned Hallowblade from your graveyard to the battlefield”, then this would be decent. The sad truth is that this is pretty much a dream scenario. It’s lows are just much too weak for 4 mana and it’s much less commanding than the artwork implies.
This is pretty strong! It’s not quite Meddling Mage, but it still punishes your opponent for having the spells that you name. One additional power is also a big deal. I don’t like that it’s a Cleric (because of Archpriest of Iona) and that it dies to Bonecrusher Giant. Still, this could be good enough despite of the nightmare Eldraine card and you can also just name it so you at least deal 3 to your opponent and redraw a card, so you would be sort of even, which is not something that a lot of cards can say! Remember that you have to name “Stomp” and not “Bonecrusher Giant” though.
This is just power. It answers so many threats in the format right now. Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, all the Adventure creatures, Elder Gargaroth, Goldspan Dragon, the whole Mono-White and Mono-Red deck. This card is unbelievably good and although this doesn’t hit everything, it hits such a huge chunk of the metagame already and it will be a staple in every deck with that color pair. The fact that this even exiles is just *chefs kiss* and it vanishes all my verses.
The same mostly implies here as well; it doesn’t hit Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Mayhem Devil and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria – but it still hits so much of the format. I would not put that rating down because of that, but there is a downside if you only play this as your removal (which you probably shouldn’t do).
Silverquill has some really good pieces of interaction, but the creatures feel a bit underwhelming.
Culmination of Studies
I’d advise against playing this card. If your payoff for exiling red cards would be something else than 1 lousy point of damage, maybe we would be talking, but like this it’s just too weak.
This is decent! Early game anticipation and late game draw 2 for 2 seems decent – but that’s just it, especially without instant speed.
Alright I’m sold. Decent stat line for the mana cost, immediately creates value and makes all of your other artifacts into mana rocks. There is a lot of build around potential for this. Also, did you notice that treasure tokens are getting implemented more and more? This is a nice curve into Goldspan Dragon and the stocks of Magda, Brazen Outlaw are slowly rising as well. I already consider Magda to be a good card and the time for her might be soon, but that’s just food of thought. Either way, Galazeth Prismari looks like the best school dragon out of the cycle for me and I’m excited for it.
This is (most likely) too expensive, considering you can pretty much win the game for 7 mana instead (Emergent Ultimatum). Still, this is a lot of power, and the ability to ramp is not very strong, but at least it ramps you into the other expensive spells that you have.
This is the real reason why I give this card 3 stars. We have Mizzix’s Mastery soon with the Mystical Archive cards and together with that, you can play this 8 mana spell as early as turn 3! Considering how strong Historic is (or will be), it might be just decent, but it’s still powerful enough to keep an eye out for.
I think this is much better than it might look at first glance. 3 mana kill something and ramp you? That’s pretty decent! I like how the floor of this card will still always do something relevant for the cost of 3 mana, while the situational abilities can be strong when you need them (especially the “destroy artifact” part on it). It’s flexible, always decent, sometimes great, and this is everything that I want for a spell like this, especially considering that treasure tokens get more and more important.
Prismari does not have too many great spells, but those that are – are pretty good.
This on the other hand I don’t like too much. You could have this for 7 mana and then require other cards to win if you use the mana ability (considering you have enough life) or make 1/1’s each turn. Or you could play Koma, Cosmos Serpent for the same cost instead.
Here’s what I like: You can actually pop off in the same turn. Play this with 7 lands and then immediately play Alrund's Epiphany is pretty strong. On the other hand this doesn’t work with Wolfwillow Haven [EDIT: It does! Thank you for reminding me Mario in the chat] and since ramp decks lose a lot of life in the early game, it’s not even guaranteed that you get the mana. The stats are also fairly weak for a 7 mana card, so I don’t really know how I could feel too positive about this.
Look this is a bit situational, but the upside on the other hand is huge. In some spots it could even turn into a ramp spell, which is crazy to think about. I don’t know how good exactly this ends up being, as it really depends on the deck, or if it’s a sideboard card or not. Right now I would tend to this being a sideboard card given the current meta, but there could always be good spots for this in the future.
This monstrosity right here is giving me the biggest head scratches while evaluating. It’s so much power and also a huge wall against aggressive decks, but it also requires a lot of creatures. I suppose this is supposed to eat pest tokens, but quite honestly I haven’t really seen a good card that produces pest tokens, let alone a lot of them. I tend towards bad instead of good; there are also a lot of answers for big, clunky creatures and I doubt that this will create a lot of winning positions.
Jund Sacrifice players of the world, unite! Claim the Firstborn something, make them lose 2 creatures here and then you return a permanent? Value gamers are getting pretty hot here. I don’t think it’s good elsewhere, but it doesn’t really have to be, as this might be good enough, albeit being a bit tough to cast in a 3 color deck.
Tend the Pests
First of all, what is the Penguin from Gotham doing in Strixhaven? Second: I want to love this card, I really do. Especially with so many beefy creatures that we have right now, this can make a lot of annoying tokens. If you get to blank enemy removal with this, this is such a good feeling (and it actually works quite well with Daemogoth Titan) and this pest token swarm is also great with Toski, Bearer of Secrets. What sets me off the most is the fact that we just don’t have enough good cards that create these pests. If we had more support, maybe I would buy into this, but for now I am happy with only 2 stars.
Not much to say other than that it’s an extremely situational card. I don’t really get the third mode: Why would we have an ability that reduces the attack power in sorcery speed? If the second or third mode don’t have a target, this card is probably just unplayable and I would not main deck this.
Witherbloom seems fairly weak overall. The cards require a lot of setup and don’t give enough power in return.
At first I looked a this and I was like: Okay, sure, not really playable. Then I remembered that Winota, Joiner of Forces is still in this format and that this is a sick hit of it. Will this revive Winota? Noone knows, but it’s at least another good payoff.
I don’t like this as much as a lot of other people apparently do. This reminds me a lot of the hype around Luminous Broodmoth, a card which is good, but ultimately is a bit too expensive. Hofri’s effect is stronger, but also even more expensive and the additional power and keyword boost doesn’t mean much with the lack of spirits in this format. It also dies to Giant Killer and Luminous Broodmoth doesn’t, so I’m not too impressed.
I don’t hate the modes but I hate how expensive this is – and how much time it took me to understand the rulings of this card (doing this just for you guys because I love you). In case you’re wondering: abilities on cards like these resolve from top to bottom. Meaning: You can create a 3/2 spirit and give it haste, but you can also sacrifice it to draw 2 cards. Now that we got the educational part out, I don’t think that this card can be too good considering how much mana it costs.
I like that this completely dodges Bonecrusher Giant and Giant Killer, which would be cards in matchups were lifelink would be relevant. Now my problem is that lifelink is usually not very relevant unless it’s stapled on an already good card. This is decent, but the randomness factor always sets me off too much and you want your clunky cards not have an even clunkier ability, considering that you still have to pay mana for the card that you want to cast.
Card’s incredible. Extremely flexible, it hits practically every problematic permanent in the game for just 2 mana. It might not kill everything damage wise and it might not be instant speed, but the flexibility makes up for that bigtime. I say that this will be good in formats even beyond Standard and Historic, since it’s almost strictly better than Abrade.
I wonder if the rulings for damage spells should change where you can always target Planeswalkers, since almost all spells these days do. Just food of thought.
I mean this is Cathartic Reunion, a bit stronger, but requires Lorehold mana. This type of effect can always see some play in the right archetypes and it’s certainly playable there. Card draw effects usually have the downside of not impacting the board, so I like that this at least gains you some life while you’re sculpting your hand. One upside for this card could be that it doesn’t break your neck if your opponent counters it (with Cathartic Reunion you still discard these cards) – but it’s not always an upside. Sometimes you really want your Arclight Phoenix (in Historic) in your graveyard.
Not a lot of decks can play this, but remember that ratings are also about the potential of a card. This one is strong, even though it’s 7 mana. It immediately impacts the board (deal 5 damage, have a blocker and play a spell for free) and as a result, it will win the game quickly enough for me to still like it. Also, remember that Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast is still a card in this format, so I’m excited for this.
This card just won my heart. The effect is strong, but not overpowered. It doesn’t die to Bonecrusher Giant or Giant Killer. Gets blocked by Lovestruck Beast, but you can’t be good against every Eldraine staple. Good stat line, important keywords (you can still get a creature if they chump) and it’s insane with Embercleave (although everything is). It also goes naturally into Winota, Joiner of Forces, which is always a bit scary to think about. This is a threat where your opponent almost always needs to respond to it, which is pretty much the definition of a good creature.
Lorehold has some pretty good cards. I could see them making a good splash in the new format.
Body of Research
What the hell. 6 mana 40/40 is really something else, but I don’t think that it’s good honestly. Power and mana efficiency without keywords usually means something for cheaper creatures, but this one is expensive and has pretty restricting casting colors on top of that. This is the kind of card that’s either a meme or a dream, but I’ll go with meme on this one.
This is pretty awesome. Fight spells always have the downside of being bad against decks, that don’t play a lot of creatures, but this one isn’t! Board control against creatures, meaningful interaction against control or combo – I love it.
There might be some combo that I am missing here, but right now I can’t figure it out. I don’ think you want this in “traditional” just to copy some creatures as that seems to weak and narrow (since the spell needs to be on the stack).
Mega Growth Spiral isn’t bad! For early ramp, Growth Spiral is obviously better, but this one is actually card advantage instead of just replacing itself. I could see the current Sultai decks playing this, as it seems better than Behold the Multiverse as a form of card advantage.
Kasmina, Enigma Sage
Decent Planeswalker and I will not make the mistake of underestimating 3 mana walkers again. This seems a bit unassuming at first, but +2 loyalty on a 3 mana walker can easily get out of possible killing range. This also really depends on the Planeswalkers you pair with Kasmina. Now here is the problem: You wouldn’t really play other Planeswalkers to have Kasminas abilities and by the time they are at 8 loyalty, you’d rather use their own ultimate ability.
I don’t think that the creature that you get out of it on average is good enough. While it works well with Yorion, Sky Nomad, Esika's Chariot is much better for much easier casting cost.
If this put lands into play, maybe we would be talking – but it’s too weak otherwise and not worth a slot.
This thing seems good to me. I dismissed this card at first because I thought that the last 2 modes are weak, but then figured that they are just good as well, albeit not on first glance. First of all, this is just straight up a counter spell for enchantments and artifacts. The combination of tempo play + strengthening your board is also something that you should not take lightly, as it can set your opponent behind quickly. The last mode seems strange, until you remember that escape cards are still a thing. It’s a bit like a weaker form of graveyard hate, which is situational, but the rest of this card is already good. As a result, I really wouldn’t sleep on this card.
This is a bit like Solemn Simulacrum for Quandrix, but this is better! 3/4 stats block much better and give these decks more time and I think that’s worth more than a random card out of your deck.
I’m not a huge fan, because the enter the battlefield ability is pretty weak (unless you’re living the dream with Stonecoil Serpent). The attack trigger can also be good and pairs well with Toski, Bearer of Secrets (a card that I would never underrate) decks – but it requires you to play blue. It’s also funny how this shrinks your Lovestruck Beast, but that’s obviously just a stretch. The effect is unique and can be fringe playable for sure.
Quandrix looks decent, but is missing a real power play.
Modal Double-Faced Cards
I missed some of these cards in Part I of my review and decided to bring them up here instead. I apologize for my inconsistency, but I really don’t want to miss out on some of these.
Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands
This card seems fun, but I think that’s about it. You can’t really use this card to stop your opponent from casting instants or sorceries as it’s a bit too inefficient for that. Your deck has to be incredibly unique for this to make it work.
Augmenter Pugilist // Echoing Equation
3 mana 8/8 sounds good unless you realize that ramp decks could never really utilize a card like this, especially the other half. 8 lands is a lot, so I’m looking for a midrange deck that also wants to hit a lot of lands instead, while playing a bunch of creatures. It’s certainly an interesting, unique card, that could find a slot somewhere.
Blex, Vexing Pest // Search for Blex
Jar Jar Binks really let himself go there and ended up as a bad card as a result. Now I am joking a bit, but there is not much incentive to play this card and the black half of this card is too expensive, life and man avalue wise.
Extus, Oriq Overlord // Awaken the Blood Avatar
I am not that excited about the front half, but the sorcery looks somewhat decent. You can only play this in a sacrifice based deck and you need a lot of fodder to make this work, but if you pull it off it’s a lot of power. The fact that your opponent has to sacrifice something as well is just gravy on top and you can swing for 6 in the same turn. And then the front half synergizes nicely, as you can get the creatures back that you sacrificed. It’s a bit clunky, but it could be good.
Flamescroll Celebrant // Revel in Silence
In general, it’s a good creature. It’s aggressive, punishes some decks for playing activated abilities and the second half can protect you from whole decks sometimes. This ability is a bit weaker than it sounds, because you already need an established good board state, but it can certainly punish slower decks. The real turnoff here is being completely horrible against the Eldraine staples in Lovestruck Beast and Bonecrusher Giant. You can maybe get away with being bad against one, but 2 is just too much, and that is something that we need to take into consideration for as long as this set remains legal. Post rotation, this card right here could be a main stay in aggressive decks though.
Rowan, Scholar of Sparks // Will, Scholar of Frost
This is a supportive Planeswalker for spellslinger decks, but every ability just seems underwhelming. The best one would be Will’s draw two, but I don’t really think that’s worth it. A lot needs to line up for this to work and I’m not sold on this.
Torrent Sculptor // Flamethrower Sonata
This could be decent if you evaluate this as some sort of removal spell with the added bonus of being a decently sized creature sometimes. That is good flexibility and it’s also a nice way to get spells into your graveyard for decks that want it. I don’t know why, but overall it still seems a bit underpowered to me. This card is a lacking a bit of a punch for me personally, but it could definitely be good.
This card is interesting and it’s basically late game value for control decks. I don’t know if this is better than Castle Vantress or the likes. I love how this can be good in the very late game and will help you win top deck wars, but it’s also good in game 1 situations of control mirrors, where both players play “land, go”. It’s going to be interesting to see if this sees play or not, but it’s narrow enough not to overrate it.
Snarl “Reveal” Dual Lands
As so often, lands often have a huge impact on the format. These are good, although they help slower decks a bit more than faster decks (as those are the ones that can play Triomes). They don’t work well with pathways (faster decks usually want these instead), but overall additions to the mana base are always a good thing.
This is what we Germans call a heavy birth. Strixhaven was a lot of fun to write about, but the wall of text on every card also required a huge investment, but I think it was worth it! Was it not? Let me know in the comments and as always, stay safe students!