Hello my friend, stay awhile and listen. Lorehold is largely concerned with history and mythology, although some myths must be true considering the Spirits it unleashes are very real. Lorehold is certainly not the Red-White combination we are used to seeing. The primary theme is Graveyard interaction, the likes of which we would typically get from Black-Green. If I had to choose one card to summarize the college:
Kind of unusual, right? Rummaging isn’t out of character for Red, but pulling Spirit tokens out of the Graveyard is a new trick. I really like the nod to Threshold, an old Odyssey mechanic which cared about having 7 cards in the yard. Lorehold has a unique and interesting theme to be sure, but how are its spells going to come together to form coherent decks? Let’s use sample of cards to take a closer look:
Each college has an Elder Dragon, a command, a legendary uncommon creature, a hybrid-costed uncommon creature, an apprentice, and a ‘mascot’ creature type. I will be using a parallel selection throughout each guide moving forward to help ‘signpost’ each of the five colleges. There are actually significantly more card cycles in this set to choose from (approximately 20 total), comprising a huge chunk of the spells in the set. I’ve decided these six are the most significant, though. I thought about skipping the Elder Dragons, but since there won’t be a ‘Bombs’ section this time around, I figured seeing a few would be fun (all are massive Bombs except Galazeth Prismari, which is borderline).
I must admit this cross section isn’t as illuminating with Lorehold as with the other colleges. From this you would be forgiven for thinking this is an Aggro archetype. Spirits lean aggressive as 3/2’s, and Quintorius, Field Historian buffs their power even more. We also have a 4/2 flyer and a Magecraft ability which pings players. But before jumping to Aggro conclusions, let’s take a look at some of the best uncommon and common cards to see if this trend continues:
Here is where Lorehold looks more durdly. Only one creature made the list, and it is a 2/1 Learn cantrip. The good news is there are some good ways to Learn, and all three of the RW cards are quite strong. Enchantments like Lorehold Excavation can be hit or miss, but I like this one. Played on second turn would generate substantial value, and even drawn late it is a fine mana sink. Academic Dispute is a bit of a sleeper I think. The primary downside on 3/2 creatures is trading down, and this ensures you either trade even or come out ahead without losing card advantage. Hopefully there are some good creatures and Lessons at common to help flesh things out:
Spirit Summoning looks pretty unassuming, but I think it is going to be a really important spell for Lorehold. There are a lot of good Learn enablers in the colors, so you will want ~2 copies in the sideboard to generate value. I think Expanded Anatomy is another good fit for the archetype, helping to prevent your Spirits from getting outclassed by 4/4 Prismari Elementals, for example.
Tome Shredder helps with this too, since it can grow over the course of the game. In most formats you wouldn’t expect to get more than a counter or two, but with lines like Enthusiastic Study into Spirit Summoning, there are a lot of potential targets. Stonebound Mentor is a reasonable creature for Strixhaven (3-mana 3/3), and can help get additional value out of effects like Tome Shredder’s.
Blood Age General isn’t great, but I wanted to represent 2-drop creatures in these guides to help get a feel for the format. Illustrious Historian is the other Red one, and they are both fine. Heated Debate is the only common that feels ‘pushed’ here. As you might have gathered, White is really weak at common. To the point where I am actually feeling pretty down on Lorehold.
Lorehold is kind of all over the place. Many of the spells in these colors lean Aggro as you would traditionally expect, but the archetype is decidedly not Aggro. From a ‘lore’ standpoint, I like it quite a bit honestly. But strategically, I am not sure I am seeing it. There is synergy between the recursion and Learn/Lesson stuff, but the plays are going to take multiple turns to develop and I am not sure the payoffs are worth the effort.
The average Lorehold student is like that one friend in your Dungeons and Dragons group who has a ten page backstory for their character but is completely ineffectual when you get into combat because all of their feat/skill decisions were based more on theme than strategy.
Luckily things will only pick up from here, as I would put Lorehold on the bottom of the totem pole in this early analysis. Join me again soon for Lesson 3: Prismari to see if you agree!