Strixhaven Limited Guide: Lesson 4 – Silverquill
Silverquill is the college of the silver-tongued, using the power of spoken and written word for both good and evil ends. I have always felt sorcery was a bit of an allegory for the power of rhetoric, at its core the idea of magic spells (words) being used to manipulate or otherwise wield power over others can be taken quite literally. It is really cool to see this concept explored in Strixhaven. Of course, Silverquill is more than capable of the mystical side of magic as well, summoning Inklings and other shadowy forms to do its bidding.
Similar to Orzhov, Silverquill has many ways to benefit from creatures dying and utilizes familiar themes such as Lifelink, discard, and creature removal. It distinguishes itself though by not having much of a sacrifice theme, instead opting to power its creatures up via +1/+1 counters and +1/+0 pump effects. Dramatic Finale sums it up quite well:
Here we get a White anthem effect mixed with a Black nontoken creature death effect. The 4 hybrid mana cost cycles in this set are quite interesting, since they will almost never be splashable. While this is not the case for the 2 hybrid mana cost cycles which can be played in any archetype as long as one color overlaps, it stands to reason that some of the most powerful signpost Rares such as Dramatic Finale should be locked into only one archetype. Let’s look at some other cards that demonstrate what Silverquill is all about:
This is probably the most straightforward college we have seen so far, and its ability to create 2 power flyers and power them up is sure to be terrifying in Limited. The +1/+1 counter theme feels kind of strange in these colors, but it is White enough not to feel like it is breaking the color wheel. Shadewing Laureate is definitely an Uncommon that catches my eye and would almost certainly bait me into Silverquill early. Let’s look at some others:
Both BW spells are great, and in Limited we are more than happy to play our removal (Closing Statement) a bit awkwardly for the 2 mana discount depending on the circumstances. Eyetwitch is looking pretty amazing, picking away at your opponents early and then fetching something bigger later. Remember though, Silverquill is not about sacrificing creatures! It is nice to get a bonus when your stuff dies, though, and with flying you can always force the issue when necessary. Necrotic Fumes really drives this point home, forcing you to exile instead of the usual sacrifice effect. I didn’t want to repeat Professor of Symbology but it is an excellent way to Learn in these colors as well.
I like Thunderous Orator in these colors a lot though, since you will almost for sure have flying and may even have something like Killian, Ink Dualist in the same deck. Flunk is very rarely going to be worse than -4/-4 in the mid game, and if these weren’t enough there are three additional Black Uncommons worth discussing in this section:
The mileage on Tenured Inkcaster will vary, but in a deck with several ways of generating +1/+1 counters it could be one of your best win conditions. Most sets include a 3 mana ‘target player sacrifices a creature spell’ and they are almost never good, but Umbral Juke gives you the extra 2/1 flyer mode, making it a really strong card. Mage Hunter is kind of borderline, but in a weaker creature format like this a 4 mana 3/4 isn’t too bad for a card that is likely to get some incidental damage in. I would consider it the worst of all of these Uncommons, but still notable.
Hard removal for six is often playable in slower formats (e.g. Consign to the Pit in RNA), and Rise to Extus Learns to boot! Inkling Summoning is a nice candidate for Learning in these colors. Owlin Shieldmage does a bit of a Grasping Thrull impression, forcing your opponent to pay three life to remove it. I thought about including Ward as a mechanic in the overview article, but only a couple non-Rare cards have it. I like that there is finally a keyword for this type of ability, though. Typically spells that did this would draw you a card, but now it is open for cards to say “Ward—Literally Anything.’
Silverquill Pledgemage is pretty average to be honest, but I wanted to point out that it can do both if you cast two Instant/Sorcery spells on a turn, which is quite nice. You probably won’t have many turns like that with Silverquill, but it is still worth considering. Mage Hunters’ Onslaught seems a little weird at first, but when you think about how Silverquill is going to play it makes sense. There are going to be go-wide turns where some of your stuff is going to die in order to get some damage through and you likely have some payoffs for it dying. Well, with this spell you now force additional damage on those ‘easy blocks’ your opponent had. Last but certainly not least, Combat Professor is White’s best Common, being essentially a 3/3 Flying/Vigilance for 4.
For my money, Silverquill is the best archetype in the format. The individual power level on these cards is so strong, and there is some added synergy to be had from its creatures dying, something aggressive decks already do without effort. An Aggro archetype with numerous payoffs for losing creatures and strong removal spells just seems too good to be true. I think Wizards had an interesting idea for breaking the mold and mixing up the BW ‘grindy’ mechanics which have gotten stale. But, giving the colors Aggro tools may just break the format along with the mold.
The saving grace here may be the fact that Silverquill drafters will need to compete with each other as well as colleges which share a color for many of the most powerful cards. Black, for example, is quite stacked in this format but Witherbloom will also be drafting it. Join me again soon as we put this Black-Green college under the microscope and examine its life-and-death duality.