Strixhaven Limited Guide: Lesson 5 – Witherbloom
Witherbloom is the college of biological sciences, swarming its opponents with things like Pests, Bats, Insects, Snakes, and Spiders. While it values these creatures in life, it also stands to benefit from their deaths. While this is reminiscent of Silverquill, Witherbloom distinguishes itself by having no qualms about sacrificing its creatures directly to serve its ends:
And this is where those two colleges seem highly compatible. Silverquill has some great payoffs for creatures dying, and Witherbloom has an abundance of ways to make them die. Of the 3-color combinations, I am most intrigued by BGW. Keep an eye out for connections between these colleges as we see some more cards, and we will circle back to this idea a little later. For now, let’s take a look at the key themes and mechanics that govern Witherbloom:
Black-Green is no stranger to sacrifice effects and graveyard interaction, but it is starting to look like Witherbloom has taken over the traditionally BW ‘grindy’ archetype. This is evidenced primarily by its Pests and gain and/or lose life effects. Daemogoth Woe-Eater is beginning to establish a pattern of big beaters contrasting with the expendable fodder as well. Let’s look to the best Uncommons these colors have to offer to hopefully uncover some additional themes:
Here we are definitely establishing a life gain theme, with some pretty cool payoff creatures in Honor Troll and Brackish Trudge. It isn’t out of character for Green to gain life, but once again Witherbloom is infringing on BW territory with these sort of payoffs for it. Black adds some nice removal into the mix, with Necrotic Fumes being a very natural fit and Mortality Spear being just fantastic.
Some players may sleep on Mortality Brew because Edict effects are generally meh, but this card is pretty insane. Bonus points for sacrificing Eyetwitch, fetching a Lesson like Pest Summoning or Necrotic Fumes, and bringing back something like Daemogoth Woe-Eater. Let’s see how the commons help flesh things out.
Witherbloom certainly looks creature-centric, and I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. A bread-and-butter creature/removal pile could do quite well in this format. Bayou Groff is an excellent Green common, and Professor of Zoomancy is no slouch either. There is a lot of value to be had in all of these cards.
Blood Researcher is another I wanted to point out as a potential sleeper. I don’t think it is going to take much effort to get it to 4/4 and beyond, which represents incredible value for three mana. So what’s the problem here? Why do I like Silverquill and Prismari more?
Well, for one thing Witherbloom suffers from the classic Black-Green blind spot toward Flying creatures. Sure, there are some good answers here and there like Master Symmetrist, but you are largely going to be relying on removal or life gain to race. Silverquill’s access to abundant 2/1 flyers (Inklings) forces my hand in giving it the edge. Still, I really like the idea of combining these two colleges. There is a ton of synergy to be had between Sacrifice enablers/payoffs, and you can tap into the strengths of each college. Having Green in the mix should help with mana fixing as well, although they are connected through Black, not Green.
Prismari on the other hand has what Witherbloom most pointedly lacks, card advantage. Grindy decks can fizzle out horribly to flooding or just not drawing the correct payoffs. The Learn/Lesson mechanic should help somewhat, but you are still going to be relying on the ole heart of the cards much more than Prismari players, which given enough time can outdraw you considerably. I find it interesting that Strixhaven presents Blue-Red as the Control archetype, and Black-Green-White as Aggro colors. It is a refreshing mix-up, but I won’t be surprised if this format devolves into the two as Tier 1 archetypes like GRN did with Boros/Dimir.
Still, I am hopeful we may end up with a fresh-yet-balanced format, and there is still a wild-card college to discuss! Last but not least is Quandrix, the college of mathematics and Fractal patterns. Join me soon to crunch the numbers and see where Blue-Green fits into all of this.