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Strixhaven Limited Set Review: Black and Silverquill

Strixhaven Limited Set Review: Black and Silverquill

Welcome back! Today is the third of six days of Limited Reviews, make sure to check out the Introduction if you haven’t already! Remember that we’re excluding Mystical Archives for now – instead, those will feature in the sixth review alongside artifacts and lands.

Who is rating?



I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began playing Magic, almost ten years ago now. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube drafts, I’ve drafted more sets than I can count on every platform through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited 40k or so gems from it at this point, and have made top 100 mythic many times. Developing a solid approach and way of thinking through self-reflection has enhanced my skills over the years, and I feature those techniques in my writing and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide (background here, testimonials available). Consider booking a session today if you’d like real-time feedback tailored to you, and to learn in a more hands-on way!

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  • S: Ridiculous bomb: has a huge immediate impact on the game and threatens to dominate it if unanswered. (Kaya the Inexorable, Emeria's Call, Elder Gargaroth)
  • A: Very powerful card: bomb or close to it, pulls you strongly into its colour. (A+: Goldspan Dragon, A: Esika's Chariot, A-: Elvish Warmaster)
  • B: Great playable: happy to pick early, pulls you into its colour. (B+: Demon Bolt, B: Sarulf's Packmate B-: Sculptor of Winter)
  • C+: Good playable that rarely gets cut. (Squash, Horizon Seeker, Ice Tunnel)
  • C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut. (Story Seeker, Elderleaf Mentor, Littjara Kinseekers)
  • C-: Mediocre playable or decent filler, gets cut around half the time. (Breakneck Berserker, Frostpeak Yeti, Weigh Down)
  • D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot. (D+: Scorn Effigy, D: Arachnoform, D-: Ravenform)
  • F: Mostly to totally unplayable cards. (Smashing Success, Open the Omenpaths, Invoke the Divine since it’s a sideboard card in most sets)

Grades are based on maindeck power level; if a card is good in the sideboard, I will mention it in the review. Every grade can have a sub-grade within it, but the differences are most pronounced in the C-Category, so they have their own description. Beyond that, a B+ means it’s almost an A, but not quite.

Arrogant Poet

Rating: D+

This might seem at first like a really good beatdown card, but in my experience these sorts of cards tend to be overrated. The problem is that 2 life is a lot – you deal the same amount of damage to your opponent as they deal to you, and if they have their own 2 drop, it’s very easy to fall behind. Even defensive decks will be playing random 2 and 3 power utility creatures, and it’s really not that hard for them to pull ahead. I don’t like how it plays against the Witherbloom colours specifically, since they have access to a lot of lifegain including Pest tokens, which can block it for free if you don’t constantly give it the flying ability.

Still, it’s better in more dedicated aggressive decks, where you have the tools to finish weakened opponents and to load it up with buffs and counters, and I expect Silverquill to go down that path fairly often. You do just want a lot of 2 drops in beatdown decks too, so this will certainly make the cut sometimes,

Baleful Mastery

Rating: B+

This is mostly a premium 4 mana unconditional removal spell, but this 2 mana mode really isn’t that bad and having the option will certainly be good sometimes – if you can apply a lot of pressure or need to stop your opponent from applying a lot of pressure, you don’t mind giving them a card too much. This combination of power and flexibility adds up to a really good card, and one I’d be happy to splash.

Brackish Trudge

Rating: B-

This card is just really good – it’s really very easy for Black to gain life in this set, since the Pest tokens do that for free and there are plenty of other comons and uncommons. Entering tapped hurts quite a bit, but it’s a constant annoying threat which they’re going to need an aura or exile removal to lock down (admittedly, Lessons mean there’s a lot of exile removal going around, and it’s open to every colour) and sacrifice synergies help against both.

Callous Bloodmage

Rating: B-

This card gives you a lot of good options! I’ll mostly just be drawing a card, unless I have some synergies to enable with the first ability or I really need an extra blocker or whatever, but I’m getting good value either way. I don’t foresee the third ability being too relevant and it’s not gamebreaking, whatever it does, but it’s very above-rate for a Limited 3 drop and I would be happy to have it in any Black deck.

Confront the Past

Rating: D-

Neither mode on this card will almost ever come up, and the only reasons to pick it are if you have your own planeswalker or you have a lot of Learn cards and can just get it as your very last Lesson and then loot it away to the next Learn card, or to other sources of looting you might have. Just don’t pick this card unless there’s truly nothing else that you could possibly play in the pack, and don’t ever dream of maindecking it.

Crushing Disappointment

Rating: C-

I’m not too fond of this card – it’s just quite inefficient in every use case. Beatdown decks would rather just be playing more creatures and relying on evasive units/going wide to finish off weakened opponents, and this is profoundly worse than Divination in slower decks, costing 1 more mana and having a downside. Blood Price wasn’t that exciting a card, and this is a good deal worse. Still, slower Witherbloom decks may want this since they have lifegain and don’t have many other options for card draw.

Essence Infusion

Rating: D+

I’m usually not too fond of auras that don’t provide value or protection, but this card’s really not too bad – it’s an efficient rate and has synergies with both the Silverquill and Witherbloom set mechanics. It makes life very difficult for aggro decks and works well with small fliers like Arrogant Poet and Eyetwitch.

All that being said, I am expecting this to be a heavy removal format, especially since Lessons give more decks access to more removal than normal (even if it can be pretty slow to do that), and for the format to be slower and value-oriented. Often the synergies this enables will be good, but not worth spending a card on unless you’re triggering a whole bunch of effects at once. It’s a fine role-player, more so in Silverquill than Witherbloom, but I want to get it on the wheel and only want one copy (and then more in the sideboard, because it is very good against aggressive and low-removal decks).


Rating: B-

This card seems like exactly what Black wants to be doing, in either Silverquill or Witherbloom. You can stack a bunch of counters onto it, you can enable your sacrifice synergies for a low cost, get some free damage in, trade for Inkling tokens.. it’s like a much better version of Unwilling Ingredient and I’m happy to take it early and often.


Rating: B+

This card is fantastic. There’ll be some awkward times with it where you can’t use it against a 2 drop or whatever, but those aren’t usually the times where you want to use prime removal anyway. Over the course of the game, there’ll be lots of opportunities for it to be -3/-3 and -4/-4, and then in the late game it will kill pretty much anything you want! Most 2 mana removal is just far more conditional than this.

Go Blank

Rating: D

Mind Rot strikes me as a much worse card in a format full of Lessons and with a ton of mana sinks – you won’t necessarily be able to cut them off using their mana by attacking their hand. The slow games of this format won’t be attritiony so much as back-and-forth, and you should expect to play lots of “big games” where Mind Rot will be bad. The decks of this format can function and produce more value with fewer cards than in a format like Zendikar Rising, where Mind Drain was good.

This is also much worse than Skull Raid, which remains a good topdeck later in the game, and that card wasn’t that exciting in Kaldheim for the same reason – games weren’t that attritiony, because so many of the sagas and other uncommons produced value to bring you back into it, and because Foretell got around it.

Hating on Lorehold’s graveyard synergies is cute and all, but it doesn’t add that much for me.

Hunt for Specimens

Rating: C+

This card does a very good Elvish Visionary impression and triggers your Magecrafts for you, giving you access to the best Lesson for your situation for a pretty small investment. Fetching a 3 drop with this when you’re not curving out perfectly will be a play that comes up a lot, and it heavily rewards having lots of different options available in your sideboard – a curve play for the turn after it, a removal spell (however inefficient and medium), and a late game value card is the minimum I’ll be looking for. Necrotic Fumes is especially great with it, though that’s an uncommon.

In Witherbloom decks, it seems actively great, providing synergy to both the sacrifice and lifegain themes, both of which are very important to that college. I’d be very happy to play multiples there. It’s less exciting in Silverquill and how highly you want to pick it will likely hinge on how many good Lessons you have and your Lesson to Learn ratio (I think you want about 1 good Lesson for every 2 Learn cards), but it’s usually going to be decent filler wherever you end up.

Lash of Malice

Rating: B-

This is the Black Shock, a very decent card and one you take pretty early. This set is especially good for it, since it’s full of small value creatures like the Pledgemages, where getting to kill those immediately on turn 3 before they can grow will often be life or death, and later on it can still take out small fliers including the Inkling tokens. Additionally, Magecraft really values having cheap spells, and this is one of the best ways to enable that.

The other comparison for this card is to Disfigure, and that’s not flattering – 2/-2 is much better for winning combats and can help you take down larger creatures without losing your own. The benefit is that sometimes you get to push lethal damage by using a pump, but it’s more limited than Shock in that application and that doesn’t come up that much. Like Shock, this card doesn’t scale well into the late game, so I’d only really be happy with the first two copies in most decks, whereas I might be inclined to play more copies of Disfigure or Frost Bite if those were available.

Leech Fanatic

Rating: C

The 2/2 Lifelink for 2 statline is often underrated, as we saw with Story Seeker, which tended to overperform in Kaldheim. Not having lifelink on the defense is a little worse, since it won’t give you any value when you trade it off, but that’s fine.

This card is good in both the Black pairs, since Witherbloom likes the lifegain synergy and it’s a prime target to stack +1/+1 counters onto for Silverquill.

Mage Hunter

Rating: C+

This is a really good ability in the set, attached to a reasonable statline, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this card dealt 3-4 damage in a longer game before they found the time and cards to kill it – Quandrix especially will have a really rough time since they need a fight spell or one of the colourless Lesson removals. If you manage to get multiples or other burn effects, your opponent will be locked out of the game rather quickly! Silverquill will care about it more, since they can better capitalise on the damage, but it’s still an above-rate playable in Witherbloom. Good synergy with Witherbloom Pledgemage, which remember you can just play in any Black deck.

Mage Hunters’ Onslaught

Rating: B

This is the standard of Black removal we’ve seen time and time again, and we get to go back to it looking good since I’m pretty sure Black will be better in Strixhaven than Kaldheim!

I really like this ability, since this card will often function as removal spell + Lava Axe, which is fantastic for Silverquill especially. If you attack with all your creatures, your opponent takes at least 1 damage from each, regardless of whether they block or not. I expect that to finish them off and break through board stalls a good proportion of the time if you’re a beatdown deck. If you’re a Witherbloom deck with a bunch of tokens, that’ll do the job as well. Being sorcery speed offsets that and hurts it quite a bit, but I’m still very happy to take this early and often.

Necrotic Fumes

Rating: B

I am very happy to take this early or even first pick it, because this is pretty much the best Lesson you can get at common or uncommon. It’s one of the few I expect to maindeck often, at least when I draft a second copy, because Witherbloom really doesn’t have a hard time getting the fodder, and even Cyndaquil will sometimes have enough. Even if I can’t, it will often be the first card I get out of my sideboard, and I’m expecting to have plenty of Lessons so I’ll have access to it in most of my games. Best friends with Hunt for Specimens, since that just becomes 5 mana unconditional exile removal.

Novice Dissector

Rating: D+

For those who haven’t played against this ability much, the difference in instant vs sorcery speed is night and day – this card would be a nightmare to play against if you could sacrifice your stuff in combat, and I’d probably be giving it a full letter grade higher. As is, it’s kind of unexciting because the body isn’t great and the payoff for sacrificing stuff is kind of weak.

I think you can get this effect on better cards, like Bayou Groff, Deadly Brew, or Village Rites (uncommon Mystical Archives are pretty commonly seen), but it’s still not that bad, and some Witherbloom decks will run it as filler. It’ll be worse in Silverquill decks, but it’s still nice to be able to get rid of your Star Pupils at will (not something I imagined writing today..).

Oriq Loremage

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Rating: C+

The turn you play this, it’s pretty understatted, but after that you can grow it each turn and start pulling the worst instants and sorceries out of your deck, or just start to get lands to thin your deck. It takes quite a few activations before it does a meaningful amount, but on 5+ activations, you’re getting decent value. It’s mostly not a downside to throw away your worst instants and sorceries until you’ve activated it a lot more than you’ve used it to throw away lands, or when you’re in decking range, but you have complete control over the effect.

Black doesn’t actually have tons of graveyard synergies this set (that’s more of a Lorehold thing, but you could splash Reconstruct History or Returned Pastcaller), but tutoring up your Bookworm is certainly nice, or drawing an extra card off Unwilling Ingredient, or tutoring for your best permanent with Deadly Brew! This card looks weird but is actually pretty strong, and gives you a lot of sweet options.

Plumb the Forbidden

Rating: C-

It’s really nice that this card gives you the first card for free, or it straight up wouldn’t be good, but now that the floor is Village Rites and lose 2 for 2 mana, I’m pretty excited. The lifegain from Pest tokens and from just being in Witherbloom should offset this drain enough. Getting multiple Magecraft triggers can be a huge deal and make something like Karok Wrangler or Witherbloom Pledgemage pretty scary. Still, it’s a lot of life to be paying, you need a lot of stuff to sacrifice before you’re happy and it’s going to be hard for some decks to get enough, and Silverquill won’t want it nearly as much.

Poet’s Quill

Rating: A-

This is an absurd equipment with an efficient equipment cost, making race situations impossible and immediately giving you your card back. I never imagined that a quill could be as fine a weapon as a Shadowspear

Professor Onyx

Rating: S

Professor Onyx is ludicrously powerful, having a super strong static ability, providing great card advantage to enable that static ability, getting rid of their best creature immediately if you want her to (though sometimes they’ll have a smaller flier to sneak under it and hit Onyx), and being good at any point in the game. 6 loyalty makes her really hard to kill, so you have to be really far behind for her to be a bad play, and she’ll find cards to pull you back into it. Just having a + that produces card advantage is great, and she’ll kill very quickly with her 4 point lifeswing per spell cast.

Professor’s Warning

Rating: D+

This looks like Snakeskin Veil but it’s a good deal worse. Neither mode is all that exciting, and even the indestructible one won’t win you that many fights so you really have to be countering removal, which will only happen some of the time. Silverquill does have some counter synergies which would make this better, but honestly spending a card to put a counter on something isn’t the mode I see myself using that often (unless I also win a combat in the process, which is rare) as it’s just too weak and situational. Most of the time, I’d rather enable my counter synergies some other way.

Still, the tempo blowout of being able to counter a removal spell for 1 mana means I think plenty of decks will want the first copy, especially in Silverquill. Unlike Snakeskin Veil, I’d be hesitant to play multiples main unless I had a lot of Magecraft synergies (and even then, this isn’t the ideal enabler since the counter mode costs you a full card so you don’t necessarily want to use it at will), but it is a pretty good sideboard card against heavy removal decks.

Promising Duskmage

Rating: D+

My issue with this card is that while there are lots of counter enablers in Silverquill, I feel like I’ll have better targets than this most of the time – I want to set up aggressive attacks, and exploit abilities like evasion and lifelink with my counters. This is a really bad statline for a beatdown deck, and it’s so bad until you put counters on it. Even after you put counters on it, it’s kind of hard to trade off a 2/3 at will compared to a 3/2 – it’ll often just sit in play a lot, waiting to double block something.

I envisage it making some of my Silverquill decks but I’ll rarely be happy to have it (perhaps if I had multiple copies of Guiding Voice or Show of Confidence, just an exceptional amount of enablers, or a couple of cards like Tenured Inkcaster/Dueling Coach which want me to distribute counters to lots of different creatures) and I don’t foresee playing it in the vast majority of Witherbloom decks.

Sedgemoor Witch

Rating: A-

This is an absolute must-remove card, because your opponent really cannot allow you to just sit there and amass Pest tokens if they don’t have fliers or some way to get around those. The Ward ability isn’t amazing because they’ll happily pay 3 life to kill this, but with all the drain Silverquill has access to, it has the potential to be really annoying. This isn’t the greatest splash, because it doesn’t scale quite as well into the late game when you’ve already cast most of your spells, and the menace isn’t that useful there, but it’s a fantastic card in any Black deck.

Specter of the Fens

Rating: C-

This activated ability is actively fantastic in both the colour pairs for this card – Silverquill wants the reach and Witherbloom wants the lifegain synergy. This is a must-kill card in the late game, and the body is bad but not really something they can ignore either. Vampire Opportunist tended to overperform in War of the Spark Limited, and this is much better than that since attacking + draining represents 4 damage per turn.

I would give this a C in most sets, but I think it’s a little worse here. With all mana sinks, you need to consider diminishing returns – this set has more than most, and if you have loads of ways to use your mana late, you won’t need this card as much (and the second copy is a much lower pick). Also there are a lot of really good 4-drop gold cards that will compete with this, so while I do like it, I don’t want to take it that early and expect to cut it often.

Drifter’s Context Corner: What is reach in the context of aggro/beatdown decks?

Reach refers to the ability to finish off weakened opponents, something extremely important for decks that are looking to apply early pressure. The common modes of it in Limited are evasive units (though something like Menace or Trample is a lot worse than Flying for this purpose) and burn. Not to be confused with the reach mechanic, which is instead a counter to it!

Tenured Inkcaster

Rating: C+

This strikes me as a powerful curve-topper in Silverquill, since it makes your counter synergies so much more frightening and immediately enables itself. It’s really bad against small removal like Lash of Malice and Shock (which you’ll see a fair bit as an uncommon Mystical Archive), but your opponent will usually have used those cards by turn 5 since your Silverquill decks are full of good targets.

It’s worse in Witherbloom and when you’re behind in general, but it’s not at all hard to envisage getting enough counters or evasive units for it to still be good, and it does trigger your lifegain synergies.

Umbral Juke

Rating: C

This card seems just okay – edict effects are usually pretty bad in Limited, and I’m not expecting them to be much better in a format full of tokens, so I expect to mostly be playing it as a 3 mana 2/1 flier with a nice alternate mode that will come up every so often. That’s not a card I’m super excited about, but it does trigger your Magecraft and I think it will be a fine roleplayer.

Unwilling Ingredient

Rating: D+

This isn’t too bad a card, since it eventually refunds the card you spent on it so you don’t need it to do too much until then. In Silverquill, this is a decent card to stack +1/+1 counters onto, and it does eventually give you your card back in the late game, but a 1/1 just does not deal meaningful damage before you buff it so it’s still not that exciting. In Witherbloom, it’s nice to just have the extra sac fodder, but you do need the enablers to be happy since the set doesn’t have very many 2/1s and 3/1s for it to block on the ground. Overall, I think it’s fine filler, but not super exciting.

Extus, Oriq Overlord / Awaken the Blood Avatar

Rating: A+

This is an interesting modal card, because I think you’ll just be playing one half in the vast majority of decks – you can splash the other half, but it’s far from free to do that in Silverquill and I don’t foresee very many people playing Rakdos since it’s not supported. Extus is better than Awaken the Blood Avatar, but I imagine you’ll just decide which to splash based on your fixing, or just play Extus by himself in Silverquill. Having the option of either is certainly nice, since both cards are really powerful – I imagine Awaken will usually cost 6.

Awaken by itself would merely be very good rather than a bomb (Goremand is not a bomb, and is very comparable) so you do want to play Extus if you can, with his absurd gamewinning ability and solid stats, especially if you throw some counters on it.

Selfless Glyphweaver / Deadly Vanity

Rating: B+

This card has two fantastic modes. You’re usually going to cast the 2/3 Selfless Savior, and that will be really good since it’ll make combat annoying for them and protect your best creatures, and then if you do happen to reach 8 mana, it will usually just win you the game. It’s very hard to come back from a sweeper that lets you keep your best thing, and while Silverquill probably won’t be reaching 8 mana that much, you can steal some slower deck-oriented cards like Pilgrim of the Ages and Letter of Acceptance to help you with that. I think Silverquill will certainly still be capable of playing in a more defensive attritiony way, and this is a good card even if you’re not – sometimes you’ll just flood out a bit, or the game will go long.

Combining good early game cards with busted late game is a top tier pairing for modal cards, since they cover each other so well. Still, neither side is amazing and the 8 mana one won’t always come up, so I don’t consider this a bomb. Even if I wasn’t Silverquill, I may well still play either half of this card – Witherbloom can cast the Black side a lot, especially with Green’s ramp, and the 2/3 for 3 is a bit low impact but still pretty good in any White deck.

Shaile, Dean of Radiance / Embrose, Dean of Shadow

Rating: A-

Shaile would be a great card by itself, a fantastic enabler for all the Silverquill counter synergies, and great carrier of +1/+1 counters from other sources. You can even attack with it first and then still get the value! I would probably give that card a B+ by itself, since it makes all of your creatures so much better – being able to place multiple counters if you play two things in a turn is totally insane.

Embrose is a little worse, but a great way to get value out of your smaller creatures and Pest Tokens in the late game. Having the option of casting him when you’re low on creatures to play or already have a bunch of stuff with counters and just want to attack and trade off is great, and means he covers Shaile’s weaknesses really well. This is kind of the perfect modal card in that way, I expect to always cast Shaile on turn 2 and Embrose later on.

Blot Out the Sky

Rating: A+

This is a ludicrous bomb in any scenario where you’re not really far behind, because casting it for just X=2 is often really hard to deal with, and it scales up from there. The tokens coming in tapped can be problematic, but if you cast this for 4 or more and you don’t lose the very next turn, you’ll usually just win the game. It’s also nice that you have the option of casting it as a 3 mana 2/1 flier, just in case you’re mana screwed, or the rest of your hand costs 4 or more mana and you have nothing else to play.

Closing Statement

Rating: B+

3 mana removal at sorcery speed (essentially, it’s actually a little worse than that) or 5 mana instant speed removal, all unconditional, is a really good modal card. The extra +1/+1 counter is some fantastic gravy, enabling your counter payoffs for free and making one of your creatures a much more potent threat. This card is a fantastic splash even outside Silverquill. Do remember that you need to set a stop on your end step on Arena if you want to cast this!

Dramatic Finale

Rating: A

Getting a 3/2 flier whenever one of your creatures dies, alongside a very significant buff in a set full of tokens means I don’t think this is quite a bomb but it’s very close. I’d be happy to play this in any deck with plenty of creatures, but it benefits from other token producers obviously and from sacrifice synergies. Still, you can also just attack and trade – suicide attacks are well worth it if you push some damage when you’re getting a bunch of 3/2 fliers.

This is a card so powerful that I’d strongly consider playing it even if I wasn’t Silverquill. In the late game if you have 11 or 12 sources, you can reach quadruple colour – it’s about 50% on turn 6 with 11 and 63% on turn 8 (learn how to calculate this stuff here, you’d be surprised at how useful it can be!), and until then you can loot it away with Learn cards if you need to.

Exhilarating Elocution

Rating: D+

I’m not too fond of this card – it’s sort of like an aura/Inspired Charge, but it doesn’t do anything it does that well or efficiently. I think that Silverquill is less go-wide and more evasion/counters this set, so it doesn’t really need Inspired Charge (which is a card I’m not fond of in most decks anyway), and if it did need it then Inspired Charge itself would be much better than this since it would represent far more damage. Silverquill also has much better ways to put counters on things, and I really don’t want to get 2-for-1ed by removal for the sake of playing this card. At instant speed, this would be very good.


Rating: F

Don’t fracture your mind by trying to come up with situations in which to maindeck this card. Sideboard only.


Rating: B-

This is a fantastic rate for 2 mana. You should often wait until you get a creature out, and cast this on turn 4 if you don’t have a 1 drop, since their early plays probably won’t be as threatening anyway, but it’s still good even if you don’t get the counter. It’s really nice that this adds to a board, where other effects like it don’t generally, and taking away their best card is likely to be very impactful. It’s a bad topdeck like all discard effects, but still well worth playing, especially in a college full of counter synergies.

Inkling Summoning

Rating: C+

This is a great Lesson, exactly the kind I want, because it gives me an early play that still does something decent in the late game. It’s one of the few I can envisage playing in the maindeck if I didn’t have that many Learn spells or I just picked up multiple copies, since 2/1 flier for 3 isn’t that bad a rate, and Silverquill likes its evasive units.

Regardless, I’ll be taking the first copy early and often even if I’m only in Black or White, because I want to make sure my Learn spells are good. Later in the draft when I already have some good ones, I will take it lower, and I talk bout that a bit in the link below this.

Killian, Ink Duelist

Rating: B

This is an absurd combination of keywords early on, and this makes your removal spells and tricks so much better! Suddenly your Mage Hunters’ Onslaughts are absurdly efficient, Rise of Extus is ludicrous, and you’re getting a 4-point lifeswing every turn all the while. The double spell potential will put your opponent insanely far behind.

It’s amazing at any point in the early game and drops off a lot later, but that’s to be expected from 2 drops, and this is pretty much the best one you can get. Remember that it is Legendary, so you might not want to take the 2nd copy as highly.

Owlin Shieldmage

Rating: D+

This card is pretty inefficient and the Ward ability doesn’t add enough – 5 mana for a 3/3 flier that does nothing else is a pretty unexciting rate, neither attacking nor blocking that well. There will be tons of spots where my opponent can just ignore it and race me because it’s not that threatening, and it’s too slow to be a good bearer of +1/+1 counters.

I do foresee playing it in some decks where I need more reach in my beatdown deck, since the Ward ability is a lot more meaningful if I’ve already done a bunch of damage e.g. if I get a couple of hits in with it then they have to remove it. Still, I don’t imagine I’ll ever be excited.

Rise of Extus

Rating: B-

This is a pretty insane value card, going into many different decks and being great in many of them. I won’t want too many 6 drops in my beatdown Silverquill deck, but it’s still a card I’m pretty happy to play there. At this stage in the game, if I haven’t yet gotten a Lesson out of my sideboard, this is actually better than draw a card because lands probably aren’t that good for me on turn 6 and I have my pick of the best option.

If this said draw a card instead of Learn and was in a normal set, one without so many good mana sinks and ways to use your mana late, I would be even more excited for this, but I do think it’s a little worse here, especially since Lessons have diminishing returns and this is a lot less exciting when it’s getting your second or third best one. If the set ends up faster than I think it is, I will have to lower my grade on this card, but it looks pretty slow – I think people will have the tools to combat the good beatdown decks.

Shadewing Laureate

Rating: C

Orzhov has a truly colossal number of fliers this set, with that being one of its main themes, and this card slots well into that dynamic. Their first removal spell has to take it out if they don’t want you to get value off your other creatures. Still, it’s nothing that exciting or impactful, understatted, and very vulnerable to Lash of Malice and Shock. It doesn’t do anything to combat the most common line of play people will take against fliers, which is to race them with their bigger creatures (fliers are almost always a little understatted for the sake of balance) – fliers don’t want to be trading, so this effect just doesn’t matter that much. You don’t want to have millions of fliers for that reason – you need good ground blockers.

I just don’t think this fits the strategy, would be a good deal more excited if it triggered off itself, and am actually pretty unenthused about it as is.

Shadrix Silverquill

Rating: S

This isn’t actually a symmetrical effect because you have complete control over it – you can use whichever mode is worst for your opponent and whichever mode is best for you. In most cases, I think that will be the first for your opponent and the third for you, since the flier isn’t super threatening when you have this massive flier and your entire board has gotten bigger, but you can also burn them with the draw or give them a counter if they only have one creature.

The flexibility is a massive draw, and you don’t even have to use the ability if you don’t want to. This is just a ridiculous bomb that puts you super far ahead even if they kill it – if you don’t have many creatures, you can create a flier, and the third mode is gamewinning if you do have creatures.

Silverquill Apprentice

Rating: C+

This ability looks innocuous but it’s actually much better than it looks – it pushes through your attackers into bigger blockers and makes multiple spell casts very threatening, especially with all Silverquill’s evasive units and its access to so much removal. Silverquill will be beating down hard most of the time and this ability fits that dynamic very well.

Silverquill Command

Rating: B-

So the first option on this card is nice if you need to push lethal damage or gain a bunch of life with a lifelinker, but isn’t very good at sorcery speed otherwise, the second option is pretty situational since you need to have a decent 1 or 2 drop to bring back, the third option is always good, and the fourth option isn’t that great in Limited – edicts don’t tend to be that great in a format where everyone is playing lots of small creatures, and this is a token set.

None of that sounds incredibly exciting, but flexibility is the name of the game and being able to choose the two best modes for your current situation is still really powerful – if you can just get rid of a 2 drop and draw a card for 4 mana, or return a 2 drop and draw a card, that’s pretty good! I think the modes on this card will add up to something decent, if not amazing, most of the time.

Silverquill Pledgemage

Rating: C

I wouldn’t ordinarily be super excited about this card but this set has a lot of spells, and the option to give flying or lifelink is very nice – when you’re ahead, you can pick flying and when you’re behind, you can gain some life. The combination of the two modes means it has good synergy with Witherbloom’s lifegain mechanic and with Silverquill’s evasive gameplan, and it’s a good holder of counters.

Still, running out of spells or not wanting to cast that many early because you need to play creatures and present a clock is definitely going to happen in your beatdown decks, and I don’t see this as being good outside of those. It is nice that it rewards double spell casts in a pretty big way, and that can certainly come up in the late game.

Silverquill Silencer

Rating: C+

This card is far better in Best-of-Three than Best-of-one, so it was pretty weird to grade. It’s hard to know what to name until you actually know the cards in your opponent’s deck, and most of the time you’ll just be naming Heated Debate or Shock against Red, or Lash of Malice against Black in the dark. It works amazingly well with Humiliate specifically, but I don’t expect it to be that great when you’re just naming in the dark.

Still, it has a solid body, and over the course of a long game, it’s not that unlikely that your opponent will draw a specific common. When they do, you get really good value, so overall I consider this a high C+.

Spiteful Squad

Rating: B-

A 4 mana 2/2 deathtouch isn’t a great rate, but this is a really strong death trigger that enables your Silverquill synergies fantastically, and lets you put counters from other sources onto it to then be moved over when it dies. It’s great against any deck that has to attack on the ground, and pretty bad against evasion (if you play against opposing Silverquill decks with loads of fliers, you may even want to board it out), and it’s a bit worse this set since there’s really a lot of exile removal running around that more decks have access to than usual, but you can counteract that with sacrifice synergies which it helps enable. This is also the exact kind of card that Silverquill wants, since you want good blockers alongside your fliers.

Vanishing Verse

Rating: B+

This is an absurd removal spell that will hit most of what you want. It’s a bit worse in a set with so many multicolour cards, but I still don’t foresee passing it very often.


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Drifter is a draft and strategy specialist, with hundreds of articles under his belt! Of special mention are his Limited Reviews and draft coaching service.

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