Welcome back! Today is the fifth and penultimate day of Limited Reviews, make sure to check out the Introduction if you haven’t already, and otherwise enjoy! Tomorrow it’s release day and we’ll be releasing the final article alongside our usual tier list, which I’ll be keeping updated right after I play my first drafts of the set. I’m really looking forward to diving in, and I’m sure many of you are too!
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!
- 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.
This is a decent fixer and blocker to begin with, but if you are gaining life then it has a lot of potential power in a set with so many ways to use your mana in the late game. It’s especially good with Lifelink creatures rather than Pest tokens and smaller ways to gain life (especially since you might not be able to do away with your Pest tokens at will), though there’s more of the latter than the former this set.
Drifter’s Context Corner: Why does Green need to prioritise fixing more in Strixhaven?
The more fixing available, the less you need to pick up specific pieces – that’s a general rule that applies to every set. Just having more consistent mana bases than your opponents will lose you far fewer games for free and make your double colour cards so much better, but that goes for every colour.
Green has often had to compete less for colourless fixing or weaker fixers in most sets, and it hasn’t had to take dual lands as highly – it just had lots of ways to do that attached to Green commons and uncommons that it was happy to play anyway. Green is a colour that needs fixing more than most, because splashing is a huge part of its identity in Limited – it always has a strong creature core, but its removal and utility options lack a bit to make up for that. Thankfully, the ability to adopt the best parts of the other colours is a massive boon that fixes all that!
Just look at Kaldheim – Green didn’t have too many busted commons apart from Sarulf's Packmate, and yet it was easily one of the best colours (especially early on when people were staying away from the aggro decks) because fixing was so ample that it could often splash multiple things, enable cards like Path to the World Tree, play crazy 4-colour decks and jam in every splashable rare you could find, and therefore go way over the top of your opponents.
Well, scratch that for Strixhaven because Green doesn’t actually very many ways to do that – there’s lots of ramp that only searches up Forests, but not any basic land. That means it’s sort of an even playing field for splashes with the other colours, but it needs to work especially hard because it needs the utility more – a colour pair like Quandrix just doesn’t have fantastic ways to permanently deal with creatures, and Witherbloom can definitely benefit massively from splashing some Blue card draw or mana sinks from other colours, in a format where so many decks have great late game. What few fixers it does have are very important alongside the duals and cards like Letter of Acceptance – you need to take those higher in Green than other colours.
This is a reasonable card purely because it’s a Lesson – it would be very bad otherwise, since this is too much mana for too small an effect. I think that creatures/removal spells (even the weak ones) will generally be better to pull out of your sideboard at most stages of the game, but it’s still nice to diversify your sideboard and this is great late if you have some decent late game creatures remaining.
This is a card you can maindeck if you have some bombs to dig up or are very low on playables (it would get like a D- though).
Drifter’s Context Corner: What lifegain enablers are best?
Obviously any card that has “gain life” tacked onto it gets better with lifegain payoffs, but I’m not going to mention that for every single one. Instead, I’ll focus on the cards that are especially good with those – which is mostly just repeatable lifegain sources like lifelink creatures. Pest tokens are actually a pretty poor source of lifegain without sacrifice synergies since you don’t get it when you want it and it can often take a while – if lifegain is really bad for your opponent, they just won’t attack into your Pest tokens and will let them through if you attack (which is still good for you, of course). The answer is to prioritise sacrifice synergies a bit in Witherbloom, of course, but it’s pretty unexciting to have to go to all that work if it’s just to get a +1/+1 counter.
This strikes me as an actively great Witherbloom card with Pest producers, especially Hunt for Specimens, and black 1 drops such as Eyetwitch and Unwilling Ingredient, since a 5/4 early on is very threatening. Sacrificing random Fractal tokens in Quandrix isn’t terrible, but it is certainly a good deal worse there, as there are only two Pest Producers at common (though they’re both good), and you’re going to have more expensive spells/utility cards that don’t work with this. I’d take this at around a B- in Witherbloom and C in Quandrix, and then adjust for how well my deck was set up for it later in the draft.
The failcase of a 5 mana 5/4 is really not that bad either – I played Lazotep Behemoth a surprising amount in War of the Spark Limited (and that was a really high power set!), just because it was big enough to rumble with most things, and I expect that to be the case here also.
This is a decent trick, giving secretly +3/+3, and a little extra value if your creature survives. It has the usual weaknesses of tricks,and it’s not doing anything too special to make up for that. I think it’s a little worse than Sudden Breakthrough in Red, but would be happy to play the first copy of either in any deck that has the potential to attack decently early on. Being able to handle fliers in a pinch is nice too.
I love this card. I think the format is extremely well set-up for it with so much ramp and lifegain (remember that lifegain makes expensive cards a little better, since you’re more likely to survive to cast them!) in Green, and it is an absolute nail in the coffin against some decks. It does a good Pelakka Wurm impression for 1 more mana and they best have exile or aura removal, or it’s just going to grind them out over the course of a longer game. Quandrix especially loves it, but I’d still be very happy to have the first copy in Witherbloom.
The only thing that makes me hesitate a little is that the format is really full of good ways to use your mana late, far more than in most sets – there are other good things you can do, so you might need this less. Do remember that 8 mana is really a lot more than 7 – it will often take multiple turns, so you really do need to be playing more mana sources, ramp sources, card draw, that sort of thing, to enable this. Still, Quandrix needs to be doing all that anyway for its set mechanic, so the opportunity cost of playing this card is less.
1 mana cantrips seem pretty solid in a Magecraft set, and this is nice with all the Pledgemages running around. Quandrix especially has lots of big creatures and Fractal tokens, so trample will definitely do some work.
Still, this card is too low impact for me to want it to take it in the C range. It gets much worse in multiples, I don’t want to use my draft picks on cards that don’t add that much to my deck, and I really need the synergies first to take it higher. Instant speed removal can sometimes be a problem, since this targets – sometimes if they have a bunch of mana up, you should just target their creature. I also think it’ll be much worse in Witherbloom than Quandrix – I would take it at D in Witherbloom and C- in Quandrix.
Artifacts and enchantments really don’t seem relevant in this set, as there are barely any good ones – a couple of okay equipment, and then stuff like Letter of Acceptance which you should not be looking to remove anyway. Those with mana value 2 or less are usually not going to be good targets anyway so you’re not going to get the Pest Token pretty much ever. Take this over nothing and be fine to have it in your sideboard, especially if you have some looting to ditch it for a free card off your third or fourth Learn.
Rabid Bite with lifegain synergy is a good card in my book. Do consider how many good early and midgame targets you have to use with this, deathtouch creatures are at a premium etc.
The combination of absurd Magecraft ability and great late game mana sink is good in my book! This is the kind of card where I’d be pretty happy to play a couple of copies of Charge Through, because that can be quite the combo. Fantastic 2 drop, but certainly worse later if you draw it later in the game and can’t start stacking counters as easily.
Having to play a bunch of good cards with different names, all at similar mana values, to enable this card is really rough in Limited. If you draw the wrong parts of your deck, it can be actively hard to get anything good with it, Different names is a colossal downside, and I would give this a very high grade without that – you have to draft the cards the packs give you and it’s not at all uncommon to have multiple copies of good creatures in your deck.
It’s also pretty inefficient since if you pay 6, then you need four 3 drops with different names left in your deck to get full value, and you’re often instead going to have to settle for a 2 drop – if you get three 3s and a 2, they’ll pretty much always give you the 2. At 8 mana, this looks a bit more exciting, because then you might get a 5 drop and a 4 drop (if you have 3 5 drops left with different names) and actually have it be worth it, but when they get to pick the options for you, it’s not like you’re getting the best of the bunch…
This is a hard card to evaluate, but I think it’s solid enough if you’re a deck with lots of creatures with different names. Its failcases aren’t horrible and it has the benefit of scaling to the point in the game you’re at – doing something reasonable, if not super exciting, on any turn in the mid or late game.
This might read weirdly, but you should think of it as a 2 mana 2/2 that taps for a colour of your choice, and it’s pretty good in that role! Since it still counts as a land, it counts towards your Quandrix 8 land synergies and it can sometimes be even bigger than a 2/2 with your other ramp cards. Being a Fractal creature, it benefits from the surrounding synergies like Biomathematician.
One issue with this card is that, while it enables your splashes for you, you’ll often only be playing one basic land of your splash colours, and this removes it from the deck – the second copy of this (or any other land searchers) cannot fetch that up, and you’re permanently down a splash source. That means it can be kind of rough if this dies sometimes, and it’s not unlikely that that will happen over the course of a long game – you won’t always draw your splash cards early. At least you get the land back if it gets bounced!
So.. for 8 mana, you get to double a creature’s power three times, so you multiply it by 8, and at 6, it’s 4x. The joke with this is that it can represent a one-turn kill with evasive creatures, but at sorcery speed it really doesn’t do much else. Sometimes you’ll be able to combo it with Charge Through on 9 mana for some cheap wins (you can even Charge Through at instant speed after they chump or try to trade) or you just use it on an Inkling token for 16 damage on 8 mana, and it’s easier if you’ve already hit them for a bunch.
This all sounds like a lot of work for the sake of having a card stuck in your hand the entire game, and a good way to lose to instant speed removal, but it will certainly work sometimes. It’s not a strategy I would recommend employing – you need a lot of evasive creatures, and those are pretty good at winning games by themselves hopefully! There are just way more consistent less gimmicky ways to win games of Limited.
This is an important roleplayer in Quandrix, being ramp that gives you your card back, and I was pretty close to giving it a C+ in that pair. I think it gets a lot worse in multiples, so I don’t want to take the first copy that highly, but I do think most Quandrix decks will be going for the 8 land synergy and will therefore want the first two copies of this quite a lot. This card is usually just slightly clunky decent value that doesn’t scale that well into the late game, and that doesn’t sound too bad to me in some Witherbloom decks either – with how many instants and sorceries for Quandrix are running around, you’ll probably have at least some expensive high end in Witherbloom, and you can enable it this way.
If you’re beating down, this is a much worse card, and many Witherbloom decks would rather be making curve plays, that being said.
This is a solid combat trick and will win you many race situations since 2 life will add up alongside a solid burst of damage, while enabling your lifegain payoffs and benefiting from your other enablers. I think the vast majority of the time, this will just be +2/+2 because a lot of the lifegain in the set is on death triggers which don’t happen at the right times for it, but it’s easy to envisage scenarios where you cast Devouring Tendrils or Infuse with Vitality before this, and are able to go for lethal with your new +4/+4 trick.
There are a lot of cool things you can do with this, and the base case is always pretty solid at 1 mana. It’s a much better Witherbloom than Quandrix card, so I’d be taking it at more like C- if I was already in Quandrix.
I’m very happy to draw a card for free on my creature with an amazing body. This is one of the best 4 drops you can get.
This is an okay card but not super exciting. I don’t envisage decks often having 25+ life this set, because most of the sources only gain you a small amount like 1 or 2, so things have to be going pretty well for that to happen, and even then it’ll often just be a 4/4 vigilance on turn 5 or 6 (which is pretty good and gives it some late game relevance certainly).
Still, gaining a few extra life over the course of the game will be nice, especially with the repeatable sources like Overgrown Arch – that combo is pretty hard for opponents to race! A 2/3 for 3 is usually pretty mediocre, but Vigilance does add a solid amount in racing situations vs small creatures.
The turn you play this card, it’s pretty weak, but it really snowballs each turn it lives, and will give you a lot of free value over the course of the game if unchecked. It’s pretty hard to block your stuff when you have this, because you have the threat of putting a counter on anything at instant speed, and sometimes even two counters! I think this is almost always going to demand a removal spell, and this format gives you enough time for it to really do some work.
This is often a 6 mana 6/6 which scales up, which is a reasonable rate, but does give you some weaknesses to Blue bounce which normal 6/6s don’t have. Sometimes it won’t actually be a 6/6 if you ramped up with Letter of Acceptance or something. Ultimately I’m not starting it too high because it’s nothing too exciting and this set is full of better late game options – some Quandrix decks just won’t have room for this with all their card draw and 8 mana payoffs, and just a generic fatty isn’t that exciting for them.
Basically you only get to play a certain number of cards that only start to do something on turn 6, alongside your ramp spells and situational cards (remember ramp decks can have pretty clunky draws, and so you really want your high end to be especially potent!), and I think this will often not be what you want. I don’t want to devote slots to medium high end like this, when I can instead have my Lessons (specifically something like Fractial Summoning) fill that role. It’s still fine filler for any deck though.
This is a fantastic removal spell, since you can often cast it for 1 mana and +1/+2 will be enough to kill most things you want to. Still, you can’t enable the usual great midgame turn of creature + fight spell with this, unless you have one of the spells that makes token creatures, and it can be a bit clunky sometimes against removal/if you want to cast creatures.
This is a 4/4 Reach + Trample for 4, which is a great statline, and then it gives your Fractal tokens and random creatures you have lying around a very relevant buff!
Now, this is the lifegain enabler you want! Absolutely busted with Blood Researcher or Honor Troll, a good blocking statline, and in the later game you can just cash it in for a card. This is what Walls should be, and I’m glad Wizards has pulled away from the trend of their being really weak in recent sets. Even against fliers where Walls are normally bad, this is still neutering that Inkling token that’s chipping away at you.
In Witherhaven decks with synergy, this is more like a B-, but Quandrix decks will be happy to have it too. I don’t think it quite deserves a B- grade overall, since it’s a bit low impact without lifegain synergies. Also, having to sacrifice it to get value is kind of medium, and you might well be low on Lessons by the time you want to – it’s worse than just sacrificing for a card in decks with multiple other Learn cards, but you can still always loot with it.
Professor of Zoomancy
This is a fantastic rate for 4 mana, a brilliant enabler of sacrifice and lifegain synergies alike, and 5/4 worth of stats for 4. You really can’t go wrong with this card, and I’d be happy to play multiples in any deck, though it’s especially good in Witherbloom obviously.
This is a reasonable 2 drop, having an okay statline and then some late game power. When you reach 10 mana, which you will in some games especially in Quandrix – sometimes you’ll just draw too much ramp or whatever – this transforms into a pretty scary threat, and buffing it up/giving it flying or trample can be really nice.
That being said, it’s pretty low impact for most of the game, and your ramp decks need to be mostly ramp and impactful cards. There are a lot of better ways to use your mana in the late game, so I don’t see this ability coming up as much as in a more attritiony set.
I like this card more than Reckless Amplimancer, because Reach is a pretty relevant keyword when most of the fliers in the set are small, and Silverquill’s Inkling tokens just trade with it. It ends up being quite a lot better for a defensively-oriented deck, and the ability not costing mana in the late game is nice too, and will actively stop fliers in their tracks at that point.
This is an okay blocking statline, but this strikes me as a set where you have to be kind of desperate to want it – there are so many good and synergistic things you can be doing on turn 3 instead, you really want to start enabling your plan by then.
Same thing applies as the last card, but at least there are some lifegain synergies to go with this. Still pretty unexciting.
This is a sideboard only card – artifacts aren’t really relevant, and there aren’t enough fliers for this to consistently hit something. It’s decent out the sideboard, but nothing too great – Silverquill has lots of small fliers this set, not necessarily amazing targets for this, and once they put enough counters on one of the fliers, it might well survive 5 damage.
This is mostly a 6 mana ramp spell, because I really don’t want to give my opponent a free land and allow them to untap with it immediately – even if it only produces colourless mana for them, I just missed my turn 4 to give them a much more threatening turn. There’s very little in Limited that’s so swingy that’s so obscenely powerful that my opponent can’t come back if I give them an extra turn where I do nothing and an extra land drop – sure, you can construct scenarios with 7 drop bombs, but I’m not going to rate for an extremely unlikely scenario like that.
As a 6 mana ramp spell, I could see playing it if I really had a lot of 8 drops and crazy top end, and Quandrix definitely does that some amount of the time. Nonetheless, it’s pretty dangerous to tap out on turn 6 to do so little – on 6 mana, my opponents will often be double spelling or deploying their own high end, and I can get really far behind that way, enough so that it’s unclear my top-end will save me.
Ultimately, I think this card is risky and bad in lots of scenarios, and the payoff is not that great – even in Quandrix, I can just play more mana sources and other ramp cards and replicate this effect while still being able to play other stuff.
Blex, Vexing Pest / Search for Blex
This is a combination of two solid options, since if you’re behind or have some creatures to buff then you can pick Blex and pretty much always be happy, and if you’re ahead, in the late game, or have already gained a bunch of life, then you can go on your search for him instead and draw a few cards! Search for Blex has a truly insane ceiling, since if they haven’t really been able to pressure you that game then you can just take ALL the spells.
This card is better in paper because you can just put the five cards directly into your hand without looking, while giving your opponent a menacing stare, and I find it hard to believe that anyone could recover from that kind of power play.
Pestilent Cauldron / Restorative Burst
This is one of the few modal rares where I’m not super excited by either mode. None of the abilities on Pestilent Cauldron are that exciting, since repeatedly discarding a card to make Pest tokens is disadvantageous, and the other two modes have some synergy in the form of a pretty glacial win condition. It is a wincon I expect to work sometimes if you have absolutely tons of lifegain synergy, since lifegain is very important for mill decks anyway, since your opponents have to try to race you. The problem is I don’t think there are enough repeatable lifegain sources that give you multiple life – I think you’re very likely to just run out and not be able to mill them anymore. When you do run out of gas though, you can just start drawing with that last ability and looking for more. I think in the right matchup, where they can only pressure you on the ground and you have that covered, and where your deck has really a lot of lifegain enablers, the Cauldron strategy could be good, but it won’t be that exciting in most decks.
The backside of this is Soul Salvage with an upside, but it’s a lot more expensive. The symmetrical 4 life is better for you on average, since this isn’t a splashable card so you’re going to be playing Witherbloom and have synergies, and you just gained a bunch of value and that will ensure you live long enough to cast it.
The issue with both these modes for me is they’re both very late game propositions, and neither of them is super exciting – they don’t cover each other all that well, but they do proivde you a lot of okay options. I think they add up to an okay card, but not an exciting early pick.
Valentin, Dean of the Vein / Lisette, Dean of the Root
Valentin is a pretty decent and annoying turn 1 value play in a beatdown deck, since you can force trades in that sort of deck and get decent value off him. I expect Silverquill decks to be happy to play him without the back half, since he’s a great target to put +1/+1 counters on, and they’re still happy to have the Pest tokens as blockers to stop their evasive creatures being raced as easily. The graveyard hate won’t be too big a deal, but can be nice against Lorehold and at stopping random death triggers from cards like Eyeblight. Having to have the 2 mana up and wanting to sink it into making a Pest token won’t always be common case in your beatdown decks, but there’ll be plenty of turns where you don’t curve out perfectly and are happy to have the bonus.
Every green deck should play Lisette since she’s up there on best lifegain payoffs in the set, and there are enough Green cards with incidental lifegain that every deck should have a few triggers for her. If you trigger here even once, she’s extremely broken, making all your creatures huge and threatening big attacks. She’s a must-kill and if you wait till you can gain life immediately to play her, she’ll leave a lot of value behind too.
As a modal card in Witherbloom, they’re a combination of two good cards, and having the option to play either is as always really strong. I expect Valentin to be heavily overshadowed by Lisette, but sometimes you’ll have an expensive hand or have Valentin fit your curve better.
While this isn’t an absurd bomb, making two Pest tokens every turn cycle (including your opponent’s turn!) is some very good value and will run away with the game in short order – there aren’t too many repeatable sacrifice payoffs in the set but it does mean they can’t really attack on the ground anymore and eventually you can just go wide and kill them. I don’t foresee using this 10 life ability often, and it’s mostly a small amount of gravy, but hey maybe 1 in 10 games or whatever I’ll have enough life and stuff to pump the mana into. This is one of those classic mythics that demands removal, but they get a lot more time to deal with it than with the really busted ones.
If you get one counter on this card, it’s a pretty good rate and it just scales up from there. While Pest tokens are a slow way to enable this, there’s enough instant and sorceries with lifegain tacked on that I think this is very good, and certainly your opponent might think twice about attacking into your Pest tokens when you have this card lying around. The busted Witherbloom lifegain decks will have multiple copies of this.
I don’t think this is usually worth playing, but when you have some really good Lifegain payoffs like multiple Blood Researchers, or you really need a few more spells for your Magecraft payoffs then you can consider it. Revitalize is usually a pretty bad card, and Learn cards do have diminishing returns, but this will make it in some decks.
I’m not fond of this card. Mainly there’s no guarantee you’ll be playing fewer tokens and 2 drops than your opponent – Witherbloom will be making plenty and it’s not like a normal sweeper where you can just wait until it’s good, because who knows whether your opponent will make more tokens, or if they’ll even be worth sweeping away? Converting your tokens into mana is also very unexciting.
I don’t even think this is a very sideboard card, because the circumstances where it’s much better for you than them are so specific, and it’s pretty easy for them to have a draw with a few token producers g1 and then curve out into 3s and 4s game 2. It’s not like token decks won’t have plenty of more expensive cards.
There are some ways to make this card decent, but by itself it’s really not that good – on most boards, it just cannot attack for that long so your opponent will be happy to chump it with their own tokens for a couple of turns, and you lose value as they do so and eventually you will have to sacrifice this itself. There are also tons of spots where you just won’t have that many creatures in play in most decks, and then you can’t even play this. I think getting enough Pests to enable this for more than a couple of turns will be hard unless you have multiple copies of Pest Summoning or Hunt for Specimens, and I don’t think that’s a given at all, and the other sacrifice payoffs are much less punishing.
If you can give this evasion with Charge Through, Zephyr Boots, or Team Pennant then it does get better but the requirement to have those cards, this one, creatures to sacrifice for two turns, and your opponent not to have a removal spell or a flier to block Zephyr Boots is far too steep for me. Sacrificing it to Tend the Pests can be a pretty big game, that being said!
This card has a range of reasonable options – the floor of just playing it for a turn, stopping their attacks, and then sacrificing it as kind of a weird Divination is mediocre for 4 mana but not terrible, and if you do happen to have a couple of Pest tokens lying around then getting to attack for a couple of turns before you have to do that can be very nice. With a card like Blood Researcher, having the sac outlet can be actively beneficial, but remember that you’re still losing value – once you’ve sacrificed two Pests, you’re down a card. Tend the Pests is a pretty cool combo with it, but that is two specific uncommons, one of which is pretty mediocre.
Ultimately, I don’t think this card is going to be actively great in many decks, and the Divination failcase will come up too much for me to be super excited about it, but it is still decent enough to warn a relatively high grade.
The ceiling on this card isn’t fantastic, but you usually get a reasonable effect – early in the game, you don’t sacrifice anything and you take out their 2 drop, and then in the mid to late game, the creature you sacrifice is probably worse than whatever they sacrifice. You won’t always have something good to get back with the recursion, it’ll just be your best creature, but being able to sacrifice on cue for your lifegain synergies is nice too.
Dina, Soul Steeper
There’s enough lifegain in these colours that pinging them every time will add up to a lot of damage. Lampad of Death's Vigil was a fantastic card that ended tons of games in Theros: Beyond Death, and this does a reasonable impression of that with Pest tokens. The second ability means this is a creature they basically have to block in combat since you have the threat of just sacrificing all your creatures and burning them out! Being able to sacrifice at will for other lifegain synergies is also quite nice, specifically with Blood Researcher.
The main issue with this card is that it’s sometimes hard for it to deal that much damage, since Pest tokens aren’t easy to create truly masses of, and there aren’t many repeatable lifegain sources at a low cost, though Overgrown Arch and Witherbloom Pledgemage are great with it.
This represents a ton of card advantage if you cast it at the end of a long game, since you get to redraw every spell you’ve cast and every creature you’ve traded off. The mana cost is very restrictive, and it doesn’t do anything until then, but I can see playing it in some Witherbloom decks just because games in the format have the potential to go very late and Witherbloom doesn’t have as many gamewinning late game cards as other colleges – I see it as better in regular decks than slow late game decks, because stuff is more likely to trade if you’re curving out with creatures and just casting your spells in a regular time frame.
Infuse with Vitality
This card reminds me a lot of Unlikely Aid and that card was surprisingly good in War of the Spark Limited. This is good against removal and at winning combats, letting you reuse death triggers and ETBs, and even enables your lifegain synergies to boot! It’s still just a trick and only represents a 1 for 1, and getting removed in response is really bad so you do want to be attacking, but I think this is a pretty good card when you are.
I think this sort of effect does get worse in multiples, so I wouldn’t take the first copy too highly, but I’d be taking it at more like a C if I saw it later in the draft.
Lifelink is a powerful ability, even on an understatted 4 drop, and while there aren’t loads of ways to buff this in Witherbloom, there are a few counter sources. It’s specifically good with the two Green fight spells, since that’s some good value to add to killing a creature, but attacking and using a trick can be really nice too.
This card is great and kills whatever you want, cost reduction or no. Sometimes you can set up some pretty brutal double spell turns with it, no less!
This is one of the best Lessons. If you’re doing the Witherbloom synergy thing, I think you actively want multiples of these and are going to be maindecking them – you’ll have the first in your sideboard and then main the rest, and they’ll turn on so many of your Gold cards that they’ll be well worth it. This is the single best way to enable your sacrifice synergies, and to ensure you have enough fodder for cards like Daemogoth Woe-Eater. If I’m firmly in Witherbloom, I wouldn’t be surprised if was correct to take these at B- often, at least if I had a payoff or two already.
It doesn’t go quite so well into Quandrix or Silverquill, and I expect it to go back to being mostly a Lesson in your sideboard there, but it’s pretty good in that role too!
This is the kind of card that does nothing unless very specific scenarios arise – either they have to try to remove a big creature and I happen to have 2 mana up and something cheaper that’s really good to get, or I have some cheap bomb to go and fetch up and am willing to sacrifice a different creature and get 2-for-1ed to make that happen, which is very hard to envisage being worth it. It’s far too situational for me to ever be happy to take it highly, and you get blown out by instant speed removal if you try to use it in combat. Remember, you want your cards to do consistently good things in Limited, and when they rot in your hand for many turns, that’s a big cost.
Tend the Pests
I’m not very fond of this card – the problem is that I both need a big creature to sacrifice and some reason/payoff for all these Pest tokens, or I need them to try to remove my stuff and to have this up at the right opportunity. With 2 mana spells, it’s pretty hard to just hold them up turn after turn until the late game, and the things I want to sacrifice aren’t going to be nearly big enough to have a good effect with this.
Draining your opponent every time you cast a spell is pretty great, even if Witherbloom is going to be playing more creatures than most of the other colleges. If you play this on turn 2, it probably does at least 3 or 4 damage and gains 3 or 4 life over the course of the game, and that’s fantastic for your lifegain payoffs, especially cards like Dina, Soul Steeper and Blood Researcher. With multiple copies or other cards that burn them like Mage Hunter, the effect starts to stack up a lot and kill them very fast.
This is a range of situational effects, and being the cheapest command, it has the weakest ones – getting a land for free and enabling some graveyard synergies is nice but not a massive deal, I don’t foresee having a target for the second ability very often at all, -3/-1 is specifically good against Inkling tokens, and draining them for two is just okay, decent if you have the lifegain payoffs. If this card were instant speed, I’d be much more into it, since at least you could use the third mode as a trick.
As is I think this is by far the weakest command – you’ll usually use the first mode and hope to God they have an x/1 or that you can attack in and use it as 1 damage post-combat, but I think you’re better off just staying away from it – flexibility doesn’t matter as much when a full three of the modes are bad.
This is a pretty good 5 drop, offering repeatable lifegain for your synergies and a solid body. You don’t want too many 5s and there are other good ones you can run, but there’s also plenty of ramp in Green so you can afford to play more. Even if you don’t have that much synergy, it’s a decent rate, and it goes way up in the Witherbloom decks that want it.