Strixhaven Limited Set Review: Mystical Archives, Colourless, and Summary
Welcome back! Today is the final day of Limited Reviews, make sure to check out the Introduction if you haven’t already. Our set tier list will be going live shortly, so stay tuned! I’ll be keeping it updated as often as I am able, both in the form of updates to just a few cards and bigger written updates every so often, which will attempt to summarise and explain all the on-the-fly updates.
Table of Contents
- Mystical Archive
- Approach of the Second Sun
- Day of Judgment
- Defiant Strike
- Divine Gambit
- Gift of Estates
- Gods Willing
- Mana Tithe
- Swords to Plowshares
- Teferi’s Protection
- Blue Sun’s Zenith
- Compulsive Research
- Memory Lapse
- Mind’s Desire
- Strategic Planning
- Tezzeret’s Gambit
- Time Warp
- Whirlwind Denial
- Agonizing Remorse
- Crux of Fate
- Dark Ritual
- Demonic Tutor
- Doom Blade
- Inquisition of Kozilek
- Sign in Blood
- Tainted Pact
- Tendrils of Agony
- Village Rites
- Chaos Warp
- Claim the Firstborn
- Faithless Looting
- Increasing Vengeance
- Lightning Bolt
- Mizzix’s Mastery
- Stone Rain
- Thrill of Possibility
- Urza’s Rage
- Abundant Harvest
- Adventurous Impulse
- Krosan Grip
- Natural Order
- Primal Command
- Snakeskin Veil
- Weather the Storm
- Growth Spiral
- Lightning Helix
- Environmental Sciences
- Expanded Anatomy
- Introduction to Annihilation
- Introduction to Prophecy
- Mascot Exhibition
- Wandering Archaic / Explore the Vastlands
- Biblioplex Assistant
- Campus Guide
- Codie, Vociferous Codex
- Cogwork Archivist
- Excavated Wall
- Letter of Acceptance
- Reflective Golem
- Spell Satchel
- Strixhaven Stadium
- Team Pennant
- Zephyr Boots
- Access Tunnel
- Archway Commons
- The Biblioplex
- Snarl “Reveal” Dual Lands
- Hall of Oracles
- Campus Dual Lands
- Summarising the colour pairs – what are their strengths and weaknesses?
- Thanks for reading! Check out my Limited Spotlight series for more in-depth and strategic Limited content. To support my work, consider signing up for a Limited coaching session!
Table of Contents
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. Self-reflection and forming good habits are paramount to Limited improvement, and those themes feature in many of my articles and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide (background here). Consider booking a session today if you’d like real-time feedback tailored to you and strategies to best make use of it!
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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.
The numbers below represent your chances of opening each rarity of Mystical Archive. Remember that there’s one in every single pack, so uncommon Mystical Archives are actually more common than regular uncommons, and rare Mystical Archives are about as rare as regular rares!
18 uncommons: 67%
30 rares: 26.4%
15 mythic rares: 6.6%
Approach of the Second Sun
I don’t think most decks are going to be able to dig enough to set up the second Approach in a reasonable time period, and the first cast does very little.
Day of Judgment
Wraths are good in Limited because your opponent almost always can’t afford to play around them, and this one is very efficiently costed.
This kind of effect gets a lot of value in a Magecraft set, and is especially good with the Pledgemages. It’s still not a card you generally want to use picks on in other decks since it’s pretty low impact.
Divine Gambit serves a similar role as in Kaldheim, being a card you only cast in the late game and only really play when you don’t have much other removal, but it’s probably a bit worse in a set where people have so much more late game and stuff to cast in the later turns. Still, there are also more spells, which they can’t put into play with it.
Ephemerate represents a double Magecraft trigger and is good with any enter-the-battlefield effects you happen to have, which aren’t abundant in White this set but they seem especially present in Lorehold and there are a few very good ones. Being able to save things from removal for 1 mana can be a big game as well.
Gift of Estates
I think this is mostly unplayable in best-of-one, since it’s terrible if you’re on the play. Sometimes when you cast it early on, you then end up having to discard or just search for fewer Plains, and this effect gets a lot worse later in the game for obvious reasons. This is a good sideboard card and I would bring it in a lot on the draw, that being said.
Gods Willing has enough decent use cases to be a reasonable but not especially exciting card – it can save your creature from removal, win some combats as a trick (but has the weaknesses of every trick, and the further weakness of not providing any buffs so your creatures literally have to trade for it to work), or push some damage by making one of your creatures harder to block. The scry 1 is some decent upside, but ultimately I would just see how many tricks I had/how many good creatures to protect.
Mana Tithe has some blowout potential, but it’s a completely dead draw in the late game, and it’s kind of hard in your early turns to have 1 mana up. Still, when it’s good, it’ll be absolutely crushing, and I would be more inclined to play it with looting effects like the Learn spells, especially if you don’t have that many good Lessons to get.
Revitalize would be a lot better if it were in Witherbloom colours, but as it is, I suspect it’s just a very mediocre Magecraft enabler – though it does have the potential to draw you into more Magecraft enablers at least.
Plow isn’t quite as good in Limited as Constructed, since giving them the life can be annoying in race situations or with lifegain synergies, and the situations where you can really tempo out with it are a little less devastating, but it’s still extremely efficient unconditional removal. It’s even a card I would splash a lot of the time!
This is sort of like a Fog effect that can also save your creatures from removal, but at 3 mana, neither of those modes are at all exciting in Limited.
Blue Sun’s Zenith
This is pretty inefficient draw that scales up, and becomes pretty good when x=4+. I think some Quandrix decks will be excited to have this, but there’s a ton of ways to use your mana in the late game this set, so it’s nothing special or exciting. Because it shuffles in, in some really long games, you might well be able to deck them with it on the second or third cast, and it also stops you from decking by paying UUU every turn!
This might come as a surprise to some of you given its reputation, but Brainstorm is not actually that good a cantrip without shuffle effects, since you just have to redraw the cards you put back! Still, it has the usual use cases of triggering your Magecraft at a very cheap cost, you can use scry effects to ditch cards such as with the dual lands, or there’s a couple of discard effects like Humiliate to protect your cards from by putting them on top. I don’t think it’s a card you really want to prioritise, sort of like Opt, but Opt is actually a little better if you don’t have many ways to clear the top of your library.
Compulsive Research is a fantastic card, providing a lot of card advantage and ditching lands in the late game, for a pretty efficient cost. I’d be happy to have this in any Blue deck.
Unconditional counterspells at 2 mana aren’t printed anymore for a reason, and they’re still very good in Limited! You probably do need to be either far ahead or in the later game before you can afford to hold it up, but those are the best times to counter things anyway. It’s pretty hard to cast Counterspell, especially alongside other Blue spells, so you do want to be playing lots of Islands.
Memory Lapse has the same use cases as Counterspell, while being easier to cast and not getting rid of the thing permanently. Getting a whole extra turn before having to worry about a threat is still amazing tempo when you Lapse any expensive spell, and often with removal spells and instant/sorceries, they’re much worse to cast the turn after.
I don’t foresee there being any deck where this is good enough, since you need 3-4 copies and that’s an insanely late game scenario which often won’t pan out. Your desire to play Storm will have to be sated elsewhere.
I think Negate is very comparable to Test of Talents, practically the same card even since there aren’t really other relevant noncreatures other than the occasional rare or mythic. So just check out my description of Test of Talents, which I’ve linked!
Opt is a little better in this set, thanks to Magecraft triggers, but still isn’t a card you’re excited to prioritise without synergy.
2 mana is a lot to spend on this sort of effect, and there are a lot of other better card selection effects. I give it a D rather than a D- because Izzet might want it to set up the graveyard for their “exile an instant or sorcery” synergies.
Tezzeret's Gambitgoes in every deck and is pretty good in most of them. It’s actually a much better card outside of Blue, since you have less access to this sort of effect and proliferate is probably more relevant – I see it as being fantastic in one of the slower Silverquill decks where you’re distributing lots of counters to things.
Time Warpisn’t an amazing blowout unless you already have a substantial board, and it’s going to be Explore quite a lot in the late game, which isn’t great for 5 mana. Still, it’s one of those cards where when it’s good, it’s absolutely devastating.
I’m not very fond of this card – conditional 3 mana counterspells are pretty bad since you just don’t have time to hold counterspells up until the late game, and at that point they can pay.
Agonizing Remorse is usually fine, probably a bit better in this set than Theros: Beyond Death since they’re likely to have cards in their hand for longer in a set with so many expensive spells.
Crux of Fate
Generic 5 mana sweeper is still pretty good, if a bit worse than Day of Judgment. If they have a Dragon (which are only at rare or mythic), you can just kill that by itself, but sometimes you won’t get to sweep the board then!
I could envisage a deck where you want this with enough busted triple black plays, say if you can t2 it into a 4 drop. Still, the 4 drops have to be really good and most aren’t enough so in Limited. You should stay away in the vast of majority decks.
This can search up the best card in your deck, whatever that may be at the time, but there is some opportunity cost in having to pick it over a powerful card – since you just won’t have access to that. Still, 2 mana is cheap enough that I’m happy to take it highly.
Even the Black decks should have enough creatures of other colours that Doom Blade will eventually find a target, although it’s pretty bad against those. Against everything else, it’s a powerful unconditional removal spell, so that adds up to a pretty good card overall.
Duress is a lot worse than Negate, just because games in this format will go long and you won’t have your pick of very many options later on – Duress is good in Constructed because of its flexibility since the slower decks often still have lots of cards late, but even slow decks will only have 1 or 2 cards left by the late game and those might well be creatures.
Probably a decent sideboard card against Prismari since they have a lot of expensive big spells and sometimes against Quandrix, but I wouldn’t maindeck it unless I was really desperate for playables.
There’s a lot of spells in this set, so Eliminate is probably a bit worse, but there’s still plenty of high value small creatures to hit.
Inquisition of Kozilek
I think this card is far too risky to play, and will leave you down a card a lot of the time. The range of mana costs is much more varied in Limited than Constructed, people play a lot of expensive cards, and you mostly don’t want to take the cheaper things as much anyway.
Sign in Blood
Sign in Blood is efficient but pretty hard to cast – even on turn 4 or 5, you won’t be able to double spell with it into Black cards very often. You often won’t be able to cast it on turn 2, so it won’t hit land drops for you often.
Still, it’s usually good enough if are you playing 9+ Black sources, and sometimes you can even use it to kill your opponents – but that’s more dangerous this set, since especially Green has loads of instant speed lifegain!
This is an obvious Constructed plant that doesn’t do anything in Limited.
Tendrils of Agony
This is an obvious Constructed plant that doesn’t do anything in Limited.
Village Rites is pretty good in Witherbloom, and not very good outside of it unless you happen to have enough Pest tokens in Silverquill. Instant speed sacrifice outlets are very good with some of Witherbloom’s gold card, and some of the Black 1 drops are fine to sacrifice too, like Unlikely Offering and Eyetwitch.
Chaos Warp is the most desperate of removal spells, since they always get something and that something can be pretty bad. There’s a 40% chance they just hit a land and this is a spell-heavy set which are bricks for this effect, but I’d still be very unhappy to play it outside of very low interaction decks.
Claim the Firstborn
There isn’t a wide enough range of good hits for this, and you would have to splash it in Black anyway since Rakdos isn’t supported. If you do have enough Sac outlets, you’d much rather have Mascot Interception, and their big creatures that present a real threat in your beatdown deck are going to cost more than 3 mostly anyway.
I think the only reason to play this card is if you have lots of ways to mill it or loot it away, and then get a little value off the Flashback. There’s not enough graveyard synergy and it puts you down a card for each cast, but I can envisage some very rare decks that might want it. Generally, if you don’t know whether this card is good in your deck, you should stay far away from it.
Grapeshot is kind of like a Forked Bolt on turn 4 or 5 alongside another spell, giving you as many Magecraft triggers as copies you make, and then it scales up in the late game a bit.
This is basically Teach by Example, but has some solid extra value while being a little harder to cast and only going into Red decks. I think it’s a significantly higher pick just for the Flashback, and have linked my explanation for Teach.
Infuriate tends to be a reasonable trick, a decent rate for 1 mana, but still not super exciting. That being said, I think Red doesn’t really want it this set, since they’re mostly playing a bigger game with fewer creatures than in most sets.
3 damage for one mana is an excellent rate, killing pretty much every early game card you want other than Bayou Groff, and Bolt goes face unlike most cheap burn spells these days. It’s a very versatile and efficient card overall.
So the first cast of this lets you cast a spell from your graveyard for free for 4 mana and is especially good in Prismari with Elemental Masterpiece and Creative Outburst, and then it also has this absolutely gamewinning 8 mana mode where you get to recast every instant or sorcery in your graveyard! In a spell-heavy deck, I can’t imagine not winning most games where I empty my hand and then overload it, and I’m very willing to first pick and build around it as a result.
Shock seems pretty good in the format, since there are a lot of cheap high value targets like the Pledgemages. It doesn’t scale well into the late game as usual and you don’t want too many copies of early game only kill spells, but there isn’t another really cheap one at common or uncommon in Red.
Land destruction is awful in Draft, because there’s such a limited window in which it’s good and it’s very hard to capitalise on the time you gain enough for it to be worth a card and 3 mana. This is the most efficient version of this card we’ve seen, but it’s still unplayable.
Thrill of Possibility
I’m not generally fond of Thrill of Possibility, especially not in a set where I envisage you using your land drops for so long, because there’s so much good high end and great ways to use your mana late, so you never want to discard them just to maintain card parity (you use two cards to draw two cards). Still, it does seem like a card the Prismari might want sometimes, since they have some ways to get value off having instants and sorceries in the graveyard, and it’s not the worst to just ditch your Lessons to it in a heavy Learn deck, after you’ve expended the good ones.
3 damage for 3 mana is a fine rate, and you’ll almost never get to kick this but it will end most games in which you do. Perhaps in your Quandrix ramp deck that splashes for this, you’ll be able to hit 12 mana once in a blue moon.
This is a pretty decent card, since you can just play it in addition to your usual 17 lands and it will draw you lands when you need them, and gas when you need it. It can be a bit awkward that it costs you Green mana so you must already have it, and it won’t necessarily fix you, and that’s why you mostly can’t replace a land with it – you mostly run it in a spell slot. There’s also the opportunity cost of having to pick it over real cards, which you might not always want to do. Still, I think most decks will be happy to take it over filler, especially in a Magecraft set and one where you need to be making your land drops for longer.
This might look a lot like Abundant Harvest, but it’s actually far worse. The problem is that Adventurous Impulse doesn’t hit spells, and this is a spell-heavy set so it has some chance of bricking which is a total disaster, and in a lot of spots it just won’t find you what you want – say if you hit land and two spells in the late game. There’s very little opportunity cost to running Abundant Harvest, but there’s a lot of risk to running this card.
I could envisage some scenario where Channel is worth playing, some deck with an unusual number of artifacts and cards that don’t have many coloured mana requirements, one that can go Channel -> Letter of Acceptance -> 6 drop for example, but it won’t have a consistently powerful effect in the vast majority of decks, it only does things early on, and it can be pretty hard to cast (you need triple Green to play a Green spell after it, for example). This is one of those cards where if you’re not sure it’s good in your deck, you should probably stay away.
Cultivate strikes me as fantastic in a set where Green doesn’t have much fixing for its splashes, can use its lands for far longer, and even has Learn spells to loot them away in the late game.
Harmonize is a fantastic rate for a card draw spell, and is exceptionally good in Witherbloom which doesn’t have easy access to them. It’s worse in Quandrix since Blue has far more options with this sort of effect, but it’s still high on the list of good ones.
This is a sideboard only card, and not a very good one in this set. There are just very few artifacts and enchantments worth killing below rare and mythic, but you should take this over nothing in best-of-three and be happy when you do play against one.
Do you have a great big Green creature in your library to get and plenty of small Green creatures to sacrifice? Okay, Natural Order is very good then but that won’t always be easy to set up. Luckily Pest and Fractal tokens are Green, and there are some really good big creatures this set between some of the Gold cards and stuff like Bookwurm. You only need one great one, and one decent backup to be happy, and the more tokens and other cards you don’t mind sacrificing you have, the weaker the great one can be – just getting a good 5 or 6 drop will be worth sacrificing a Pest token. Even getting a mana sink Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy will win plenty of late game scenarios.
It’s an awkward card that requires some setup, but has an immensely powerful payoff that’s well worth the buildaround.
Primal Command has a range of really powerful effects that have long made it a cube staple, but it’s worse in this set since there aren’t good noncreature permanents to get rid of (usually you’ll just put a land on top, which is okay since at least they miss their next draw, but not exciting) and searching up your best creature is much less likely to be something devastating or worth spending 5 mana to tutor up.
The noncreature mode was very much its best, and has been heavily neutered, so while I think it’s an okay playable if you do have something good to search up, since gaining 7 life or putting a land on top is decent value alongside that, it’s not particularly exciting. When they do have a good noncreature to hit, it can be pretty devastating though, and if it’s something truly insane then you can even elect to have them shuffle it away.
Regrowth is decently versatile but doesn’t do anything early or until you’ve cast a good spell or had a good creature die, and can lead to some pretty clunky draws when you’re trying to curve out. In the late game, it’s pretty good if you do have good options to get, but it’s never really that exciting unles you’re getting something busted like a Bomb back. It’s a pretty solid enabler for Magecraft, since whatever you get back will probably give you an extra cast.
Snakeskin Veil is a fantastic trick that can be devastating against removal, since it sometimes lets you trade 1 for 4 or so mana. A lot of its power comes from the fact that it’s not dead as often as other cards that save your creatures from removal, since it can also win you combats and make one of your creatures a better threat. You don’t want too many cards with this sort of effect, and Witherbloom has Village Rites, Infuse with Vitality, and Professor's Warning as backup spells that “counter removal”, but this is at least better than any of those.
Weather the Storm
The joke with this is that it gives you a lot of Magecraft triggers, but it’s not a good joke.
Despark is efficient and hits a lot of what you want, but Black has access to a lot of other often less conditional removal, and so this isn’t a super high pick.
Electrolyze is fantastic, an incredibly satisfying card to cast, usually killing you a creature (sometimes two, especially if you set it up with attacks) and drawing a card for an incredibly easy 2 for 1, and sometimes 3 for 1. The nightmare scenario for your opponent is when they make two Inkling tokens in Silverquill against you, and it’s very likely to be absurd against that colour pair in general…
Growth Spiral is just okay in Limited, since it’s a bit hard to cast and you run out of lands for it quite quickly. In the late game, it just cantrips, and having it occupy a slot on your curve rather than just playing a 2 drop can be disadvantageous, especially if you don’t have tons of lands anyway. Like in Constructed decks, it does get better if you can convert the mana into big tempo plays and card advantage in the mid and late game, but there are fewer ways to do that in Limited. Being able to go Growth Spiral into a solid 4 drop is still very good though, it just won’t always work out that way.
Lightning Helix is a fantastic and efficient card that is relevant at any point in the game. Having 3 life tacked onto your removal spell is great and will often make their racing you impossible. Lorehold gold cards have a bunch of ways to recur it and get extra value off it too!
Destroying artifacts is rarely relevant this set (and the fact that they can’t be regenerated has been irrelevant for many years!) so this is mostly 3 mana unconditional creature removal, which is very good!
Colourless cards have the advantage of being slightly better picks early on, since they enhance your deck in any colour you end up in and leave you open to more possibilities. Gold (multicolour) cards have the opposite effect, but it’s somewhat less pronounced in a Guilds set where there are fewer good colour pair options available.
This is a pretty good Lesson to have, since it gives you an extra land off your Learn cards, an effect that’s kind of hard to replace. The extra 2 life is pretty solid too, and I’m happy to take this card over most filler early on. If you’re desperate for fixing and have say two copies of this, then you can main one, especially in Witherhaven where you have lifegain synergies, but it’s not very exciting in that role.
This is sort of like an aura that triggers Magecraft for you, and that’s pretty decent to have on a Lesson, especially if you have some Evasive creatures. I still wouldn’t take it that highly, since there’ll usually be better stuff you can get.
I’d be pretty unhappy to ever maindeck this card, but possibly if I had really tons of +1/+1 counter synergies in my Silverquill deck or whatever.
Introduction to Annihilation
Fetching this with a Learn card isn’t really card disadvantage, but it does cost you some of the value from that card. Still, there are plenty of times when it will be worth it, especially if you lack the better removal Lessons White and Black have access to, and I expect decks like Quandrix that are low on interaction and have lots of mana to go out of their way to pick up the first copy.
Introduction to Prophecy
Converting your Learn spells into actual card draw is good, but this card does it a little too inefficiently for me to be really excited. Still, if my Lesson to Learn ratio is low (I think you want about one good Lesson per two good Learn cards) or there’s just not much else in the pack, I’ll be happy to pick this up.
This is a fantastic rate, the best Lesson of them all, a game-winning late game card. Unlike most bombs, you may well have access to it every game and it’ll make your deck so much better just by having it in your sideboard. This is a set where lots of different colours have ways to ramp, and you want to prioritise those heavily when you have this card. If you have just one Learn card, you can maindeck this and still be happy, but if you have 2 or more then I’d always sideboard it.
This is straight up one of the best first picks in the set, not committing you to anything and being great everywhere.
Wandering Archaic / Explore the Vastlands
I don’t think you ever want to use Explore the Vastlands unless your situation is truly desperate, so this is a fake modal card – perhaps 1 in 100 casts will put you into that unfortunate position. Wandering Archaic is a very solid card, since it makes all of your opponents’ instants and sorceries very annoying to cast, and often forces them to spend 2 extra mana to kill it, which they’ll want to do almost immediately. It has a somewhat inefficient body, but it’s really not too bad, and I would be happy to play it in pretty much every deck.
This card is inefficient and weak, and while putting a spell on top of your library is an upside, it’s not card advantageous and not something that propels it above medium filler.
I’m not happy to ever play this card unless I need it to enable a splash or am truly desperate for 2 drops, but it’s decent in those circumstances. This is a set where I want to be splashing a lot, so I do expect it to sneak its way in every so often.
Codie, Vociferous Codex
That first line of text is so crushingly bad that I would be shocked if I ever ended up playing this card. Casting spells over and over usually won’t be enough to get the job done in Limited, even in a late-game scenario where you’re out of other cards, and this doesn’t have a nearly good enough effect to make that worth it.
If this had a truly insane effect, I would consider playing it in a deck where I had really a lot of sacrifice outlets, and could get rid of it at will after I’d gotten some value with it, but you need other big spells to fuel it and it doesn’t do anything in the spot where I would most want to play it – where I was out of other cards. The payoff is never worth the cost here.
4/5 Reach for 6 is potentially a playable card if you’re lacking other high end and need an answer to fliers (and hopefully can ramp to it since it’s otherwise pretty slow), and I do expect the occasional game to come down to decking in a format with so many good ways to use your mana late, and clearly this will be great in those. Still, most decks won’t want it and it’s never all that good.
If you have some graveyard synergies and are in dire need of good blockers, then you can play this card, but it’s mediocre at best.
Letter of Acceptance
This is a card I’m reasonably fond of if you have splashes or need ramp, and plenty of decks in the format want those things. It’s a major upside over Manalith that it still does something in the late game. That being said, it definitely gets way worse in multiples – having an opening hand full of 2-3 of these is far from exciting – so I wouldn’t take the first copy too high until I had some 7 drops or a splash I wanted to enable.
Not having synergy with Quandrix’s eight lands theme is a pretty big strike against it and Quandrix has other ways to ramp anyway, but might still want it for fixing. I see Prismari wanting it most of all.
Reflective Golem makes tricks cast on it a pretty big game, especially the Learn ones, and perhaps there’s some Lorehold decks or Silverquill that will want it for that purpose, but I think you need a pretty weird version. Tricks are at their best in beatdown decks, and a 2/3 for 3 is really not what those decks want, but I do expect it to work out sometimes if you have the right deck composition.
I think this card is unplayable because it has a range of terrible effects and it takes so much work for it to do anything for you – it’s not trivial to cast 3 instants/sorceries and then you still have to pay 3 mana just to draw the card back you put into it. Even making it tap for colourless mana is quite the chore. Perhaps there’s a deck or two with truly tons of instant and sorceries, but having to cast six to get any value and having this be a terrible topdeck is too much for me.
I think this will basically never do more than just be a 3 mana artifact that taps for colourless – if you’re able to stop any creatures from hitting you for ten turns and simultaneously hit them with your creatures or just sit there and rack up point counters, you should be able to win that game in much easier ways.
Perhaps there’s some glacial deck that really doesn’t have wincons, but there are plenty of good creatures and spells that can win the game for you in Limited while not being expressly dedicated to that role – your 2/4 might be in your deck to block, but it will still kill your opponent if you’re able to answer their stuff for a bunch of turns. Still, there will be decks that want ramp and don’t have other options, though this is always a prett y bad one.
In a format full of tokens, I foresee this being 1 to equip often enough that I’m pretty excited, since this is a good range of abilities and later on, you’re happy to equip it to anything and make it that much more threatening. It works especially well with Fractal tokens and Prismari’s Elementals, though the Quandrix/Prismari decks are the least likely to have space for it, or enough creatures that want the buff to make great use of it – but if they lean on the green side and have creatures like Professor of Zoomancy, they’ll be doing great.
Equipment that gives flying and no stats rarely excites me that much, but the additional of looting does give some nice utility. Some midrangey beatdown decks like Green Stompy will be pretty happy to have this card, since it’ll give you outs to win against decks that are going bigger.
This is a medium effect and one that isn’t usually worth putting a colourless land in your deck, but when you have enough sources that it’s truly free then great. One sweet thing you can do with it is give the creature unblockable and then load a bunch of +1/+1 counters onto it with Eager Pupil or something. I do expect Silverquill decks that have a couple of the dual lands to want it more than most.
I’m not very fond of Gateway Plaza, but I would play it if I had somewhat loose fixing for my splashes or if I was playing a more than 2 colour deck.
Having precisely seven or zero cards in your hand can be quite tough (zero is far more likely), especially in spell-heavy decks where you’re drawing cards or just want to hold stuff like removal spells for the right opportunity. This doesn’t give you a guaranteed payoff for emptying your hand, alongside the cost of just putting a colourless land in your deck – having a 40% chance to draw a card in a spell-heavy deck is decent over the course of several turns, but pretty bad if you’re being pressured or your opponent is using their mana better, and it’s weaker than that in creature-centric decks.
Snarl “Reveal” Dual Lands
These lands come into play untapped around half the time, which is nice, but they’re still lower picks than the tapped duals in your main colours, at least until you have 1-2 of those already – being able to scry in the late game with those is really nice in a slow set like this, and there aren’t many 1 drops to punish you for having just a couple of taplands.
Relying on untapped lands if often better for your splashes, since you might topdeck the source with the uncastable cards in hand, but in that situation you’re not that likely to have the right basic anyway so it’s kind of a wash for these.
Hall of Oracles
Now this is a payoff on a colourless land, and it’s pretty absurd! Getting a counter on any creature you like for the low low cost of casting a spell and tapping this one land is really good, even if it can only be done at sorcery speed (believe me, that’s a good thing, it would be a nightmare in combat otherwise).
I would happily stretch my mana and play an 18th land to accommodate this, especially since I’ll be doing that more than usual this set anyway, with all the mana sinks and expensive spells giving me a great way to stave off flood.
Campus Dual Lands
The Campus duals are great and I want to take them highly when I know I’m in these colours. Scrying every turn is a great way to stave off flood, but this set does have a ton of other things to sink your mana into and those will prevent flood naturally as is!
Summarising the colour pairs – what are their strengths and weaknesses?
As I mentioned before, you mostly want to draft in the colour pairs this set – you just lose too much by way of synergy and powerful gold cards in doing otherwise. Sometimes you can be straight up 3-colour if you have the right fixing, or just splash gold cards within an unsupported pair, and I don’t doubt that it’ll work sometimes but that shouldn’t be your default at all.
The tenets of good drafting: namely staying open, taking the best cards early, and following signals, will still be extremely important. This is a format where you should be willing to play extra lands often in your slower decks – don’t just stick to the 17 rule, and I would very rarely play 16 since there are just so many ways to use mana late.
Remember that everything I say below, like the rest of the review, is just a first impression, and I’ll amend my thoughts and address any ways in which I got it wrong during my written updates to the tier list!
Lorehold has many powerful gold cards, and Red/White seem reasonably strong individually, but my main issue with it is that the synergies seem a bit weak compared to what the other colours are doing. In the late game, the other colour pairs have more efficient cards that do more for the mana investment, rather than relying on mana sinks. Lorehold’s strength is that its early game is both capable of beating down and being useful late, since many of its creatures have okay bodies and then an additional effect that does something later.
I think the best way to build Lorehold is to seize the early game and beat down as your primary plan, backed up by tricks adn removal, and once that no longer works, continually spit out tokens and value to give you longevity and take advantage of your opponent’s weakened position – they probably won’t be able to keep up if you already have them on the backfoot, since they won’t have as much time to set up their better late game.
Prismari’s main plan seems to be to ramp up to its big spells, and it has a control gameplan with lots of card draw and removal to support that. Prismari’s weakness is that it can have some pretty clunky draws because it doesn’t really have that much ramp, discarding big spells to produce treasure tokens is mediocre if you don’t have synergy, and its creatures are on the medium side. It doesn’t always have access to as many big spells as it wants, since there are only two really big ones at common alongside one at uncommon, and I fear a lot of them will be snapped up and splashed by the Green decks (though at least the uncommon one isn’t splashable). I think it will want cards like Letter of Acceptance and Kelpie Guide a lot, and can do some splashing of its own to make up for that weakness or simply overwhelm them with cheaper spells and card draw.
Some more beatdowny Prismari decks will also be possible, if they lean more on the Red side of things and have Blue fliers and tempo spells to support them.
Silverquill is the best at beating down of all five colleges, with the strategy of suiting up evasive creatures with +1/+1 counters and removing most of its opponents’ stuff. It can lean on some of the sacrifice synergies from Witherbloom to move counters around and get value off opposing removal spells/protect its creatures, and it’s easy for it to chip away at opponents since they’re unlikely to be able to answer every single evasive creature, especially since it can use Lessons to increase its count.
The main weakness of Silverquill is that it does sacrifice late game by doing all this, and the other four colleges all do that better. If it doesn’t have the right answers at the right time, it can find itself raced or stymied by bigger creatures – in classic fliers fashion, its creatures are pretty understatted. It doesn’t have loads of powerful early plays or buffs, and it can be pretty weak to timely removal spells itself.
Quandrix has a powerful ramp plan alongside Green’s usual beefy creatures, and it takes most advantage of the Learn/Lessons mechanic since it has some really powerful Learn spells and access to plentiful mana to use the less efficient Lessons. It has perhaps the strongest late game, since the eight lands theme means many of its cards are useful early and then have huge swingy effects late. Being able to splash the big red Prismari spells or the best utility options from the other colours is a huge boon, though it doesn’t have as much fixing in this as Green has in most sets so it will have to expend some picks on dual lands/prioritise the fixers it has available.
Quandrix’s main weakness is that it has inefficient early turns, which a Silverquill or Lorehold player can really exploit. In classic ramp deck fashion, it can have some really awkward draws where it doesn’t draw the right mix of ramp, card draw, and payoffs, and it doesn’t have space for too many utility cards that don’t fit well with that dynamic, since that would further increase awkwardness.
Witherbloom has the beefiest creatures, backed up by plentiful removal and some solid ways to grind. The sacrifice and lifegain synergies it has access to have really strong payoffs, so if they work then they tend to be really powerful. When things come together, it is capable of really absurd draws at any point in the game, such as massively overstatted creatures on the early turns or drawing a bunch of cards and draining opponents for tons of damage later on. The combination of drain, good blockers, and lifegain gives it a lot of inevitability and makes it resilient and hard to disrupt.
My issue with Witherbloom is that it seems pretty hard to enable everything it has going on, and its synergies don’t necessarily mesh that well together. It can be hard to have Pest tokens die at the right times for lifegain synergies, and it can be hard to amass enough Pest tokens for sacrifice synergies, and none of that seems to go that well with the midrangey beatdown plan. Powerful payoffs don’t necessarily do all that much if they have awkward enablers, and I’m not sure it has enough tools to support two drafters well – which it will have to often.
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