Top 5 Overrated and Underrated Strixhaven Cards
Hello everyone! Strixhaven spoiler season has come to the end so we are now transitioning from the second most exciting time to be a Magic player to the most exciting time, the brewing phase. For all brewing phases, you need to have a strong grasp of card evaluations, a difficult skill to master especially without actively playing any of the cards you’re judging. With that, I tend to find a lot of strong and homogenized opinions surrounding cards and want to help clear up some misconceptions.
In both this set and that past, there’s plenty of cards I’ve seen players hail as amazing when they are mediocre (Aurelia’s Fury, Assassin's Trophy, and Nullpriest of Oblivion) and those slated as mediocre that are actually amazing (Hydroid Krasis, Rekindling Phoenix, History of Benalia). Let’s hop right in!
UNDERRATED: Galazeth Prismari
I see an extremely common theme happen during spoiler season: If a mythic rare has an understated ability, it gets undervalued. This happens time and time again, and Galazeth Prismari is no exception. If we learned anything from Goldspan Dragon, it’s that creatures that make mana are generally a lot better than they look. Galazeth is certainly no Goldspan, but not only does it play very well with Goldspan Dragon, it works extremely well with the mechanic terrorizing Standard for the past few years, Adventure. The Adventure half of cards like Brazen Borrower and Bonecrusher Giant are quite cheap which can give you really powerful turns where you can Galazeth on 5, and hold open an Adventure card for free.
Furthermore, Galazeth can help you ramp towards larger spells whether that’s a Genesis Ultimatum or the much more popular Alrund's Epiphany. To round the card out, the 3/4 Flying body is a pretty reasonable stat line. Don’t underestimate the curve of Galazeth into Goldspan Dragon, or you may be on the receiving end of it.
OVERRATED: Prismari Command
It’s only fair that after I talk up an Izzet card I come back around to smack talk another! Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Prismari Command is a decent card. No, Prismari Command is not the next Electrolyze. I don’t know if others are seeing something I’m not, but a lot of the modes on this card are pretty underwhelming. A Deal 2 is fine, looting 2 cards is pretty meh most of the time, making a Treasure is meh (unless we’re working towards that with Galazeth Prismari and Goldspan Dragon, then it’s a bit better), and destroying an Artifact is pretty good.
So in the best case scenarios, Prismari Command can be great with killing a small creature and an artifact, but the average scenario it’s going to be a deal 2 with another meh effect, not the same as Electrolyze always netting value or sometimes even being a 3 for 1. I don’t think this card is bad and will certainly see some play, but it’s not as good as many people think.
UNDERRATED: Vanishing Verse
Similar to Prismari Command, most players recognize that this is a good card, but with the caveat that it’s narrow. I’m here to say this may be one of the best removal spells printed in years. We aren’t talking about removing just a monocolored creature, this is a monocolored permanent. All the Adventure idiots? Gone. Embercleave? Nah. The Great Henge? I’m good. Felidar Retreat? Outta here. Toski, Bearer of Secrets? Zip. This has such a wide breadth of targets I can’t believe players aren’t going absolutely nuts over this card.
Furthermore, what really good multicolor cards see that much play anyway? Companions like Yorion, Sky Nomad and Obosh, the Preypiercer come to mind, but not much else. This is what Mythos of Nethroi wanted to be (which I still think is a great card), and this should see widespread play.
OVERRATED: Double Major
To put it simply, this is the Mystic Reflection analysis all over again. A lot of players look at the absolute best case scenario where their Double Major copies something amazing and they win the game because of it. This has the secondary bonus of riling up players into a frenzy because this can copy Legendary creatures as well. I don’t mind players looking at the upside of a card and I’ll even admit that players can sometimes be too pessimistic on the power level of a card, but like Mystic Reflection, this card is also very narrow.
To start with, you can only copy creature spells, not creatures on board. What this means is that the creature has to be on the stack when you want to copy it. So similar to Mystic Reflection, you’re going to need an extra 2 mana to work with which can be difficult, especially when the card you’re looking to copy is probably expensive.
The second issue is the Reverberate problem. If you go for a Double Major with your creature on the stack, and in response your opponent counters the creature, the Double Major fizzles. The upside to most Clone effects is that they don’t target so it’s hard to fizzle them, but for this one, you can very easily get blown out just for the chance to get a 2 mana clone that you have to use immediately. I’ll pass.
UNDERRATED: Quandrix Cultivator / Eureka Moment
I wanted to bundle these together as not only are they quite similar, but they would probably go in the same decks if not compete for the same exact slot. Surprisingly though, both cards have completely flown under the radar and only reached “That card is neat” territory without functionally anyone thinking of the competitive applications of them.
Let’s start with Quandrix Cultivator. The most apt comparison to Cultivator is Solemn Simulacrum and for good reason. Both are 4 mana creatures you predominately play to ramp. Beyond that, there’s a major difference; Solemn is a small body that draws a card on death, while Cultivator is a 3/4. It’s easy to think Solemn is better as it has more abilities, but I challenge that notion. A big issue with why Solemn hasn’t seen play in quite awhile in Standard despite it being a great card in a vacuum is precisely its size.
The ramp and the card draw is nice, but the 2/2 body is just so low impact against a lot of the decks you’re likely to be facing. Quandrix Cultivator on the other hand can really tussle in combat. 3/4 isn’t the largest stat line out there, but to play a ramp creature that can trade with a Bonecrusher Giant should definitely not be ignored. Ramp decks really needed ways to help bridge the mid game into the late game, and Cultivator may be that key.
Now, let’s get to Eureka Moment. There’s been a large misconception about Eureka Moment which I believe has hurt people’s ability to properly evaluate it. A lot of players saw Eureka Moment, and instantly thought Growth Spiral. In fairness, it’s a pretty apt comparison. The cards are functionally the exact same, except Eureka Moment is 2 more mana for an extra card. The issue with that though, is that Growth Spiral was good because it was 2 mana, tacking on 2 mana definitely hurts the card. Once again, I don’t disagree, but when I saw Eureka Moment, I actually saw a different comparison: Urban Evolution. Urban Evolution was an absolute house and a half in Limited, and saw some Constructed play as well.
Now Eureka Moment only draws 2 card, but not only is it a mana cheaper, it’s an instant! This immediately made me think of decks like Sultai Ultimatum or Temur Ramp that wanted to hold open mana for reactive spells, but want proactive things to do if they don’t want to use their counterspells and such. Behold the Multiverse is currently in that slot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if giving up the Foretell and Scry 2 for ramp would just be the direction those decks want to go.
OVERRATED: Semester’s End
Magic players love flicker effects, and I am certainly no exception. Flicker effects net you additional value off of cards that likely already nabbed you some value so it feels inherently good to cast cards like them. If you get to flicker something in response to removal as well, that’s just gravy.
That being said, Semester’s End is a decent flicker effect, but lacks support for it to be viable. How do I know? Look at how all the Yorion decks in Standard are constructed, very rarely are their creatures involved, and when there are, they’re not creatures that necessarily pair well with flickering. The last time flickering a lot of creatures in Standard was good was the one week everyone thought Azorius Yorion was busted, only to realize that the deck wasn’t that good to begin with. The issue is, decks that are just a pile of value creatures and a big flicker may seem good, but generally lack the capability of actually closing out games.
Semester’s End can help by giving each of those creatures a counter, but realistically speaking, how is that any better than casting a Embercleave, ”The, Emergent Ultimatum, or even just Yorion, Sky Nomad itself!. These types of effects are always tempting, but they very rarely live up to the hype. Ephemerate on the other hand, that card is busted.
UNDERRATED: Decisive Rejection
Wizards of the Coast seems to love Simic as a color pairing for whatever reason recently. Similar to Quandrix Cultivator and Eureka Moment, I feel in general that a lot of players struggle to evaluate potentially powerful commons and uncommons. This applies doubly so to Decisive Denial, a card I’m pretty surprised isn’t a rare.
Temur Adventures is currently one of the best decks in Standard, and a lot of pilots have moved away from Obosh, the Preypiercer to gain access to 2 mana interaction. Predominantly, the two cards I see most often in the 2 mana slot is Fire Prophecy and Negate. Two great cards with two drastically different effects. Now, Wizards just rolls up with both those cards in one, and nobody cares? Ok, Decisive Rejection is more situational than both of those cards, but the flexibility is key. The ability to Fight something is pretty good in a deck that has Bonecrusher Giant and Lovestruck Beast, and the ability to counter non-creature spells is just a universally good card.
It’s true that Rejection does neither job better than it’s current counterparts, but the fact that it’s hard for this to be the “wrong” card is whats important. The issue with narrow and powerful cards are just that, they’re narrow. Negate is an amazing card, but does nothing when the opponent is beating you to death. Fire Prophecy is a super efficient removal spell which doesn’t look great when a The Great Henge is coming down. If you’re playing any Simic deck with creatures, it’d be hard to imagine that Decisive Rejection isn’t in there as well.
OVERRATED: Emergent Sequence
Now this pains me to say this as a Rampant Growth stan, but this card is bad. Real bad. I’ve seen many people think this is a slightly worse Rampant Growth, but I think this is a mostly worse Tangled Florahedron. Both are very susceptible to removal, but playing a tapped Forest is a lot less embarrassing than getting a creature thats likely going to be killed anyway. Emergent Sequence can be any basic which is a nice bonus, but I can’t imagine this ever seeing play as long as Bonecrusher Giant is legal. Even when Bonecrusher is gone, I don’t love the prospect of this cards playability.
UNDERRATED: Venerable Warsinger
The most ironic part of me slating this as underrated is that I thought it was actually overhyped when I first saw it. It’s very rare that a creature that has to connect with the opponent to do anything is good, thus I figured Warsinger would fall into this category of creatures as well. However, I failed to consider the context of what you could pair Venerable Warsinger with. Right off the bat, it pairs very well with cards that buff power like Embercleave or even Rimrock Knight.
That’s all well and good, but not the real prize. Venerable Warsinger is the perfect card Winota has been looking for. It’s a scary creature in its own right, a non-human to help trigger Winota, and pairs disgustingly well with Selfless Savior to constantly force through damage against most other creatures in the format (barring Lovestruck Beast). I probably love Winota more than I should, but this seems like an amazing addition to it and may finally propel the deck into relevancy.
OVERRATED: Baleful Mastery
Boy oh boy did I save the best for last or what. You would not believe the amount of comments I saw calling this one of the best removal spells ever printed. Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not only is this card not one of the best removal spells ever printed, it’s hardly better than Eat to Extinction.
Let me explain. Tempo is a powerful advantage in Magic. Being able to remove a creature or walker for just 2 mana is a great rate. However, giving the opponent card to get a glorified Doom Blade most of the time is rarely going to be worth it. The issue is that an aggressive deck would want to leverage a universal 2 mana removal spell, but giving the opponent a card is a ridiculously high drawback most players aren’t considering. I’ve been 3 for 1d by a Shatter the Sky, but didn’t mind that much since I got to draw a card off of it.
I believe Baleful Mastery will see play, probably in an archetype that doesn’t mind casting it for 4 and being able to cast it for 2 in a pinch (like Sultai Ultimatum), but this isn’t the savior most players are looking for.
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