It's spoiler season because it's always spoiler season here in the medium place. As such, we have another batch of cards to go over before next week where we have a bunch of new Commander precons to look over. It feels Sisyphean sometimes, but it's hard to complain too much. While some days I feel like Augustus Gloop getting waterboarded in that chocolate pipe until I never want to touch another Wonka bar again as long as I live, some days I feel like Scrooge McDuck, swimming in riches. Today is a McDuck day, I'd say. I'm in a good mood, there are fun cards I can't wait to use in decks in Strixhaven and I have a job writing about a children's card game, which feels like cheating. Buckle up, readers, because life is like a hurricane and my Strix picks are coming in hot.
I don't think this card is great per se, but there's something I like about it, and I think I want to use it as an example to highlight a 75% principle while still talking about the card itself. I think what I like about this card is that it separates fair Magic from unfair Magic. This slows down fair Magic, which is good. You break parity by slowing your opponent down. I've talked at length in the past about how 75% prefers Frozen Aether to Stasis - we want them stymied but not locked. You want to slow the game down but not make it take too long and be miserable. Blind Obedience doesn't do much against someone playing a Grizzly Bear every turn but it keeps the player using Kiki-Jiki to make a quintillion copies of Zealous Conscripts from doing anything. Strict Proctor makes an opponent have to pay seven mana to Acidic Slime but all but prevents the blink deck's big Ghostway turn. I used to advocate for Torpor Orb because I liked that someone could still play creatures but they couldn't do their ETB effects, making their deck worse but not keeping them from doing anything. I think Strict Proctor may accomplish a lot of what I like about Orb without any of the negative feelings associated with Orb. I have to try this and see if it's efficacious enough to play, but in terms of demonstrating what I look for in an inclusion into a deck built with the 75% principles in mind, Strict Proctor might as well have been designed by me for that purpose (not that I think I could have designed something this elegant). Is this a great card? I don't know. But it's a 75% card, and if you want to explain 75% to someone who isn't quite getting it, Proctor may be a decent place to start.
My opinion about tutors over the years has shifted, because it's a complicated topic and I don't want to write an article that gets retweeted by someone on the CAG and breaks twitter for a day like this guy did. Let me just say that a tutor that is a second copy of a combo piece is pretty boring. A tutor that is a toolbox is better. A tutor that makes you jump through some hoops? Well, that's just about the best. Loremage can save himself in a pinch by getting any Instant or Sorcery to give himself a toughness boost, he can find your copy of a Dredge card or reanimatable creature or he can thin out your deck and let you shuffle it. There is a lot of utility here. It's a very clunky card and it takes some work to have it resemble a tutor that just lets you have the card you want in your hand, and that's what I like about this. Syr Konrad and friends will jump for joy, and you know how I love cards like Animate Dead. Like I keep saying, this may not be a great card, but it's the kind of approach to Commander I've been advocating for with this series since 2014 and I'm at least going to give it a try in decks like Valki, Nath and Teysa Karlov.
Early in this series, I talked about how the best Counterspells in a 75% deck were the ones that prevented them from removing your cards from the board. While I have traded my Hindering Lights in for Dovin's Veto, I still have an affection for cards that work to protect your strategy rather than hindering theirs. I think Rushed Rebirth is a way to "counter" a removal spell, recover from a board wipe or make use of a borrowed creature. Remember, you can pick their creature and kill it, also, it doesn't have to be your creature dying. I love the idea of keeping this up to turn Player A killing Player B's creature into an opportunity to develop your board. This card has a ton of potential, and most of the ways I think I'll use it make it closer to Hindering Light than Demonic Tutor and that's what I like.
This card is a lot of fun. While it's no Meddling Mage on the other hand, it's not Meddling Mage. We don't prevent the opponent from casting their commander over and over, we punish them for it. If you read the 8 simple rules article (the one I hope people read when they look for what 75% is) a lot of what I've covered so far in this article is represented in those core tenets. This spanks the goofy, casual Relentless Rats deck a bit more than a tryhard Atraxa build, and that may end up making me cut this card, but in a meta with Orvar buyback decks, commanders cast a lot or other spells popping up a lot to vex us, this is going to command some respect.
Codie, Vociferous Codex
Who named this card, reddit? Was "Codie McCodexface" taken? My feigned incredulity aside, this card is very charming. I don't think you need to avoid playing permanents at all in the deck since you don't have to cast this if you don't want to and you can remove it from play in order to buy yourself a breather to play some more out. However, this is going to lead to some interesting spell cascades and I'm into it. If you ever wished Crystal Quarry could be your commander and also let you live the good old days of Bituminous Blast into Blightning (those days are old but I'm not sure they were good), this is your Codex. I don't know what's particularly 75% about this card, I just like it and I'm allowed.
Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy
Maybe it's the number of Roil Elementals I just bought, but I'm sort of starting to feel like more decks should cut Birds of Paradise and run Sakura-Tribe Elder instead. I play a lot of landfall decks, and they can all run Simic cards like Zimone, but not all of them have a card that can put extra lands into play and also fill your hand up. The one-mana activation to put the land into play hurts since it limits the shenanigans you can pull with say, a bounceland and Retreat to Coralhelm, but you can always either run Amulet of Vigor or Lotus Cobra or both. Sakura-Tribe Scout can't draw you 2 cards, and that matters to me. I think this is a pretty ridiculous card, and I could even see having her in the command zone, something I can't say about any of the other uncommon Legends in this entire set.
Uvilda, Dean of Perfection // Nasari, Dean of Expression
I would just like to express that this card is perfect. Getting a four-mana reduction on an expensive spell like Expropriate or a Time Walk is cool on the front side, but I'm really jazzed about the backside. Nassari is my favorite Dean of all time, I love it more than Craig Pelton, James Dean, and the guy that makes the breakfast sausage wrapped in a pancake put together. You can cast their spells. You're a Blue and Red deck and every turn you just get to exile a card from everyone and maybe play it. You have to pay mana for it, which is fair, and it always happens, which is great. This is as close as we're going to come to having Mind's Dilation in the command zone, and I'll take it. The deck I am going to build around this... What is more 75% than this?
Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands
This is very cool. New kinds of tax effects are always welcome, and this one is especially cool because it has a minor political bent to it. If an opponent is trying to choose between two permanents to blow up with a removal spell, they'll be glad to opt not to pay the tax to allow you to copy the removal and blow up the other. If they're trying to tap out for something huge, they can't or you'll get it, too. They either wait two turns or give you some value. Decks that do a lot of things in a turn will be impacted more than decks that don't, leveling the playing field. Get this out early and often, this is an incredibly fun card. People are going to be annoyed by "Did you pay the 2?" but this card didn't invent that concept, and it's certainly the most fun card with that effect.
There are a few cards in the set that aren't 75% cards per se but that I still think are cool and/or worth talking about. I did 75% of a 10-card review with the 8 cards above, but I'll round things out with 2 cards I think bear discussion because of how cool they are.
Despite getting Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" stuck in my head for the better part of an afternoon, this card is very cool. In a world with Smothering Tithe, Hullbreacher, Alms Collector and more, forcing someone to draw can be just as bad for them as it is good under normal circumstances. Drawing three and making a new friend or (temporary ally) at the table isn't the worst, either. Shared card draw isn't a new concept, but a lot of players playing now weren't around for whatever clunky "each player draws" cards they printed back in Mirage or whatever, so they're going to take a look at this and think this is a profound color pie break, though it really isn't. I'm absolutely going to pair this with cards that trigger if they draw extra cards and fill my own hand up to boot. This is a really cool card, and draw 3 for three mana is good even in Blue.
Mavinda, Students' Advocate
There is nothing terribly 75% per se about this card, I just really like the option to pay eight extra mana to cast something out of the 'yard. You're deterred from doing so, certainly, and decks like Feather that have a lot of spells that target your creatures are into this right away. I like the idea of paying a ton of mana for any old spell, though, because with Smothering Tithe and double secret Smothering Tithe (Monologue Tax) perhaps for a second cast of Path to Exile is a decent rate. I like this card and I'm going to play with its abilities outside of the obvious Feather infrastructure for sure.
There are plenty of other good cards in the set, don't get me wrong. There is a new, fairer version of Rogue's Passage that could be good with creatures that can beef up after they're not blocked. There is a very, very, very fair attempt at Library of Alexandria. I think some of the cards don't scale particularly well into Commander, but some of them are very exciting. Lorehold is a huge step forward for taking the "bore" out of "Boros." All in all, I'm excited for this set and I'm glad that so many of the principles we've been writing about for literally 7 years are demonstrated in this set. Thanks for reading, and be sure to tell me what you're building with Strixhaven goodies in the comments below. Until next time!