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Ten New Strixhaven Brews!

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Warning!

The decks you are about to see are mostly untested first drafts! They were played live on stream during the release day of Strixhaven on MTG Arena and are my first stabs at the new Strixhaven Standard and Historic formats. Most are brews jam packed with Strixhaven cards, while there are also a few updates to previously established archetypes, but it's important to note that these are the first steps and not finished products! Use them as stepping stones for your own deck brewing process, but play them card for card at your own risk!

Strixhaven: School of Mages is a complicated and clever set. It's not jam-packed full of overly pushed on-rate rares and mythics like Throne of Eldraine is, but also not just a mishmosh of really powerful gold cards like most Ravnica sets are. The cards are mostly flexible and interesting synergy pieces that take some figuring out to put together, while they largely work well within the synergies of their own colleges.

This is a good thing!

Standard has been completely off the rails in the last year or two and needs this sort of raw power reset. It does mean that it will be a little harder for Strixhaven to have an immediate impact on the current format, but it also means that we are headed in the right direction!

Today as per usual we're going to go over all ten decks I built and played on my stream Thursday during the Strixhaven release day, briefly going over each list and my thoughts on how it was, giving it a letter grade, and talking about what kind of potential it has going forward. Because of the impact of the Mystical Archives on Historic I built five Standard decks and five Historic decks and I played five games with each deck in best of one so the deck's record will also be included.

We'll start with the Standard decks, so let's go!


Deck's Record: 2-3

Deck's Grade: C+

Deck Potential: A-

Our first deck dug right into the Witherbloom themes of lifegain and recursion and came out with a subpar record but an impressive amount of potential.

Blex, Vexing Pest

The namesake and core of the deck is of course Blex, Vexing Pest, but realistically we're more interested in Search for Blex. Search for Blex digs deep, allowing you to find the few cards you need and dump the rest safely into the graveyard for later recursion. Like Sylvan Library, against slower decks you can afford to pay more life and draw a bunch of cards, while against decks that pressure your life total more you can be a little pickier.

Silversmote Ghoul
Deathless Knight

The big draw here to everything going on is Silversmote Ghoul, which isn't just for Modern Dredge anymore! Silversmote Ghoul is super easy to recur in this deck, which makes it not hard to set up spots where you are sacrificing it and just recuring it again on the next turn for some major card advantage. Being able to get it back for free is good tempo to as it's a great attacker and blocker. Deathless Knight does this to a lesser extent as you need to cast it, but it's phenomenal against slower decks and a great card to discard to Liliana, Waker of the Dead over and over again.

Valentin, Dean of the Vein
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Lisette, Dean of the Root overperformed by a wide margin and has to be a four-of going forward, with Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose also quite impressive. Even simple effects like Overgrown Arch and Mortality Spear were very nice.

The core idea here is good; with tuning, this could definitely be a player going forward.


Deck's Record: 3-2

Deck's Grade: C+

Deck Potential: C

Perhaps the most bizarre of the brews, Quandrix Quandry was looking to mix the Fractal tokens from Quandrix with past +1/+1 counter synergies like Conclave Mentor and Basri's Lieutenant.

Conclave Mentor
Basri's Lieutenant

Shaile, Dean of Radiance

Conclave Mentor has been existing on the fringes of Standard since it's printing in Core Set 2021. It does have a natural vulnerability to Stomp, but more so it just hasn't been able to find the proper support. There have been a few good +1/+1 counter cards like Basri's Lieutenant and Swarm Shambler, but not enough to push the deck into the forefront. Strixhaven adds a few options like Shaile, Dean of Radiance, but it is Quandrix and the Fractal Tokens that really mix things up.

Emergent Sequence
Biomathematician

Emergent Sequence is essentially just a 2/2 creature for two mana, but the fact it is a Fractal as well as uses +1/+1 counters is very relevant. Biomathematician may just look like a draft common, but note that it says "put a +1/+1 counter on each Fractal you control" not just the one it makes!

The Bears of Littjara
Guardian Gladewalker

Shapeshifters are Fractals too! The Bears of Littjara is just a really good Magic card, while Guardian Gladewalker and its +1/+1 counter fit into the deck very well.

There's a lot of really cool stuff happening here, but there's also a lot of moving parts and potential for fail rates. Not so sure about this one.


Deck's Record: 3-2

Deck's Grade: B?

Deck Potential: C

Mono-Black Devotion has been tried over and over again since Theros Beyond Death was released, but has always fallen short. So why are we trying again with Strixhaven?

Daemogoth Titan
Eyetwitch
Pest Summoning

Daemogoth Titan is HUGE. Pretty much unkillable without direct removal and impossible to attack into profitably, Daemogoth Titan sits around and hulks up the battlefield which is exactly what Gray Merchant of Asphodel is all about. Eyetwitch is a sneaky need addition that really helps fuel Daemogoth Titan as well as other sacrifice elements of the deck by going to grab Pest Summoning or Necrotic Fumes in a pinch.

Skyclave Shade
Ayara, First of Locthwain
Rankle, Master of Pranks

Add this on to a hybrid sacrifice/devotion shell with great fodder like Skyclave Shade as well as good engines like Ayara, First of Locthwain and Rankle, Master of Pranks and you've got a pretty decent shell. Murderous Rider is always solid and we even get to play a companion in Umori, the Collector.

Still, despite the record I have trouble believing that a few new cards are good enough to put Devotion over the top.


Deck's Record: 2-3

Deck's Grade: C+

Deck Potential: B-

Stonebinder's Familiar is a great sleeper card from Strixhaven.

Stonebinder's Familiar

Considering how many random things exile, it's not hard to trigger Stonebinder's Familiar every single turn and have a constantly growing threat. Seriously, you can exile their stuff, exile your own cards, cast adventures... over half of this deck's spells help to trigger Stonebinder's Familiar.

Robber of the Rich
Bonecrusher Giant
Skyclave Apparition

And it's not like we need to try hard either, as the cards that trigger Stonebinder's Familiar are just some of the best cards in the format. Great threat-based removal like Bonecrusher Giant and Skyclave Apparition, as well as premier threats like Robber of the Rich and Showdown of the Skalds. Even the new Elite Spellbinder gets in on the action!

There's definitely something here, but finding the right mix is going to be a bit tricky. It's also hard to justify playing an aggro deck that doesn't contain Embercleave or Winota, Joiner of Forces.


Deck's Record: 3-2

Deck's Grade: C

Deck Potential: B+

You read that right, we're still playing Standard!

Retriever Phoenix
Professor of Symbology
Igneous Inspiration

Retriever Phoenix is a very interesting card. Needing nothing but a learn trigger to recur is a very simple condition to meet, much easier than casting three spells or anything else, but being only limited to one recursion per learn (it is a replacement effect) means you can't go bananas with it. However, the fact that Retriever Phoenix can recur itself is awesome. Add this to the surprisingly good Professor of Symbology and Igneous Inspiration (as well as their corresponding lesson cards) and you've got a nice little engine.

Thrilling Discovery
Elspeth Conquers Death
Velomachus Lorehold

The second part of the deck, beyond the Lorehold Control elements, was to try to reanimate Velomachus Lorehold with Elspeth Conquers Death. This part fell a bit flat as it simply required too much setup. Not being able to deal with things like Emergent Ultimatum was also a problem, meaning the deck probably needs a Blue or Black splash as well.

The learn engine with Retriever Phoenix was very impressive however, and the fact that learn can also rummage to discard the Retriever Phoenix in a pinch was great too. This is an engine to watch!

Moving on to Historic!


Deck's Record: 2-3

Deck's Grade: C-

Deck Potential: D

Look, I just wanted to cast Stone Rain, okay?

Stone Rain
Goblin Ruinblaster
Waking the Trolls

Stone Rain joins Goblin Ruinblaster, and to a lesser extent Waking the Trolls, to form a small Ponza core in Historic alongside the Green mana acceleration. Turn two Stone Rain on the play off of a Llanowar Elves is still as backbreaking as ever, but the problem is that without redundant pieces to do it consistently it isn't really effective enough. There also aren't decks like Tron or Amulet Titan to pick on either.

Furthermore, many of the decks in Historic are either very low to the ground linear decks where land destruction is going to struggle, or they're playing many copies of Explore and Growth Spiral which can help undo your hard work.

It's fun, but Historic isn't really in the right place for Stone Rain to make much of an impact.


Deck's Record: 3-2

Deck's Grade: B

Deck Potential: B+

That's a lot of cards that are staples in Modern (and one that's banned)!

Faithless Looting
Thoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek

Cheap spells are the hallmark of powerful formats and this deck does not disappoint. A seven pack of turn one discard spells rivals what we see in Modern, while Faithless Looting is of course one of the best graveyard enablers ever printed. Add this to top notch removal like Lightning Helix and Vanishing Verse and we've got a great bevy of interaction as well as enablers.

Unburial Rites
Velomachus Lorehold
Darigaaz Reincarnated

So, what is our actual plan once we've taken our opponent off of their plan and killed a creature or two? Can I interest you in some dragons that are way ahead of schedule? Unburial Rites and Unbreakable Bond help to put Velomachus Lorehold and friends into play on turn four or five, presenting a game ending threat after you've shredded their answers. Velomachus Lorehold is an incredible card in the deck, not only killing very quickly, but also allowing you to cast cards like Unbreakable Bond on other dragons, play Crux of Fate to sweep the board, or just cast some of your cheaper removal to keep the party going. Drakuseth, Maw of Flames and Darigaaz Reincarnated are both absolute monsters with lifelink and serve to end the game very quickly.

This one was very impressive, although it probably needs some tuning as it could use a few more discard outlets.


Deck's Record: 4-1

Deck's Grade: B

Deck Potential: B-

Look, not every deck needs to be a carefully crafted masterpiece of complex interactions. Sometimes you just gotta swing!

Venerated Loxodon
Clarion Spirit
Toolcraft Exemplar

This version of Loxobots is much less artifact focused and much more "kill you as fast as possible" focused, with almost half of the spells in the deck costing one or less and only 19 lands. Venerated Loxodon comes down as early as turn three to add a ton of power to the board and then you kill your opponent.

So why are we playing this deck?

Mana Tithe

Because we get to Mana Tithe people, that's why! Mana Tithe gives the deck a serious and cheap level of interaction, allowing it to catch that key spell on turn three or four so it has time to take the win. We had some clutch Mana Tithes in this five game set, but I imagine they won't be as good once people wise up a bit.

Still, if you want to get in the red zone you could do much worse.


Deck's Record: 2-3

Deck's Grade: B-

Deck Potential: B

I've played a lot of Jeskai Control in Modern. The combination of cheap and powerful removal with great card draw is quite the draw and the deck got some huge upgrades with the Strixhaven Mystical Archives.

Lightning Helix
Electrolyze
Memory Lapse

Lighting Helix needs no introduction as one of the best burn spells of all time, and while Electrolyze may have fallen out of favor in Modern it's still plenty good for Historic. Memory Lapse is also a sweet new addition and though it's more of a tempo counterspell than a true counterspell, the Torrential Gearhulks push this deck to turn the corner quicker than most control decks.

Speaking of Torrential Gearhulk, it's probably one of the most improved cards in the entire Historic format.

Torrential Gearhulk
Magma Opus
Lorehold Command

The entire Prismari shtick is "really expensive instants that can cycle for a treasure" which plays right into Torrential Gearhulk's hands. Magma Opus is perhaps one of the most powerful instants we've ever seen, killing and tapping things, making a 4/4, and drawing cards which is phenomenal. You can discard it to make a treasure for a faster Gearhulk or just pitch it to Rain of Revelation. Also impressive is Lorehold Command, my pick for best command in the whole set. Between Lightning Helix, Lorehold Command, and Absorb, that's a ton of lifegain to help keep you alive.

Our record here wasn't great, but we had some awkward games and it was a small sample size. One way or another, Torrential Gearhulk's time has come. Just have a plan for Mystical Dispute in post-board games!


Deck's Record: 4-1

Deck's Grade: A-

Deck Potential: A-

Ah yes, I've saved the best for last.

Arclight Phoenix
Faithless Looting
Brainstorm

Arclight Phoenix was a large part of Faithless Looting getting banned in Modern, being an absolutely dominant force since the deck's inception. Cheap spells are already great, so adding a recursive and powerful win condition alongside them is awesome. With Faithless Looting and Brainstorm being two of the most powerful Mystical Archives, this deck is a no brainer.

Sprite Dragon
Crackling Drake

I've gone with the cheaper Sprite Dragon over Stormwing Entity, as without Manamorphse (and the ability to cast Stormwing Entity on turn two) I'm not happy playing my threat on turn three rather than attacking with it for a second time. Crackling Drake serves the other end of the spectrum as an absolute monster that is also just strict card advantage.

Expressive Iteration
Finale of Promise

Throw together a mix of really powerful and cheap instants and sorceries and top it off with Prismari standout Expressive Iteration and the extremely powerful Finale of Promise and you've got quite the deck. Just watch out for Narset, Parter of Veils!

The Shadow Of Eldraine

This Ten New Brews was a little rougher than usual, as Wizards of the Coast abruptly cancelled the Early Access Program at the start of last week, meaning all of these games were played on the open ladder on MTG Arena on release day. As such, many players didn't have Strixhaven cards yet and we played against a ton of Embercleave, Rogues, Yorion, and friends rather than a bunch of content creators all trying out Strixhaven brews.

As such, it is pretty clear that it may take a little while for Strixhaven to make an impact as we wait for the busted Throne of Eldraine and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths cards to rotate, but the future looks bright! Strixhaven feels like a creative and unique set with much to explore. I'm very excited for the direction Standard is going in and look forward to brewing more.

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