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The Five Best Strixhaven Cards for Modern


Normally, Modern isn't a format that changes very quickly. It may see a new card here or the emergence of a new archetype there, but for the most part things stay pretty even from release to release.

Wrenn and Six
Once Upon a Time
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Well, or at least that used to be the case. Between the huge influx of playables (and bannables!) from Modern Horizons, as well as a bevy of design mistakes like Once Upon a Time, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, Modern has actually been a format in perpetual chaos and upheaval over the last few years.

Thankfully, with the release of Strixhaven it looks like we are getting a power reset and returning to some semblance of normalcy. This means that rather than looking at the new set and trying to figure out what card is going to completely upend the format and eventually get banned, we get to go back to the usual practice of trying to pick out the cards that might have an impact on one of Magic's most powerful formats.

As such, today were going to look at the five best additions to the Modern format that Strixhaven has to offer!

5. Vanishing Verse

Vanishing Verse

At first glance, Vanishing Verse looks incredible. An instant speed, exiling, two-mana Vindicate/Assassin's Trophy variant with no drawback? Holy moly!

However, Vanishing Verse does have a secret drawback:

Karn Liberated
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Thought-Knot Seer
Omnath, Locus of Creation
Chalice of the Void
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Wrenn and Six

It actually misses on a lot of really important cards.

When you put the "extra level" removal spell in your deck beyond the tier one options (Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Fatal Push) you are looking for some major upside, either in card advantage like Kolaghan's Command, or in versatility like Assassin's Trophy. So, when your versatile removal spell misses key cards, that's tough.

However, even with all of that being said, Vanishing Verse is still a very reasonable removal option for the format. A card that can kill Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Death's Shadow, Blood Moon, or Jace, the Mind Sculptor deserves a long look.

Vanishing Verse isn't a slam dunk, "play four of this in all of your reactive decks" kind of card, but that's okay! It's still a great flex removal spell that will see play in decks looking for that kind of effect.

Example Decklist:

4. Expressive Iteration

Expressive Iteration

In decks that want it, Expressive Iteration is essentially ur - "draw two cards." To contextualize how solid that is, Night's Whisper is a commonly played card in Vintage. It's not super flashy, but it's a great piece to the puzzle for decks looking for this kind of effect.

Typically, we see one-mana cantrips being played very often in Modern, Legacy, Historic, and really any format that has a solid density of them, because they're such good velocity tools for finding lands or action when needed. However, these cantrips never produce card advantage, only selection. This is why you can see Death's Shadow or Delver decks run out of gas, because they're relying on a lower land count and cantrips to find it but they're never actually getting ahead on material.

This is where Expressive Iteration comes in, as it plays like a cantrip but is a strict draw two.

It's not going to be a four of in any deck in Modern, but for low curve decks like Prowess or Death's Shadow it's an excellent tool to have access to.

Example Decklist:

3. Elite Spellbinder

Elite Spellbinder

Elite Spellbinder is a really sweet Magic card.

Tempo-based taxing effects are some of the best things that White can do, and Elite Spellbinder does an excellent job at putting your opponent off curve or off a key spell while most importantly providing a body that can actually attack and block well. Delaying your opponent but not actually doing anything with the time you gain by doing so is a recipe for disaster and Elite Spellbinder does a great job of avoiding this pitfall.

The biggest issue with Elite Spellbinder in Modern is the large glut of competition in the three-drop slot, as well as decks that have a naturally very low mana curve. If Elite Spellbinder was a 2/1 flier for two mana it would probably be one of the best White cards of all time, but at three mana it's got some steep competition.

Still, whether it's Aether Vial, Collected Company, or Noble Hierarch that Elite Spellbinder hangs out with, the card definitely has legs in Modern and is one to watch.

Example Decklist:

2. Clever Lumimancer

Clever Lumimancer

One-mana prowess creatures are a major feature of the Modern format.

Monastery Swiftspear has always seen play in burn, but in recent years more prowess focused decks have come into vogue doubling up on the effect with Soul-Scar Mage. These decks are much more explosive than a deck like Burn, but are also more vulnerable to both removal and simply not drawing one of their eight prowess creatures on turn one. I've even played a few Blistercoil Weird before just to try and up the density!

Well now we have Clever Lumimancer, with Magecraft acting as a pseudo-prowess effect.

Clever Lumimancer isn't just a super Soul-Scar Mage, as it does come with its own set of issues. It is more explosive, giving +2/+2, but also does nothing on its own in situations where you won't or haven't cast a spell, while only 1 toughness makes it very vulnerable to things like Wrenn and Six and Lava Dart. Magecraft is also not prowess, so when you board in that Rest in Peace or Alpine Moon, it will not be triggering or attacking that turn.

Still, even with the downsides, Clever Lumimancer is about as explosive of a 1-drop as they come. It plays like a mixture of Monastery Swiftspear and Kiln Fiend, in that if your opponent isn't interacting it is going to kill very quickly, but it's much weaker when your opponent is interacting. However, once you start slinging Manamorphose and Lava Darts around, it is going to attack for a lot.

Clever Lumimancer won't always be the best choice for your aggressive Red deck, but it's a solid option that is here to stay.

Example Decklist:

1. Thrilling Discovery

Thrilling Discovery

As we come to our number one Strixhaven card for Modern, we get reminded why Modern is such a great format.

"Wait Jim... Thrilling Discovery isn't even good in Limited!"

You're right! But so much of what makes Modern a great format is how it finds uses for oddball synergy cards.

Cathartic Reunion is probably the most powerful card in Dredge. The ability to do it all in one card - immediately get your dredge cards into the graveyard, then go off and dredge a whole bunch - is paramount to the deck's gameplan and level of success. This was made even more apparent when Faithless Looting was banned, as the deck became even more reliant on Cathartic Reunion.

Thrilling Discovery is just Cathartic Reunions five through eight.

There are some upsides and downsides; the life gain is nice (if only it was three life for Silversmote Ghoul!), but somewhat offset by the need to add a color to the deck. Having the discard not be a cost is usually an upside as you don't lose the cards if they counter it, but in a deck like dredge this will at times be a drawback as you actually want to put cards in your graveyard.

But all of these small details are just that, small details. The truth is that dredge now gets to play eight copies of its best card and that makes the deck a whole lot more consistent.

Example List:

Back to Normalcy

As I said last week, it feels awesome to feel like Magic design is settling back into a more normal flow.

The utter chaos of Constructed formats over the last few years has been both daunting and draining, so it's very refreshing that the best card for Modern in Strixhaven isn't some format warping Mythic but a synergy common that simply upgrades an established deck.

More of this please!

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