Welcome back to day three of our Strixhaven set review! Today we will be taking a look at the Black and Red cards. These two colors are included in four different schools so we can expect to see a wide range of abilities and synergies throughout. Let's jump right in and see what these two colors have to offer.
This article is the third of five, and in it I will be evaluating every Black and Red card and scoring them on a scale of 1-5. These ratings are purely based on Limited formats and have no bearing on Constructed play. I would also like to note these ratings are based on how I believe the card will perform in an AVERAGE Sealed or Draft deck. Often this means a lower score for cards with great potential in a highly synergistic deck.
Rating - Explanation
1- Ideally not making the cut in any of my Limited decks.
2- Not good, but a necessity for curve filling and smoothing out draws.
3- Value cards I am happy to fill my deck with.
4- Cards to get excited about and Premium Removal.
5- Reserved for cards that will win the game if left unanswered.
|Arrogant Poet - 2.5 - Anytime you are ahead on life this can finish the job. More aggressive decks love having this card. It also works well in Witherbloom where the decks generate extra life to mitigate the cost.|
|Baleful Mastery - 4 - Getting to exile any creature is great at 4 mana. Getting to kill Planeswalkers and getting a discount (with a downside) is all extra. This is a great removal spell.|
|Brackish Trudge - 2.5 - It is likely every Black deck will have some lifegain, so this is playable in any deck. In Witherbloom specifically this goes way up and can become a real recursive threat.|
|Callous Bloodmage - 3 - 3 mana is a great rate for this type of flexibility. This is great early and late in the game - offering modes to fit any gamestate. This is playable in any Black deck.|
|Confront the Past - 1 - This is not a Limited playable card.|
|Crushing Disappointment - 2.5 - Black typically gets this kind of spell, but this one seems a bit worse than usual. Paying one extra mana for an opponent to also lose two life is not a great price. It is an instant so maybe it's a wash.|
|Essence Infusion - 2 - I hate that this is sorcery speed. With the amount of counter synergy in the set it could see some play, but I will never be happy about running it.|
|Eyetwitch - 2 - Eyetwitch is a card I actually like a fair amount despite the lower rating. It is playable in any Black deck, but it only shines when there are a few quality Lessons in the sideboard.|
|Flunk - 4 - This gets better as the game goes on. It scales nicely with creatures as they are played, so I don't see much downside to it. At 2 mana and instant speed this is a good removal spell.|
|Go Blank - 2.5 - Mind Rot cards are hard to value at the start of a set. Their strengths are dependent on the speed of the format. Exiling your opponent's graveyard has some nice upside against Lorehold decks.|
|Hunt for Specimens - 3 - This seems like a great rate for a body and a replacement card. This card goes up in value the more Witherbloom cards and Lessons you have.|
|Lash of Malice - 3 - The flexibility this card has is great! Being an instant makes this a huge game changer for only 1 mana. I wouldn't run too many in the original 40, but having a few in the sideboard is great for more aggressive decks too.|
|Leech Fanatic - 2.5 - This "bear" has a fair amount of upside in a format with so much lifegain synergy. This is a great 2-drop that will see a lot of play.|
|Mage Hunter - 3 - Mage Hunter is going to be surprisingly good. The format doesn't have too many 4-drop creatures so it won't make the deck clunky, and it offers some nice reach later in the game. It is actually a decent size body in the format.|
|Mage Hunters' Onslaught - 3.5 - This is an interesting removal spell. Typically, 4-mana removal spells are instant speed and earn a 4 rating, but this is a sorcery and I do not think the extra ability is worth that loss in flexibility. Still worth playing in any Black deck.|
|Necrotic Fumes - 3.5 - This feels like card disadvantage, but if it was taken from the sideboard for free it really isn't. This format also makes a ton of Pest tokens I am happy to use this with. Honestly, without Learn spells I might play this in the main deck.|
|Novice Dissector - 2 - Decks with a lot of Pests might want this as a way to enable other abilities, but only getting to sacrifice at sorcery speed typically stops cards like this from seeing much play.|
|Oriq Loremage - 2.5 - This card is FINE. I am not excited about a four-mana 3/3 that has to tap for a few turns to become a threat. It also removes what are often the best spells from the deck if you want the +1/+1 counter. Getting cards like Brackish Trudge in the graveyard might be cute with this.|
|Plumb the Forbidden - 2 - Getting to cast this at instant speed means it can be used like a Village Rites, and that's decent against removal spells. Ideally this wants a few Pest tokens to make it really worth playing.|
|Poet's Quill - 4 - Wow. This equipment is kind of great. It has a great equip cost for the ability and it works so well with the strong lifegain theme in the set. There is no reason not to play this in any Black deck.|
|Professor Onyx - 5 - This is probably the strongest Planeswalker in the set, and for 6 mana I would hope so. This professor does everything I want it to do. It can protect itself and provides long term card advantage. It slowly drains opponents to death, and if all of this doesn't kill them her ultimate will...|
|Professor's Warning - 2.5 - Both abilities on this card are not very powerful, but it is cheap, instant, and flexible, and that makes it worth running if there is room.|
|Promising Duskmage - 2.5 - 2.5 is honestly the top end of this card. Without the text it is still a 2 when needing a filler card as a 2/3 for three, but there is enough +1/+1 counter synergy that this can replace itself often enough to get a slight bump.|
|Sedgemoor Witch - 4 - This card is insane for 3 mana. The menace makes it a great early game threat that can be awkward to remove. If left on the battlefield for any length of time, it generates bodies that synergize well with a ton of cards. This is a card to get excited about.|
|Specter of the Fens - 3 - This is a little overpriced for a 2/3 flier, but that is a cost I am willing to pay for the late game mana sink. I suspect a few games will be won with this activation.|
|Tenured Inkcaster - 4 - I love that this card synergies so well with Silverquill. This is likely to target an inkling token for a ton of value. Each time it attacks it will be a 5-point swing. With other counter synergies this card becomes nuts.|
|Umbral Juke - 3 - This offers a ton of flexibility for any deck. Getting to cast this at instant speed makes it one heck of spell.|
|Unwilling Ingredient - 2 - This cute frog is a bit hard to evaluate. It has some good synergy with sacrifice decks and could be great in counter heavy Silverquill decks. After all of that it even replaces itself! I am sure this has a home in quite a few decks even though it is reasonably low impact.|
Top 3 Black Commons
|Academic Dispute - 2 - The ability is too situational to run in most decks. With a few good Lessons it will be worth running as a cycle with some upside. If it ever kills a creature and Learns a Lesson it will be some decent value.|
|Ardent Dustspeaker - 3 - This is an interesting card. It puts good cards back into the deck (increasing card quality with any shuffle effect) while also gaining a huge card advantage. With a few removal spells to clear the way this can create a ton of value.|
|Blood Age General - 2.5 - This "bear" has a decent amount to upside to make it worth playing. There are enough spirits in the format that it will likely get some bonus value late in the game while filling out the curve early.|
|Conspiracy Theorist - 3.5 - This card offers a lot of potential value when it attacks. Looting away lands late in the game is a great ability to have, and getting to draw cards for casting things you wanted to cast anyway is amazing. Adding one colorless mana to each spell to add "draw a card" is amazing! Zephyr Boots seems like a great way to draw half your deck.|
|Crackle with Power - 4 - This is likely to be cast for 5 mana most games, and at that it's nothing to get excited about. There will be, however, games where this can be cast for 8 mana and that is game breaking. This is best played in Prismari, but will be played in any Red deck.|
|Draconic Intervention - 1 / 4 - Prismari decks are really the only ones that want to play this card. They have the ability to discard expensive spells early to turn this into an early removal against more aggressive decks. Make sure the deck has 4+ five-mana or higher spells before considering playing this.|
|Dragon's Approach - 1 - I had to read this card twice to make sure that all that text wasn't hiding something good. It wasn't.|
|Efreet Flamepainter - 3 - This card looks like Dreadhorde Arcanist but it plays a bit differently. It needs to connect with the opponent to trigger but it can replay any instant or sorcery from the yard. Great when paired with removal to clear the path which then lets you replay the removal spell. Remember that with double strike, if it goes unblocked it will trigger twice.|
|Enthusiastic Study - 2 - Combat tricks are way better when they Learn a replacement spell or loot away a land. Three-mana combat tricks can be tough to tempo out, so play them sparingly.|
|Explosive Welcome - 1.5 - This is far too expensive to see play even in the Prismari decks.|
|Fervent Mastery - 1 - I was all about this card until I read the last line. WHY DID THEY PRINT THIS?!|
|First Day of Class - 2 - With Lessons and Magecraft I might consider playing this, but it will likely be cut from most decks.|
|Fuming Effigy - 2.5 - Fuming Effigy is a decent size threat on the board, and its ability can be triggered reasonably easily with many cards in Lorehold - Tome Shredder and Stonerise Spirit to name a few.|
|Grinning Ignus - 1 / 2.5 - 3 mana is a horrible rate for the creature. Prismari is the only deck looking for this type of card. Getting to ramp into high impact spells without having to actually sacrifice the creature will be great for those decks.|
|Hall Monitor - 2 - Hall Monitor offers a bit of reach for aggressive decks, but is reasonably low impact on its own and is unlikely to see a lot of play.|
|Heated Debate - 4 - This is great removal. It will kill most things in the format and instant speed removal is always amazing to have.|
|Igneous Inspiration - 4 - This is something we typically see at instant speed, but it makes up for it by getting a free Lesson or looting away a land.|
|Illuminate History - 3 - Getting to Learn this spell later in the game means you never have to worry about drawing it when it has no value. Lessons are great at being there when you need them and never before.|
|Illustrious Historian - 3 - Cards that can be used to fill the deck's curve while also giving some late game value are always nice to have. It also has some great Lorehold synergies that will work well with all of their signpost cards.|
|Mascot Interception - 2 - Some aggressive decks will want to play this as a sort of finisher, but I am never happy about it. These spells are only fun when you get to sacrifice or Fling the creature after.|
|Pigment Storm - 3 - Five damage spells for 5 mana are always fine to play. It is a bit expensive and sorcery speed, so I am likely only playing one. Look for better removal when possible.|
|Pillardrop Warden - 2.5 - Good blocker with reach to help stonewall opposing fliers. It has multiple synergies in Lorehold decks as it is a Spirit and brings a spell back from the yard. This can be good in Prismari decks as well to stall the board while getting your expensive spells online and then bringing one back for extra value.|
|Retriever Phoenix - 3.5 - Any creature that gets to come back out of the graveyard is nice. This is an evasive creature that can become a recurring pain in your opponents butt.|
|Start from Scratch - 2 - This is a really low impact Lesson, so I would not be taking it highly. If there aren't other playables, this is nice to pick up to have access to in the sideboard. It gets a slight ratings increase for being a Lesson.|
|Storm-Kiln Artist - 3 - This card is amazing with all of the big spells we see in this set. It fixes for decks that need it and ramps into all the scary spells. With a bit of removal it can also turn into a decent threat.|
|Sudden Breakthrough - 2 - Sure Strike type combat tricks are always playable, especially in aggressive decks. This gives you one less power than usual but leaves you with a Treasure token in exchange.|
|Tome Shredder - 3 - Exiling one spell makes this fine, getting two or more makes it good. I love that Lessons and Learn will often get two targets for this wolf to eat. It also has a fair amount of synergy with Lorehold where this is likely to also trigger other cards at the same time.|
|Twinscroll Shaman - 1.5 - Without a decent amount of pump spells this is a bit too low impact to get excited about playing. In an aggressive deck with a fair amount of combat tricks I could see giving this a 1 point bump.|
Top 3 Red Commons
These articles are used for the draft ratings on Untapped.gg, and because of this we will be updating them periodically with new information and insight. Comments and discussions help me improve the articles and provide the best information for both other readers and Untapped.gg. So please feel free to comment below and give me your thoughts.
We are officially over half way through our review. After tomorrow we will be finished with all the mono colored cards and have a reasonable idea how much synergy support each school has.
I will see you tomorrow for Green, Colorless, Artifacts, and Lands!