With the imminent release of the new Strixhaven set, B Phillip York and FromTheShire are evaluating the first years as they make their way into the academy. Note that as our typical coverage is focused on Commander, we’ll be primarily examining the set’s cards through that lens, though where we think something might have use in another format we’ll make a note. For more on how the set will shake out in Modern, consider checking out The Dive Down Podcast, who do some pretty great analysis of Modern.
BPhillipYork: This could appear in Feather or other Boros decks, or in decks that contain triggers around “if spell has a single target, copy for each possible target” decks. Unconditional permanent hexproof is a thing of the past, and in color identities lacking counterspells this is a way to protect a beater or commander.
FromTheShire: Definitely seems solid in Feather decks, but most of the time if I’m trying to protect a commander I’d rather have a permanent effect like Lightning Greaves.
FTS: I could see this being a thing in something like a Jeskai Prowess deck in Modern. Currently those decks have taken somewhat of a backseat to Izzet Prowess and Colossus Hammer, but +2/+2 instead of +1/+1 might be enough to give white and its excellent sideboard cards a bump.
BPhillipYork: This is pretty much a solid prowess card, a 1 drop that gets +2/+2 per spell cast or copied, and is a human wizard to boot, so I can easily see this seeing play in Jesakai punching guys decks.
BPhillipYork: I don’t have a a lot of insight to offer on this “pay less, get less” effect, in multiplayer games like Commander and Conquest in particular it seems it will have a very distinct political dimension. 4 white mana and 2 colorless to wipe the board clean isn’t so bad, and 4 is rather reasonable at that even if it means letting someone choose to keep two permanents. Since it returns them, in Commander in particular this card would be really nuts if you have say, a Rhystic Study on the board, or want to get a lot of enemy creature ETB triggers off.
FTS: More often than not you’re going to pay the extra for this cycle of cards, but having the option to get the discount in an emergency is really nice. This is a fine rate for a total board reset, and the political upside is a nice bonus.
BPhillipYork: This is playable in blink decks and combos in a really unpleasant way with certain cards like Drannith Magistrate.
FTS: Combined with Magistrate in a blink deck this is solid, overall I’m unlikely to run it though. Generally tax effects just don’t get there in Commander with the longer games and greater mana production, and single opponent isn’t great either.
BPhillipYork: This is prowess for your whole board, which is fairly scary. Again I think this could definitely be a big punching Jeskai type deck, and possibly see play in combination with cards like Feather.
FTS: Buffing your whole team is a great effect for spellsplinger decks, especially if some of those spells are making tokens to be buffed by your other spells. In decks like Kykar, Wind’s Fury or Akim, the Soaring Wind this can snowball out of control quickly.
BPhillipYork: This card fits Boros decks almost too well, and I think it’ll see a lot of play, it’s basically Feather lite, and in combination with prowess it lets you double dip some really powerful spells, or have some redundancy if your commander gets turned into a moon or an elk or something.
FTS: Really this fits in a ton of spell heavy decks – my first thought is something like Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest. Being able to flash all of your instants and sorceries back is super powerful, and there will even be circumstances where you will pay the 8 late game to get something that isn’t targeting your creatures.
BPhillipYork Very solid card in my opinion. It’s nice to see white getting a bit of land search that isn’t depending on having less lands in play than everyone else. It’s also a spirit, a useful sub-type, there were already spirit triggers such as Kykar, Wind’s Fury and Kamigawa, now there will be even more spirits and Strixhaven offers a bunch of cards that care about spirits, and recursion is always a useful trait, particularly when it offers something everytime it returns. The six mana cost is enough that it would be almost pointless trying to force it to go infinite, but even so I think it’ll see play at lower power levels.
FTS: Obviously it would be better if it ramped you rather than just finding a land, but in white, you’re happy to have it. One of the most important things in Commander is hitting your land drops so this is a slam dunk.
BPhillipYork: Playable in decks that want to recur with lifedrain, death and etb triggers, as well as spirit or cleric decks. This could also be combined with cycling cards and the drifting cycle enchantments to create an infinite combo.
FTS: Eh, Astral Slide and Astral Drift both return at the next end step, so it’s more of a value combo. It also doesn’t return the creature to the battlefield, so you can’t do Karmic Guide style shenanigans very well either.
BPhillipYork: This is one of the playable lessons imo, sorceries are slow but exile target permanent is a big deal.
FTS: It’s definitely valuable to have the flexibility to hit any nonland permanent with a single card. As discussed in our thoughts on the mechanic yesterday, it also bumps up if your group decides to allow some type of sideboard.
TheChirurgeon: MaRo called this out in his latest design article as a new way they want to try out card drawing in white, to help the color be not quite so shit in Commander, where “going wide” is uh, really bad and running out of gas late-game is a big enough issue in non-Commander formats. They apparently tested “everyone draws,” saw rightly that it was bad, and decided to try this out instead. I think it’s kind of neat, but it’s not going to appeal to the type of player that loathes the political aspects of Commander.
BPhillipYork: This card just feels like an enormous fuck you from the R&D team. White can get around it with Alms Collector, and also has Notion Thief if it’s Esper, and blue has Hullbreacher, there’s other ways to stop opponents from drawing cards and that’s all fine, but it’s such a tease to say “oh we’ll have a white card that says draw three” and then have it be near unplayable except in a combo.
FTS: Kind of telling that white is in such a bad spot for card draw that this is both probably one of the better draw spells for the color while simultaneously not being worth playing save in either the most political of decks, or ones built around shutting off your opponent’s draws already. I would argue that if you’re doing either of those plans you’re almost certainly in a multicolor deck and you should just use the actually good card draw spells that color has to offer instead. Even in the mid power decks at our table people aren’t going to let other people draw extra cards if they can help it. Given how much the color pie has been bent in recent years, it’s kind of baffling that the one hard line they still draw in the sand is that white can’t draw cards good.
BPhillipYork: Huge card, huge potential, generating a ton of ETBs at once is really powerful. Giving them +1/+1’s is powerful surviving a Wrath of God or other board clear, also pretty nice.
FTS: Eerie Interlude was already a fantastic card both defensively and for mass flickering, and paying an extra mana to both come back with a counter AND let you protect or reset planeswalkers as well is amazing.
BPhillipYork: Storm spells are playable, especially in a new, magecraft having environment. This could also combine with Sage of Hours to take a lot of turns.
FTS: Outside of doing the Sage combo I don’t think this does enough for storm decks but I could be wrong. Generally if you are able to hit a high enough storm count for this to matter you’d rather be casting Grapeshot or Tendrils of Agony.
BPhillipYork: This + Najeela, Blade Blossom + Jegantha, the Wellspring = infinite attacks. Combining that with learn (in commander, aka cycle type selection) is a viable card. It’s also 3 CMC, so can be grabbed with Zur searches.
FTS: Untapping creatures is almost always powerful, it’s mainly a question of if you’re taking enough advantage of the effect to be worth including the card in your deck. In cases like the one Phillip outlined, the answer is a definitve yes.
BPhillipYork: Hugely good stax effect. Also a spirit cleric, both of which tribes are starting to matter.
FTS: 2 mana, 2 relevant creature types, countering ETB’s unless they pay 2…… 2 Good, Opponents Furious. Seriously though this is incredible – yes it is a tax effect which broadly aren’t good in Commander, but so many decks are built so heavily around using ETB’s that this is an auto-include if your deck isn’t one of them. The sheer volume of times it will come up means they can’t possibly pay for them all. I already frequently include Torpor Orb in my decks so I’m stoked to do my best Umbridge impersonation.
BPhillipYork: So, this is one of the strongest cards in the set, hands down. Amazing draw potential, draw your deck as a wincon, just… great card. Butt is kind of small, thankfully, so actually vulnerable to common red board clear, but really this ought to be a white card.
FTS: Yeah this card is bonkers good. As I said in our mechanics review, making your spells into cantrips is crazy powerful, letting you to continue chaining them together until you assemble a win. Even in a “worst case” where you’re tacking a card draw on to a Rampant Growth, the value is so damn good. Definitely want to have protection up when you cast this because it’s a kill on sight for your opponents.
BPhillipYork: Playable card selection, especially in Dimir or Esper reanimator decks, being an instant is huge over cards like Portent.
FTS: I’ll defer to Philip on this one, I don’t remember ever feeling like there weren’t enough cards similar to this when I needed one, but I also don’t usually play cEDH.
BPhillipYork: Very playable counter spell, because it’s not a counter. Can counter uncounterable spells by returning them to hand, or a combo piece, can also be used to protect your own combo pieces.
FTS: If your meta has people using uncounterable things this is solid, but even then I suspect those things will be instants or sorceries and you will want Narset’s Reversal instead. Still, the effect is unique enough that if you want one you probably want both, and getting to Learn and extra targets seems fine for the extra mana.
BPhillipYork: I’m going to get yelled at but I’m not covering this card.
FTS: How very dare you, sir. This is a great addition to one of the best and most storied tribes in all of Magic, Birds. 3 mana for a 3/2 flier that lets you rummage when it dies is great, because your opponents are definitely going to need to boardwipe to escape from the merciless beatdown your UW Aggro Fliers.
BPhillipYork: This seems borderline playable, but there are really stronger X card draws for blue, some of them instant, replayable, etc.. The 3 cost choice thing is interesting, and at instant speed I think this would see some real play, but as a sorcery, not so much.
FTS: Agreed, it’s not bad per se, but I’m playing something like Blue Sun’s Zenith instead. Fine as a budget alternative though, you’re always playing this for its X cost.
BPhillipYork: Potentially playable combo piece for various things, the blanket ability to untap a permanent can be quite strong, but would have to be part of a fairly specific deck.
FTS: There are a bunch of decks that use untap tricks and getting another untapper is great. Whether it’s ramping you by untapping a basic land, or turbo-boosting you by untapping a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, giving you an extra blocker, letting you use Exert creatures every turn, combining with pingers…. This effect is great.
BPhillipYork: On the face of it this isn’t a very good card, but one possibility I see for it is to remove a stax piece temporarily, so you can cast a bunch of spells or do something. One of the tradeoffs of playing against stax decks is you frequently don’t want to risk destroying a powerful stax effect because doing so will potentially let another player win. This lets you temporarily remove such a piece, and is a lesson, so particularly if your playgroup allows wishboards I could see it being played. You could also do some really goofy thing with creatures that kill themselves at the end of the turn, for various reasons.
FTS: This is also great for dealing with a problematic creature, either temporarily with a cast, or permanently by removing indestructible when it is in combat or about to be boardwiped.
BPhillipYork: I think this card is just kind of annoying, and it’s a neat idea, but in commander terms at least I really don’t want to watch someone sit there and try to figure out each turn if they should scry 1, bounce a creature, create a token, or tap out to do all three. As an instant this would be a great flexible control card. As a sorcery it’s lacking. In a deck that is all about allowing sorceries all the time, it has some potential.
FTS: The flexibility is nice, but I don’t think even combined this actually does enough to run it.
BPhillipYork: The exile effect is potentially quite strong, but since this is creature or planeswalker only I just think there are far better blue counterspells. It is possibly one of the first that is “counter a creature or planeswalker” but unconditional counters exist (like negate) and that’s usually more important than an exile effect.
FTS: I really like counters that exile. Frequently there are problematic cards that are just going to come right back if they go to the graveyard. I don’t know if the mana discount is worth the ability for your opponent to pay vs something like Faerie Trickery but I will be giving it a try.
BPhillipYork: I hate this card. Blue has some of the best creature control in commander, with Rapid Hybridization, Pongify, Reality Shift, and Curse of the Swine. Oh wait, now blue gets another creature control that doesn’t care about toughness, BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. It’s targeted artifact removal, something blue rarely if ever had before. You know, that was white and green’s thing in the color pie. Oh well, guess blue needs to be best at everything yet again.
FTS: Yeah remember what I said about how I said white not being able to draw cards was kind of the only color pie thing that holds true anymore? This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. It’s extremely good and I’m going to run it in everything buuuuut this card shouldn’t exist. I understand the thought process on the creature half, blue has a history of Polymorph effects, but exiling an artifact…..
BPhillipYork: Yeah this is a 3 cost tutor for an instant or sorcery in a set that lets you go infinite with copying spells and there are spells that copy themselves so… you do the math. No you don’t have to be able to do math, just play blue.
FTS: This is no Mystical Tutor, but it also doesn’t have to be to be great. Nice that it’s at uncommon so hopefully it will stay reasonably costed in dollars as well.
BPhillipYork: This is okay, maybe. I mean it’s a lesson, lets you redraw if you dump your hand, but that’s a pretty gangbusters strategy. I do appreciate a card that lets you make up for having less cards in hand, especially in Jeskai decks that want to dump a ton of rocks and redraw rapidly, I could see it.
FTS: I’m on the fence about this one. On the one hand it’s a solid little card on paper, but on the other you’re playing blue…. How often is an opponent going to have 4 more cards in hand than you?
BPhillipYork: Playable in mono blue or decks with a lot of treasures or pip control, because grabbing potentially 3 creatures is quite huge.
FTS: I like this as well, and 4 mana seems about right for Blatant Thievery -lite.
BPhillipYork: Definitely playable. Nice flexible card, cheapest destroy target creature/planeswalker combo I’m aware of, potentially, and giving away a card draw isn’t the end of the world if you are not losing because of it. Also has a potential political dimension, and there are plenty of ways to rob your opponents draws.
FTS: Even better, it’s exiling not just destroying, which is a huge boon with how many decks use their graveyards as a second hand. Vraska’s Contempt is great, being able to cast it for 2 in an emergency is even better still.
BPhillipYork: Totally playable, in vastly different decks. Goes well with token decks, Abzan or Golari life gain, flickering decks, vampire decks, nice toolboxy but reasonable effects, though it’s a bit strange this is a warlock and not a wizard.
FTS: Very solid flexibility, all of these modes are things you will want at different times. Nothing flashy but you’re here for the utility, basically.
BPhillipYork: This is a new kind of card, and has a really powerful effect, especially given cards like the new Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, and the possibility of instantly dropping ultimates, and then popping off more turns or something of that nature, then doing it again. Also lets you stash planeswalkers into your yard, with cards like Entomb.
FTS: Reanimating planeswalkers maaaaybe doesn’t make a ton of sense to me lore-wise, but is a very cool and good effect in the game. Being able to use it as targeted removal is really nice as well.
TheChirurgeon: I’m cool with it. I mean they’ve got corpses and everything.
FTS: Ok this is nothing as an actual commander card, I just want to mention it because I love it and the fact it doesn’t have Partners with Fblthp, the Lost is a crime. Shame on you, Wizards.
BPhillipYork: We can neither confirm nor deny that the Eyetwitch represents a superweapon, and if you stop looking at it the card text will change.
BPhillipYork: This is potentially a rough card to play on someone, but it’s very uncontrolled and I think in the political nature of many commander games, not a justifiable card.
FTS: I kind of like it as a little extra FU to go with your graveyard hate, but it’s definitely not the most cost efficient way to exile a graveyard.
BPhillipYork: This is a pretty good stax effect, and will instantly shut down magecraft infinite combo decks.
FTS: This only does one thing, but it does it well. Whether that’s something you actually need will depend on your playgroup.
BPhillipYork: This is a tough card to justify unless you have a lot of tokens, many decks that might be willing to play this would really want the death effect of the card going to graveyard, or even possibly being sacrificed.
FTS: Worth mentioning because it is an exile effect, but it’s also sorcery speed. Most decks will have a token or utility creature to exile in a pinch so that doesn’t bother me.
BPhillipYork: Wow this is entomb on a stick. Definitely playable in mid-range commander games, also I guess warlock is a new exciting death associated tribe.
FTS: Remember how I talked about most commander decks using their graveyard as a second hand? Yeah, this is outstanding. I don’t even care about the counters, I’m here for that sweet tutoring. It’s riskier since it has to survive to untap, but 4 mana is a fine gamble on getting this repeatedly.
BPhillipYork: This card is amazing. Absolutely amazing. This a a much, much stronger version of an already playable card. Like for real, plumb the forbidden is nuts imo. This is a potential wincon with a huge number of other pieces, as well as a strong value card on it’s own. I’d normally expect it to be a sorcery, but for some reason it’s an instant. I’m a little surprised it’s not blue.
FTS: Paying life to draw cards is my favorite thing to do in black, and this card SLAPS. Board wipe me, will you? Me and my new hand will see you in hell.
TheChirurgeon: I’m a big fan of the move to incorporate set mechanics into the set’s Planeswalkers – it helps to keep them fresh a lot longer conceptually – and Professor Not-Liliana here is a great implementation of it, both flavor- and power-wise. That Magecraft trigger is already setting off “infinite combo” alarm bells in my head.
BPhillipYork: I built a deck around this card as soon as I saw. Have you heard of a little thing called “Chain of Smog”? Good game. Also it’s a planeswalker, letting you run massive board clear effects. Also it lets you draw for a +1. Also it lets you force a sacrifice. Really strong card. Will be all over. A bit pricy, but for a win con, it’s worth it.
FTS: All three loyalty abilities are great, and the static ability ranges from solid incidental value to game ending. It’s also pretty cool that this is our first planeswalker without their name in their card name.
BPhillipYork: Another huge card, potential win con with things like Chain of Smog or copying spells, also fits into Abzan and Golgari life gain decks just… great card. Another warlock too.
FTS: Well costed stats, built in evasion, built in protection, AND a value engine – love it. So many black decks want sacrifice fodder, and this is a great source for it. Going to see a ton of play.
BPhillipYork: I like the idea of this card, and it’s neato, but it’s too unusual an effect and too expensive. If Orzhov continues to receive the whole +1/+1 counters theme it’ll be worth revisiting.
FTS: In an Abzan or Golgari counters deck this can get out of hand pretty quickly. There’s also a subtheme of counters in some Vampires decks as well where this will be right at home.
BPhillipYork: Potentially a huge card, could be quite powerful in Boros attack decks but it’s definitely pricey at 5 mana value, so probably too slow to be worth whipping out. Card draw and recursion though is a really powerful combination in one card. It’s also a minotaur, which potentially matters, as there is a minotaur search, so both for things like minotaur tribal, Najeela, Neheb, or Godo this is a potentially powerful card (aka extra combat decks).
FTS: RB Minotaurs usually has at least a discard subtheme, and this is a good way to cycle your discarded cards back in to your deck while also giving you card advantage. See white, red has figured out a reliable way to draw cards. Get your act together.
BPhillipYork: This is an enormously powerful card for its second ability, letting you cast cards you cycle is huge (worth noting it’s cast, not play) it also lets you do card selection on attack.
FTS: I really like this too. You are generally going to want other discard outlets to enable the second ability, because mixing it up in combat with a 2/2 is not really where you want to be.
BPhillipYork: This is a potential win con, so huge. Though you basically have to generate near infinite mana to really make it explode, killing 3 players outright would require 26 mana by my count (888RR means 40 damage to each of up to 8 targets)
FTS: Power! UNLIMITED POWER!!!! Red is fully capable of huge bursts of mana, and what better to ritual in to than UNLIMITED POWER! Unleash the full fury of the Dark Side on your opponents, bonus points for each time you can Fork it.
BPhillipYork: This is a nice board clear for red, non-dragon is a strange hill to die on, though it combos sort of hilariously with Dragon’s Approach and the spell trample effect of Kaldheim.
FTS: Loooooove it. Flavorful as hell, great rate, and as someone with a number of Dragon decks, I can’t WAIT to jam this in to every single one of them with red in it. Plus it exiles? Sign me all the way up.
FTS: Another one that’s neat. As the proud owner of a Thrumming Stone Shadowborn Apostle well before the Command Zone blew it up, I’m almost certainly going to try a stunt deck with this. I’m a huge fan of weird ‘can have any number of cards’ builds in general, and this is one of the better ones. I’m still salty that I can’t go for the Hedron Alignment win in Commander.
BPhillipYork: This is a fun card for a combo deck, especially with storm effects and magecraft running rampant, and plenty of the dragons will actually feed into this ability, give it ripple and see how it goes, I’m definitely working on a deck around this card, has amazing potential with the Mizzets.
TheChirurgeon: This is my favorite card in the set.
BPhillipYork: This is a creature with a quite powerful effect and a huge butt and also double strike. The danger of course is that any creature with 3 or more butt can simply block it, and at 4 mana value it’s going to be fairly slow to hit the board. There is a kind of strange interaction where you could use this to recast a spell from your graveyard when you hit for first strike to make your regular damage hit harder.
FTS: Know what one of the most powerful things in magic is? Cheating mana costs. Know what’s more powerful? Doing it twice. It’s going to take a little work to connect consistently but that’s just describing any Voltron deck, and there are plenty of tools to make it work.
BPhillipYork: Should cost 2. The cycling aspect not really worth it imo, again unless you have a wishboard allowing group, in which case it’s a different kind of card entirely.
FTS: This is another one I’m in love with for a very specific deck. Zada, Hedron Grinder feeds off of going wide and then radiating spells like this across the entire team for huge amounts of value, and this bundles a good buff, trample, and rummaging all into a single card.
BPhillipYork: Super gamble is definitely playable, especially in decks that use the yard as a resource. So probably not so much mono-red, though red it starting to see increasing yard sorcery/instant recursion as an “in color pie” ability. Given the existence of breach though, this is basically a big tutor to let you grab your combo pieces and go off. Letting another player discard and draw could be a bad thing, but it could also enable you, due to cards like Smothering Tithe, though your opponent is unlikely to draw with something like a Hullbreacher on the board.
FTS: There are some people who will tell you this spell can cost 4, and those people are wrong. Mega Gamble costs 5, don’t be dumb. I’m a huge fan of regular Gamble, and even more of a fan of three of of them stapled together.
BPhillipYork: You’re a wizard Harry. That’s from the books right?
FTS: This goes in the same Zada deck, for the same reasons.
BPhillipYork: This is potentially a huge card. Like enormous. Cards can leave your graveyard for many reasons, like you are sitting there exiling them with breach to recast your lotus petal and win the game. So, yeah, this is a win con. Big time.
FTS: Absolutely a combo piece, just make sure you do it as individually as possible since each ‘packet’ only triggers this once.
BPhillipYork: Well this is… okay who is picking what card we review. Sometimes you can leverage discarding, fill your library for breaches, damage opponents when you draw, but 4 mana value and a sorcery, I mean, yes it’s a lesson so you could grab it I suppose.
FTS: Honestly I don’t even remember adding this one, it’s certainly not very exciting. It can do some value stuff but there’s better ways to rummage or to enable discards.
BPhillipYork: So this card makes me hopeful for more learning stuff, if they return to this kind of mechanic then lessons and learning all of a sudden become a whole other thing. But in commander, right now, a 2/2 flyer with haste isn’t enough.
FTS: Mainly I want to highlight this printing to further bolster my theory that someone at Wizards lost a bet and is now forced to release a new Phoenix for the winner’s pet tribal deck about every third set.
BPhillipYork: Gee I think this card might be good. Do you think? I mean create a treasure, whenever you cast a sorcery (or copy one) so that’s an infinite mana source, infinite damage source with something like Disciple of the Vault, it’s also potentially a beater, it also is a dwarf so combos with Magda, so there’s a lot going on. This card will be everywhere.
FTS: The two dangers when you’re storming off are running out of cards and running out of mana, and this helps you with half of that equation. It’s also a good candidate for a cheeky Fling, which is fun.
BPhillipYork: What. No? No no no. Can I talk to the editor what.
FTS: Zaaaaaadaaaaaa. The deck plays as a kind of storm deck, and when you are copying spells across 20 Goblins, you’re looking for power boosts, haste, trample, and double strike. First strike is kind of whatever, but we’re here for the boost, and more importantly the Treasure. It does you no good to draw 20 cards with Crimson Wisps if you don’t have the mana to keep going until all of your tokens are 30/5 hasty, trampling, double striking monsters.
BPhillipYork: So this is a card designed to go infinite and… yeah. It’s an elf druid, so definitely in elf decks, druid decks, lifegain decks, Pemmin’s Aura type untapping decks (really useful that it’s mana of any color, often blue is a stumbling block) and you can use druid saccing to grab it via Pyre of Heros so that’s a thing, so definitely a niche playable card.
FTS: Interesting that you have to run enough lifegain in order to turn the truly big mana on. It can certainly be done but I’m curious to see if it’s worth jumping through the additional hoops over a more traditional pick like an Elvish Archdruid
BPhillipYork: I think this is a playable lesson, usually these search cards are only 3 or 5, and you gain life, which is looking like an important trigger for green more and more again.
FTS: Not bad, and it digs deep enough that you’re unlikely to whiff.
BPhillipYork: Okay cool this is a new type of thing, a fight card that lets you fight a planeswalker, except it’s not a fight, it’s just ram through with a lifegain trigger, so definitely could be playable.
FTS: I’m not sure why Wizards decided that fighting was too fair or something, but we have been seeing an increasing number of cards like this where you just deal the damage with no risk to your creature. It’s very good though.
BPhillipYork: This has the feel of a card that you can force your opponent to give you combo pieces, immediately jumping to my mind is just using it to get 0 cost creatures for an infinite recursion loop.
FTS: This is also just plain good as a fair, here are 4 nasty creatures give me 2 directly into play card. If your deck is already running a Genesis Wave, this probably slots in alongside it.
BPhillipYork: This is a cool card, land search, make it a creature, this whole fractal thing is exciting and it’s ramp and it plays really well with other ramp, also lets you mana fix okay. Definitely playable.
FTS: More than playable, it’s Rampant Growth plus a body, which in a lot of cases is going to be strictly better. Even as nothing more than a second copy, this is going to see play in an absolute shitload of decks.
BPhillipYork: This is a hilarious card, doubling a commanders power twice for 6 mana is totally doable for a win con.
FTS: This is just good old fun. Nothing complicated here, just good old green make creature big, green smash. Having to telegraph it as a sorcery is less good, but you’re not playing this because it’s optimal.
BPhillipYork: This is borderline playable, but probably too limiting at basic forest. The ability to cycle off the learn is okay, so in Golgari or Abzan decks I could see it just to put big fatties in the yard, but at 3 mana that’s generally a turn behind the best green land ramp, and it competes with Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach, unfavorably really except in very niche scenarios.
FTS: I think that most of the time you’re going to prefer the traditional 3 CMC ramp spells over this, but the Learn at least makes it a conversation. If your group allows a sideboard the value definitely goes up a little.
BPhillipYork: This is virtually a copy of a white card, and having multiples of things is cool. I could definitely see an Abzan “when you gain life, they lose life” deck built around this, and the various gain life they lose triggers.
FTS: Another card lifted straight from white. If your deck is built around lifegain it’s certainly worth a look.
BPhillipYork: I dunno, I like this effect, it’s neat, it seems like there should be various iterations based on balance and various imbalances, that’s how the color pie ought to work, with red getting a bonus from imbalances and white gaining bonuses from extra toughness. Most of the creature’s you would want to get trample, big fat ones, tend to already have it if that is the kind of deck you are building. Big fat creatures with trample are a mainstay of green magic, since Force of Nature, so to me this seems of limited usefulness, but it’s a neat new mechanic being explored.
FTS: I think there a surprising number of big green fatties that don’t have trample that you wish did, and this also allows you to extend trample to creatures of other colors, which can be incredibly valuable. The majority of creatures will have equal power and toughness so this will be active most of the time.
BPhillipYork: Life gain triggers on command can be quite good, a lot of things can happen “when you gain life” and having the ability to sacrifice a defender creature to cycle could be useful.
FTS: I’m looking at this more for Arcades, the Strategist decks than anything else. It’s not flashy but it’s solid.
BPhillipYork: Getting 4 lands is pretty big, hitting that 3rd land drop on a turn is critical for cards like Omnath, Locus of Creation, so this is definitely potentially a playable card, and the conclusion of a cycle that is clearly trying to explore the political mechanic design space in the aid of commander.
FTS: This is the only Mastery where I could see myself consistently paying the cheaper cost. At 4 mana, it’s an Explosive Vegetation that also puts a land into your hand at the cost of ramping one opponent by one land, which seems like a fair trade. At 6 I would rather pay the one extra mana for Boundless Realms. Regardless, a very good card.
Tomorrow: Multicolor and Colorless
That wraps up our look at the set’s monocolor cards, but we’ll be back tomorrow with a look at the set’s multicolor and colorless cards, including its hybrid spells, lands, and artifacts. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.