Strixhaven Set Review – Artifacts and Lands

(Silverquill Campus | Art by Titus Lunter)

Strixhaven Orientation

Good morning, first-year mage-students, and welcome to Cryptorelicology, the study of magical relics and lost treasures. Today, we will explore the most marvelous and mystical of the Strixhaven artifacts, which have been painstakingly recovered by our esteemed colleagues from Loreho–

Excuse me... quills, cauldrons, backpacks, and shoes? Is this a belated April jester's caper? No? *Sigh*. Okay then, students, let's make sure you all have your school supplies.

Rare Artifacts and Colorless Cards

Codie, Vociferous Codex

Any spellslinging, five-color deck can consider placing Codie at the helm. Its low-cost, interesting building restriction, and relevant and fun ability, will probably make Codie a popular commander. Codie could be built in a fair way to get extra value from spells, or it could be built in a combo-centric way with untapping spells, Storm, and/or Thassa's Oracle.

Codie may end up as a competitive deck, and it also may end up as the leader of a shell of zero-mana Cascade deck, able to flip reliably into cards like Hypergenesis with 100% certainty. Or, if you're feeling extremely spicy, you can Fractured Identity your own commander to donate a copy to all your opponents and lock them out of casting permanent spells, including their own commanders!

Oh, and of course, it also opens the door to weird builds like Book Tribal, since there are 355 cards with books in their art. How about a Hocus-Pocus-themed deck?

Wandering Archaic

Okay, I'm calling it: this is my favorite card of the set. Wandering Archaic is all I ever wanted to do in a game of Magic. It lets me play your cards (if you don't pay), it counters counters (if you don't pay), it gives incidental ramp and draw to colors that need it (if you don't pay), and it has a relevant backside that can help smooth out the early game for all players! What doesn't it do?

Joking aside, this card is 100% casual and 100% fun. I hope it's budget because it will be an absolute blast at lower-powered tables.

Strixhaven Stadium

This is such a weird and cool design. It's pretty much a second type of Infect that will help token decks finish players off. If we manage to play this and hit a player with 10 evasive 1/1s, we'll knock them right out of the game. What's both neat and tricky is the ability to play this early and use it as a mana rock. I like that it has the flexibility of both early and late-game utility, but at the same time, we'll put a huge target on our head by playing this as a mana rock early on. Maybe soaking up some removal with our mana rock is worth it?

Pestilent Cauldron

Trading Post is in over 10,000 decks on EDHREC, and Deathrite Shaman is in over 22,000 decks. I think the Cauldron has more in common with Trading Post, but I wanted to highlight some other versatile, planeswalker-esque cards. Decks that can use several modes on Trading Post absolutely love the card. Similarly, I think decks that can use Pestilent Cauldron will really love it, too.

The first two modes are pretty specific to decks that want to discard and gain life. I wish the mill hit ourselves, too, since self-mill in Golgari Witherbloom is a boon, but at the very least it's nice anti-tutor-to-the-top protection and fuels ability #3. The last ability shines as graveyard hate and card draw late in the game, which many decks will put to good use.

But wait: there's more! The backside of the Cauldron, Restorative Burst, is a great option for a double Regrowth. Overall, this card has amazing flexibility, but it will really shine in Discard and Reanimator decks that can use the first ability.

Poet's Quill

Having an enter-the-battlefield effect on an Equipment is a fantastic way to get value out of it right away. I hope we see more designs like this in the future. It's going to feel great to have this in our opening hand and use it for some card selection, or use it to discard something big only to Reanimate it and give it lifelink! That said, +1/+1 and lifelink is just okay, so we've got to want this for the discard utility and the rest is gravy.

Uncommon and Common Artifacts and Colorless Cards

Letter of Acceptance

Wonderful flavor aside, this effectively a Manalith with a little extra gravy thrown on. That gravy is a pretty relevant ability that we see pretty often on rocks like Mind Stone, so if we're a deck that wants the fixing and that draw option, this might be worth considering. It's worse than Commander's Sphere, but sometimes we want colors that are outside of our commander's color identity, such as if we're looking to play our opponents' cards with Sen Triplets. It's niche, but a possibility. Outside of that, I still think it will get slotted into decks when folks brew right next to their pile of cracked Strixhaven boosters and are just looking for something handy to jam.

Team Pennant

It's a bit niche, as most token decks have small creatures, and loads of Equipment are better than this one, but trample and one to Equip a token isn't too shabby. Ring of Kalonia and Vorrac Battlehorns are each in about 2,000 decks. Decks that love big tokens might find a home for this Equipment, such as Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun, Ghired, Conclave Exile, or Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. Another home might be decks that want to clone an opponent's big creature and give it trample.

Spell Satchel

The backpack rubs me the wrong way. Are there bricks in here? It's really chafing. Seriously, though, I'm having a hard time getting behind it... because it's behind me!

Okay, okay, apologies, stay on track, Jevin. In the early game, it's very awkward to use this as a mana rock reliably, and we need to cast spells first to use it, but I want to use my rocks to cast spells! It certainly has utility for Storm and maybe even spellslinger decks, but in the average deck, the Satchel will be far too clunky.

If we're looking at low-cost artifacts that draw cards, there's a long list of cards I'd rather have, but let's start with the bag I'd rather take to my first day of classes at Strixhaven: Bag of Holding. Other examples include Tome of Legends, Sunset Pyramid, Endless Atlas, Treasure Map, Idol of Oblivion, and Mazemind Tome.

There are lots of mana rocks that sacrifice themselves to draw cards (such as Mind Stone), but looking at artifacts that both repeatedly draw cards and tap for mana, I'm looking at things like Bonder's Ornament, Dragon's Hoard, and Midnight Clock (sort of). I'm sure I missed some, but that's a much shorter list! So, if we want our mana rock to repeatedly draw cards and we're slinging spells, maybe we want this.

Zephyr Boots

Mask of Memory is a great source of card advantage in a deck with evasive creatures or an evasive commander. Unfortunately, without natural evasion, it often doesn't make the cut. Zephyr Boots trades one extra card drawn from the Mask in exchange for flying, giving it have oodles more utility in decks that can't rely upon natural evasion to hit a player. This is going to be great in decks that are looking for some combat-focused card selection, or those that have creatures and want to dump things in their graveyard, or those that want the evasion and just see the card selection as gravy! The boots are anti-marking, too, so they won't scuff up the fancy new Strixhaven gym floor! We're still getting the burn marks out from Rowan's last workout session.

Introduction to Annihilation

Most of the Lessons aren't worth talking about, but ya know what, colorless decks are strapped for efficient removal, and this might just make the cut. The best comparison is Scour from Existence (6,200 decks). Annihilation trades the instant speed for two mana, and the permanent's controller draws a card. Colorless decks have to work with clunky removal options, like Meteor Golem (16,400 decks), Lux Cannon (2,400 decks), and Unstable Obelisk (8,300 decks), so they might appreciate the (relative) discount that Introduction to Annihilation offers.

For our next class, students, we're heading out into the snarling wilds to study Mystogeography – Quintorious, please direct your attention towards me, or would that tome you're reading prefer to teach the class?

*Ahem* – As I was saying, today we're learning Mystogeography, the study of magical lands. We'll tour each of the five Strixhaven campuses, pass by the arcane Snarls where they draw their power, and tour the campus quadrangle. I hope you all had a light breakfast, because we'll be traveling via Teleportal.

Rare Lands

Snarl Lands

This cycle of lands completes a cycle of "reveal lands" from Shadows Over Innistrad, including Port Town, Game Trail, Foreboding Ruins, Choked Estuary, and Fortified Village. These are all played in about 5,000 to 7,000 decks, and all hover at around two bucks, making them great budget options. In a two-color deck with lots of basics, these can come in untapped often enough to make them worth it. If we've learned anything from seeing our own EDHRECast get hosed by a guest's Blood Moon on, it's that we all need to play more basics.

Hall of Oracles

This land is great for getting the counter train going for commanders like Marchesa, the Black Rose, Pir and Toothy, Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, and Atraxa. Similar lands include Forge of Heroes and Opal Palace, which appear in 9,400 decks and 20,000 decks, respectively, and those are restricted to putting counters on commanders only. Compared to those, Hall of Oracles is much more flexible and I predict will have even higher inclusion rates.

The Biblioplex

This is a relevant ability, but it's tough to evaluate how many decks want this. If we're trying to play it, we probably want to:

  1. Know what the top card of our library is
  2. Want that top card to be a spell or to be put it in the graveyard
  3. Reliably have a full hand or be Hellbent.

This card may make it in some Elsha of the Infinite or Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign decks, but finding a slot for a colorless land in a three-color deck that has much more powerful ways to draw cards might be as useful as a screen door on a Silent Submersible.

Did I miss something, or was this card made for Limited?

Uncommon and Common Lands

Access Tunnel

Access Tunnel is a Rogue's Passage that's cheaper to activate but requires small creatures. This is interesting to evaluate, since Rogue's Passage is the fourth most popular utility land, showing up in a hefty 76,000 decks.

I'd look at commanders with low power, or commanders that like creatures with low power. Subira, New, and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser might appreciate a way to get small creatures in for damage. However, other typical low-power strategies that pump their creatures might not be able to use Access Tunnel, like Elves, Soldiers, or Goblins. A good place for Access Tunnel might be Arcades and Doran, whose low-power creatures will hit a lot harder.

Commanders that can change their power at instant speed might also enjoy this card, such as Radha, Heart of Keld, Balan, Wandering Knight, Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, and Feather. Other examples of low-powered commanders that love to rumble in for damage include Brago, Mirri, Alesha, and Ghired.

Campus Lands

These are definitely playable, especially in casual decks. The most comparable cards are the Temple cycle, such as Temple, which are played in 16,000-28,000 decks, depending on the color combo. The question is, would we rather have card selection early in the game with the Temple cycle, or later in the game with the Campus cycle? Both are great budget options, but I don't see the Campuses replacing Temples, since tuned decks may prefer a smooth start over a late-game mana sink. However, they are great options to swap in for Guildgates, gain lands, or other tapped dual lands.

Archway Commons

There's not much to say about this one. It's a functional reprint of Transguild Promenade, Rupture Spire, and Gateway Plaza. These aren't great, yet see play in about 5k, 8k, and 11k decks, respectively. Slowing ourselves by paying a mana to play a tapped land is a tough price to pay. That said, these are great budget five-color fixing, and if we're already playing the other versions of this, then we might just want another one.

Class Dismissed

This concludes classes for today, students. Remember to study your ancient runes, and I expect three feet of parchment comparing Lorehold to the Boros Legion on Monday. If you'd like to comment on class today, please construct your thoughts as formal arguments in the space below. And again, Silverquill students, rude limericks will result in a trip to the dean's office. Please have a nice weekend, and don't forget–the Witherbloom Snarl is currently off-limits to all students who do not wish to suffer a gruesome demise.

Jevin Lortie has been playing magic on and off since Portal. He has a PhD in nutritional sciences, so he always tells people to get a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables – especially ramp-les and draw-nanas.

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