Strixhaven hasn’t had the largest impact on Modern just yet. Some of the cards I identified as potential inclusions in the format over the last couple of weeks have cropped up here and there – for instance, Elite Spellbinder is indeed seeing play in Eldrazi and Taxes lists – but for the most part, the new set isn’t turning Modern on its head.
I was interested to see, however, a 5-0 League list with one potentially promising Strixhaven card: Clever Lumimancer. With its magecraft ability being a lot like souped-up Prowess, this one-drop has the potential to hit extremely hard in the right build. I always imagined the list would, naturally, play red for cards like Lightning Bolt and the like, but that the other color would be blue for cantrips. Not so! MTGO player benchsummer instead put together a sweet Mardu list, and did very well with it.
Modern Mardu Lumimancer by benchsummer
Kiln Fiend decks have been around for awhile, and Clever Lumimancer is a great accompaniment to the Fiend, given they share similar abilities. The game plan is very simple: land a threat like Lumimancer or Fiend, then attack and cast a bunch of cheap or even free instants and sorceries to push through a ridiculous amount of damage very early on.
This is mostly a red deck, with a white splash for the Lumimancer and an even lighter black splash for a single main deck card: Tainted Strike. I suppose, technically, it does play green cards in Mutagenic Growth and Manamorphose, so maybe we should be calling it Four-Colour Control instead, I don’t know.
Most of the red cards make perfect sense and are very obvious inclusions – never leave home without Lightning Bolt! Assault Strobe not only juices up a Fiend or a Lumimancer with their triggered abilities, but effectively doubles their power on top of that with double strike while Gut Shot will deal upwards of three or four damage for zero mana.
The red card that really impressed me was Ground Rift – it’s not only a Falter effect, but also one that threatens to pump the Lumimancer to colossal proportions. Remember, it triggers when you copy a spell, for instance, with Ground Rift’s storm ability!
Seeing as this deck’s already playing white, are there other white cards worth including? I like the sideboarded Path to Exiles – you never want dead cards with this deck – but in the main, you’ll find a couple of copies of Emerge Unscathed. This, plus cards like Ground Rift and Crash Through, can really help to push through damage, but Emerge Unscathed can also save a creature from opposing removal before the rebound ability lets it serve for a stack next turn.
The damage really adds up – something as simple as a Lumimancer, Mutagenic Growth, Lightning Bolt and Ground Rift (targeting the Lumimancer, if they have no blockers) is 15 damage! This deck is here for a good time, not a long time.
It only gets faster when you consider the single black card in the main deck: Tainted Strike. Much like Assault Strobe, Tainted Strike effectively doubles the power of a creature and can result in ridiculous one-turn kills. Substitute in Tainted Strike for the Lightning Bolt in the previous scenario and they’re dead on turn two. Tainted Strike and Assault Strobe offer you the chance to kill your opponent before they’ve played their second land!
As ever, getting the price down with a deck like this is simply a matter of upheaving the mana base. There’s not too much to touch in the main deck – You can cut Lurrus of the Dream-Den, sure, but you’ll lose some late-game value opportunities in doing so. Monastery Swiftspear is a little pricier than most cards in the deck, but given how commonly the card is played in aggressive red decks, it’s worth picking up.
As we turn our attention to the mana base, the bad news is that there’s just no way to make the three colors work on a budget. We can try, with cheaper lands, but fetches effectively offering you all three colors is the only way to squeeze three colors into eighteen lands. Even our best effort ends up with this:
2 Arid Mesa 1 Blood Crypt 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Inspiring Vantage 2 Mountain 1 Sacred Foundry 4 Sunbaked Canyon
Turning into something like…
4 Sulfurous Springs 4 Battlefield Forge 2 Inspiring Vantage 4 Needleverge Pathway/Pillarverge Pathway 4 Blightstep Pathway/Searstep Pathway
This configuration doesn’t offer enough white or black, and given the heavy commitment to red the deck has, playing any non-red lands seems risky. As a result, I think cutting the black altogether is the best course of action. You only really lose two copies of Tainted Strike, but you can play a fourth Assault Strobe (you can keep the Postmortem Lunges, as they cost Phyrexian mana).
Modern Budget Boros Lumimancer by Riley Knight
In today’s Modern format, you’re highly incentivized to be aggressive and low-to-the-ground, and this deck certainly exemplifies those qualities. It hits hard and fast, punches through blockers, and even has a bit of resilience against disruption with recursion like Lurrus or Postmortem Lunge, or protection like Emerge Unscathed.
We’re still waiting to see the larger impact that Strixhaven has (or doesn’t have) on Modern, but it’s good to see that a card like Clever Lumimancer is having at least a little bit of an effect. As the format develops, we’ll keep a close eye on any other cards that emerge in a similar way – especially if they offer an opportunity to play another deck that’s easy on the old hip pocket!