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Strixhaven Commander/EDH Set Review – White and Blue

It feels like just yesterday that I wrote my Kaldheim set review, and you’re saying it’s already time for Strixhaven? Unbelievable. Obviously the passage of time is a bit warped for all of us, but set releases just seem to keep coming. Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this set for Commander – I think it has more promise than Kaldheim did, and I’m interested to see how my ratings line up with your expectations. Speaking of ratings, I don’t use numbers or grades – I use this more subjective scale.

 

Header - Ratings Scale

  • Commander: You want this card in the command zone at the start the game. Its best use is to lead the charge as the cornerstone of your deck, but it can probably fit into your 99 as well.
  • Build-Around: This card can be a huge player in the theme of your deck. It either enables the theme by itself or is something you’re looking to take advantage of over the course of your ideal game. It’s probably worth dedicating other slots in your deck to cards that work with a build-around.
  • Powerhouse: This card’s not really about synergy, but it’s good all by itself.
  • Role Player: This card might not be the cornerstone of a deck list, but it’s an important part of the engine or strong enough on its own to merit potential inclusion. This category also covers cards that look good enough to try out but don’t seem like obvious winners.
  • Tech Card: Counterplay is important, and if a card doesn’t fit into one of the above categories but is good enough at countering other strategies, it’ll be included here.
  • Niche Inclusion: This card might make your deck if you have a deckbuilding restriction, whether it’s self-imposed based on theme, a power level consideration or a card availability concern. 

As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. That means you’ll be hearing about cards largely from that more relaxed perspective. My goal when playing Commander is for everyone to have fun but also for me to have a good shot at winning the game, so if that’s your mindset as well, these ratings will probably resonate with you. I won’t be reviewing reprints, so you can just assume I feel the same way about Grinning Ignus as I did before we found out it was in this set. When you inevitably disagree with a rating, please feel free to tweet at @RagingLevine with your thoughts!

Two notes before we begin. First, because of the way “outside the game” effects work in Commander, you can’t use cards with learn to go get the Lesson you need. Instead, you’ll pretty much be rummaging. If your playgroup is house-ruling these cards, have fun, but my ratings will reflect the official rules. Second, this review will not include the Commander 2021 cards or any other weird stuff that won’t be in draft boosters – all that will come later.

 

 

Header - White

Devastating Mastery

Rating: Niche Inclusion
One of the biggest feel-bads about being the person who wraths the board is that you spend your mana clearing things out, giving you fewer resources to rebuild. Devastating Mastery really epitomizes that, giving you a choice between a harder-to-cast Planar Cleansing or a version that allows one opponent to save some of their favorites. That said, if one player’s board is empty or nearly so, you can really feel like you’re getting away with something when you use the discount option. All that said, I’m not confident in this cracking the 99 of any even marginally optimized decks.

Dueling Coach

Rating: Niche Inclusion
Is the activation too expensive to be relevant? Nine mana before you even get to do what this card wants to do seems like a lot. Limited decks may want this, but Commander decks probably won’t.

Leonin Lightscribe

Rating: Build-Around
If you’re looking to go wide with tokens and then overrun your opponents in one big turn, Leonin Lightscribe can be a big piece of that puzzle. Haze of Rage looks particularly hilarious, but don’t overlook simple, cheap cantrips like Defiant Strike or Crash Through as you apply this to Selesnya, Boros and even Orzhov decks. Just make sure you have flying or trample to push that damage past blockers – speaking of flying, a Kykar, Wind’s Fury deck may be the perfect place for this card!

Mavinda, Students’ Advocate

Rating: Build-Around

Commanders like Anax and Cymede, Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest and Kykar are all likely to want this, not to mention Feather, the Redeemed, as it synergizes well with the exile effect – use your cantrips before Feather, play Feather, then use Mavinda to replay those cantrips and send them back to your hand (yes, it works like that!).

Reduce to Memory

Rating: Niche Inclusion
If you really need to exile something, sure, but with Generous Gift hanging around at instant speed, I don’t see this being as applicable.

Secret Rendezvous

Rating: Niche Inclusion
If you’re trying to get opponents to draw cards in a group hug setting, this could be fun. You could also use it with Narset, Parter of Veils to get a three-for-two, but then you’re playing blue and you can easily do something stronger. Sure, you could say it’s for fun, but if you’re playing Narset, are you really doing something fun? 

Semester’s End

Rating: Niche Inclusion
It’s more costly than Ghostway or Eerie Interlude, but it adds counters to make up for it. If you’re looking for higher density in these effects, or if you’re interested in blinking planeswalkers to take advantage of the extra loyalty, it’s worth throwing an end-of-semester party for your creatures. 

Show of Confidence

Rating: Role Player
Storm scale be damned, I guess! Okay, this isn’t quite storm, but it’s close! This goes right in those Anax and Cymede or Feather decks I mentioned earlier, especially with Leonin Lightscribe. When I first read this card, I missed that it left behind counters, so I suppose it has a little boost in my mind since I initially misread it.

Strict Proctor

Rating: Tech Card
I think this is more applicable in other formats, but if you’re looking for another creature to add to your toolbox of hatebears, you could easily do worse. Hushbringer will often do this better, but sometimes one just isn’t enough.

 

Header - Blue

Archmage Emeritus

Rating: Build-Around
This straddles the line between Build-Around and Powerhouse, but since you have to intentionally warp your deck to really take advantage of it, I went with the former. Any blue spellslinger commander is going to be interested in trying this out – while it’ll be a huge target for removal, it’ll be easy to play it with some instants up and reap the rewards in response to removal.

Ingenious Mastery

Rating: Niche Inclusion
We already have cards like Mind Spring that don’t see play, but I mention this card simply for the group hug potential. Giving away some Treasures and drawing cards feels like it resonates with that type of game plan.

Resculpt

Rating: Role Player
This is interesting, especially in the wake of Ravenform. On the one hand, you’re giving away a 4/4 – on the other, this one’s an instant. I think a mono-blue deck is more likely to want this one than Ravenform, but it’ll be interesting to see where and when this pops up.

Serpentine Curve

Rating: Niche Inclusion
I’m sure there will be the occasional deck willing to take a chance on this type of effect, but you’ll either need to be a very spell-focused counters deck or a very counter-focused spellslinger deck, and that’s a very small niche.

Solve the Equation

Rating: Role Player
It’s a tutor for a spell. Not my thing normally, but this will certainly see some use.

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