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What Strixhaven Cards in Legacy School the Competition?

So, Anuraag Das (@anzidmtg) mentioned to me that he was looking into Abundant Harvest as an option for Legacy control decks. He was trying to go through the mental paces of analyzing the card and asked for my input. The subsequent discussion, which I’ll detail later, left me wondering what recent prints had caught peoples’ eyes. More importantly though, it made me ask myself: why and what shells people were looking at and see what Strixhaven cards in Legacy have potential merit. So how about we dive in?

 

 

Header - Abundant Harvest

Abundant Harvest

 

Abundant Harvest has already started making waves in Lands-centric shells and that’s pretty straightforward. However, Anuraag’s idea of playing it in blue shells really interests me significantly more. So, before I dive in, I’m going to analyze this card, devoid of any concern regarding the deck shell’s blue card count. Caleb Durward already wrote this article so there’s no reason to retread that ground. 

As an aside, if you enjoy deckbuilding and don’t know how to use a hypergeometric calculator, I implore you to learn about them. They’re an invaluable tool for finalizing deck lists. 

But I digress. There lot of implications with this card. I think the major upside is that you can keep risky one-landers. If you’re playing a control shell, you’d normally have to mulligan a hand with only a basic Forest, Preordain and five spells, but this card increases your likelihood of having a keepable seven. Additionally, say your hand was something like Tropical Island, Preordain and five spells – you’d have to heavily consider keeping it depending on matchup/play-draw dynamics. However, for example in a Wasteland matchup, you likely would have to throw that back because Preordain isn’t guaranteed to hit a land.

With Abundant Harvest available, the calculus becomes arithmetic really. Anuraag mentioned that he’s leaning towards trying 18 land lists, which I think is completely reasonable. What I like is that, as a pseudo-midground between Lay of the Land and Traverse the Ulvenwald, this card alleviates pressure off of your Ponders and Brainstorms in the early game so you can save them for a point where they’re going to be much more potent which is huge. I wouldn’t be shocked if it becomes the status quo to play the full 4-4-4 Brainstorm/Ponder/Abundant Harvest split because this new addition will allow you to play the bare minimum of lands and, as such, your average draw step is much more likely to be an impactful card.

I also can’t help but to think about the post-board implications of this card as well. I’ve largely focused on how this card effect the mana base, but the spell cycle application is pretty decent in Game 1 and it only gets better post-board when your deck has a significantly higher density of matchup-relevant effects. I’ve long felt that effects like Commune with Nature were almost playable in Legacy but they often have restrictions that make them hard to reconcile when considering sideboard dynamics. Simply changing that clause to “nonland” is an upgrade by leaps and bounds.

Testing-wise, I’d kick off at trying three or four copies. As I see it, this card’s primary function is to enable early game land drops. If you decrease the numbers then you’re more likely to draw it in the late game and at that point I‘d rather have Preordain

 

Header - Elite Spellbinder

Elite Spellbinder

 

This card strikes me as reasonably powerful in the right shells. Within the contexts of both Death & Taxes and Esper Vial, both of those decks generally have curves that are fairly cluttered around the three-drop slot. I worry that this card isn’t good enough to compete with Flickerwisp, Sanctum Prelate and Recruiter of the Guard, which are all cards integral to the functionality of the deck. Esper Vial also has issues with being glutted at the three mana value slot. In essence, both D&T and Vial are “engine” decks, meaning that the power level of each card is relatively low but once you assemble two to three relevant pieces, you end up with oppressive game states.

Comparatively, Legacy Humans, as popularized by Eddie Zemora, is a much more aggressive shell. Due to this, I posit that it’s imperative that the deck’s disruptive elements are are intrinsically powerful and disruptive. So instead of leaning in on “nickel and dime” taxing effects, you need “one-man-army” effect. “Pablo Doritos” is not only a Tidehollow Sculler effect, but it’s also impeding and additional copies of this card are great because they allow the deck to essentially play additional copies of Meddling Mage while maintaining the deck’s type-specific synergies, which is huge.

With Chris Pikula and PVDDR in the deck, it may as well break open that Walking Dead Secret Lair, slam a few copies of Rick, Steadfast Leader in and CORAL the squad up to put hands and feet on your opponent. 

P.S. The above comments were regarding 75 card lists. If you choose to explore Yorion lists, I like including this effect. 

 

Header - Expressive Iteration

Expressive Iteration

 

This card’s interesting because, in some regards, it’s an upgraded variant of Ponder but by nature of how it operates, in order to get value out of it, you need to wait until turn three* or later to maximize its effect. This is intriguing because, in my experience, one of the most common mistakes that players have with cantrips is not casting them as soon as possible; these effects often gain value the longer you hold onto them.

This topic is fairly robust but, in short, you can boil casting cantrips down to two camps. The first is casting them to build velocity so you can overwhelm your opponent in the early game. The second is to cast your cantrips at calculated points in the game to find effects when they’re most backbreaking. By nature of how this card operates, in order to get max value out of it, you’re incentivized to delay casting it for some time.

In the last week, both Rich Cali (@learntolove66) and Kenta Hiroki have been toying with some UR Delver builds using the card. While I absolutely love what they’ve got going on (and you can read Rich’s thoughts right here on CFB), I can’t help but to wonder if it’s worth testing out a more aggressive list that utilizes Mutagenic Grow. Also, in a build with pump spells, True-Name Nemesis gains a lot of value. Here’s a quick draft:

 

 

Legacy RUG Delver by Lawrence Harmon

 

Side note: This is a rough draft, hence the 16-card sideboard


Miscellaneous Notes

Become Immense (Timeshifted)Barbarian RingBrazen Borrower // Petty TheftKlothys, God of Destiny

  • I was also toying around with the idea of playing a single copy of Become Immense since this deck should be able to fill the yard quickly but I ran out of space. The same happened while I was considering Mishra’s Bauble as an option to maximize the velocity of a turn two Iteration. The ideal play pattern would be turn one Monastery Swiftspear or Delver of Secrets into turn two Expressive Iteration that could then chain into Bauble or Mutagenic Growth to push early damage. Also, outside of your unflipped Delvers, Growth is able to protect your creatures from opposing Lightning Bolts, which is a nice added layer that could lead to some fun mind games.
  • With how aggressively slanted this list is, I like the idea of having Barbarian Ring in the mana base for additional reach. This lead me to consider a Crop Rotation package.
  • Cephalid Coliseum might be too cute. However, it could be a nice effect to randomly brick Doomsday opponents without worrying about stack-based interaction. Mindbreak Trap or a Surgical Extraction might be a better option.
  • Due to Mutagenic Growths, I like having Brazen Borrower over Submerge as a failsafe for large creatures because the former preserves your threat density.
  • I don’t think this deck wants four copies of Wasteland. Arguably, it might want four copies of Barbarian Ring. Given the assumed play patterns, this list doesn’t really want to draw more than a single copy of the former while the latter can cheese opponents out as the game goes on. My only concern is that three copies of Ring could lead to awkward mana situations. However, since we have a basic Island to provide a Wasteland-proof blue source, I’m much more willing to experiment with wonky mana configurations. 
  • I’m not sure these should be the starting numbers for Pyroblast and Force of Negation. We might want to consider some number of Flusterstorm. Also, it’s probably prudent to have a second copy of Klothys, God of Destiny for the Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath matchups. I initially had Soul-Guide Lantern in the list but with the ability to cast Klothys I think I like leaning in on that card a bit more. If you go up to two copies then there’s some consideration to playing an additional Tropical Island

 

Header - Sedgemoor Witch

Sedgemoor Witch

 

The card is a Monastery Mentor allegory in an arguably more powerful shell. If your deck can produce black mana then play this card until WOTC stops letting you. 

 

Header - Urza's Saga

 

Urza’s Saga might be a mistake. We’ll see how things pan out, but I foresee this effect being heavily played in both Vintage in Legacy. In speaking with Jarvis Yu, he mentioned that the card could potentially lead to new variant of Lands. In looking at the card, I can’t help but think about the older, more artifact-heavy variant of RUG Lands from the Legacy of yesteryear. 

 

 

Legacy RUG Lands by Mike Kiesel

 

In addition to Lands variants, I find myself wondering if this card could enable decks such as Eldrazi and Steel Stompy to play a tutor package of silver bullet one-drops such as Pithing Needle, Portable Hole or even Engineered Explosives as a way to clear out Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer and Sedgemoor Witch tokens without having to worry about countermagic.

 

Header - Blex, Vexing Pest

Blex, Vexing Pest // Search for Blex

 

Legacy combo master Ethan Formichella mentioned that this card is a potential boon for the deck “Spanish Inquisition.” It functions as a mana source when paired with Chrome Mox but the flip side of the card also functions as a secondary copy of Ad Nauseam. I also like the fact that, in a bind, you can cast the card to block in order to pad your life total or set yourself up to combo off with Culling the Weak

I also can’t help but to wonder if this is a potential silver bullet for Infect. In essence, this effect can function as an additional pump spell for Inkmoth Nexus. Initially, my concern here is that Blex is narrow in its application but I think that, due to the pressure Infect puts on its opponents, it can only use removal within certain windows and if they blow a removal spell on Blex as opposed to one of your threats with Infect, then you’re likely happy with that exchange.

Blex, for example, is only a consideration for the deck because it’s a target for Green Sun’s Zenith and thus its inclusion doesn’t heavily detract from the decks core construction philosophy.

 

Header - Mavinda, Students' Advocate

Mavinda, Students' Advocate

 

This card doesn’t really make the cut power level-wise for Infect. It’s not really potent enough to justify the deck moving into white and in most situations, you’d rather just draw a pump spell.  If Infect is looking for a way to recur pump spells, Regrowth is going to be a less invasive effect while also operating at a better rate.

 

Header - Laelia and Cursed Mirror

Neither of these cards seem remotely playable to me. Red Stompy shells aren’t really synergy driven – they’re looking to play cards that are incredibly impactful when they hit the table while also providing a long term advantage. While Laelia does provide card advantage, it’s significantly more fragile than Chandra, Torch of Defiance, making it hard to justify its addition. Also, effects like Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss in a sense function as card advantage when viewed through the framework of “The Philosophy of Fire.” While raw card advantage is important for some shells, this deck simply just wants to kill it’s opponent.

Regarding Cursed Mirror, this card doesn’t have relevant text unless you already have a somewhat stable board state. It’s just not good enough to to justify playing.

 

Header - Witherbloom Command

Witherbloom Command

 

When I initially looked at this card, I felt it just missed the bar of playability. However, I think its ability to fuel Uro, delve cards and provide some potential Life from the Loam shenanigans Game 1 while being an answer for Rest in Peace and other permanent-based graveyard hate in the post-board lets it clear the bar in BUG Shells. I love the idea of being able to play a synergy-driven control shell that gets to cheat on card space by consolidating its enablers and answers. Also, this card also seemingly solves BUG Delver’s problem of not having reach, which is neat as a tertiary effect.

 

Header - Keen Duelist

 

This card was mentioned multiple times and um… y’all know Dark Confidant is legal right? 

 

 

Anyway, Strixhaven is lit. Tap in.

Discussion

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