The Best MTG Arena Standard Decks for Strixhaven for May 2021


by in Magic: The Gathering Arena | May, 25th 2021

It’s time to check out the best MTG Arena Strixhaven decks! Now that we’ve had some time to see how the Strixhaven meta has settled down, we’re going to come back and look at what decks are actually dominating the current meta. Which decks are the strongest? That’s a great question! Are they all going to be easy to pilot? Not necessarily! Some of these aren’t going to be a surprise (Red Deck Wins). Now, at the time I’m beginning this (May 19), a ban announcement is on the way. It’s likely to be affecting Historic, not as much as Standard. This is likely going to be to remove the Tainted Pact/Thassa’s Oracle.

I don’t know if there are going to be any Standard bans as of yet. We’ll know in a few hours. If any major Standard cards are removed, we’ll be sure to notify you about the decks affected. But if the Throne of Eldraine cards haven’t been banned yet (lately), they aren’t going to get banned this close to a Standard Rotation. The next Standard Rotation is going to be September 2021, and a ton of power cards are going with them. Throne of Eldraine, Theros: Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, Core Set 2021 all go away.

With that, there are quite a few decks that will be wildly weakened. It’s the last hurrah for some of these, potentially! Hopefully, it means that we’ll see some new tech come to life. We’ll just have to see. For now, we’re going to talk about what is standing out as the best MTG Arena decks for Strixhaven! I’m excited to see what is in store for later in the year, but let’s keep our eyes on the present.

Red Deck (Still) Wins, Now In Strixhaven (Mono-Red Aggro)


I was sincerely surprised to see Strixhaven add something to one of the best decks in MTG Arena. Nothing genuinely major, but there’s the potential to do some really mean things here. The ability to make Anax, Hardened in the Forge not get blocked? Oh, I love that idea. The new cards to the deck are Conspiracy Theorist and Hall Monitor.

Other than that, we’re looking at a pretty standard Aggro deck. We’ve got Faceless Haven to swing out of nowhere, flashing in an Embercleave to maximize damage. Early game Robber of the Rich really puts in work, on top of those classy turn-1 Fervent Champion. I’m a big fan of this deck, even though I’m personally not a big Red Deck Wins player. I’ll use it because it’s easy to pilot, and it’s powerful. Make no mistake, it’s very strong. There’s a reason it’s almost always Tier 1/Wildly OP.

How Does It Work?


Like all good Mono-Red Decks, we’re going to want low-cost, high-threat creatures. Fervent Champion is still one of the most important creatures we’re going to use. It’s one of the best turn-1 drops. A 1/1 with First Strike/Haste, grants another attacking Knight +1/+0. That’s not useful until we have two of them in play though, they’re our only Knights. We’re also packing the Fireblade Charger. It’s got Haste, as long as it’s equipped, and is a 1/1 for 1. When it dies, it’ll deal damage equal to its power to any target.

There are decks to buff this card, but this isn’t one of them. However, we do have Embercleave, which grants a creature +1/+1, Double Strike, and Trample. It’s the big game-winner for this deck. When we’re ready to win, we flash this into our big creatures or our creatures that don’t get blocked. In particular, if we can get Anax, Hardened in the Forge to go through unblocked, that’s the dream. Anax, Hardened in the Forge is a */3 for 3 and gains Power equal to your Devotion to Red. This, when combined with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, we can dumpster out some truly obscene damage.

The early game is going to consist of likely Fervent Champion, and hopefully dropping something like Hall Monitor. A 1/1 for 1 with Haste, you can tap 2 and it, to make a creature unable to block. When your opponent only has one creature, that’s going to be incredible. If we can pair this with Frost Bite, we can deal 2 to a creature or planeswalker. 3 if we control three or more Snow Permanents (Snow Lands all over the place). I love Hall Monitor for this reason. We can Frostbite targets down, and make their lone blocker unable to do so. We also have Bonecrusher Giant to deal 2 damage to any target. This helps us eliminate threats for Hall Monitor (or just control the board in general).

Turn 2 Robber of the Rich is another way to help us out. It’s a 2/2 Reach/Haste, and whenever it attacks, if the defending player has more cards in hand than you do, exile the top card of their deck. During any turn you attack with a Rogue (Robber of the Rich), you can play any of those spells you exiled, and spend any mana to do so. We have another new card that helps us get cards from our graveyard and put them into play. That’s the Conspiracy Theorist! It’s a 2/2 for 2, and whenever it attacks, you can pay 1 colorless and discard a card. If you do, draw a card.

Whenever you discard a non-land card, you can exile one of the cards in your graveyard. If you do this, you may cast that card this turn. Want to get Frostbite back? This is a great way to do it! This also helps you put cards out that have been removed earlier. Bonecrusher Giant is a 4/3, and is also great to play, and so is Anax, Hardened in the Forge. But we have a card that will help make any card powerful. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell!

He makes all Red sources you control deal 2 more damage to any opponent or permanent they control. So if your Anax is a 6/3, and you flash in Embercleave, and it goes unblocked, it’s a ton of damage. The Embercleave would turn Anax into an 8/3. Then it gains another +1/+1, and a further 2 damage. 22 damage in one attack! Mono-Red is very easy and very rewarding.

Decklist


Deck

2 Conspiracy Theorist

3 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

3 Hall Monitor

3 Fireblade Charger

4 Bonecrusher Giant

4 Anax, Hardened in the Forge

4 Robber of the Rich

4 Fervent Champion

4 Embercleave

4 Frost Bite

4 Faceless Haven

21 Snow-Covered Mountain

1 Phoenix of Ash

1 Embereth Paladin

1 Blazing Volley

2 Ox of Agonas

2 Redcap Melee

2 Mascot Interception

3 Soul Sear

3 Roiling Vortex

Final Thoughts


Play on the curve, look for your big damage and swing fast, swing often. That’s basically how you play Red Deck Wins. There’s a reason RDW is always in the conversation. We even have a Mutavault-style creature, with Faceless Haven. We’re going to push for quick hits and plenty of damage. You could also try and slot in Goldspan Dragon if you really wanted. It would probably require you to remove stuff like Hall Monitor. Personally, I like this faster version of the deck. You defeat your opponent before they’re able to do anything. Play fast, win fast. It’s so great.

Sultai Ultimatum Is the Best (™) and It’s Not Close (Green/Blue/Black Control/Ramp)


In my estimation and many others, Sultai Ultimatum is the deck. It’s one of the best MTG Arena Strixhaven decks. It takes up a great deal of the meta and resolving just one copy of Emergent Ultimatum can really get things going. There are so many different ways to play it though. Since this is a Yorion deck, we have an 80+ deck. About 50 cards are going to be required, in any situation, but beyond that, it’s pretty flexible. There are cards that always want to be there though. Valki, God of Lies, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, Sea Gate Restoration are just a few examples.

Emergent Ultimatum has us go to our deck for 3 monocolored cards with different names and exile them. Our opponent chooses one, and it goes back into our deck. You can cast the other two without paying their mana cost. The idea is to give your opponent an impossible choice and to get the most value out of it. Kiora Bests the Sea God, Alrund’s Epiphany, cards like this are incredibly potent. This is a deck filled with removal too. Counter, direct creature removal, creature exile, all sorts of stuff. This lets us take the time to get set up.

This version of the deck is aiming at removing the aggro threat in most matchups because I personally see a lot of that deck type. So I want to have as many options to stall or stop them as possible. With there being so many aggro decks going around, this is one of the best decks to stop them in Strixhaven in MTG Arena. It is, again, for my money, the best deck going.

How Does It Work?


This isn’t a deck you just pick up and automatically win with. Every decision matters, and you’ve got to really think a few steps ahead of your opponent. Red Decks Wins just allows you to play cards and win, more or less. But you really have to take time to think about what you’re doing with Sultai Ultimatum. The way this deck is designed is it’s to let us get Yorion out pretty quickly. We’ll be well rewarded for it.

This deck packs some decent mana ramp too. The standard Cultivate is here to pull two basic lands from the deck, put one into play and one into your hand. An early Wolfwillow Haven will also help. A two-cost enchantment, it attaches to a land and grants an additional 1 green mana when it’s tapped for mana. You can sacrifice it to create a 2/2 Green Wolf creature token, but I don’t foresee that being used. Not in this deck.

Binding the Old Gods could show up on turn 3 thanks to this, and it destroys a nonland permanent, then, most importantly, lets us search for a Forest card in our deck (doesn’t have to be a basic land) and put it into play tapped. If we can turn 5 a Yorion, we can flip the Binding the Old Gods out and back in again, for yet another land on the next turn. As this deck doesn’t utilize many (if any) 3-drops, we can turn-3 bring Yorion into hand almost assuredly. Then on turn 5, or 4 depending on how things play out, we can use it to reset Binding the Old Gods. The goal is to get Emergent Ultimatum as fast as possible.

We’ve got to last long enough to do it though. Luckily, we’ve got plenty of removal spells. Heartless Act, Eliminate, Extinction Event, and so much more. Shadows’ Verdict exiles all creatures and planeswalkers that cost 3 or less, and the same for all these cards in graveyards. It’s a 5-drop, but it can just obliterate people’s boards. On the counter side, we have Jwari Disruption and Negate.

We can stall people out, that’s for sure. But the real question is, “What cards do we want to cast from Emergent Ultimatum?” and that’s an excellent question. Fortunately, I have the answer! My personal favorites/strongest cards in my estimation are Valki, God of Lies, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, and Kiora Bests the Sea God. There are a few piles to pick, and they all spell disaster for your opponents. Don’t discount Alrund’s Epiphany either though. Valki, God of Lies also means we can cast it as Tybalt, which is what I’d do anyway.

There are times when we’ll turn 2 cast Valki also, which is 100% fine. It can be a great way to deny someone cards, and potentially give you an advantage. His ability to exile a creature from your opponent’s hand and become that creature is a potential game-breaker. We’ll likely be casting the other side from Emergent Ultimatum. He lets you play cards exiled by him, and can spend any mana to do so. His +2 exiles the top card of each player’s library. -3 Exiles an artifact or creature from the board. The -8 exiles all cards from all graveyards, and gives 3 red mana to play with. He’s just so darn powerful! Around’s Epiphany is arguably our best card though to cast (even if it’s not a personal favorite). It gives us two 1/1 blue Bird creature tokens with flying, and gives us an extra turn. Then we exile it. Getting an extra turn is never a bad thing.

My favorite partnership though is Vorinclex and Tybalt (through Loki), so we can drop him with enough to use his ultimate if we want. It’s really up to you. Kiora Bests the Sea God is so powerful too. It’s a Saga that creates an 8/8 Kraken creature with hexproof, then part 2 taps all nonland permanents target opponent controls, and they don’t untap during their controller’s next untap step. Gain control of target permanent an opponent controls, and then we untap it. That’s step 3!

So how do we win? We use these power cards to set up favorable board situations. We’re going to be taking our opponent’s cards and put them to use to win. That or just swing with the 8/8 and Vorinclex until we win. The hardest part is getting through our opponent’s early game until we can cast Emergent Ultimatum. It’s very likely we’ll win off the first one, but we’ve got several in the deck. We can put together a board state the opponent simply cannot come back from. The above picks aren’t the only ones though.

If you desperately need to wipe the field and get an advantage, you can go with Alrund’s Epiphany, Kiora Bests the Sea God, and Shadow’s Verdict. You slow things down for the big cards, eliminate the weaker ones, and have a chance to just take another turn.

However, you may not have to always do things this way. If you get a chance to Foretell Alrund’s Epiphany, do so! Bala Ged Recovery is typical to pull back an Ultimatum to do it again. If we can drop Sea Gate Restoration through the Ultimatum, you’re going to get some big value out of it I’m sure. Think ahead, consider your mulligans carefully, and think about what your opponent can do.

Decklist


Companion

1 Yorion, Sky Nomad

Deck

2 Alrund’s Epiphany

1 Bala Ged Recovery

4 Barkchannel Pathway

1 Behold the Multiverse

4 Binding the Old Gods

4 Clearwater Pathway

4 Cultivate

4 Darkbore Pathway

1 Eliminate

4 Emergent Ultimatum

3 Extinction Event

3 Fabled Passage

4 Forest

4 Heartless Act

3 Island

3 Jwari Disruption

1 Ketria Triome

1 Kiora Bests the Sea God

3 Negate

4 Omen of the Sea

3 Sea Gate Restoration

4 Shadows’ Verdict

1 Soul Shatter

3 Swamp

2 Valki, God of Lies

1 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider

4 Wolfwillow Haven

4 Zagoth Triome

Sideboard

2 Chainweb Aracnir

1 Crippling Fear

4 Duress

2 Mazemind Tome

4 Mystical Dispute

1 Negate

1 Yorion, Sky Nomad

Final Thoughts



This is one of the best MTG Arena Strixhaven decks in the meta right now for my money. It’s got a high win percentage, and there are a nice variety of ways to play it. You just have to really think about what you’re doing every turn. You may have a different way to win every game, depending on what happens, and that’s okay. Simply getting an Emergent Ultimatum may get someone to surrender too. This is a deck where we take advantage of controlling the board, taking an extra turn at a key moment, and remove threats from the board with a planeswalker (then cast them for yourself). I love this deck, but it’s not always what I’m feeling up to. There are decks that get wins with significantly less thought.

Temur is the New Adventures Deck (Midrange/Aggro)


Now, there are two flavors of Temur Adventures right now, and both have their merits. There are Temur Adventures (Obosh) and Temur Adventures (Lukka Coppercoat) decks to choose from. Personally, I like the Obosh the Preypiercer version, because well, double damage. Obosh is more popular between the two, but Lukka is I guess, the safer pick. Obosh requires all cards in your deck to have an Odd Mana Value in order to use it as a Companion. Since we don’t do that in Lukka, you can have some really great spells like Decisive Denial and Fire Prophecy. Both decks are good though.

In the Lukka deck, you’re looking to cast the titular planeswalker to pull a free Koma, Cosmic Serpent out of your deck. This deck though leaves a little less to chance, in my estimation. What do we do with Temur Adventures? We play big creatures and swing until the other player runs out of gas.

How Does It Work?


The one I use personally is built around Obosh, the Preypiercer, and runs quite a few frustrating, powerful creatures. Our goal is to get Obosh out as soon as possible and batter someone with lots of double damage. It’s a very simple deck, but it’s powerful and fun! I know it’s expensive to get Obosh out of your sideboard and into play. It’s 3 mana to put it into hand, and 5 mana to cast it. Edgewall Innkeeper is in the deck to help us draw into lands, by drawing a card anytime we cast a creature spell with an Adventure.

But we also have the incredible Goldspan Dragon. A 4/4 flyer with haste for 5, it’s going to provide us with temporary mana. Whenever it attacks or is the target of a spell, it creates a Treasure Token. We use these as sacrificial pawns, for one mana of any color. However, we have to get there. The early game is very slow though. A turn one Edgewall Innkeeper is what we want to see. Hopefully, on turn 3 we can drop something like Kazandu Mammoth to apply pressure.

We’ve talked about the Adventures deck so many times here on Esports Talk. Brazen Borrower, Bonecrusher Giant, and Lovestruck Beast are all here, doing the exact same things as before. Brazen Borrower bounces a nonland permanent back to your opponent’s hand and is also a 3/1 Flash/Flyer. It still can’t block anything but other flyers. Bonecrusher is still one of the best creatures in the game. A 4/3 normally that deals 2 damage to any player that targets it with a spell, it is also a spell that deals 2 damage and stops damage from being prevented this turn.

Lovestruck Beast is as always amazing. A 5/5 that needs you to have a Human in order to attack, playing it for 3 is brilliant. We can also tap 1 to create a 1/1 Human creature token through its Adventure Spell. These are all in the 1-3 cost, so we use the most important ones for the situation in the early game. If you don’t have a 3-cost on turn 3, feel free to just put Obosh into your hand! Now once you want to, you can cast it. Another key part of this deck is The Great Henge. Normally a 9-cost Legendary Artifact, it costs up to 7 less, depending on the highest power of our creatures. This artifact can be tapped for 2 life and 2 green, and it grants nontokens of ours that come into play +1/+1 and draws a card for us. Getting this as soon as possible genuinely makes the deck so much better in every way. So we then get that turn-5 Goldspan Dragon for our Treasure Token generations. Since it’s a 4/4 Flying/Haste, it’s going to immediately generate value.

In the event we need, we have Mystical Dispute and Saw It Coming to counter threats, and when we’re ready to win, we can Foretell Alrund’s Epiphany for 6 Mana instead of 7. It will grant us an extra turn, so we set up a powerful lineup, get an extra turn, and swing game when it’s time. If we have to, we cast Obosh on turn 5 instead of the Goldspan Dragon. It makes any odd-cost source we do deal double damage. From here, we just swing as aggressively as we can manage and win the game through sheer violence. This is especially great if we have flyers like Brazen Borrower and a follow-up Goldspan Dragon for the haste damage.

If we can swing with one of those apiece in a turn, it’s 14 damage all on their own. Just imagine what we can do with the rest of our giant allies! That’s the strategy! There are games you won’t even get Obosh out, and that’s fine. It’s just a pleasant bonus to make winning a bit easier.

Decklist


Companion

1 Obosh, the Preypiercer

Deck

4 Alrund’s Epiphany

4 Barkchannel Pathway

4 Bonecrusher Giant

4 Brazen Borrower

4 Cragcrown Pathway

4 Edgewall Innkeeper

4 Fabled Passage

2 Forest

4 Goldspan Dragon

2 Island

4 Kazandu Mammoth

4 Ketria Triome

4 Lovestruck Beast

2 Mountain

2 Mystical Dispute

4 Riverglide Pathway

2 Saw It Coming

2 The Great Henge

Sideboard

1 Crush the Weak

2 Klothys, God of Destiny

2 Mystical Dispute

1 Obosh, the Preypiercer

3 Ox of Agonas

1 Prismari Command

1 Redcap Melee

3 Scorching Dragonfire

1 Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate

Final Thoughts


I may put the Lukka version in too later. It’s a powerful deck and you just constantly apply pressure. Most of our creatures are huge and cost less than they should. Lots of 5/5s that we can drop, or buff 3/3s through Landfall. It’s just brilliant and easy. Heck, you can use Alrund’s to cast Obosh on the follow-up turn, and swing for double damage then. It’s all about using your aggression in the mid-game. If you like to just pound people with annoying Adventures, and big creatures, this is the deck for you.

Jeskai Cycling Thrives (White/Blue/Red Tempo Deck)


We haven’t talked about Cycling since Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, to be honest. Somehow, this deck stuck around and continued to thrive. I’d put it around Tier 2, but it has the exact same powerful win conditions. Like Dimir Rogues, it has zero need to change. This is another deck that’s likely going to completely disappear when the 2021 Standard Rotation happens. Thanks to most of the power cards (if not all of them) being located in Ikoria and when it goes, they go. That means it’s time to get the most out of it!

Someone suggested something to me that I’m shocked I didn’t think of. Add a drop more blue, and throw in Improbable Alliance. Why? It’s not a Cycle card! Actually, it is! In its own way, it rewards us for Cycling. All we need to do is drop it on turn 2, and it could very well be curtains for our opponent. It rewards us for doing the normal game loop we invest time into and also helps us stave off defeat with a host of annoying, flying, 1/1 creatures. As a 2-cost Enchantment, it has you create a 1/1 BLue Faerie creature token with flying whenever you draw your second card each turn. You can also spend 6 mana to draw a card and discard a card.

But why do that, when nearly every card in our deck is a Cycling card? For those that don’t remember, you can pay the Cycling cost (typically 1 or 2 colorless mana) to discard that card while it’s in hand. Then you draw a new card. Turn 2 Improbable Alliance is going to get really mean really fast. We only get one token per turn, but doing it on our opponent’s turn is great too. We can still trigger Cycling abilities then.

How Does It Work?


What is our win condition, if all we do is Cycle cards into our grave? We have two ways to win. The first, and probably the most fun, is one-shotting someone with Zenith Flare (or casting it twice if you have to). For 4 mana, this Red/White Instant deals X damage to any target, where X is the number of cards with a cycling ability in your graveyard. You can pick someone apart with our creatures’ cycling passives, and then zap someone down with Zenith Flare.

Or we can just get a few of our creatures into play and spam our Cycling abilities. Flourishing Fox could be our win-con all on its own, or Drannith Stinger. Getting one of each out is a blessing. No matter what you do, it all builds around Cycling unwanted cards from our hands to the grave. We also run Lurrus of the Dream-Den to get cards back from the grave. We can use him to get our creatures back that perish over the course of the game (or we cycled them).

It can also help us get a win condition going. If you decide to win with Flourishing Fox, you can cast Footfall Crater from the grave, to enchant a land. Then, tap that land to give a creature Trample and Haste for the turn. If you have a 20/20 creature, it still needs Trample to get past blockers. Now that we know what Cycling is, here’s what our Cycling creatures do.

Flourishing Fox is a 1/1 for 1 white mana, and anytime you Cycle a card, it gains a +1/+1 counter. It can be Cycled for 1 colorless, like almost every other card in this deck. A turn 1 Flourishing Fox and a turn 2 Improbable Alliance sets you up nicely for victory. We make a very strong creature capable of easily trading, and start making tokens. Speaking of tokens, Valiant Rescuer is a 2-cost creature in White, that gives you a 1/1 Human Soldier token, the first time you Cycle a turn. You can’t spam tokens with him sadly.

You can spam the Cycle powers of Drannith Healer and Drannith Stinger, however. Drannith Healer is a 2-cost White creature. This 2/2 gives you 1 life anytime you Cycle a card. Drannith Stinger is a 2-cost Red creature, and anytime you cycle a card, each opponent takes 1 damage. You can already see how out of control this gets. Once we have a healthy hand and plenty of mana, we can reliably draw and cycle again and again. Almost every card in the deck features Cycling, after all. Even a few of our lands have them.

Most of those cards aren’t ones we’re going to bother casting, because they’re so expensive. We’d like to get at least 1 of the creatures out (one of each is even better). The Sorceries though? We probably aren’t going to cast them. Boon of the Wish-Giver is a 6-cost Sorcery for 4 cards. It’s much more satisfying to Cycle it for 1. Your strategy is going to be to get your creatures out before you go wild Cycling. If your opponent lets those jerks just stick around, they’re going to make the game much easier for you to win.

This also forces them to respond to the creatures, instead of the upcoming Zenith Flare. Speaking of Zenith Flare, depending on the situation, you may not have the luxury of holding it for a one-shot. If I get more than one in hand, I’m going to cast them early, to make the game a little faster. If you’re close to losing, it’s also time to Zenith Flare. Since it gives you life equal to the damage you deal with it, it can put you right back in the game.

We have so much draw power thanks to our Cycling cards, it’s not going to be long before you see another Zenith Flare. I also focus on Cycling the most expensive cards first. They’re the ones we’re less likely to play. But cards like Go For Blood and Footfall Crater? We’re more likely to actually use those if we need. Go For Blood has one of our creatures fight an opponent’s creature, for example. We can use this to bully something off the board with our Fox.

Sometimes you’ll want to hold mana to make your opponent think you have threats that don’t exist, too. That way, you can cycle on the other player’s turn, during their end step. This puts you in a better position on your own turn since you don’t have to worry so much about threats. On top of that, your opponent has almost no way to stop Cycling. When you don’t have anything else to do, then you can get Lurrus in play, and start abusing him.

Decklist


Companion

1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Deck

3 Boon of the Wish-Giver

4 Drannith Healer

4 Drannith Stinger

4 Flourishing Fox

4 Footfall Crater

3 Frostveil Ambush

4 Go for Blood

4 Hengegate Pathway

3 Improbable Alliance

1 Mountain

4 Needleverge Pathway

2 Plains

4 Raugrin Triome

4 Riverglide Pathway

4 Startling Development

4 Valiant Rescuer

4 Zenith Flare

Sideboard

3 Glass Casket

1 Improbable Alliance

1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

2 Mystical Dispute

2 Negate

2 Redcap Melee

2 Shredded Sails

2 Skyclave Cleric

Final Thoughts


This isn’t an interesting deck, but it’s powerful. There’s not a whole lot to say about it, because of this. We’ve gone over Cycling before here on Esports Talk, and there’s a good reason. It’s amazing. Blasting someone to pieces with one Zenith Flare is so satisfying. But beware Control decks. If your foe is playing lots of control/counters, try and hold out for Zenith Flare until they’re tapped out or are convincingly out of options. There’s no reason to throw away the game just because you’re getting antsy.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It (Mono-White Lifegain)


Some people might argue, but Mono-White Lifegain is still ridiculously powerful. It’s going to also be losing a lot of cards in the coming months (close to half the deck), but it’s riding a real serious high right now. It’s at the end of the day, a very tempo-based aggro deck. We’re going to be playing early threat, building our life, and being rewarded with a wealth of Angels. We’re sadly not really adding anything new to the deck, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Most of our deck starts off mediocre in terms of stats, but between Luminarch Aspirant and Heliod, Sun-Crowned, we’re going to get out of control very fast.

What’s our goal? Hitting the other player as hard as we can. Preferably with Maul of the Skyclaves on something powerful. You don’t have to put it on one of the Angel tokens we create, and in fact, I probably wouldn’t. Why? The Maul grants +2/+2, Flying and First Strike. Why give something flying that already has it? Instead, I’m likely going to give it to something that can’t be blocked, or isn’t going to be blocked. We’ve got a fair amount of lifelink in the early game, so we can set up for the mid-late game.

So, what do we want to do?

How Does It Work?


You’ll probably notice Lurrus of the Dream-Den is in the deck but isn’t a Companion. If we did that, we’d lose out on Heliod, Sun-Crowned, and Skyclave Apparation. Those are both useful, and Heliod is a game-winner without a doubt. Because of this, we just include Lurrus in the deck. We can still put him to incredible use. Our major goal is to get at least 27 life. That’s because of our 1-drop 1/1 Vigilance/Lifelink Speaker of the Heavens.

You can tap it to create a 4/4 white Angel token with Flying, but only if you have 7 or more life than your starting total (27). You can only do this when you could cast a Sorcery. That means you can’t just spam it and do it anytime you want, but often enough. Since it’s got Vigilance, it can attack without being tapped. The most important two-drop we have is Daxos, Blessed by the Sun. We want him at turn two pretty much every single game.

He’s a 2/*, where * is equal to the devotion to White we have. He’s going to get really bulky because of that. But he also gives you 1 life anytime another creature you control enters play or dies. Make a token with Luminarch or Castle Ardenvale? 1 life? Throw away a chump-blocker? Another 1 life, and more if they had Lifelink. We can be pretty liberal with how we throw creatures around too. If Daxos is out, and especially if we have Lurrus, we can throw away many of our creatures to make sure we get that life total up.

Don’t throw Speaker of the Heavens willy-nilly though. We need that to make Angels. But the big cheese of the deck is Heliod, Sun-Crowned. He’s arguably the most relevant of the Gods from Theros: Beyond Death. He’s indestructible and is still an enchantment until you have 5 or more devotion to white. He still gets his effects regardless. Dropping him on turn 3 is the dream. When he’s in play, whenever you gain life, put a +1/+1 counter on a creature or enchantment (so, him if you want) you control. You can also tap 2 mana (1 white) to give a creature you control lifelink for the turn. Now any card of yours is a threat.

I like to make sure I have enough mana to make all attackers have lifelink. As a 5/5 Indestructible, there’s no telling how big he’ll be before he drops. I like to make sure I buff the right creatures though. Daxos, my flying Angels, and Speaker of the Heavens are all great picks. Creatures that exist to be sacrificed (Selfless Savior, Alseid of Life’s Bounty) are ones I typically buff less frequently. Speaking of buffs, Luminarch Aspirant is our other buff bot. At the start of our combat phase, we put a +1/+1 counter on one of our creatures. We can quickly begin swinging for the fences, and it’s beautiful.

We also have another way to gain life: Radiant Fountain. It’s a land that grants you 2 life when it comes into play. Try to wait on this until you have Heliod in play, so you can get a +1/+1 counter simply for playing a land. I thought about including LInden, the Steadfast Queen instead of the lands. She gives you 1 life anytime one of your white creatures attacks, and she’s amazing for 3 white. She’s worth it, but the 3 mana can be a little hard when you also want to add lifelink. It’s up to you, but I like including her. She’s worth it.

The design behind this deck is we constantly buff, constantly gain life, and just apply pressure over and over. Decks in this meta won’t stand up to it for very long. It will quickly run people out of blockers, as your huge creatures just keep filing in. Once you have some Angels, you can really put the pressure on too. It shouldn’t take more than a few turns to get life, either with how the tempo works in this deck. From there, you just start putting the hurt on.

Decklist


Deck

4 Alseid of Life’s Bounty

4 Castle Ardenvale

4 Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

4 Heliod, Sun-Crowned

4 Luminarch Aspirant

4 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

4 Maul of the Skyclaves

16 Plains

4 Radiant Fountain

4 Selfless Savior

4 Skyclave Apparition

4 Speaker of the Heavens

Final Thoughts


This is a deck I’ve come back to a few times over the years. It saw a few adjustments in Zendikar, but nothing new in Strixhaven. That doesn’t make it a bad deck though. It persists and thrives, and that says a lot about the deck. You can make a creature indestructible for the turn (Selfless Savior) or immune to a color to make it unblockable (Alseid of Life’s Bounty), and we can use Lurrus to re-cast those again and again. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to constantly swing with a growing unblockable Heliod every single turn. I’ve had games where I hit with him for 15 for several turns before I decided to make him unblockable (Protection vs. A Color). It’s fast, it’s rude, it’s consistent.

Dimir Rogues Haven’t Changed, But Are Potent (Blue/Black Mill)


Here’s a deck that’s pretty contentious. It’s also another deck that has made approximately zero changes since the last expansion. There was no need to add cards from Strixhaven because it’s already about as optimized as it gets. It’s also a (surprise!) Lurrus deck! I wonder how history will look upon the concept of Companions in MTG a few years in the future. The ability to keep replaying our cheap creatures, again and again, cannot be understated in this deck. It allows us to play aggressively and keep milling people.

Our goal is to keep the pressure up and run our opponent out of cards in as little time as possible. How do we do that? Ruin Crab. We use some Rogues too, sure, but let’s be real. The best card in the deck, bar none, is Ruin Crab. Without it, this deck doesn’t work at all. If you can drop a couple of these bad boys early and hit your land drops, the game will be over before your opponent knows it. Fabled Passage is a land that’s really going to shine with this Crab too. Dropping a land, and then sacrificing it to get another land? That’s a minimum of 6 cards milled out of your opponent’s deck. In theory, if you have 3 out, that is 18 cards milled!

We use this alongside a few hand-picked Rogues, and keep making the other player mill, and pinging them for damage when we can. Other than that, we’ve got a huge host of removal spells, to make sure our opponent never makes a comeback. This is a deck I’d like to find room for graveyard removal for, that’s for sure. It’s disrespectful, but it works. That’s all we care about here: results.

How Does It Work?


Lurrus has never been more powerful than in this deck. We don’t miss out on much by adding him to the deck. Zareth San is neat, but it takes some setup. Brazen Borrower? I don’t like that card anyway. Sure our permanents are low-cost, but they’re incredibly high value. For example, again, Ruin Crab is the best creature. Every time you play a land and its in play, the other player mills 3 cards. With there not being as many Yorion decks going around, this puts Dimir Rogues in a strong spot.

Thieves’ Guild Enforcer is the next best card in the deck. It’s great on any turn. It’s a solid attacker and blocker (especially when our opponent has milled). A 1/1 for 1, it has Flash. WHenever Thieves’ Guild Enforcer or another Rogue enters the battlefield for us, each opponent mills two cards. If our opponent has eight or more cards in the grave, this creature gains +2/+1 and Deathtouch, making it a serious threat.

On top of that, we can flash in Soaring Thought-Thief on our opponent’s turn for two mana. It has Flying and is a ⅓. Whenever our opponent has eight or more cards in the grave, it gains +1/+0. Then, whenever one or more Rogues you control attack, each opponent mills two cards. So we slide damage through every turn, as aggressively as possible. Then, we drop Lurrus on turn 4. Having that means we can play these creatures from the grave, should they die. Our weakest card in the whole deck is Merfolk Windrobber. A 1 cost 1/1 blue Flying Merfolk. Whenever it deals damage to a player, that player mills a card, and you can sacrifice ti to draw a card. That is if your opponent has 8+ cards in the grave. We can attack with this, make them mill, sacrifice it to draw, and re-cast it with Lurrus to then make the other player mill more thanks to Thieves’ Guild Enforcer. A few of those and Ruin Crabs make the game quick.

Replaying our permanents with Lurrus has an immediate effect on the game. Mill! Constant, frustrating mill. We get a few Rogues and Crabs in play, and then play the control game. Low on lands? Into The Story costs 3 less if our opponent has 7+ cards in the grave, and draws us 4 cards (for now 4 mana). We also run a copy of Lullmage’s Domination for the mid-game, where we can steal a permanent from an opponent. It also costs less if our opponent has 8+ cards in the grave. For 3 blue+X (-3), we gain control of a target creature with a Mana Value of X.

We have counterspells and counterspells that are also potential removal! Drown in the Loch, Mystical Dispute, Negate, and Didn’t Say Please! Didn’t Say Please even mills our opponent 3 cards! The popular removal of Bloodchief’s Thirst and Drown in the Loch are also in the deck! We can use Agadeem’s Awakening in the mid/late game to bring cards back from the grave and put them back into play. We’ve got plenty of ways to slow the game down while we continue to mill. That’s the best part about this deck! With a healthy amount of lands, we can play a cheap Rogue, and still have mana to do other stuff.

The endgame is making our opponent run out of their cards in the deck. They mill by all of the above strategies. I’ve had this game win by having 4 Crabs out and playing almost no Rogues. Making someone mill 12 cards per land? It takes virtually no time to win. You have lots of flying creatures to swing with, and lots of lands to play to make them mill.

Decklist


Companion

1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Deck

2 Agadeem’s Awakening

3 Bloodchief’s Thirst

4 Clearwater Pathway

1 Didn’t Say Please

4 Drown in the Loch

4 Fabled Passage

3 Heartless Act

4 Into the Story

5 Island

1 Lullmage’s Domination

3 Merfolk Windrobber

2 Mystical Dispute

1 Negate

1 Of One Mind

4 Ruin Crab

4 Soaring Thought-Thief

4 Swamp

4 Temple of Deceit

4 Thieves’ Guild Enforcer

2 Zagoth Triome

Sideboard

4 Crippling Fear

3 Lullmage’s Domination

1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

1 Mystical Dispute

3 Negate

3 Skyclave Shade

Final Thoughts


A lot of situations you want to just stall people out as much as possible. While turn 1 Crab is great, if you can play turn 1 Windrobber instead, you are safe to do so. Just play the Crab turn 2, then play your land. You can’t make someone mill on turn one with a Crab. You know, unless you have ⅔ Crabs in hand, then you play those. That way you can make the multiple Landfall triggers. Drown in the Loch is amazing too, but you want to hold it until the mid-game. The more cards in your opponent’s graveyard, the more powerful it is. I love this deck, but I also loathe it. I love mill decks, but I’m disappointed it hasn’t really changed in Strixhaven. Do we need more time? It’s probable.

Comments


Leave a Reply