MTG Arena Strixhaven Standard Decks to Try
With every new expansion, we return to look at decks, and MTG Arena’s Strixhaven update is no exception! Oh, I missed talking about Magic, that’s for sure. There are going to be some absolutely bonkers combos coming in this expansion as well. Later this year, we’re going to be saying goodbye to Throne of Eldraine, which feels like it’s been around for five years at this point. We’ll still be utilizing those cards a lot because they’re still wildly powerful.
Strixhaven is a Magical school plane of existence, and all of the new “Schools” (similar to the Ravnica guilds) have their own identity and design process. Each school is two-color, but we aren’t confined to doing just two-color decks, far from it. One of the ideas I like the most is a 4-color lifegain punishment deck. It’s White/Black/Green/Blue, and you can really drop someone’s life total very quickly with it. There are bound to be refinements though as the weeks come around.
These aren’t guaranteed to be the Tier 1, World-Breaker decks, as always. When we start off for an expansion, we try to focus on the fun or interesting decks, and in a few weeks, we’ll come around and see what’s breaking the game. I’ll also be returning to the Historic decks too because you can bet on several of these cards being useful in that meta. I hope it really shakes the meta up away from the Goblins. Wizards seem to be pushing some new metas and archetypes. Will they be picked up? We’ll just have to see. Sadly, the Early Access events for MTG Arena seem to be gone, and they will be missed.
That having been said, there are new decks to try this month, and I’m glad to talk about them with you!
Temur Superfriends Never Really Went Anywhere (Green/Blue/Red Midrange)
Most Superfriends decks are built around the concept of controlling the flow of the game. Make it as slow as possible, and build up those powerful ultimates. Temur Superfriends features both new and old RUG planeswalkers, but it’s creature-themed! The latest version of Kasmina, Kasmina, Enigma Sage lets all your other planeswalkers also give access to her abilities, which is great. Even planeswalkers with no upticks would have access to one. This is a Superfriends deck, where the goal is to hit the board with lots of planeswalkers. This one just also has creatures to utilize!
That’s not important to this deck, but it’s valuable knowledge regardless. The key here is a little bit of control, and a lot of Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast. We don’t have to attack with this deck at all! We can, but it’s not necessary to our victory. We just want to get a lot of creatures on the board, and then pop Lukka’s ultimate ability. This is not a deck that requires a lot of sorcery or instants, either. WE have one counter (Decisive Denial), and a lot of creatures to rush the board with.
Lukka’s ultimate ability has each creature your control deals damage equal to its power to each opponent. To make this pop off as much as possible, we have a few really useful creatures. They will let us fight our opponent if we want, or simply wait them out, and use that ultimate as hard as possible. We can also use Teferi, Master of Time to get extra turns, to make sure this all kicks off exactly as we please. It’s going to be a really bad time for whoever gets caught by this deck.
How Does It Work?
Kasmina, Enigma Sage is here to make sure we can start popping Loyalty abilities faster. She grants your other planeswalkers a +2 Loyalty ability, which grants Scry 2. It doesn’t do the same thing as the other +1’s, but if you want pure speed, 2 is better, no question. Our early game is to set up a positive board state for us, and that means Throne of Eldraine creatures. Edgewall Innkeeper is still one of the most powerful green creatures.
A 1/1 for 1 that grants you card draw anytime you cast a creature with an Adventure attached to it? Love it. The conspirators? Bonecrusher Giant, Brazen Borrower, Lovestruck Beast. In particular, Bonecrusher Giant is going to be a very powerful tool until it rotates out. There are a wealth of powerful creatures coming in Strixhaven decks for MTG Arena, but many also have incredibly low toughness ratings. That 2 damage is going to be enough to stop a foe dead in their tracks.
These cards offer early game pressure, and card draw with Innkeeper. Lovestruck Beast is our key to getting Koma, Cosmos Serpent out of our deck too. Lukka’s -2 ability sacrifices a creature and lets you reveal cards from our deck until we find a creature that costs more and put it into play. Honestly, any of those three creatures work. They all cost 3 mana. On second thought, I’d probably sacrifice the Brazen Borrower, since Lovestruck is a 5/5.
That means we get a 6/6 legendary serpent from our deck without paying its mana cost (7 mana). This overall feeds into the plan too. For each player’s upkeep, we get a 3/3 Serpent, named Koma’s Coil. We can sacrifice these to tap creatures or make Koma indestructible, but instead, we’re going to use these with Lukka.
Our next step is to get Lukka to at least 8 Loyalty. At the same time, we’re going to be boosting Teferi, Master of Time whenever we get him. If we can manage to get him to 10, we can take two extra turns. Consider Teferi’s passive. We can use his loyalty abilities on any player’s turn as an Instant. We can use Kasmina’s +2 Scry on our opponent’s turn to make things go really fast. That’s the key: power up as fast as possible, and keep a steady flow of creatures to keep the planeswalkers safe. Now if our opponent has a bunch of flyers, it might be a problem, admittedly.
Here’s where we win though. Either we just pummel the other player constantly, or we hold out for Lukka’s ultimate. Ideally, we’ll keep creating serpents and playing big creatures. Then we deal all their damage to our opponent in one big shot, destroying them utterly. You can still bully the other player constantly with him though.
4 Kasmina, Enigma Sage
4 Teferi, Master of Time
4 Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast
4 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Brazen Borrower
4 Edgewall Innkeeper
4 Lovestruck Beast
4 Decisive Denial
4 Koma, Cosmos Serpent
4 Ketria Triome
4 Riverglide Pathway
4 Cragcrown Pathway
4 Fabled Passage
4 Barkchannel Pathway
We can also use Kasmina’s -X ability to help win! Create a huge creature with her, or with any of our planeswalkers, to help deal the damage we need. It’s a really cool concept for a Superfriends deck and is a bit more potentially aggressive than they normally are. Unlike most Superfriends decks, we only run one control spell. Decisive Denial can counter a noncreature spell (unless the controller pays 3 colorless), or we can use it to fight a creature we don’t control. That can also help us get some damage through, so don’t underestimate it. I do not know if this is going to be the definitive version of the deck, but I’m hyped for it anyway!
Quandrix Counters Are Our Friends (Blue/Green Midrange)
To be honest, all this deck really needs are some easy access Learn abilities. This will have to be adjusted for that, I think. The sideboard has a bunch of amazing spells in it, but we have one Learn spell in the mainboard. I think those are there, just to make sure we have access, should the deck be adjusted later. I’d like more Learn spells, but if that’s not possible, it’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. I considered stowing in Pop Quiz in Blue or something of that nature. However, every card in this deck essentially focuses on one thing: +1/+1 counters.
Quandrix in particular has Fractal creature tokens. They are at the base, 0/0 Green and Blue creature tokens, and tend to come in with X +1/+1 counters on them. With so many creatures creating +1/+1 counters, it’s only natural to make sure The Ozolith is in the deck. Why? That way, none of those counters go to waste! When a creature of yours leaves the battlefield, they go onto The Ozolith. Then, at the start of combat, if The Ozolith has counters on it, you can move all of them onto a creature.
We can stock up tons of them, make sure we have Trample through Pridemalkin and swing for big-time, serious numbers. That’s what this deck is about. Hitting really hard, in very short order. Most of this deck is new, exciting stuff, with a few older cards in the Standard meta like Wildwood Scourge, Sea Gate Restoration, and Pridemalkin. Interestingly enough, this is another deck with Blue/Green in it, that isn’t loaded with counters. We’ll see those soon enough, I’m sure.
How Does It Work?
I love big number decks, so seeing this in MTG Arena’s Strixhaven expansion made me happy. We can take it nice and slow, set up an Ozolith on turn 1 hopefully, and wait for the counters to just roll in. Wildwood Scourge is another great early creature because it will grow the longer it’s in play. It’s a 0/0 for 1, which we can also pay X with. For X, we get that many +1/+1 counters on it. However, whenever one or more +1/+1 counters hit a non-Hydra creature of ours, put a +1/+1 on this creature.
Do we really have that many moments where we’d get +1/+1 counters? What a silly question. Emergent Sequence, for example, is a 2-cost spell. It searches our library for a basic land and puts it into play tapped. That land also becomes a 0/0 Green/Blue Fractalc creature, that’s also still a land. It gets a +1/+1 counter on it for each land we had enter play this turn. Just some food for thought.
Kianne, Dean of Substance / Imbraham, Dean of Theory also helps with our Fractals/counters. For 3 mana, you get this creature. Tapping her exiles the top card of your library, and if it’s a land, it goes into your hand. Otherwise, put a Study counter on it. For 5 mana, we can create a 0/0 Fractal creature token, and it gets a +1/+1 for each different mana value among nonland cards you own in exile with study counters on it.
Her flip side, Imbraham will allow you to get some of those study counter cards back. You can tap 2 blue and X, and tap him to exile the top X cards of your library. You then put a study counter on each. Then you can put a card you own in exile with a study counter into your hand. If you already have some of those there, you can then pay 0, and get one of those back! Not amazing for this deck though. Biomathematician for 3 mana, also creates a 0/0 Fractal but also puts a +1/+1 counter on each Fractal you control.
Manifestation Sage is another creature that adds even more of these Fractal creature tokens. It creates a 0/0 one, and it gains X +1/+1 counters on it, where X is the number of cards in your hand. We can pair this hopefully, with Sea Gate Restoration to make a huge creature. But the biggest creature we make comes from Body of Research. For 6 mana, it creates a 0/0 Green and Blue Fractal creature token, and it gains X +1/+1 counters, where X is the number of cards in your library. Ready for an awesome 40/40? Then we make sure Pridemalkin is out, so it can have Trample.
That’s what we really want: Big creatures with trample. Hopefully, we can stack some counters on The Ozolith for our Tanazir Quandrix. When this creature comes into play, you double the number of +1/+1 counters on a creature we control. That’s pretty interesting but not as great as his second power. Whenever Quandrix attacks, you can have the Base Power/Toughness of other creatures you control into the base power and toughness of Tanazir Quandrix.
All those Fractal creatures? Now they’re at least 4/4s, on top of the other counters they have. With Pridemalkin, so much damage will get through, thanks to Trample. That’s the main end we have in mind, swinging as hard as possible in the mid-range of the game. After all that, we have Divide by Zero to return a spell or permanent that costs 1 or more back to its owner’s hand, and also Learn. If I picked mine, I’d pick Biomathematician to buff our creatures more, but we can also use it on our foes.
Test of Talents is our counter for the deck, and also searchers the controller’s graveyard, hand, and library for spells with the same name as this, and exile them. For any of these that are exiled out of hand, that player gets to draw that many cards (after shuffling). We also have a tiny bit more of Mana Ramp. Eureka Moment has you draw 2 cards, and you can put a land from your hand (any kind of land) into play, and not be tapped. For 4 mana and an instant, it’s an amazing amount of value on your opponent’s turn.
4 Manifestation Sage
2 Kianne, Dean of Substance
3 Tanazir Quandrix
3 Wildwood Scourge
3 Body of Research
4 Emergent Sequence
2 Eureka Moment
1 Sea Gate Restoration
3 Test of Talents
4 The Ozolith
4 Barkchannel Pathway
3 Vineglimmer Snarl
1 Castle Vantress
1 Castle Garenbrig
2 Divide by Zero
2 Fractal Summoning
2 Containment Breach
2 Basic Conjuration
2 Teachings of the Archaics
2 Introduction to Annihilation
This deck has the potential to be a lot of fun. I think a lot of the Fractal stuff could also be useful in Historic, but for now? I like the direction this is heading in. It’s so weird seeing Quandrix/Simic without roughly forty-seven counterspells, but here we are. There has been mid-range beatdown Simic decks before, so this will feel familiar to some. I’m excited to see this potentially get used.
Quandrix Makes Infect an Endless Nightmare (Blue/Green Combo)
I just want to point out that I don’t think this will be in the meta. However, when I saw the cards Echoing Equation and Double Major, I knew what was going to happen, somewhere, somehow on the internet. Fynn, the Fangbearer would come back, to make his presence known. If you have multiple Fynn’s in play, each one doubles the number of Poison Counters that you would go. So two of him would give 4x the Poison Counters instead of 2x.
It’s not going to take a whole lot of work to make people absolutely furious. If we turn a horde of Scute Swarm into Fynn, the Fangbearer, and just swing with a maddening number of them, it’s going to be essentially a guaranteed win. Unless that player can block everyone or blow up the board at instant speed, getting something, anything through is probably going to result in a win.
Perhaps one of the best parts is how inexpensive this deck is when it comes to a mana base. Most of the spells are reasonably priced, and we can start setting up our combo on turn 2/3. We drop a Moss Viper turn 1, turn 2 a Fynn, and turn 3, Double Major! Now we have two Fynns! Copies of cards stack counter generation, so we could pretty easily win on turn 4 or so with a perfect start and no board removal. If your opponent does not stop you quickly, things get mighty out of hand. How so?
Let’s talk about what these cards do to other decks in the Strixhaven expansion of MTG Arena!
How Does It Work?
I’ve only talked about Poison Counters once or twice here on Esports Talk, and that’s for a very good reason. They haven’t been a part of the Standard Meta in years! They have existed since Legends, with Pit Scorpion and Serpent Generator. It was used in a few subsequent sets, before vanishing from the game. It would make another comeback down the road (Futuresight). Finally, it returned again under a new name, with a twist: Infect. Infect gives enemy creatures -1/-1 counters, and gives players Poison Counters.
You only need to give a player 10 Poison Counters to win the game. You can see it being used in a Historic context here. Fynn, the Fangbearer is the card that brought it back. Creatures you control with Deathtouch now grant two Poison Counters to an opponent whenever they deal combat damage. Through this, we can drop some inexpensive (1-2 mana cost) deathtouch creatures for the first few turns. Then, on turn 4, we drop Fynn and cast one of the new spells, Double Major. It’s a two-cost spell and copies a target creature you control. However, if it’s legendary, the copy isn’t legendary. We then duplicate Fynn, making two. Now each creature offers 4 Poison Counters per instance of combat damage.
Say we turn 1 Moss Viper, turn 2 Moss Viper, turn 3 Needlethorn Drake. Then turn 4, we Fynn/Double Major, and we can immediately swing lethal, providing the other player doesn’t have blockers/chooses not to block. That is an incredibly “best-case scenario”. However, Needlethorn Drake has flown, so it may get through regardless. That’s the whole best-case combo! If all goes to plan, turn 4, the other player is toast, cursing the day they ever learned what a Poison Counter is.
This isn’t the only way to win, so don’t worry. You can nickel and dime someone down once Fynn’s in play, or, consider the long-con. Scute Swarm creates a 1/1 green Insect creature token, anytime you play a land. If you have six or more lands, you instead create a copy of Scute Swarm. If we pair this with Cultivate, we easily make tons of creatures. Each Scute Swarm will trigger this again and again. From there, we need Fynn to be in play. The frontside of Augmenter Pugilist is neat, but we want the reverse of the Modal card. We want the five-cost blue Sorcery, Echoing Equation.
It has us choose a creature we control, and each other creature we control becomes that creature. If it’s a legendary, that creature is no longer legendary. This lasts for one turn, so we only pop this off when it’s time to swing lethal. Suddenly, we could have 20+ copies of Fynn, the Fangbearer. From there, we simply need one to deal damage, in order to deal lethal damage. Barring everything else, we can just use Questing Beast with Fynn to keep pinging away to win.
Since this is a Simic/Quandrix deck, we need some counters. That comes in the form of Quandrix Command, which chooses two effects out of four. You can return a creature or planeswalker to its owner’s hand, counter an artifact or enchantment spell, give a creature two +1/+1 counters, or shuffle three target cards into a library from the grave (for target player).
It also has the familiar Decisive Denial. The combo is easy to use and incredibly satisfying.
4 Moss Viper
4 Fynn, the Fangbearer
4 Needlethorn Drake
3 Double Major
2 Decisive Denial
3 Test of Talents
3 Augmenter Pugilist
3 Quandrix Command
3 Scute Swarm
2 Saw It Coming
3 Questing Beast
4 Barkchannel Pathway
3 Fabled Passage
I really wanted to feature this deck because I adore the concept. I will try to not cover any other Quandrix decks in this blog, honest. I just really enjoy combos where you can beat someone in one turn. Sadly, I’m not so sure a Silverquill OTK will be possible in Standard anymore, but it will be around in Historic. That will be fine! I’ll be covering Historic soon enough. If you want to make someone as cross as humanly possible, this is a great way to do just that. Will it be a deck you see in MTG Arena/MTG Majors? I doubt it. But boy would that make me happy!
Winota and Friends Are Still Meta (Probably) (White/Red Aggro/Combo)
Oh, Winota. You’re so silly and powerful and people don’t even care. White/Red Winota decks are based on low-cost, early-game non-Humans, and pulling powerful Human creatures out of the deck for free. In the past, I’ve written about Winota and Good Boys (Winota Dog Deck), and one of those is still here – Selfless Savior. Sadly, we’ll only have this deck for a few more months in Standard, so let’s enjoy it while we can. Our non-Humans are pretty cheap (3 mana or less). If you don’t turn-4 Winota, it’s going to be a long, ugly game though potentially, so be aware of that.
Our goal is going to be to do annoying things like suddenly go from attacking with 3 or so creatures, and double that. It’s a very simple, but efficient deck. It’s likely, that if everything goes our way, on turn 4, we’re just going to win via damage. We can grant our attacking creatures Double Strike, or buff the newly-summoned, also indestructible creatures. It’s so beautiful and so frustrating. This may not be the last instance of Boros Aggro, either. It’s the first one I saw that I really enjoy the concept behind though.
This version is different from previous Winota decks we’ve run since it has some new, exciting creatures in place of the old ones. It’s such a fun, satisfying ability to pull off, since you literally have to do nothing other than play Winota, and roll the dice.
Roll the dice? What does that mean?
How Does It Work?
The key is to start with Winota, Joiner of Forces in our hand. We also don’t want to miss a land-drop. This is so we can play Winota on turn 4. The first three turns are dedicated to get as many low-cost non-Humans into play. You’ll see some familiar faces likely – Stonecoil Serpent, Alseid of Life’s Bounty, and Selfless Savior. We’ve got Shaile, Dean of Radiance as another possibility, as a two-drop legendary Bird Cleric. This creature is a 1/1 with Flying/Vigilance, and can be tapped. If you tap it for its ability, each creature that came into play this turn gain a +1/+1 counter.
This allows you to attack with it, and also buff your allies that also dropped this turn. That makes it key for Winota. The highest-cost non-Human is Skyclave Apparation, which exiles a nonland, nontoken permanent of your opponents, that costs 4 or less. Don’t attack unless you know your creature won’t die though. We want as many as possible.
Oh and Venerable Warsinger. A 3-cost Spirit Cleric, it has Vigilance/Trample. Whenever this 3/3 deals combat damage to a player, you return a creature card with Mana Value X or less into play from the graveyard. X is the amount of combat damage they dealt. If somehow they have Double Strike, you get two creatures back.
Now, when Winota, Joiner of Forces comes into play, you’re free to swing with your non-Humans. When a non-Human of yours attacks, you look at the top six of your deck and put a Human from among them into play, tapped and attacking (and it is indestructible for the turn). You do this for each non-Human you control and attack with. Our Humans we’re going to get are Elite Spellbinder, Kenrith, the Returned King, and Blade Historian. The best part of this deck is you can adjust the Humans/Non-Humans as you like, but I support this set-up so far.
Ideally, we’re going to get each of these, or even another Winota, Joiner of Forces. I’m willing to put that in play even if it means putting the other into the grave. If somehow we don’t defeat the other player, we can use Venerable Warsinger to bring them back, provided we deal 4 damage with one swing (easy with this deck). We also want to tap Shaile to make sure everyone gets +1/+1. The reason Blade Historian is so important, our attacking creatures gain Double Strike. The idea here is that we’ll swing for lethal damage in one hit, two tops. Kenrith will help, as he’s a 5/5 baseline. You can also use him to give all creatures Trample/Haste for the turn, so you can make sure blocked creatures have a better chance of getting damage out.
That’s the whole deck strategy! We can also use Showdown of the Skalds to exile the top four of our deck to find something useful. Until the next turn, we can play those cards. Great way to get a Winota or something, should we miss it. The other two parts of this Saga grant a creature of ours a +1/+1 counter anytime we cast a spell this turn. Creatures count as spells while being cast, so this should still work just fine.
From there, we swing until we win!
4 Alseid of Life’s Bounty
4 Venerable Warsinger
4 Winota, Joiner of Forces
4 Elite Spellbinder
2 Showdown of the Skalds
4 Selfless Savior
2 Kenrith, the Returned King
2 Stonecoil Serpent
4 Skyclave Apparition
4 Cragcrown Pathway
4 Furycalm Snarl
2 Savai Triome
4 Blade Historian
2 Shaile, Dean of Radiance
What a ridiculous deck. It’s so powerful and quick. It’s more likely we’re going to swing for lethal on Turn 4 or 5. We can also use the Selfless Savior to make someone indestructible for the turn (by sacrificing the Good Boy). We can use Warsinger to keep bringing stuff back if need, as long as it deals combat damage. The concept of Winota decks is wildly simple, and it’s all creatures, except for Showdown of the Scalds. It doesn’t need anything else! Spells make it harder for us to put Humans into play for combat damage. Let’s enjoy this while we can.
Silverquill Auditing Service (White/Black Control)
Control is ultimately my favorite way to play. No matter how many silly, big-number decks I play, at heart, I’m a control player. I’m only really at home when I slow the game down to a snail’s pace. Strixhaven (and in particular, Silverquill) has some amazing tools for that. If we combine last expansion’s Reidane, God of the Worthy with Wandering Archaic, we can make any player wildly miserable.
We don’t have quite the same access to WB control as a Death & Taxes deck might, but it’s very close. We can’t slow down their creature summoning, but we do have hand control, creature removal, and the ability to recycle our Kitesail Freebooters again and again, as well as Alseid of Life’s Bounty thanks to Lurrus of the Dream-Den. They aren’t the stars of the deck, but they sure are rad. If we can combine Reidane with its other side, Valkmira, Protector’s Shield, we can tie up the other player’s mana indefinitely. That’s what we’re after.
I like to consider this an anti-control control deck. It’s primarily at making sure Instants and Sorceries are the most miserable, expensive experience we can possibly afford. If the other player can pay the colorless mana to prevent immediate counter, we’re hoping they won’t have the mana to afford a Wandering Archaic or two. Its ability to copy opponents’ spells if they don’t spend 2 colorless mana is going to be infuriating.
I like that in a faceless Avatar of Doom. This deck is all about making the experience of casting spells as frustrating as possible, while we ping away at them, slowly but surely. It’s not Death & Taxes, but it is a very frustrating Audit.
How Does It Work?
Perhaps the biggest part of this deck for me is Wandering Archaic. It’s a 4/4 for 5, so we aren’t going to get it immediately. But it’s going to be a real problem to deal with. Whenever an opponent casts an instant or sorcery spell, they may pay 2 colorless mana. If they choose not to, you may copy that spell, and choose new targets for it.
As a colorless creature, you can put this into any deck. Your opponent now has to spend mana just to prevent me from doing what they’re doing. If they cast a counterspell, we can counter their counter if they don’t pay the 2 mana. We can destroy one of their permanents, or search our deck for lands! Whatever kind of stuff comes up.
This pairs with Reidane, God of the Worthy. They make your opponents Snow Lands come into play tapped, and noncreature spells they cast with a Mana Value 4 or greater cost 2 colorless more to cast. So now for big spells, they have to pay 4 colorless just to cast them, and not let us use them too. We can also put multiple Wandering Archaics into play to make that copy happen more than once.
That is key to this whole thing. Then we add in the 2-cost White/Black 3/2 Human Cleric, Silverquill Silencer. When it comes into play, we choose a nonland card name. Whenever our opponent casts that spell, they lose 3 life, and we draw a card. Use this with Kitesail Freebooter as an example. We look at their hand, and exile a noncreature, nonland from it. Now we know what else they have. From there we can pick the things they want to cast the most.
Elite Spellbinder helps with that also! It lets us look at our opponent’s hand again. We can exile a nonland card, and that owner can still cast that spell from exile. But it costs 2 colorless more. That stacks with all of our other stuff too! Make things incredibly hard to cast, as hard as humanly possible. To slow them down even more, Humiliate has us look at our opponent’s hand (Surprised?). We pick a nonland and they discard it. We also then put a +1/+1 counter on a creature we control!
There’s also Vanishing Verse, which may become a control staple. It exiles a monocolored permanent, so basically any nonland, since lands have no color (provided it’s a mono-colored permanent). I can really see this being an incredibly useful, powerful card going forward. I’d like to find a way to put Professor Onyx in this deck too. We’ve got Lurrus for a while yet, so we can use him to bring back Alseid over and over to give something protection from a color.
We can deal damage with Kitesail Freebooter as a flyer, and Legion Angel, which lets us bring more of them from the sideboard. We slowly whittle away at the other player, while making them pick very carefully every single spell they utilize. Against decks that don’t utilize a lot of spells? Might not be as fun. Might be terribly difficult.
3 Wandering Archaic
4 Brightclimb Pathway
2 Castle Ardenvale
2 Castle Locthwain
1 Legion Angel
3 Reidane, God of the Worthy
3 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
4 Elite Spellbinder
4 Kitesail Freebooter
3 Dire Tactics
3 Vanishing Verse
4 Silverquill Silencer
4 Alseid of Life’s Bounty
2 Go Blank
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
3 Drannith Magistrate
1 Deafening Silence
2 Archon of Absolution
3 Legion Angel
What a fun deck to counter heavy-spell decks! This is sadly another one that I’m not sure will dominate the meta. It could definitely be fun though! I see this deck going through a few changes over the next few weeks. It’s a deck I certainly want to see people using, or at least something very similar. Over the weekend, before this gets published, we’re going to take some time and see what else shakes out.
Pestocrats…? (Green/Black Pests Combo)
Pests is a deck concept I’ve been excited to see too. This one looks to really sink into the “Aristocrat” archetype, where we sacrifice minions for our own gain. We punish foes for gaining life, and we set up loops where opponents lose life over and over again. Three creatures punish our opponents whenever we gain life, by making them lose life. It’s just a shame it doesn’t really look like we have an OTK, unless we get all three creatures into play, and blow up a ton of Pests at one time.
After all, we’ve got Tend the Pests and Daemogoth Titan to make sure we have as many Pests as we need. If that wasn’t frustrating enough, we’ve got Bastion of Remembrance to double our pleasure and double our fun. Something you should know since we’ll be talking about “Pests” a lot. Pests are 1/1 Black/Green creature tokens. They have “When this creature dies, you gain 1 life.” We use this to make our opponent lose life, across Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, Dina, Soul Steeper, and Marauding Blight-Priest.
This is a deck that’s going to for sure need some adjustments, but I really like where it’s going for now.
How Does It Work?
It’s sadly not a very fast deck. I wish we were talking about more aggro concepts, but I’m still looking to see what shakes out in the meta. But this deck, we can really obliterate people out of nowhere. We’re looking to get Dina, Soul Steeper, Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, and/or Marauding Blight-Priest. They all make an opponent lose 1 life whenever we gain life. That means we need individual instances of life gain, making Pests key.
One of the downsides of Pests feels like “Your opponent may not want to kill them.” This is because of the triggers of those above three creatures. Each time we lose a Pest, we gain 1 life, and then our opponent loses 1 life for each of those in play. Fortunately, we’ve got a creature to help this kick-off as soon as we have enough Pests to get this going (in one turn, hopefully): Woe Strider.
Woe Strider is an exceptional creature for this deck. It’s a 3/2 for 3, and it can sacrifice another creature to Scry 1. Not only does it let us adjust what’s on top of our deck, let’s look at a hypothetical situation. We have Vito and Dina in play. That means each time we gain life, each opponent loses 1 life (so 2 life lost per creature). If our opponent has 20 life, we need to sacrifice 10 creatures.
Then we say hello to Daemogoth Titan. An 11/10 for 4, you sacrifice a creature whenever it attacks or blocks. We’re not going to do that with it, anyway. The next step is Tends the Pets, a 2-cost Instant. The best part about this is we can now win in our opponent’s turn. To cast Tend the Pets, we also sacrifice a creature (Daemogoth Titan). We gain X 1/1 Pests, based on that creature’s Power. That means we now have 11 Pests.
Every time a Pest perishes, we gain 1 life, Vito, Dina, and Blight-Priest will trigger, for each instance of lifegain. Vito deals X damage based on how much life is gained, but the other two is 1 life lost per instance of healing. So we do these one at a time, to make sure we get the most out of it. On our opponent’s turn, we’d set up a stop so we can, in response to something, anything, we start sacrificing. Even if someone sets up a kill on Woe Strider, we can, in response, keep sacrificing Pests. We would win, and they can do nothing about it.
We have other ways to create Pests though. Callous Bloodmage for example, lets you create a 1/1 Pest. You pick one of three choices. The other two is “You draw a card and lose 1 life”, and “Exile target player’s graveyard”. In most cases, we want to get a Pest and hold onto it. We also have Blex, Vexing Pest, which gives Pests, Bats, Insects, Snakes, and Spiders of ours gain +1/+1. When Blex dies, you also gain 4 life, so that’s 4 damage from Vito.
Dina, Soul Steeper also lets us have a sacrifice engine, but it costs 1 colorless mana, where Woe Strider is free. In a pinch, Dina will do. If we have Bastion of Remembrance, we can win even faster. When a creature we control dies, each opponent loses 1 life, and we gain 1 life. So if we have Vito out (or any of the others), it’s yet another point of damage. We also, finally, have Hunt for Specimens that creates a 1/1 Pest, and also triggers Learn.
Our Lesson of choice is Pest Summoning, which gives us two 1/1 Pests. The combo for this deck is really clear, and easy to see. We have several options for everything we do. We can just swing until people have to block and kill our creatures, we have several ways to get Pests, and also several engines for the free damage/loss of life. That’s why this deck is so wonderful.
4 Dina, Soul Steeper
4 Blex, Vexing Pest
4 Callous Bloodmage
3 Marauding Blight-Priest
2 Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
3 Woe Strider
2 Daemogoth Titan
3 Village Rites
4 Hunt for Specimens
2 Tend the Pests
4 Bastion of Remembrance
2 Mortality Spear
4 Darkbore Pathway
4 Necroblossom Snarl
3 Temple of Malady
3 Chainweb Aracnir
2 Scavenging Ooze
3 Deathless Knight
2 Heartless Act
1 Return to Nature
2 Pest Summoning
This should be a pretty easy deck to get started. The only downside is that most of the good cards require 3 mana. So you have to get going, and never stop ramping forward. If you can get an engine in play, a sacrifice method, and your Pests, you can win in one shot. Or you can win slowly but surely. Both ways work, but I prefer to just obliterate someone in one swoop. It’s just satisfying.
Prismari’s Magma Opus (Blue/Red Midrange/Combo)
Finally, I’ve seen a Prismari deck that speaks to me. It’s been said that Galazeth Prismari is the best of the Elder Dragon Legends in Strixhaven. It can be used in quite a few decks in other metas I think. In particular, we’ve got a lot of Treasure Tokens in MTG Arena right now, so Strixhaven’s Prismari Dragon is going to shine. Our artifacts, when it’s in play, can be tapped for one mana of any color. But this deck has no artifacts in it! Is this really such a good idea? Yes, yes it absolutely is. Thanks to the joy of creating Treasure Tokens, we can use these as mana sources, instead of sacrificing them to generate temporary mana.
With enough of those in play, we double our mana. We can then use cards like The Royal Scions and Magma Opus to blow someone up for a ridiculous amount of damage and finish them off with our clutch of dragons. Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, and Goldspan Dragon both create Treasure Tokens on a regular basis, and a few other cards allow this to kick off. Other than that, we’ve got plenty of control cards to deal damage, wipe the board, and whittle away at the other player’s life points until we win.
Plus Opt? Oh, I missed you, Opt. You’re such a good card, and we weren’t worthy of your brilliance. But it’s here! Lots of really quality cards in Prismari right now. It also features a frankly undervalued planeswalker, The Royal Scions, instead of their new, individual cards. We’ll have to see if those get played, something I’m curious about.
How Does It Work?
Like virtually all good Red/Blue (Prismari) decks, it’s very focused on spells – Instants, and Sorceries. Our early game is likely going to be casting spells like Opt and Frost Bite. Frost Bite’s our source of early-game threat removal, which deals 2 damage to a creature or planeswalker, but if we have three or more snow permanents, it deals 3 instead!
Bonecrusher Giant and Brazen Borrower are back again, but that’s probably not a surprise. Bonecrusher’s in nearly every deck that bothers to splash in Red at any amount. Same with Brazen Borrower, to be honest. Their utility is so grand, and we want to get the most out of them before they rotate out in the fall.
How do we actually win though? We can win through brute force – Goldspan Dragon, Galazeth Prismari, and Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge will be a force of nature in the skies. Or we can hold a hand of cards as high as possible (so a full 7), then use The Royal Scions and Magma Opus. We spend the game setting up this kind of combo if possible. The Royal Scion’s ultimate power has us draw 4 cards. Then we deal damage to any target equal to the number of cards in our hand. That would give us 11 cards, then 13 cards thanks to Magma Opus. Magma Opus also deals 4 damage to any number of targets, divided how we choose (all 4 to the enemy player).
That’s 17 damage to the enemy player at one time. We should be able to whittle them down a few points to get them into a kill range. Of course, you don’t have to wait until you have that many cards to get the victory. We have so many dragons, and flying creatures, so we can just ping away at them to get them low. We do want to get a copy of Magma Opus into our graveyard early though. That comes by tapping two and discarding them, to create a Treasure Token. Why do we want it in the grave?
Draconic Intervention, that’s why! It’s going to turn into a board-wipe. A very specific type. This 4-cost Sorcery also requires you to exile an Instant or Sorcery from your graveyard. It deals X damage to each non-dragon creature, with X being the Mana Value of said spell. That means we deal 8 damage to all non-dragons, leaving the board open for us to swing with our Dragons. Creatures who die this turn (who take damage from this) are also exiled, then this spell also gets exiled.
So we want all the Treasure Tokens. Their existence gives us the capacity to cast Magma Opus while having mana open to do other stuff. Galazeth Prismari is a ¾ Flyer, that creates a Treasure Token, for example. He’s the one that allows us to tap artifacts for 1 mana of any color – only for Instants/Sorceries. Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge is a 5/4 for 3 and creates a Treasure token for each nontoken creature that died this turn on your end-step. Gadrak can’t attack unless you control four or more artifacts though. In theory, you could do this in one turn with a well-placed Draconic Intervention. Goldspan Dragon also creates a Treasure Token whenever it attacks or becomes the target of a spell. If you use this to board-wipe a small-creature deck, there’s a chance we could have 8 Treasure Tokens through this. Having Galazeth in play will more than double our m ana potentially.
We have several ways to get those tokens into play. Prismari Command also has the potential to create one Treasure Token. The 3-cost Blue/Red Instant lets you pick two of the following: Deal 2 damage to a target, a player draws 2 and discards 2, creatures a Treasure Token for a player, and/or destroys an artifact. We can also use The Royal Scions to give one of our dragons +2/+0 (or any creature of ours) and First Strike/Trample. It will make it much easier to get damage through. That’s why this deck works! Plus we can potentially just bombard someone down with an OTK through Scions/Magma Opus, the more cards we have.
1 The Royal Scions
2 Bonecrusher Giant
3 Frost Bite
2 Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass
3 Saw It Coming
1 Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge
4 Prismari Command
2 Brazen Borrower
2 Frostboil Snarl
6 Snow-Covered Island
3 Draconic Intervention
4 Goldspan Dragon
4 Magma Opus
4 Riverglide Pathway // Lavaglide Pathway
4 Fabled Passage
6 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Galazeth Prismari
2 Faceless Haven
What a brilliant deck. There’s another version as well that focuses less on Dragons, and also uses Torrent Sculptor / Flamethrower Sonata as well as Creative Outburst. I like Creative Outburst a lot, as another way to get a Treasure Token, and 5 damage to any target. But it’s a 7-drop, so it doesn’t really belong in this deck, in my opinion. It also doesn’t use The Royal Scions. It’s still a quality deck, either way you slice it. I prefer this one though. It may start a little slow, but we have potential control of the fate of the game anytime. Early game Card Draw, threat removal, and Dragons. It’s a deck I think has some potential as a game-winner, and could also see some changes in the near future. I like this version though and it has a great deal of possibility to frustrate people until you just secure a free win.
Jadzi and the Journey to the Oracle (Blue/Green Mana Ramp)
I was really curious to see someone do something with Jadzi. I only wish I had come up with this idea first. Yoman5 had a brilliant idea to ramp some crazy amounts of mana using her alternate side (Journey to the Oracle) to make sure we have the mana to pop this whole thing off. This is a deck absolutely filled with mana ramp and card draw. We have one useful creature to win the game with, too. That’s our pal Koma, Cosmos Serpent! Oh, and Crawling Barrens, because sometimes, people just don’t want you to have fun.
In theory, we can also turn Emergent Sequence into a suitable bomb, depending on how many lands we’ve got in hand. It lets you search your deck for a basic land, that becomes a Blue/Green Fractal Creature. That creature has X +1/+1 counters, depending on how many lands you put into play this turn. So with enough mana dropping at once, that could be a serious threat.
We’ve got a lot of ways to start getting mana without Journey to the Oracle, mind. That’s just the biggest land-drop bomb, if I’m being honest with you.
How Does It Work?
Jazi, Oracle of Arcavios is a wildly expensive card. She’s an 8-drop (2 blue) and is a 5/5. You can also discard a card to bring her back to your hand (if you want to abuse Journey again or keep her safe). Her Magecraft has the following:
“Whenever you cast or copy an instant or sorcery spell, reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a nonland card, you may cast it by paying 1 colorless than paying its mana cost. If it’s a land card, put it onto the battlefield.”
Bear in mind, this affects every card in your deck, and those lands do not come into play untapped. The catch is that she’s a bloody 8-cost creature! How do we possibly prepare for that? Quandrix Apprentice will go a long way to help. It also has Magecraft. So whenever we cast/copy an instant or sorcery, we look at the top three cards of our deck. We pick a land from among those, and put it into our hand. The rest go on the bottom of the deck.
With cards like Adventurous Impulse and Opt, we can easily start ramping. Adventurous Impulse lets us look at the top three for a land or creature, and put it into our hand, for a value 1 mana. We also have Tangled Florahedron, which is either a land or creature, depending on what you need/want at the time. Cultivate is in the deck to let us search for two basic lands, and put one into play/one into hand (and reveal them).
Once we’re filling our hand with mana, we can drop 4 mana, and cast Journey to the Oracle. It lets you again, put any number of land cards from our hand and put them into play. If we at that point, control eight or more lands, return Journey to the Oracle to your hand. Depending on your mana pool, you may be able to just cast Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios right there. Otherwise, it’s a next-turn deal. Make sure your opponent can’t counter before you do it though! And since at that point we have 8 lands, we can cast cheap spells, and then look at the top card of our deck to cast stuff cheaper.
We definitely want to use all this mana to beef up our Crawling Barrens, and get a cheap Koma in play. All those Serpents will make the difference. This is not a deck we’re going to win with quickly, but it will inevitably win. It’s also wild and satisfying to cast Alrund’s Epiphany for 1 mana! It creates two 1/1 blue Bird creature tokens with flying and gives us an extra turn. We have to exile the spell afterward, to prevent infinite combos.
That’s the long and short of the deck! We also utilize one of my favorite new cards, Multiple Choice. We do want to play this for 5 (4 is the X, plus the 1 blue). That way we get all four effects on it. We scry 1, draw a card, choose a player and return one of their creatures to its owner’s hand, create a 4/4 blue/red Elemental creature token. We get all of those.
Since we can be very conservative with mana, thanks to Jadzi, it’s going to be wildly easy to set up wins. Once this deck starts going, it’s going to be very hard to stop. Wise use of yours with your Magecraft creatures is going to be a key to success. I really love where this is right now, and I really hope to see it bopping people with long, frustrating turns.
3 Adventurous Impulse
4 Alrund’s Epiphany
4 Barkchannel Pathway
3 Castle Garenbrig
2 Crawling Barrens
4 Emergent Sequence
4 Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios
1 Koma, Cosmos Serpent
4 Multiple Choice
4 Quandrix Apprentice
2 Tangled Florahedron
4 Zagoth Triome
Oh, this deck is class. When I considered using her, this is more or less what I had in mind. I also considered an Ultimatum Deck, where we slap a few various Ultimatums in the deck, and cast them for 1 mana, creating maximum frustration. There’s room to grow, but this is a deck that shows a lot of promise. This is a concept that slowly beats someone down until we have enough creatures to just throw overwhelming force at the foe. That or we just ping them with something they can’t block over and over (like the Birds). Either way, it’s sure to create salty feelings.