Clever Lumimancer Is Top Of The Class In Older Formats

Clever Lumimancer adds power and consistency to several strategies across older formats. Dom Harvey brews in Pioneer, Modern, and even Legacy.

Clever Lumimancer, illustrated by Lie Setiawan

Who says white doesn’t get good one-drops anymore?!

Clever Lumimancer

Many of the cards in Strixhaven feel like the arcane tomes you’d expect to find in a wizarding school — intriguing but confusing and too wordy for their own good. Clever Lumimancer is a simple, short uncommon that may be the set’s star student at its five-year reunion.

Like any mechanic that cares about casting spells, the power of magecraft scales with the size of the format. Some spell-heavy aggro deck may be possible in Standard once we have the full Strixhaven set list, but these decks have failed to achieve any traction recently despite powerful tools like Stormwing Entity and any small creature deck has to justify its existence in a world of Bonecrusher Giant and Lovestruck Beast — not least because you could just play those instead. 

Steppe Lynx Arid Mesa Akoum Hellhound

The supporting cast is crucial for these cheap build-around creatures. Steppe Lynx was a staple of aggro decks thanks to the enemy fetchlands in Zendikar but Akoum Hellhound has seen close to zero play despite the success of Mono-Red Aggro. Magecraft is a more demanding condition to meet. 

However, the sky is the limit for magecraft in older formats. I expect Clever Lumimancer to show up everywhere from Historic and Pioneer through Modern and Legacy (where Edgewall Innkeeper’s smug grin is nowhere to be found). 

Monastery Swiftspear Sprite Dragon Kiln Fiend

Clever Lumimancer will often be seen alongside the prowess (or “prowess in all but name”) creatures but has important differences from all of them. Part of why Akoum Hellhound was supplanted by less flashy one-drops is that its floor is unacceptably low. An aggro deck relies on its creatures consistently connecting for damage, even in small increments. Monastery Swiftspear is an all-time great one-drop not just because of the explosive starts it can produce but because it can still inch towards the finish line even when those pyrotechnics are off-limits because you have no resources to work with. 

Kiln Fiend doesn’t suffer from this problem — that one point of power goes a long way! — but comes with its own tradeoffs. Kiln Fiend sacrifices efficiency and immediate impact for an incredible upside; a Turn 2 Kiln Fiend that survives very often leads to a Turn 3 kill. Its twist on prowess is also temporary and only affects Kiln Fiend’s power, giving an incentive to bypass combat by clearing out blockers with burn spells or cleaving through blockers with Temur Battle Rage. This makes it too unreliable against decks that can clog up the battlefield or remove creatures easily — these days, Kiln Fiend is most often seen as a sideboard threat to increase your raw speed against linear decks. 

Sprite Dragon flutters around the other end of this spectrum as the least explosive but most flexible “spells matter” threat; you can power it up with anything from Mishra’s Bauble to Mana Leak and that boost stays with Sprite Dragon over time. This, along with its evasion, makes it the ideal threat for matchups and situations where a card like Kiln Fiend is at its worst.

Where does Clever Lumimancer sit in this space? Its scaling damage output is most similar to Kiln Fiend but it doesn’t fear blockers and can threaten a terrifying attack much more quickly. It’s hard to overstate how much less one mana is than two in these strategies, not least because it makes extra copies of that card more effective. Turn 1 Clever Lumimancer, Turn 2 Clever Lumimancer makes it trivial to count to twenty on Turn 3 while a Turn 2 Kiln Fiend has to get there on its own. Some of the scariest starts from Prowess decks across all formats involve a one-drop followed by a pair of one-drops setting up fireworks for Turn 3 — that’s much more realistic with Lumimancer in the mix. 

Clever Lumimancer gives crucial redundancy to the supersonic aggro-combo decks relying on threats like Kiln Fiend as well as slotting neatly into the Prowess decks that have become the default aggressive strategies in larger formats. Let’s look at some of its possible homes:

Boros Wizards (Lurrus) was a fixture of Pioneer even though its commitment to its tribe was somewhat lacking. Wizard’s Lightning is a strong burn spell in a format short on those but to get that discount consistently you had to play subpar Wizards like Viashino Pyromancer. Clever Lumimancer is an on-theme, one-drop Wizard that solves that problem for you. 

This does come at a cost. To get enough white sources to support Lumimancer, you have to play Needleverge Pathway — a great land in the abstract but weak here as a land that only taps for white can’t cast most of your spells (Eidolon of the Great Revel is a notable casualty here) and losing basic Mountains means Chained to the Rocks has to go. 

Clever Lumimancer may be a bigger upgrade for a deck that needed more help. This approach to Boros Heroic (Lurrus) already focused on instants and sorceries to maximize Dreadhorde Arcanist, which gives you a free Lumimancer trigger while helping to boost your other creatures. The colour requirements here are more even (especially if you keep Phalanx Leader) so Pathway is a help rather than a hindrance. Soul-Scar Mage was always a somewhat mopey one-drop in this shell — Lumimancer is bigger, and better, as long as you can keep the triggers coming. 

Reckless Rage

Reckless Rage is an absurd removal spell and one of the biggest draws to Boros Heroic. Lumimancer still working well with it is a welcome note on its report card. 

Leonin Lightscribe

The coolest Cat in Strixhaven suggests another direction:

Losing the Heroic restriction opens up Wild Slash and Crash Through, the perfect way to ignore blockers while turning Dreadhorde Arcanist into a card advantage engine. This deck lacks the raw speed of Wizards or the synergy of Heroic but is better-rounded — it’s unclear if a more focused plan is better than this compromise. 

As we expand our horizons to Modern, Lumimancer goes from a solid role-player to a terrifying threat that has the potential to reshape the format:

I’ll leave it to Patrick Sullivan and Ryan Overturf to offer more refined red decks featuring this card but this is already appealing as a proof of concept. No matter which secondary colour you added to your Prowess deck, the lack of extra one-drops was always a serious limitation and the two-drops weren’t that inspiring. Abbot of Keral Keep isn’t an exciting card in Modern — Sprite Dragon and Tarmogoyf are — but they take the deck in other directions. Clever Lumimancer lets Boros Prowess (Lurrus) boast a more compact curve than any other variant and race even the combo decks that are meant to count this as a good matchup. 

Lurrus of the Dream-Den Mishra’s Bauble Seal of Fire

The main sacrifice is weakening Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. In Patrick’s list, Mishra’s Bauble and Seal of Fire (as well as the Pyrite Spellbombs in the sideboard) allowed Lurrus to become a flexible engine card that could help to trigger Prowess at least once more each turn. Clever Lumimancer is an old soul in just caring about instants or sorceries, but Mishra’s Bauble may be worth it anyway if you’re willing to slow the deck down a little. 

Lava Dart

Lava Dart was already a format-defining card and Clever Lumimancer launches it to new heights. Consider a wholly average draw:

  • Turn 1: Clever Lumimancer
  • Turn 2: Clever Lumimancer 
  • Turn 3: Cast two Lava Darts and flashback both

Despite not dealing a single point of damage before Turn 3, we very easily get to twenty. Work a Manamorphose or some other burn spell in here (or even a third creature) and it becomes clear just how fast and consistent these wins can be. Crucially, Lumimancer is a white creature in a format where the best deck has maindeck Auriok Champion and cards like Aether Gust are commonly found in sideboards. 

Gut Shot Mutagenic Growth

Phyrexian mana strikes again! The possibility of a free Lumimancer trigger makes it impossible to play against well with the one or two blockers the opponent has time to cast — you can send an 0/1 Lumimancer into combat while tapped out and it can still represent the largest threat on the battlefield. Just having them in your range massively complicates the game for the opponent but you can lean into these much harder too:

That covers most of what Clever Lumimancer is capable of… hold on a second.

Magecraft — Whenever you cast or copy an instant or sorcery spell…

Ground Rift Nivmagus Elemental

You have to hand it to Gerry Thompson and Bryan Gottlieb. They built the most successful Magic podcast out there, sent former co-host Andrew Brown into Wizards of the Coast (WotC) as a sleeper agent, and are now ready to make a fortune from Nivmagus Elemental being great. I’d say you should scroll to the top of this page and buy Star City Games out of foil Ground Rifts but you’re years too late — they are lying in Bryan’s vault with the rest of his investment portfolio and retirement plan. 

It’s exciting when another good prowess or prowess-related creature is previewed but that’s a common occurrence these days. I never dreamed we would get redundancy on Nivmagus Elemental of all things but that day has finally come. There were many things holding this deck back, but at the top of the list was the lack of equivalent threats — Flamekin Harbinger wasn’t the redundancy you wanted. Clever Lumimancer not only does a good impression of Nivmagus Elemental but works alongside it — you can gobble up your spells with Nivmagus without interfering with Lumimancer’s growth.


Flusterstorm is another perfect pickup as a one-mana storm spell to fuel your combo turns that also adds a form of protection and disruption. If you have a fast kill lined up the opponent will often rely on a single removal spell to buy time and Flusterstorm can turn those lost positions into winning ones. 

Haze of Rage

A pet card of mine for over fifteen years, Haze of Rage becomes promising with a critical mass of one-drops with haste or some way to capitalize on its exponential damage output. Leonin Lightscribe might belong there too as a way to tie the room together but it’s hard to visualize what that deck should look like.

Why go to all this trouble when you could just assemble a Splinter Twin situation?

Chain of Smog

An outlier in an already bizarre and obscure cycle, Chain of Smog is the latest card to be thrust into the spotlight as it represents unlimited magecraft triggers — which, for Clever Lumimancer, means infinite damage on Turn 2. A similar kill was already possible in Pauper or Legacy with Tireless Tribe and Inside Out / Twisted Image but this one needs no additional resources so you can sink your cards into protecting the combo or playing an otherwise normal game:

Clever Lumimancer has a bright future — and, judging by the flavour text, they already know it. Make that connection now and hope they remember you when they are on top of the world!