At first glance, Strixhaven looks like a set full of sleepers to me. The historically unique themes for all the colleges open up a lot of new stuff, and it’s going to take a while for everyone to noodle through how that meshes with the typical tools. I’m leaving the hard parts of that for everyone else. Today, I’m interested in figuring out one of the more obviously good cards in the set:
It’s really easy to draw a comparison between Sedgemoor Witch and known great card Young Pyromancer, but anyone who has played with Young Pyromancer can immediately tell you that’s not quite right. The best play with Young Pyromancer is casting it and then immediately casting spells and making tokens to lock in value. Adding a mana to Young Pyromancer makes that significantly more difficult, so Sedgemoor Witch needs to add a little bit extra to catch up as a three-drop.
Fortunately for the Witch, there’s a 2021 amount of text on the card.
The sizing difference from Goblin Piker to Boggart Brute alone isn’t enough to make up the difference, but there can be secondary factors that make it a big deal. Current Modern is actually a prime example of this. I really don’t want to be playing with one-toughness creatures if I can help it due to the prevalence of Lava Dart, Walking Ballista, and Wrenn and Six.
While it isn’t the case anywhere right now, the extra toughness could also be a game-changer if a one-damage sweeper like Electrickery became prevalent. Keeping your token generator even if they clean up the tokens changes their tiny sweeper from a good answer to garbage.
Ward also helps make up the equity of an Elemental token. One of the scenarios where the immediate Elemental token matters the most is generating a two-for-one against removal, and in that case you’re getting three damage instead of the token when they Lightning Bolt it down. While that isn’t necessarily better in every situation, Lava Spike is certainly a more powerful effect than Sprout.
Also, when I mentioned Sedgemoor Witch is better against Lava Dart or Walking Ballista, it’s really better against Lava Dart and Walking Ballista. While you technically can kill it with those cards, it seems almost impossible to make that exchange, also end up down six life, and come out winning that game.
While I don’t think the Pest token lifegain upgrade matters a ton, being black and not red is a big deal. Like I said, a lot of Strixhaven‘s potential is going to be in the style of Planar Chaos. Young Pyromancer means a completely different thing for an Izzet deck than it would for a Dimir one.
Related to this, there’s a lot of room to be a worse Young Pyromancer and still see play. Even if Young Pyromancer is better for your red deck in a specific format, that doesn’t mean every non-red deck doesn’t want access to that style of effect. Or that your Rakdos deck doesn’t just want a huge pile of Young Pyromancers beyond the first four.
In the medium term, it’s a bit of a hard sell to base your maindeck on a three-drop, two-toughness creature. That’s fine, because I don’t think Sedgemoor Witch’s highlight is battling down Lovestruck Beast. I’m interested in sideboarding Sedgemoor Witch, or sideboarding out Sedgemoor Witch against Bonecrusher Giant decks for bigger, higher-impact threats.
Where I expect to see the most of Sedgemoor Witch is in Shaheen Soorani’s decks. There hasn’t really been a low-cost, high-leverage threat to break open control mirrors in this format and Sedgemoor Witch delivers on that. It dodges Negate and Disdainful Stroke, avoids a clean sweep from Extinction Event, and doesn’t get ambushed by Shark Typhoon due to menace.
The lack of this effective low-end threat in Kaldheim Standard is part of what has led to Sultai Ramp (Yorion) dominating that metagame space since the deck can’t fold in on itself with a leaner version, so the Ultimatum maximized version just sticks around as the best thing you can do and the rest of the metagame has to deal with that static threat forever. With Sedgemoor Witch creating different shades of control preying on each other, I expect that to change in Strixhaven Standard.
I really think Multiple Choice ties this style of deck together. To spoil a bit of my rankings in the Strixhaven First Impressions: Standard that went up today, Multiple Choice got a pretty high billing there. The combination of cantrip and threat is really Mulldrifter-esque, and that’s even ignoring the built-in tempo swing when you choose all-of-the-above. Despite only having one card face, it feels like the best modal DFC in the set.
Yeah, the Dimir mana is still pretty miserable. It legitimately might be so bad you just splash red on principle for some of the Prismari spells-matter tools and Sprite Dragon. If your mana is going to be bad, you may as well get paid off with extra multicolored cards for it being bad.
It would feel kinda offensive to leave this segment without discussing a Village Rites deck. The synergy between Sedgemoor Witch and that card is just too strong to ignore.
- 2 Rankle, Master of Pranks
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 2 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
- 4 Skyclave Shade
- 4 Sedgemoor Witch
This is mostly just Rakdos Sacrifice gaining a strong, standalone yet synergistic threat, but I do like what the white splash brings even if Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger looks sketchy with Brightclimb Pathway. Showdown of the Skalds is yet another step away from being all-in on the graveyard while also building up those synergies with a flood of cards, and the Silverquill additions from Strixhaven are just good clean answers. I’m a big fan of Humiliate, which looks a lot less like Agonizing Remorse and a lot more like Kitesail Freebooter that doesn’t return the card when it dies.
I also think Lorehold Command is just a good card. The default mode is just a instant-speed Lightning Helix + Shriekmaw, and you get options from there. With just a Sedgemoor Witch and no other tokens, using the first two modes gives a minimum of seven additional attacking power that turn
My one concern is that I’m under utilizing the white splash for catchall answers. The biggest issue with Rakdos Sacrifice in the pre-Strixhaven era was if someone decided to show up with Klothys, God of Destiny, your deck didn’t function and you couldn’t kill it. While this list is a bit less graveyard-centric and can probably win some games through Klothys, it would be nice to pack some answers for that card. Vanishing Verse is great against basically everything except that card sadly.
I didn’t see anything better than Banishing Light though, and I’m trying to not put that card in another decklist this year. Maybe 2022 will be the time for classic removal to be okay again.
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 4 Woe Strider
- 2 Drannith Magistrate
- 3 Skyclave Shade
- 3 Goldspan Dragon
- 1 Immersturm Predator
There has been a Mardu Sacrifice-Unleash Fury hybrid deck floating around the SCG Tour Online results, with a single player (Riley Hicks) racking up a bunch of Satellite 6-0s and a Qualifier thirteenth place with the deck last month. If the full-on Mardu Sacrifice strategy doesn’t pan out, Sedgemoor Witch is equally good in this similar shell.
Historic is where I expect to see the most overlap between Sedgemoor Witch and Young Pyromancer because it’s the only format Faithless Looting is still legal. Running out of spells isn’t an issue, and having threats to snowball games with is critical.
Why this over just sticking to low-drops and Lurrus of the Dream-Den? Lurrus is slow against the decks that you can’t interact with, or against the decks you don’t really want to interact with. At least until we have proof the Mystical Archive cards don’t break things, or an appropriate Banned List update, I’m sticking to the premise that everyone needs to get their opponents dead as soon as possible if they aren’t playing Brainstorm.
To adapt Gerry’s latest list a bit:
With the flood of Young Pyromancer effects, Innocent Blood is on the table since you can cast it and immediately sacrifice the fresh token. It shares a lot of the same synergies as Spark Harvest, but you get more chances to fire it off with less setup. Turn 1 Innocent Blood works. Young Pyromancer plus Innocent Blood on the spot works. Spark Harvest doesn’t work in either scenario. Because the card is something you’re fine drawing and firing off early, you can afford to play more copies of it, which lets you sideboard into Claim the Firstborn successfully.
Remember, friends don’t let friends play Magmatic Channeler. Play cards that actually do things instead.
I don’t think you want to use the copy part of Sedgemoor Witch’s magecraft ability. Weird short Grapeshot setups seem worse than just killing them.
The Pioneer equivalent of Rakdos Arcanist looks almost identical to the Historic list, minus the Mystical Archive cards, and you would want to play it over the Lurrus lists under the same parameters. If Pioneer turns towards things the Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus) list loses forced long games to or things it needs more pressure against to back up the discard, you want to play Sedgemoor Witch.
Though if things get really bad in either format, you may want to go even harder and get some Rotting Regisaurs in your deck. Come to think of it, that card is a real shift from the wider threats the prior Historic list has and might just be a good sideboard adjustment to have access to.
The more format-unique place I’m interested in playing Sedgemoor Witch is the sideboard of the Dimir Control decks that have been putting up good results recently. The premise is the same as Standard — play some high-pressure threat from the sideboard. The only real adjustment is playing more Thoughtseize in your sideboard than the stock lists so you have proactive spells to protect and trigger the Witch.
If you want to have some fun thinking of hypothetical copying scenarios, do the math on Zada, Hedron Grinder plus Maximize Velocity with Sedgemoor Witch. Large numbers are scientifically proven to be fun, right? Note this is definitely the non-overlapping part of the fun and good Venn diagram, but you gotta dream big sometimes.
Modern is where the Lurrus versus Witch debate really breaks down. Not only is having a grindy plan for midrange mirrors critical due to all the removal being so efficient, you get Mishra’s Bauble. Showing up without Lurrus feels like a huge mistake.
Outside of those matchups, a three-drop threat is also a much bigger commitment. Even pre-Lurrus, the room for three-drop threats in Modern was very slim. You’re looking at a format where tapping out Turn 3 on the draw is potentially lethal.
I think the nail in the coffin might be the absolute absence of Lingering Souls in the format. Yeah, I listed all the reasons one-toughness creatures are suboptimal in the current Modern format, but those only loosely apply to Lingering Souls. You can play Sedgemoor Witch without white mana, but the end output is the same flood of 1/1s that isn’t quite enough right now.
If Sedgemoor Witch finds a home in Modern, one of two things will be involved. Either free spells will play a large role in the decks you see it in, or it’ll be a three-drop because two-drops aren’t welcome in the deck playing it.
But the fact there’s still a chance says something. Sedgemoor Witch goes above and beyond the standard for a three-drop threat, and it’ll show up in multiple formats clocking people down with cantrips and discard spells.