I’ve got great news for you today, students! Strixhaven is finally legal for the $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifiers!
That’s right, there’s another set of eight SCG Tour Online satellites today and tomorrow that can qualify you for Sunday’s main event. The format’s Standard and we can play with as many new Strixhaven cards as we want to!
The hitch? Well, there’s not that many Strixhaven cards I actually want to play with. It’s no secret that this set is a bit underwhelming for Standard. Hell, that’s the reason I haven’t written in a few weeks! I had my head in the sand testing for the Magic Pro League Weekend, got sick there for a bit, and of course had no idea what to write about. Nothing really jumped out at me, so nothing found its way to the page.
I’m actually really happy about this though. Of course it’s always a little disappointing when a set doesn’t impact Standard, but the reverse can be so much worse. Throne of Eldraine is such a powerful set that it has set the pace of Standard since 2019 even after a handful of bans. Eldraine made mistakes, and continuously making sets that could compete with its power level would effectively be doubling down on those mistakes.
I’m pretty confident Wizards of the Coast (WotC) understood this, which may be why they decided to introduce the Mystical Archive in Strixhaven. These reprints are not only cool by giving the Limited format a unique spin, but they also greatly helped Strixhaven’s impact on the Historic format with inclusions like Brainstorm, Faithless Looting, and Mizzix’s Mastery.
I should probably put a pin in this, as I could talk about this for days, and you probably have a Strixhaven Championship to qualify for. I’m also more qualified to talk about current Standard than I am design philosophy anyway. So what’s good in Standard? Well, like I said, Strixhaven isn’t going to have the impact on Standard like we maybe once envisioned. A few top decks might incorporate a few new cards, but that’s about it. So things are going to stay relatively the same with these being the absolute top decks:
- Temur Adventures (with or without Obosh)
- Sultai Ramp (Yorion)
- Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)
- Mono-Red Aggro❄
These not-so-top decks, though you can still justify playing them:
- Jeskai Cycling
- Naya Adventures (Jegantha)
- Four-Color Blink (Yorion)
- Gruul Adventures
And then everything else that I suggest you don’t play:
- Sultai Control (Yorion)
- Mono-White Aggro❄
- Naya Fury
- Mardu Fury
- Mono-Green Aggro
- Rakdos Sacrifice (Jegantha)
- Dimir Control
It’s tough to go wrong picking one of the top four decks — they’re all just so damn good at what they do. The next four can be good, but it takes specific metagame shifts to really allow them to pop off. Everything else is just a trap. As for me, I’m a sucker for the ole Sultai Ramp (Yorion). That’s especially true after my embarrassing 0-6 performance with Dimir Rogues (Lurrus) in Kaldheim League Play a few weeks back. My team did great with the deck, but I was just a little too underprepared to play it at the level I needed to. Lesson learned.
I’ve been dabbling with Sultai Ramp ever since I was really excited to try out some new cards from Strixhaven in the deck. Sadly only one of these cards made the cut, but let’s talk about all of them, since there are lots of people out there still playing with them.
Now my only guess as to why people are playing with Professor Onyx is because it’s new, thus interesting. Unfortunately it’s not a particularly great card, and especially not in this deck. Its static doesn’t get us out of enough tenuous situations, its +1 is only good if we’re in an unpredictable stalemate, and its -3 is usually too little too late.
Obviously Professor Onyx’ ultimate works great with Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider but we already know those combos rarely manifest themselves. There’s also the issue that we’re starting to realize Vorinclex isn’t that great in the deck in the first place. I’ve joined Camp PVDDR in removing it from my lists and I haven’t looked back.
So yeah, don’t play this card.
I really wanted Eureka Moment to be great. For the longest time, our team played two copies of Behold the Multiverse, and while Eureka Moment isn’t exactly the same, it occupied similar space. I had high hopes for new ways to design Sulta Ramp (Yorion) using this card!
Well, like my parents once said to me, sometimes love just isn’t enough. Eureka Moment often got stuck in my hand without ever getting a great opening to cast it, or worse, it was the only card I could cast and it was terrible. It’s just too difficult to invest four mana into something that doesn’t interact with the opponent in some way.
Baleful Mastery is another card I just assumed would be good in this deck, but Eliminate and Heartless Act do a good enough job right now. You might consider this card more if these Lukka variants of Temur Adventures pick up in popularity, but for now I don’t think any copies of this removal spell are necessary.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think this quirky Turtle Druid that everyone ignored would end up leading the school in the big homecoming Quidditch game! Seriously, I didn’t even know this card existed until I saw FriskiFraska’s list from last weekend’s Magic Online Challenge. Well… maybe I knew it existed… but I didn’t respect it enough to play with it.
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 3 Yorion, Sky Nomad
- 4 Tangled Florahedron
- 1 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
- 1 Valki, God of Lies
- 4 Quandrix Cultivator
I wouldn’t advise playing four copies of Quandrix Cultivator, nor do I want to put Tangled Florahedron back in my deck, but it’s a very nice addition to this deck. It’s especially great as it replaces Esika’s Chariot, which shouldn’t be in the deck anymore in the first place. The Vehicle was great when Mono-Red Aggro❄ and Mono-White Aggro❄ were the top decks in the format, but it’s actively bad right now against most of the top decks.
Quandrix Cultivator will allow Sultai Ramp to more consistently cast acceleration in the early turns. It’s not going to have this profound impact on the metagame since it’s already prepared for this ramp deck, but being a little more consistent helps. Sadly this overall improvement isn’t going to impact two of Sultai’s closest matchups (Temur Adventures and Dimir Rogues), but what are you going to do?
Now that I’ve got my Turtle Power, here’s the list I’ll be playing this weekend in some SCG Tour Online satellites.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not reinventing the wheel here with my decklist. I was impressed by the blueprints PVDDR, Mike Sigrist, and Grzegorz Kowalski brewed up for League play a couple weeks back. I disagree with a few things here and there, but most of that can be argued away with the fact that they were metagaming for League play and I’m doing so for open-entry-level play.
The biggest difference is that most Sultai Ramp lists have access to 36 mana sources where I have 37. This is a decision I often waffle on constantly and is one I’m currently torn on right now. You see, if Temur Adventures and Mono-Red Aggro❄ end up being the two most played decks in the first satellites, I’ll most likely make these changes to my decklist.
- -1 Island
- +1 Mystical Dispute
- -1 Mystical Dispute
- +1 Elder Gargaroth
I’m a wild man, I know. I mean, I honestly hope someone unveils a great new deck in the first satellite which causes us all to adjust things accordingly. I’m not going to hold my breath though.
Before you go playing with Test of Talents, I need you to know it’s just a one-of fun-of. I’m not sold that it deserves sideboard slots, as it’s very powerful in the mirror, but not really playable against some other decks where a Negate could be useful. Still, I’ve enjoyed casting* it enough that I’ll continue to play it even though it might just be worse than Negate and/or Miscast.
* I watched Day9’s set review and he laughed so hard at this card that I felt shame. Am I turning into a casual gamer?
VS Sultai Ramp (Yorion)
Game 1 in the mirror is pretty silly. Both you and your opponent have tons of dead removal in the early stages of the game, but later on those spells can be used to stop the opponent from finishing things off. Obviously your goal is to be the one who casts Emergent Ultimatum first, but it’s not like the game’s just over once you do that thanks to all these now-useful removal spells.
Unless you know exactly what’s in your opponent’s hand, this is a pretty reasonable pile to make with your first Emergent Ultimatum. Your goal here is to gain card advantage, because your opponent most likely has ways to beat any creatures you’d be deploying this early. Your greater goal is to not run out of steam so that hopefully you can capitalize when they do. This involves making sure you have answers for specific situations or simply just getting lucky at the right times.
Like I said, Game 1 is silly.
Oh, and did I mention sideboarded games are also silly, just not in the same way? Here the games can also be very draw-dependent but at least it’s way easier for one player to close the door. Honestly, I love the mirrors for those exact reasons. I mean where else will you roll your eyes when your opponent gets lucky enough to draw two Omen of the Seas in the first couple turns!
VS Temur Adventures
I agree with most of my peers that Temur Adventures is a close to even matchup, but a lot of how the games play out depends on Temur Adventures’s draws. So obviously if we draw horrifically we’ll lose, but what I mean is that they have draws that are near-impossible to beat sometimes. Other times they don’t draw enough counterspells and are just a crappy Gruul Adventures deck with awkward Brazen Borrowers.
Your job doesn’t ever change though. Get to seven mana while making sure you don’t die to what’s on the battlefield. Then you can make decisions on what to cast based on how many cards they have in exile via foretell. When there are multiples I may try to sandbag my Emergent Ultimatums, but then again it always feels bad when they let something resolve and then kill me with multiple Alrund’s Epiphanies. Luckily if you’re playing satellites you’ll know just how many of each card they have access to, since some lists play zero copies of the Time Warp.
Koma, Cosmos Serpent is an absolute gem in this deck, as it, of course, gets around Temur Adventures’s countermagic, but there’s a more subtle effect it has on games that’s pretty freaking cool if you ask me. Temur Adventures is sculpted to hold up countermagic against us in the mid-/late-game. This is where a card like Brazen Borrower shines, as it’s a threat the deck can deploy on turns it doesn’t need to use its countermagic.
Now Brazen Borrower is the deck’s only way to interact with Koma before it starts popping out baby Serpents. This means that opposing Temur Adventures opponents may think twice before deploying their Brazen Borrowers, which will give us a tactical advantage since they may be holding them in games we never even draw the Serpent. There will also be games where we cast Koma and then they proceed to bounce it and destroy us, but that’s just Magic, baby.
VS Mono-Red Aggro❄ / Mono-White Aggro❄
These matchups haven’t really changed all that much except that these builds of Sultai Ramp are really prepared for them. We have access to eight two-mana removal spells, and now can almost always ramp on four mana thanks to our new Hurdle Turtle. I can’t imagine these being bad matchups for this build.
VS Jeskai Cycling
This is another matchup where a third Elder Gargaroth comes in handy so I probably should just put it back in the deck. Regardless, the matchup is dependent on how quickly you can grease your own wheels. If you’re slow out of the gates, it might be difficult for you to put enough pressure on your opponent to win the game. What makes this matchup so difficult is that they can act like a hyper-aggressive deck, but also have the reach to just kill you out of nowhere when you’re turning the corner. You just need to kill their creatures, ramp to Emergent Ultimatum or Elder Gargaroth, and then take an extra turn or two.
Not much changes after sideboarding except you get Duress and they get Negate. Sometimes you’ll want to cast your Duress early, but other times you might want to wait to use them until right before you cast a big ‘un. That’s because they cycle so many cards that the landscape of their hand will always have shifted between the time you cast the early Duress and when you’re finally deciding which spell you want to resolve and stick.
VS Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)
This matchup used to be very good for Dimir Rogues, but consistently Sultai Ramp has been making small adjustments to even the odds. Right now I think Dimir Rogues still has the edge, but it might swing in Sultai’s favor by making one or two small changes to the deck. If you really are scared of Dimir Rogues, you can always play the fourth Mystical Dispute over the Test of Talents / Negate and move the sideboarded Polukranos to the maindeck. You might need to cut a Hurdle Turtle to do it though!
I don’t know what it is, but no matter how I build this deck, it always seems like every sideboard card is good against Dimir Rogues. Anyway, you can’t rely on beating this deck with Emergent Ultimatums and your other boom-booms. Instead, just lower your curve, cut some ramp, and win every game with either Polukranos or Koma. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done.
Good luck this weekend on the SCG Tour Online (well… unless you play me, that is)!