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Strixhaven Financial Review: Part 3

Ben Bleiweiss reviews the Strixhaven Commander 2021 decks, revealing the best reprints, which chase card is overrated, and a future star now at bulk.

Zaffai, Thunder Conductor illustrated by Dmitry Burmak

Welcome to the third and final installment of my financial review of Strixhaven (you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here)! We’re going to look at the five Strixhaven Commander decks (also known as Commander 2021 or C21 for short). Traditionally there have been some extremely valuable cards that have broken out of the yearly Commander decks and this year’s crop appears to be no different!

There are five C21 decks, and each one corresponds to one of the five Strixhaven colleges. Each deck has sixteen new rares and mythics. There’s also one land that’s common between all five decks – Study Hall – but it’s not going to be very popular and we can ignore it safely.

Study Hall

I’m going to review the decks in the order that they were previewed last week. I’ll go over the notable reprints in each deck, and then talk about the sixteen new cards in each deck. I’m only going to go in depth for the cards I think will be $3 or higher. The only exception is that if I feel a card is in the $1-$2 range and is being very unvalued now, I’ll go out of my way to highlight that card.

A special note that all of the new rares and mythics from Commander 2021 have extended art versions that are one-per-pack in Strixhaven Collector Booster packs. These extended art versions are worth roughly double the regular versions of the Commander deck versions of the cards.

Lorehold Legacies

Commander
Magic Card Back


Notable Low-Dollar Reprints ($2-$4)

Ancient Den Arcane Signet Battlefield Forge Boros Charm Combustible Gearhulk Darksteel Mutation Sculpting Steel Sol Ring Solemn Simulacrum Steel Overseer

Notable Mid-Dollar Reprints ($5-$9)

N/A

Notable High-Dollar Reprints ($10+)

Hellkite Tyrant Thousand-Year Elixir

Lorehold Legacies is the best deck value based on reprinted cards. Both Hellkite Tyrant and Thousand-Year Elixir individually were selling for higher than any reprinted card in any of the other four decks! It’s also helped immensely by the two cards that have the most presale interest so far — Archaeomancer’s Map and Monologue Tax.

Alibou, Ancient Witness: $3

Alibou, Ancient Witness

Likely to hold value. Players are very high on the build-around nature of Alibou. There are going to be cards in this deck that go down in price, because people buy into the higher-dollar cards and look to offload the rest. This is not going to be one of those cards.

Archaeomancer’s Map: $15

Archaeomancer’s Map

There are a lot of people comparing Archaeomancer’s Map to Burgeoning. Burgeoning is a $22 card, and these two cards have many similarities. Both let you play extra lands out of your hand whenever your opponent plays a land. Burgeoning costs one mana and has no restrictions on when you can play the extra lands. Archaeomancer’s Map costs two more mana and will only work if your opponent has more lands on the battlefield than you, but also lets you draw two cards (Plains) from your deck when it enters the battlefield.

The biggest advantage of Burgeoning is that it has unrestricted ability to let you play lands. With Burgeoning, it’s entirely possible in a four-player game to have five lands on the battlefield by the time the game returns to your second turn. It’s very likely that you’ll get to use Archaeomancer’s Map once before you’re equal or ahead on lands with the rest of the table.

I think Archaeomancer’s Map is going to be played a bunch, but I also think it’s being overhyped right now. I think this card will drop in the $8-$10 range post-release, once players get a chance to play with it and see it’s not Burgeoning.

Cursed Mirror: $8

Cursed Mirror

Cursed Mirror will also likely go down a bit (probably to the $5-$6 range), but it’s one of the best mana rocks ever printed for Commander. Very few mana rocks have a useful active skill aside from producing mana, and the ability to Clone any creature on the battlefield for only three mana is a huge upside. Unlike other mana rocks, Cursed Mirror is a decent draw later in the game.

Laelia, the Blade Reforged: $2

Laelia, the Blade Reforged

Laelia is one of the few bulk cards I’m going to discuss today. It’s currently being suppressed in price just because the cards in the Lorehold deck are so good as a sum total. However, Laelia is effectively a 3/3 haste creature that enables pseudo-card draw and can quickly grow unreasonably large. Red has a lot of effects that exile cards from your library these days, and even at only a single +1/+1 counter per instance, Laelia can reasonably be a 5/5 or 6/6 the turn after it enters the battlefield. Combine with a Thought Lash and you can start sending Laelia in for lethal on Turn 4 as well!

Losheel, Clockwork Scholar: $3

Losheel, Clockwork Scholar

Losheel is another card that I feel is being held down in value because of the slew of high-dollar cards in this deck. Dolmen Gate is a solid $5-$6 card. Losheel is essentially Dolmen Gate in the decks that are going to play it. In addition, it gives absolute card draw by turning artifact creatures into cantrips. Even with the once-a-turn clause, Losheel is going to draw more cards for an artifact creature deck than almost any other white card ever printed.

Monologue Tax: $15

Monologue Tax

The closest comparison to Monologue Tax is Smothering Tithe. People are buying into Monologue Tax because of FOMO on how quickly Smothering Tithe rose to the $25+ range (currently at $35).  Monologue Tax is no Smothering Tithe. Smothering Tithe keys off card drawing and keys off the first card drawn each turn. Unless an opponent is skipping their draw step, you’ll always have the opportunity to creature Treasure tokens under Smothering Tithe. You’re also going to be able to create multiple Treasure tokens each turn with Smothering Tithe.

Monologue Tax has the ability to trigger twice a turn, but only if multiple players are slinging spells during one turn. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that Monologue Tax will create any Treasure tokens. In any given game, Smothering Tithe is going to create a multiple more Treasure tokens than Monologue Tax.  I expect Monologue Tax to drop to the $5-$7 range once people play with it, and see that it’s not Smothering Tithe.

Osgir, the Reconstructor: $3

Osgir, the Reconstructor

People are looking at Osgir to be really cute with things like Mox Amber or Lotus Petal. There are, of course, other artifacts you can copy with Osgir, but I’ll be honest — I don’t think Osgir will survive the round of turns often enough to get activated. This is a card I expect to drop down to the $2 range post-release.

Bulk Tier ($1-$2)

Angel of the Ruins Audacious Reshapers Battlemage’s Bracers Bronze Guardian Digsite Engineer Excavation Technique Ruin Grinder Triplicate Titan Wake the Past

Prismari Performance

Commander
Magic Card Back


Notable Low-Dollar Reprints ($2-$4)

Arcane Signet Blasphemous Act Brass’s Bounty Dig Through Time Etali, Primal Storm Metallurgic Summonings Ponder Pyromancer’s Goggles Shivan Reef Reliquary Tower Sol Ring Talisman of Creativity

Notable Mid-Dollar Reprints ($5-$9)

N/A

Notable High-Dollar Reprints ($10+)

N/A

Prismari Performance has a bunch of decent low-dollar reprints, but in general has a smaller dollar value than the other decks in Commander 2021. It also doesn’t have any stand-out smash hit new cards, so in strictly dollar terms, this is the weakest of the five decks this year.

Creative Technique: $3

Creative Technique

This is the type of red chaos spell that really appeals to players in Commander. It’s also a fair spell, since you have to shuffle your library before it reveals cards. This reminds me of the “Tempt with” cycle from Commander 2013. The biggest differences are that you (as the caster) choose whether you’re tempting someone, you get to choose who is being tempted, but there’s only one temptation. Still seems like a fine political spell and should keep value.

Inspiring Refrain: $3

Inspiring Refrain

Based on a cycle of cards from Future Sight, both this and Rousing Refrain should be popular Magic cards. I do think though that Inspiring Refrain has a lot of competition in the card drawing sphere. While it’s nice to be guaranteed an extra two cards every three turns in perpetuity, there are other choices that have better and more immediate payoffs. Should drop to the bulk range.

Muse Vortex: $5

Muse Vortex

It’s no secret that the cards in Commander decks are skewed towards Commander players. It’s right there in the name!  Still, all the new cards in these decks are format-legal in both Legacy and Vintage. The value of Muse Vortex right now is dependent on whether or not it will have a home in some sort of Legacy combo deck. However, it does not seem like the Legacy community is particularly enthused about this card, so I expect it to drop to the $2-$3 range.

Reinterpret: $6

Reinterpret

There are a couple of cards in this set that I feel are being genuinely undervalued right now. All of the hype on the new cards is surrounding the Lorehold deck, but Reinterpret is an amazing counterspell. In a Commander game, it’s going to be pretty trivial to counter something, and then be able to cast any spell out of your hand for free.  That’s a huge mana cheat effect, and one that realistically might even be better than Mana Drain in many circumstances. That’s high praise for a card indeed! I expect Reinterpret to go up in price as time goes on.

Rousing Refrain: $3

Rousing Refrain

Rousing Refrain is a much better card than Inspiring Refrain. The simple reason is that there aren’t as many mana-producing effects that are this powerful and repeatable in Magic. At most Commander tables, this is going to net you five to seven mana every three turns, which is a huge boost. I’m not sure this will go up in price — it’s competing with things like Gilded Lotus or Mana Geyser — but I do think it won’t go down for sure.

Veyran, Voice of Duality: $5

Veyran, Voice of Duality

Veyran is to instants and sorceries as Panharmonicon is to artifacts. Panharmonicon is a $10-$12 card (depending on printing) and is extraordinarily popular in Commander. It’s also colorless, so it can slot into a lot more decks than Veyran. For that reason, I think Veyran will likely hold value, but is capped at around $6 because it’s restricted to commanders that have (minimum) Izzet colors.

Bulk Tier ($1-$2)

Dazzling Sphinx Elementalist’s Palette Fiery Encore Inferno Project Octavia, Living Thesis Radiant Performer Rionya, Fire Dancer Sly Instigator Surge to Victory Zaffai, Thunder Conductor

Quantum Quandrix

Commander
Magic Card Back


Notable Low-Dollar Reprints ($2-$4)

Arcane Signet Beast Within Garruk, Primal Hunter Incubation Druid Kodama’s Reach Krosan Grip Managorger Hydra Master Biomancer Reef Worm Return of the Wildspeaker Sol Ring

Notable Mid-Dollar Reprints ($5-$9)

Rite of Replication

Notable High-Dollar Reprints ($10+)

Ezuri’s Predation

Quantum Quandrix is second behind Lorehold Legacies for good reprints. It’s also got at least three new cards that are going to hold value, so it’s a great deck for the price you’re paying.

Adrix and Nev, Twincasters: $6

Adrix and Nev, Twincasters

We might as well call this deck the Doubling Season deck. I’ll get to a more in-depth explanation under Paradox Zone, but suffice it to say that Doubling Season is back up to $80 and Parallel Lives is selling out at $50. This is Parallel Lives on a creature. Adrix and Nev will go up in value over time because it’s exactly the type of effect a doubling deck wants, in the colors it wants.

Esix, Fractal Bloom: $5

Esix, Fractal Bloom

Esix is a really interesting creature. You’re not going to just throw it into any deck to make it work; you really need a dedicated token generation deck. Most cards with this effect only let you copy your own creatures, but Esix lets you copy opposing creatures. I do think that at six mana it’s probably a bit limited in the impact it will have compared to other spells and creatures this sort of deck is running. I think that there are a lot of cards in this deck that will shoot up in price after the C21 decks release, and I feel that Esix will go down in value as other cards in this deck prove more popular and playable.

Guardian Augmenter: $7

Guardian Augmenter

Bastion Protector and Guardian Augmenter are essentially mirror images of one another. Which is a better ability to grant – hexproof or indestructible? The answer isn’t to argue which is better, but to say that both of them are extremely popular and powerful. Bastion Protector is a $20+ card while Guardian Augmenter has flash on top of the other abilities. That makes Guardian Augmenter almost a sure thing to go up in value post-release.

Oversimplify: $7

Oversimplify

Simic gets a sweeper, but what are we going to compare this to in Simic? The closest comparisons I have are Curse of the Swine (which can take a ton of mana) and Cyclonic Rift ($35 despite being reprinted recently in Double Masters). Oversimplify may leave each opponent with one creature, but blue is known for being able to take care of (read: bounce) token creatures. Should be a Commander staple and will probably go up in value as well.

Paradox Zone: $2

Paradox Zone

So by itself, Paradox Zone is slow and ponderous. With Doubling Season, it’s an absolute monster. I mean, let’s be honest — everything that makes tokens or counters is much better with Doubling Season. Paradox Zone gets completely out of hand. Assuming you have a Doubling Season on the battlefield already, here’s how your first turn with Paradox Zone plays out:

  • Paradox Zone enters the battlefield with two growth counters.
  • At the beginning of your end step, you double the number of growth counters. This adds four counters (double two), bringing you to a total of six growth counters.
  • You then put two Fractal creature tokens onto the battlefield, instead of one.
  • Each of these creatures gets twelve counters (double six).

The end result is that you have two 12/12 Fractal tokens based on one Paradox Zone and one Doubling Season. That’s absolutely insane value, because there are few (if any) cards in Magic that benefit four times in one turn from a single Doubling Season.

Without Doubling Season? Paradox Zone is kind of meh because it’s a lot less exciting to create a single 2/2 Fractal token the first turn you cast this spell. Because of that, I can’t in good conscience say this will be above bulk. I can say that Doubling Season will continue to rise in price over time because it enables so, so many other cards like this one.

Perplexing Test: $3

Perplexing Test

If Evacuation is $6-$7, Perplexing Test will be at least that price over time. It’s a modal Evacuation that has modes that actually matter as a build-around. Evacuation has also been printed seven times, whereas there’s only one printing of Perplexing Test. I’d buy this now because there’s no reason for it to stay at only $3 given the pedigree of Evacuation.

Theoretical Duplication: $5

Theoretical Duplication

A three-mana instant-speed Clone is already an exciting card for Commander players. The ability to copy multiple creatures in a turn I think pushes Theoretical Duplication over the top. No, you won’t be able to get all of those Empty the Warrens or Doubling Season tokens, but you will be able to crush the battlefield after any sort of mass-reanimation effect. Opponent casts Living Death? You’ll get copies of probably a dozen-plus creatures at once. At only three mana, Theoretical Duplication will be online before any sort of reanimation shenanigans take place. This effect goes wide enough that I think it will hold value, despite being a reactive (and not proactive) card.

Bulk Tier ($1-$2)

Commander’s Insight Curiosity Crafter Deekah, Fractal Theorist Fractal Harness Geometric Nexus Replication Technique Ruxa, Patient Professor Sequence Engine Spawning Kraken

Silverquill Statement

Commander

Notable Low-Dollar Reprints ($2-$4)

Arcane Signet Bojuka Bog Ghostly Prison Gideon, Champion of Justice Knight of the White Orchid Selfless Squire Sol Ring

Notable Mid-Dollar Reprints ($5-$9)

Deathbringer Liege Mikokoro, Center of the Sea Windborn Muse

Notable High-Dollar Reprints ($10+)

N/A

The reprints in this deck tend to skew higher-dollar on average, but there are fewer of them. In addition, many of the cards in Silverquill Statement are being initially undervalued. While on paper this is the fourth deck by value, I think it’s the #1 deck in terms of room for growth in value in the future.

Author of Shadows: $3

Author of Shadows

There are a lot of Commander cards that allow you to nuke opponents’ graveyards. Most of them cost a lot less than five mana. Yes, you get to cast a spell out of those graveyards in the future, but it’s a single spell. I think Author of Shadows will end up being bulk after release.

Breena, the Demagogue: $4

Breena, the Demagogue

Breena doesn’t look like much on the surface, but on the battlefield it can be one of the best political cards created for Commander in a long time. Players are always attacking, so it’s very reasonable that in a four-player game, you’ve gotten eight +1/+1 counters in one full go-around the turn after Breena enters the battlefield. Opponents are incentivized to attack people who aren’t you (to draw a card), and you get to draw a card when you attack someone as well. Over time, I think people will realize that Breena is very powerful as your commander and this will cause Breena to maintain a steady value.

Cunning Rhetoric: $5

Cunning Rhetoric

A rattlesnake card in Commander is one that warns your opponent openly, “Don’t attack me, or I will bite you!” Cunning Rhetoric is one of the better rattlesnake cards ever printed in the format. It’s splashable, has an extremely powerful effect, and is hard to remove (as an enchantment). Compare this to Monologue Tax, and I think that Cunning Rhetoric is the card that should be pushing $10+, and Monologue Tax is the one that should be lower-dollar.

Felisa, Fang of Silverquill: $3

Felisa, Fang of Silverquill

I don’t think Felisa is particular powerful or interesting, and I think many other people will agree with me post-release. I expect Felisa to be a bulk-valued card.

Incarnation Technique: $4

Incarnation Technique

Five mana for two targeted reanimation spells is a very good bargain (this effect usually costs at least six mana). In addition, you can play politics with an opponent to help them get a creature back (or you can just aim it at an opponent who is least likely to have a creature to get back).  Still, I think that people tend to go more wide with reanimation than this, so I think it’ll probably settle in the $2-$3 range.

Inkshield: $8

Inkshield

Inkshield is bonkers. It’s very reasonable to think that in the turn you cast Inkshield, you’ll both prevent yourself from dying and set yourself up with enough creatures to alpha strike (at least) one opponent to death. For instance, Craterhoof Behemoth decks typically can hit for 50+ damage in a single turn. Inkshield not only prevents all that damage, but it sets you up with 100+ power in flying creatures. I think that Inkshield will actually go down in value post-release because people see a five-mana value and see it as a reactive spell and dismiss it. Over time, they will realize this is one of the most crushing spells you can cast in Commander to turn around a game immediately in the format’s entire history (and that’s saying a lot).

Keen Duelist: $5

Keen Duelist

The most undervalued card in the set right now. People expect any Dark Confidant variant to be suboptimal at this point because most of them have been pretty bad. Keen Duelist is very powerful in non-Commander formats. I’ve already seen the Legacy community brewing three different builds of this deck:

  • Rakdos Burn with Rift Bolt, Skewer the Critics, and Fireblast.
  • Dimir Control with Ethereal Forager, Cryptic Serpent, and Snuff Out.
  • Show and Tell, putting Emrakul on top of the deck repeatedly.

I think Keen Duelist is going to be the breakout card of this set. It’s great in Commander (you get to choose the opponent, so it’s a good political card for card drawing), and it’s going to be played in Legacy. I’d buy into Keen Duelist now because I think it’ll be double this price within a month of release.

Scholarship Sponsor: $4

Scholarship Sponsor

I’m actually a lot more excited by Scholarship Sponsor than Archaeomancer’s Map. While the Map comes down earlier and gets you two cards off the bat, Scholarship Sponsor puts those lands straight onto the battlefield. It can also ramp you multiple times at once. If any of your opponents are ahead significantly on lands (Explosive Vegetation-type effects), Scholarship Sponsor immediately catches you (and everyone else) up, no questions asked.

Tempting Contract: $5

Tempting Contract

The turn you cast Tempting Contract, it does absolutely nothing at four mana. The turn after you cast Tempting Contract, all your opponents can decline to create a Treasure token, making this do absolutely nothing. Unlike the other “Tempt with”-style card, this one has no forced effect even if the opponents decline to take you up on your offer. While in theory people are really high on this card, I think it’s going to be all-but-useless in actual practice. I expect this to drop to the $1-$2 range quickly.

Bulk Tier ($1-$2)

Combat Calligrapher Fain, the Broker Guardian Archon Nils, Discipline Enforcer Promise of Loyalty Stinging Study

Witherbloom Witchcraft

Commander

Notable Low-Dollar reprints ($2-$4)

Arcane Signet Greed High Market Noxious Gearhulk Sanguine Bond Sapling of Colfenor Sol Ring Tainted Wood

Notable Mid-Dollar reprints ($5-$9)

Venser’s Journal

Notable High-Dollar reprints ($10+)

Alhammarret’s Archive

About the same reprint value as Quantum Quandrix. The new cards in this deck are pretty middle-of-the-road solid, but with less room for growth than in the Orzhov or Simic decks.

Blossoming Bogbeast: $3

Blossoming Bogbeast

Lifegain as a payoff is a design space that hasn’t been explored in great depth in Magic. This is especially true when you consider that lifegain has been around since inception (Alpha), and how few cards reward you for gaining life over the years.

I think in general people are evaluating the cards in this deck lower than their actual power level. Blossoming Bogbeast is a perfect example. Craterhoof Behemoth is likely the better card (it can attack the turn it enters the battlefield, it’s larger, and it can probably grow creatures larger in general), but Craterhoof Behemoth is a $60 Magic card. Blossoming Bogbeast is smaller, but it also gives your creatures trample, it comes down much earlier, and you can use it multiple times.

I think it’s reasonable that, in a Selesnya deck dedicated to lifegain and payoff, you’re probably giving your creatures +5/+5 every turn and trample (Hello Soul Warden / Essence Warden!), which is huge for a consistent, sustained onslaught.  As such, I think Blossoming Bogbeast is being extremely undervalued right now. It will assuredly go up in value.

Healing Technique: $3

Healing Technique

I personally don’t think that the lifegain on Healing Technique is worth making it sorcery-speed and giving your opponent a free Regrowth versus, say, Once and Future. I think this is one of the cards from this cycle that will go down in price, because there are already a lot of Regrowth effects that are either cheaper or more efficient that are competing with it.

Pest Infestation: $5

Pest Infestation

This is an extremely powerful Naturalize / Disenchant variant. While it’s slightly worse as a sorcery-speed effect to comparable spells (Return to Dust, for instance), the ability to both scale and have a payoff is fantastic. I think it’s reasonable for this to regularly nuke three to four cards and give you six to eight creatures. This is great for a dedicated token or creature swarm deck, and also great for a lifegain theme deck (since the tokens give you life when they die). As far as scalable variants on this spell effect, this one is near the top of the heap.

Revival Experiment: $3

Revival Experiment

Aside from running this in a Muldrotha-style deck, is this the type of card you can just throw in a Golgari deck and run with it? I don’t think so, personally. Unless you’re self-milling, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have a land, planeswalker, creature, artifact, and enchantment to return with Revival Experiment. Late-game, returning all five will cost you fifteen life. This is not an insignificant cost! I think Revival Experiment will probably be in the $2 range post-release.

Sproutback Trudge: $4

Sproutback Trudge

Sproutback Trudge is another lifegain-matters payoff card for that style of deck. If you’re gaining five life a turn regularly, you’re looking at a four-mana 9/7 trampler (well, that’s not entirely true — you’re looking at a 9/7 trampler that you can cast out of your graveyard, again and again). I don’t know how powerful affinity for lifegain is going to end up being but I think the recursive nature of Sproutback Trudge is going to push it over the top for playability.

Trudge Garden: $3

Trudge Garden

Typically, the type of creature created as a payoff for “do X, pay Y, get Z” is a lot smaller than a 4/4 trampler. That alone makes Trudge Garden at a higher power level than other spells of this effect (Drake Haven-type things). Still, the lifegain deck is probably going to be more focused on gaining life and less focused on mana ramping, so I’m not sure that it’ll have a ton of extra mana to throw into Trudge Garden without messing up the rest of its battlefield. Because of that, I think this will end up in the $1-$2 range.

Willowdusk, Essence Seer: $3

Willowdusk, Essence Seer

If only Willowdusk didn’t have to be activated as a sorcery, it’d be an amazing rattlesnake card. Unfortunately, since it can’t grow a creature arbitrarily large based on your opponent attacking you, it’s pretty mediocre. I think it’ll end up in the $2 range.

Witch’s Clinic: $6

Witch's Clinic

Witch’s Clinic is the most universally playable card in any of the five Commander decks. There are virtually no Commander decks that wouldn’t at least consider running it, and most will. While the effect isn’t super-splashy, it’s going to be so in demand that the price will go up almost immediately and stay there.

Bulk Tier ($1-$2)

Blight Mound Essence Pulse Ezzaroot Channeler Gyome, Master Chef Marshland Bloodcaster Tivash, Gloom Summoner Veinwitch Coven Yedora, Grave Gardener

That’s it for my financial value of Strixhaven!  I’ll be returning to the Select side of Star City Games over the next few weeks with some looks at foil cards, alternate versions of cards, and more! I’ll return to Premium afterwards once Modern Horizons 2 previews begin. Whether you’re reading me on Premium or Select, thank you for tuning in!  Feedback is always welcome via e-mail or on Twitter.