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Strixhaven Exit Interview: Standard

Eight SCG creators revisit their first impressions of Strixhaven for Standard, sharing their hits, misses, and surprise breakout cards.

Elite Spellbinder, illustrated by Ryan Pancoast
Elite Spellbinder, illustrated by Ryan Pancoast

Welcome to Strixhaven: School of Mages Exit Interview week!

If you missed Srixhaven First Impressions week, various members of the SCG Staff shared their thoughts on their Top 5 Strixhaven cards in each format before having the opportunity to play with them. With Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms preview season almost complete, we thought it would be fun to have those same folks update their lists now that they’ve had the opportunity to play with Strixhaven for the past six weeks and share what they got right, what they got wrong, what surprised them, etc.

Just like last time, today we’ll begin with Standard, Wednesday will be Historic, Thursday will be Pioneer, and Friday will be Modern. The same scoring system we had in place for Strixhaven First Impressions week will be in place here so that we can get an idea of what card ranked in what place in the aggregate to close out each article. The scoring system is as follows:

  • 1st — 5 points
  • 2nd — 4 points
  • 3rd — 3 points
  • 4th — 2 points
  • 5th — 1 point

Let’s start this party off with, once again, the Elite Spellbinder himself!

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Previous List

  1. Baleful Mastery
  2. Furycalm Snarl
  3. Elite Spellbinder
  4. Sedgemoor Witch
  5. Flamescroll Celebrant // Revel In Silence

Baleful Mastery Furycalm Snarl Elite Spellbinder Sedgemoor Witch Flamescroll Celebrant

New List

  1. Elite Spellbinder
  2. Expressive Iteration
  3. Galazeth Prismari
  4. Prismari Command
  5. Quandrix Cultivator

Elite Spellbinder Expressive Iteration Galazeth Prismari Prismari Command Quandrix Cultivator

When we make these lists, we don’t expect to get everything right. It might happen at some point or another but it’s definitely not the default. But we also don’t expect to get everything wrong, and boy did I get everything wrong here. I predict that, if we do this column for another year, I will not miss as strongly as I missed with Strixhaven.

In my defense, it’s not even that there were some great Standard cards and I missed them; it’s more that no Strixhaven cards see play in Standard at all outside of a selected few. Whoever had a speculative pick likely missed, because nothing from Strixhaven really panned out. At this point, I suspect D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms might suffer from the same fate, so rotation can’t come soon enough. 

I think Elite Spellbinder is the clear number one in my book, because it managed to slot itself in Mono-White Aggro❄ and Naya Adventures, as well as all the Winota builds. It’s not a flagship card by any means, but it gives all these decks a strong tool to fight Sultai Ramp (Yorion) and I think it’s more important for these builds than any other Strixhaven card is for the other stock decks.

After that, we have three cards from the only new deck to have emerged — Izzet Dragons❄. I ranked them 2, 3 and 4 based on their power level in that deck, but honestly they are all sort of tied for second through fourth, because they all go in the same deck and only that deck. Without them, however, that deck would not exist.

In fifth place I have Quandrix Cultivator, which is a card that I like in Sultai Ramp (Yorion). Even then, it’s a one or two-of in an 80-card deck, so it’s hard to argue that it’s had a profound impact in Standard. Other reasonable contenders here can be Go Blank or Test of Talents, both of which can see play in sideboards, and even Hall Monitor in Mono-Red Aggro❄, but it’s safe to say that the format would be the exact same regardless of whether any of these cards existed or not. 

Bryan Gottlieb

Previous List

  1. Velomachus Lorehold
  2. Silverquill Command
  3. Professor of Symbology
  4. Blade Historian
  5. Baleful Mastery

Velomachus Lorehold Silverquill Command Professor of Symbology Blade Historian Baleful Mastery

New List

  1. Elite Spellbinder
  2. Expressive Iteration
  3. Plumb the Forbidden
  4. Galazeth Prismari
  5. ????

Elite Spellbinder Expressive Iteration Plumb the Forbidden Galazeth Prismari

Wow, I took some shots with my first pass at the Strixhaven Top 5 list for Standard and missed heartily. But having done my second pass at a Top 5 list, it’s pretty clear why. If almost nothing is good, then how do you make any meaningful distinctions?

Hell, I don’t even think Galazeth Prismari is an awesome Magic card. It feels like it ends up in Izzet Dragons❄ almost by default. I love Plumb the Forbidden, but I’ll never try to argue that the decks it created were any better than Tier 2. And despite its dominance of older formats, Expressive Iteration is routinely replaced by Mazemind Tome in more recent versions of Izzet Dragons❄.

The only true slam dunk in Standard from this list has been Elite Spellbinder. This card changed the hierarchy of Standard, moved both Mono-White Aggro❄ and Naya Adventures into the top tiers of the format, and created a reasonable way for aggressive decks to fight back against Emergent Ultimatum. It’s fitting that the GOAT Magic player lent his likeness to a card which might also go down as an all-timer.

If you really want me to fill out my list, choose at random from Professor Onyx, Vanishing Verse, Test of Talents, or any of the other random one-ofs that occasionally popped up. None of these cards mattered all that much, but they were occasionally there, which is more than I can say for the rest of Strixhaven.

Gerry Thompson

Previous List

  1. Expressive Iteration
  2. Vanishing Verse
  3. Galazeth Prismari
  4. Elite Spellbinder
  5. Tempted by the Oriq

Expressive Iteration Vanishing Verse Galazeth Prismari Elite Spellbinder Tempted by the Oriq

New List

  1. Prismari Command
  2. Expressive Iteration
  3. Galazeth Prismari
  4. Elite Spellbinder
  5. Professor Onyx

Prismari Command Expressive Iteration Galazeth Prismari Elite Spellbinder Professor Onyx

It’s months later and I’m still struggling to find five cards I’m happy to put on my list. 

Maybe I overshot Expressive Iteration in Standard, but as a card that’s seeing massive play all the way back to Vintage, I think I’m okay at putting that card at number one. Strictly in the context of Standard, Prismari Command is making a larger impact. 

Elite Spellbinder certainly delivered. Even outside of the obvious home in Mono-White Aggro❄, it’s done solid work in three-color midrange decks as well. Overall, it’s one of my favorite cards to have access to in Standard. 

I guess the final slot goes to Professor Onyx, even though it almost exclusively shows up as a one-of. 

Powering down Standard is something that has to happen gradually, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the last few sets have been rather tame. In the meantime, we’ll have to deal with some weaker sets. 

Brad Nelson

Previous List

  1. Vanishing Verse
  2. Blade Historian
  3. Baleful Mastery
  4. Elite Spellbinder
  5. Callous Bloodmage

Vanishing Verse Blade Historian Baleful Mastery Elite Spellbinder Callous Bloodmage

Wow, I really did it this time. I mean, I knew I was smart, but even still I find new ways to impress myself. I have no idea how I knew that Expressive Iteration was going to take multiple formats by storm. Maybe I’m a genius?

Oh wait, I was looking at Gerry’s list, my bad. Oh it looks like I didn’t even have Expressive Iteration on my radar and for some reason thought Blade Historian was going to be good? Wow, I really messed up this time haven’t I? Well there’s no way I’m going to botch my closing statements!

New List

  1. Expressive Iteration
  2. Elite Spellbinder
  3. Galazeth Prismari

Expressive Iteration Elite Spellbinder Galazeth Prismari

This is the real answer to “what are the Top 5 Strixhaven Standard cards”, and no one will get me to think otherwise. Seriously, if we have to start squabbling over what the last two would be then I’d break a personal pact I made with myself that I’d never argue about Eyetwitch again. I mean, it’s either that or Professor Onyx, or both. I’m just not interested in scraping the bottom of the barrel when I’m supposed to be selecting the top brass.

Strixhaven may not have been deep when it came to Standard, but these three beautiful stallions made up for it. All three are impressive cards, and two of them are taking multiple formats by storm. Expressive iteration, in particular, is so good that it will be a staple in Standard, Historic, and Modern for as long as WotC lets us play it. It’s also a blast to play with which makes it even better!

All-in-all, Strixhaven wasn’t the greatest set when it came to Standard, but that’s honestly a good thing when you consider it had to compete with set which must not be named.

Todd Anderson

Previous List

  1. Vanishing Verse
  2. Lorehold Command
  3. Devastating Mastery
  4. Callous Bloodmage
  5. Multiple Choice

Vanishing Verse Lorehold Command Devastating Mastery Callous Bloodmage Multiple Choice

New List

  1. Expressive Iteration
  2. Galazeth Prismari
  3. Elite Spellbinder
  4. Blade Historian
  5. Vanishing Verse

Expressive Iteration Galazeth Prismari Elite Spellbinder Blade Historian Vanishing Verse

It’s no secret that Throne of Eldraine has a stranglehold on Standard. Not a lot of cards were able to break through that barrier, but a few were excellent inside this hostile format. The two at the top of the list are often seen together in Izzet Dragons❄, a deck that was great before Strixhaven, but added both a strong threat and stellar draw spell. Expressive Iteration is so much better than I initially thought, I didn’t even have it on my Top 5! After reading what Gerry Thompson had to say on the card, I immediately started brewing and eventually came to the conclusion that it was the best card in the set overall.

Galazeth Prismari added a nice boost to the Izzet Dragons❄ deck, which I always thought was a bit light on threats. Like Goldspan Dragon, it helped create extra sources of mana so you could cast a threat and reactive spell in the same turn. The extra mana generation from both Goldspan Dragon and Galazeth Prismari allow you to chain card draw spells as well, all while being able to hold up mana to play a reactive game. The one-two punch of these two Dragons makes it one of the most fearsome decks in Standard.

Elite Spellbinder and Blade Historian aren’t always found in the same decks, but a few builds of Mono-White Aggro❄ caught my attention early and held up decently across the span of this little Standard run. Elite Spellbinder specifically gives all manner of white decks a powerful three-mana spell that disrupts your opponent while adding a significant clock. I think most of us knew Elite Spellbinder was going to be good, but it exceeded my expectations in basically every format where it sees play, which is a lot of them.

Blade Historian is the end-game card that these Mono-White Aggro❄ decks needed to compete. It doesn’t play well with Faceless Haven, but that’s a small price to pay to deal double damage on the turn where you cast Blade Historian. Creature-rush strategies have long been a major part of Standard, and Blade Historian pays off all the white decks that needed something like this. It doesn’t see play in red decks because Torbran, Thane of Red Fell does something similar, and better, but most of the white aggro decks have found room for Blade Historian.

Lastly, I’m choosing Vanishing Verse because I still believe it to be a great card. It hasn’t seen much play in the current Standard format, but a card this strong will eventually find a home and be a major player. Many of us had Vanishing Verse on our initial lists at the top spot, but the hard truth is that Orzhov just hasn’t put up any results. At some point, that has to change, and Vanishing Verse will be one of the more played removal spells in the format.

Overall, I had a lot of misses on my initial list, but mostly because they were things I wanted to explore. In hindsight, I should have probably given more credit to the Prismari cards, but lesson learned. Izzet is great and I won’t forget that again.

Ari Lax

Previous List

  1. Expressive Iteration
  2. Multiple Choice
  3. Elite Spellbinder
  4. Vanishing Verse
  5. Galazeth Prismari

Expressive Iteration Multiple Choice Elite Spellbinder Vanishing Verse Galazeth Prismari

New List

  1. Expressive Iteration
  2. Elite Spellbinder
  3. Hall Monitor
  4. Test of Talents
  5. Prismari Command

Expressive Iteration Elite Spellbinder Hall Monitor Test of Talents Prismari Command

Two cards clearly stand above the rest here: Expressive Iteration and Elite Spellbinder. Those cards had the real impacts on Standard and the rest is all in the wash. Those were my first and third cards from my initial rankings, so I’m calling that a clean win. I still have Expressive Iteration as the raw best card. Even if Elite Spellbinder has more direct success in Naya Adventures, the value over a replacement three-drop is in the margins, where I don’t think any of the Expressive Iteration decks functions without that card.

One of those decks is Jeskai Mutate, which is the sole reason Prismari Command ends up on this list. I’m sure that deck would have seen more play and success if paper play and coverage was a bigger part of Magic these months. The win condition of the deck is not remotely obvious, not Arena friendly, and I’m sure too many people just assumed someone else would let them know if it was broken. You could also include the other Izzet Treasure token card as fifth place, but Galazeth Prismari is a bit too four-drop sorcery for me to be that excited by it.

Hall Monitor is a really sad commentary on the state of red cards in Standard. How is this among the outright best creatures you can play? Maybe WotC is just two levels ahead and making sure no one is tricked into playing red aggro against Bonecrusher Giant or Lovestruck Beast by refusing to print cards to make it playable.

Test of Talents is a bit of an underrated sideboard card, but it’s telling that Test sees more play than Negate. Cranial Extraction costs nothing extra and trades for their card on the stack and their mana they spent to cast it is a big deal, and an even bigger deal when one of the top decks in the format is an Ultimatum deck.

It’s worth looking back on my misses: Multiple Choice and Vanishing Verse.

Multiple Choice Vanishing Verse

Multiple Choice is pretty easy to explain. Once you’re paying five mana for a blue spell, you may as well have Goldspan Dragon or scale up to Alrund’s Epiphany or Emergent Ultimatum. I expect Emergent Ultimatum’s future departure from Standard to bode well for Multiple Choice, but that’s still a ways off.

Vanishing Verse has a mix of issues. One is that spot removal is somewhere between a role player and actively bad in a Standard dominated by Emergent Ultimatum and Adventures. Second is that the Orzhov colors just aren’t good midrange or control options now with all the power in Gruul creatures and Sultai spells. The third is Faceless Haven, cornering all aggressive decks into mono-color piles. Vanishing Verse isn’t a bad card, but it’s definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This is a bit of the story of Strixhaven in Standard: there’s a lot of interesting cards, or even reasonable cards, but they just don’t stand up to Thone of Eldraine. Strixhaven is built for a world where you accumulate value and power through interactions, not by reading the text on a single card and nodding your head before casting it.

Shaheen Soorani

Previous List

  1. Vanishing Verse
  2. Eureka Moment
  3. Reject
  4. Rip Apart
  5. Professor Onyx

Vanishing Verse Eureka Moment Reject Rip Apart Professor Onyx

New List

  1. Expressive Iteration
  2. Prismari Command
  3. Hall Monitor
  4. Elite Spellbinder
  5. Blade Historian

Expressive Iteration Prismari Command Hall Monitor Elite Spellbinder Blade Historian

I had very high hopes for Vanishing Verse and acknowledged the odds of it being a successful removal spell in Standard.  Regardless of how powerful a card is, there needs to be valid actors around it to form a strong competitor in any given metagame.  Orzhov has struggled in Standard, as well as any shard that has tried to incorporate it.  Such a beautiful removal spell left stranded in the realm of unplayability at no fault of its own. 

I missed the mark on most of my initial Top 5 list, hoping that control would have received a jolt with Strixhaven.  My new list has all the big hitters from Standard, conceding the fact that three through five are annoying aggressive cards that have recently been a thorn in my side.  Sultai Ramp, Jeskai Mutate, Jeskai Cycling, and a pile of midrange decks still rule Standard, but these three cards have given a few aggro decks a fighting chance.  Elite Spellbinder is the only traitor of the bunch, often finding space in the Adventures decks that tap into white.

The top two cards of my list are Izzet all-stars, and I am not surprised to see them in a bunch of Standard decks.  Prismari Command has been a strong option since it debuted in both Historic and Standard.  I was confident it would see play if there were any artifacts that needed smashing, but it seems to have shined without that target being available.  The modal cards can be a bit weaker, as Prismari Command is, just because of their flexibility during gameplay.  I have created distance between myself and control options from the Izzet League too many times, just because it does not fit my control playstyle.  It’s no secret that I love all things Esper, making me initially leave this and Expressive Iteration off my list.  The latter was on my radar right off the bat, but mistakes were made.

I initially had Expressive Iteration at the top of my list when Strixhaven was released; however, I had a few smart friends talk me out of it.  It reeks of raw card advantage, has a low cost, and fits into a traditional color scheme that can take advantage of it.  Enough boxes of mine were checked, but I was easily swayed by the lack of archetypes that could take advantage of it, in addition to it not being strong enough to build a strategy around it. 

I have since fired those friends and promise to not underestimate strong Izzet cards in the future.

Corey Baumeister

Previous List

  1. Elite Spellbinder 
  2. Rowan, Scholar of Sparks // Will, Scholar of Frost
  3. Quandrix Command
  4. Multiple Choice
  5. Galazeth Prismari

Elite Spellbinder Rowan, Scholar of Sparks Quandrix Command Multiple Choice Galazeth Prismari

New List

  1. Elite Spellbinder
  2. Expressive Iteration 
  3. Galazeth Prismari
  4. Prismari Command
  5. Hall Monitor

Elite Spellbinder Expressive Iteration Galazeth Prismari Prismari Command Hall Monitor

When it comes to a very powered down set like Strixhaven, we’re all bound to have some pretty bad cards on our list. But holy cow did I miss the mark on my list, I’m almost embarrassed to have three cards that saw exactly zero play. I’m also pretty embarrassed I didn’t have Expressive Iteration on my list when it has proved itself to be one of the best card advantages spells in the last few years. Big props to Ari and Gerry for having that at the top of their lists!

I’m still sticking with Elite Spellbinder being the most impactful card in Standard though. It was added to both Mono-White Aggro❄ and Naya Adventures and it almost single handedly gave those decks some game against Sultai Ramp. It also got to team up with it’s best friend Drannith Magistrate and really frustrate some opponents.

Galazeth Prismari was the last card on my previous list that I think made some serious impact on Standard. Galazeth ended up helping in the solidification of Izzet Dragons❄ as a serious force in Standard and once again played a key role in kicking Sultai Ramp decks down a few pegs. Sultai Ramp was the best deck leading into Strixhaven Standard and it did not stay that way on it’s way out.

Galazeth also dodged a ton of removal that’s in the metagame right now. It gets to avoid Glass Casket, Giant Killer, Bonecrusher Giant, and Vanishing Verse. That elusive power and toughness and the fact that it curves beautifully into Goldspan Dragon is the reason I have this card as my third best card in the set.

Without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Strixhaven cards for Standard are now…

5. Hall Monitor — 7 points

Hall Monitor

4. Prismari Command — 14 points

Prismari Command

3. Galazeth Prismari — 18 points

Galazeth Prismari

2. Elite Spellbinder — 30 points

Elite Spellbinder

1. Expressive Iteration — 36 points

Expressive Iteration

Cya back here tomorrow to review Strixhaven’s impact on Historic!