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Strixhaven First Impressions: Modern

Which Strixhaven cards stand a chance of seeing Modern play? SCG creators offer their Top 5 lists in the set’s First Impressions finale.

Rip Apart
Rip Apart, illustrated by Anna Podedworna

Welcome back to Strixhaven First Impressions week!

All week long, various members of the SCG Staff will share their thoughts on the Top 5 Srixhaven cards in each format. On Monday we showed our love for Vanishing Verse in Standard, on Tuesday we gushed about the Mystical Archive’s impact on Historic, and yesterday we scratched and clawed our way to impactful cards in Pioneer. Today, we’ll close things out with Modern.

To add a little fun to the mix, a scoring system has been put in place 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

Today we kick things off with the leader of the Rudy Gobert Fan Club™, Ross Merriam.

Ross Merriam

  1. Clever Lumimancer
  2. Silverquill Silencer
  3. Vanishing Verse
  4. Elite Spellbinder
  5. Charge Through

Clever Lumimancer Silverquill Silencer Vanishing Verse Elite Spellbinder Charge Through

Another Top 5 list and another struggle. Two of these cards overlap from my Pioneer list yesterday, but both Elite Spellbinder and Vanishing Verse fall a step or two in Modern. Spellbinder falls because the presence of Wrenn and Six and Lava Dart puts a lot of pressure on one-toughness creatures. Verse falls because there are numerous quality one-mana answers in the metagame, so you can’t play too many two-mana answers. But Verse’s versatility should still make it a viable option.

Pushing those cards down the list is first Clever Lumimancer, which slots nicely into Prowess decks that are seeing a lot of success right now. A Boros list with twelve one-drops will lead to a lot of Turn 3 kills, making it a stronger option in Mono-Green Tron and Primeval Titan matchups than Izzet. I’ll take the speed when such a list can adapt to play Lurrus as a companion for the late-game.

Second is Silverquill Silencer, which also finds a clear home in Humans. Few creatures offer this combination of pressure and disruption at two mana, even looking at the cards that Humans already plays. Oftentimes I think Silencer is going to stop a key sweeper when you have your opponent low, and others it will simply put the opponent into Mantis Rider range while also digging for that Rider. Just being a creature that you can extend to the battlefield without fear of losing additional material is valuable. I doubt we see it outside of that one home, but that’s enough to get near the top of the list.

Rounding out the list at fifth is the perhaps surprising Charge Through. I’m always on the lookout for one-mana spells, because that’s usually where the cards that break through in older formats will sit. In this case, I’m interested in how Charge Through can change Four-Color Death’s Shadow lists. Right now they often have Temur Battle Rage as one of few red cards, and being able to cut red entirely and play straight Sultai without sacrificing the functionality of closing games through blockers is intriguing. Temur Battle Rage is more explosive, no doubt, but Charge Through cantripping means it has the higher floor. It’s not flashy, but it’s better than I see from the rest of the set.

Dom Harvey

  1. Clever Lumimancer
  2. Thrilling Discovery
  3. Vanishing Verse
  4. Rip Apart
  5. Elite Spellbinder

Clever Lumimancer Thrilling Discovery Vanishing Verse Rip Apart Elite Spellbinder

Clever Lumimancer makes the fastest aggro shell in Modern even faster — there’s now barely any hope of racing the Prowess decks with another linear strategy, especially one that’s weak to removal. You can lean hard into this with Phyrexian mana spells or Nivmagus Elemental / Kiln Fiend — and either approach seems much more reasonable than before — but just adding another good one-drop to Boros Prowess (Lurrus) makes that a solid contender for the best aggro deck.

I don’t know how many people will be thrilled to discover that Dredge is one of the best decks in Modern again. Without Faithless Looting, the deck’s best starts involved Cathartic Reunion and you now get to play up to eight virtual copies of that card. The discard being part of Reunion’s cost was actually a benefit if all you cared about was discarding dredgers to start your engine, but Thrilling Discovery is otherwise a lot better against cards like Force of Negation and doesn’t give the opponent a window to exile your dredgers in response to Reunion. The most successful control deck in Modern already plays maindeck Kaya’s Guile and that choice will look even wiser post-Strixhaven.

Vanishing Verse is a unicorn in Modern — it’s a removal spell that actually hits Heliod, Sun-Crowned. Everything else that does so is unacceptably narrow, but Verse is incredibly versatile and covers most of the wide range of random nonsense found in Modern. I expect Rip Apart to bring its own versatility as a sideboard card, allowing decks like this base-Boros Dredge list to hedge against the various possible hate cards at the same time.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa himself makes the Modern list as another disruptive threat in the right tribe for Five-Colour Humans and at the right cost for Collected Company or Aether Vial. Elite Spellbinder is great with blink effects and Modern has the best to offer between Ephemerate, Soulherder, and Flickerwisp / Restoration Angel.

My honourable mention goes to Prismari Command, not because of the many things it should do, but because it may be the missing piece to make Indomitable Creativity work. A noncreature artifact is the ideal target and Command creates one while being a generally strong card.

Shaheen Soorani

  1. Vanishing Verse
  2. Elite Spellbinder
  3. Sedgemoor Witch
  4. Rip Apart
  5. Culling Ritual

Vanishing Verse Elite Spellbinder Sedgemoor Witch Rip Apart Culling Ritual

Unlike in Pioneer, Modern supports Strixhaven’s multicolored spells.  Fetchlands make a world of difference, instantly allowing decks to spawn out of the blue if the supporting spells exist.  For this reason, Vanishing Verse will have immediate impact on the format, especially for those obsessed with black- and white-based removal.

I dabble with Esper Control often in Modern, which is why Sedgemoor Witch intrigues me alongside Vanishing Verse.  Monastery Mentor is still a better card against most decks, but it doesn’t mean that this will not see play.  The triggered ability that the Pest creatures provide when killed is something that control yearns for, especially for a three-color version that does a bit of damage to itself from the manabase.

Elite Spellbinder is likely the next-strongest card from Strixhaven.  Humans is a made deck in Modern and anything printed with the corresponding creature type will get additional attention.  Elite Spellbinder does exactly what you need it to do in the format, providing some nuisance-level disruption while attacking for three with evasion.  I can see this card becoming an easy staple to the archetype, but the overall strength of the deck is still debatable.

The other two multicolor cards, Culling Ritual and Rip Apart, are longshots.  Even though they’re both powerful effects, their sorcery-speed nature make them underdogs.  Rip Apart is in a popular Modern color combination and provides answers to a swath of threats, so it will likely see play from the sideboard.  If battlefields call for universal answers to a bunch of threats with mana value two or less, Culling Ritual may see a surprise entrance.

Ari Lax

  1. Thrilling Discovery
  2. Clever Lumimancer
  3. Vanishing Verse
  4. Test of Talents
  5. Expressive Iteration

Thrilling Discovery Clever Lumimancer Vanishing Verse Test of Talents Expressive Iteration

Cheap cards are good in Modern.

I think Thrilling Discovery moves the needle on a deck the most for me. Dredge in the London Mulligan era is quite the adventure to play, but upgrading to an effective eight Cathartic Reunions is huge. Between that and Ox of Agonas, we might be moving back towards Faithless Looting levels.

Clever Lumimancer is a reason to adjust your Prowess or Burn decks. I don’t think I’m building a completely new Azorius Prowess deck to abuse that card, but the presence of Phyrexian mana and flashback in Modern really boosts it up from the questionable status it holds in other formats.

Vanishing Verse shows up on yet another Top 5 list. This is the first time Lingering Souls has lined up with a uniquely great two-drop kill spell, which feels like a game-changer. Maybe this time we can build a Mardu deck that works! (No, don’t laugh, please, Showdown of the Skalds is great.) Listen, it’s an actual maindeck card that kills Heliod, Sun-Crowned without real work; a lot of people are looking for that these days.

Test of Talents is the kind of card that randomly smushes a bunch of decks for no reason. I expect it to become a sideboard staple for a long time. It’s Deicide, but also Negate.

Expressive Iteration is just a consistent way to churn out spells in a Prowess format. If people are still playing Light Up the Stage, I’m giving this card a solid chance of hitting even if two-drops cost 100% more than one-drops.

And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Strixhaven cards for Modern are…

T-5. Silverquill Silencer and Rip Apart — 4 points

4. Elite Spellbinder — 7 points

3. Thrilling Discovery — 9 points

T-1. Clever Lumimancer and Vanishing Verse — 14 points

We hope you enjoyed our first impressions on Strixhaven‘s impact on Standard, Historic, Pioneer, and Modern. Be sure to keep your eyes our for our Strixhaven Exit Interviews right before Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms preview season so you can see how well (or not well!) the SCG Staff did with their initial thoughts on Magic’s newest set.

Until then, have fun studying in Strixhaven!