Rumors of my demise have been slightly exaggerated. Let me be clear, the back half of 2020 and the first half of 2021 have not been stellar for me. I apologize for my absence, I have no doctor’s note. Regardless, I have returned to dive back into standard with some eager students.
Good Morning Class
Since we last spoke, we have weathered the frozen land of Kaldheim and arrived on the plane of Arcavios to experience life and learning at the most prestigious mage school in all the multiverse, Strixhaven. An academy centered around five different types of magic, each represented by an enemy-colored college. You are in luck today, because today I have a couple decks that are my take on two of the colleges of Strixhaven. Fret not, the other colleges will follow in later articles.
First up, we have the newly revamped color combination of white and red. Typically aggressive and combat oriented, Boros is the name many know this color combination as. On Strixhaven however, it is known as Lorehold. This is a much more slow and methodical college in comparison to it’s Ravnica counterpart. This is most prevalent in the Strixhaven limited environment. Standard is still a different story, so without further pomp and circumstance, I give you Lorehold Lessons.
(credited to @JdoubleR2)
There’s a fair bit to unpack here. This deck is built around a new mechanic from Strixhaven called Learn. When a spell has Learn, you have the option of selecting a Lesson card you own from outside the game or discarding a card and drawing a card. For constructed purposes, ‘outside the game’ means from your sideboard. The deck uses two important spells with Learn, Professor of Symbology and Igneous Inspiration. The first is a serviceable body that Learns when it enters the battlefield and the second is a serviceable removal spell that can become reach in a pinch to get through the last points of damage and win the game. Neither of these spells is something I would typically be excited about without the Learn mechanic. When you add the new mechanic to said cards, they become so much better for it.
This deck does offer a general beatdown game plan from time to time as well. A common issue that plagues aggressive strategies every standard season is that they do tend to run out of gas at a certain point in the game. Enter yet another Learn spell Retriever Phoenix, this fiery birdie gives us a recurable threat and yet another way to utilize Learn.
“As long as Retriever Phoenix is in your graveyard, if you would learn, you may instead return Retriever Phoenix to the battlefield.” Now that is something to get excited about! Who doesn’t want to use their acquired knowledge to raise a fiery boy from the ashes? Trick question, I already know that you want to. Retriever Phoenix itself has Learn also, though it will only trigger if you cast the fowl from your hand. It’s not unreasonable to imagine a scenario where you cast one of your three Learn spells and return two Phoenixes from your graveyard.
Now of course, this is not the entire deck, let dig into the meat of this deck. Venerable Warsinger and Blade Historian are two more pickups from Magic’s latest set.
Venerable Warsinger is a very interesting card in this list. The Lorehold spirit allows for recursive creature chains given the correct set up. For example, attack with Venerable Warsinger and return Professor of Symbology from your graveyard; followed by using the Profs ETB Learn trigger to return a Retriever Phoenix to the land of the living. Ideal scenarios aside, you can still just return a Phoenix or Bonecrusher Giant (yeah, it’s here too) from the graveyard to the battlefield.
The other aforementioned creature, Blade Historian, does something that you want most of your four drop spells to do in an aggressive deck; potentially end the game. We have seen Ixalan’s Angrath’s Marauders end games when it hits the field and I feel that Blade Historian has a similar effect on the game. In many cases the Historian “doubles” the power of all of your creatures and in other cases it causes combat to be atrocious for your opponent. It is possible to return a Blade Historian from the graveyard with the Venerable Warsinger trigger if you use one of the next cards we’re gonna cover.
Rounding out the list are two more Strixhaven cards, Sparring Regimen and Rip Apart. Rip Apart does not require much explanation, it’s a good card if you’re playing these colors. Sparring Regimen is an interesting way to beef up your creatures when they attack. Your insilary prize with this enchantment is that it has Learn as well, giving more fuel to the synergies that have already been covered above.
Last on the Lorehold agenda is a quick rundown of the Lessons that you will have at your disposal in your sideboard. Many of which are silver bullets for various obstacles that you could encounter throughout games of Standard, but there are a few gems.
Mascot Exhibition is a very powerful Lesson that I would not necessarily include in the main deck, but when the ideal spot arises and I can grab it from my sideboard; it’s simply an homerun. For seven mana you get nine power worth of creatures across three bodies, one of which has evasion. Finally, Reduce to Memory is a classic two for one at a reasonable cost, it removes a blocker and provides an additional attacker.
Let me start my breakdown of this decklist by saying, this deck surprised me. I had no real hopes that any type of non-red aggro deck was going to see such a massive improval as this deck has.
Strixhaven has really made this deck, it’s as simple as that. Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe are certified bombs in this deck. Clever Lumimancer made quite the name for itself in Modern and Pioneer since the release of the set. This card is an extremely powerful addition to the existing prowess decks and the prowess-like decks that have been birthed in the wake of this card entering the formats. This deck plays a couple cards from Strixhaven that have Storm adjacent mechanical stylings, Plumb the Forbidden copies itself for each creature you sacrifice to it and Show of Confidence copies itself for each instant or sorcery you cast before it that turn. an instant and sorcery based version. Plumb the Forbidden and Show of Confidence are not cards I had anticipated writing about in Standard. You generally want to acst both of these spells last if possible.
Leonin Lightscribe is another fantastic card that white picks up from Strixhaven. It wasn’t the hype train that Clever Lumimancer was during preview season, but this kitty has really grown into a lion. The aforementioned spells also work amazingly with the Leonin, except with this creature you pump your entire team for each instant or sorcery that you cast or copy. This deck has the ability to go wide and simultaneously go “tall”. Clarion Spirit, Hunt for Specimens and the Lesson Pest Summonings, from the sideboard, can generate a sizable army out of nowhere. So when you have this army engine going and a Leonin Lightscribe on board, you can pump up your team to a formidable level and smash in for a bunch of damage.
Another couple inclusions from Strixhaven are the black white Snarl, Shineshadow Snarl and the eye bat, Eyetwitch. I definitely believe that Lorehold and Silverquill are the two color combinations that benefit the most from the addition of these new dual lands. Both decks lean towards aggression and absolutely do not need lands that always enter the battlefield tapped like the Triome cycle from Ikoria do. Eyetwitch is an interesting light creature. Is it the best one drop? No. Is it a good roleplayer? Yes. This little blinky guy does manage to get in some important chip shots of damage in the early stages of the game. When it becomes outclassed in the mid to late game, you can either sacrifice it to Plumb the Forbidden or Village Rites; though you can always just run it into an opposing creature. This is the most common manner in which you will be able to retrieve the Lessons from your sideboard.
Speaking of sideboards, the only lessons that have been chosen for this sideboard at this time are two copies of Pest Summoning and a singleton Necrotic Fumes. I won’t say much about Pest Summoning, it is self-explanatory. Necrotic Fumes is a very important removal spell for this deck. There are a lot of recurring creatures and recursion in general in Standard, so have a ready way to exile problematic creatures without concern that it will return through some way later in the game. This can be ideal for this deck, we can produce a lot of creatures to serve as fodder for this removal spell and other spells that we have already discussed. The other card that was included in the sideboard is Vanishing Verse. Given the large amount of monocolored permanents that see large amounts of play in Standard, this card is a must for any deck that has the ability to cast it. Sultai Ultimatum is still the Standard format’s boogie man, and as you may know, Emergent Ultimatum allows you to search for three different monocolored spells and you get to cast two of those spells of an opponent's choice. Vanishing Verse hits most of the permanents that that deck will search up in a given game. Kiora Bestst the Sea God, Elder Gargoroth; and Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider are all easily dealt with by Vanishing Verse.
I hope that you have enjoyed this return to written articles. I can tell you that it feels good to get back to it. Keep on the lookout for more articles in the coming weeks as well as more videos from all of us. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Good luck, I hope you lose!