At this point a good chunk of Strixhaven is spoiled. Of the cards we currently know about, I want to talk about the ones I believe will most likely see play in Standard and why. Many of these cards will see play in other formats, too, but that's not the focus here.
In terms of cards that are basically a lock to see play, these are the most obvious choice. It doesn't get better than the set of rare lands in Strixhaven, known as the Snarls. Per tradition, I'm lumping these five lands together, since they're really the same card in five different color pairs. The five schools of Strixhaven are the focus of the set, so we'll see a lot of the five-color pairs representing the schools.
These lands complete the set from Shadows Over Innistrad. I've heard mixed feelings on them already. While I do think these lands will see play, they still have to compete with the current rare lands available in Standard. There are many decks in Standard relying on Pathways and other nonbasic lands that don't play well alongside the Snarls—the key to making the Snarls powerful is turning them into untapped lands.
These are lands you want to play first. If a Snarl is the last land you play from your hand, they'll always be tapped. While in theory, Snarls work nicely alongside the Triomes, because those are nonbasic lands you can reveal with the Snarls. Triomes also happen to be lands that are better if played earlier in the game, like turn one. If you play your Triome turn one though, you can't reveal it later for a Snarl.
The Snarls will see play, but will be taplands a lot of the time, so I don't think they're quite as good compared to previous cycles of rare lands. That's completely fine, though. I believe they were designed specifically for use in Standard, since they're not strong enough for a format like Pioneer or even Historic.
Personally, I've been waiting to see an Orzhov deck shine in Standard, and Silverquill Silencer is a hatebear-style card I can get behind. First of all, it comes with a reasonable rate even without its extra abilities. A two-drop that hits for three damage means it's a card you're happy to play on turn two and start pressuring the opponent with. However, the triggered ability is definitely the most interesting aspect of the card.
If you trigger Silverquill Silencer once in a game, it'll have more than done its job. The key is naming the right card when Silverquill Silencer enters the battlefield. If you happen to know the contents of your opponent's hand, that makes it much easier. Silverquill Silencer will play really well alongside hand disruption, which is what this color pair is known for. Maybe your opponent already has a card on an adventure, or maybe they have a deck focused around a single card. Maybe you want to protect against a board sweeper, so you name something like Extinction Event.
There are definitely a few variables that go into naming the right card, as Silverquill Silencer reminds me a lot of Meddling Mage. The upside is high, so this could put aggressive Orzhov decks on the map.
When talking about hatebears, it doesn't really get better than the card that shares a likeness to PVDDR—Elite Spellbinder. What a card! The community is super excited about this one, and so am I. You can tell that Paulo and WotC did an excellent job designing this one, with the intention that it'll see plenty of use.
Making an opponent pay two more for the card exiled with Elite Spellbinder is massive. Imagine playing against Sultai Ultimatum and exiling an Ultimatum—now it becomes a nine mana card. However, it's more about the flexibility as you also get the information of what's in the opponent's hand. Information is valuable, letting you know how to play the game. I could certainly see Elite Spellbinder going in the same deck as Silverquill Silencer.
Who doesn't love a good Professor Onyx right? This one is a bit hard to evaluate. On the surface its abilities aren't going to look spectacular, but in the right control deck it'll serve as the perfect win condition. Having magecraft is why I like this card. Draining the opponent out is a real way to win the game. The fact you're losing a life each time you tick up Professor Onyx will be offset by the life gained from magecraft.
This isn't a card you'll see four copies of in any deck. It'll be a one- or two-of as a win condition in a control deck. You really want to play Professor Onyx onto a stable board. Planeswalkers traditionally have a way of seeing play, and of the Strixhaven planeswalkers, Professor Onyx is the one I like the most.
That's right, another Orzhov card! This one's exciting to me as a top-end play in a white-black deck. First of all it has flying and double strike, so already on stats alone we have a formidable creature. Really though, the true power is in the triggered ability that takes place during combat on your turn.
Getting to choose two of the three abilities of Shadrix Silverquill is going to swing games, even if you only get to trigger the card once. Maybe you make a flying token and draw a card before the opponent kills Shadrix Silverquill, it still did its job. You get a trigger the first turn you play Shadrix Silverquill, it doesn't have to be in combat itself. I have this as one of the most powerful five-drop creatures we've seen in a long time.
Here's the cycle of cards I'm personally most excited about, and yes I'm lumping all five commands together. There's one for each of the color pairs Strixhaven highlights, and each command is very much playable. There isn't one I look at and say it won't see use in Standard. This is the cycle that perfectly highlights the schools and flavor of the set.
Each provides the opportunity for some form of card advantage—you're choosing two effects, but each effect traditionally is worth a full spell on its own. Looking at Boros, you can now Lightning Helix and draw two cards for five mana. Yes, you need to sacrifice a permanent, but that's not a huge deal most of the time. That would already be a great card without the other two abilities.
The commands will change how games of magic in Standard are played. You'll have to be thinking about them at all times, and the different effects and ways you can play these cards. You might expect the opponent to use two modes of their command, and not consider a different mode, for example. If I had to choose the ones I like in the cycle the best, it'd be the ones that are instants—they provide more flexibility in terms of when to play them.
Being able to take control of an opponent's creature or planeswalker for only four mana is pretty insane. There are a ton of three-mana threats in Standard you can grab with Tempted by the Oriq. We don't see that many cheap planeswalkers, but if you can steal something like a Basri Ket, that's pretty awesome. Still, most of the time the card you'll be stealing will be a creature.
Keep in mind Lullmage's Domination is already seeing play in Standard, but Rogues is the only deck that can fully utilize it. Tempted by the Oriq is in many ways an upgrade to Lullmage's Domination, even in a deck like Rogues that can get eight cards in the opponent's graveyard. Both cards are triple blue, so you'll need to be heavily blue-based to cast them, no matter what. Rogues doesn't have eight cards in the opponent's graveyard by turn four a decent amount of the time, and now you don't have to worry about that.
An effect like Tempted by the Oriq will be best against aggressive decks, and most aggressive decks don't play expensive creatures. Look at Mono-Red or Mono-White Aggro—Tempted by the Oriq will be able to target almost every creature in those decks. This may end up being more of a sideboard card depending on how the metagame shakes out, but as an aggro player this is one of the scariest cards an opponent can cast against you.
I'm happy we're continuing with Modal Double Faced Cards—having the flexibility to cast two different cards is always nice. With that said, I'm much more impressed with Plargg, Dean of Chaos than Plargg, Dean of Chaos. Plargg, Dean of Chaos can pump up your creatures and looks solid in a go-wide creature deck, but that's not necessarily the home for Plargg, Dean of Chaos. I think if you focus on making Plargg, Dean of Chaos at its best, that's the right way to go. And maybe you don't necessarily play white.
Alright let's talk about Plargg, Dean of Chaos. A two-drop bear that can loot is really nice. I always loved Merfolk Looter. Looting without paying any additional mana to do so is a strong effect. You do have to discard before drawing, so it's not a straight up loot, but still pretty cool. Then we have the five-mana effect of casting free cards from your deck. You won't know what you're getting, but it's still a lot of card advantage potential from a two-drop creature. Definitely an exciting card—the trick will be finding a home for it.
There are multiple tier 1 mono-colored aggro decks in Standard right now. Maybe as Strixhaven starts seeing more play, Vanishing Verse looks a bit worse, and multicolored decks start to shine. As is though, slot this into the current Standard, and it looks amazing. Getting to exile anything out of the Mono-Red Aggro deck for instance—at instant speed—is massive. Even looking at a deck like Temur Adventures, the cards are basically all mono-colored, even though it's a three-color deck.
Vanishing Verse is one of the best removal spells we've seen in a long time. The card should see play both in the maindeck and sideboards of all sorts of decks moving forward. This gets my reward of best removal spell in Strixhaven. In case you couldn't tell, the color combination I'm most excited to build around is Orzhov.
This is a quality piece of countermagic or removal. If there's one thing you notice in Strixhaven, it's that there are many cards with dual functionality, more so I think than ever before. Decisive Denial is a card I'm much more comfortable putting in my maindeck than something like Spell Pierce. You'll want to play this in a deck with creatures capable of fighting opponents' creatures, but also could want a counterspell.
In a deck like Temur Adventures this'll battle with Saw It Coming, but I could see Decisive Denial being better. It also isn't as tough on the mana. Playing a flash game, but still having large threats like Lovestruck Beast or Goldspan Dragon lines up nicely with this card.
Thanks for reading,