Spoiler season has officially ended and classes are about to be in session. Before you participate in any preleases or drafts, there's a few cards to keep your peepers peeled for that are sure to make waves in Commander. These are the best-in-class for each school, the cream of the crop of Strixhaven's five colleges.
You've no doubt heard of Abrade. It's a bit of a staple in the Commander community. Its modal versatility and instant speed make it one of the best pieces of removal in red. Well, it just received a Lorehold twist. Much like its predecessor, Rip Apart is a modal spell, but with a few more options: now you can peg both creatures and planeswalkers as well as artifacts and enchantments!
However, this expanded versatility comes at a cost, as Rip Apart is sorcery speed. It won't be replacing Abrade, but instead will be placed alongside it as a new staple piece of removal in Bo-… Lorehold's arsenal. Rip Apart will easily find itself in dual or multicolored lists sporting this college's colors.
Blue has always been known for its card-quality utilities, while red has been making more and more of a name for itself with "impulse drawing" (the act of exiling cards while being able to play them). The natural conclusion when you place these two colors together, Prismari has shown, is Expressive Iteration. Not only does the card replace itself, it allows you to exile another card while essentially scrying one of these three cards to the bottom of your library. The card exiled may be "played" that same turn, which means it can be your land drop for the turn as well!
So Expressive Iteration is virtually a two-mana draw two. Nothing within the two-mana value range for these colors functions quite like this, outside of Words of Wisdom and a handful or looting and rummaging effects; and who feels like losing out on an additional card or giving your opponents "draw"? No one in Prismari.
The Orzhov Syndicate never had the strongest pieces of interaction when compared to other guilds. However, when it comes to the Silverquill, all that has changed. The color pairing not only received one outstanding piece of removal but two with Vanishing Verse: a spell capable of exiling any mono-colored permanent. So, what can best this extremely versatile piece of removal? How about another, equally versatile one.
At 2 mana value and instant speed, Fracture allows players to destroy any artifact, enchantment or planeswalker. With the rising prominence of planeswalkers in Commander—looking at you, Jeska, Thrice Reborn and Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools—having a spell that not only handles the stax and value pieces of the world, but a third category of nuisance is extremely welcome. The issue with planeswalker removal up until now has been the cost and lack of versatility of many of the alternatives. There's no excuse anymore, with Fracture making the choice obvious.
This card is a bomb. Need I say more?
Witherbloom locked in the "Board Wipe of the Set" award. The real impact of this card will come out on the competitive end of Commander. However, two-mana value rocks, Mystic Remora, turn-one Llanowar Elves and Sol Ring are not limited to cEDH. There is an influx of "nonland permanents with mana value 2 or less" that are seen at every level of Commander, and this wipes them all out. Someone's on a token strategy? Set that player back to square one.
Oh, and in the What's More department, all of this mass destruction equates to ramp in either of the Witherbloom colors for the caster of Culling Ritual. You don't need to be a mathematician to figure that this puts you heavily in the lead, provided you have some follow-up plays to make with all that mana. Culling Ritual is easily one of the best board wipes in the Commander format, and I'm anxious to get my filthy, Golgari hands on a few copies.
When I double majored, it was nothing like this. However, the concept is still brilliant for those playing Commander.
Double Major is Quandrix's value proposition. It allows you to copy a creature spell you control on the stack, whether that be your commander or any other creature in your list. The most important thing to note about this effect is that it does not read "until end of turn." For a mana value of 2, you get a copy of anything, permanently… well, until someone casts Culling Ritual, but you get the idea. So whether you're insisting on resolving a Thassa's Oracle, forcing through a Craterhoof Behemoth to blow out the board, or simply want to double down on that Rashmi, Eternities Crafter value engine, Double Major is the best way to ensure all that sweet value. It was definitely worth expanding those curricular activities.
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Strixhaven has been a fantastic set to follow, loaded with plenty of new toys for us Commander players. I cannot wait to get my hands on a few of these singles. Never thought the prospect of "going back to school" could ever get me this excited, but WotC proved me wrong!
My only question is: when do we visit the five remaining colleges? That's what I want to know, and when we do I'll be your campus guide. Be sure to visit me over on The 99 for a full breakdown of the set from a competitive Commander player's point of view! Be well and happy brewing, babies.