Take a virtual stroll with me as I guide you through Strixhaven's Biblioplex, where knowledge of the Multiverse is stored. Tucked away in its cobwebbed corners a forbidden section known only as the "Mystical Archive" holds the most valuable of manuscripts… in other words, more Magic product!
We've been seeing an array of borderless, alternative, and foil-etched art from recent Magic: The Gathering sets, but this is looking to be their crowning jewel. The Mystical Archive is a Commander player's paradise with a ton of valuable reprints, and I'm going to show you the ones you should be looking to pick up!
Blue is all about card quality. Nothing epitomizes this more than Brainstorm. For a mana value of 1 you'll see more cards than the average white deck in an instant, and I mean literally at instant speed. So if that counter measure in your hand isn't neededd, pad out your following turn by cycling through your next three turns worth of "top deck." Just be wary of the eventual Hullbreacher. That will harsh your mellow.
White is full of unique blink effects—cards that remove and return permanents to the battlefield—and none is more effective than Ephemerate. The keyword rebound has only made its way onto a few cards, but the effect is easily one of the most valuable when you set it up properly.
At first glance, this seems like an odd combat trick or a means to protect a creature from removal, and it is! However, with (say) a Stoneforge Mystic, it's a meal ticket to not just one additional equipment but two on the rebound! Ephemerate with any valid enters-the-battlefield creature can be devastating. Don't overlook this one… though it's hard to, with how gorgeous the Mystical Archive art looks.
This is red's take on "card quality," or at least it was until Impulse drawing became more of it's schtick. Easily the most divisive reprint from the Archive, Faithless Looting—love the art or hate it—is one of the best draw utilities in red.
In Rakdos, Faithless Looting offers you the ability to bury any tasty reanimate creatures you may be running while simultaneously drawing you more cards than the average white deck. Did I make this joke already? Well, it's true, and in the What's More department, it offers repeatable value with flashback to boot. I use this in every list that contains red: it's just that good.
Yes, I'm aware that Counterspell was also reprinted in Mystical Archive, but might I direct you toward Negate instead? In Commander, particularly with multicolor decks, the number of colored pips in a spell's casting cost can easily hold you back from impacting the game. Less is more in this instance.
Unfortunately, Negate does not target creatures, but fortunately creatures are the most easily handled threat in Commander. For everything else, Negate is the two-mana value answer you've been searching for. "Trust me class, the readily available solution is better than the potential one."
Speaking of creature removal, what we have here is a classic. I cannot recommend this card enough for competitive Commander. Hatebears, while historically 2/2's, come in all shapes and sizes now, but a majority of them have their defense values set to 3 and under. Guess how much damage Lightning Bolt does. Well, doubtlessly you know—this card has been around since Alpha—but for those not in the know, "3" is the magic number.
Some of the biggest threats in Commander fold to this spell: Drannith Magistrate, Opposition Agent, Collector Ouphe, the previously mentioned Hullbreacher. There are even a handful of games where Lightning Bolt acts as player removal. If you've ever wondered if this spell was "worth it" in Commander, it is.
I recently sang praises for this card over on The 99 in a discussion of Hidden Gems, and low and behold, tucked away in the Archives, here it is. Growth Spiral is functionally unique on many levels: a two mana value spell at instant speed that replaces itself and can provide ramp on or off-turn. It's truly symbolic of Simic and a strong presentation of both these colors.
While there are comparable cards, nothing plays as well as Growth Spiral does, particularly in a four-player game in these colors. Blue often controls the tempo of a match, so being able to choose how and when you ramp is key here. If you're in these colors, this is an easy addition to any deck.
From here on out, the archival cards we'll be looking at all need more frequent reprints. These are some of the most valuable manuscripts you'll find in the Biblioplex, and Natural Order is one of the most potent.
At a mana value of 4, you'd expect something powerful of a spell that als asks you to additionally "sacrifice a green creature," but to have that translate to finding any green creature and placing it on the battlefield? Well, that sounds like the kinda imbalanced effect you'd find in Visions or Mirage… oh, wait, Natural Order is from back then. Some folk dream of Craterhoof Behemoth or Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger hammering the battlefield, but I dream only of Archon of Valor's Reach choosing how the game will proceed. I love Natural Order, because as the name would suggest, you decide the fate of the game. Naturally.
The king of all board wipe and combat saviors, Teferi's Protection is a nice throwback to the Mirage block and the myriad of "Teferi" named cards that offered phasing. Interestingly, these cards were blue, but white needed at least one win.
Flash forward to 2017 and we're introduced to this 3 mana value instant-speed monster. Nothing can save you or your board as well as Teferi's Protection. If you've wondered why this card has such a high price tag, it's that power coupled with the low number of reprints. Now we're getting another reprint, and in two amazing arts. Mind you, art is subjective—talking to you, Faithless Looting haters—but I don't think anyone can be upset with more options. Particularly when they can literally save you from the grip of defeat.
Speaking of incredible art… one of the first spoils from the Archive were Demonic Tutor. Please, Wizards of the Coast, if you read this: please print more copies of Demonic Tutor. To say this is a staple in cEDH is an understatement. DT is essential for every list containing black. In a singleton format that's composed of 99 cards, consistency is paramount. Nothing offers you better consistency than a card that reads "replace this with exactly what you want."
While this doesn't place said card on the battlefield, a la Natural Order, this does not come with the same limitations nor mana cost. If you do not own Demonic Tutor, now is the time to remedy that. Whether it be from the Mystical Archives or a previous print (as they normally decline in price with reprints), this is the top must-own card from this list in my mind.
"Yet, for some reason, Demonic Tutor isn't in the #1 slot?" That is correct, because while I value DT more highly than our final card, this is a card that has only ever had one printing.
Tainted Pact has gained traction in recent years as it functions as a two-card combo with Theros Beyond Death's mista-… darling, Thassa's Oracle. Beyond that, this essentially acts as a tutor in high powered or cEDH decks. Lists ill-concerned with exiling cards—or in certain Food Chain decks, happy with exiling cards—and oriented toward pushing for victory at all costs. Do keep in mind, Tainted Pact has odd limitations in Commander, namely that you can only have one of any basic in your deck for it to function well. Though this is often cheated around by placing the equivalent snow basic to provide the same mana generation, it's an odd hiccup for a card not intended for this format.
Despite all this, Tainted Pact is the must-own card from this set from the perspective of a collector. Demonic Tutor is abundant, but who knows when Tainted Pact will be taken out from the Archive again?
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"There you have it class! Our most valuable manuscripts on full display, the secrets of the Mystical Archive revealed to all… what's that? 'Where's Imperial Seal?' I wish I had an answer for that, but that's nowhere to be found in these halls."
We couldn't expect every card found in the Archives to be a much-needed reprint, but from what there is I am more than satisfied with what Strixhaven has to offer. This is easily the most value-packed set for product-hover id="233230", and I cannot wait to get my hands on some singles from the Archive. Thanks for joining me on this trip to the Biblioplex. Be sure to check out the full set review of Strixhaven: School of Mages over on The 99.
Happy brewing, babies.