The full spoiler for Strixhaven, School of Mages is here, and I have never been so excited for school!
With the Good Games Championships happening around the country in coming weeks, now is your chance to get a leg up on the competition and find some new hotness in Standard to bring to your local event.
On first glance at the spoiler, Daemogoth Titan was the first card to really grab my eye; I would rate it a solid 11/10. Daemogoth Woe-Eater is like the Titan’s little brother, coming in at a “measly” 7/6 for the same four mana, and with a similar deckbuilding restriction.
Firstly, to properly utilise the Daemogoth pair, we need a plan for generating enough sacrifice fodder for them. Many of the Witherbloom cards from Strixhaven generate Pest tokens, 1/1s that gain a life when they die, that are obviously perfect for our needs:
The most powerful of the Pest creators is Sedgemoor Witch, a Young Pyromancer who spent a little too much time in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. Generating a 1/1 every time you cast an instant or sorcery is an effect we’ve seen in Standard many times before when on a good enough body, and this time the Blair Sedgemoor Witch comes with an evasive 3/2 and a protective ability to boot.
We’ve also got a couple of sorceries to generate Pests on their own (which obviously pair quite nicely with the Witch). Neither Hunt for Specimens nor Pest Summoning offer a particularly good rate for their effect, but the fact that the former effectively “draws” Pest Summoning from your sideboard means we can find some value in the card advantage aspect. A curve of turn two Hunt for Specimens -> turn three Pest Summoning -> turn four Daemogoth Titan does not sound hard to set up.
Finally, Tend the Pests is part-enabler, part-combo piece in this deck. There will certainly be scenarios where we’ve cast one Daemogoth Titan, then we sac it to Tend the Pests for 11 1/1 tokens, which we can use to feed further Titans. As for how it is part-combo piece…
Once we have sacrificed our Daemogoth Titan or Daemogoth Woe-Eater to Tend the Pests, we need to find a way to actually kill our opponent. The version I like best involves combining Woe Strider with Dina, Soul Steeper and/or Lisette, Dean of the Root. Both Woe Strider and Dina can act as sacrifice outlets for your Pests, with Dina then draining your opponent to death and Lisette adding +1/+1 counters to all of your remaining Pests.
Here is where I would start:
Another possible route would be to use Blex, Vexing Pest to act as a lord to pump up all of your Pests. Alternatively, consider incorporating The Great Henge, since it gets turned on so easily by the two Daemogoth giants.
A different take entirely might look to incorporate red for either Korvold, Fae-Cursed King—which can act as an explosive draw engine when combined with all the Pests—or Embercleave, which can send your 11/10 Titans crashing over any blockers to finish your opponent off in one hit. I don’t think this is possible with the mana in present Standard, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
4c Velomachus Lukka
Enough durdling around with tokens, let’s get some Dragons on the battlefield!
Given that we still have both Transmogrify and Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast legal in Standard, I’ve had my eyes peeled for any big fatties in Strixhaven that we might be able to cheat into play and I think I might have found one: Velomachus Lorehold.
Velomachus comes with two very appealing upsides compared to something like Koma, Cosmos Serpent. Firstly, it has haste and a big body, which means it will be getting on with actually killing your opponent fairly quickly and it has vigilance, so it will be keeping you safe at the same time. Secondly, it comes with immediate value (assuming you get to attack), picking up the best instant or sorcery with mana value five or less in the top seven (!) cards of your library.
So, what are we going to be casting off Velomachus? Let’s start at the top: Lorehold Command sounds like an absolute beating to hit off Velomachus’ trigger. Imagine this: you start the turn with just two 1/1 tokens from Omen of the Sun. You cast Lukka, turn one of the tokens into Velomachus, attack, flip Lorehold Command and use it to Lightning Helix their best creature, then you sac your other token to draw two cards. I believe that is called “value”.
Prismari Command offers a tonne of versatility both before we hit the dragon, and after (psst, I wrote about the Commands last week if you want to have a deep dive on them). I like that we can use it to remove a problematic permanent, create a treasure token to potentially get Lukka down a turn earlier (or just hard cast Velomachus), or dig us to whatever part of the combo we need.
Fire Prophecy and Soul Sear will help keep the battlefield clear while we’re setting up, and be strong hits off Velomachus later. Fire Prophecy has the added benefit of being able to bottom a copy of Velomachus if we draw one in the early game, while Soul Sear gets the nod simply because it kills Lovestruck Beast.
To help us get set up for Lukka/Transmogrify, we have the usual suite of token makers. Birth of Meletis gives us some nice early defence while helping us hit land drops. Omen of the Sun provides multiple bodies to be Polymorphed away in case something happens to our first Velomachus. And Shark Typhoon…is apparently a really good card. You might have heard of it.
And for some spice, I’ve thrown in a few copies of Esika’s Chariot. While we might have more consistency going straight Jeskai, I love that the Chariot provides bodies to be turned into dragons, a fantastic blink target for Yorion, and a bunch of early defence. The mana in standard is actually quite good right now, so I don’t think we’ll be straining things too much to include the Catillac. And finally, seeing as we are a Yorion deck, we should of course be including Omen of the Sea.
Here’s the final build:
Naya Hardened Scales
I’ve actually been working on Naya Counters since Conclave Mentor came out in Core Set 2021. Strixhaven’s biggest contribution comes in the form of Star Pupil, which might look fairly unassuming, but if you are at all familiar with the Modular mechanic in Modern, you’ll know it can be both explosive and resilient. This deck has struggled for a good one-drop as long as I’ve been working on it (Swarm Shambler sucks), so I am really excited about what Star Pupil can do for the deck.
Shaile, Dean of Radiance is the other strong new addition, acting as another source of recurring +1/+1 counters. It pairs well with all of the other creatures in the deck and beautifully with Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate.
The two existing centrepieces of the deck are Conclave Mentor and Luminarch Aspirant. Either alone is enough to produce an overwhelming board presence with the barest of additional help, and together they get truly out of control. Wildwood Scourge is fairly inefficient, usually coming down as a two-mana 1/1, but if you can untap with it, it will grow very large very quickly, especially if there’s a Conclave Mentor involved.
Believe it or not, the secret sauce to this deck is Invigorating Surge. “The green Embercleave” is capable of massive amounts of damage out of nowhere at instant speed. The key is that it has two instances of putting counters on the creature, so the Conclave Mentor benefit kicks in twice. For example, if you have a Conclave Mentor in play with zero +1/+1 counters, Surge adds five +1/+1 counters. Five! And what if you’ve got a Wildwood Scourge that’s hanging out with four +1/+1 counters and a Conclave Mentor in play? Surge would bring the Scourge up to a 13/13.
Yeah, it’s explosive.
Stonecoil Serpent is kind of the glue that holds the rest of the deck together, slotting into your curve wherever you need it and always being a pain in the neck to remove. You will want to cast Stonecoil for X=1 a surprising amount of the time, and with Shaile involved now I expect that to occur even more frequently. Rounding out the creature suite is Oran-Rief Ooze, which always feels a little clunky, but does generate a good deal of value once you can get it going.
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate might seem a little out of place, but she shores up some problematic matchups simply by producing a never-ending stream of 3/3 tokens and creatures from the top of your library. She has some great synergy with Shaile, so I wouldn’t be surprised if another copy of Vivien will work her way in.
Finally, we are touching red for Showdown of the Skalds. Showdown is maximised in any deck full of cheap creatures so that you can get full value off the four cards you “draw” from its first chapter. Furthermore, all of our creatures benefit from +1/+1 counters, so we can completely go off on chapters 2-3. Can you imagine chapter 2 while you’ve got a Conclave Mentor and a Wildwood Scourge in play?
Finally, now that we have Star Pupil in the deck, I might try a few copies of The Ozolith in the sideboard. If you are not familiar, The Ozolith gets to “double dip” when creatures like Star Pupil die, so you’ll add the counters to both another creature and The Ozolith. If you’ve got a Conclave Mentor in play, that means you will be getting the benefit from the Mentor both when you move Star Pupil’s counters to another creature, then again when you move the counters off The Ozolith.
Here’s the full list:
If you pick up any of these decks, be sure to drop me a message on Twitter, I’d love to see them in action. Best of luck to everyone competing in their local Good Games Championship over the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to seeing all the sweet decks that everybody brings to the table!