It wasn’t all that long ago that we were just waiting for Strixhaven, and now we are swimming in previews and imagining all the new possibilities. As a Commander player, I am very excited by some of the new Elder Dragons and what they mean for brewing new decks.
In that vein, I wanted to take some time to highlight the namesakes of the Strixhaven set and to scope out some cards that I think will make excellent additions to your decks. Let’s jump right in!
Galazeth Prismari is probably what we have come to expect from an Izzet coloured Commander. Galazeth has a part of his card that is tied directly to slinging spells, which is at this point almost the most predictable angle we could take this colour combination. The neat little wrinkle here is that he creates you a treasure token. I have been proposing decks that play much less traditional ramp pieces in favor of treasure makers, and Galazeth may be the right one.
On top of the ramp, a 4 mana Commander is appealing because it would allow you to bring it out at an early stage of the game. Galazeth is intriguing due to the interaction with artifacts and turning them all into mana rocks to ramp out nasty spells. It will be yet another interesting puzzle to tinker with.
Shadrix Silverquill is an interesting Commander because of the group hug feel. The part of this design I like the best is that it looks as if it could almost be Standard playable as a 5 mana, big bodied, flier, but the trigger that happens each combat very clearly wants this to be your in Command zone and not in your 60 card Orzhov standard deck. The fact that you get am effect, and so does one opponent creates a political dynamic that many commanders miss out on and that really makes the game more interesting on a whole other axis.
I also like the fact that Shadrix’ modes are flexible. Need a creature? Deal. Lacking some card draw? Okay! Need to pump up a critter to attack? No problem. And sure, you need to give a little something to your opponents, but every mode can be used to advance your game.
Even more intriguing is if you give both modes to other players. Who knows what untold shenanigans can be conjured up as a result of you playing. Again, this is another puzzle to unravel and one that I am looking forward to tackling in the weeks to come.
Tanazir Quandrix is the first of these dragons that I don’t particularly want as my Commander, but could be very interesting in the 99. First off, Simic has had a plethora of interesting new Commanders recently and this guy just seems a little underwhelming. Add in the fact that the Enter the Battlefield trigger of doubling +1/+1 counters on a single creature really isn’t as good as it sounds. Sure, it could be tremendous, but Vorel of the Hull Clade already does that and can be played much cheaper.
The secondary ability sounds a bit like an Over Run style of effect, but here is the problem… you are already looking to make big things with the counters, turning them into 4/4’s with counters doesn’t really feel like a big upgrade unless you are going really wide. Tokens? Lots of dorks? I guess, but it feels unexciting.
Now, in the 99 of Vorel or the u/g Ezuri, this sounds like it could far more enticing and give these decks the sort of redundant mass counter doubler that they need to help push through damage.
I like the card, but I’m not sure it sparks its own deck, but rather plays a complimentary role in an existing deck.
My first thought with this dragon is that this is an innovative way of giving R/W some card advantage with the attack trigger on Velomachus. However, at 7 mana I don’t think this is really a Commander of a R/W deck. R/W generally struggle to ramp enough to get to 7 mana, I’m not sure all the treasure makers on the planet could accelerate enough to make this viable, but I do have ideas around this as a reanimation target in a Mardu deck.
Unburial Rites would be perfect with this card, but we have also seen things like Whisper, Blood Liturgist, Bond of Revival, and Rise Again (not to mention things like Reanimate and Animate Dead) that can all be easily accessible targets to help you put Velomachus on the battlefield far sooner than anticipated. So, once again, I expect this to be a complimentary piece in a deck, but one that packs a nasty punch if you construct your deck correctly.
This one appears at first blush to be the most obviously powerful of the 5 elder Dragons. 7 mana is still steep, but unlike Velomachus, Beledros Witherbloom has access to green and the additional land that it can access. More ramp means you have a greater chance to play Beledros early in the game and that should give you an advantage. “At the beginning of each upkeep” is very easily abused in a 4 person game. Beledros just generates so much value that wants to be used as a sacrifice for some sort of advantage.
Things like Diabolic Intent to tutor up some sort of nasty trick, or a Ashnod’s Altar to generate yet more mana, or just using them to power Altar of Dementia and a mill kill. This is also the perfect spot for a Hogaak, the Risen Necropolis where you can use up your tokens to pay to the Convoke of ‘Gaak.
However, the second clause really gets my attention. To spend 10 life to untap all your mana is super broken. We have seen the pervasive effect of Seedborn Muse, Prophet of Kruphix, and Wilderness Reclamation to turn the game on its ear, but with Beledros your intention is to do it once and use that doubling of your mana as the final nail in the coffin.
My initial thought you might do this with a Torment of Hailfire or other massive X spell to close out the game, but maybe the preference would be another sort of combo. Either way, the game is coming to an end after you activate this ability. I think Beledros has the most obvious applications and it just inherently powerful to such a degree that you can’t overlook this card.
Money Where Your Deck Is
Now, all of these dragons are currently pre-selling for somewhere around $10-15 mark CAD. This seems high and as a budget conscious player I would be looking to see them drop in price as people open up their sealed product.
I think Velomachus and Beledros are both too expensive to see extensive play in Standard. Similarly, Shadrix won’t see much Standard play because many of it modes to assist the other player and is likely to be shunned. Tanazir doesn’t really have a home yet because putting +1/+1 counters on things isn’t really what Simic/Sultai decks are all about these days.Galazeth, at 4 mana might have an outside shot at seeing play, but again, there really isn’t a U/R artifact deck in Standard.
With all of these having limited applicability I would expect to see prices drop. Then, Commander players can move in and get the pieces you want.
Elder Dragons are not the only special cards coming out in the Strixhaven set. Here are some other notable cards coming out soon.
Wandering Archaic seems like a very potent effect and making it on a colourless creature makes it something that is going to be widely adopted. The sort of taxation effect described here is super powerful and copying spells is always good.
Harness Infinity seems like it could be something that is easily abused if you have an efficient way to stock your graveyard. The fact that this an instant is also a huge boon because now you can cast on the End Step before your turn starts and now have a full grip of cards to redeploy. Seems good to me.
Strixhaven Arena seems like a cute little alternate win con, but the fact of the matter is that you could play this as a mana rock and in some tiny number of games it wins you the game How many times can you say your mana rock won you game. Not many. I’m kind of excited to give this a try and see if I can make it work.
Only The Beginning
This barely scrapes the surface of what we are seeing in terms of previews from Strixhaven. I haven’t even touched on the mystical archive cards and… goodness… those are spicy. This looks like yet another strong set for Commander players and affords us lots of fun options for brewing and enjoying the game. Now… go forth… and brew!
Thanks everyone, if you want to hear more about my thoughts on Strixhaven or any other Commander related topic, please check out our weekly podcast on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, Amazon, and anywhere else you find your podcasts. Just look for the name The Epic Experiment Podcast! We’d love to have you join us!
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