Welcome back to the Epic Experiment!

Strixhaven has just come out on MTG Arena and I have gone head first into the set in order to try and figure out what is what with the latest set. Initially, my response to previews was lukewarm. However, having now played a number of events on Arena there are some interesting cards that have not seen much in the way of some love that may be of interest.

As someone who is typically a Green player (I love me some sweet sweet Sultai), I have been very preoccupied with Red and White as of late. I think this stems from the typical assertion that this combination is not very good in Commander and other Casual multiplayer formats and I seek to prove otherwise.  However, there has recently been a brand new Red and White Commander that has really caught my attention that has been largely ignored.  Today I’m going to point you towards a very intriguing Dwarf Cleric by the name of Hofri Ghostforge!

An Unlikely Hero

Hofri was largely ignored during the preview season in part because of the deluge of cards, but also because people became completely absorbed with the Mystical Archive cards. Consequently, Hofri was largely missed or dismissed by most of the Magic community.  However, I decided to try my hand at a Sealed league and found myself with Hofri in my pool. I had underestimated the card and was just jamming it because it was Limited and you should jam all your on colour rares and mythics. I really hadn’t given it any thought.

However, all of a sudden I started to notice the effect it had on the game. With Hofri and a Dream Strix in play, I had a powerful tool to go and find impactful lessons in my sideboard. Hofri’s card says that when a non-token creature dies, you exile the creature, then you get a copy back, but it is now also a spirit, and it even gets a little +1/+1 boost. So, when Dream Strix dies, I get to go and find a Lesson and I get my Dream Strix back again.  This interaction was immensely impactful in my game, and so I thought to myself… is there something more to explore with this card here?

Building the ETB

I turned to Brawl and immediately put together a Brawl deck to see how I could exploit Hofri. My first question was to address how does Red/White keep up with some of the other colours who are better able to ramp?  My solution was simple.  Solemn Simulacrum, Pilgrim of the Ages, and Farfinder are exactly the sort of cards I wanted. All three go and search up a land and put it into my hand, meaning I can be assured to hit my land drops and advance my board. You can now get double value out of them thanks to Hofri when they die. The discovery of Pilgrim in the Strixhaven set felt like a big win since it was overlooked and brand spanking new. Not to mention it is an integral part of White’s plan to be able to keep pace with the other ramping strategies.

Next, I was looking for some other really interesting Enter the Battlefield (ETB) triggers to exploit with Hofri.  Solemn Simulacrum was once again at the fore of that discussion, but Basri’s Lieutenant, Skyclave Apparition, and Charming Prince all fit the bill nicely.  The Lieutenant was key in order to power up some of our smaller creatures, while Apparition was very potent removal, and Prince is just good value.

Now, while Hofri likes to exploit all these ETB triggers once the creatures die, I didn’t want to simply rely on my opponents killing my creatures.  If I was waiting for my opponents to get the job done the effectiveness of the deck was going to be seriously hampered. So, I went looking for ways to sacrifice my own creatures for value. Normally in EDH we get things like Ashnod’s Altar, Skullclamp, Woe Strider, and Viscera Seer as easy ways to sacrifice creatures. However, in Standard, we aren’t so lucky. What I did find were things like Weaponize the Monsters and Relic Vial to get the job done. I particularly like Weaponize the Monsters as a form of removal to blast smallish creatures out of the way, or to give you that final reach to torch an opponent who has been able to stem the bleeding. I had forgotten about Weaponize, but I will revisit it for Commander as I suspect it has some further utility.

The Second In Command

Now, the piece de resistance was yet another Legendary creature from Strixhaven – Quintorius, Field Historian.  Quintorius is the perfect teammate for Hofri because whenever a creature is exiled from the graveyard, you are able to net a spirit. When a creature dies, moving to the graveyard Hofri’s ability activates. The creature is exiled from the graveyard, activating Quintorius’s ability. We now make a 3/2 spirit token. Finally, Hofri’s ability finishes up and we get the token spirit copy of the original creature that just died. To get a 3/2 and your token off the death of one of your creatures is tremendous value and can really help pull you ahead in the game.

To make matters better Quintorius and Hofri both provide bonuses to your spirit tokens meaning that you get hasty, trample 5/3’s instead of regular old 3/2’s… but I digress.

Some Helping Hands

Lastly, there are some other really high synergy cards that fit nicely into the strategy that can’t be overlooked. Zephyr Boots is the most underrated piece of equipment I have seen in ages. The fact that it is a 1 mana equipment, equips for a mere 2, and provides evasion and card selection if you deal combat damage is a whole lot of goodness packed into a very affordable Mana Value. Luminous Broodmoth provides a redundant effect should Hofri get removed from the battlefield , but can also be a formidable presence in the air.

 Illustrious Historian is another rather anonymous card from Strixhaven that packs some punch. It comes down early and can get aggressive (or be a speed bump), but then when it dies can hop right back out of the yard thanks to Hofri. Then, after the token dies and the original Illustrious Historian is returned to the graveyard you can pay 5, exile it, and make a 3/2 spirit token… all the while playing nicely with Quintorius.

Outlaws Merriment provides a steady stream of fodder to use as sacrifice material for Relic Vial and Weaponize the Monsters. One neat little benefit is that Merriment makes a Cleric token in one third of the time. You can sacrifice them to the Vial for added benefit.

Lastly, but certainly not least, with all the sacrificing of creatures to make good use of Weaponize the Monsters, Blood Aspirant runs the real risk of running away and becoming a must answer threat.  All in all, you start to see a collection of underplayed cards that synergize in an interesting way. You can check out the full Brawl list I was running here.

Concluding Thoughts

The long and the short of it is that with Hofri, we have a mythic that almost completely fell by the wayside. As we approach the in paper release of Strixhaven, Hofri is available for between $2 and $3 on TCGplayer, meaning he is very budget friendly. Also, based on some early results, Hofri could provide an interesting, flexible, and fun shift for those of us who are tired of playing the same Red and White equipment decks.

Thank you everyone. If you want to hear more about my thoughts on Strixhaven, or any other Commander related topic, check out The Epic Experiment on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, Amazon, and anywhere else you find your podcasts.

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