Strixhaven Spotlight: Prismari and Witherbloom Command
- Filip Skórnicki
Strixhaven: School of Mages is coming. The preview season has just begun, but we already know about a new cycle of commands. Modal spells have always given players exactly what players want … After all, you get to choose what to do with them. Let's explore the two most powerful of the new commands!
If you know me, you know I love commands. I even wrote a whole article on the most famous of them all, Cryptic Command. Today, I want to discuss two cards from the upcoming set that make me tingle inside, especially as far as nonrotating formats are concerned—namely Prismari Command and Witherbloom Command.
The very first thing worth looking at here is that it's just two mana. Every time we got a modal spell this cheap it had to be really mediocre not to see at least fringe play. Let's break down all the modes on this card.
- Target players mills three cards, then you return a land card from your graveyard to your hand.
We can look at this mode as essentially "draw a land, fill your graveyard"—which works especially reliably in any format with fetch lands. It acts as the safety option to fall back on when there's nothing better to do, and it is quite powerful at that. The mill part is good for decks that use delve, delirium, or any graveyard synergy. It works great alongside cards like Tarmogoyf, Traverse the Ulvenwald, or Tasigur, the Golden Fang.
- Destroy target noncreature, nonland permanent with mana value 2 or less.
On its surface it might seem like a bad Abrupt Decay effect. Bear with me. What this effect hits would be the following: Wrenn and Six, Mesmeric Orb, Relic of Progenitus, moxen in Vintage, Sylvan Library, Utopia Sprawl, Chalice of the Void, Rest in Peace, Aether Vial … Clearly, there are plenty of potential targets in the nonrotating formats. Why would anyone play this over the aforementioned Decay, which also hits these cards and more? Because Decay does only one thing, while the command has this effect and an additional one on top.
- Target creature gets −3/−1 until end of turn.
Most often an outright removal spell, occasionally a combat trick. In Modern Lava Dart hits so many creatures that it's warping the format, and this does the same thing. In combination with the previously mentioned mode, we can go for example: kill your Vial and Noble Hierarch, all with one card, or kill your Utopia Sprawl and Arbor Elf.
- Target opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.
Historically, life gain has rarely been a desired effect if it's just life gain. It's more useful when it's tacked onto some other effect. For one thing, this allows us to recoup some life in matchups where that's relevant without running any cards dedicated to the purpose. Recall that Collective Brutality has been a mainstay in Eternal formats for a very long time. Here, we don't even need to discard any cards.
As far as I'm concerned, Wizards hit the nail on the head with this one. If any of the effects or numbers were slightly different, such as giving −2/−2, draining 3 life, or milling four, the card would be too good. As is, I think the card will prove a nice addition to some decks as a flexible catch-all—the same way Abrupt Decay or Collective Brutality have done.
I saved the juiciest for last. Prismari Command is a card I am personally looking forward to sleeving up. When you read the card, it's impossible not to immediately think of Kolaghan's Command. No wonder, half of the card does literally the same things. Other people claim it resembles the good old and faithful Electrolyze. The last card this command takes after is Izzet Charm. Is the combination of Kolaghan's Command, Izzet Charm, and Electrolyze a good card in the end?
- Prismari Command deals 2 damage to any target.
Classic effect. 2 toughness is often a sweet spot for early creatures so we can be sure it will serve its purpose. In special cases it can kill off a walker or go to face.
- Target player draws two cards, then discards two cards.
It's the type of looting effect we've also seen with Izzet Charm. While Charm provided this or another effect for two mana, Prismari Command offers both for three. Looting can be useful in a deck that actively abuses its graveyard for example by discarding Arclight Phoenix. One could also assemble a sweet combo of Narset, Parter of Veils and targeting your opponent with this mode, basically Mind Rotting them. Most often, however, I see it as late game filter spell. Get rid of excess lands or otherwise dead cards in a given matchup.
- Target player creates a Treasure token.
That's an interesting effect. Seemingly inconsequential. The way I like to look at it is similar to how people look at Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. They say he actually costs three mana and not five because he untaps two lands. Prismari Command can cost two mana if you want it to. You could have turns like: deal 2 to a creature, make a Treasure, sac, Lightning Bolt something else. Another application of this effect is actual ramp. I think it will be most useful when ramping you to five mana by turn four.
- Destroy target artifact.
This type of effect has been useful in Eternal formats since time immemorial. There is a reason that Abrade is a hugely popular card. Postboard it allows you to hit any artifact hate pieces, and game one some annoying stuff like Mesmeric Orb, Oblivion Stone, Chalice of the Void, or Walking Ballista.
Combining all these modes makes for a supremely interesting card. It can morph into Izzet Charm if you choose deal 2/loot plus Treasure. It can be a literal Kolaghan's Command with deal 2 plus Shatter. And there is one specific Modern deck that will benefit from the card immensely: Blue-Red Breach. For those unfamiliar, this is how a list could look like.
The above is based on a popular iteration, popularized by popular Magic streamer Aspiringspike, including the Boil-proof mana base. I cut two Archmage's Charm for two Prismari Command and will see how it goes from here. It almost seems like this command was made with this combo-control deck in mind. It can take advantage of two modes in particular: Draw two cards and discard redundant combo pieces, and creating a Treasure to combo off on turn four instead of five. The other two modes on top are just icing on the Emrakul cake. Blue-Red Breach was the deck I played at my first Modern Grand Prix years ago, and I'm happy to revisit it.
As you can see, both commands have some potential in different shells. Watch out for them and don't underestimate the power of choosing. You don't want to miss out on playing some sweet modal spells in your nonrotating formats!
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, and as always, hold my hand and let's pass the turn together. Cheers!
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