You know what time it is. It's Thursday and classes are dismissed. Everyone headed to that frat house for the kegger. Poor decisions were made. The frat house lawn is demolished. Many cups were flipped. As you drunkenly wander home at 4:45am Friday morning wondering how you're gonna fake your way through your seminar, you see a cat out of the corner of your eye. Except it isn’t a cat; it’s a raccoon, and he’s poring through all the mess, filth, and broken glass to shove its face into an unholy concoction of vodka, tequila, beer, cheap boxed wine, and Jagermeister that’s dripping out of a tipped over Solo cup you vaguely remember consuming before you blacked out. Today, we here at Into the 99 are bringing you the trash panda Long Island iced tea equivalent of an article we call Dumpster Diving.
We've got so much garbage to wade through in this set, so we are bringing you not one, not two, but....ummm.....several....yes, SEVERAL editions of Dumpster Diving. In today's episode of Dumpster Diving: Strixhaven, we’re gonna wade through some of the draft chaff, garbage, and unplayable crap you literally just recycle instead of throwing into your bulk bin. We are gonna make these cards work like that time at college you decided it would be a great idea to play baseball with a broomstick. This is commons and uncommons territory only. You think we have a budget for all the garbage rares and mythics in this series? Please, our Strixhaven student loans barely cover booster packs.
Lesson the first: Sorcery speed removal spells
Instant speed removal? Bah! We’re in college now! We don’t have money for your fancy “instant speed removal.” We’re going to use the cheap-ass boxed wines of removal spells and we’re going to like it.
Also, get the title? LESSON? Because that's a mechanic in the set?! YOU GET IT?! It's way funnier now since I had to explain it to you; I hear that's how good comedy works.
Okay, okay. Closing Statement isn’t a sorcery, but who's holding up 5 mana for removal? What do you think we're doing here? Playing Utter End? HAHAHAHAHAHHAAA! No, I want to cast this on my end step for the 2 mana cost reduction. After we get that discount, we’re looking at Closing Statement in a little more of a positive light. With that cost reduction, it's a way less-good Anguished Unmaking that also buffs a creature. Is this impressive? No, not really. Would I rather play Dire Tactics or Despark? Yes. But...is this good enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and budget decks that care about counters? Also yes.
Introduction to Annihilation
Scour from Existence is good, but Introduction to Annihilation is...maybe less good? I'm not sure. I love how clunky ITA is. This fits into literally every EDH deck, which is a boon for everyone; decks within the Grixis identity have been getting some solid options for enchantment removal in the last few sets with Mire in Misery and Feed the Swarm. ITA should be no exception for those decks with limited answers to problem non-land permanents. 5 mana to permanently get rid of a big problem is solid. I’m not worried about giving someone a card for this transaction. One of the most popular counterspells in all of EDH, Arcane Denial, is played in nearly 50,000 decks and gives your opponent two cards. Don't sleep on ITA just because it gives your opponent a card. Suck it up, buttercup. ITA is clunky and weird like that $500 junker you insist on driving to campus, but it gets the job done.
Mage Hunters’ Onslaught
Let's be real. This card kinda sucks. But just because Mage Hunters' Onslaught isn’t flashy at all doesn't mean it lacks upside. That was nearly a triple negative, which I'm allowed to do because I'm a librarian in real life. 2BB to destroy a creature or planeswalker isn’t much to write home about, but the upside is in the rider text. “Whenever a creature blocks this turn, its controller loses one life.” This can be a legit finisher and can put your opponents into a real pickle when you go to alpha strike, especially if you have a drain-and-gain/life manipulation strategy. Do your opponents take the hit and risk getting eliminated before they untap, or do they block and potentially lose creatures while setting off your life drain synergies? Tough choice, for sure. Destroy the biggest blocker and then give your token army a little bit of reach; I'll take it. Does this go in every deck? Not even close. But if you’re in an aggressive deck that goes wide, you can do way worse than Mage Hunters’ Onslaught.
This has an extremely efficient mana cost at 1U but the Sorcery type line keeps Mercurial Transformation really balanced. I love that MT hits all nonland permanents, giving Ux decks more options for artifact, enchantment, and planeswalker removal. MT being a Sorcery keeps it from being back-breaking in response to a Wrath, but having a reasonable answer for Necropotence, Smothering Tithe, Great Henge, and Fiery Emancipation in your back pocket is a nice insurance policy. Obviously, MT takes care of problem creatures too, but you need to really think outside the box at what this hits. Need to alpha strike but can’t pay for Propaganda? Now it’s just a 1/1 Frog with no abilities. MT is going to be a narrow but fun removal spell that you won’t be upset to draw.
1BB to exile a creature? Yes please. What’s the catch? Exiling a creature I control? Ohhhh, that changes things. This doesn’t belong in every black deck, but it belongs in more than a few. 1BB is the mana cost of Murder which destroys a creature at instant speed, so I think Necrotic Fumes easily fits into the same relative power level - upgrade the effect to exile, but downshift the speed to sorcery. That's a fair tradeoff for balance. Where you really want Necrotic Fumes is in a token deck like Hapatra, Alela, Lathril, or Bye Felisa. Who cares if you exile an Elf, Snake, Inkling, or Faerie token to exile someone’s commander or big scary creature like Blightsteel Colossus or Gisela, Blade of Goldnight? Hell, if you want to really play with fire you can exile your own commander to Necrotic Fumes if that’s what’s gonna get the job done. Necrotic Fumes is not for every deck, but the decks that want it won’t mind the sorcery speed.
Reduce to Memory
This is probably the least garbage of all these garbage cards, but it’s still kinda bad. For comparison, let’s look at Generous Gift: 2W for an instant that destroys anything and leaves behind a 3/3 Elephant. Reduce to Memory is 1WW for a sorcery that exiles a non-land permanent and leaves behind a 3/2 Spirit. If you don’t have the $2 for Generous Gift (and we’re all broke college kids, so let’s be honest...none of us have that cash) then Reduce to Memory is a suitable replacement. Exile is always better than destroy and leaving behind the body isn’t really that big of a deal if the tradeoff is getting rid of a Sylvan Library or a Rhystic Study or whatever other overpowered Simic card is annoying the table in this game. Does the sorcery speed suck? Yeah. But why wouldn't you want a second copy of Generous Gift if you could put one in the deck? At the end of the day, Reduce to Memory is good enough for horseshoes and hand grenades.
Join us next time for Dumpster Diving: Strixhaven - Part Two of Several! We'll be covering instant speed removal and card selection! Let me know how wrong I am in the comments below! Like, share, subscribe, and share this with a friend! Do all the things and hit all the buttons!