Each of the new Strixhaven-themed Commander precon decks is a treasure trove, worth exploring in its own right. But if you’re still waiting to be convinced after reading our other reviews, listen in: the Silverquill Statement deck can be very persuasive…
And this deck makes quite a statement indeed. The designers have gone out of their way avoid any mechanics that felt “too Orzhov,” like life drain, sacrificing tons of creatures, or just token-making in general. And where an Orzhov deck might control opponents with hard rules and heavy debts, Silverquill focuses on currying favor, negotiating skills and deflecting aggression toward opponents.
SHE ALWAYS LEAVES DEM AGOG
Breena, the Demagogue leads the Silverquill Statement deck in its default configuration, and her abilities betray a lot about the deck’s intended playstyle. I wouldn’t call it “group hug” per se, but this deck is brimming with opportunities to help a specific opponent. Breena kicks all that off on turn three, and can gain a load of immediate value if anyone is tapped out against your one- or two-drop.
Breena’s unique effect is the type of thing you’ll have to clarify several times per game until people at your table get used to it. You always put two +1/+1 counters on your creature, no matter who triggered Breena. You can trigger Breena yourself simply by attacking — in which case, you both get to draw the card and grow the creature. And as written, you can quite easily double up Breena’s trigger in multiplayer by splitting your attacks between different players who aren’t winning. It takes a fair bit going right to envision this happening on turn three, but it’ll feel SO good when it does come off!
If two or more free draws per turn cycle seems great for a three-mana W/B commander, you’re right! Tymna the Weaver remains one of the strongest options in the color for a reason. Tying this powerful value engine to your opponents’ combat decisions isn’t enough to scupper that potential, but I suspect it will make Breena more polarizing — and this goes for all the other politics-based effects in the precon, too.
Because that is a lot of what Silverquill Statement seems to be about, at least out of the box. I’ve never seen a deck so full of cards which care about your opponents’ choices, or one which gives so many opportunities to persuade those opponents toward the choices you want. It’s a really interesting idea for a deck, and capitalizes on the social nature of Commander better than typical “group hug” strategies. You don’t need to lie to would-be allies about how dangerous you are — you just need to offer them enough free stuff to go after someone else (and net you some Breena triggers).
For playgroups where open alliances and in-game coercion are a natural part of the fun, this will be what you always wanted — enough “gifts” to bribe players into fragile team-ups, waiting to see who betrays the other first. But what if your opponents don’t enjoy this “kingmaking” style of play? Or they flat-out refuse to engage with Breena’s diplomatic overtures and offers of support? Luckily, there are some more conventional strategies woven into Silverquill Statement which you can pivot into with typical Silverquill grace!
(AFTER)LIFE AFTER POLITICS
Looking at the non-political parts of the precon, one standout feature is its broad and impressive range of high-cost creature threats. It makes sense to be top-heavy like this if you view the political game plan as a form of control deck. Plus, you’ll need the overwhelming late game force to win the inevitable shootout against whichever BFF you had a truce with this time around.
And as a control deck, the basic build is not really concerned with ways to turbo these bombs out ahead of curve. There are few reanimation spells among our political tricks, but plan A is just build up and hardcast them — aided by the record-high number of “land balancing” effects included in Silverquill Statement.
But if you’re not playing Breena to make friends, then you might as well go back to playing dirty with your threat schedule! The existing threats are all great to cheat into play, so we just have to add in the missing reanimation spells and perhaps a bit of discard and self-mill to accelerate our setup.
You can lean into this game plan as much or as little as you wish — either making a handful of swaps to open up new lines, or completely gutting the core of your curve to overload on efficient combo pieces. Take the opportunity to run one or two of your favorite “unplayable” monsters as reanimation targets; even a Yargle can do work when you lob it into play on turn one or two!
DON’T MAKE ME REPEAT MYSELF
If you’ve decided not to throw yourself wholly into the pursuit of necromancy, maybe you’d be more interested in studying Ephemerate and friends? While less immediately obvious, there’s a lot of strategic synergy to be found in a flicker subtheme here.
Almost every creature in the precon falls into two categories: those with a powerful ETB trigger, and those with a controlling or taxing static ability. Flickering lets you reuse the former on demand and efficiently protects the latter from removal. The same qualities that make the deck’s creatures good reanimation targets lend themselves to flickering as well — and having a few of the most efficient flicker spells in your reanimator build is great insurance for the threats you’re cheating into play.
But it’s still perfectly viable to just focus on flickering and blinking things as its own reward. This can allow you to preserve the control style of the default precon build without the alliance-building cards, since flicker effects are among the most broadly powerful in white’s pool of instants. You may want to throw in some more mana sinks among your land base, too, so you can always threaten to draw a card at the end of the turn like a great control mage!
THE COUNTER ARGUMENT
But what if you don’t want to be a control mage at all? That’s perfectly understandable, especially given how handsomely Breena pays out for us attacking multiple opponents early. Looking at the W/B slice of the color pie (and, more importantly, Breena’s text box), it looks like +1/+1 counter aggro has the most synergy with the default precon build. Even with some stiff competition from Breena’s own College, she’s still a very able commander for this archetype.
This is great to see because, like the lifegain package in our Witherbloom Witchcraft upgrade, you can easily find all the “counters” pieces you need to make a very useful engine. Go wide with tokens and place counters on everything in one go with Basri’s Solidarity, or build something up nice and big with Orzhov Advokist and Breena herself.
While this game plan doesn’t gel as well with reanimator as that does with flicker, going heavier into a “counters aggro” plan means trimming the expensive stuff for a lower curve, anyway. Attack early and without pause, and let your enemies be the ones to sue for peace!
THE CHAIN OF COMMAND
One extra consideration when modifying the precon is the option to switch out Breena for one of the legends included in the 99. In particular, if you’re de-emphasizing the political theme, then Breena feels a touch out of place — why not try someone new?
Felisa opens up great options for counters synergies. Creatures like Oathsworn Knight or Stonecoil Serpent, which enter play already primed with counters, can make up most of your early attack force, giving you at least one free buffer against a sweeper. There’s also some avenue to tweak a reanimator build around Felisa’s trigger; just use the bigger versions of the aforementioned cards, and check their counters are still applied even when they’re not cast.
The monocolor legends are a bit harder to discuss as commander options in this sort of overview, because their color limitations force us to radically change the deck just to keep things legal. That being said, Nils has the most powerful version of this Ghostly Prison effect we’ve yet seen on a commander, and he naturally provides value while stalling the game out. Since his ability taxes attacks against your planeswalkers as well (unlike Ghostly Prison itself!), there’s a chance you could even use him to launch some sort of white Superfriends deck!
$50 PRECON UPGRADE EXAMPLE
$50 gets us basically all the way to a reliable reanimator package, especially if we take a half-step down in mana efficiency from Entomb and Reanimate. This doesn’t make much of a difference in protracted multiplayer games; all our “budget” options provide additional firepower or repeated usage, or they can be recurred with the flicker package.
As usual in Commander, a few big chase cards eat up a lot of budget space. We spent the bulk of our war chest on Emeria, the Sky Ruin, which should be easier to get up and running with the remaining land-balancing cards. We also splashed out for Kaya the Inexorable and Karmic Guide as a nice bridge between our flickering and reanimation subthemes. Board-controlling reanimation hits like Demon of Dark Schemes, Cataclysmic Gearhulk and Archfiend of Depravity should hopefully make up for the political defenses we sacrificed to make room for evil graveyard stuff.
I do feel a little conflicted looking at the pile of fancy new diplomatic tools I had to cut to make room in this upgrade. The main reason is that going for a reanimator theme significantly changes the pace of the deck; we want to just accelerate past the mid game phase where we would be building up a pillow fort of these cards. The political effects tend to require critical mass, so once you start nibbling away at their numbers, it’s easier to justify cutting more.
Nevertheless, I want to stress that these aren’t weak or unfun cards; I’m not advising people buy this precon to cut out that which make it unique. I think most experienced players will know whether or not this scheming, kingmaking playstyle is right for them and their playgroup, so you can make your purchase decision based on that. But if you’re less certain, and just fired up to join the ranks of Silverquill, I hope this breakdown reassures you that the Silverquill Statement precon has great potential to be unlocked either way.
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.