Strixhaven is perhaps one of the most clever sets Magic the Gathering has ever printed. It’s chock full of not only commander staples, but Hall of Fame worthy constructed cards such as Prismari Command and Expressive Iteration. Especially notable are the new Elder Dragons that call this plane home, and perhaps the one that stands out the most is Beledros Witherbloom. In fact, 2021 was such a good “rookie” year for Beledros, that I consider this Dragon a strong contender for a future class of my brand new Magic The Gathering Trading Card Hall of Fame!
Why would we look at a seven mana Dragon as a potential sleeper when it already sees play all across the Commander format? According to EDHREC, Beledros Witherbloom is included in about 8 percent of decks which could play it, which includes any deck that can play Black and Green cards. Keep in mind, though, 2021 was just Witherbloom’s rookie year. There’s so much more Magic to be played and Lessons to be learned (Strixhaven related pun intended). Plus, Beledros does two things very well, the second being much less obvious.
The first ability on this 4/4 flier is self explanatory. She creates a Pest token at the beginning of each upkeep—not each of your upkeep steps, but every upkeep step. In a multi-player game, this effect snowballs quickly. You don’t have to build around Beledros for this effect to get out of hand quickly, especially with token doubling effects. Indeed, plenty of Commander decks are already taking advantage of the Pest invasion she creates. Notably, these Pests also gain you life when they die, and Strixhaven has plenty of Pest synergies to make this swarm even more frustrating to deal with.
The second ability is clearly powerful but costly. For a cost of a whopping 10 life, Beledros let’s you untap all your lands. You can only activate this ability once per turn, but you likely wouldn’t need to do this any more often than that to win a game.
At the end of 2021, her rookie year, Beledros Witherbloom slotted in at exactly the 150 rank on EDHREC as a Commander. That’s no small feat, and these abilities in tandem brought her much deserved attention from EDH deck builders. This is on top of her heavy inclusion in the other 99 of decks like Dina, Soul Steeper, Willowdusk, Essence Seer, and of course, Tiamat.
Tiamat is in a future hall of fame class all her own. Heck, she’s made five color Dragon tribal practically a playable Standard-legal deck. About one third of her decks scraped by EDHREC include a copy of Beledros Witherbloom, and why not? She can easily tutor up the Witherbloom Elder Dragon up with her enter the battlefield ability, and with Tiamat, untapping lands just once could lead to a game winning turn in a deck full of battle-cruiser Dragons. Other five-color Dragon Commanders such as The Ur-Dragon and old stalwart Scion of the Ur Dragon don’t seem nearly as excited about Beledros, opting to invite her one-eighth of the time or less.
Probably the funniest and best Commander synergy with Beledros Witherbloom is Chatterfang, Squirrel General. The Modern Horizons 2 mythic rare card has become a fringe Modern playable creature thanks to eventually doubling up tokens with its own 1/1 Squirrel creature token spawns. In fact, Witherbloom shows up in just a quarter of these decks, and that number seems far too low. Squirrels and Pests seem made for each other!
As a Commander, Beledros Witherbloom lends herself to a few win conditions in her decks, many of which involve Exquisite Blood and sometimes Aetherflux Reservoir. Another involves Ashnod’s Altar, Trudge Garden, and Zulaport Cutthroat or Blood Artist. The infamous Chain of Smog and Professor Onyx combo is also in play, plus the similar combo of Chain of Acid, Witherbloom Apprentice, and Darksteel Citadel. Of course, none of these combos even need Witherbloom in play to win the game. You could choose a wide variety of green black Legendary Creatures and include all of these in the same deck.
Here’s a complete list of potential game-winning combos in Beledros Witherbloom decks from EDHREC.
Where Beledros is helpful in facilitating these combos is primarily with the Pest tokens. Ashnod’s Altar will happily eat these Pests up to help cast combo pieces and Beledros herself can pay 10 life to get even more mana. Perhaps more importantly, many of the combo pieces function independently of their combos in tandem with Beledros to slowly drain down opponents with expendable attacking Pests.
You’d be hard pressed to include every single one of these combos in a single deck, but having a deck in which casting your Commander keeps you in the game long enough to pull any of them off is notable. Any Commander that can simply troll the board with Pests, then out of nowhere drop a hand full of combo pieces can’t be overlooked. Indeed, combo players love Beledros Witherbloom, and the love story is likely only just beginning.
But, is that all Beledros is good for as a Commander? Actually, the primary plan for the Witherbloom school of thought is to gain life, often at the expense of your opponents, in the form of drain effects. Only the Aristocrat style decks built behind Beledros heavily lean into the litany of combos available to the color combination, but Dina, Soul Steeper, Sanguine Bond, Vito of the Dusk Rose, and Blood Artist and/pr Zulaport Cutthroat are enough to include to give the deck consistent combo win potential. Pricey cards such as Ashnod’s Altar and Exquisite Blood are helpful, but probably feel like cheap win conditions outside the most competitive tables.
Of course, you don’t typically play seven mana combos if you’re just trying to turbo into your combo pieces. Beledros Witherbloom is built for the long game or solidifying your chance to pull off two turns of actions in a single go. While it’s unlikely we’ll ever see the Witherbloom Elder Dragon impact competitive Magic in the near future, especially with that hefty casting cost and life cost with her untap ability, it’s not impossible. In fact, one brave Standard player actually won a tournament with a single copy of Beledros Witherbloom in a Jund list back in April 2021. Never underestimate mythic rare bombs, especially those like Beledros who can help her allies win a game in a single turn.
Is Beledros Witherbloom even the best of the Elder Dragons from Strixhaven? We will answer that question in the future, but from an EDH / Commander standpoint, she’s already done enough to deserve attention as one of the best Legendary Creatures from the entire set. That’s a Hall of Fame worthy beginning, and it will be exciting to see how Beledros fares over the next decade as Commander continues its ascent as the most popular way to play Magic the Gathering.