Graven Lore is a Snow instant spell card from Magic the Gathering’s Kaldheim set. It’s similar to a few draw cards that we’ve seen in the past that have popped up in competitive play. This card is reminiscent of Precognitive Perception from Ravnica Allegiance. That card drew you three cards for five mana, but allowed you to also Scry 3 if you played it during your main phase. Scry lets you look at the top X cards of your deck, and you can choose to put any number of them to the bottom of your library or back to the top in any order. This allows you to set up your draws, giving you much better card selection for the situation at hand.
But, Graven Lore is somewhat better than Precognitive Perception, since you Scry for each Snow mana spent to cast it. In many ways, Graven Lore is more like Ugin’s Insight from Battle for Zendikar. That was a five-mana Sorcery that saw some play in competitive Esper Control decks. It allowed you to Scry X, where X is the highest converted mana cost among permanents you control. Since those decks played planeswalkers that ranged from 4 to 6 mana and the Sphinx of the Final Word which is 7 mana, you were often digging pretty deep with your Scry. Being able to set up your next seven draws was pretty silly, which is why many Esper decks played at least one copy.
However, Graven Lore is better than both Ugin’s Insight and Precognitive Perception. Being an instant means it’s already better than Ugin’s Insight most of the time. Also, since Precognition Perception only lets you scry during your own main phase, it may as well be a sorcery much of the time. The question becomes, how many of your mana sources tap for Snow mana? You can get a maximum of five Scry triggers with Graven Lore, which puts it on par with one of the better outcomes for Ugin’s Insight. But, you really only need to Scry 3 on average to make this card worth playing. Best of all, you can play it on your opponent’s turn for maximum value. Even Scry 2 probably makes this worth casting.
While Graven Lore is underwhelming when you compare it to another popular draw spell like Into the Story, which often draws four cards for four mana, it’s still a good card. Also, the Scry component means you’ll increase the quality of your draws, which Into the Story can’t do on its own. Naturally, we wouldn’t see a copy of Graven Lore pop up in Dimir Rogues, the most popular deck for Into the Story. That’s because Into the Story is much better in a deck that can get seven cards into an opponent’s graveyard quickly. However, against decks that are happy to empty out their graveyard, such as decks playing Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, Graven Lore is much more efficient.
Soon after the release of Kaldheim, Esper Doom Foretold and four-color Control decks tried out a copy of Graven Lore; this was despite these decks only getting Snow from sources like Faceless Haven and the occasional dual land. What some competitive players foresaw (pun intended) was the advent of a “Snow Control” archetype, using Snow-Covered basic lands to fuel Faceless Havens and potentially Ascendant Spirits. Heck, Sam Black praised Graven Lore to the point he compared it to the next Sphinx’s Revelation.
As it turned out, Graven Lore wasn’t going to be a format-defining card by any stretch. Still, as one of the better draw-three variants we’ve seen in quite a while, it’s definitely seen considerable play. As recently as October 2021, Graven Lore was a permanent fixture in Dimir Control, which plays Snow-Covered lands for just that one card and Blood on the Snow. Some Yorion decks, forced to play 80 cards thanks to having Yorion as a Commander, even played the full four copies in decks that were also playing Faceless Haven and Blood on the Snow.
Since the October 2021 Standard rotation, however, Graven Lore has greatly dropped in play, thanks to Yorion’s exit from the format along with the Ikoria set. While Graven Lore still existed, and Dimir Control was still a fairly good deck, it saw very little play once Innistrad: Midnight Hunt powered down the format significantly.
Of course, even though a five-mana draw card wasn’t quite good enough for the Modern, Pioneer, and even MTG Arena’s Historic formats, it’s still a good card in Commander. The Snow Control archetype did emerge in EDH with Jorn, God of Winter. The other Snow Commanders, Narfi, Betrayer King and Moritte of the Frost both play the card, too, although Moritte hasn’t really taken off as a Commander itself. One popular Commander that’s been experimenting with Graven Lore is Runo Stromkirk, who while plays very few “snow matters” cards, certainly can use the extra draw power.
How would you play Graven Lore?
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