For those getting tired of hyper-aggressive Phyrexia: All Will Be One drafts or those who just want to mix things up, some good news is in store. Strixhaven: School of Mages has returned as a playable Premier draft format on MTG Arena and will be available to play from March 10th to March 21st. Strixhaven was initially released in April of 2021 and is themed around a Magical University with 5 distinct college factions.
For those looking to get some tips before diving into a Strixhaven draft, or hoping to get refreshed before giving the format another look, here is some advice about the format…
1. Understand The Colleges
Each of Strixhaven’s five colleges has a very distinct game plan.
1. Prismari decks (Red/Blue) are focused on winning the game with “Big Spells” like Magma Opus and Elemental Mastery. Use treasure-generating cards to get to these big spells faster, and control the board with Blue counterspells and Red removal effects.
2. Quandrix decks (Blue/Green) also go for a control strategy. They have lots of cards that care about +1/+1 counters, as well as some cards that get stronger when their controller has eight or more lands in play like Vortex Runner or Augmenter Pugilist. Use Green ramp to get to this eight land threshold quickly to buff up your cards in play, and then use threats like Bookwurm to close out the game.
3. Witherbloom (Green/Black) merges Life Gain and Sacrifice strategies in an interesting combination. Several Witherbloom cards like Mortality Spear and Dina, Soulsteeper reward life gain. These cards are mixed in with cards like Daemegoth Titan and Tend the Pests which encourage a Sacrifice strategy. These two themes come together by utilizing Witherbloom’s signature “Pest Tokens”. These 1/1 tokens are created by many Witherbloom cards. Pests grant their controller one life when they die. Pest tokens are ideal sacrifice fodder, and they also enable life gain strategies.
4. Silverquill (White/Black) is the most aggressive color pair in the format. Silverquill decks have a simple, but effective, game plan. Silverquill decks combine aggressive low cost creatures like Silverquill Apprentice with removal effects like Expel and Rise of Extus to overwhelm the opponent.
5. Lorehold (Red/White) attempted something new for Red/White. A graveyard focussed strategy with some Spirit Tribal elements. Many Lorehold cards remove cards from the graveyard or reward you for having cards leave your graveyard, for example Fuming Effigy and Radiant Scrollwielder. There are also many spirits in these colors like Blood Age General and Returned Pastcaller. The Legendary Students Hofri Ghostforge and Quintorius, Field Historian enable these two themes to overlap.
The views of the community are that these colleges were not made equal and that Prismari and Quandrix are the best of the pack. Silverquill is regarded as a powerful Aggro option, whilst Lorehold and Witherbloom are widely seen as weak.
2. Lesson and Learn are the Keys to the Format
One of the most unique aspects of Strixhaven’s draft format are the Lesson and Learn cards. Cards with Learn are typically slightly over costed for the effect they provide, but they enable you to either discard a card to draw a card, or to add a Lesson card from outside the game to your hand. This means that Learn cards add Lessons that you have drafted but not included in your deck into your hand. Lesson cards also, usually, have slightly weak effects for their mana cost. While individually both of these cards aren’t hugely appealing, together they add up to more than the sum of their parts. Mastering Strixhaven as a draft format involves mastering Lesson and Learn cards.
Additionally, Mascot Exhibition, a lesson, is widely regarded as one of the best card in the format.
3. Mystical Archives Cards Provide Unexpected Surprises
Every Strixhaven pack contains an iconic Instant or Sorcery from the game’s past known as a “Mystical Archive” Card. These Mystical Archive cards provide a huge amount of power, whether that’s in the form of removal spells like Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares or other powerful effects like Demonic Tutor or Time Warp.
While it is not necessary to memorize the Mystical Archive card list to play the format, it is good to know about the impact some of these cards will have on games. Be aware that a player using White may be able to counter your spells thanks to Mana Tithe and that a player in Black can accelerate their early game by using Dark Ritual.
4. Three Color Decks Are Possible
Strixhaven packs contain campus lands, like Lorehold Campus. These campuses are standard taplands, which also provide the ability to Scry for four mana. Amassing enough of these tap lands, along with a bit of mana fixing like Enviromental Sciences, makes three color decks a relevant part of Strixhaven Limited.
Make sure that if you build a three color deck, you merge two colleges that share a common color. For example, a Blue, Red, and Green deck would work as it would enable you to use both Prismari (Blue, Red) and Quandrix (Blue, Green). These two colleges overlap as they both share the color Blue and you can use cards from both of them if you construct a three color deck. A Red, White, and Green deck would not function as effectively. While Lorehold covers Red and White, the is no White and Green College to pull cards from, making this a poor choice for a three color combination.
Although building a three color deck is always a gamble, it can pay off. Temur decks in paticular can work quite nicely.
5. The Format has a Heavy Spellslinger Theme
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a set based around a magical university, Strixhaven has many cards that care about players casting Instants and Sorceries. Many Creatures in Strixhaven packs have the Magecraft ability, which provides a positive bonus whenever you cast, or copy, an Instant or Sorcery. Quandrix Pledgemage gains +1/+1 counters, Storm-Kiln Artist generates Treasure tokens and Archmage Emeritus allows you to draw cards. Magecraft is another reason why Lesson and Learn cards are so useful, as both the Learn effect and the Lesson card retrieved by it, will enable your Magecraft cards.
Strixhaven is not the only notable set from the past that Arena players will be able to draft this month. When Strixhaven Premier drafts leave MTG Arena on the 21st, they will be replaced by Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered, a novel new draft experience bringing some iconic Innistradi cards to MTG Arena.