A First Look at Strixhaven Limited
- Kristof Prinz
With drafts going online soon and the Sealed Deck Open coming to Arena in May, it's time to enroll at the School of Mages and take a first prep course. What are the colleges up to, how strong are the themes, what mana fixing is there, and which commons and uncommons should you look out for?
In this article, I will share my early thoughts on the set and Limited format with you. Bear in mind that I didn't play with the cards yet. Once I have some experience with them, some of my opinions are bound to change. I'll make sure to give you an update then.
Read the Cards
First of all, there is a whole lot going on in this set, and we even have double-faced cards again. So my first piece of advice is to read the cards carefully. This was important for Kaldheim Limited already and, if Wizards stay on course, will be true for future sets too. Many of the cards do similiar things, but not the same thing. An example are the Quandrix cards that create Fractals. Pretty much all of them care about a different thing, which then defines how big your Fractal will be.
Next up we should look at the enemy-colored colleges themselves and what they're about.
Lorehold is a pretty interesting spin on the Boros color combination. Instead of combat they care about Spirits and cards leaving your graveyard. Illustrious Historian for example would be a servicable card in other formats, but may be legitimately great here, as it's a reasonable two-drop that synergizes with both of the college's themes. Similary Stonerise Spirit would be a fairly mediocre card usually, but if exiling a card also triggers your Stonebinder's Familiar for example it becomes a lot more interesting.
I think Lorehold is one of the more difficult to evaluate colleges as all the synergystic pieces are there, but how often you get them together is tough to figure out. I would just try to take cards that are reasonable on rate and care about synergies only as a secondary property but will keep myself open to changing this assumption.
Prismari care about big spells, some of which offer the ability to cash them in for a Treasure for two blue-red hybrid mana. There are some cards supporting this theme at common and uncommon like Spectacle Mage or Maelstrom Muse, but if you don't get multiples of those there's only so much space for seven or eight mana instants and sorceries.
That said, there are also a few cards that are just fine in about any spell-based deck and those are still fine within the big-spell-matters archetype. I believe a key common for either strategy will be Prismari Pledgemage at a pretty good rate that is incredibly easy to cast if you're in the Prismari colors.
If you had to specify which theme Quandrix has, it would probaly be +1/+1 counters, but that theme does not appear very pronounced. While there are some cards like Biomathematician that care about all your Fractals, most cards seem pretty self-contained and should be evaluated as such, meaning you should probaly just go for the things good on rate rather than force synergies.
Quandrix also features a control-eight-or-more-lands subtheme. But as there's not a lot of ramp in the set, those will probably play a little like kicker in that having access to the better abilities will be nice in longer games but not part of the card's primary function.
Witherbloom looks like the college with the most pronounced overarching theme to me, this being life and death. Their production of Pest tokens works well with cards caring about life gain, but also cards caring about sacrificing creatures. I assume decks in Witherbloom colors will be the most synergystic and I'm hyped about drafting them myself the most.
Cards like Bayou Groff or Daemogoth Woe-Eater should work extremly well given the ability to produce lots of Pests or other throwaway creatures. Witherbloom looks more than capable of meeting their demands for fodder.
Silverquill has the least pronounced theme of all the five colleges. Apparently it's +1/+1 counters, but while they have a reasonable amount of cards placing them, there's only a few payoff cards like Spiteful Squad. However, Silverquill provides you with pretty good removal in Closing Statement and access to black and therefore Mage Hunters' Onslaught.
You should probably just try to draft generally good cards that fit your curve instead of going out of your way to make synergies happen, which sounds like a good idea for most colleges.
Multicolor Decks and Fixing
The last Ravnica block allowed us to draft a strong four- or five-colored deck in the form of Gates, focused on key uncommons like Gates Ablaze or Gatebreaker Ram. Such an archetype does not appear to exist in Strixhaven. There's a reasonable amount of fixing, but not a lot of it helps supporting more than two colors. We have Letter of Acceptance, which is a pretty good spin on Manalith, but Campus Guide is pretty mediocre. Other than that you have access to Environmental Sciences, and while that card is decent fixing, I would rather stick it in my sideboard to get with learn cards. Aside from the common dual land cycle and Archway Commons, that's it for nongreen fixing.
While Field Trip ramps, it doesn't fix your mana. Emergent Sequence does but is susceptible to removal. I assume that your decks will usually just fall into one of the colleges' color combinations, with an occasional splash, but no more than that. Try not to get to fancy, especially as people in two-color decks will also want the Campus lands for their decks.
Lessons & Learn
One of the mechanics of this set is learn, which can be found on instants and sorceries, but also some creatures. An example for this is Study Break. The learn keyword means that you either get to rummage or can add a Lesson card from your sideboard to your hand, both insulating against flood, while also giving some insurance against mana screw. A couple of the Lessons are close to maindeckable and should be fairly high picks, because the value they provide skyrockets if you can get them off your learn cards, but their failcase is still pretty okay. Examples for this would be Pest Summoning or Spirit Summoning.
The good learn cards like Igneous Inspiration should be extremly high picks, and if you have some Lessons, you'll try to pick up even worse learn cards like Academic Dispute and vice versa. The colorless common Lessons are all serviceable if you have learn cards but are not exactly main-deck material. I'm fairly high in my confidence that Mascot Exhibition is the best card to firstpick among the regular cards of the set.
Masterpieces are back, but with a twist. One such card is in every pack, replacing the basic land, meaning you'll see a lot of them. There are quite a few of them that are obviously good like Swords to Plowshares or Lightning Bolt. But they're all fairly obvious and don't have a deeper theme going on that connects with the rest of the set—except that the storm spells trigger magecraft multiple times.
If you see a great removal spell in your colors, you'll take it, and for the narrower spells you'll have to evaluate if they do something for you on the fly. Mizzix's Mastery for example can be quite strong with the expensive spells that discard themselves to make a Treasure token, like Creative Outburst, so be aware of that opportunity.
Best Commons and Uncommons
A lot of the evaluation changes based on how many Lessons and learn cards you have and how deep you're in a certain color. But here come my early picks for best commons and uncommons.
Heated Debate: An instant that's extremly efficient removal with a minor upside? Count me in!
Mage Hunters' Onslaught: Unconditional removal with a minor bonus is still pretty impressive even at sorcery speed.
Professor of Zoomancy: This one might be a bit optimistic, but 5/4 worth of stats including a Pest token that you can sacrifice to unlock various synergies seems pretty strong to me.
Igneous Inspiration: Efficient removal that also more of less draws a card? I'll probably firstpick this over a good number of rares.
Mortality Spear: Removal spell that kills everything and occasionally only costs two mana? Sounds good to me.
Professor of Symbology: This card doesn't look like much, but given a sufficient supply of Lessons, it's a clean two-for-one that fills out our curve, and I'm pretty high on that.
The set seems wild and I'm excited to play with it. Especially Witherbloom seems very interesting to me. How good Lessons and learn cards are exactly is something I look forward to, well, learning. I wish all of you a lot of fun for your time at Strixhaven. Until next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.