Early Lessons (No Pun Intended) from Strixhaven Draft

K_Prinz

Strixhaven: School of Mages has been available online for almost a week now, and we've learned a lot, both in using the game mechanic of that same name and about the set as a whole. Time to look at the most powerful archetypes, at tips and tricks for drafting and gameplay, and more.


field trip

After drafting Strixhaven for about a week including getting from Platinum 3 to Mythic in about two days, I have some first insight to share with you. A couple things that apply to other color-pair sets, which mostly means sets that play on Ravnica, hold true here, but for the most part the colleges play in a fairly distinct way from the guilds.

College Ranking

Let's start with my rating of the colleges. The numbers given are only a rough estimate, using the college rated highest and lowest as points of reference for the scale.


quandrix

Quandrix (10/10):

The theme of getting eight lands into play is fairly easy to achieve and gives a couple of your servicable commons a huge power boost, examples being Scurrid Colony and Vortex Runner. I am especially fond of Quandrix because the fail case is so high. You'll also never draft white on accident if you start with blue or green cards. Plus, as Quandrix is usually ramping a little you can sometimes steal an Elemental Masterpiece from the Prismari mages to make your top end a little better.



Prismari

Prismari (9/10):

Prismari decks are often even better than Quandrix decks, if you get the right mix of enablers and payoff. Enablers in this case mean either cards that keep you alive until you cast the more expensive spells or more strictly Maelstrom Muse and Spectacle Mage which directly ramp you toward them. In my experience the bad cards are a bit worse than with Quandrix, and you won't get the right mix all the time, but Prismari is certainly quite strong.



Witherbloom

Witherbloom (7/10):

Similar to Quandrix, but Witherbloom has an overall lower power level. I have been happy with the life gain synergies, especially Overgrown Arch has impressed me a lot in conjunction with Blood Researcher. Without Quandrix's eight land theme and with less access to blue card draw or Prismari's expensive spells, you're much more prone to flooding and need to be a bit careful about that. Daemogoth Woe-Eater has disappointed me a little. It will still make all my decks, but I think you shouldn't pick it too highly.



Silverquill

Silverquill (5/10):

Silverquill only worked for me when I got an aggressive deck together, focused on using Guiding Voice and some removal to punch through. The two-drops are fairly mopey though, so I'm not the biggest fan.



Lorehold

Lorehold (1/10):

I'm very low on Lorehold. Its synergies never seem to get there, and the quality of the cards by themselves is disappointing. If you can get Quintorius, Field Historian rolling, you might have a decent deck, but without that card I'm off the graveyard plan. Alternatively you can try to use pump spells on Twinscroll Shaman, but even that would require some two-drops so your Shamans don't have to do all the work, and I think that's just not quite there.

That said, if you find yourself in an open lane, all the colleges are viable. I'd just lean toward avoiding Lorehold for now and lean a bit more into starting with green or blue cards, as those only go in the top three archeytpes. Similary I would avoid white cards, because while drafting Silverquill is okay, Lorehold isn't. Having Silverquill be your best case and only having one good college to move into is not my favorite thing.

Beware of HIDDEN REACH

I don't know what the thing is with people and reach, but this keyword seems far easier to miss than others. Both my opponents and I have been "got" too many times already. There are cards with reach in this set. Do not chump attack your fliers into them. Don't forget your Big Play allows you to block flying creatures. The creatures with reach are: Scurrid Colony, Pillardrop Warden, Cogwork Archivist, and Master Symmetrist. You can use Academic Dispute offensively to get rid of an opposing creature, but the hidden mode is just giving one of your own creatures reach to eat a flier. The Dispute is quite a good card actually, often enabling a clean two-for-one trade, for example when you open on Prismari Pledgemage.


academic dispute

Bounce Spells

Spells that return a creature to its owner's hand have traditionally been quite cheap, think Depart the Realm. However, Strixhaven games feature a lot of 4/4 Elemental tokens or even larger Fractal tokens, so the set makes bounce effects a little harder to come by. Divide by Zero doesn't work on tokens, and Multiple Choice gives the choice of which creature to return to the affected player. (The rare is absolutely brutal by the way if you can line up your removal and combat in a way to leave your opponent with nothing but a token before casting it at five mana.) But even with the higher price tag, cards like Bury in Books and Aether Helix are great in the face of tokens; the Spiral even becomes a two-for-one. Be aware though that you need a target in your graveyard to cast it. Not to mention Quandrix Command.


aether helix

Learn & Lessons

Learn cards are good, and picking up Lessons is great. You should probably up how highly you take the Lessons. Having access to Environmental Sciences and Expanded Anatomy is valuable and you also want to have the Summonig of your respective colors. Fractal Summoning is an amazing mana sink for any blue or green deck, and Elemental Summoning is quite efficient. Especially the curve of turn three Field Trip into turn four Elemental Summoning has impressed me. But really, as the Lessons come at no price regarding main-deck slots, they are incredibly valuable. And while people currently don't take them super highly, I believe that is going change in the very near future.

Monocolored Cards Aren't Monocolored

This one is a classic from the Ravnica sets, although it's more pronounced here due to the strict enemy-color division. First picking a red card over, say, a blue-red card is not four times as likely to contribute to your eventual deck but only twice as likely. Because there's no black-red or red-green option, the red card will only slot into your deck if you end up in blue-red or red-white anyway. This mostly means you get to take two-colored cards a little higher than in more traditional sets, where single-colored cards would leave you more open. If you want to stay comparably open as you'd be with a monocolored card elsewhere, Strixhaven requires you to pick a hybrid card like Quandrix Pledgemage.

Actually, if you want to avoid Lorehold, taking red cards is basically tantamount to taking blue-red cards. Part of the reason why I prefer picking blue or green cards is to ensure I don't end up in a deck with white.

My disdain for Lorehold might be a bit overblown, but I hope this was useful to you. Don't attack into their reach creature!

Until next time,
Kristof


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



3 Comments

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Arajakas(14.10.2021 22:31)

Lorehold didn't work for me either. This mechanics and combinations just doesn't feel smooth at all. Switching to Witherbloom instantly worked.

Fereval(29.04.2021 14:23)

Thank you for the draft content :")

ProPeanuts(22.04.2021 14:56)

I also tried Lorehold a couple of times. It never worked for me too. It all just feels 'off'. A mashup between sultai or abzan colors works best for me so far.

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