Prepare for the Strixhaven Draft Challenge: Drifter’s Format Analysis and Tier List Update

Silverquill Command Art by Bryan Sola
Silverquill Command Art by Bryan Sola

Welcome back folks! I’ve been playing a lot of drafts and having a lot of fun since Strixhaven’s release last month, and I’m ready to bring you the first written update to my Tier List now. First I’ll go over what I’ve learnt about the format, from my own play and from coaching sessions, including a discussion of general approach while throwing in lots of more specific tips about deckbuilding, drafting, and playing alike. A key theme of this article will be how to best build your decks to attack the format, and exploit/mitigate the weaknesses of each college.

After that, I’ll explain the important grade changes, the ones which signal a slight change in how I approach the format or say something interesting about it. You can compare that to how I felt about each card in my first impressions review at the start of the format, see what I said then and how my views have changed. For that section, I recommend you have the tier list open, as linked above. I’ll also be showing some of my decks off, especially for Lorehold specifically, since I think people often approach that colour pair in a way that doesn’t work out well and underrate it as a result.

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Drifter

I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began playing Magic, almost ten years ago now. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube drafts, I’ve drafted more sets than I can count on every platform through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited 40k or so gems from it at this point, and have made top 100 mythic many times. Developing a solid approach and way of thinking through self-reflection has enhanced my skills over the years, and I feature those techniques in my writing and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide (background here, testimonials available). Consider booking a session today if you’d like real-time feedback tailored to you, and to learn in a more hands-on way!

Check out all my articles here and follow me on Twitter for regular updates, or to ask about coaching!

Strixhaven Draft Challenge

Strixhaven Draft Challenge

Event Details

  • Duration: May 22 2021 at 8:00 AM – May 25 at 8:00 AM
  • Format: Draft Strixhaven
  • Entry Fee: 20000 Gold or 3000 Gems
  • Ends After: 6 wins or 2 losses (whichever comes first)
  • Match Structure: Best-of-three matches (BO3)

Event Rewards

WinsReward
0 winsNo reward
1 win1 Player Draft Token
2 wins1 Player Draft Token + 3 Strixhaven Packs
3 wins2 Player Draft Tokens + 6 Strixhaven Packs
4 wins3 Player Draft Tokens + 10 Strixhaven Packs
5 wins3 Player Draft Tokens + 15 Strixhaven Packs
6 wins4 Player Draft Tokens + 20 Strixhaven Packs

General Tips

  • Strixhaven is a balanced format which heavily rewards staying open (here’s my article which explains what that means, from a while back). The colour pairs are pretty evenly matched and there are a ton of cards which are only good in specific colour pairs and specific decks, so you can often get lots of juicy goodies going late if those colours are the open ones.

    This means that early on, I really like taking cards higher that go into lots of different things – a card like Fractal Summoning is a great “action” Lesson (rather than a utility one) since cards that scale are extremely good in this format, and leaves you open to being Prismari, Quandrix, or Witherbloom, whereas a card that’s only good in one colour pair isn’t nearly as good an early pick. That’s not to say you should sacrifice power too much though – speculating for a much higher payoff is still a good idea.

    You should usually let your rares and best uncommons lead you if you have them, since it’s really important to be doing big things in Strix, but remember that you can splash them and that you’re pretty likely to get rares anyway later on if a colour pair is open.
  • There are some faster decks, but even those are slower than you might be used to – Strixhaven is a pretty slow format, so you need to be prepared for long games. That being said, efficient mana usage and tempo really matter here, and will often decide games against faster decks/win close battles between two slow decks. In the example decks section later on, I show how to maximise good mana usage while preserving incredible late game power.

    Strix isn’t an attrition format – it’s one where you want to be doing big things, playing big games, and that’s why cards like Go Blank aren’t all that good. Late games are won by miles, not by inches. If your opponent is doing a big thing, then they won’t care if they’re down a card or two, and Learn spells can recoup card disadvantage rapidly. As a result, this is also a format where I’d be willing to mulligan a slightly larger percentage of your worst hands, but in Limited you should very rarely do so and that stands.

    Strix comes down to bombs often, because Mystical Archives mean there are so many good ones available and you have more time to draw them/dig for them, so having lots of removal/unconditional answers like counterspells is a good idea. Usually the bombs are creatures, but cards like Dramatic Finale will mess you up. Don’t get too frustrated and don’t give up early even in the face of bombs – you need to adapt your gameplay around them, and get better at dealing with them. That’s a skill in itself – e.g. sometimes against Dramatic Finale, you can win by going all out and attacking, and sometimes you can win just by playing a slow game where you don’t trade for a long time, and then eventually bouncing it and swinging in or flying over. Sometimes you just can’t beat it and that’s okay – knowing that you did your best is a good feeling, and it’ll often be over soon as games in Strix usually aren’t super attritiony – once one player is very far ahead, it’s pretty easy for them to win quickly.

    Tempo and using your mana well is still really important, as is having answers to fliers/high pressure starts. That usually just means having some of the plethora of great removal the format has to offer, having some of the good creatures, or having a good attacking plan yourself even in your slower deck – Lorehold and Witherbloom decks can often play a great slower game while being capable of fast and deadly beatdown draws. Often the best defense is a good offense – you can prey on slow greedy decks and fast decks alike that way. Silverquill decks often aren’t prepared to be outdone at their own game, and put too many fliers in while not having great blockers/enough efficient plays to stop their opponent’s stuff, and the late game decks often don’t have enough early game tools to survive (especially Prismari, which I’ll talk about later). Identifying and exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses is key to your long-term success in any draft format!
  • I would urge everyone to consider playing an extra land often in your decks – Strixhaven isn’t a format where you trim on lands, it’s a format where you often add extra. Prismari specifically if you don’t have Letter of Acceptance, and Quandrix decks that don’t have cards like Field Trip or other ways to put extra lands into play: these are the decks that most want to have another land.

    If you have access to cards like Environmental Sciences (which I will tell you is busted later), that can mean you want to play 17 again, but if you have Campuses then scrying away lands late helps you not flood anyway – though if your opponent is using their mana better, that will still suck for you.
  • Strixhaven is a format where you really need the right tool at the right time, and you want lots of different tools.

    There are so many cards with such different abilities and good cases, and they’re spread across a much larger proportion of your curve, that most decks don’t have as much redundancy as in most formats and having the right counterplay at the right time is critical. That makes card selection and card draw particularly valuable, since they’re actively helping you curve out and make sure you hit both lands and spells, and is part of why the Lessons are so busted. It’s important to have Lessons that do different things, and to take second copies of Lessons/ones that have similar effects lower e.g. if you have Fractal Summoning, then Elemental Summoning is a little worse. Cards like the Campuses are better in the late game as a result, and cards like Curate are better early and mid – they make you more likely to find the right tool for the job, rather than having to leave it up to chance.

    Even my beatdown decks in Strixhaven often play more card selection – I sometimes play Thrilling Discovery (which I still don’t like that much, but isn’t nearly as bad as in most sets) and Crushing Disappointment in my faster decks, which would be way worse in other formats.
  • If you don’t have many Campuses, then it’s often worth playing ones that are only single-on colour (so if you’re Quandrix, you play Prismari Campus instead of an Island). I want to have at least 2-3 Campuses available in pretty much all my decks. Some of your decks with 1 drops won’t want the extra tap lands, like the particularly aggressive Silverquill decks, but most decks don’t mind since they provide such good insulation against flood.
  • Lorehold is underdrafted and underrated in my opinion. Lorehold may not be immensely powerful, but draft is self-correcting – when a thing is underdrafted, it rewards you for being in it. It’s actually very easy to pick up the cards Lorehold wants right now: the 2 and 3 drops that attack well, the buffs, Learn cards like Enthusiastic Study, the busted late game cards, etc.

    I also think a lot of people approach drafting it in a way that doesn’t work well: it’s not that the Lorehold synergies are good, they pretty much don’t exist outside of Quintorius, but it has access to some really good beatdown decks. Some of the White creatures are fantastic, pairing them with the great Red burn and tricks is nuts, and Lorehold makes best use of cards like Twinscroll Shaman, Enthusiastic Study, and Combat Professor (yes, even better than the Silverquill aggro decks in my opinion, since the Vigilance is more relevant on bigger non-flying creatures). Those first two have been surprisingly good (especially together!), and I’ll talk about them a bit more in the grade changes below and provide some screenshots of my Lorehold decks. I often completely destroy slower starts and still am able to beat out Silverquill decks with my bigger creatures in my Lorehold decks – Silverquill tends to be built in such a way that they’re not very well-equipped for races, since they have a pile of fliers without good blockers. I say it time and time again: the best way to beat fliers decks is to attack with your bigger creatures, and Silverquill is no different.

    Lorehold is a slower sort of beatdown, and often feels like combo beatdown – you don’t need to be really low curve and you should certainly still have late game hedges. You do want to take the good White 2 drops highly since the Red ones kind of suck at attacking after the first few turns – though it’s worth noting that Blood Age General does attack for 4 with Combat Professor, so if you have multiples of the latter then that can be cute.

    Learn spells are very important in Lorehold, more so than the Lessons after you have your first couple of those. Stay tuned for some example decks at the end!

Drifter’s Context Corner: What’s the difference between beatdown and aggressive decks?

This is taken from my White set review:

Decks in Constructed and Draft are very different. Many decks in Draft want to be ahead and attacking in the early and mid-game, and have draws that are good at that, but they’re not like constructed aggressive decks at all. Those are specifically low curve, they don’t have high end, and they make up for that with tricks and burn spells: ways to close out games against weakened opponents when their creatures can no longer attack. They completely collapse when they’re behind, so their gameplan is to always be ahead for as long as they can.

That’s just not how the vast majority of decks in Draft are. Sure, they’ll have more early game, but they’ll still have ways to play from behind because it’s so much harder to curve out perfectly in most Draft formats, and it’s very hard to break the play-draw tension or beat your opponents when they curve out better than you as a dedicated aggressive deck, because your early game cards aren’t that amazing. Your beatdown 2 drops will get stopped a lot more by opposing 3s and such, and you’re often forced to sacrifice synergy and having every card on-plan for the sake of card quality. Fast decks can still win a lot of games in Draft just by including a little high end or value, or by having a backup plan and playing in a dynamic way, because your opponent doesn’t have busted haymakers and planeswalkers to punish you for not killing them by turn 5. Rigid gameplans just don’t work as well in a really dynamic format, where games are so different from each other. For that reason, most decks in Draft (we’re talking 90%+) are some flavour of midrange.

I think the distinction between dedicated aggression and what goes on in Draft is important and not always clear in people’s minds, so I use different terminology – I view beatdown decks as the much more common sort, and aggro decks as the more dedicated rarer sort. Midrange beatdown decks form part of that 90%, whereas aggressive decks are part of the 10%. A deck like Selesnya Counters in M21, one of the best decks in the format, would qualify as a beatdown deck, but not an aggressive one – it doesn’t necessarily have no high end and often it will try to grind people out or go over the top of them, but it still wants to attack early and often, and it still has some characteristics of aggressive decks.

  • For drafting other colour pairs, check out example decks at the end – I analyse how I like to build each colour pair in detail there.
  • Having a good mix of action and utility lessons is important – you don’t want to be too reactive and want them to assist you in curving out, which means some of your lessons should be creatures, the best ones being Fractal Summoning and Inkling Summoning since they’re both good late (and Inkling is good even on turn 3 in this format). Elemental Summoning is decent, especially if you don’t have tons of turn 5 plays, but not as good as those two, Pest Summoning is good and a high pick if you’re Witherbloom and have synergy (and just okay otherwise), and Spirit Summoning is just okay.

    Of utility lessons, Environmental Sciences is king, you want some kind of removal spell but don’t want to take the bad ones like Reduce to Memory and Introduction to Annihilation too highly. Expanded Anatomy is surprisingly good in your creature decks – Lorehold decks with Twinscroll Shaman/fliers, and pretty much every Silverquill deck, actively want the card. Introduction to Prophecy is probably the worst utility Lesson, but still worth picking up on the wheel and taking higher if you have plenty of Learn cards.
  • The Lesson-Learn dynamic is very important, and you want to take both sorts of cards highly. You basically never want to use your Learn cards to loot, unless you’re missing land drops or whatever. This is a format where looting in general is way worse because you want your lands for so much longer – if you get it on a card that’s good anyway, great, but cards like Soothsayer Adept are pretty bad. It’s just not worth going down a card, since that card doesn’t attack (this may be a slow format but every deck wants to attack eventually, and attacking early makes a lot of cards way better) or do much even in the late game, since you still want your lands then.

    I think the ratio I gave in the set review of your wanting two good Lessons to a Lesson is pretty accurate – once you start to deviate from that ratio, I’d adjust my pick order some to correct that. Perhaps the actual number is more like 1.8, since the games do go long so you definitely run out of Lessons sometimes.

Grade Changes

For lots of these cards, the grade changes aren’t that significant (I’m pleased with how I rated overall in the reviews, and think I had a good first impression of how good most cards were), but they reflect a change in my approach and mindset when drafting the format, which I explain in detail. If a card or the theory behind why a card is better/worse is explained somewhere in the rest of the article, I won’t go over it again.

This won’t be an exhaustive list of my changes, because my most frequent updates are just a few changes on the fly rather than these bigger written updates, and I tend to go up and down on some things. I keep the tier list updated as much as I can, though occasionally I do see a grade that’s out of place that I forgot to change earlier, and these written updates are good for spotting those.

Academic Dispute

C → C+

Academic Dispute is at its best in Lorehold, but it’s often not hard to get the occasional 2 for 1 with it in Prismari – you just need to have some reasonably statted creatures, and even trading up is pretty good when you get your card back. Learn cards are really important in Lorehold, since they allow it to keep up in the late game while beating down early, and this is one of the best Magecraft enablers out there. When this card is good, it’s a 1 mana kill spell that draws a card, which is absolutely absurd!

Clever Lumimancer

010 Clever Lumimancer Strixhaven Spoiler Card

C- → D

It’s not so much that Clever Lumimancer is an awful card, as it is that it’s very hard to make it work in most of this format’s decks. The problem is you need a lot of spells you want to cast in a very proactive manner, cards like Guiding Voice and Show of Confidence, and many of the spells your aggro decks want are more reactive in nature – tricks are just really bad with Lumimancer, because they’ll just let it through. The spells in this format that are proactive tend to be somewhat below rate – cards like Spirit Summoning are a desperation turn 3 play, not one you really want to be making, and Inkling Summoning requires you to have a Lesson on turn 2, and almost all those Lessons will be worse than playing a 2 drop in your beatdown deck – Lessons are value, cards you want to cast when you’re out of other stuff usually, not super-efficient curve plays. Eventually most decks will just run out of spells, and Lumimancer will only have gotten a few hits in – and that’s in the best case scenario where you play it turn one.

Lumimancer just takes a lot of setup and a very specific deck, say if you’re a Silverquill deck that’s maindecking Inkling Summonings or cards like Umbral Juke, and also has a lot of ways to buff it.

Codie, Vociferous Codex

D → C+ in Prismari/Quandrix

Codie is the card I was most wrong on in my reviews – I felt that the casting permanents clause would still be too restrictive, but this is really the format for spells. The decks that want Codie – specifically Prismari and Quandrix decks with lots of spells, which most of them have – are very happy to have him and have enough other stuff to be able to play a solid game without access to permanents for a while. It can still hurt sometimes, and some Quandrix decks still don’t want him – you really want 10+ instants and sorceries, and not too many great permanents, but usually Codie will either trade for a removal spell or net you a card or two before it trades for a removal spell.

Codie is still pretty bad in most Lorehold, Witherbloom, and Silverquill decks, but sometimes you’ll have enough removal/not care about beating down as much as most Lorehold/Silverquill decks do.

Daemogoth Woe-Eater

C+ → C

I’ve found that Witherbloom often has trouble supporting Daemogoth Woe-Eater – there just isn’t the amount of free fodder I would like, and cards like Leyline Invocation and Serpentine Curve mean that big beefy creatures don’t scale quite as well into the late game this set. I also think making them discard is kind of weak in a format full of big games, for reasons I explained with Go Blank before. Most of the fodder is a one-shot – only Pest Summoning is really capable of putting out multiple bodies for this.

Making them take a turn off attacking means this card in the worst case means I still think this card is reasonable, and it is legitimately capable of doing a lot of damage if you do have fodder. It’s also a great combo with Tend the Pests, if you do happen to get those two specific uncommons, which happens sometimes. I don’t like Tend the Pests too much in general but if you have big stuff to sacrifice alongside this, that combo can certainly get there.

Enthusiastic Study

C- → C+ in Lorehold beatdown decks, C in Prismari

Enthusiastic Study is fantastic in Lorehold – it’s full of first strikers between Twinscroll Shaman and Lorehold Pledgemage, it supports the beatdown plan really well, and it can often represent either a 2 for 1 or a 1 for 1 that deals 4 or 5 damage. At that point, you’re just getting a great rate.

It’s a testament to how good Learn cards are that even Cram Session is not terrible, so this one is great if you have the deck for it!

Environmental Sciences

C+ → B

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Environmental Sciences is a pillar of the Strixhaven format. It’s the best way to enable your splashes, making each of your Learn spells a source, which many of my slower decks are interested in, but more than that: it reduces the number of games you lose to mana or colour screw by so much. That’s so valuable, especially since it’s often difficult to pick up the right Campuses or get other fixing.

This might shock some of you, but I often first pick this card if there isn’t a particularly good uncommon or rare. This is for the reason I mentioned in my tips list: staying open early on and taking cards that lead you into lots of different directions is so good, and this card is just good everywhere.

Field Trip

C → C+

Field Trip is a card I was pretty high on to begin with, but is even better than my estimation. It’s great in Quandrix. This isn’t really a shock, since Quandrix really wants to reach 8 lands in play, and that means Field Trip’s Forest is relevant for a much larger proportion of the game, but with all the ways to use your mana late, Witherbloom ends up pretty much always excited to have the first copy too. One thing I didn’t foresee is that the Green decks of the set are sort of light on 4s and heavy on 3s, which makes Field Trip a lot better because you get to skip to 5 and then double spell on 6. This also makes the good Green 4 drops like Professor of Zoomancy better, but not enough to justify a grade increase.

I’m at the point where I take Field Trip over most other Learn spells, and actively prioritise them. In Quandrix decks, I’m pretty much happy to play as many as I can get, as long as I have the Lessons to support them.

Necrotic Fumes

B → B-

I overrated Necrotic Fumes a bit originally, because I felt that Witherbloom would be more reliant on it than it actually is – Witherbloom is full of good removal and it often lacks sacrifice fodder/has better things to do with that.

Negate / Test of Talents

C- → C for Negate/low C+ for Test of Talents

This is the format for Negate and Test of Talents and you want to maindeck the first copy, sometimes two if you have lots of other instants. Test of Talents is better than Negate, since there aren’t a lot of noncreature artifacts and enchantments you care about, and the hand information/making the remainder of their deck a little worse can be valuable.

Rootha, Mercurial Artist

B → A-

I am at the point where I believe Rootha is the single best uncommon in the set, a bomb tier card. It’s very hard to lose slower games when Rootha comes online, especially since she has such an absurd method of protecting herself – if you have a cheap spell ready, you can save her from all sorts of removal by simply copying that spell and casting her again.

Copying any removal/interaction spell is absolutely backbreaking, and Rootha pairs especially well with Bury into Books, a great card in the format anyway – by Burying their two best creatures, you buy yourself enough time to usually just lock them out the game since they have to then redraw and recast each of those, so it’s sort of like taking multiple extra turns in games where they’re constrained on resources. Getting your two best Lessons off a single Learn spell gives you insane longevity.

You really want to have good 2-3 mana spells to maximise Rootha’s power, but Prismari is chock full of them, and she’s a fantastic splash wherever.

Shock

B- → B

It’s really hard to get efficient 1-2 mana removal in the format, and there are lot of really absurd targets for it at common and uncommon. Most of the Pledgemages specifically are great targets, it combines really well with Lorehold’s first strikers, and it’s a cheap powerful way to enable your Magecraft. Shock is specifically very important to Prismari, as I’ll talk about later, because it has a lot of trouble coming back from being behind on board – Lorehold decks have more time and space, because they’re so good at attacking, and are best-placed to use tricks.

Stonebound Mentor

C+ → C

This isn’t really the set for random 3/3s for 3. The Lorehold beatdown decks have 3s that are much better to buff like Lorehold Pledgemage and Twinscroll Shaman, and Prismari is going big and has 3 drop spells it would way rather be holding up.

This ability can be quite hard to trigger too, though it does get better if you have Tome Shredder and Quintorius and such – the problem is that Tome Shredder is bad in multiples so you should only really play two maximum.

Twinscroll Shaman

Twinscroll Shaman

D+ → C-

Twinscroll Shaman sucks unless you’re beating down and have synergy/buffs, which isn’t most Prismari decks, but it’s a C in Lorehold. You have all sorts of ways to buff this card, with Combat Professor, Expanded Anatomy, Enthusiastic Study, Guiding Voice, and Sudden Breakthrough, and it’s legitimately very frightening at that point. Even if you don’t have a trick, threat of activation can be a pretty big deal.

It’s worth noting that Access Tunnel is extremely good with Twinscroll Shaman + buffs, and I’ve stolen many a game with that synergy.

How to build the best decks for each College

  • Remember that scores aren’t everything! Lots of variance is involved and I have a high winrate overall, which skews the fairness of the results somewhat. I’ll provide them but I’ll still try to give a fair analysis of strengths and weaknesses. I’m featuring more Lorehold decks than others, mainly because I think they seem less intuitive for people to draft.

    I’m trying not to cherry-pick results here, but obviously there’s going to be bias in that I’m trying to show the good versions of decks so you know what to aim for. I have had the best results with Lorehold in the format, purely because it has been underdrafted – the example Lorehold decks I want you to work off have done consistently really well for me. My second most successful college is I think the most powerful one in the entire format, Quandrix, which has felt pretty absurd whenever I drafted it.
  • Some of these decks I drafted, and some I coached. Sometimes in my coaching sessions, we try out different cards to see how well they work, and I would recommend doing that in general with all your drafts. The best way to evaluate a card is simply to play with it, and doing science might well enable you to discover better strategies than the ones you know work already. I will often take rares and mythics slightly higher, not for raredrafting purposes, but because I don’t get to play with them as much and I want to see how well they perform, as I want my evaluation skills to be ever-growing.

    That’s not to say you should take obviously bad cards with poor/limited use cases highly though – I have only played Witherbloom Command once, and have been happy not to!

Lorehold

7-0

Apologies for the lack of Lessons in this screenshot – they were Expanded Anatomy (which was absurd here), Environmental Sciences, Elemental Summoning, and Inkling Summoning, which is basically the full complement you want.

This is the sort of Lorehold deck you want to be drafting a version of to do consistently well with the colour pair. This one is far better than most though, and it played absolutely absurdly. The curve of Twinscroll Shaman -> Combat Professor is very hard to beat, especially when you throw Thunderous Orator into the mix and have Enthusiastic Study to crush them late.

I actually ended up cutting Clever Lumimancer for Thrilling Discovery here (not shown, sorry!) – this wasn’t enough spells for it and it’s a rare deck that can make use of the former anyway. I think this deck was perhaps a card or two short, one really good 2 drop short, of being truly absurd.

You don’t need Lorehold decks to look exactly like this – you can just have more Lorehold Pledgemages instead, or be a bit slower with cards like Ardent Dustspeaker and ways to push them through. The important thing is that you have good attacking 3 drops and ways to push them through, whether that’s removal or tricks.

7-1

Here’s another, also totally absurd, example. You can see that this one has fewer good Lessons, and I don’t have Expanded Anatomy anymore, but it makes up for that in raw power. With 5 Pledgemages, I ended up playing some weak spells just to buff them. Lorehold Pledgemage is a very good card, and well worth enabling if you’re beating down. With 2 Rise of Extus as high end, it was also very difficult to outgrind me.

7-1

This is a slower sort of Lorehold deck, and I think if you want to build them in this way rather than the more beatdown sort, you need to have lots of interaction, and it really is hard to get this much if Red isn’t very open. As you can see, it’s not really about synergy, since as I said synergy is practically nonexistent in Lorehold – it’s just a classic midrangey value plan with strong splashes, which is still capable of some very beatdowny starts. This deck showcases the power of Environmental Sciences – I only need one Island and yet I have five Blue sources, because that’s how many Learn cards I have plus one for the Island itself. That’s enough for a very consistent two-card splash.

Splashing is important in these slower decks, because Lorehold doesn’t always have the tools to keep up with the decks that go really big late, but some of the big Prismari spells or green cards like Bookwurm can help a lot.

Watch out for the Returned Pastcaller loop, where you can return one with the other perpetually, and lock most late game decks out the game – Pastcaller is a great splash outside of Lorehold too.

Prismari

6-3

This is the sort of Prismari deck I like to draft more than the really slow durdly ones – it has absurd late game, but it’s also very capable of playing good racing games, and the impact of cards like Pigment Storm and Snow Day (an example, not in this deck) is maximised when you’re attacking. This deck is consistent and powerful, but its turn 2 plays are kind of weak, and I could easily see it folding to a faster draw because it showcases some of the classic weaknesses of Prismari very well.

Prismari usually lacks the tools to come back from being really behind on board, because there are no sweepers and it doesn’t have access to tons of efficient removal – it’s hard to find 1-2 mana removal spells, since nobody is passing Lightning Bolt and there aren’t that many Shocks opened. I find that the really greedy Prismari decks will often have really awkward draws and fold easily to Lorehold and Silverquill decks – if you don’t have tons of efficient removal, consider enacting a beatdown plan and you’ll beat a lot of Silverquill decks just because they’re ill-prepared for that.

Being really greedy is a good way to win late game scenarios, but it often doesn’t add that much and isn’t really necessary – it’s very easy to win games quickly when you’re ahead in Strixhaven, and tempo and good mana usage still really matter. Too often I see Prismari decks with next to no early blockers, especially if they don’t have the few 1-2 mana removal spells available. You must defend yourself in the early turns, and you must have answers to fliers – which is where a card like Pillardrop Warden comes in.

Even a late game Quandrix deck often has a strong midgame and will overwhelm you if you try to do things too slowly – I think Quandrix is better than Prismari (and possibly the best college) because it plays the mid-game so well and reaches the late game sooner than the other decks. A good Quandrix deck has tools to overwhelm faster decks that Prismari often lacks. Cards like Letter of Acceptance can help bridge the gap to your Prismari late game, but that card’s pretty low-tempo and will result in you falling behind, whereas Field Trip is usually just nuts.

All that being said, I do still really like Prismari and draft it often – you have to draft it to mitigate those two weaknesses a lot, and you should take Shock very highly if you see it.

Quandrix

7-2

The fundamentals of any good Quandrix deck are ramp, good early game, interaction (Bury in Books, Mage Duel, and Divide by Zero will get the job done, but often you want to splash for more unconditional removal), card draw, and a couple of big things. If you have most of those bases covered, you’re going to do well.

Quandrix Apprentice is absolutely ridiculous in its namesake college, making you all your land drops for free and solving all your colour issues. Quandrix wants to play a land every single turn of the game, and have lots of ramp to reach its gamewinning high end quickly. Cards like Mage Duel alongside having good blockers give Quandrix a lot of resiliency – its removal is much more efficient than Prismari, and it has more mana to use it thanks to all its ramp.

7-0

Possibly my best deck in the entire format. I wouldn’t expect to replicate this very often, but the fundamentals are pretty similar – Field Trip into big stuff, with good interaction, good early game and Lessons. Often Quandrix wants to splash for that interaction, so do keep that in mind. Obviously the bombs do help too!

Currently 5-1

Witherbloom

6-3

This deck has a combination of really good removal, late game power and longevity in these Karok Wranglers and Learn cards, and some decent synergies, but it doesn’t overdo them.

I think it’s important not to overdo the synergies because I see a lot of people throwing cards like Tend the Pests into decks where it really doesn’t belong – that’s a card you play when you have a bunch of really big creatures to sacrifice, like Daemogoth Woe-Eaters and Leyline Invocations. There isn’t tons of fodder in the set for Witherbloom’s synergy-oriented cards, and it’s often hard to have a good mix of the enablers and payoffs, so my decks within the archetype tend to focus more on fundamentals. The payoffs are often not that incredible anyway – getting to attack for 7 a couple of times with Daemogoth Woe-Eater is good, but the card is still easily answerable by the plentiful removal in the set and 6 toughness means it’s not that hard to double block. It’s also pretty hard to have Pest Tokens die on command, so cards like Blood Researcher are worse than I gave them credit – it often takes a while to even get that first counter.

Silverquill

7-1

I think a lot of Silverquill players underestimate the importance of having good blockers and being able to stop races, and when I draft Silverquill, I try to be very careful about that. Silverquill’s gaggle of small fliers is pretty easy to overwhelm by Quandrix and Witherbloom decks specifically, if you don’t incorporate cards like Expel and Spiteful Squad. I like the counter synergies quite a lot, since the cards that go with them are usually readily available and they make your fliers a lot better, but I still would caution against having Star Pupil in decks where you don’t have ways to buff it up with other counters/sacrifice it, for example. I like Unwilling Ingredient a decent amount in Silverquill, since it’s a good holder of counters/buffs and gives you some value late.

The big thing this deck here is missing is Lessons – I could really have used an Inkling Summoning, and that card is very important to pick up, since it’s good at any point in the game. As you can see we’re borrowing some Witherbloom synergies in this deck, which I think are sort of weak here, but it’s not too bad – usually Silverquill decks prefer Learn cards like Study Break and Guiding Voice to Hunt for Specimens.

In Silverquill, it’s very important to prioritise 2 drops and efficient removal, as one would expect, but don’t try to be really low curve and eschew all high end – this is a format where people are going really big, and it’s important to have some hedges for the late game. Cards like Rise of Extus and Specter of the Fens can be fantastic ways to finish games off.

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Drifter

Drifter is a draft and strategy specialist, with hundreds of articles under his belt! Of special mention are his Limited Reviews and draft coaching service.

4 Responses

  1. Chrysologus says:

    These draft articles are so helpful, although it’s a lot of information to absorb!

    • Drifter says:

      Haha, I did think about bullet-pointing more and trying to make them quicker tips.. I do like to go over my thought process but perhaps that would be easier to digest. Glad you found this one helpful nonetheless!

      • Chrysologus says:

        It’s the draft articles I like more than anything. The deck database is nice too because I can get everything I need from this website.

  2. Sean McClung says:

    I’m a lot higher on cram session. I think it’s a c- or c. I know that sounds crazy but hear me out. It’s time walk with cunning wish attached. Lol maybe it’s not that good but it’s felt like that too me. Obviously you need to have a good lesson board but once you do I’m happy running 2 maybe even 3. The 4 life has been just enough of a cushion to let my decks to their thing. Also unlike arcane subtraction, academic dispute, study break, guiding voice, or enthusiast study you don’t need a creature on the battlefield to get full value. It’s just great in any deck that can cast it.