Strixhaven Limited Guide: Lesson 6 – Quandrix
Quandrix presents quite a quandary in terms of its evaluation. Of all of the color pairs, this college stays fairly true to what Blue-Green is generally trying to do. Although Green-Red has more commonly been the Ramp archetype lately, any Green deck can be down to Ramp. +1/+1 counters are also quite common in these colors, drawing a clear parallel to Simic in Ravnica Allegiance. Blue decks are always game to draw cards and copy stuff, so what gives? I thought Strixhaven was all about subverting the color-pair tropes.
Well, there is at least one new mechanic which looks to freshen things up:
There is no keyword (yet) for this mechanic which rewards controlling eight or more lands, but I propose we call it ‘Landlord.’ In any case, this mechanic helps us get to the essence of Quandrix. This is a college built around solving puzzles and doing the math, and Landlord begs the question:
How likely are we to even accumulate eight lands?
This is Magic: the Gathering we are talking about, so if you are an Aggro deck your chances are 100% and if you have a bunch of eight land payoffs in play your chances are 0%. I jest of course, but this mechanic is still kind of odd because typically seven-and-eight mana spells are awful picks in Limited even if they are powerful. Let’s consult a hypergeometric calculator to find out why:
In this hypothetical we are on the play, have 17 lands in the deck, and want to see the likelihood we will drop an eighth land on turn eight. As you can see, the chances are quite poor we will have 8 or more lands at this point in the game (~15%). Quandrix has tools to help though, and we can expect to have some card draw and Ramp to support our quest for eight lands:
In this scenario we aren’t playing 22 lands! I am sticking with 17, but assuming we have 5 Ramp effects. Now, it is a bit more complicated than this because if we fetch a land the number of successes drops by 1 for cards drawn thereafter, but we can still get a decent approximation here. My sample size is up to 16 now because I am assuming we were able to draw two extra cards before turn eight. Under these conditions our chances of having eight lands on turn eight have now improved to 80%! As we will see, several spells can expedite your land drops, potentially activating your Landlord stuff by turn 6 or 7.
But wait a second, is this even a good thing? Generally having a bunch of lands in play is indicative you are losing in Limited. Are the payoffs even worth it here? Let’s take a look at some more cards, I think we need some more data points before solving this conundrum.
So first of all, all three of these Uncommons are great! And all of them contribute card draw, Ramp, or both. You can imagine all of them being in the ‘Best Uncommons’ section.
I think it was clever to separate +1/+1 counter colleges by both colors (BW vs. UG). Maybe 4-color will be a thing with +1/+1 counter synergy but I kind of doubt it. There is already a lot to draw from within each archetype, going that far out of the way to blend them probably won’t make sense. If all it took were to splash one color though, it would be a different story. Still, some individual cards may still be worth splashing (Tenured Inkcaster comes to mind).
Capitalizing on counters will be easy to do with Quandrix due to its Fractal creatures. They may look harmless as 0/0’s, but they are a way to turn mana into +1/+1 counters. The summoning spell for example costs X and two hybrid U/G mana to generate a Fractal token with X +1/+1 counters.
I find the design of Quandrix to be really cool, and you can tell Wizards went out of their way to set up some big brain plays in these colors. Remember Echoing Equation from the beginning of the article? Well, since Fractals are 0/0 they all get upgraded to your best creature when you play that card and keep their +1/+1 counters, not too shabby!
At Uncommon Quandrix has even more Ramp tools, along with some utility. Removal is always a weak point for Blue-Green, and Quandrix is no exception. But, fight cards do look to be a bit more impactful than usual considering the massive creatures this college is capable of producing. Master Symmetrist can even give your giant Fractals Trample!
At Common we really bring things home with a few excellent ones. Eureka Moment, Biomathematician, and Field Trip look to be the most important here. There is a lot of value to be had here, provided you have enough stuff to take advantage of the mana. Fractal Summoning is one decent option. On the surface it isn’t all that great, but being able to find it with a Learn spell raises its stock quite a bit in my view. Overall, I must say Quandrix presents some serious problems.
The primary concern I have with Quandrix is finding enough payoffs for it. There are some great rewards to be found for having eight lands in play, but it is going to be a serious risk to commit to trying to accumulate them in Draft. There is a very real concern that you build a deck which is very efficient at getting lands into play, but it very thin on ways to capitalize from doing so. My standard approach to Limited is consistency, and I fear this college just isn’t going to have it. I could see these decks looking like absolute beasts in some games, while failing to find key cards in others. Great Quandrix decks are going to make it seem broken, but it is looking like one of those archetypes that will thin out fast if multiple players are trying to build it, and almost certain to suffer durdly games even when it comes together.
In the end, I am really excited to see how Strixhaven plays out. Having five super-tight factions feels like a novel idea, despite being tried in Ravnica to a lesser extent. I am loving the shake-up in color pairs, and going all in with a ridiculous number of card cycles will likely force players to lock into a college during drafts. If I am being honest with myself, I do think this format is going to break somewhere though. It may take a few weeks for players to work out the flaws, but I am skeptical that a month from now every college will be viable and drafted consistently.
In the meantime, let’s just enjoy the ride. Even if Wizards didn’t nail this one, it is encouraging they are trying to shake up the status quo and push things in different directions. I think even if this format ends up being terrible, the game will be better for it in the long run. And hey, at least Voldemort isn’t a card!