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Professor Onyx Art by Kieran Yanner

Strixhaven: School of Mages Draft Guide

Strixhaven: School of Mages draft is back for the next 2 weeks, so Professor J2Sjosh is here to give you an in-depth study guide to the format once again, with all the accumulated knowledge since its first release 2 years ago!

Hey everyone! I’m here to welcome you back to campus at the magical school of Strixhaven which we are legally required to say is not affiliated in any way, shape, or form with any other wizarding school. I am excited that we’re getting it back in Premier Draft form instead of having to deal with the legion of exploitable bots (at least until March 14, when Quick Draft starts) or as I like to call it Silverquill Fest 2023. Now, if you’re ready, I am about to hook you up with the study guide that will help you to wreck the curve.

Key Ideas of Strixhaven: School of Mages Draft

The biggest thing that you need to know about life at Strixhaven is that the learn lesson mechanic is really, really good. To give you an idea, there are plenty of packs where Environmental Sciences is a viable first pick out of. That sounds insane to someone who has never played the format, but trust me on this one.

You really want to build a versatile package of lessons so that you can grab the right one for the job. As long as you have the proper ones, it is much closer to a tutor than a generic draw a card. Most of them are a little overcosted or underpowered, but being able to grab the right one at the right time is an extremely valuable ability.

If everyone at the table knows what they are doing you are all going to be fighting over the same colorless lessons. The trick is that it is usually safer to grab them early on and deal with how you are going to learn them later. Just like majoring in General Studies, it lets you punt the decision on what you are doing down the road a bit. Do not take them over busted cards, but value them pretty highly.

It is also important to grab the appropriate creature lesson for your colors with the first one being premium. That is the default lesson you learn in most situations so it feels like you are at a huge disadvantage if you can’t do that.

One of the reasons that Mascot Exhibition is so good is that learn/lesson makes it so that you always draw your bomb because you are playing so many copies of it.

The next big thing is that the mystical archive exists. For those of you here for the first time, that is the spell version of BROs retro artifacts. That means that every pack is going to have what is similar to an extra rare in it. There are some real limited clunkers in there (yeah, Channel we are talking about you), but also some extremely powerful things such as Demonic Tutor, Swords to Plowshares, and Time Warp  

As far as ranking the houses goes, almost everyone agrees that Silverquill is the best. The rest of them are similar in power level and really come down to personal preference. I have had plenty of trophies with every school and am perfectly happy taking whichever combination is wide open.

What makes Silverquill so great? It’s very fast and sometimes doesn’t give your opponents a chance to get out of the gate. It has access to cheap creatures and solid removal; it is basically playing on another level than the other combinations. If you were quick drafting, I would be telling you to mostly focus on forcing this and call it a day. Since draft is self-correcting and most drafters know that this is the best, you will most likely find the other combinations more easily available. If it’s open, then enjoy that free ride to a trophy, but you should be prepared to have to fight for it.  

One of the more egregious offenders in Silverquill is Killian, Ink Duelist which can lead to some of the most ridiculous turns that limited has ever seen. I Study Break two blockers, Expanded Anatomy my life linker with menace, and Mage Hunters' Onslaught your other creature. What did that cost? A lot less than everything, more like a grand total of four mana. It is a very fair and balanced card that you will not be upset about your opponent playing on turn two at all. (I hope my sarcasm does not have horsemanship here) Seriously though, Lash of Malice that thing on sight.

Lorehold is the other low to the ground, aggressive school which you probably assumed since it is Boros colors. The way I end up in this deck is when I start out in Silverquill, but end up getting a bunch of late red spells like Heated Debate.

I prefer to stick to the killing my opponent ASAP plan as opposed to trying to “do the thing” with Quintorius, Field Historian. It is a pretty big miss as far as signpost uncommons go.

Quandrix is all about ramping up to eight lands to trigger bonuses and dropping big fractals to smash face with. Both Quandrix Apprentice and Quandrix Cultivator are big game at uncommon while Quandrix Pledgemage can quickly get out of hand. Field Trip really helps you get their quicker while providing an excellent way to grab Fractal Summoning out of your sideboard. I’ve also found Scurrid Colony to be a key early play to prevent yourself form being ran over while still being a relevant threat later in the game.

Witherbloom is the life gain school. I’m sure you all just cringed a little, but it’s not as bad as that sounds. It uses incidental life gain for triggers instead of trying to gain a bunch of life. Basically, using Witherbloom Pledgemage and pest triggers to grow Blood Researcher out of control. A lot of its key cards do not work well with other schools so when it’s open, it’s wide open.

Prismari is the school that gets the most flack from people, but some of it is that it isn’t a straight forward deck to play. You need to properly navigate a deck that has a lot of air in it (Curate, Pop Quiz, etc…) before taking over in the late game with Serpentine Curves and Elemental Masterpieces to finish the job. That is not what most players are used to doing and they can run into some real problems against a great Silverquill deck.

A turn two Prismari Pledgemage can help alleviate some of that early pressure. You can even use that with Academic Dispute to wreck an unsuspecting creature. Let me tell you, destroying a turn two Killian with that is one of the best feelings you can get.

There was a running joke about calling it Joshmari because I kept ending up in it, but it was just because of how crazy open it was every draft. What are you supposed to do when you get passed ridiculous cards like Magma Opus or pick five Rootha, Mercurial Artist?

There are tales of a secret unnamed sixth house that consists of the Dimir colors. It is very similar to the Prismari deck composition with black instead of red. The main problem with this is that Silverquill is so heavily drafted that getting those quality black spells might be an issue. You are also giving up on campus lands (you can still play them for only one color, but they are obviously not as effective that way) and gold cards unless you want to splash. It is fine to end up in this deck if the table dictates it, do not go into the draft looking to force it.

Tips and Tricks

Mizzix's Mastery is much more than a ridiculous bomb, it is the most fun you can have in the set. It is Atraxa, Grand Unifier level shenanigans on a mono-colored card. Who doesn’t want to cast this for a good old fashioned ten for one.

Don’t mess around too much against the red mages, besides the Mizzix's Mastery shenanigans sometimes they can just cast Urza's Rage with kicker or Crackle with Power to kill you out of nowhere. One time I was screwing around during one of my streams and didn’t take the lethal that I had just explained before karma promptly kicked down my door with a Crackle. As you can imagine, Twitch chat definitely dropped that one right away and never brought it up again…

Combat Professor is probably a lot better than you think. Even though it is a four drop, feel free to stack as many as you get your grubby little hands on. Also remember that most of the time you want to play it precombat so you get the bonus that turn too.

Clever Lumimancer is a card that defines a game plan by itself. There are decks where it should never, ever be in and there are decks that it will make your opponent cry if it comes down on one. This means that if you are in that deck you should be able to get multiples where it can just go off with Show of Confidence.

Divine Gambit is totally fine removal especially in a world with huge Fractal Tokens running around. It can really put a hurting on Izzet since they are unlikely to have a relevant permanent to drop even earlier in the game.

As weird as it sounds, the campus lands are significantly better than the rare duals. If you end up in a top deck situation the player scying every turn is at a huge advantage. Even if you never scry, they are still two-color duals that come into play tapped which is pretty close to what you usually get out of the rare cycle.

This is much less controversial coming off of Dune Mover in ONE, but replacing a land with a Campus Guide is totally fine. It can help smooth your draw or enable a splash.

Speaking of splashing, Reconstruct History can do some real work in a Prismari spells deck.  

Another insanely fun deck to run is the Codie, Vociferous Codex pile. If you see it early, grab it and thank me later.

Don’t forget that Blue Sun's Zenith can hit the opponent to deck them out Stroke of Genius style.

Ward “counters” the spell if you don’t pay for it. Heated Debate can’t be countered so don’t be the sucker that pays three life to kill Owlin Shieldmage with it.

Sweepers

At least the mystical archive sweepers are mythics, but you do need to watch out for Day of Judgment and Crux of Fate.

Culling Ritual can do a lot more work than most people anticipate. All the fractals having a mana value of zero along with a decent number of low to the ground creatures means that it will almost always get something. There are also times where it just devastates their side while letting you double spell. It is not a bomb or anything, but it is a very underrated card.

Draconic Intervention can be powered off of a discarded Elemental Masterpiece to be almost a catchall sweeper. In a lot of cases, it will be tweaked to be a bit more in your favor. Guess my giant fractals live, sorry about your side of the board. One of the nice things about it is that Prismari’s playstyle lets you play random spells without looking like you are setting them up for a sweeper.

The backside of Selfless Glyphweaver can be game ending, but it costs eight mana with triple black so you don’t have to worry about it until much later.  I could technically throw Crackle with Power in the sweeper section, but that usually just removes the opponent from the game.

Tricks

In a building filled with students, there are bound to be quite a few pranks pulled. That means there are a lot of tricks floating around and putting your opponent on the correct one is often a pretty huge swing in the game state.

You really must be careful about wasting removal with Professor's Warning, Beaming Defiance and Snakeskin Veil all floating around.

There are a bunch of random pump spells like Infuriate, Big Play Enthusiastic Study, and Sudden Breakthrough. Think through your opponent’s actions and you can usually figure out which one it is. Does it seem like they are holding a couple green up when you have a flyer, it is probably Big Playso don’t walk into it.

I’m talking about Fortifying Draught separately because there are times it is almost a combo card in Witherbloom. If they lead a Cram Session into this, that is already plus six power and toughness for one mana. It can get crazy with multiples or with Witherbloom Apprentice. It is definitely something that you need to be thinking about when Witherbloom is bringing the noise.

Speaking of Witherbloom things, Infuse with Vitality destroys multi blocks which a lot of their creatures encourage. One time I had an opponent stack five creatures on a single Blood Researcher, let us just say they failed that class.  

Arcane Subtraction is something to look for if your opponent is offering a trade that seems a little too good to be true. It’s also a good reason not to attack in when they suspiciously hold up two mana.  

Bury in Books is one of those cards that performed much better than expected. It does have a tell if your opponent suddenly gets priority when you are attacking into three mana. That’s a good sign you shouldn’t be using a trick on your creature.

Defend the Campus is the pump all creatures spell that can also takeout a big creature. It is much more of a Bo3 card since it is buns against Silverquill.

Counterspells

Thanks to the wonders of the mystical archive, we get to play with OG Counterspell. If it was good enough for alpha, it is good enough now. (Disclaimer: this actually doesn’t apply to most of Alpha, there were a lot of really bad cards in that set. Seriously can you imagine playing Purelace )

It also throws Memory Lapse in the mix, which is everything from an amazing tempo card to a wrecking ball when you use it on a trick. You can’t forget about the old Time Walk a mana screwed opponent thing either.

I would be a terrible person if I did not at least mention Mana Tithe. It’s that card every one forgets about and then suddenly your screenshot is getting passed around discord for walking your bomb into it.

There are a large selection of situational counters floating around including Test of Talentsand Negate. Yet again, these are much better in Bo3, but that is not available.

Decisive Denial and Whirlwind Denial are your classic Mana Leak variations. You are much more likely to run into Decisive Denial since it has the fallback option of being an instant speed fight spell.

Divide by Zero is unsurprisingly really good. If only it could bounce fractals…

Bombs

These are the Pack One Pick One (p1p1) no doubt, windmill slam, just take them rares of the set. These are not in rank order, just take these over any non-mythic uncommon or common. There are actually a lot more in this set, but these are the big ones.

Mythic Uncommons

These might be uncommons, but they sure don’t play like they are.

Do Not Draft List

These are the ones that some people talk themselves into, but you should always pass.

Wrap Up

I hope you are as pumped as I am to be heading back to Strixhaven. This is where I leave you because I have to run to Professor Onyx‘s necromancy class now because students are dying to get in. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon with all of the Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered coverage for you. Until then, stay classy people!

I’m always open to feedback, let me know what you loved, what you hated, or just send dog pics. You can contact me at:

Iroas, God of Victory Art

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j2sjosh
j2sjosh

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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