Strixhaven: School of Mages
Strixhaven: School of Mages is the 87th Magic expansion and is based on Arcavios, specifically in the northeast of the continent of Orrithia. Strixhaven is the largest university for magicians in all Arcavios and is renowned throughout the plane. Those who want to reach it must follow the braziers placed on top of imposing columns, which indicate the way with their inextinguishable magical flames.
Once inside the school, we find the five colleges, which correspond to five pairs of enemy colors and constitute the archetypes of the draft of the expansion.
This does not mean that it is not possible to draft allied colors or opt for a tricolor deck, but they may be less thematically related or may have less support in terms of mana fixing or mana curve.
What Are the Five Colleges?
- Colors: Black and White
- Mascot: 2/1 White and Black inkling creature token with flying
This draft archetype focuses mainly on the aggro role and uses the mechanics of the expansion to create flying tokens and to temporarily enhance your creatures in combat. The flying tokens are difficult to block. Usually, its creatures are not impressive in size, and therefore they will try to swarm in numbers against the opponent.
- Colors: Black and Green
- Mascot: 1/1 Black and Green pest creature token with "When this creature dies, you gain 1 life."
This archetype focuses mainly on playing a midrange role, whereas Green is mainly concerned with gaining life points that can be used by Black to acquire new skills or cards to use. Usually, creature size is above average, with some rather massive single cards. In these cases, however, there are important drawbacks to balance everything.
- Colors: Green and Blue
- Mascot: 0/0 Green and Blue fractal creature token (starting with at least a + 1 / + 1 counter on it)
This archetype focuses mainly on playing a tempo deck role. Green is used for the ramp, while Blue is in charge of interfering with the opponent's plays until their creatures are big enough to guarantee victory in a few attacks. Even fractal creatures with cards that add + 1 / + 1 counters can become a threat if allowed to grow over time.
In this archetype, there is also a secondary mechanic on the control of eight or more lands that can provide additional bonuses to the creatures.
- Colors: Blue and Red
- Mascot: 4/4 Blue and Red elemental creature token
This archetype focuses mainly on playing the largest possible spells to impact the game. In order to do so, it uses various means, such as the reduction of casting costs and the temporary ramp provided by the treasure tokens. However, to make sure it doesn't run out of spells to cast, it uses the draw through exile provided by Red or the card advantage provided by Blue.
In this archetype, there is also a secondary mechanic present in a "vertical cycle" (consisting of a mythic rare card + an uncommon card + a common card) where you can discard the card to get a treasure token.
- Colors: Red and White
- Mascot: 3/2 Red and White spirit creature token
This archetype focuses mainly on using the graveyard to obtain additional effects and resources. In fact, there are cards that get additional bonuses when the graveyard reaches a certain size or that provide token creatures when cards are removed from the graveyard.
Generally, this type of deck can function as board control with the removal of Red and White, neutralizing the opponent's possible threats and then giving the final blow with the 3/2 creature tokens.
Don't Forget the Mystical Archive!
The Mystical Archive is a secret section of the Biblioplex that contains some of the most powerful and iconic spells from the past of Magic: The Gathering, which will be present within the boosters.
These cards will occupy an additional slot and will have the following rarity:
- Uncommon: 67%
- Rare: 24.6%
- Mythic rare: 6.6%
This means that, in some cases, boosters may feature two rare or mythic rare cards.
Cards in the Mystical Archive
The Mystical Archive can offer new cards that you would not normally have access to and could lead to unexpected events during the draft.
These cards will also be usable for deck building, and depending on how many powerful cards we find, they can really give our deck a considerable boost.
Among the best, we can mention the following (among many others):
- Day of Judgment
- Swords to Plowshares
- Time Warp
- Mind's Desire
- Demonic Tutor
- Tendrils of Agony
Other Useful Tips
Now that we have seen the general characteristics of the different Strixhaven colleges, it is time to delve into the other useful information for the draft in detail.
Strixhaven is the first set to use an "Instant and Sorcery Matters" mechanic. This type of mechanic was used for certain archetypes (such as the Blue-Red one), but it had never been used as the backbone of a whole expansion until now.
In order to make this mechanic effective, some changes have been made to the structure of the set by increasing the number of sorceries and instants compared to the average. Therefore, the other types of cards have been reduced.
As a result, the overall number of creatures is slightly lower than normal, while sorcery that generates creature tokens has been slightly increased (this is a trick used in set design to balance card types). This leads to a disadvantage in the variety of creatures, as tokens will usually always be the same size (barring combat tricks or other effects), which leads to a consideration of average power and toughness values.
Power and Toughness Values
Given similar creatures, the variance of average power and toughness per color fluctuates in a smaller range. Therefore, it will be easier for creatures that exceed these thresholds to be considered much better than average.
For example, if we are up against a Lorehold deck (with 3/2 token creatures), all of our creatures that have a toughness greater than three will gain an important competitive advantage (such as 4/4 elemental tokens). Similarly, all of our creatures with strength 2 or greater can be useful for destroying their tokens—which could be a problem for 1/1 pest tokens or small fractals. Instead, 2/1 inkling tokens could be useful. Many non-token cards hover on 2/2, so all X / 3 creatures tend to have a slight advantage.
Reading Draft "Signals"
Another important point for the draft is to be able to start with a pair of colors and to be able to change it during the picks in order to adapt to the "signals" that come to us from nearby players.
Since the five colleges are contested by as many as eight players in the draft, there is a competition to grab the best cards for these colleges. So, it's important to read the signals in the correct way, and understanding whether you have an open combination or if you have to compete with the other players can be crucial.
With signals in the draft, we mean all the boosters that come to us from previous players where cards of a specific color are missing or where the best cards have already been taken.
For example, if we think of Drafting Silverquill (Black-White) and we realize that there could be another player nearby interested in this combination of colors (for example, we are not handed White or Black cards), we could think of moving to Witherbloom (dropping White for Green) or Lorehold (dropping Black for Red) with relative ease. Or, if we find something really interesting, we could move on to the tricolor.
Adapting to the Signals
This also allows us to be able to draft cards with hybrid mana costs to be able to fill the holes in our mana curve. Alternatively, we could also take the deans from neighboring colleges and add a simple splash of color to the deck or just play the half we need.
If the deck we have in mind can already be outlined, we could try to take some additional lessons or some cards with magecraft in our colors. This would improve the overall performance of the deck and offer more options for our cards with learning, but this does not have to be the main purpose; we don't want to risk throwing away too many useful picks. We'd only do this towards the end of the draft—and only when the relief cards begin to lack.
© 2021 Christian Allasia