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Top 10 Lesson Cards in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Academic Probation mtg

Academic Probation mtg

Lessons and Learning in Magic

Magic's lessons and learn mechanic were fittingly introduced in the university-focused Strixhaven set. Some spells let you "learn," which means you either discard a card to draw a new one or add a card with the "lesson" subtype from your sideboard to hand.

Lessons tend to be a bit weaker than standard cards, but when thought of as a bonus to learn spells, they're a unique mechanic that lets you tutor based on your situation. But which lessons do you really need to learn? These are the ten strongest lesson cards in Magic: The Gathering!

Illuminate History mtg

Illuminate History mtg

10. Illuminate History

CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4

Illuminate takes a hefty chunk of four mana but lets you loot, discarding any cards from hand to draw that many. Then, if your graveyard contains seven or more, you create a 3/2 spirit token, a relatively strong token you can also summon with…

Spirit Summoning mtg

Spirit Summoning mtg

9. Spirit Summoning

CMC: 3

Spirit Summoning lacks any sort of bonus effect, but it's cheaper than Illuminate and accepts either red or white mana, simply creating a 3/2 spirit. That's a better cost-to-stat ratio than other hybrid creature-lessons, and the token works well with Boros legendary Winota Joiner of Forces (who plays a human from your deck when you attack with a non-human).

Introduction to Annihilation mtg

Introduction to Annihilation mtg

8. Introduction to Annihilation

CMC: 5

Annihilation is one of the most expensive lessons at five mana, plus it lets whoever you target draw a card. But to compensate, it can exile any non-land (denying graveyard recovery) and takes any type of mana. If you absolutely need a removal and don't have one in hand, it can really save your bacon, but if you're running green, instead consider…

Containment Breach mtg

Containment Breach mtg

7. Containment Breach

CMC: 3

Breach destroys an artifact or enchantment, and if its cost was two or less, you also create a 1/1 pest token that gives you one life when it dies. That's a nice bonus, especially for creature-sacing decks, but don't be afraid to use Breach on permanents costing three or more, as it's still a great removal against threats like Embercleave and The Great Henge.

Necrotic Fumes mtg

Necrotic Fumes mtg

6. Necrotic Fumes

CMC: 3

Fumes requires you exile a creature you control to cast it, but when it resolves, it exiles a creature or planeswalker. Use it with token or zombie-swarming decks where you won't mind exiling your fodder to banish a big threat with an affordable mana cost.

Fractal Summoning mtg

Fractal Summoning mtg

5. Fractal Summoning

CMC: X+2

Fractal summoning creates an X/X fractal token, where X is the excess mana paid after the first two. Normally, this isn't the best lesson, but it can work well late-game when you're sitting on tons of mana but low on spells. More than that, it's great when you need an outlet for infinite mana, letting you summon an infinitely strong creature.

Mascot Exhibition mtg

Mascot Exhibition mtg

4. Mascot Exhibition

CMC: 7

While it's the most mana-demanding lesson, Exhibition takes any colors and summons not one but three tokens: the Silverquill 2/1 flying inkling, the Lorehold 3/2 spirit, and the Prismari 4/4 elemental!

Environmental Sciences mtg

Environmental Sciences mtg

3. Environmental Sciences

CMC: 2

Sciences is a nice option simply because it's one of few two-cost lessons and can go in any deck thanks to its colorless cost. It tutors any basic land from your deck, giving you two life as a bonus. Heck, if this makes the difference in meeting your turn's land play, its cost basically goes down to one, and it can help multi-color decks find missing colors.

I find myself learning Sciences more often than expected, and thankfully, it's easy to obtain a copy; score your own for just one dollar!

Confront the Past mtg

Confront the Past mtg

2. Confront the Past

CMC: X+1

Past offers two options, either returning a planeswalker costing X or less from your graveyard to the field, or removing twice X loyalty from an opponent's planeswalker. Versatile and powerful, I'm more than happy to revive a planeswalker for one extra mana.

Just watch out for counterspells; since you reveal lessons added to hand, your opponents will know what you're up to.

Teachings of the Archaics mtg

Teachings of the Archaics mtg

1. Teachings of the Archaics

CMC: 3

Relatively inexpensive and only needing one colored mana in its cost, Archaics lets you draw two cards as long as an opponent has more cards in hand than you. Or, if they have four or more in hand, you draw three cards instead!

That's a surprisingly potent effect for a lesson spell, and it only gets easier to achieve in multiplayer games.

Can You Use Lessons in Commander Format?

Something to note about today's cards is that commander mode doesn't have well-established sideboard rules, and since the sideboard is where your lessons stem from, you could be denied access to them. However, it really depends on your gaming group, and in my personal experience, most are okay with lessons (which, while useful, are rarely part of game-ending combos).

If worst comes to worst, you'll have to use the alternative learn effect of discarding to draw a new card, so be sure to communicate or have cards to replace your learn spells if your group doesn't allow them. But for now, vote your favorite Strixhaven lesson and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2021 Jeremy Gill

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