Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this article, I first want to say how happy I am to be writing this piece. Limited content has become a rarity for me, but after hitting number one Mythic in Limited on MTG Arena, I believe I have earned my stripes as far as Strixhaven is concerned. My goal is to help you use some of the principles I picked up along the way, as this is one of the most enjoyable Limited formats I have played in a long time. The 10 tips here will definitely help you to succeed at this format.
Let's start with perhaps the most obvious, but also most important point when it comes to Strixhaven Limited, the Lesson and learn cards. These cards add an additional element to drafting unlike anything we have ever seen before. No longer are you shooting for 23-24 solid playables. Instead, Lessons become an extension of your deck, and that means more of your draft picks matter.
You almost always want to have Lessons in your sideboard. While it is possible to maindeck them, they tend to be slightly less powerful by themselves compared to your other cards. Their real value is that they can be tutored up by cards with the learn ability. Having a good ratio of learn to Lessons is key, as having one without the other doesn't really work. Ideally you have about the same amount of both. While you can loot with your learn cards, it is rare that you want to do so.
For the most part, the more learn and Lesson spells you have the better, so long as you end up having enough cards to fill out a deck without maindecking your Lessons. Every learn card in the format is playable, as even the ones like Arcane Subtraction or Cram Session I thought wouldn't be that great have overperformed. You also want to diversify your Lessons, as having two copies of the same Lesson is much less valuable than two different ones. Part of the power gained from learn is being able to have flexibility in which Lesson to grab.
While it is possible to draft a deck without any learn cards or Lessons it's not something I would advise, and certainly not what I would aim for. Learn cards are essentially card advantage, which is always going to be extremely important.
This card has been consistently rising in my pick orders. I already talked about the importance of Lessons, and outside of Mascot Exhibition there is no other Lesson I would rather start my draft with. In two-color decks I often find myself grabbing Environmental Sciences as my first lesson to ensure hitting land drops, and the 2 life you gain is often quite relevant. However, the card also enables splashes and adding colors to your deck as well.
You can for instance now splash multiple cards in your deck by playing only one basic land that can cast those splash cards. You just need learn cards that can find Environmental Sciences, which then enables access to your splash color.
The learn cards are some of the best cards in the set. While sometimes you can grab a marginal Lesson later in drafts if you really need one, I don't find this happens as often when talking about the learn cards. There are learn cards I would consider playing even if they didn't have learn, which says a lot about their power level.
There are some rares with a super high power level like Gnarled Professor, Dream Strix, Poet's Quill, Retriever Phoenix, and Sparring Regimen. Of course, these are all basically bombs, or at least you are always first picking them over any uncommon. Even as you drop down out of rares and mythics, we have cards like Professor of Symbology and Igneous Inspiration, perhaps the two best uncommons in Strixhaven. The only learn card I don't usually play is First Day of Class, but everything else should be a priority.
This comes down to draft preferences, but a lot of this is now accepted as truth between many top Limited players. Strixhaven has five different key color combinations that can be drafted, and naturally some end up performing a bit better than others.
Blue is the best color, and white is the worst. This leaves Prismari and Quandrix at the top, with Silverquill and Lorhold at the bottom, while Witherbloom is somewhere in between. I would say around 75% of my drafts end up being base blue because I have that significant color preference.
The blue cards naturally provide more card advantage, whether through straight-up card draw, or big-mana spells like Elemental Masterpiece that end up creating multiple threats in a single card. This is going to create a late-game advantage.
Normally the way to beat card advantage is to go under those decks with aggression. However, this is simply not a very aggressive format. Typically you see white-red decks being purely beatdown, but here we have cards like Reconstruct History, Lorehold Excavation, or even Quintorius, Field Historian. These are not aggressive cards, just the opposite. They can provide card advantage, but then oftentimes your deck becomes disjointed, trying to be aggressive and have a good late game at the same time, and things start to fall apart. The blue decks usually have enough stuff to win in late games, even if you try to be a slower white based deck.
I think most players are taught to draft decks with about 14-16 creatures and 8-10 noncreature spells. Throw that completely out the window, especially when drafting blue in Strixhaven. I have had successful decks with as few as 3 creature spells in this format.
Part of the reason for this is that you have more cards with payoffs for having lots of instants and sorceries, like Symmetry Sage or Quandrix Apprentice. It is very possible to draft around cards like Serpentine Curve that really want the majority of your deck to be instants and sorceries.
Also, we have many ways to generate tokens, whether they be Pests, Fractals, Elementals, or something else. While players often won't include token generators when counting their creatures, there is no reason not to.
Perhaps the biggest reason why the ratios are so off in this format is that you can go search up Summonings out of the sideboard to generate creatures with your learn cards. All of a sudden your Pop Quiz or Field Trip is actually a creature as well. Beyond this, there are also some bombs that basically kill the opponent without needing many actual creatures like Crackle with Power or Mizzix's Mastery.
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I'm not used to drafting in a format with so many different cards of such varying power levels, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. This is a format where you can actually run into straight-up Lightning Bolt, Counterspell, or Swords to Plowshares, to name a few classic cards that seem like they don't exactly fit in with most of the Strixhaven stuff. These are generic good cards, but they are very much a part of the draft format.
Part of what the Mystical Archive cards do besides adding to the power level of decks is create an additional layer of complexity to the games themselves. There are way more cards to try to play around than in a traditional format. Whether you are getting blown out by Mana Tithe or getting your board swept by Crux of Fate, there are a lot of unusual things that can happen. This makes the format more fun, but also difficult to play. Definitely do your homework, and know the cards that can be opened from the Mystical Archive.
This is a format where I'm not just happy splashing—playing three or more colors is relatively normal. Even five-color decks can be successful. While I'm usually looking to be a two color deck going into the draft, it doesn't always work out. Oftentimes you get pushed into adding additional colors to your deck, because you have to fight with other players for your main school, or because you simply open some easily splashable cards.
A classic example is starting in Quandrix (which is probably the easiest college to splash from because of cards like Cultivate), and playing some copies of Elemental Masterpiece you pick up late, and maybe a Mortality Spear or Flunk to add some more removal. It's easier to add cards of a school that touches one of your main colors, as it gives you access to additional strong multicolored spells, and you can grab Campuses to help enable the splash. You don't need to add another color just for a rare or mythic here.
This is a format with quite a lot of mana fixing. It's important to keep an eye on what fixing you have access to, as that is also going to have a major impact on how many colors your deck can support. I already talked about Environmental Sciences, the card that is the highest priority in terms of mana fixing. After that though we have the Campuses, which I still think people need to be taking higher. Even if drafting a straight two-color deck you really want at least one Campus—the color fixing is very relevant, as is the ability to scry later in games.
There are also green-based ramp spells like Cultivate, Field Trip, and Emergent Sequence that play nicely alongside the idea that green can be a big mana deck. Green is often going to be the base color for your three, four, and five color decks because of these cards.
There also are a few colorless options that can go in any deck though. These should be the lowest in your pick orders because not many decks want to play them, but they can still be very important in the right deck. Campus Guide and Letter of Acceptance fall into this category, as well as Archway Commons to a lesser extent.
Due to the multicolor nature of this format, I believe that players are trying to force their way into specific schools based on their first pick or two of pack one. This is a very easy pitfall that applies to other formats, but is more apparent in a format like Srixhaven that has a number of very strong multicolor rares you can open.
For instance, your first pick of the draft might be one of the best rares in the set in Dramatic Finale. While this is an amazing rare, it really only fits in Silverquill. You can try to make the mana work in Lorehold or Witherbloom, but that often won't work out very well. You open Dramatic Finale, and only take white and black cards for the rest of the draft, even though you can tell someone close by to you is also drafting Silverquill. Classic mistake.
I will first pick a card like Dramatic Finale, don't get me wrong, but I'm also willing to abandon it quite quickly. Maybe my second pick of the draft is a Quandrix Apprentice because it's the best card in the pack. Don't be afraid to wait a little while before committing to your colors. If you can get into a school that nobody else at the table is drafting, the payoff is massive.
My most-drafted card in Strixhaven is Bury in Books, and it's not close. This does not mean the card is insane, I still have it behind a common like Heated Debate in my pick orders, but not by much. First picking a Bury in Books is very reasonable, but I still get them very late in drafts, so it seems people don't value them as highly as I do. Two copies is the sweet spot for most of your blue decks, though you don't really want too many of them.
There are a couple of reasons this is such an important card in the format. The first is that it deals with large tokens, and there really is not a lot of removal that deals with those in the Temur colors. I like to draft slower Prismari decks, but if your opponent casts a Leyline Invocation and you can't answer that Fractal it is a massive issue.
Bury in Books is also a way to help blue decks not get run over early in games. You can use this to buy time by casting it on the opponent's turn while they are attacking, sometimes for as little as two mana if you have a Spectacle Mage in play. You can use this card in combat to great effect, and if your opponent has the mana up to cast it, you need to respect it..
For the most part this is best in slower blue decks as you often want to find a spot to cast your Bury in Books during the opponent's attacks, but it's versatile enough that you can use it in a ton of different situations to great effect. The card is still going way too late in drafts, for what is easily a top 5 common in the set.
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Hopefully these tips will help you at the draft tables. Keep in mind though that formats can change and develop over time. Maybe in a few weeks from now blue will become overdrafted and I will start drafting it less for example, but for now I'm sticking with what's been working for me, to make it up the Mythic ladder!