It’s almost time for school, as Magic the Gathering’s next set takes us to Strixhaven: School of Mages. With a particular focus on instants and sorceries, Strixhaven is full of powerful spells to cast. But if you really want to see one of the five distinct colleges to victory, you’ll have to get to know the new mechanics and best cards coming in the set.
Magecraft, Learn and Ward
Strixhaven: School of Mages introduces two new mechanics in Magecraft and Learn. Magecraft is an ability found on many permanents, like Leonin Lightscribe or Archmage Emeritus, that triggers whenever you cast or copy an instant or a sorcery spell. Think of it like a more powerful Prowess, as it lets you do things like draw cards, add +1/+1 counters, or create Treasure tokens. The best thing is this applies for copies of spells as well, meaning stuff like Double Vision or Mnemonic Deluge can really make your board pop off.
The second new mechanic is Learn. Whenever you Learn, you’re allowed to search outside the game (usually your sideboard, but if you’re playing casually it could be your entire collection) for a Lesson card and put it into your hand. Lessons are generally instants and sorceries, letting you keep your more situational cards out of your main deck, but still in reach for when you need them. For instance, Igneous Inspiration deals three damage, then lets you Learn and go grab something like Environmental Sciences, which lets you get an extra land!
For formats that don’t let you bring things from outside the game, like Commander, Learn also lets you draw a card, and then discard one. While not as powerful, rummaging for the answers you need is always handy!
Finally, there is a new keyword joining the game alongside the likes of Flying, Haste and Trample: Ward. At first, Ward sounds like a lesser Hexproof or Shroud, as it counters any spell any opponent targets it with unless they pay the listed cost. However, unlike Hexproof, Ward doesn’t stop your creature from being targeted, it counters the spell if they don’t pay the extra amount, giving you the chance to sneakily take out the big hitter removal spells in your opponent’s hand!
One of the most exciting things about Strixhaven: School of Mages is the Mystical Archive. Every single booster pack will have at least one guaranteed card from the Mystical Archive, a selection of instants and sorceries from across Magic’s history printed with new, striking art styles.
The Archive features some really powerful cards, like Time Warp, Counterspell, Approach of the Second Sun, Demonic Tutor and Dark Ritual, meaning you could pick up some of the most useful cards in your favourite formats in a simple Draft booster pack! Best of all, Collector’s boosters will include at least three Mystical Archive cards, with one of them being one of the exclusive Japanese versions, which feature gorgeous alternate art.
The Mystical Archive is by far the thing I’m most excited for about Strixhaven. The art is fantastic, and there’s some real power up for grabs here!
Even outside of the Mystical Archive, Strixhaven has some really exciting new cards to play with.
My personal highlight are the double-faced Dean cards, which represent the Deans of each of Strixhaven’s five colleges (the red/white Lorehold, the black/white Silverquill, the black/green Witherbloom, the blue/green Quandrix, and the blue/red Prismari). I can’t wait to build a Commander deck around the Quandrix Deans, Kianne, Dean of Substance and Imbraham, Dean of Theory, focused on exiling cards and making them always available to me. The double-sided Planeswalker card, Rowan, Scholar of Sparks and Will, Scholar of Ice is also going to make those Prismari decks pop!
For those Planeswalker-heavy Superfriends decks, Kasmina, Enigma Sage is an absolute must-have. All other Planeswalkers you control also have her abilities, letting you tick up Planeswalkers that aren’t normally able to do so, like Narset, Parter of Veils or Kasmina, Enigmatic Tutor.
Finally, it may not look like much, but Elite Spellbinder is also definitely one to keep an eye out for. Being able to exile cards from your opponent’s hand, and make them more expensive, can really disrupt your opponent and almost completely shut down sneaky combat tricks, like the ever-popular Embercleave. Pop this cleric in a blink deck (maybe even with Ikoria’s Drannith Magistrate) and you’ll be causing major problems with it every turn!
Strixhaven is a set bursting with flavour and powerful spells to sling. Best thing is, we’re also getting an extra dollop of it in the Commander 2021 decks, which are all also set at the school! Pick your college, get to class, and get ready to throw down your best cards!