Strixhaven Limited Review

Published: 04/09/2021

Welcome to my initial analysis of Strixhaven. These are my first impressions so things may be wrong. Let me know if you disagree with any of my opinions.

Miscellaneous

Main Themes

Lessons

I love the learn/lesson mechanic so much. As anyone who has played edh with me will tell you, I really like playing bad cards. And learn/lesson is a great reason to play two bad cards! Not a single lesson less than rare would be playable in a 2021 limited deck. The learners are a little better but the commons are also unplayable without lessons to fetch.

I like what this mechanic will do to drafts. Once upon a time it was a challenge to get to 23 playables in a limited deck. Sets were full of one drops which didn't have 20 lines of text and cycles of auras that were dunce caps in disguise. But lately it feels like every draft I waffle between colors the whole first pack and end up with 26 playables and sealed pool and every sealed pool could be any two colors basically. If you want to play with lessons you need to get at least a little past 23. Depending on how many learners you picked up you'll probably want to get to 26 or 27 total playables. Lessons not going in your main deck means there are 9 unplayable commons. Which is quite a bit. The presence of lessons will make it riskier to speculate during draft and harder to spend picks picking up random sideboard cards.

There are four colorless common lessons, one hybrid common for each color combination, one uncommon and rare for each color and one colorless mythic. Even the rares wouldn't be super tempting to put in your main deck.

Multicolor

Strixhaven is a multicolor set with the five enemy colored pairs represented. Each enemy color pair has 6 total commons. Three gold and three hybrid. This is a lot. The most recent comparison is to the latest two Ravnica sets. Each featured a disjoint set of five guilds. Those sets only had 3 gold and 1 hybrid common for each guild so this set has 50% more multicolored at common. At higher rarities the numbers are comparable with 30 total multicolored cards for stx at uncommon and 30 at rare or mythic compared to 32 and 34 respectively for RNA.

In some sense the enemy hybrid cards are an incentive to play allied colors. If you play an allied color combination you have access to 4/5ths of the hybrid cards compared to 3/5ths for the enemy color combinations. This effect will likely be dwarfed by the importance of access to the powerful gold cards. The draw to be a Tarkir shard color combination will be quite large.

Each enemy pair has it's own synergy emphasis. They're of varying importance. My first impression is the Temur color combinations will want to go hard on spells and synergy whereas the other color combinations are more about just building good limited decks.

WB: counters

The signpost gold cards Exhilarating Elocution image and Spiteful Squad image introduce the theme. At uncommon there are a ton of good cards that incidentally give you a counter: Closing Statement image, Humiliate image, Shadewing Laureate image.

In monocolor there's Star Pupil image, Guiding Voice image, Novice Dissector image and Promising Duskmage image. There are also a few cards that seemed designed to carry counters. Such as Unwilling ingredient image and Arrogant Poet image.

BG: life gain

Every single BG common either gains life or rewards you for gaining life. That said the rewards tend to be a lot more interesting than the enablers. Magic players don't get out of bed to just gain 2 life. Outside of Blood Researcher image you have to get creative to find payoffs for gaining life at common. Arrogant Poet image and Crushing Disappointment image are sort of pay offs in that it's a lot easier to pay life when you're gaining it. At uncommon there's Dina, Soul Steeper image, Fortifying Draught image and Honor Troll image. All the payoffs should be almost always good since there's so much incidental life gain.

GU: 8 lands

In green and blue there are a variety of cards which care about you having 8 lands in play. At common that's Vortex Runner image and Scurrid Colony image and at uncommon Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy image and Kelpie Guide image. It's sort of a fun line of text to make cards scale into the late game.

Of course the general idea is to build a ramp deck and not to focus on "8 lands". CCards like Eureka Moment image and Field Trip image will help you ramp. Leyline Invocation image is a sweet payoff though you might want some Charge through images if that's your primary plan.

Also look for Environmental Sciences image to go with your field trip images. The ramp decks usually want to take whatever the most powerful payoffs they see are.

UR: instants/sorceries in graveyard

This is the deck I'm most looking forward to drafting. I love the tension between cards like Serpentine Curve image which reward you for having a lot of instants and sorceries hanging out in your graveyard and cards like Fuming Effigy image, Tome Shredder image and Pillardrop Warden image which reward you for taking cards out of your graveyard. It'll lead to interesting and difficult sequencing decisions.

Temur in particular seems attractive because I imagine the spell decks will be interested in playing Charge through image and Leyline Invocation image.

Note also the presence of magecraft in the set. There are 5 hybrid commons and one white one. The UR one itself doesn't seem particularly attractive unless you need the two drop but the adjacent ones seem very powerful.

The color combination also has instant/sorcery payoffs that aren't strictly about them being in the graveyard like, Maelstrom Muse image, Practical Research image, Rootha, Mercurial Artist image and many others.

RW spirits

This color combination is probably more about building a good aggressive curve then a real spirits tribal deck. But spirits are neatly contained in Boros. There are no stray blue spirits. Spirit payoffs are: Blood Age General image, Lorehold Apprentice image, Quintorius, Field Historian image and Returned Pastcaller image.

Boros has significant overlap with it's neighbor izzet's plan. Cards like Stonebound Mentor image and Thrilling Discovery image are major spells payoffs. I'm not sure if there are distinct 'spirits' and 'spells' boros decks one should be aiming at or it's more accurate to just focus on taking good cards in boros and see what spell and spirit doodads you pick up.

Commons Ranking

This is my tentative ordering of common power level. I prefer ranking to ratings because power level isn't constant set to set. I haven't yet played with the cards so these are just my first impressions and of course some cards power levels vary greatly on synergies. Let me know if I'm over or under rating anything.

Also note in the multicolored sections I ranked gold cards than hybrid cards as I don't feel it makes sense to compare them directly. Only 1/10 two color combinations can play a given gold card but 7/10 combinations can play a given hybrid card.

White [+]

Blue [+]

Black [+]

Red [+]

Green [+]

Orzhov [+]

Izzet [+]

Golgari [+]

Boros [+]

Simic [+]

Colorless [+]

Instants

common

uncommon

rare

mythic