Last updated on April 13, 2021

Strixhaven preliminary pick order feature image

You gotta love it — right now is the most exciting time of year here at Draftsim. Strixhaven: School of Mages preview season is over and we’ve finally got our hands on the full spoiler. Draftsim even got three cards to preview this time around!

Everyone under the sun is doing set reviews and you all have been slamming the draft simulator trying to get a feel for the new Strixhaven draft format. And now that means it’s time for everyone’s favorite two things — data and pick orders.

What I’m about to show you is the average pick number of each card in Strixhaven over the course of many drafts.

I did an analysis similar to this one for Kaldheim and received a lot of feedback on Reddit mainly revolving around two points:

  • Analyses like these are “worthless” because the drafters have never played the format and there are no consequences for experimentation.
  • Lists like this shouldn’t be used as a pick order because card x or y is too high up on the list.

In general, while I’m actually sympathetic to these arguments, I still think there is a lot of value in making this list.

  • You get to see how other people en masse value the cards — what are they prioritizing?
  • You can learn a lot about the relative power level of the cards. The order of cards on the list ends up representing it pretty well.
  • If a card’s position is way off from your or an expert’s opinion, there’s probably something pretty interesting there to discuss and learn from!

So to me, this exercise is very compelling, and is a far cry from being “worthless.”

OK with that out of the way, a quick word about this particular format.

Strixhaven Draft Is Unique

This set is quite a bear. We’ve got two unique sheets/slots in a Strixhaven draft booster:

Mystical Archive Cards

These are some of the most iconic instants and sorceries in Magic’s history. Many of them are quite powerful, and there is one in every single draft booster pack. This has a huge impact on the draft format and injects a lot more variety and variability in the decks you’ll see from draft-to-draft. Plus who doesn’t love Lightning Bolting someone’s face?

I’ve included the Mystical Archive cards in the pick order because these are such a large part of the draft format. I think any discussion without considering them would be meaningless.

Lesson Cards

Lessons are original-to-Strixhaven cards that are one half of the Lesson-Learn mechanic. If you play a learn card, you get the option to grab a lesson card of your choice from your sideboard.

For some reason, the mythic, rare, and common lesson cards have their own dedicated slot, so you’re guaranteed one per pack. But you also can get an uncommon lesson card in the regular uncommon slot.

Combined, these dynamics make for So. Many. Cards. So let’s buckle up and dig in.

The Data

As with the last article, my data is based on over 50,000 drafts from April 3 – April 9 on our draft simulator:

If you used the simulator this past week and helped to provide data, thank you! I think you’re awesome.

Here’s the raw data that this analysis will be based off of, if you’re interested:

The Pick Order

All the usual caveats about pick orders apply — they’re almost useless after pack 1, pick 1, but they can help you understand more about the power level of cards in the set.

Here we go! These are subcategorized into different tiers, but they’re very broad and can change drastically based on the context of your pool.

Bombs and Slam First Picks (Picks 1-1.3)

While there is a bit of a difference between the top and bottom of this list, don’t worry — you should be first picking these cards. They are essentially all tied for “take this right away” status.

I think it’s pretty funny that some of the greats and “broken cards” of Magic’s past such as Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt can’t hold a candle to many of the rares in the set. I know this is limited and all, but it’s amusing to see so many cards above these all-time greats.

You do see a lot of deans/MDFCs in this upper echelon. They’re mostly all incredible. The optionality that they give you in your draft (the ability to either go one color/side or play both) is amazing. I would be very happy to start my draft with one of them.

Nice First Picks (Picks 1.4-1.7)

Here we’ve got our first couple of uncommons – both very efficient efficient removal with extra value tacked on. Kill something and Demonic Tutor from my sideboard? Yes please!

I think Daemogoth Titan might stick out a little bit here. After listening to some great set reviews from other content creators, I have come around to the opinion that its uncommon counterpart Daemogoth Woe-Eater is likely better.

Reasonable First Picks (Picks 1.8-2.9)

We’ve got the last of the MDFCs here (already!) and our first couple of commons – Mage Hunters’ Onslaught and Heated Debate.

Also our first “this is an archetype-specific uncommon but is such a strong pull that it’s an early pick” card in Bookwurm.

Strong Cards (Picks 3-4.9)

Archetype Bread and Butter (Picks 5-7.9)

Was I the only one here who was distracted by the art for Faithless Looting yet again? It certainly is… noticeable.

It took this long for us to see the top white common, Pilgrim of the Ages! I don’t think this is a great sign. Where’s my Pacifism at?

You can also infer from this list that the colorless lessons are relatively high picks because they offer you a lot of flexibility. Those cards are almost certainly making your “deck” because only a single learn card in any color unlocks all of them.

Archetype Role Players (Picks 8-9.9)

It looks like y’all had no love for common two drops with so many of them sliding this low. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing a few of those creep in pick number sooner rather than later.

Situational / Sideboard Cards (Picks 10+)

Maybe lesson/learn are going to provide us with all the mana sinks we ever need, but honestly I was pretty shocked to see the campus cards down this low. These duals:

  • Make our two-color mana base more consistent
  • Enable the splashing of powerful off-college cards
  • Give us a great way to spend our mana in the late game

I realize there aren’t synergy payoffs for them like there are for the snow duals in Kaldheim, but still.

If there are decks that are looking to “go off” with magecraft, I also think the more marginal Mystical Archive cantrips may be a little better than they looked initially.

Strixhaven Specifics

The Effect of Mystical Archives

Mtg mystical archive art

It’s impossible to discuss the Strixhaven limited format without focusing on these, there’s just so many of them floating around in the packs. And they really run the gamut from powerful, game-breaking spells to very situational cards. Plus they’re pretty.

I think it’s cool that every pick gradation on the list above has some of these cards in it. They’re not all unconditionally “bombs” or must-take cards. However, their prevalence really adds to the density of instants and sorceries in every pack if your deck cares about magecraft.

It’s amazing these cards didn’t overwhelm the original cards from the set. I guess that says something about WotC being very intentional about the inclusions and the fact that creatures in modern magic are insane.

When Should I Take Lessons?

Probably a little higher than you might first think.

After all, something like Inkling Summoning can be cast in around 60% of decks (Silverquill, Lorehold, and Witherbloom). And the colorless lessons add value to your draft pool the minute you get a learn card that makes your maindeck.

The average pick number for the common lessons was 6.7, so you definitely want to be snagging them before replacement level cards for your deck.

Top Commons

This time around, since everything in the set is viewed through the lens of the colleges, I decided to rank the top commons (mono and multi-colored) in each college.

No mono-white cards (not counting hybrids) cracked the list!

Silverquill

Lorehold

Prismari

Quandrix

Witherbloom

Conclusions

It seems very clear that there are strong mono-colored and hybrid commons that will anchor you (“pivot cards”) and give you options to branch into many different colleges or college-specific synergies. These cards are a positive addition to your deck regardless of archetype, and they give you just a little nudge to move in one synergy direction or another.

Top Uncommons

Silverquill

Lorehold

Prismari

Note: There was a big drop off between Inspiration and Artist – pick 1.5 to 3.8

Quandrix

It’s pretty funny all the cards here are green. The power of blue’s uncommons just doesn’t stack up.

Witherbloom

Most Controversial

These cards are the most “controversial” because they have the highest variance between where they were picked in packs between different players. One player might take a strange rare 1st, while another thinks it’s too situational and would prefer to take it 7th pick.

Here are the top 10 most controversial cards for Strixhaven:

  1. Culmination of Studies
  2. Fervent Mastery
  3. Rushed Rebirth
  4. Tendrils of Agony
  5. Double Major
  6. Chaos Warp
  7. Reconstruct History
  8. Creative Outburst
  9. Channel
  10. Stone Rain

My thoughts: As you can see, many of these cards are the sexier but weirder Mystical Archive cards. For example Channel, Tendrils of Agony, and to some extent, Chaos Warp.

These are Cube staples that are missing their context (synergy pieces) that make them so busted. Alas, we have no draw sevens, Ulamogs, or Sundering Titans. I have a feeling that some people may be overvaluing these due to their history as broken cards in constructed or in Cube.

Another theme I see here is some skepticism about the “big mana” Prismari deck. Is Culmination of Studies really a worthwhile payoff? It’s a rare so it must be good, right? Creative Outburst I think is a little more of a direct question about the viability of that strategy.

It’s pretty clear what the card does — and it’s powerful. But is it worth taking early and “going for it”?

So, What’s Next?

Well, we’ve still got two days before the set comes out! So definitely head on over to Draftsim’s Strixhaven draft simulator to get practice in before the set is released on MTG Arena on April 15.

arena tutor draft companion

I’m also planning on having all the ratings updated in our awesome MTGA tracker, Arena Tutor, that same day. So if you want dynamic ratings and a little AI assistance while you draft on Arena, please check it out. It’s free!

Thanks for reading, I’ll catch you next time.

3 Comments

  • Avatar
    Christopher Ruggiero April 13, 2021 3:11 pm

    you rock

  • Avatar
    Shadowist April 17, 2021 11:53 am

    Don’t know if this will get noticed by the relevant team or not, but I think Arena tutor hasn’t gotten the full grasp of the learn/lesson mechanic yet. It keeps on trying to get me to add lessons to the main board. I think the AI should be fixed so that lessons are ranked normally in draft, but suffer a huge penalty in ratings (just for being lessons) to encourage them to stay in the sideboard.

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha April 18, 2021 11:04 am

      Correct, this has not been coded yet. I just fixed this on the draft simulator but it may take a week or so for AT. Thanks for using the app!

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