Now that we’re all running around after the Strixhaven Draft Challenge with more tokens than a kid at an arcade with stepdad, let’s look at where the Strixhaven Draft metagame sits right now. This primer is for people who pored over initial pick orders and evaluations in a vacuum and then largely stopped consuming content. I don’t know who you people are, but I assume you exist. Continue reading if you feel like you have an idea of what colleges are but aren’t confident in your pick orders.
Today, I’m looking at the Average Taken At (ATA) data from the first two weeks of the Premier Draft, courtesy of the fine folks at 17Lands.com. This is the Justice League we all thought we’d be seeing. Then, I’m comparing that against the ATA numbers we have from the last week (see my full spreadsheet here) and giving you a whole Snyder cut worth of analysis. Get your popcorn.
What We’re Stanning
Study Break (ATA: +2.17)
Jumping over two entire picks is obscene and a testament to how valuable learn is to every deck in the format. White has shaken out as the predominant aggressive color in the format with Lorehold Control a bust. Tapping down two defenders and fetching an Expanded Anatomy is an endgame worth marveling at. I’m also not a big superhero guy so that’s the last reference, folks.
Cram Session (ATA: +1.89)
The strength of Cram Session lies in the fact it needs nothing more than two mana and a few Lessons to grab. Anyone sitting with a Guiding Voice in hand and no targets is silently nodding right now. Black-based control strategies thrive on gaining four and then deciding between Environmental Sciences or Pest Summoning on how they’ll gain two more. Behind on the battlefield? Being able to net some life while finding an answer is a lot to ask from a two-mana value play.
Expanded Anatomy (ATA: +1.75)
My winner for the “Call an ambulance. But not for me!” card of the set. Getting +2/+2 is a legit buff, and a turn of vigilance allows you to put them on their back foot seemingly out of nowhere. Outside of Inkling Summoning, there isn’t a Lesson I want more for my white-based aggro decks. That includes Environmental Sciences.
Bury in Books (ATA: +1.67)
Serving as removal for big Fractals against other blue decks while nullifying the combat tricks of aggro decks trying to get the jump on you, Bury in Books became a quick darling of the Draft community. Casting this for three (or less with the help of Spectacle Mage) is an essential form of interaction for slower starters.
Test of Talents (ATA: +1.64)
Turns out that with the plethora of learning going on, you never lack for targets with this normally narrow spell-hating card. Test of Talents giving you a look at their library and hand doesn’t hurt, either. With some of the set’s best bombs (Blot Out the Skies, Magma Opus) falling prey to it, I’m always playing one. Even though I dropped the match, you never feel better than snagging a couple of your opponent’s better cards like Divide by Zero. GG, MisterMetronome.
Serpentine Curve (ATA: +1.48)
Who needs creatures when you’ve got Serpentine Curve? Turbo Snake decks look to use Strategic Planning and Curate to fill the graveyard early with spells and then capitalize by generating monster Fractals starting as early as turn four. Jeskai versions even found a home for Lorehold Excavation as a repeatable way to self-mill. Even if you’re not all-in on the strategy, it’s a solid play in both Prismari and Quandrix decks that are running slightly more spells plus Lessons than the color pairs typically would.
Guiding Voice (ATA: +1.46)
Now that we’ve covered the blue spells, of course we’re right back to learn. One of my favorite Silverquill cards, it pays off when you find your alien lane in any white aggro deck and often creates a +2/+1 or more when paired with magecraft. Oh, and you get a Lesson. Again, that’s very good.
Environmental Sciences (ATA: +1.41)
I’ve seen a number of draft logs where, in a weak pack, this is an easy Pack 1, Pick 1. I can’t fault them. The ability to splash off a single Environmental Sciences sets you up to speculate on high-powered picks while not committing you to a color early. This is a set where finding the college no one else is going to, like North Dakota State, is critical. Stay open and go Bison!
Inkling Summoning (ATA: +1.09)
It evades. It triggers mage. But most important, it’s a cheap play. Okay, so it’s not breaking the meme world, but I love Inkling Summoning as a must-answer threat in decks that are so often designed to buff your creatures.
Rise of Extus (ATA: +1.06)
I’ve found exiling to be more relevant by the day, as fully canceling a threat without an opponent getting a death trigger or giving indestructible will bail you out. “Destroy” usually gets a notes app apology, and next turn, their Infuse with Vitality has it back on stage. Having a later-than-typical learn tacked on lets you find your most relevant Lesson with mana to cast it. Exiling a spell from their graveyard isn’t irrelevant in a meta where Pillardrop Warden is a solid defensive body with upside.
Those ten cards represent everything we were at least a full pick off on, but here’s a quick list of the cards that have moved up +0.98 picks to +0.52.
Here, we have a fairly even split between lesson/Learn and the base-white aggro decks looking to go under it. One notable exception: Codie, Vociferious Codex. The ultimate build-around in Strixhaven, you’re looking for a solid mix of Fractal generation, card draw, and removal. Here are a pair of trophies that nail it (click each image to open an enlarged version in a new tab):
Speaking of polarizing rares, here’s a quick list of our absolute worst misses according to their declining draft rates. Ephemerate is going a full pick later, with Oriq Loremage a miserable 2.75 picks downstream.
Clearly, we’ve become less mystified by the Mystical Archive, as these Constructed-focused reprints are like Happy Gilmore’s ball on the seventeenth green: they never found their home. At best, you’ll find situational use for them, like Grapeshot in a deck full of cheap spells or Inquisition of Kozilek if you whiff on the myriad other hand disruption options. Snarls aren’t bad per se but certainly aren’t a priority.
What We’re Fading
Bayou Groff (ATA: -2.2)
Witherbloom Aggro, we hardly knew ye. The dream of curving an Eyetwitch or Unwilling Ingredient into a Bayou Groff proved to be more like sleep apnea. Cheap answers to the Groff in Heated Debate and Bury in Books meant that even when you pulled it off, it didn’t last long, like a great-looking toupee in Chicago.
Biomathematician (ATA: -1.81)
This one baffles me a little bit, as Biomathematician has a 3.4% win rate improvement when drawn (IWD). Even if you’re not buffing your Fractals all the time, an extra body is a nice counter to aggressive starts. Keep this in mind as an opportunity to squeeze some extra value in Quandrix.
Moldering Karok (ATA: -1.72)
The data isn’t nearly as kind to Moldering Karok, so don’t buy any crocodile tears. Combined with Groff, we’re seeing a trend of drafters not as interested in Witherbloom for their studies. Ultimately, the 3/3 body seems to trade down too frequently in my experience and needs a lot of setup to be viable. Gaining life doesn’t net you many rewards in Strixhaven, and neither does this future belt or boots.
Tome Shredder (ATA: -1.6)
Another deck that can’t seem to come together reliably enough: Lorehold Graveyard Shenanigans. Blame the dog for eating your homework, as you hate casting Shreddy and then sitting back. If it ate more than instants and sorceries, I could see making it work, but this was supposed to be a key enabler and instead is a large liability.
Star Pupil (ATA: -1.43) and Spiteful Squad (ATA: -1.22)
Another womp womp of a theme: +1/+1 counters. It’s hard to remember a set with this many duds, but with identical -4.3% IWD’s, only the Squad is viable, in my opinion. In a Silverquill Flyers deck, use it to clog up the ground and give the counters to whatever can swoop over for the win.
Stonebound Mentor (ATA: -1.04)
Turns out, there are much better things to do at your three-mana value slot in Lorehold other than get an occasional scry out of a serviceable body. I guess you’re not giving up much for the chance to take it eleventh right now, but Stonebound Mentor is the definition of filler.
Oggyar Battle-Seer (ATA: -1.02) and Relic Sloth (ATA: -1)
Look! It’s a pair of weird five-drops that don’t contribute much to their respective colleges and are always available! You think I’d like them more considering we have so much in common.
Okay, so not a ton we were going out of our way to draft in there (outside of possibly Groff), so let’s touch on a few surprising cards the community is fading that looked stronger initially.
Spectacle Mage (ATA: -0.93)
This feels like a reaction to how aggressive the format can be, as a 2/2 flyer for three can be a liability early on.
Frost Trickster (ATA: -0.89)
We may have been a little high on Frost Trickster, but it wasn’t like we were sharing a Mini Cooper with Snoop. (A Mini Snooper?) Ultimately, Bury in Books deserved to be the best blue common and this is a correction. Frosty’s closest comp is Serpentine Curve: you don’t want it in your opening hand but it’s a stellar draw mid-to-late. Don’t look at the data and think it’s not a desirable card.
Illustrious Historian (ATA: -0.68)
One toughness in a format with Pests running around just doesn’t cut it. Neither does five mana for a mediocre body. Even with two-drops at a premium, I’m disappointed in what I thought would be a Lorehold staple.
The Twenty Uncommons We Used to Love
Dueling Coach falls the furthest with an ATA of -1.91. You’ll notice our more popular colleges in Prismari and Quandrix are barely represented. In Zimone’s case, you have a mere -0.97 drop that’s more in line with a slight correction than a wholesale abandonment.
Going Going, Back Back, to Quick Draft
Strixhaven Quick Draft returns this week, so here’s a bonus look at where the bot rankings were before we left off compared to the current metagame. It’s hard for me to believe they’ll return without some adjustments, but I don’t expect them to go full season two of “The Wire” either.
Difference in Average Taken At (DATA) numbers below reflect bot ATA minus the current meta ATA. A negative score indicates how much later the bots value the card at.
Academic Dispute (DATA: -3.14)
It’s always great to guarantee a learn card will wheel. This quasi-Edict has been moving up my rankings as a cheap trick that snags you a Lesson, if nothing else.
Humiliate (DATA: -2.63)
One of the many reasons I love being in Silverquill.
Cram Session (DATA: -2.55) and Test of Talents (DATA: -2.5)
Only figures that a couple of cards we missed on as humans were misses for the bots, too.
Containment Breach (DATA: -2.03)
I can’t be mad about picking up free Lessons at the end of the draft, even if they’re on the lower-impact side.
Mentor’s Guidance (DATA: -2.02)
While I didn’t expect this to always be a better Divination, Pick 9 (and later) for the bots feels like a nice place to find an edge.
Negate (DATA: -1.91)
With Test of Talents so underrated, this seems like a wash.
Leyline Invocation (DATA: -1.65)
If Silverquill is nerfed, look to pivot to green, where Leyline Invocation at almost the tenth pick is worth taking and trying to play a longer game with.
Reconstruct History (DATA: -1.65)
An intriguing card that’s starting to get its shine as a splash in control decks, this is guaranteed to wheel in the current bot configuration.
Agonizing Remorse and Study Break (DATA: -1.61)
Then again, we can always try to stay Silverquill forever.
Decks I Wish I Drafted
I hope you have made it this far without dying of dysentery. This week, I want to introduce you to my latest schtick: Decks I Wish I Drafted. DIWID salutes the spiciest, funkiest builds that I find while scrolling on 17Lands because I have a problem.
This week, we pay tribute to Piles.
Conventional wisdom in this set is to wait patiently for your path to reveal itself. Do these Piles players take heed? Not for a second.
They greedily pick up every busted thing they can and cobble it all together with a combination of Environmental Sciences, Campuses, Archways, Letters of Acceptance, Cultivates, and sheer gumption on their way to grab their rightful trophies.
Pile rating: 7/10
Splashing white for a couple of two-mana value removal spells? I love it.
Pile rating: 9/10
How is everyone getting multiple Multiple Choices?! Four-color Pile without green? Kudos to you, you rascal.
Pile rating: 6/10
Good, old-fashioned Pile right here.
Pile rating: 6/10
Playing a Pilgrim with three Plains is a decision I’m here for.
Pile rating: 9/10
That Lessonboard, tho. I’m not even sure what’s in the rest of the sideboard at this point.
Pile rating: 10/10
Sometimes, Piles are like jazz: they’re about the cards you don’t play. That includes a Body of Research in the sideboard that would be too greedy for this guy.
Until next week, I’ll see you in the cameo-filled reboot.