Walking The Line Between Archetypes In Strixhaven Draft

Strixhaven Draft encourages hedging in the early picks. Ryan Saxe shows how to walk the line with tricky packs that led him to a trophy.

Fractal Summoning, illustrated by Livia Prima

Honestly, I’m starting to get sick of Strixhaven Draft. It’s not because the format is bad, as there are a lot of important and interesting in game decisions. There are a lot of really crucial pivot-points to navigating the draft portion too. But it’s about the dynamics of the archetypes. At the moment, at least on Arena, Bury in Books and other premium blue cards go criminally late. Because of this, it feels like drafting blue decks that go over the top is the best thing to do if you want to win.

But honestly, I’m an aggro player at heart. Playing decks that are happy to hit their ninth land just isn’t my thing. However, I’m hoping this changes soon, and I’m continuing to explore other strategies. I still believe aggro is viable, but only when it’s wide open.

Which leads me to my point — the open college is still the best archetype. While I really want to be blue, if I can wheel a Silverquill Apprentice, I will have a better Silverquill deck than if I were to draft a blue deck.

So, if you want to succeed at Strixhaven Draft, you need to meticulously monitor signals. Bias towards Prismari and Quandrix, but keep your options open to late gold cards. I’m more willing to hedge on an off-color uncommon in this format than any format in recent memory. Maybe I’ll miss a solid card for the deck I’m currently drafting, but it’s worth it to open the door for pivoting into the open archetype.

If an archetype doesn’t seem open, hold onto blue for dear life. It has the best commons, and the most undervalued commons, which is a devastatingly powerful combination.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

Igneous Inspiration Witherbloom Apprentice

The Pack:

Mind's Desire Creative Outburst Snow Day Stonebinder's Familiar Essence Infusion Field Trip Fractal Summoning Moldering Karok Reject Relic Sloth Study Break Archway Commons Prismari Campus

The Pick:

This draft has a few potential paths: Witherbloom splashing Igneous Inspiration, Quandrix splashing Igneus Inspiration, and Prismari. Well, and there’s also the possibility of Silverquill or Lorehold being so open that pivoting to them is correct, but that isn’t particularly relevant for this pick.

Snow Day is a good blue card, but given that I believe it’s a worse blue card than Bury in Books, I don’t feel the need to prioritize it here. Creative Outburst is arguably the most powerful card, but it’s not powerful enough to justify taking over the more flexible options. Field Trip is an absolute monster of a card in Quandrix, but it’s only solid value in Witherbloom. Its stock goes up given the Witherbloom path is likely splashing Inspiration, and Field Trip can learn for Environmental Sciences, but not by enough to take the card over the most flexible option in this pack: Fractal Summoning.

You probably aren’t taking Fractal Summoning highly enough. It’s a Top 5 common in the set at Pack 1, Pick 1. It’s the only Lesson that can have a massive impact on the game, as the late-game often boils down to creature sizing and mana usage. It’s also playable in all of the best archetypes, making it feel like a colorless card in terms of prioritization. I’m very happy to take it here, and I don’t believe this pick is particularly close.

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

Igneous Inspiration Witherbloom Apprentice Fractal Summoning

The Pack:

Duress Flunk Kelpie Guide Thunderous Orator Arcane Subtraction Biblioplex Assistant Expanded Anatomy Illustrious Historian Professor of Zoomancy Quandrix Pledgemage Stonerise Spirit Waterfall Aerialist

The Pick:

Flunk is the best card in this pack, and with Witherbloom Apprentice, it’s certainly enticing. Given that there aren’t dual lands to splash it in Prismari, and it’s a worse splash than Igneous Inspiration in Quandrix, it’s not as flexible of a pick as you might initially think. It’s still in contention, but in terms of walking the line between the likely archetypes, this pack offers some real contenders.

Between Kelpie Guide, Professor of Zoomancy, and Quandrix Pledgemage, I think Pledgemage is the best option. Guide is best if I end up Quandrix, Professor is the best if I end up Witherbloom, and Pledgemage is the best if I end up Prismari, so they each have their own merits. However, since Pledgemage is the only creature that’s solid in all of those, it wins this round. But does it line up nicely against Flunk? I don’t think so. While I appreciate the appeal of flexibility, I also appreciate efficient interaction. Flunk is one of the best interactive spells in the whole format, and I don’t think it’s correct to take a common creature over it.

The last contender is Expanded Anatomy, a card I underrated up until a few days ago. I always thought Anatomy would be great in the white aggressive decks, and it is, but I never realized how potent access to this card could be for the non-aggressive decks. Near the end of last week, I started hearing players I respect saying this card was in their top commons. I was treating it as the best white common, but given my preference for blue, I had dismissed it. So I started playing every game evaluating my learn cards under the assumption that I had access to Anatomy, even when it wasn’t in my deck. To my surprise, the card would have been highly impactful in the majority of my games. Now, I just think it’s a high pick, and I could see taking it here to ensure access to the effect.

I still believe Flunk is too efficient to pass, and it’s what I took, but I thought it was important to highlight that, even without an aggressive start, Expanded Anatomy is a serious option.

Pack 1, Pick 11

The Picks So Far:

Flunk Igneous Inspiration Witherbloom Apprentice Bury in Books Elemental Summoning Environmental Sciences Fractal Summoning Leyline Invocation Study Break Witherbloom Campus

The Pack:

Snow Day Essence Infusion Study Break Archway Commons Prismari Campus

The Pick:

At this point in the draft, I’m either going to draft Prismari or Quandrix. It’s unclear if either archetype is open, but since we know Creative Outburst is missing from this pack, it’s more likely that Quandrix is open. Both decks use Prismari Campus and Snow Day well. I believe the Campus is better in Quandrix to help enable splashing Igneous Inspiration, and Snow Day is better in Prismari to help bridge the gap to casting Elemental Masterpiece.

I think this pick is close, but I landed on the Campus for two reasons:

  1. As I described above, Quandrix seems more likely to be open than Prismari given the texture of the first pack.
  2. Given the desire to splash the Igneous Inspiration, I will painfully miss Prismari Campus in Quandrix if I don’t end up with a copy. And while Snow Day is good in both archetypes, I won’t miss it to the same degree.

I ended this draft Prismari and took it to a trophy last week. Importantly, I got to mess around with First Day of Class, and learn that it’s actually quite solid. It’s not a card I’m excited to take early or anything, but it’s a solid playable in Prismari, especially alongside Elemental Summonings and Serpentine Curves.