Why Knowing How To Pivot Is An Important Skill In Strixhaven Draft

Ryan Saxe pivoted his way to another trophy in Strixhaven Draft on Magic Online. Follow along with his early picks… and see why he gave them up.

Academic Dispute, illustrated by Manuel Castañón

I’m really enjoying Strixhaven Draft so far. It seems like every single archetype is viable, so it’s pretty common to see a late uncommon and pivot into that archetype. I have found this most common when starting with white cards in the eighteen drafts I have done. For some reason, it seems like I always see Prismari, Witherbloom, and Quandrix gold cards later than they should go, and rarely get hooked up with a solid Lorehold or Silverquill deck. It could be just happenstance, but it could also be that white is overdrafted at the moment.

That said, I’m not avoiding white. Here’s a draft where I go into white quite early. Would you have taken a different path?

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

Callous Bloodmage

The Pack:

Defiant Strike Fracture Professor of Symbology Start from Scratch Arrogant Poet Big Play Elemental Masterpiece Exhilarating Elocution Inkling Summoning Leyline Invocation Mage Hunters' Onslaught Resculpt Twinscroll Shaman Prismari Campus

The Pick:

Callous Bloodmage is a really good start to a draft, but it’s not a bomb — it’s just a good value creature. I think a lot of players will be tempted by Mage Hunters’ Onslaught and Inkling Summoning because they’re in the same color as the rare. Often it’s correct to stay one color when possible, especially when the cards of that color are good, but it’s rarely correct to deviate in power to stay on course with a single color. I believe Professor of Symbology is a full tier better than Inkling Summoning and Mage Hunters’ Onslaught. The ability to learn on Turn 2 is premium for two reasons.

  1. Environmental Sciences with enough cheap learn cards means you can build a three-color deck with good mana.
  2. Inkling Summoning, Pest Summoning, and Spirit Summoning are potential three-drop follow-ups.

For those reasons, I’m taking the Professor over the Lesson and the removal spell.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

Callous Bloodmage Professor of Symbology

The Pack:

Flamescroll Celebrant Maelstrom Muse Reduce to Memory Environmental Sciences Frost Trickster Heated Debate Infuse with Vitality Mage Duel Spiteful Squad Springmane Cervin Thrilling Discovery Prismari Campus Silverquill Campus

The Pick:

Flamescroll Celebrant is a great two-drop for a Lorehold deck, whether the deck is aggressive or not. However, Heated Debate is so much better in the non-aggressive version that I don’t think you can justify taking the rare. Furthermore, Heated Debate lets you keep the door open to draft Prismari. So, between the two red cards, Heated Debate is the pick.

Environmental Sciences gives Heated Debate a run for its money here, and I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking it. I personally don’t like taking Environmental Sciences highly for two reasons.

  1. I want exactly one copy, and since it’s a common, there may be other opportunities to get one.
  2. Not every deck I draft will want to splash, nor will every deck I draft end up with enough cheap learn cards for Sciences to reliably splash.

It’s a good card, but I’m not as high on it as the rest of the world. I’m taking Heated Debate.

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

Callous Bloodmage Professor of Symbology Heated Debate

The Pack:

Divine Gambit Spell Satchel Biblioplex Assistant Environmental Sciences Frost Trickster Guiding Voice Moldering Karok Pigment Storm Quandrix Pledgemage Reject Spiteful Squad Waterfall Aerialist

The Pick:

This pack provides four options, each with its own merits. Pigment Storm is likely the worst of these cards, as it’s a clunky removal spell. I still wanted to bring it up because it has impressed me. The excess damage clause comes up frequently, and has resulted in lethal more often than I expected. It’s not a card I’m taking early, but I’m happy to have access to a copy, especially if my deck is lacking in removal.

Quandrix Pledgemage is a top common. It’s easy to miss how good this card is, but when we’ve previously seen something similar, it was also a top common. This card gets out of hand very quickly in Witherbloom, Prismari, and Quandrix. Every deck has so many spells that this is just a premium three-drop. But that’s the thing — it’s a three-drop. This format has so many premium three-drops that they all become less premium as a result. Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy to take Pledgemage early, but I think that both Environmental Sciences and Guiding Voice are better picks out of this pack.

Environmental Sciences has the same upsides mentioned previously, but is more enticing now because Heated Debate could be a reason to splash in a Silverquill deck. Additionally, none of the options in this pack are as good as Heated Debate. Again, I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking Environmental Sciences here, but it’s not my pick.

I took Guiding Voice. I think Guiding Voice and Study Break basically make the white aggressive decks tick. The best card in my pool is Professor of Symbology, and both the white decks in the format have potent aggressive variants. This pick might look aggressive, but at the time I took this, I really favored these white aggressive strategies.

However, given that I described white being overdrafted at the beginning of this article, I no longer believe this is the correct pick. I would have landed on Environmental Sciences as the most flexible pick that will likely have an impact on my final deck.

And, as I described, white was completely closed off. Luckily, Prismari flowed nicely enough to give me the following fantastic deck!