Getting Schooled in Magic

What happens when you cross Magic the Gathering with Harry Potter? The answer is Wizard of the Coast’s new Magic expansion, Strixhaven: School of Mages. While you’re not going to see any mention of Gryffindor or Slytherin. this school does have it’s own colleges that align with the paired enemy colors just as half of Ravnica’s guilds did. The schools are Lorehold (red/white, Boros), Prismari (blue/red, Izzet), Quandrix (green/blue, Simic), Silverquill (white/black, Orzhov), and Witherbloom (black/green, Golgari). The cards carry the them with professors and college themed card names. The set also introduces new abilities magecraft, learn, and ward as well as a special card type, lesson. The dual lands for the set are the reveal cards where the land will come in tapped unless you reveal a land card from your hand classified as one of the basic lands that produce one of its two colors.

There are 3 planeswalkers for this set and one of them is the ever-present Liliana. Don’t be fooled by the name. Professor Onyx carries the card sub-type of Liliana and makes this her 13th planeswalker card. While this still falls short of Chandra’s 16 cards, it’s still more than most. Personally, I’d like to see other options for black. The blue planeswalker Jace and Ajani, who is always white and may be paired with another color, are both one behind Liliana at 12 cards but also get swapped out for other planeswalkers like Teferi, Gideon, and Elspeth. Green is split a little more evenly with Nissa (10), Garruk (9), and Vivien (6) having the most. I think it’s time we see other black planeswalkers get used more maybe even other than Sorin who is at 7 so far. And, yes, I feel at least as strongly about Chandra as I do Liliana. At least the other 2 planeswalkers, Kasmina and Rowan, are lesser used ones.

The three new abilities are bound to make things interesting in the game. Magecraft will be popular among people who use a lot of spells. This ability will trigger on a creature with magecraft whenever a player casts or copies an instant or sorcery. As a player who liked to play green, the rare card Dragonsguard Elite is one I like as it’s magecraft ability gives it a +1/+1 counter whenever the ability is triggered. A secondary ability can double these counters making it a very formidable creature. Other common and uncommon cards may not have quite as powerful triggers but they can still be useful in the right situations. Learn is listed as “You may reveal a Lesson card you own from outside the game and put it into your hand, or discard a card to draw a card.” on the cards. This ability is nice in that it allows you access to lesson cards in your sideboard or in exile. Being able to pull a chosen card into your hand is a powerful option. That’s why cards that allow you to search your library can be quite popular. There are lesson cards for each color as well as 5 colorless ones (4 common and 1 mythic rare). Ward is the final new ability which causes spells or abilities from your opponent that target the card to be countered unless an additional cost (which could be life or mana) is paid. The oddest thing about this ability is that there are only 4 cards in the set with this ability. Given that there are abilities like shroud or hexproof that keep an opponent from targeting a creature with any spells or abilities, I wouldn’t think that an ability like ward with a cost loophole would be so powerful as to limit this way. I’m sure Wizards of the Coast had a reason for this though.

As interesting as the cards for this set are, there are other interesting things included. The set boosters continue to have reprint cards from what they are calling The List, but that’s not the best part. In each pack, there is at least one card from the Strixhaven Mystical Archive. (There can also be a foil one if you’re lucky enough.) These are reprints of popular cards but not in the traditional way. The design of each of these cards have been redone in full card art that has a very unique style. These cards are either uncommon, rare, or mythic rare. This is meant to symbolize the schools archives of more restricted magic. Like the cards from The List, even though they are included in the packs, they are only tournament legal in the formats that the original sets that the cards were in are legal for. Nonetheless, it’s a chance to get your hands on some really cool cards in a very cool format.

With the pandemic still going on and sanctioned tournaments not active, it’s a rough time for the in person version of Magic the Gathering, but hopefully things will start moving back to normal and we’ll be able to see how this set fairs in actual use. It’s something I’d definitely recommend. The only thing disappointing about this is that it only plays to enemy colors and not friendly ones. The next two sets are returning to Innistrad so I doubt there will be, at least for now, a set to balance this out for people who like to play the other five pairs.

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