Strixhaven: School of Mages
This article is one of our set prospectives, a series in which we survey the Cube community about the cards they intend to play in their cubes from a particular set. Our survey is conducted between the set’s full-spoiler and official release and is meant to measure and document Cube designers’ first impressions of new cards.
Strixhaven represents an exciting opportunity for Magic players to explore new spaces for their favorite guilds, and as always, we at Lucky Paper are surveying the Cube community for their opinions on the set. We have over 230 responses from the community, and while most represented cubes are not restricted by rarity, we have a variety of themed cubes, ranging from a One-Drop Cube to a Two-Headed Giant Cube.
The recent creation of our Cube Map allows us to assess the scope of our community responses. You can see the locations all cubes provided in responses, and see they span a huge range of the Cube landscape. For any card within the survey results, click on its number of testers to see which cubes are trying it out!
“I'm considering including the Learn/Lesson cards as a package, as a way to increase sideboard flexibility in environments where loose cube spots are easier to come by.”
By the community’s account, Strixhaven is a solid set for most cubes. Unlike its predecessor Kaldheim, there are no breakaway cube "staples", but there are several solid cards that a large percentage of respondents are excited about.
Unrestricted cube designers are testing a median of 8 cards from the set, and each designer generally rated about 3 cards at 2.5 or higher (strong contenders for their cubes). While the Learn mechanic is a miss for most cube designers, some are exploring alternate ways of drafting that boost their power level — for example, allowing players access to all Lessons after the draft or exploring ways of drafting Learn and Lesson cards together as a package.
The processed data from the survey is available on Github.
|Plargg, Dean of Chaos // Augusta, Dean of Order||30/208||2.0|
|Extus, Oriq Overlord // Awaken the Blood Avatar||17/208||1.8|
|Blot Out the Sky||16/208||1.7|
|Mila, Crafty Companion // Lukka, Wayward Bonder||16/208||1.9|
|Flamescroll Celebrant // Revel in Silence||15/208||1.7|
|Plumb the Forbidden||15/208||1.8|
|Valentin, Dean of the Vein // Lisette, Dean of the Root||15/208||1.9|
|Lash of Malice||15/208||2.0|
|Rowan, Scholar of Sparks // Will, Scholar of Frost||13/208||1.9|
|Shaile, Dean of Radiance // Embrose, Dean of Shadow||12/208||1.9|
|Killian, Ink Duelist||11/208||2.4|
|Hall of Oracles||10/208||1.9|
|Professor of Symbology||10/208||2.0|
|Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands||9/208||2.2|
|Solve the Equation||8/208||1.7|
Strixhaven offers a wealth of powerful, modal options for cubes at all power levels, and these are among the most popular cards of the set. Like scaleability, modality can be difficult to evaluate and is often underrated. If you’re curious about these effects in your own cube, I recommend trying them out!
While technically a Modern Horizons 2 card, Abundant Harvest is the highest rated card of the survey, with an average rating of 2.5. Among the most powerful cantrips ever printed, it outranks all similar effects in previous surveys, including its cousin, Once Upon a Time, which received a rating of 2.4. The power level of Once Upon a Time was underrated by Cube and Constructed players alike, and Abundant Harvest is likely no different. Yet only a quarter of respondents are testing Abundant Harvest, reflecting that many in the Cube community favor flashier effects over cantrips, particularly in a color without spell synergies like Green.
Baleful Mastery and Rip Apart are the third and fourth most popular cards of the set, sharing a respectable rating of 2.4. Baleful Mastery is like Path to Exile, and while its drawback is worse in the late game, it is mitigated by Mastery's 4 mana mode. Like Abrade, Rip Apart offers flexibility in all matchups, and while the sorcery speed drawback is significant, it also exists in a guild perceived as weak in power motivated cubes. Baleful Mastery and Rip Apart hitting planeswalkers increases their popularity and is a promising sign for future card design.
These three commands are the next set of popular noncreature spells. While Prismari Command is by far the most popular (64% of respondents) and highest rated (2.4), all of them outrank their Lorehold and Silverquill siblings, likely due to their lower mana value.
The perceived strength of these cards depends on how often they represent card advantage. Prismari Command is the clear winner in this context, as it has precedent in Kolaghan's Command and offers effects for every board state — even on an empty board it offers filtering and temporary ramp. Witherbloom Command and Quandrix Command are significantly more narrow, and this is reflected by their lower popularity (20% of respondents) and rating (2.2). While both are powerful enough for most cubes, Witherbloom Command finds a stronger home in leaner cubes and those that play more than one cycle of Fetchlands, while Quandrix Command shines in creature and combat focused environments.
“Rip Apart and Vanishing Verse are fighting for very limited gold slots that I generally prefer to spend on signpost cards rather than generically good removal.”
Vanishing Verse is the last popular noncreature spell, with 42% of respondents testing it with an average rating of 2.4. In cubes that are testing the card, it exiles a whopping 70% of nonland permanents on average for only 2 mana. Other designers, however, want to diversify gold slots outside of removal and are forgoing the powerful spell.
Strixhaven features a number of cards that shift familiar abilities into new colors. Some curators are interested in these effects for the power alone, while others see an opportunity to support fresh takes on draft archetypes.
Tested by 70% of respondents, these creatures are the two most popular cards of the set. Sedgemoor Witch receives a respectable rating of 2.3, although this on the lower end for popular cards of this set. The card is popular because it is mechanically unique for black and offers synergy with existing archetypes that are popular in cubes, namely spells-matter and aristocrats. While the card excels in grindier and lower-powered cubes, it receives a lower rating in unrestricted power-motivated cubes, where it can be difficult to draft enough cheap enablers (a problem shared with its cousin, Monastery Mentor). Still, the Witch is alluring to designers across the Cube spectrum, many of whom believe it has staying power.
Elite Spellbinder ranks slightly higher at 2.4, likely because the effect requires no other synergies. Because the opponent does not recover the card when Spellbinder leaves the battlefield, it has solid synergy within blink archetypes, a popular choice among designers. As a disruptive 3/1 flyer, the card also functions within aggressive and midrange White decks. Spellbinder is a solid example of cards that do well in these prospective surveys — a mechanically unique, powerful card that functions with and without additional synergies.
These cards are neither popular (20% and 10% of respondents, respectively) nor highly rated (shared rating of around 2.0), but they serve as unique White cards that interest a subset of Cube designers. Some of these designers are looking to try new flavors for White aggressive decks, while others are leveraging their cubes’ existing focus on efficiency and cantrips. Either way, many Cube designers are excited for Wizards to explore new dimensions of aggressive creatures.
“The MDFCs are to me are the least cohesive of the bunch. The upkeep of waiting a full minute for someone to read both sides just isn’t worth it.”
The last three sets have all contained modal double faced cards (MDFCs), but those from Strixhaven are by far the least popular. This is partly because they are less powerful compared to previous MDFCs, although the community may be underestimating their strength. More importantly, many designers seek to make their cube as accessible as possible to less invested playgroups, and the increasing complexity of Strixhaven’s MDFCs is a large barrier to their inclusion.
This set does not offer much for Peasant and Pauper cubes, but Frost Trickster is a standout all-star for both. For Pauper cubes, the Campuses are among the best lands ever printed. The low rating of powerful gold uncommons is likely because designers either prioritize signposts in these slots or consider them too powerful for their environments.
While it lacks a widespread Cube “staple” like its predecessor, Kaldheim, Strixhaven has far more solid cards that garnered ratings in the 2.3-2.4 range. There are strong options for higher powered cubes and broadly synergistic options for others. Despite the community’s complaints of MDFC complexity, Strixhaven is a solid set for cubes. It may not offer the wealth of powerful options given by Throne of Eldraine or Zendikar Rising, but as curators of constantly changing (and sometimes foiled) environments, many prefer it that way!
Here are my own thoughts:
Learn offers another dimension for Cube designers to tweak.
One of my favorite parts about the Cube community is the way designers choose to adjust traditional dogma to fit their design goals. Whether its pushing power levels with Conspiracies, including card "packages", or designing custom cards, the dimensionality to Cube design is endless. Learn and Lesson offer designers a new avenue to explore. If you are a designer looking to break power level boundaries, Professor of Symbology is among the best two drops ever printed if drafters are given free access to any Lesson!
The Cube Map reveals how context affects card evaluations.
A limitation of these prospectives has always been that it can be difficult to evaluate opinions towards cards tested by a small portion of the Cube community. By average rank, Killian, Ink Duelist is the third highest rated card of the set, but it is only being tested by 11 respondents. Examining these Cubes on the Cube Map reveals that these environments tend to be lower powered, have large Gold sections, or have Heroic themes. We’re excited to integrate the map into future surveys, so if you fill them out please provide your Cube Cobra link!
I, along with many in the Cube community, love the emphasis on premium printings.
Whatever your opinion WOTC’s card design or pricing models, they know how to print pretty cardboard. For many, cubes are museums of incredible art from Magic’s history, and I could not be more excited to get new options to customize my Cube! These premium printings also lower the prices of standard printings, making it easier than ever to Cube on a budget.
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