- Strixhaven: School of Mages
Before the snows of Kaldheim have melted completely, the sun rises and with its dawn WotC brings another set to the Gathering: Strixhaven: School of Mages.
The theme for the eighty-seventh MTG expansion is centered around the campus of Strixhaven and its five scholastic collages of wizardry and witchcraft. Sound familiar? This quintet of schools represent the enemy color combinations: Silverquill (W/B), Prismari (U/R), Witherbloom (B/G), Lorehold (R/W), and Quandrix (G/U).
I'm not entirely sure I'll be committing these new color combo flavors to memory over the guilds of Ravnica (although they are growing on me), however looking at some of the common pieces offered within this set, I'm seeing some potential for a few memorable inclusions within the Pauper meta.
I should clarify that while few of these common card mentions will have permanent homes in the major tiered Pauper lists, I have been getting into Historic Pauper lately on MTG Arena and I love me some stanky jank brewing as well so keep this in mind when considering my perspective on selections.
Let's jump into my picks for Pauper highlights from this latest 275 card pool. Class is now in session...
New mechanic: Lessons
I'd like to kick this review off by mentioning the Learn mechanic from this set, which essentially allows you to draw a card from your sideboard Burning Wish style. These Lesson cards don't seem groundbreaking by any means, but could potentially take your opponent by surprise in a dire situation. I'd say playing a sideboard card in game one is a bit gimmicky myself, however, pulling off an unexpected clutch interaction could feel big, and including these pieces will give some additional context for a few other inclusions mentioned below.
If you can't wait to dig into the Learn mechanic, Guiding Voice is a cheap activation for Lessons. I could also see this as having a home in Heroic lists to edge in some extra damage.
Trickster is an upgrade to Frost Linx by adding evasion. Currently, I don't believe Linx or Trickster have a current home in the paper meta, but it could be a fun tempo piece to brew with so hey, don't let your dreams be dreams...
Reject is a bit of an upgrade to Mana Leak on account of exiling that which was countered. I like that this is easily playable in blue decks that splash other colors so it makes the list.
I have a suicide black list that I feel like Poet wants to live in so I'll be playtesting. Though more expensive than the likes of Carnophage, the evasion could be interesting, especially in Historic.
Making a body to hedge against edict effects has certainly proven its worth in a format known for its plentiful access to forced removal. This is another cheap activation for Learn/Lessons and in the very least you could rummage. If anything it's versatile.
An arguable upgrade to Disfigure which still sees play in my group. Lash could be an inclusion in that suicide black archetype I previously mentioned. Suddenly making a Gurmag into a 7/3 or a Gary into a 4/2 while moonlighting as a black Shock is an extremely cheap value system. Perhaps this can be utilized better as a combat trick, but if not then lash out to your malicious heart's content.
Unwilling Ingredient isn't too amazing, but frogs are way cool and a 1/1 body with Menace that can be pumped for some extra damage and later utilized as a mini Phyrexian Rager of sorts isn't the worst for a single black skull.
I'm very interested to see how First Day of Class can add some flavor to Goblins, or Goblin Storm lists. There are also implications for allowing creatures with abilities to tap immediately for great effect here. Add Learn onto this and it becomes even better (if you have the sideboard slots for it of course) This has to be the true Pauper highlight to come out of this set. I'm sure the common folk will find ways to break this beyond repair and I'm into it.
Bayou Groff or "Best Boy" as I'm hearing the community refer to this beefy plant pup lately is a bit of a house and absolutely has a home in Green Stompy. I can see this creating some great synergy with Young Wolf. Alternatively, green decks splashing color can get their value out of Nest Invader or even Blisterpod for some extra colorless mana to spend on additional spice if desired. At worst this is a great sac outlet for green and at best a 4 turn clock. I'm pretty exited about this guy.
Not the most affordable piece, Amplimancer is pretty reckless with the price of its ability, however has that ever been a problem for Elves? I can see this Elf Druid turned on with Priest of Titania and pairing nicely with Timberwatch Elf to generate some absurd P/T totals on the battlefield. Definitely worth painting a bit with as a one or two-of in elves lists.
Let's see what artifacts we've got at our disposal in this set.
Biblioplex Assistant offering a 2/1 flyer at four mana is pretty abysmal, but hear me out; a colorless way to replay a key spell from the yard is at least interesting as it gives all colors access to this ability which I think is noteworthy. Tron and Acid Trip lists come to mind with this one, but I see much more potential for Historic Pauper.
Potential stallcraft for Tortured Existence lists that can block for damage and offer a recurring opportunity to dump cards into the bin. Seems like a pretty decent package for 1 colorless.
For our Multicolored options, we have some heavy Golgari inclusions thanks to the Witherbloom College, one of which is Blood Researcher - A 2/2 with Menace that can quickly grow to huge levels and pairs nicely with Essence Warden. I love my Vampires, especially when they're also Druids.
Another Witherbloom contribution, A cheap way for Black or Green to get into using Lesson cards (if you can spare the sideboard slots that is) that also gains some life triggering our Blood Researcher. Not too bad.
The first of our school mascots representing Quandrix and one of five dual colored lesson cards, this patronous-like thing can be pulled from outside the game for a beefy mid-to-late game body to turn the tide and lead you to victory.
Infuse with Vitality is a cheap piece for the TortEx toolbox that can provide a decent three-for-one opportunity smashing one of your opponents big threats, resurrecting your own, and gaining you some life at instant speed. Not sure if its good enough, but I do like it.
The next mascot lesson card for Silverquill college, Inkling Summoning is probably the best of the five that slaps down an evasive threat on the field from out of nowhere.
I'd like to find a home for this little orphan. An interesting inclusion in some type of Boros list is the most likely, but I'd love to test this along side Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops in a blitz build. A 2/2 First Striker that can feed on Bolts and get bigger can provide some tricky combat interactions. I'm for it.
Here's another Boros piece that can help one of your blockers go the distance and then replace itself with a 3/2 spirit. Alternatively, you could stack Make Your Mark on an opponent's bolted creature or a threat otherwise already heading to the yard to net an easy token for a small one-time donation of a red or white mana. This seems interesting enough to test with if you have the slots.
I think 4 CMC for a 3/3 Trampler with Lifelink is a fair mid-to-late game asset. What isn't fair are the amount of playable Golgari pieces featured in this set so far. Gross.
I'd really like to retire Coiling Oracle and bring in Needlthorn Drake into one of my Simic Jank decks. This is an easy swap for me, but understandably not applicable to everyone.
Pest Summoning is our mascot for Witherbloom college and a cheap lesson that can create a couple of blockers or sacrifice fodder which also nets some life. Not the best solution for three mana, however it could be interesting in token or other go-wide lists.
If the Lorehold Pledgemage doesn't have a home in Izzet Blitz, I'd say Prismari takes the cake as baby Cyclops 5-8. At the very least this Lightning Bolt w/ legs will have to be dealt with by your opponent effectively drawing out those precious removal spells.
Spirit Summoning is the last mascot mentioned representing Lorehold College. I think it's pretty meh as some evasion or First Strike would be better, but I thought I'd round out the Summoning/Mascot cards here for ultimate viewing pleasure.
Not too sure what to think about Square Up yet. Could be used as a basic combat trick. Vines of Vastwood is better, but I do like the splash of blue and it could pair nicely with auras like Rancor.
This one is another piece I'm pretty excited about. Teach by Example is the closest thing to Fork that Pauper has ever seen. I can easily see this spicy pepper being experimented with in Burn, but I wouldn't at all mind including a few copies in my Goblin Storm deck to make a Goblin War Strike straight-up disgusting fire.
I feel like calling this out just due to its CMC. It's cheap and not horrible if you don't have access to Faithless Looting. The lifegain isn't bad. Perhaps a Historic Boros list?
Treefolk Warlock!? This one is just rad to look at. I could see this playing well with others in TortEx as a late game pressure maker and four turn clock.
Spoiled and Foiled
My picks have just arrived in the mail today! I'm personally excited to brew around a bit and run some of these pieces in the various weekly online paper tournaments and leagues in the coming weeks.
I hope this was at the very least informative.
In summary, not all of these pieces are surefire inclusions in the top performing Pauper lists, but rather some pieces I think are worth your time and experimentation. You know, for like science. Wizardly collegiate science.