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Getting started with Strixhaven, a welcoming new set of Magic: The Gathering cards

A great way to prep for this summer’s D&D crossover event

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A member of Witherbloom stands on the edge of a swamp, dark creatures at her heels. Image: Igor Kieryluk/Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering’s next set of cards, Strixhaven: School of Mages, adds five new schools of magic to the game. Set in a university on the mystical plane Arcavios, the schools of Lorehold, Witherbloom, Prismari, Quandrix, and Silverquill can seem rigid and restrictive at first. But this set actually adds quite a bit of choice, giving players new and old the ability to sculpt their own future in the collectible card game. It’s an excellent stepping stone into the hobby — and into this summer’s crossover event with Dungeons & Dragons.

Each college of Strixhaven represents a characteristic that players can relate to on a basic level, making this an already accessible Magic set before even picking up a card. You can be a budding archaeologist of Lorehold with the desire to unearth the past, or become an adept wordsmith of Silverquill and express yourself through heated debate. Flipping through your first stack of cards you’ll encounter the flavor of Strixhaven and the characters from each school. That’s when you’ll begin to notice the mechanics, which offer a fond memory of those innocent college days when you’re settling into a new routine, hoping to forge new bonds with the bright-eyed ambition to learn and develop.

That sense of nostalgia is perhaps best represented by a brand-new set of paired keyword actions, called Lesson and Learn. With every Magic set release, new keyword actions are introduced, which indicate instructions to be followed by players. When you play a card with the Learn keyword, you can reveal a Lesson card from outside of the game and put it into your hand. Or, you can choose the second option, which is to discard a card from your hand and draw a new card in its place. This is a great way to improve your hand, trading in extra lands or swapping out unwanted cards for a chance at what you need.

Card art for Clever Luminancer, a Human Wizard, shows that they have Magecraft. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Card art for Sedgemoor Witch, a Human Warlock, shows they have both Menace, Ward, and Magecraft. Image: Wizards of the Coast

It’s easy to be caught up with the flagship rares and mythics upon a new set release, but uncommons are often the foundation for successful strategies. Clever Lumimancer is no exception to that rule, and you can expect to see the human wizard at the centerpiece of any White-based aggressive strategy in Standard formats. It’s a cheap, effective threat with the ability to become a handful once Magecraft is triggered at least once. Magecraft is another new ability that grants bonuses to your creatures if you cast an instant or sorcery. As Strixhaven centers around Lesson/Learn and Magecraft card types, you can expect creatures such as Clever Lumimancer to play a huge role in Standard going forward.

Hailing from the bleak college of Witherbloom, Sedgemoor Witch is a fantastic all-in-one threat for slower Standard strategies. You’ll be trading spells for Pest tokens to amass a board of threats. Going further, the Human Warlock will prove tricky to handle thanks to Ward, another new ability introduced in Strixhaven. Ward ensures your opponent has to pay mana or life to target the creature with a spell or ability. This can create tension on the battlefield, as it requires additional resources which can pull the scales in your favor.

Strixhaven provides a solid entry to play Standard, which is among Magic’s most accessible formats. By extension, you can use cards from Standard-legal sets such as Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Zendikar Rising to create a semi-competitive list that can hold its own at a local event or on Magic Arena — I’m calling it Silverquill Clerics. We’ve included a sample deck list here to get you started, one that should be brisk and fun to play while going easy on your wallet.

You’ll start by casting cheap threats such as Selfless Savior and Luminarch Aspirant to knock your opponent’s life total down. Then, you can back this up with Silverquill Silencer, a creature that blanks your opponent’s best card. Alternatively, you can use Elite Spellbinder to remove the card from their hand altogether. Silverquill Clerics is blisteringly fast while being kind on the wallet.

There are various ways to acquire Magic cards. You can pick up individual cards from your friendly local game store and from secondary markets like TCGplayer online, or you can pick up booster boxes from Amazon if you fancy cracking open packs of cards on your own.

If you decide to invest your time and treasure into Strixhaven, you’ll likely have options for building new decks later this year. This summer Magic: The Gathering will cross over with Dungeons & Dragons in a full-fledged set called Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. More than just a flavorful backdrop, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms promises to combine D&D-themed party mechanics with Magic’s play style. The concept of obtaining bonuses based on the type of card you have in your deck isn’t unique to Magic. However, imagine a mechanic where you acquire bonuses for each Cleric card you control, or for each type of “party” member card you control. Playing Silverquill Clerics is sure to provide you those bonuses for when the crossover set drops this summer.

Strixhaven: School of Mages arrives on Magic: The Gathering Arena on April 15. The digital client of the trading card game is now available to download on Windows and Mac, as well as on Android and iOS devices. Pre-release of the physical cards begins on April 16, and Wizards is promoting community events using the remote tabletop client SpellTable. The full physical tabletop release is on April 23.

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