Strixhaven: School of Mages Prerelease Primer

Posted in Feature on April 12, 2021

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Class is in session!

Welcome to Strixhaven University. It's a new setting for Magic, full of tests, teachers, and plenty of trickery. With some of the most powerful spells in the Multiverse contained within its Biblioplex, Strixhaven is the perfect place to hone your spellcasting.

And in Magic terms, that of course means tons of brand-new cards! And Prerelease weekend is the first place you can get your hands on them. What can you expect from Prerelease weekend, and how can you be a part of it? Let me tell you all about it!

If you prefer watching to reading, you can find out more by watching this video on my YouTube channel, Good Morning Magic, here:

Otherwise, continue to peruse the pages of this guide for all the tips you're looking for. Study up!

Finding a Haven

Prereleases have always been my favorite Magic weekends of the year.

Prereleases are events where it's your first chance to get your hands on the new set—and to me, the heart and soul of the Prerelease experience is the energy of getting those cards and playing with them. And even if you're doing that at home rather than in a store, you'll still be doing it with so many other people around the world as part of the global experience and conversation. Thanks to the internet, we're all connected!

Prereleases are great because the set is totally new, the footing is equal as everybody plays with the set for the very first time, and you just get to relax and have fun exploring the new cards. It's a lot of fun for old and new players alike!

If you're a Sealed Deck veteran, you may want to skip ahead to the next section, where I talk about what you can expect for Strixhaven. But if you're new to the world of Sealed Deck, or are maybe just looking for a few extra pointers, read on!

All right. So, let's go over perhaps the most important part: finding product for your Prerelease! After all, you can't very well play if you don't know where to get the supplies you need.

Well, you'll need to get in touch with a store. If you don't already have a local shop you frequent, be sure to check out the store locator to find one near you! That store may even offer preregistration. Prereleases are some of the most popular events we put on, so be sure to check and see if the store preregisters. Be sure to plan ahead.

While traditionally Prereleases are run as in-store events, players can pick up Prerelease Packs and take them home in light of COVID-19. In fact, we recommend it. In different areas of the world, different rules and restrictions may apply to what can be open—so please take appropriate precautions, be aware of government-level requests, and do only what you feel comfortable with.

And if you're not able to get to a local store for any reason, you can still play on Magic: The Gathering Arena! They will have Sealed events available, and the play experience is still the same great Magic. It's an excellent time to try out MTG Arena if you haven't already.

Okay, now, let's see. You have a store selected, and you've taken a look at all the awesome cards in the Strixhaven: School of Mages Card Image Gallery.

You're all set and ready to enter Strixhaven University! Now it's time to actually open some of those cards.

Welcome to School

Strixhaven is themed around five colleges, each representing a two-color pair. Having a rough idea of them is going to be crucial to your Prerelease experience. Why? Because for the Prerelease, you're going to need to select a college to join!

You'll pick one of the five colleges and receive a special Prerelease Pack geared to that college. That doesn't mean you have to play that color combination, but it definitely gives you a leg up in doing so. You can join one of the following:

Lorehold Prerelease pack

Prismari Prerelease pack

Quandrix Prerelease pack

Witherbloom Prerelease pack

Silverquill Prerelease pack

For more information on each of the schools, check out this article. Not sure which school you are? Go take your test here!

It's a tough choice—think on it and choose wisely.

Once you've finally made your decision, you'll have your Prerelease Pack in your hands! (And once again, check with your store about preregistration: they may have limited numbers of each college.) What can you expect from it?

Well, let's say you're like me and you take Silverquill.

To start, you'll find five Strixhaven: School of Mages Draft Boosters inside, plus an additional college booster—this is a special booster that helps you get cards for the college you chose and a rare or mythic rare in your colors.

On top of that, you'll also get a foil Prerelease card—which can be any rare or mythic rare in the set!

You'll also get a few other goodies: an awesome spindown life counter, an MTG Arena code, an insert . . . in fact, let's just crack it open and take a look!

Strixhaven prerelease pack

There's plenty in here to study—so let's get to building!

Front and center are those booster packs. First thing's first: crack them open! Then, you'll have a stack of cards.

So . . . what now?

It's time to build your deck, of course!

Sealed Deck is a little different from normal deck building. You get to build a deck using only the cards in front of you, plus as many basic lands as you'd like. Also, unlike a normal Constructed deck where the minimum deck size is 60, you only need to play 40 cards.

The first thing you're going to want to do is figure out a method to pick which colors you'll be playing. I recommend playing two colors and about 23 spells. You can sometimes "splash" for a third color, but in general, you'll want to pick two to be your core.

Some things that may draw you into specific colors are:

  • A really strong rare you're excited about
  • Plenty of "removal" cards that can deal with your opponent's creatures
  • A lot of playable cards in that color
  • A good "mana curve" in that color—meaning lots of creatures of different costs

Ideally, the colors you pick will have all four, but if two or three of those are true, that's plenty good.

Now you have your colors down. From there, how do you take everything you have and figure out which 22–23 cards you're going to want to put in your deck?

Here's one process that may help!

First, lay your creatures out in mana-cost order. This helps you see what creatures you're going to potentially be able to cast at each part of the game. (Don't lay your noncreatures out at this point unless they're cards you are planning to play as soon as you have that much mana—for example, you will generally cast Eager First-Year on turn two, whereas Beaming Defiance isn't usually a turn-three play.)

A good "mana curve" of creatures is crucial to a successful sealed deck. You don't want to have a ton of cards at any single spot in the curve. It's important for you to have a good mix so you can play your cheap spells in the early game and your expensive spells in the late game. As a very general rule for Limited, I would look to play something like this:

  • 1 mana: 0–2
  • 2 mana: 4–6
  • 3 mana: 3–5
  • 4 mana: 2–4
  • 5 mana 1–3
  • 6+ mana: 0–2

Mana Curve

That's far from hard and fast, but it's a good place to start. Cull your creatures down to these numbers by choosing your favorites.

To see this in action, you can check out my video from above to see me demonstrate the process.

Now that you have your core creature base figured out, it's time to add in spells! Pick favorites among your colors to bring your deck to 22 or 23 cards, then you're good to go from the spell side.

The spells you're going to want most are what are called "removal spells"—these are the spells that permanently neutralize your opponent's creatures by either dealing damage, keeping them tapped, or just straight-up destroying them. Sealed Deck Magic is all about creatures, so you'll want to play most of the cards in your colors that can get rid of your opponent's creatures.

If you want to learn more about mana curves, you can also check out my article on how to build a mana curve by clicking here.

Interested in more tips? Here are a few more things to keep in mind for deck building:

  • You can play more than 40 cards, but you really should stick to 40 if possible. Every card you play past 40 just means it's that much less likely you're going to draw that awesome rare you put in your deck!
  • The land ratio you're looking at should be about 17 or 18 lands to 22 or 23 nonlands. This isn't right 100% of the time, but most Limited decks end up looking like this, and in general, it's what I would want to have.
  • Play a mix of cheap-to-cast and expensive-to-cast cards. If you have all cheap, small creatures, then a single big creature can shut you down. If you have all large, expensive creatures, you risk getting run over first. Stick to a mix that focuses on the two-, three-, four-, and five-casting-cost creatures. More games of Sealed Deck are won by casting a creature every turn starting on turn two or three than any other way.
  • Evasion is important! Often, Sealed Deck games will get into stalls where both players have a lot of creatures and neither player can attack very well. Creatures with abilities like flying ensure that you can break through these creature stalls.
  • Unlike most Magic formats, Sealed tends to be a little slower. If your deck is on the slow side, choosing to draw (go second) rather than play (go first) can be reasonable to give you that extra card.

Mystical Magic

The Strixhaven's Mystical Archive contains all kinds of spells from across the Multiverse—and so, too, do the booster packs! One fun wrinkle to Strixhaven is that each pack contains a Mystical Archive card. These look a bit different—and are quite often iconic cards:

CounterspellMA Swords to Plowshares

These are entirely playable in Limited, so as you're opening them up you can absolutely use them! There are 63 in all. Outside of Limited they're legal in any format they would otherwise already be legal in.

They're a blast to play, and really bring back some memories. I hope you enjoy them!

On top of that, the rest of our Booster Fun initiative continues with this set, and there are all kinds of alternate, tricked-out versions of cards.

For example, there are the borderless planeswalkers, like these!

Borderless Professor OnyxBorderless Kasmina, Enigma Sage

For more information on the cool card treatments available in Strixhaven, check out the Collecting Strixhaven: School of Mages article here.

Magic from a Distance

Depending on where you are in the world, playing Magic in a store may be a problem right now due to COVID-19. So, if you get product to bring home and can't play in a store, what should you do?

Well, of course there's Magic: The Gathering Arena and Magic Online, which both let you play the set from a safe distance. But one other thing you could try is playing over a phone or a webcam!

Growing up, me and a friend would play Magic over phone calls. As you can imagine, that was a hassle: trying to remember all the cards was a nightmare, and it would be even harder for a Prerelease!

But now we live in a much different age—an age where webcams are readily available.

Depending on the setup you and your friends have, there can be many ways to do this. One I can highly recommend is called SpellTable. Complete with life-total tracking and card lookup, SpellTable can be run through a webcam on your computer but also your phone! It's easy to set up: just log in with your Wizards account and you're good to go. Some stores will even be offering remote Prerelease play opportunities using SpellTable! You can check out SpellTable over at SpellTable.com, and be sure to check in with your local store about play opportunities.

Boxed Study

While you're at your store to pick up Prerelease Packs, you can also buy other things—like booster boxes! Be sure to call ahead to preorder one, and while supplies last, you should be able to pick one up.

Dragonsguard Elite

Strixhaven also releases alongside Commander (2021 Edition), which includes five Commander decks! Be sure to talk with your store about these as well.

C21 Decks

The Mechanics of Strixhaven

Strixhaven has plenty of mechanics, like pulling cards from outside the game with Lessons and the new keyword magecraft. How do they work? Check out these mechanics videos created by Matt Tabak!

The Final Exam

We've never quite done a world like this, and as someone who grew up loving all kinds of magical school stories, this set hits quite close to home for me. I hope you enjoy what we've created—and find a bit, of well . . . Magic in all of it!

If you have any questions at all, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or even by sending an email to BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com. I'd be happy to hear from you!

I hope you've enjoyed Strixhaven previews, and whenever and however you play with the set: have fun! See you in class!

Gavin
Email: BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com
Instagram: GavinVerhey
TikTok: @GavinVerhey
Tumblr: GavInsight
Twitter: @GavinVerhey
YouTube: Good Morning Magic

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