I’ve had quite an interesting relationship with Strixhaven Limited. When the set was first released, I had no real clue what the best school was to draft. While I was entranced by my preview card, Aether Helix, I soon found I couldn’t quite master the Quandrix archetype in Arena drafts. It was time to seek an education elsewhere.
If you’ve been following my articles and videos on Strixhaven Limited, you’ll know by now that I’m set in my Silverquill ways. Silverquill, in my humble opinion, is by far the best archetype to draft in ranked Arena play. Initially, I was clued into trying to draft cheap black and white creatures by my friend Charlotte Lewis. Charlotte had taken it upon herself to draft the crap out of Strixhaven, hitting Mythic soon after the set’s release on Arena. While I grappled with getting my first 7-win draft deck, Charlotte was well on her way to a top 1200 finish. After a couple drafts with the archetype I found myself raking in gems through multiple 7-win decks. While I finished in high Diamond a few months in a row, I’m finally proud to say that with a final push, I got there:
I was honestly pretty shocked that I landed at #499 at the season’s end. With less than 16 hours to spare I was able to breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of the number, thinking that I would fall just short of a top 1200. Now, I’m not an Arena expert – I don’t know if this initial ranking is due to only 500ish people actually making Mythic this season, or if my win streak on my way to Mythic catapulted my way to #499, but I’ll take it. What I do know for a fact, is that the results don’t lie: Silverquill was the way to go, at least for me.
I’m aware of the data presented by 17lands.com and the success of other Mythic Limited experts, such as DarkestMage (Michael Jacob), who in a single weekend climbed from Gold to Mythic on his stream playing a myriad of different 4 and 5-color decks. While I’ve written about Silverquill before, finally hitting Mythic has given me a bit more perspective on how to rank up on Arena. While some of this knowledge may not be new to you, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have, especially if you truly want to reach Mythic in a given month.
First, let’s take a quick look at some of the 7-win decks from this past season that got me to that coveted top #500 spot:
What are some of the patterns that can be seen across the board?
- The One Drop Slot – In pretty much every deck that got me to 7 wins I relied on the power of Unwilling Ingredient and Eyetwitch (and a Valentin, Dean of the Vein here or there). Having a one drop puts you extremely far ahead of your opponent, especially if they’re playing a durdely green-based deck. Sometimes a turn 1 creature followed up by an Essence Infusion is game over if you have the right spells to protect it. Playing a one drop with evasion (all of them do) immediately puts your opponent on the back foot, and is even more intimidating while on the play. Speaking of…
- Taking Advantage of Best of One – No sideboarding and on the play 50% of the time – that’s how we like it. Being on the play half the time allows you to take advantage of opponents playing slower decks than yours. Curving out 1,2,3 is the perfect recipe for success if your opponent is on the backfoot with a hand chock-full of Field Trips and Serpentine Curves. Playing Best of One also allows you to easily hit your land drops in a 16-land deck with a curve topping out at 4 or 5 with Arena’s built-in hand smoother.
- Professor’s Warning is the Most Valuable Spell – There are very few times I’ve had Professor’s Warning in my deck, and every draft I’ve had, it’s saved me from sure disaster. Professor’s Warning is so valuable because Silverquill relies on buffing your small, evasive creatures. The last thing you want to happen is for your Arrogant Poet with two +1/+1 counters on it to meet its untimely end at the hand of a Heated Debate or Ingenious Inspiration. At one mana, Warning acts as both a cheap protection spell, and removal spell, if you ever have trouble in combat. Silverquill prides itself on applying pressure through cheap, evasive threats – it’s only fitting Professor’s Warning is a one-mana catch all.
- The Bombs – While each color has its access to a smattering of bombs, Silverquill has access to three of the best rares in the set for Arena drafts: Sparring Regimen, Dramatic Finale, and Poet’s Quill. Quill and Regimen both Learn on enter, immediately drawing you a card, and both can quickly end games or swing the tide in your favor. Finale allows you to swing or block with creatures that would otherwise prove useless, while slowly adding to your army of evasive threats. These three rares have been the key to victory across multiple drafts. While each color does have its access to game-ending rares, Silverquill has three which threaten to end a game on the spot. And sometimes when you have two, your victory is all but assured:
While it was nice to hit Mythic and qualify for the next qualifier weekend, I did have some stipulations about playing ladder this past season. It’s no news to anyone that playing an aggressive deck in best of one is a recipe for success on the ladder. While Strixhaven felt like a very open format at times, where one could draft 3+ color decks as well as college decks, I never could achieve the same success with any deck other than Silverquill. So many of my 7 win Silverquill decks just seemed so…unfair, in comparison to what other people were doing in my best of one queues. I’ve had a lot of fun playing Strixhaven sealed and playing a few traditional drafts in paper. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the design of the set – a multicolored, spells-based set, where you can draft amazing decks with little to no creatures. However, a lot of the ‘magic’ of the set was killed for me when I figured out the easy way to rank up was drafting Silverquill decks. I know this is not a universally shared experience, but in a lot of cases it just made more sense to force a Silverquill deck than try and venture into a different deck route. The results speak for themselves.
I cannot stress enough in this article how drafting aggressive strategies put you in such a great position to take over the ranked ladder on MTG Arena. As long as WoTC prints cheap, evasive creatures, there will always be a way to take advantage of a format. We saw this in Kaldheim as well, with Usher of the Fallen and Battlefield Raptor being the antithesis of the various snow-based strategies.
Looking at the spoilers from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms there doesn’t appear to be as strong, evasive, and cheap creatures as there were in Strixhaven. Looking at some of the common and uncommon white cards, it seems White does have some early good creatures, but a lot of them have to deal with gaining value off Venturing into the Dungeon or off equipments and dragon synergies.
This makes me hopeful about the set, since I haven’t seen a plethora of evasive 1-2 drops that sometimes draw cards that we saw in Strixhaven. Until I’ve seen the whole set and had some practice with it I can’t for sure say what the best archetype is in AFR. However, looking at the set I’m eyeing highly picking Venture into the Dungeon and various dragon cards to out-value and go over the top of my opponents. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Looping back to my original thoughts, Strixhaven has taught me a great deal about approaching Limited on MTG Arena. It was incredibly rewarding to find an avenue that led me to winning the bulk of my drafts. Never before had I felt so in charge of my destiny when I first picked Combat Professors and Unwilling Ingredients over “just better” cards. When the aggressive deck is there, you’d be wrong not to take advantage of it. While Strixhaven had a bounty of evasive inexpensive creatures in the 1-2 drop slot that isn’t the case for every single set. With the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms I’m going to be vigilant about finding “my” path to Mythic once more. While I’ll be keeping a close eye on the best aggressive white strategy, there is definitely a lot of room to explore before I champion a certain archetype.
Never stop innovating.