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Magic: The Gathering’s new Strixhaven set enrols in some higher learning and packs a satchel full of historic spells

Less Harry Potter than high school.

Magic: The Gathering revealed some of the first concrete details about the next major expansion to its incredibly popular collectible card game - Strixhaven: School of Mages - along with a special run of spells that will be found in booster packs.

Strixhaven: School of Mages will release on April 23rd and explore a school of mages known throughout the in-game multiverse for its prestige and ability to produce exceptional practitioners of the arcane. Fans and players have warily speculated on how this set would look, given how close that description fits with another school of wizardry that looms large in popular culture.

After the introduction to Strixhaven’s five colleges - all founded by elder dragons - it's safe to say the flavour leans away from the stuffy, 19th century English artifice for a more modern university feel - if a talking bear took organic chemistry and the performing arts building was a floating, burning sculpture. Nobody on Strixhaven gets sorted by wearing a moth-ridden headpiece and not a single flying broom has appeared on previewed art.

Each of the five colleges embrace two mana slices from Magic’s five-coloured pie and specialize in a certain branch of coursework. Lorehold are the historians, delvers of tomes and caves alike who revel in literally bringing the past to life. Their white and red mana base provide them plenty of personnel and the protective magic to stave off attacks - players already love card art showing a dwarf shooting magic out of a scroll like a minigun. Alternatively, the red and blue-focused Prismari college exults in self-expression, using magic to fuel their performance art. Versed in creation and destruction, players who pick up this mantle can deny their opponent vital resources while keeping their own well-stocked.

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The maths-focused, green and blue-mana Quandrix are the nerds among nerds, dedicating their free time to complex equations that undergird all living things. That acumen allows them and the players who wield their power the ability to unravel opponents’ spellcraft on the spot and genetically enhance their own forces. The other side of that life-loving coin is the Witherbloom College, “goth bio majors'' with a penchant for getting their hands literally and metaphorically dirty. Their black and green-mana mages would much rather control the forces of life than ponder how they’d look as variables, and their cards reflect that - siphon health from foes and watch their creatures wither away when using their power.

The final college, Silverquill, contains the orators and poets, the leaders and lyre-strummers whose focus black and white mana poise them as powerful mages who might one day use their abilities for good or evil. Silverquill players can utilise their inky magic to soar above defenses or strike a precise, piercing blow where the other side least expects it. All five colleges received one preview each from a Command cycle of cards that allow players to choose two from a list of abilities when played. The abilities provide a crash course on the college’s strengths, while the art shows off the panache and style of their uniforms.

Strixhven will ship as standard 15-card booster packs along with a series of five Commander decks that comprise the 2021 Edition, all themed on the new colleges. Draft boosters designed for limited format play and college-themed boosters -containing only cards in their two colours - will also be available upon release.

New to the Strixhaven set will be the addition of a special set in each standard booster. 63 specifically selected spells from across Magic: The Gathering’s history will be included in standard and draft boosters, boasting unique illustrations. Called the Mystical Archive, the cards will be playable in draft formats but otherwise will not be available in standard constructed play or any other format where they might be individually restricted. The addition of the Mystical Archive cards will not take up one of the 15 slots in a standard booster, publisher Wizards of the Coast said in the preview article.

Magic: The Gathering’s Japanese branch further previewed unique regional illustrations for cards in the Mystical Archive inspired by traditional art forms.

Strixhaven: School of Mages will release physically on April 23rd, with the digital set coming to online platforms one week early.

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