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COLLECTING STRIXHAVEN: SCHOOL OF MAGES
Posted in Feature on March 25, 2021
Thinking back, I remember being in university in one of those vast lecture halls. I was sitting in class scribbling furiously into my notebook. Was I listening to the lecture? No! I was brewing up a new Magic deck. I couldn't wait to get back to my place and go through my collection of cards to try out my brand-new creation. I loved finding the synergies that I had thought of and, even better, discovering combinations that I had overlooked.
My mom used to say that I spent college majoring in Magic. I wouldn't have had it any other way. With Magic, exploring the new cards, the new characters, and the new worlds will always capture our attention and affection. As Strixhaven: School of Mages is unveiled over the next weeks, I hope the new cards and new treatments excite you as much as they have excited everyone who has worked on bringing Strixhaven: School of Mages to life.
I'm Mike Turian, principal product designer for Magic and lead architect for Strixhaven: School of Mages. In this article, I'll be showing off and talking about where you can find borderless cards, extended-art cards, Mystical Archive cards and their Japanese variants, MTG Arena treatments, and more!
STRIXHAVEN UNIVERSITY AND THE MYSTICAL ARCHIVE
Strixhaven is the school that all aspiring young mages dream about attending for university. Taylor Ingvarsson, the lead art director for the set, shares, "Creatively, Strixhaven was an incredibly fun challenge to approach with the team. We wanted the world to feel vast and exciting, and for Strixhaven University to feel awe-inspiring. Full of wonder, mystery, and providing endless possibilities for incoming students to explore."
An important feature of any prestigious university is the library. At Strixhaven, the library is called the Biblioplex, said to hold the knowledge of the Multiverse as it contains archives of each spell cast in Magic, often depicting the very first time the spell was cast. The forbidden section of the Biblioplex, called the Mystical Archive, houses manuscripts for the most iconic spells in Magic. Here are some examples.
Wow! The Mystical Archive cards are all instants and sorceries from throughout Magic's history. These are so exciting that we made sure that every Strixhaven Set and Draft Booster has at least 1 Mystical Archive card. Each Collector Booster will include at least 3 Mystical Archive cards.
There are 18 uncommon, 30 rare, and 15 mythic rare Mystical Archive cards. The inclusion of the Mystical Archive cards in Strixhaven doesn't change the formats in which these cards are legal. For example, Duress is currently legal in Standard due to Core Set 2021, but the inclusion of Duress as a Mystical Archive card doesn't change the fact that Duress rotates out of Standard with the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt later this year.
The Mystical Archive includes both a global version (available in Chinese Simplified and Traditional, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish) and a Japanese alternate-art version with a special frame and printed only in the Japanese language.
James Arnold, senior graphic designer, shared his inspiration around creating the Mystical Archive frames. "We wanted to capture the narrative element uniting the frame when working on Strixhaven, and we kept coming back to that question, simple but difficult to answer: why? Yes, it was an incredible, powerful collection of spells, but why did it exist and for what purpose?
"The grand library of Strixhaven had been an awe-inspiring image since it first appeared on the concept art wall many months prior. The gilded pages of texts from ages long ago, the reverence those stylized images hold in our collective imagination, it made sense that an accomplished magical scholar would work in such a way. This was going to be Swords to Plowshares as penned by the hand of someone who had lovingly researched and recorded the spell for the greatest archive in the Multiverse."
Tom Jenkot, principal art director and lead art director for both versions of the Mystical Archive, shared that he loved "the whole idea of these depictions of the first time a spell [had] ever been cast. I imagine some scribe drawing these in a dark, rarely used library corner. But a talented scribe! Or at least one who knew a lot of good artists."
"For the Japanese [alternate-art] versions, we made sure to lean into classic styles with some graphical elements, similar to how we did with the global versions. We hired all the artists from the Japanese agency called Kogado, an art agency for 100 years! The results were equally as awesome as the global versions. That Japanese frame lets the art shine (especially with the vertical title bar)."
Both frames accentuate the art to make these Mystical Archive cards bring an illuminated manuscript feel onto a Magic card in a stunning way.
MYSTICAL ARCHIVE IN BOOSTERS
Now let's look at how you can find these amazing cards in boosters. I'll discuss Japanese-language boosters, too, but for now, let's start with all other languages of boosters.
You can find the global version of Mystical Archive cards in Set, Draft, and Collector Boosters. Each Set Booster has a dedicated slot that will always have either an uncommon, a rare, or a mythic rare Mystical Archive card. The foil slot of the Set Booster has a chance of getting a traditional foil Mystical Archive card (uncommon, rare, or mythic rare) as well.
Each Draft Booster also has a dedicated slot with an uncommon (67%), rare (26.4%), or mythic rare (6.6%) Mystical Archive card. You can get another Mystical Archive card in traditional foil in addition to the one that comes in the dedicated slot. When you do get a traditional foil Mystical Archive card, it will replace a Strixhaven common card in the booster.
The Collector Booster has a minimum of three Mystical Archive cards in every booster, including two foil-etched Mystical Archive cards. For these two foil-etched Mystical Archive cards, one will always be an uncommon and the other will always be either a rare or mythic rare. One of the two will always be a global variant and the other will always be a Japanese alternate-art version. For example, if you open a foil-etched Japanese alternate-art Mystical Archive uncommon in your Collector Booster, the other foil-etched Mystical Archive card will always be a global version rare or mythic rare.
For the third Mystical Archive card in the Collector Booster, it will always be a traditional foil uncommon Mystical Archive card. This traditional foil will be split 50% as to whether it is the global or Japanese alternate-art version.
In approximately 48% of Collector Boosters, you will get a traditional foil Mystical Archive rare or mythic rare card. So, this 48% of Collector Boosters will have 4 of the 15 cards be from the Mystical Archive card pool! Once again, it will be split 50% as to whether this traditional foil rare or mythic rare is the global or Japanese alternate-art version.
The above is true for all languages of Collector Boosters, but Set and Draft Boosters work differently in their Japanese release. In Japanese Set and Draft Boosters, each time you get a Mystical Archive card, it is a 50% split of being either the global version (printed in the Japanese language) or the Japanese alternate-art version (which is always exclusively in Japanese language).
BORDERLESS PLANESWALKERS AND ELDER DRAGONS
Strixhaven: School of Mages continues the tradition of bringing each planeswalker card in the set into our borderless planeswalker frame with alternate artwork. Rowan and Will, Lukka, Professor Onyx, and Kasmina will each have a regular version and a borderless version. Let's take a look at Professor Onyx.
While the students of Strixhaven may not be aware of Lilliana's disguise as a professor, her type line reveals her true identity. Professor Onyx also features one of the new mechanics of Strixhaven, magecraft. Magecraft gives you a bonus each time you cast or copy an instant or sorcery, so while Professor Onyx is in play, every time you cast or copy an instant or sorcery you will drain each opponent for 2 life.
The four planeswalkers aren't the only borderless cards you will find in Strixhaven boosters; each of the five "Founder Dragons" of Strixhaven's colleges are also featured in the borderless treatment with alternate art. Doug Beyer, principal game designer and creative lead for Strixhaven shared some of these dragons' backstories. "The idea came early on to include a cycle of enemy color [Elder] Dragons as the founders of the five colleges. Dragons are magical beasts that can be powerful spellcasters and are also the kinds of narcissists who would insist on their names being plastered on a bunch of campus buildings."
Let's look at Shadrix Silverquill, the founder of Silverquill.
For the planeswalker and founder Elder Dragon cards, you can find both the regular and the borderless versions in Set, Draft, and Collector Boosters. You can find a complete breakdown of how the Collector Booster works below, including more info about these borderless planeswalkers and Elder Dragons. In the Set and Draft Booster, a borderless card will replace its regular frame non-foil counterpart 1-in-3 times that card would appear.
ART CARDS AND SIGNATURE ART CARDS
Art cards and signature art cards have been an exclusive of the Set Booster since their introduction in Zendikar Rising. With Strixhaven Set Boosters (available in Chinese Simplified, English, French, German, and Japanese), we are bringing 81 of the outstanding illustrations, including select pieces from the Mystical Archive, to the art card (or a 5% chance of a signature art card) found in each Set Booster. Here is an example of what you might get:
Shadrix Silverquill signature art card
EXTENDED-ART RARE AND MYTHIC RARE CARDS
Strixhaven: School of Mages is filled with amazing art. Extended-art cards are our way of making sure that every rare and mythic rare in the set has an extra-cool collectible treatment. Strixhaven has an extra helping of extended-art cards with 69 extended-art rares and 12 extended-art mythic rares. These extended-art cards come in both foil and non-foil versions. In addition, with five Commander (2021 Edition) decks, we wanted to make sure that we created those new rares and mythic rares in extended art as well so all 70 rares and 10 mythic rares from the Commander (2021 Edition) decks are available in an extended-art version (non-foil only).
All told, the main set of Strixhaven has each rare and mythic rare available in extended art with the exception of the five Elder Dragons and the planeswalkers. You can even get extended-art versions of the modal double-faced cards in the set. Extended-art cards are only found in the Collector Booster.
For the Commander (2021 Edition) rares and mythic rares, the Collector Booster has a dedicated single slot (in addition to the slot above) that will always have a non-foil extended-art version containing one of the new rare and mythic rare cards from the five Commander (2021 Edition) decks. The Commander (2021 Edition) extended-art cards are only available in non-foil. Of note, the rares and mythic rares that are reprints in the Commander (2021 Edition) decks aren't found in Strixhaven Collector Boosters. Let's look at an extended-art Commander (2021 Edition) card.
Along with the extended-art cards that you can only get in the Collector Booster, there is a promo card for Strixhaven that is a traditional foil alternate-art and extended-art version of Dragonsguard Elite that is only available via the Buy-a-Box promotion (while supplies last). You won't find this version of Dragonsguard Elite in the Collector Booster.
COLLECTOR BOOSTER CONTENTS
(Collector Boosters are available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish)
1 Foil-etched Mystical Archive rare or mythic rare – The only place to get foil-etched Mystical Archive cards is in the Collector Booster. In this slot of your booster, you will get one of 30 rare Mystical Archive cards or one of 15 mythic rare Mystical Archive cards with a foil-etched treatment in either their global or Japanese alternate-art version. It is a 50% split to get a global version or Japanese alternate-art version of the Mystical Archive card.
1 Foil-etched Mystical Archive uncommon – In this slot, you will always get one of the 18 Mystical Archive uncommons in a foil-etched treatment. This slot will be a 50% split between having the global Mystical Archive style and the Japanese variant. If you get a global Mystical Archive card in your Collector Booster, it means that your foil-etched rare or mythic rare was the Japanese alternate-art version (and vice versa). Between this slot and the foil-etched rare or mythic rare slot, you will always get one foil-etched global Mystical Archive card and one foil-etched Japanese alternate-art card.
1 Traditional foil Mystical Archive (global or Japanese alternate-art version) rare or mythic rare, borderless mythic rare, or extended-art rare or mythic rare – This slot is filled with all sorts of goodness! Typically found as the last Magic card in your Collector Booster, this slot is your chance to get some amazing cards! In this slot, you will find the traditional foil Mystical Archive global version (45 cards), the traditional foil Mystical Archive Japanese alternate-art version (45 cards), foil extended-art Strixhaven: School of Mages main set rares and mythic rares (81 cards, including Lessons and MDFCs), and foil borderless mythic rares (9 cards, including MDFCs). Wow!
1 Traditional foil Mystical Archive uncommon – There are 18 Mystical Archive uncommons, and each one can be found in this slot in traditional foil. Half of the time, the card in this slot is the global version of a Mystical Archive card, and the other half of the time, it's the Japanese alternate-art version of a Mystical Archive card.
1 Extended-art rare or mythic rare, or a borderless mythic rare – In this slot you will get one of the Strixhaven: School of Mages extended-art rares or mythic rares from the main set, or a borderless planeswalker card, or a borderless mythic rare Elder Dragon (90 cards total). The borderless cards feature alternate art as well as the borderless frame. Both the extended-art and borderless cards can be single-faced or double-faced in correspondence to their main set counterpart. This slot never contains an extended-art Commander (2021 Edition) rare or mythic rare card because of the next slot below that always contains one.
1 Extended-art Commander (2021 Edition) rare or mythic rare – As noted above in the extended-art section, this slot will always contain one of the new Commander (2021 Edition) rares or mythic rares with extended art (80 cards).
1 Traditional foil Lesson – All 20 Lesson cards in Strixhaven can be found in this slot. On average, if you opened six Collector Boosters, you would expect to get a combination of 5 common and/or uncommon Lesson cards, as well as 1 rare or mythic rare Lesson card.
For the Lesson cards, you will notice that they have a special icon in the upper left to make it easier to notice these cards when you have cast a spell with the new learn mechanic. I spoke with Daniel Holt, the UX designer responsible for mechanical frames and icons of the Lesson frame.
"One major question that kept popping up" was, as Daniel put it, "can I put this Lesson in my deck like a regular card? The answer is 'yes,' so I immediately knew that no matter what we did special for these cards, we also had to make sure they looked like something that could go in your deck and be played normally if you wanted."
"There was no restriction on the upper-left corner where DFC icons typically appear, and it worked well as the spot for the Lesson icon. The team landed on a quill and scroll to represent taking notes and learning a new spell! Hopefully, this icon will help players notice their Lesson cards during drafts and deck construction so they can appropriately decide if they want to main deck a card or put it in their sideboard to learn later."
1 Traditional foil rare or mythic rare – Most rare and mythic rares in the Strixhaven: School of Mages main set can be found here—including the double-faced cards but excluding the Lesson cards—for 84 total cards. The rare and mythic rare Lesson cards are found in the Lesson slot above.
2 Traditional foil uncommons – The uncommons that you can get here include the main set Strixhaven uncommons with the exception of the Lesson cards (75 cards possible). The 5 uncommon Lesson cards aren't included here because they are instead in the Lesson slot above.
5 Traditional foil commons – The commons that you can get here include the main set Strixhaven commons and the common nonbasic lands (96 cards total). The common Lesson cards aren't included here as they are in the Lesson slot above. The Strixhaven: School of Mages basic lands aren't included here either. If you want Strixhaven basic lands in foil, they are available in Set Boosters and the Strixhaven: School of Mages Bundle.
1 Traditional foil token (double-sided) – The Collector Booster has the 7 different tokens that are created by cards in the main set as well as the two different emblems. Each token and emblem are found on one side of these double-sided foils. If you want to collect traditional foil tokens and emblems, the Collector Booster is the only place in Strixhaven that they can be found.
Each school has a token that its spells can create. For instance, Lorehold makes a 3/2 Spirit creature token, and the Collector Booster is where you get it in foil. Here is what that token will look like.
Traditional foil version found in Collecter Booster packs.
COLLECTING STRIXHAVEN: SCHOOL OF MAGES ON MTG ARENA
For the MTG Arena fans out there looking to collect these great treatments online: fear not! Here's how you can collect some amazing cards and card styles for Strixhaven: School of Mages.
Mystical Archive cards – You can get the global Mystical Archive cards while playing Limited (Draft or Sealed), when you purchase packs from the MTG Arena store, or by using Wildcards of the appropriate rarity to craft. The Japanese alternate-art versions of Mystical Archive cards are card styles of their global counterparts—that is, the versions you open in packs and craft on MTG Arena. A selection of the Japanese alternate-art version card styles will be available in the MTG Arena store (bundled by color), plus there will be an additional bundle that contains the card styles for banned-in-Historic Mystical Archive cards, and through upcoming College Cup events.
Borderless card styles – The borderless planeswalker card styles will be available in the MTG Arena store in a bundle. Similarly, the mythic rare Elder Dragons will have their own bundle of card styles in the store as well.
Dragonsguard Elite Buy-a-Box promo – For players who purchase the 45-count bundle of Strixhaven: School of Mages card packs on MTG Arena, they will receive 1 copy of the regular card and the alternate-art card style. For those players who purchase the 90-count, they will receive 2 copies of the card plus the alternate-art card style.
Pets – Strixhaven adds seven pets to MTG Arena. If you are like me, I love clicking on my pet continuously. Even though pets don't wear out digitally (although, my mouse seems to wear down from all of this clicking!), it is always good to have the right pet for the right deck. Each of the five colleges of Strixhaven have a pet book (e.g., Silverquill Book) that is available through the Set Mastery feature. In addition to those five pets, Codie the Codex is available as part of a Strixhaven: School of Mages preorder option and Mila, Crafty Companion can be acquired as part of a bundle.
Before the school bell rings to end this article, I'd like to point out that there is even more information about all of the products of Strixhaven: School of Mages; Ari Zirulnik wrote an overview of everything Strixhaven that I'd encourage you to check out! Thanks for spending the time with me as I shared the exciting new cards and treatments that we got to bring to life with Strixhaven: School of Mages. If this article left you wanting more, with questions, or you just want to give feedback, you can find me on Twitter at @mturian.