Pledging Prismari: Drafting UR Spells in Strixhaven

Hello and welcome to Prismari Campus! My name is Schaab and I’ll be your guide today. Truthfully, I’m surprised to find myself here. As a language-based professional, I consider myself more of a Silverquill staff member, but the Prismari brochure says “DRAW MORE CARDS!” so I find myself here often.

Schaab, 2021

Today we’re going to tour one section of Prismari’s campus: Big Spell Square. The most popular place on campus is Tempo Tower (CFB Pro article by Ethan Saks – not the actual title of the article), but if you have dreams of casting the Magma Opus or Crackle with Power you opened, you’re in the right place! You don’t have to choose between having fun and winning – you can do both – probably. Maybe. No promises.

I’m not saying you should live in Big Spell Square. I’m just saying it’s one place on campus. You can cast big spells while drawing multiple cards per turn! What more could you want? Fair warning: your campus guide is easily distracted, so we’ll take some detours along the way. Let’s Talk Prismari Limited! 

The Faculty

This college has some truly exceptional educators. 

Efreet Flamepainter

If you’re looking for fun, look no further. Efreet Flamepainter transports you from Strixhaven directly to clown college. Riiiidiculous sequences happen with this card on the battlefield.

Efreet Flamepainter creates a mini-game. Whether you’re attacking, defending, or at parity, the red shaman’s arrival shifts the priorities and game actions of both players.

I’ve chosen to highlight this card in particular because it makes use of the graveyard – a surprisingly useful resource for Prismari players.

Go ahead and play Efreet Flamepainter on an empty board or without any impactful spells in the graveyard. Give your opponent that false sense of security and let the shenanigans begin. There are multiples ways to put spells in your graveyard without casting them – even at instant speed. 

Giving Efreet Flamepainter keys to the Access Tunnel isn’t my preference but I’ve seen others do it with great results.

Elemental Expressionist

Not a bomb, but worth highlighting that you can stack multiple triggers on the same creature, giving you more than one 4/4 Elemental when it dies. Floor of a 4/4, typical scenario is two 4/4s (the Expressionist and then the Elemental), and a game-winning ceiling of multiple elementals. The Orc Wizard itself isn’t a reason to attend Prismari but better than it first appears.

Nassari, Dean of Expression

An unanswered Nassari is not a beatable Magic card in a game of limited. What do you want? Card advantage? A creature that grows? A mill engine that provides inevitability? Check, check, and check.

Torrent Sculptor/Flamethrower Sonata

Both sides of this card perform well in Prismari. It’s not hard to turn it into a removal spell or decently sized creature depending on your need.

There are a lot of good Blue & Red rares that go in Prismari decks: Multiple Choice, Tempted by the Oriq, Ingenious Mastery, Draconic Intervention (bomb), etc. This isn’t a complete list but honestly most of the rares are good these days. Like, I haven’t had a chance to play Magma Opus in one of my draft decks yet but I imagine it’s pretty deece.

Let’s stop by the stables for a second so I can hop on my high horse before talking about Draconic Intervention. This card is a bomb in Prismari. It’s flexible because you usually have spells in the graveyard with different Mana Values (weird not to say CMC but ok) so you can engineer a favorable situation for yourself. It’s not unusual to exile a 2-3 mana spell and keep your 4/4 elementals. In a dire situation, you can even discard Elemental Mastery and then exile the two Bookwurms on the other side of the battlefield – a cool anecdote which would be much better had I actually won that game. I underestimated Draconic Intervention at first – now I never pass it, am happy to first pick it, and still see it passed far too late.

Also, Mystical Archive cards can lead to some nonsense:

A buddy’s draft log. 21 mana worth of spells on turn 6 with Mizzik’s Mastery. Seems good and fair.

Second-years (Two-drops)

The two-drop slot in Prismari is the equivalent of the second year of a 7-year degree program. Just survive it.

Prismari Pledgemage

The young Orc Wizard doesn’t excel in all areas but has perfect attendance – just shows up and sits there. If it looks like my deck is trending towards UR big spells, the pledgemage becomes a better card than Prismari Apprentice. It took a while for me to wrap my brain around it, but I’m pretty settled now. Prismari Apprentice is great, but when you’re casting 7 mana spells or multiple spells per turn, you typically don’t need your two-drop to win you the game. What you do need, however, is a 3/3 to help you survive the early turns.

Apprentice is still great, but Pledgemage is better in this deck.

Curate

My evaluation of this card continues to trend upwards and I’m surprised by how often I play Curate over replaceable two-drops. Playing Blood Age General or Burrog Befuddler and just hoping they trade with another creature feels awful.

Playing Curate over creatures isn’t free though – sometimes you’re on the draw, your opponent has early plays, and you take damage while casting your spell. But when that happens, Curate allows you to start digging for what you need. Maybe you find a Heated Debate, Igneous Inspiration, or Bury in Books to play the following turn. Maybe you put two Islands in your graveyard so you’re closer to drawing Pillardrop Warden and establishing blockers.

Now imagine the difference between drawing Curate and Blood-Age General in the late game. One is likely useless on the battlefield – the other puts imminent dead draws into your graveyard and gets  you closer to your more impactful cards.

Illustrious Historian

Putting this card in your deck is not the plan. But if you must….

It can trade with another two-drop as a blocker if you find it in your opening hand. If you draw it later, the goal is to discard it somehow and still get some value out of it.

Just survive your second year.

Negate

My love for Negate in this format is reaching unhealthy levels. I’ll play at least one in any Blue deck. One reason: above average number of spells in Strixhaven. Better reason: Future plays are telegraphed more often thanks to Lesson/Learn and some common play patterns. Fractal and Elemental Summoning are easy to see coming and there’s no shortage of good targets even against a deck like Silverquill aggro (Yes, you should be countering their Learn cards like Guiding Voice if you can. In a lot of games, you should use Negate whenever you get the chance.)

How is your opponent supposed to know if you’re holding up Negate, Curate, or Reject? They can’t. Have fun, opponent.

Reject

This is Plan D. Playing this in your 2-drop slot is better than nothing, but this should only make your deck out of necessity. The only reason I even consider this card playable in Prismari is because there are multiple ways to discard it later in the game when it’s useless. When this card finds a target, I feel like I’ve already won the game.

Junior Year: Committing to Your Major

In an ideal draft deck, your turn 3 play complements your turn 2 play. That’s not naturally the case in Prismari, so surviving the Developing phase will look slightly different based on your build. If your deck is Curating on turn two and playing a Quandrix Pledgemage on 3, you’re going to have a hard time defending against any kind of reasonable opening from your opponent (and should probably trade that pledgemage even if it feels real bad).

A great start for this deck would be turn 2 Prismari Pledgemage, turn 3 Spectacle Mage, turn 4 the world is your oyster. Pigment Storm isn’t efficient at 5 mana but does a nice job cleaning up the board on turn 4 with the discount from Spectacle Mage. Don’t have the answer you need? Time to start digging with a discounted Practical Research or the like.

If you’re committing to casting big spells, you’re planning to be the defender and need to deckbuild accordingly. You don’t want to be studying enthusiastically on turn three – Enthusiastic Study only goes in my Efreet Flamepainter decks and even then I don’t love it.  

Most of the turn 3 Prismari plays don’t defend well, so these decks are highly susceptible to being run over if you’re durdling on both turns 2 + 3.

In general you want your cards to help you find spells, survive long enough to cast them, and then help you cast them. You want Spectacle Mage, not Tome Shredder. Pop Quiz, not Enthusiastic Study.

The best cards to cast on turn three are your classically good cards: Heated Debate, Igneous Inspiration, Divide by Zero, and Bury in Books.

Graduate School

Strixhaven students might notice the omission of a particular six mana spell. If you’re building a big spells deck, you can…. Ahem…. You can…. I’m so sorry… You can give Snow Day the day off. There are cheaper sources of card advantage and the temporary effect isn’t what you’re looking for in a slower Prismari build. Snow Day isn’t bad – it’s a decent six mana spell so it will often have a significant impact on the game, but it’s not what most spell decks want to be doing.

I want the first copy of Elemental Masterpiece before the first copy of Creative Outburst, and I want them both more than Explosive Welcome. The eight-mana spell is fine but unimpressive. My ideal split is probably two Elemental Masterpiece and one Creative Outburst.

Snow Day has its place, like at the top of this Prismari build:

3-0 Traditional Draft with Snow Day as the top end.

Oracle of Mul Daya Award

In this section of campus, you’ll notice that a Prismari student has recently won the prestigious “Oracle of Mul Daya” award.

This honor is awarded to cards that make your campus guide seriously question his reading skills. Having read the card and comprehended the words, he is still somehow surprised when the card performs exactly as stated. Any card that makes him say “pffffft this card is dumb” out loud during a game is eligible for the Oracle of Mul Daya Award.

Maelstrom Muse

“Oh cool” I thought to myself after reading this card, “this will make 7 & 8 mana cards easier to cast. Very cool support card.”

“Oh… I’m casting Mentor’s Guidance for a single mana!” I said while actually playing with the Muse. Scry, draw, scry, draw, for a single blue. Eat your hearts out, Legacy players.

Don’t even get me started with having a Muse and Rootha on the battlefield at the same time. How do you like casting Heated Debate for 3? How would you like to cast it twice for three instead? Absurd.

Play tip: If Rootha is on the opposite side of the battlefield – kill it.

Student Stand-outs

Speaking of Rootha…

Quite simply, this is one of the scariest cards on the battlefield in Strixhaven draft. When possible, you should keep a cheap card like Opt in hand to cast and copy in response to an opponent’s removal spell. Kill this card when you can.

Play tip: This is the kind of card your opponent won’t block with if they don’t have to. Attack with your 2/2 the turn after your opponent plays Rootha and watch them take damage for free.

Academic Dispute

Prismari Pledgemage’s best friend. Playing this on turn 3 allows you to kill your opponent’s 2-drop, grab Elemental Summoning, and play another 2-mana spell that turn. It’s a fantastic sequence that puts you miles ahead.

Remember that you can block flyers thanks to this card! I remember about 50% of the time, usually after I’ve taken 6-8 damage to the face from an Inkling Summoning.

Elemental Summoning

Looking at the Trophy Decks in the following section, I’m not surprised that all the 7-win lists can Learn this Lesson. If you cast a Learn card in the developing phase (turns 2-5), Elemental Summoning is the perfect card to grab. Spectacle Mage makes it cheaper, it allows Prismari Pledgemage to attack, makes the Apprentice an unblockable 3/3, and it provides a bridge from the early game into the late game – ya know, the part where you cast seven-mana spells while they draw two-drops.

Ardent Dustspeaker

What else does Elemental Summoning do? Thank you for hypothetically asking! It allows you to play something impactful on turn five that isn’t Ardent Dustspeaker. Your opponent usually can’t just ignore the 4/4 Elemental, so they either have to trade with it or use a removal spell on it – making it less likely that they have a removal spell for the Minotaur Shaman I actually care about.

Like Efreet Flamepainter, Ardent Dustspeaker creates its own mini-game. There are some things you just can’t let your opponent do in a game of limited. Playing two extra cards off the top of their deck every turn falls into that category. Just have to make sure you have an instant or sorcery in your graveyard… And what’s this!? Elemental Summoning!?* Perfect!

*Longtime readers of Let’s Talk Limited know that this grammatical construction – “!?” – is called an interrobang. If you’re new, there’s your piece of trivia for the day.

Be careful with your choices if you’re planning to get cards back with Pillardrop Warden , play serpentine curve, or exile them with rares (e.g. Torrent Sculptor, Draconic Intervention).

Divide By Zero

Ya know what I love Dividing by Zero in the developing phase of the game? Anything. Literallly anything my opponent does – cool, let’s divide that by zero and grab Elemental Summoning. Again – just trying to survive the early turns – and I’m quite happy to play the tempo game when necessary. Slightly more seriously: the goal is to Divide something they can’t play again that turn.

Later in the game, Divide by Zero’s flexibility makes it a great topdeck. An overall outstanding card.

Trophy(ish) Decks

17lands.com is new to me and I’ve never actually linked to my data, so hopefully this works out alright. Note: If some choices don’t make sense, it’s possible I just rare-drafted. I’m trying to pay for my next draft, y’all.

7-2 DRAFT LOG
7-2 DRAFT LOG
7-0 DRAFT LOG
6-3 DRAFT LOG
6-3 DECK DETAILS

Maelstrom Muse: not legendary.

Walk of Shame

Some unsuccessful decklists.

First Prismari Draft of the format.

Horrific two-drops, tome shredders, and Zephyr Boots. Whole lotta “Yikes” here.

2-3

Note the lack of Prismari Pledgemages in the 2-drop slot. Academic Dispute is just so much worse when your 2-drop is Illustrious Historian. Gross.

Cards that weren’t mentioned in the article, though might be present in some of the above decklists out of necessity, because I don’t typically want them in my Prismari spell decks: Tome Shredder, Arcane Subtraction (I go back and forth on this one), Symmetry Sage,  Teach by Example, First Day of Class, Grinning Ignus, Mascot Interception, Oggyar Battle-Seer, Resculpt, Square Up.

If You Give Luis (LSV) Some Mana

If you give Luis some Mana, he’ll probably draw more cards. If Luis draws more cards, he’ll have more lines of play. If he has more lines of play, he’ll probably find a winning line. Ok I’m done now.

Watch LSV’s stream for long enough and you’ll eventually hear a version of “if you draw enough cards and make enough mana, you don’t need a win condition.” And while that’s typically true in the abstract… watching him do it in practice is an exercise in mental gymnastics. If your plan is to win by hitting your land drops, drawing a lot of cards, and just kinda figuring things out, it sure helps to be a master of the game.

To quote from the Book of Obvious Statements: “LSV is a much better Magic player than I am” – Most of Us.

If you aspire to be that kind of player, Prismari Big Spell Square is a good place to practice. There’s no concrete gameplan in these decks, they involve knowing exactly what’s in your current build, and it’s not unusual to win with only a few cards left in your deck. Not recommended for freshmen, but seniors should be fine.

Also, if the above decks look nothing like you’d expect from the author of Be Boring… Yeah. I get it. Learn the rules for building boring decks, then figure out how you can break them. You don’t have to build boring decks forever.


Bidding Farewell

Prismari campus is a fun place to hang out, whether it’s Tempo Tower, Big Spell Square, or the less popular Low-Curve Lounge.

7-2 DRAFT LOG

If you have a chance to visit Big Spell Square (i.e. you open Mizzik’s Mastery, Magma Opus, Blue Sun’s Zenith, etc), this guide highly recommends doing so. There are some great faculty, huge parties, and no two games are remotely the same.

I’m not sure how to end this tour, but you can find your way back to the parking lot, right? I’m terrible with directions but I’m sure you’ll be fine. Happy Drafting!

  • Schaab, Draft Enthusiast

Full Disclosure

Author’s Note

Thank you so much to everyone who gave feedback on my last publication – Be Boring. I’m not sure where I fit in to the Magic community, but I’m happy to be here.

About the Author

Schaab fell in love with Draft when he came back to Magic in 2016. Having recently downloaded Arena, he’s been hanging out in the top 1200 Limited rankings and loves playing against the Arena elite. Life responsibilities prevent him from being a tournament grinder, so he happily considers himself a successful casual player.

To directly promote more content, check out the Let’s Talk Limited Patreon page.

I’m new to streaming but am loving it and always appreciate new followers! LetsTalkLimited on Twitch.

You can contact me with comments, feedback, or coaching inquiries at BeBoring@letstalklimited.com

My content is a labor of love to help others get better at draft that will always be free. The best thing you can do is help other people (draft is really hard) but financial support is always appreciated. Thank you!

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