Tuesday, April 6, 2021

MTGA: Lessons and Learn spells in Strixhaven.

 A new mechanic in the forthcoming new Magic set is the Learn/Lesson mechanic. Some cards have the keyword Learn which allows you to fetch a Lesson card from your sideboard. If you want you can rummage instead but generally you'll only do that if you're out of Lesson cards.

In Limited this means you need to have both some sources of Learn in your deck and a reasonable collection of Lesson cards to fetch.



Regarding Lessons there are three scenarios:

- you have really good stuff to fetch. Learn cards are a more valuable pick.

- you have stuff to pick that makes the combined value of the Learn card plus the Lesson card above baseline C grade, 20th-23rd pick cards.

- you didn't really get there. You have Learn cards without Lessons or your cards are weak or situational.


So here's the list of Lesson cards. There are 20 Lesson cards. All Lessons are Sorceries.

There is one mythic, Mascot Expedition (above), which is a strong 7 mana finisher. It's strong enough to consider main-decking but fetching it for free off a Lesson is a more attractive option. It's colourless.

There are 5 rares, one in each colour. The black and white ones are situational but the other three are well worth a card. So casting any Learn spell then getting one of the red, green or blue rare lessons is a fine play.

There are 5 uncommons, one in each colour. They are all situational but potentially quite powerful. They remove something usually in return for giving some minor advantage.

There are 9 commons. 5 are dual colour but where you can use either colour to cast. 4 are colourless. They range from clearly not being worth a card to worth a replacement level main deck card (eg a 4/4 creature for 5 mana).

So in deckbuilding you'll need a concept of "Lesson strength." Just how impactful is it when you play a Learn card (based on your pool of Lessons)? If you have an adequate C- grade card as a lesson plus a couple of situational but more powerful cards then Learn cards are ok, that's probably the starting point. If you have a better Lesson pool then you can run worse Learn cards as the Lesson half of the combo is so powerful.

If you do decide to collect Learn and Lesson cards you will probably need more Learn cards than Lesson cards. This is because if you draw 20 cards from a 40 card deck (a 13ish turn game) you will only see half of your Learn cards while having access to all your Lesson cards. The value of Learn goes down each time you use it as, presumably, you will take your best Lesson card leaving the remnants.

 Good fixing allows a wider variety of Lesson cards to be viable.

It seems clear that we will have some quite good cards to find if we draft for them or get lucky in our Sealed pools. So let's now look at the Learn cards.



Here is the list of the 21 Learn cards. They are a wide variety of spell types.

No mythics.

There are 5 rares, one in each colour. Each is solidly worth a card even if you have no Lessons to fetch.

There are 6 uncommons. Divide by zero, Igneous Inspiration, and Professor of Symbology are just about worth a card even if you didn't have any lessons to fetch. The other three are useful effects when they also draw a worthwhile Lesson card.

There are 10 commons with 2 blue, 3 black, 2 green, 2 red, 3 white. (That's more than 10 total because some have either/or dual mana costs). Generally they're not cards you would usually include in the deck if they didn't draw you a lesson. The exception is Rise of Extus which would make most black or white decks as 6 mana unconditional removal. Some are fairly bad so a card like Guiding Voice is only worth it if you really need Learn.


In general Learn/Lesson cards are a little below the power level of a typical card - the mechanic depends on the usefulness of drawing the Lesson card to create a situation where the two cards combined are more impactful than other options.

 Learn/Lesson is tempo negative as you have to find the mana to cast two spells, the second being a Sorcery.

There's a real risk of not drawing your Learn cards leaving all your Lessons sidelined. Obviously you can reduce the risk by picking more Learn cards to play or to draft but that risks going down in card quality and/or hitting a point where you've fetched your Lessons and your Learn cards are just mediocre cards with nothing more to fetch.

With Sealed check which Lessons you have then look at your Learn cards. Did you luck into a viable Learn/Lesson strategy?

Draft is much more interesting. You need to decide whether there's a Learn/Lesson subtheme to your deck and draft to support it. It's an element that you should try to keep open to. Eg if there's nothing you particularly want to play take the mediocre Learn card in case you draw a great lesson later in the draft.

Let's consider a difficult decision. Pack 1 pick 1 you have a decent rare Lesson and a really strong Uncommon. Do you take the Lesson? In truth the question can only be answered after format experience but I'm thinking yes, you would take the Lesson. With 21 Learn cards in the format it's reasonable to expect you'll find decent Learn spells as you navigate through the draft. So long as you think a mediocre Learn spell plus your good Lesson rare outpowers the strong Uncommon then it's probably correct to risk it. Another consideration is that you may not draw your Uncommon - it's one card in 40 - but if you end up with 4 Learn cards then any of those will either draw your rare Lesson or will fetch a situationally even better Lesson.

There will be some very difficult, and perhaps risky choices where you have to decide between a card that will be fine if the Learn/Lesson element comes together but which will cost you a decent playable if it doesn't.

In Kaldheim the snow mechanic meant that we often collected cards outside the usual 23 non-land cards we assemble for a limited deck. The Learn/Lesson mechanic is more of the same - we need both a 23 card deck and some Lessons in the sideboard if we're building this type of deck. In Kaldheim (inspired by a Luis Scott-Vargas draft video early in the format) people began to much more aggressively draft snow covered lands. We may see a similar effect in this format with people aggressively drafting Learn/Lesson in pack 1 to make sure that they can operate this mechanic effectively.

Overall it's a fine mechanic that will see many of us deep in thought in the weeks to come.


Happy drafting everyone!

Afterword: I initially made some mistakes which should now be fixed. Thanks to /u/nepetalast and /u/itsdrewmiller from the LR Cast subreddit and to Scrappykid from the Lords of Limited discord.

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MTGA: Lessons and Learn spells in Strixhaven.

 A new mechanic in the forthcoming new Magic set is the Learn/Lesson mechanic. Some cards have the keyword Learn which allows you to fetch a...