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Insider Picks for the Strixhaven Championship

May 28, 2021
Rich Hagon

The Strixhaven Championship is coming right up, June 4–6, and we've enlisted our coverage team to share their bold predictions on players to watch, decks they'd love to see in action, Strixhaven Mystical Archive cards they have their eyes on, and a dose of Magic-themed educational wishes.

So let's delve inside the minds of these two Lorehold, two Prismari, two Witherbloom, three Quandrix, and one Silverquill devotees as they take us to school in the lead-up to the final Championship of the season.

Whose minds are on which school? We'll reveal that later, but here is our collegiate coverage crew, including:

  • Play-by-play commentators Marshall Sutcliffe and Eilidh Lonie
  • Expert roles chaired by Paul Cheon and Cedric Phillips
  • The news desk team of Maria Bartholdi, Mani Davoudi, and Riley Knight


Plus, behind the scenes across social and text coverage—who have had their eyes on every League Weekend and Championship so far this season—are reporters Corbin Hosler, Elizabeth Rice, and Meghan Wolff.

It's an outstanding crew filled to the brim with predictions for how this event will play out.

In It To Win It

Starting with the key players to keep your eyes on, we asked our coverage cadre for three players whom they think will do well at the Championship—one member of the MPL, one from the Rivals League, and one Challenger:

  MPL Rivals Challenger
Meghan Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Matt Sperling Arya Karamchandani
Corbin Seth Manfield Grzegorz Kowalski Rocky Caitung
Elizabeth Autumn Burchett Grzegorz Kowalski Arya Karamchandani
Maria Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Luis Scott-Vargas Arne Huschenbeth
Mani Reid Duke Matt Sperling Yuuki Ichikawa
Riley Brad Nelson Luis Scott-Vargas Logan Nettles
Cedric Brad Nelson Mike Sigrist Yuuki Ichikawa
Paul Ondřej Stráský Luis Scott-Vargas Arne Huschenbeth
Eilidh Seth Manfield Luis Scott-Vargas Yuuki Ichikawa
Marshall Seth Manfield Mike Sigrist Sam Pardee

In the MPL, there's a good deal of usual-suspect-ery going on. Maria, of course, is on the PVDDR wagon, as is Meghan:

Maria: "If I ever don't pick Paulo in this category, call for help, because an alien lifeform has obviously taken over my body."

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa



Meghan: "I didn't pick him to win Worlds and I will now only make predictions based on that mistake."

Eilidh is one of three players who went for Seth Manfield: "Seth's performance over the Strixhaven League Weekends have been incredible, and I think momentum is going to see his hot streak continue!"

Both Cedric and Riley went for Brad Nelson and highlighted the same key point.

Cedric: "The best Standard player of all time will find a hole in a fairly solved metagame."

Brad Nelson



Riley: "An established format is where he does his best work."

In the Rivals League, it's clear who the popular kids are, as our talented ten combined for just four Rivals picks: Luis Scott-Vargas (4), Matt Sperling (2), Grzegorz Kowalski (2), and Mike Sigrist (2).

There are many good reasons to pick Luis Scott-Vargas. But also one bad one.

Paul: "Luis got mad that I didn't choose him as the person to watch at the last event, so I had to make amends here."

Coward.

Hats off, too, to Meghan for winning this show's (very much not real) "On the Nose" award. Why pick Matt Sperling?

Matt Sperling



"I mean, I'd really want to win something if I'd just lost a playoff for Worlds," she said.

Yeah, that'll do it.

There are some interesting picks amongst the Challengers. Corbin, just who is Rocky Caitung?

"A familiar name in the southern US regional circuit, Rocky is also the winner of the Dreamhack Austin 2017 Open," he said. Rocky "qualified via the Qualifier Weekend in May and is poised for a breakthrough."

Elizabeth, too, has gone for a newer name to seasoned watchers. "Arya Karamchandani was the winner of this past season of the Venus and Mercury League. She has an impressive understanding of the game and is great at making meta calls."

Meghan: "She apparently teaches a tournament Magic class at college, and that's just cool."

Indeed it is.

Another player several of our team have their eyes on is Yuuki Ichikawa among the many challengers

Yuuki Ichikawa



Cedric: "Two Pro Tour Top 8s and nine Grand Prix Top 8s (with four wins), Ichikawa is a Challenger in terminology alone. This is a very skilled and accomplished Magic player who is capable of winning any event he's qualified for. That makes him a sneaky pick that I'm here for."

Top Overall Picks
Meghan Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Corbin Seth Manfield
Elizabeth Grzegorz Kowalski
Maria Luis Scott-Vargas
Mani Yuuki Ichikawa
Riley Luis Scott-Vargas
Cedric Yuuki Ichikawa
Paul Luis Scott-Vargas
Eilidh Seth Manfield
Marshall Sam Pardee

If you believe their powers of prediction, this could be a big weekend for Luis Scott-Vargas. Then again, it's not always clear just how these picks have been made.

Luis Scott-Vargas



Marshall, for example, seems to have highlighted Sam Pardee for pun-related reasons. "He's been on the sidelines as he was out of the MPL and Rivals, but in case anyone has forgotten, it's Pardee time."

I think lockdown has been weighing rather heavily, and he just had to get that one out there.

Format Predictions

Our formats this time around are Standard and Historic, with the Historic format taking center stage throughout Sunday in the Top 8. Let's start with the team's thoughts on Standard. What archetype would the team like to see in action?

Cedric: "For the Kaldheim Championship, I said Mono-White Aggro would be the best-performing Standard deck. That didn't happen, and Kai Budde made fun of me (#rude). Well Kai, this is called doubling down. Mono-White Aggro will be the best-performing deck in Strixhaven Standard whether you like it or not!"

Eilidh: "I always love a good aggressive deck, so I'm hoping to see a handful show up and obliterate the greedy likes of Sultai Ultimatum. Burn, baby, burn!"



Elizabeth: "I would love to see a Titans' Nest deck in Standard. It more than holds its own against traditional Sultai, and once it sticks, it generates so much value. Who knew giving Shark Typhoon delve could be good?"

And what about Historic, a format which, like history itself, is constantly being rewritten?

Corbin: "I'd like to see Collected Company decks make a major comeback. It's been a format-defining card several times throughout its history, and it feels like Historic is a new home full of possibilities for the archetype."

Paul: "Izzet Phoenix is extremely fun to play and has fully taken advantage of the cards from Strixhaven's Mystical Archive in both Brainstorm and Faithless Looting. The deck is resilient to removal and has the ability to kill opponents seemingly out of nowhere by putting multiple fliers with haste onto the battlefield."

Paul wasn't alone.

Mani: "I've wanted to see Izzet Phoenix in Historic for a long time, and it finally has the tools to have a real chance. I'm excited to see what this terrifying new iteration of the explosive archetype is capable of."

Mystical Archive Marvels

The Mystical Archive seems certain to play its part in the Historic rounds. Which Mystical Archive cards is our team hoping to see in action?

Marshall: "I'd like to see Time Warp. And I don't want to see it cast only once; I want that thing recurred. Multiple times."

Eilidh: "Mizzix's Mastery! I've seen players do some ridiculous stuff with that card on the ladder, so I'm all for an overloaded Mastery!"

Elizabeth and Paul picked the same card. Can you guess?

Elizabeth: "It's such a fun card that has the potential to lead to some crazy turns."

Paul: "I won my very first PTQ after copying Osyp Lebedowicz's UW deck in Extended. The random nature of the card makes it really fun to watch from a viewer's perspective."

And that card is Mind's Desire.

Rather more worryingly, Corbin and Riley also have the same card in mind.

Stone Rain

Riley: "On the play with a Llanowar Elves involved—blow up their first land before they've even played their second!"

Corbin: "Stone Rain. We always need more Stone Rains."

I'm not entirely sure that we do, Corbin.

Alumni Activity

Away from cut-throat competition, let's turn our attention back to those Strixhaven college affiliations we hinted at in the intro. So which colleges caught each team member's eye?



For Lorehold, it's interviewer extraordinaire Riley Knight and reporter Elizabeth Rice. Why Lorehold? As Riley explained, "when it comes down to it, all learning is just a subset of history. Writing? History: people have been writing for millennia. Maths? History: when you learnt that 2+2=4, that was actually a history lesson, because someone figured it out before you."

Our Prismari reps are host Maria Bartholdi and expert Mani Davoudi—and it turns out that they're fans of Prismari for the same reason:

Maria: "I literally majored in theatre in college, so it only makes sense."

Mani: "As both a theatre student and a fan of flashy blue/red combo decks, Prismari was my obvious choice of college."

Over in Witherbloom, it's reporter Meghan and play-by-play commentator Eilidh. These responses speak directly to the essence of life and death in Magic.

Eilidh: "I love killing my creatures and hurting my opponents with death and magecraft triggers in the process."

Meghan: "I would like to cultivate a garden full of poisonous plants and have people leave me alone in it."

Yep—death, hurt, poisonous plants, and isolation. All the happy thoughts in one black-green place.

Quandrix, unsurprisingly, had our commentators queueing up to represent, with play-by-play commentator Marshall Sutcliffe, plus experts Cedric and Paul, all coming to the Quandrix party. From a range of responses, there was one reason that was the best any of them could come up with as to why Quandrix.



Paul: "I've always had an analytical mindset when it comes to problem solving so this would have to be an easy Quandrix for me."

I find reading this in the voice of Simon Goertzen helps. Remember, that was the best Quandrix answer.

And that leaves our final member of the crew, the reporter Corbin.

Corbin: "I'm contractually obligated to inform you that Silverquill is my home."

Lecturing the Players

With college enrolment out of the way, one of the privileges of covering the best players is getting to talk with the best players. We asked our team which pro they would want to take a cram session with, and what the topic would be.

Marshall: "Oh, I would grab LSV for a cram session on how he approaches Limited. I've never really gotten that from him. It's usually just a combination of trolling, puns, and nonsense."

Maria: "Simon Goertzen: how to navigate Limited gameplay. Once, after a big tournament, Simon watched me play a draft game against another person on coverage, and questioned almost every play I made. I was shocked. But, he was actually right in every instance. It was mind-opening."

Elizabeth: "I would cram cube drafting picks with Gabriel Nassif. When I competed in Mythic Championship VII, he stood over me while I drafted Autumn Burchett's cube, and I learned so much from the few things he said to me. I would love to learn more from him."

But what if the shoe was on the other foot, and our team were professors at a college that taught Magic: The Gathering. What would be their specialist subject?

Corbin: "I could teach a whole semester on the history of Merfolk as an archetype, and exactly how to sequence your combat with the deck. Give us Lord of Atlantis in Historic!"

Eilidh: "My specialist subject would be the art of Magic. One of the most appealing things for me when I started playing was the card art, and I always look forward to seeing new art in each and every set."

Maria: "I would love to teach Intro to Draft. I grade on a curve. Get it?"

I certainly do, Maria.



While these all sound good, there's one lecture that's just unmissable.

Meghan: "Advocating for Yourself: Rude Opponents, and Where, Exactly, You Can Tell Them to Go."

As I say, unmissable, and so is the Strixhaven Championship. Watch every minute of the action broadcasting live June 4–6 at twitch.tv/magic!

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