Learn, Lessons, and Pauper

Strixhaven is bringing a new take on Wishes to Magic and for the first time allows Pauper decks to access this powerful ability. Wishes – originally from Judgment – let you tutor for a specific subset of cards from “outside the game”. In tournament games this means going to your sideboard. For the remainder of this post whenever I refer to Wish I will be talking about it in the context of tournament Magic.

Learn is a keyword that lets you either retrieve a Lesson from your sideboard and put it into your hand. If you do not Wish for a Lesson, then you get to discard a card from your hand and draw a card (rummage). Learn and Lesson are both interesting in that they force you to not only question the value of a card, but also the value of a card slot.

Let’s start with Learn. Outside of First Day of Class (which has combo applications with Persist), these cards are all overcosted by about a mana for their base effect. The ability to rummage is something but unless you are benefiting from the rummage (perhaps with Stinkweed Imp) these cards are not worth the cost. Put bluntly – none of the effects on the cards with Learn are powerful enough to warrant including without access to Lessons.

This leads to the questions as to whether or not any Lessons are good enough. There are nine common Lessons – four colorless sorceries and one for each color pair – and none of them are powerful enough to include in any maindeck. Are they strong enough for a sideboard slot? Maybe, depending on how you value a slot in your sideboard.

Roughly speaking, a card in your sideboard is somewhere between 3 and 4 times as important as a card in your maindeck when it matters. When a sideboard card does not matter its value is roughly zero. The Lessons are all worth about a card, especially if you can get one for “free” by casting a spell with Learn. Yet the opportunity cost of including one of these in your sideboard is astronomical in that you are trading a potential game-breaking card for a card that is merely okay.

In aggregate I do not think this mechanic is worth it in Pauper. Of course there are exceptions, some of which might even matter. The leading example I can think of is in Heroic, where Guiding Voice is far from embarrassing. Considering how linear of a deck Heroic is, you rarely want to sideboard too many cards in or out. That means the deck can find home for a few Lessons in their extra fifteen. Expanded Anatomy feels like a win in Heroic as well, growing a creature and giving it the ability to stay untapped for a potential crack back. I could also see builds of Heroic with Seeker of the Way making use of Introduction to Prophecy in the midgame.

So where does this leave Learn? Most of the time you are not going to want these effects in your Pauper deck. The exception is when you are running a highly linear deck that does not want to sideboard out too many cards and could make use of a Wish-like sideboard as a way to marginally improve different matchups while not giving up on too many high impact sideboard cards.

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Published by Alex Ullman

Alex Ullman has been playing Magic since 1994 (he thinks). Since 2005, he's spent most of his time playing and exploring Pauper. One of his proudest accomplishments was being on the winnings side of the 2009 Community Cup. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised.

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