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The Planeswalkers of Strixhaven

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This past Monday, two of the brand new planeswalkers were previewed from the upcoming Strixhaven set. One of them was even previewed by none other than Danny Trejo himself! Man, what a time to be alive...

Now seeing as this set is a set based around the magic school trope, you're going to get a lot of that theme coming through with today's previews. Keep in mind that these are just two of the planeswalkers from the set, and with large sets often containing three, there is most likely one left to be revealed. Either way, we're going to do a deep dive on both of the cards we have access to and talk in depth about their abilities. Let's check 'em out!

Kasmina, Enigma Sage

Kasmina, Enigma Sage

Kasmina is back, and this time she's a proper mythic, like a planeswalker should be. Truth be told, this iteration reminds me a lot of Nissa, Steward of Elements, what with both of them being ug, having a scry ability, and making creatures. But in truth, they are very different.

Both planeswalkers that were revealed have static abilities, so if you thought we had seen the last of these, you were wrong. It appears that static abilities on planeswalkers are now a regular part of Magic. Kasmina's is interesting in that she lets all your other planeswalkers use any of her abilities. Sharing abilities is something that has only ever been present on Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, and it was the reverse.

Her +2 ability is pretty basic. Scry 1. That's it. It's not the worst, but it is definitely pretty boring. I keep rereading the card to make sure I'm not missing anything. I'm not. I think this could have easily been a scry 2 instead, but I'm pretty sure the sole purpose of this ability is A) to share a +2 ability with other planeswalkers, and B) to build her up for her other abilities, so we may have to take that into consideration.

Her -X ability is really hard to process without having played with the card, or without knowing what the meta will look like, although having the option to make a creature of any size, no matter how much loyalty she has, seems very flexible. If you remember, the previous Kasmina, Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor, had five loyalty, and only a -2 ability. This meant she would end up with one remaining loyalty. If you had the new Kasmina in play, you would be able to make a 1/1 with her final loyalty point. Combined with her static ability, this gives a lot of flexibility to all of your other planeswalkers, allowing them to make a blocker for only one loyalty.

Finally, we have her -8 ability. This is one that really appeals to me specifically, because both Cruel Ultimatum and Genesis Ultimatum can be found with it. I guess Emergent Ultimatum can be as well, which also happens to be a deck in Standard right now! Eerie Ultimatum can as well. Needless to say, it feels like one of the best things you can find off this ability is an Ultimatum. This ultimate seems really strong if you can get to it, but getting to eight does seem like it might be an ordeal.

It's worth noting here that Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider makes almost all of her abilities insane. It allows her to enter the battlefield with four loyalty, and her first activation puts her in ultimate range, giving her eight loyalty. Additionally, every Fractal you create gets twice as many counters. This means you could play Kasmina, Enigma Sage with four loyalty counters, remove three to make a 6/6, and she would still survive to scry another day.

I'm not 100% sold on her, but I never, ever take a three-mana planeswalker for granted.

Professor Onyx

Professor Onyx

Boy, this one is a little on the nose, huh? You don't get much more "School of Mages" than a card titled Professor Onyx. But there's a lot going on here, so let's break it all down and see what we're dealing with.

The very first thing I want to point out is that... well, this is Liliana. This is a Legendary Planeswalker - Liliana. I didn't actually know this at first, and I was wondering why people kept calling her Liliana. Turns out the card tells you quite specifically.

Knowing that she's actually Liliana, this makes my comparison to Liliana, Dreadhorde General feel significantly more apt. Let's just look at the similarities:

  • Both planeswalkers cost six mana.
  • Both planeswalkers start at a high loyalty of five or six.
  • Both planeswalkers have a first ability that provides a form of card advantage for +1.
  • Both planeswalkers have a minus ability that puts them to two loyalty and deals with at least one creature.
  • Both planeswalkers have a static ability.

While they are, of course, not the same card, they sure have a lot in common. I've often made the comment that many five-mana planeswalkers are templated identically. Ob Nixilis Reignited, Jace, Unraveler of Mysteries, Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God: all of these cost five mana, have a plus ability that nets you a card, and a minus ability that deals with a creature and protects itself. These might as well be the same three cards, reskinned over time.

I don't necessarily mind, because making planeswalkers over and over and over has to be tricky, but there was definitely a formula being followed, and I'm feeling that same six-mana template being used here for Professor Onyx.

All that being said, her abilities are actually quite different from Liliana, Dreadhorde General when we dig beneath the surface. While both planeswalkers have a static ability, this one is quite unique and also has the magecraft ability, which is new. My initial theory would be that magecraft is an ability that triggers an effect every time you cast an instant of sorcery spell. It's not a keyword, but rather an ability word, similar to landfall or threshold. This means it should have a different effect for every card it's present on, but the way to trigger it should remain the same.

This feels like a strong ability, given that Lili...er, Professor Onyx can remain on the board for a full turn. The nice thing about Liliana, Dreadhorde General was that if you had creatures, they could protect Liliana and also draw you cards when they died in combat. Professor Onyx threatens no such immediate benefit, but this could still be a great ability to stabilize if you're able to cast two or three spells on the next turn, one of which you can get with her first ability.

Speaking of her first ability, this is one of the better "draw a card" abilities on a planeswalker. It's quite literally Ransack the Lab or Strategic Planning, with the Black flair of costing you a life, because of course it does. The selection here is fantastic, and the fact that the cards go to the graveyard is huge, fueling all kinds of potential graveyard strategies. Whenever a mere "draw a card" effect can fuel multiple plans or zones, it's usually very beneficial.

The second ability, while not targeting, is always going to get rid of their most expensive creature. There are a few times I could see this backfiring when they have a Scornful Egotist in play, unfortunately, so be careful. Keep in mind that this ability also says "each" opponent, meaning that she's even more powerful in Commander (just like everything else). This is a fine ability. If the opponent only has one creature, she will always kill it, and if they have multiple, she'll likely kill the one you'd want dead anyway more often than not. Another benefit is that she says "sacrifice," so you can kill obnoxious things like Dream Trawler, Eradicator Valkyrie, or the token from Kiora Bests the Sea God.

Finally, if you can get her to eight loyalty, you likely win the game. This effect triggers seven times in total, meaning if the opponent has no cards in hand they take 21 and it literally kills them from their starting life total. If they have four cards in hand, they can choose to discard them all, then only take nine. Still pretty powerful. Keep in mind the discard portion is a may ability, so they can always keep a card or two in hand, given that they have the life to support that course of action.

All in all, this Liliana looks really powerful, especially with her built in Tendrils of Agony. I'll definitely be replacing the previous 6-drop Liliana in my Cube with this one when able.

But what do you guys think? We've seen a few cards from Strixhaven so far. How are you feeling about the set? I personally haven't seen anything I'm not fond of yet, from the sweet Mystical Archive cards, to the cycle of Commands that I may touch on in the coming weeks. Are you going to be sleeving these planeswalkers up? Let me know in the comments below!

As always, thank you so much for reading, I love you guys, stay safe, and I'll catch you next week!

Frank Lepore

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