Strixhaven preview season hasn’t even officially begun, and we already have two new planeswalkers to talk about! These cards offer some exciting deckbuilding options, as well as new contexts for evaluating some powerful format staples. Let’s jump into it!
Kasmina was the first walker revealed, and there are some interesting places you can go with her. First off, her static ability makes us reconsider other planeswalker cards, especially those that weren’t designed to gain loyalty. For example, the uncommon planeswalkers from War of the Spark only have minus abilities, so you can only use their abilities a finite number of times.
Narset, Parter of Veils is one of the stronger walkers from WAR, but you could only get two uses out of her -2 ability. Now she can threaten to help you find even more cards so you can close the door on your opponent. Narset’s -2 can even find Kasmina herself, so this synergy may come up a lot if you put both planeswalkers in the same deck. We’ve already been seeing Yorion Bant Control decks pop up in Historic to combat Sacrifice decks, and Kasmina might become a one- or two-of in those decks.
Kasmina also has some good synergy with Teferi, Master of Time in Standard. Unlike the WAR planeswalkers, Teferi can gain loyalty, albeit very slowly, and you typically don’t get to use his -3 ability more than once or twice in a game. Gaining Kasmina’s +2 will allow him to use his -3 on your opponents’ turns more regularly, since you will be only going down 1 loyalty on the interaction each time. That is also assuming you have to use the -3 ability and never have a turn cycle to allow for a double +2. If you’re able to control the board while activating the +2 ability, Teferi might get into ultimate range, and you’ll have even more choices on how you ultimate him thanks to Kasmina.
Speaking of ultimates, let’s look at some other planeswalkers who will allow us to -8 quickly. Going back to our Historic War of the Spark walkers, we have Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner. Kiora comes in with 7 loyalty, so you can immediately +2 her using Kasmina’s ability and threaten to cast any blue or green spell from your deck. Any fans of Emergent Ultimatum out there?
Let’s say you ultimate you Kiora, grab Emergent Ultimatum, and present the pile of Alrund’s Epiphany, Liliana, Dreadhorde General, and Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. If your opponent gives you Vorinclex and Liliana, you’re immediately threatening a Liliana ultimate, which will put them on only one land and no real chance of winning. If they give you Vorinclex and Epiphany, you can then plus your Kasmina and threaten to grab another Ultimatum. If they give you Epiphany and Liliana, you get to plus your Liliana up to 8, take another turn, and grab another Ultimatum. I think you get the idea at this point.
It’s also worth noting here that Kasmina has a minus ability to protect herself. This ability works nicely with Kiora as a way to trigger her static ability to draw a card. It also works well if you have any extra copies of Narset in your hand. If you need to get some chump blockers down, you can -1 Narset to make a 1/1 Fractal and play a second Narset from your hand, without letting any loyalty points go to waste. While this may be Kasmina’s weakest ability, it will allow you to get some free value that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Professor Onyx could find a place in all kinds of decks, but her most obvious home is in a more controlling deck. She threatens to take over the game if you can protect her for a few turns — sort of like an Ob Nixilis on steroids. The fact that her +1 allows you to choose a card from your top three is a huge upgrade over Ob Nixilis, who just gives you a random card.
Onyx’s +1 also opens the door for some potential graveyard synergies. Cling to Dust has proven to be a powerful tool to have in your arsenal; this ability will fill your graveyard so you can pay Cling’s escape cost, and if Cling itself is one of the cards you find, you have the option of drawing it or putting it in your graveyard for later. Another escape card that could fit in this shell is Glimpse of Freedom — a very clear card draw spell that most control decks will want. Since Onyx’s static ability will drain your opponents every time you cast an instant or sorcery, having cards you can play on repeat go up in value in these decks.
Meanwhile, Onyx’s -3 will always answer the most powerful threat on the board. While the largest creature isn’t always the best card in Magic, forcing your opponent to sacrifice a threat can still go a long way. If you can stock your deck with enough answers to other problematic threats, you can use Onyx to clean up the stickiest ones. Cards like Dream Trawler or Toski can be nearly impossible for a blue-black deck to beat, but Onyx opens the door for it to become a more potent deck in Standard.
To be honest, I’m not super impressed by Onyx’s ultimate ability. It’s a win condition, for sure — and especially useful in control mirrors — but it’s not the thing that sets this card apart. In my mind, Onyx’s real “ultimate” happens when you really get to go off with her static ability. You’ll be slowly draining your opponents’ life total with every passing turn, allowing you to stabilize as you work toward ending the game. Planeswalkers excel in control decks by padding your life total and generating card advantage, and Onyx does this in spades, pulling you further ahead with each turn she sticks around.
Of course, Onyx’s static ability isn’t just useful for control decks — it’s also a potential combo piece. Her static ability works a lot like prowess — you cast spells and, in theory, your opponent takes more damage — but it also reminds me of storm. She rewards casting a lot of spells in a single turn; her static is basically Tendrils of Agony. If you’re looking to build this type of deck, pairing Onyx with Thousand-Year Storm in Historic will allow you to win with just a few spells, as each copy you create with Storm will trigger Onyx’s static ability. It may cost a lot of mana, but I’m sure we’ll see some players try to turn this a thing!
We’ve only seen a handful of cards from Strixhaven, and the hype is really setting in! These cards allow for a lot of creative possibilities, and I can’t wait to see what players come up with.
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.