Professor Onyx – Strixhaven
Date Reviewed: April 12, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Grab your pencils and your notebooks, or whatever people use in class these days. I’m a lecturer myself, and some of my students use a laptop or tablet in tutorials; quite a few don’t bring anything at all, which always draws a raised eyebrow from me. Regardless, class is in – Strixhaven is just around the corner.
Fittingly for a set that diverges from what we’ve done recently, Professor Onyx has a lot of innovations. She’s part of the third iteration of planeswalkers with static abilities; outside of the text box, she’s one of the planeswalkers with the biggest difference between her name and her type (more or less matched by The Royal Scions). In fact, you might even play her just for her magecraft ability, because there’s nothing else that quite does what it does, in any card type. In competitive settings, it might indeed be better to just play Tendrils of Agony, but if you don’t need to end the game on the spot and just get advantage over multiple turns, Professor Onyx is where you want to go.
Her +1 is tamer than a lot of black card advantage options, but should do a good enough job at finding more things to trigger her magecraft ability, and her ultimate is surprisingly devastating. Her -3 is also tamer than some other planeswalkers’ self-protection, but I actually kind of like that: like many cards in Strixhaven, it is impeccably fair in gameplay, which is appealing to me. It might not be the attribute we look for in cutthroat settings, but I like it.
Liliana looks to be doing well for herself. Under a slightly different alias, she’s managed to secure a spot teaching students how to be good practitioners of magic…and with that, we’ve come to Strixhaven, the magical school set that’s all about casting stuff and things.
By and large, Professor Onyx does the usual Liliana things, just with a Strixhaven twist. Her -3 gets rid of creatures, and it has the upshot of not targeting; it wipes out the largest creature your opponent has, which is usually the best creature to get rid of, and it bypasses a lot of restrictions. Her +1 loads up your graveyard while adding cards to your hand; Strategic Planning on demand is nice, much less in black. Her ultimate should win you the game or devastate an opponent’s hand to the point where their defeat is inevitable, but getting it off is pretty fanciful.
Her other quirk is her magecraft passive; this is the set’s new ability marker, noting abilities that fire on casting or copying instants and sorceries. A bleed of 2 life is not a lot at first, but it’s a free swing of life with each spell you cast with her on board. Between her digging for cards and bleeding opponents out more, this Liliana ends games quickly.
The downside to her is clear: six mana. This is quite an investment, and while she can protect herself somewhat, six mana for a Strategic Planning (in the worst-case scenario) is a bit less than optimal. She’s still not bad, but this is a card you have to build around to get the most out of.
Constructed: 3.25 (I think she’s slow for the current Standard, but I could be proven wrong)
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