As the Kaldheim cycle comes to a close, Wizards of the Coast has started to tease cards from Strixhaven, Magic: The Gathering’s forthcoming magical academy-themed set. I don’t pay too much attention to card teases, preferring—somewhat unwisely—to go into a new set completely unaware of what might turn up and picking cards in the moment. But one of the Strixhaven cards teased made me perk up.
Plus, what the hell is Liliana Vess doing here?
Liliana is one of those big-time Magic characters. When she does anything, people take notice. In the War of the Spark set, it seemed she finally cast down her bad girl persona for good in favor of stabbing someone in the back who actually deserved it. To make a very long story short, Liliana played a critical role in defeating Nicol Bolas, the big, bad elder-dragon douchebag who wanted to rule over the multiverse with the help of some immensely powerful zombified gods. Our heroes won the day against Bolas largely due to his betrayal by Liliana, who was one of his generals.
After the war, Liliana disappeared before turning up again in Strixhaven under a new name: Professor Onyx. (This is a rough overview of what happened. I’m strategically choosing to leave out parts involving an assassination attempt, dopplegangers, and what I like to call a demonically cursed hair bonnet. Magic lore is notoriously confusing. Yet despite all that, I absolutely love it.) Anyway, Liliana’s back, and apparently she’s teaching the children of Strixhaven.
My first thought upon seeing this card was “there’s a scam afoot.” Liliana is a complex character. She’s done good, but mostly whatever she does is to serve her own purpose, and often when she does, people get hurt. To me, Liliana showing up at an academy of young wizards under an assumed name means there’s something at Strixhaven she wants, and she’s willing to involve a bunch of teenagers to get it.
On the other hand, Liliana may just be trying something other than her favorite pastime of double crossing people. To some people, her sudden and inevitable betrayal of her boss came too late, and they’d rather see her dead than risk her showing up in the future with a freshly risen horde of zombies at her command. Choosing a new identity as a school teacher just be the fresh start she needs. Either way, get your bag, sis.
I’m curious to see if other established characters will show up as professors at Strixhaven. There haven’t been many cards teased yet, so we’ll see as more are released.