Last updated on March 28, 2024

Kaya, Spirits' Justice - Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Kaya, Spirits' Justice | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Since the first planeswalker printings in 2008’s Lorwyn, planeswalker cards have become the face of MTG. They are integral to MTG lore because the story arcs revolve around the events happening on many different interconnected planes. But planeswalkers took a strong hit ever since the events of March of the Machine.  Even though there are fewer planeswalkers in number, it doesn’t mean that these spells will become weaker, right?

That’s what we’re about to unfold. Murders at Karlov Manor has only one entirely new planeswalker card, which we’ll discuss in great depth here. Murders at Karlov Manor Commander also has two old faces rejoining the fray, so we’ll count them too. Let’s dive in!

Why Is There Only One Planeswalker in Murders at Karlov Manor?

Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh - Illustration by Bryan Sola

Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh | Illustration by Bryan Sola

Planeswalkers were always abundant in MTG sets, and their actual numbers vary from three to five in every large set. From Wilds of Eldraine on, WotC decided to go with one planeswalker per Standard set, at least for now. This ties to the actual story arc, with many planeswalkers losing their spark, like Nissa, Teferi, and Nahiri, among others. So, the only planeswalker from Murders at Karlov Manor is Kaya, in their latest design, Kaya, Spirits' Justice.

Kaya, Spirits' Justice

We also have two other planeswalkers in the Murders at Karlov Manor Commander, Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh and Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

#3. Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh (Commander Reprint)

Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh

Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh is a very artifact-centric planeswalker. Their abilities require that you’re invested in artifacts to get the most out of them. It won’t go in any deck, but it serves a niche. You can discard expensive artifacts like Portal to Phyrexia to reanimate while getting card advantage. You can convert indestructible artifact lands into 4/4 bodies, boost your Ornithopter, and so on.

#2. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion (Commander Reprint)

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Look, we all know and love Elspeth, Sun's Champion. It still sees play in formats like Commander and Pioneer. It’s a nice and strong planeswalker that costs 6 mana and has two very good and reliable abilities. The +1 can make three tokens, which is perfect for stabilizing in go-wide strategies. If the board’s a little ugly, you can -2 and destroy most big creatures, so it’s a white board wipe in planeswalker form that will keep your 1/1 tokens alive. It’s a tried and true planeswalker, and indeed a good one, but since it’s a reprint I’m leaving it at position #2.

#1. Kaya, Spirits’ Justice

Kaya, Spirits' Justice

Kaya, Spirits' Justice is the only planeswalker from MKM and the star of the show. It’s an Orzhov planeswalker that costs and starts with 3 loyalty. Let’s see what the card does:

  • First, it’s got a passive ability, as many planeswalkers from recent sets do. If you exile a creature you control or a creature from your graveyard, you can make a token you control become a flying copy of one of the exiled creatures. That has interesting implications already.
  • The +2 gives you card selection and feeds the passive ability. So you can surveil a strong creature into your graveyard to use later. Also, +2 on an uptick ability is very good.
  • Kaya also creates flying tokens with a plus ability.
  • The -2 can give you a nice removal ability but with a caveat that you have to lose something. It’s very similar to effects where you have to sacrifice a creature to kill another one, like Bone Splinters. In EDH, you’ll lose a creature, probably a token, and get three opposing creatures. Not bad at all.

So, now that we have Kaya’s abilities analyzed, what can we do with them?

  • First, it’s good to note that a planeswalker that has two plus abilities is good. Making a 1/1 flyer and upticking Kaya is a good pattern already, and there’s an alternate +2 if you want to bolster Kaya’s loyalty even more.
  • A common play pattern will be to make a token, then activate the +2, Surveil 2, and make your token huge and ready to strike.
  • Another possibility is to use the -2 ability right away, provided that you have some token or sacrifice fodder. This is huge in EDH as it gets creatures from all players, so you’ll lose your worst and they’ll lose their best card.
  • Kaya can be used as a midrange reanimator tool, and coupled with self-mill effects you can have a creature toolbox in your graveyard to transform your tokens into. The only caveat is that the token you control becomes a copy of the exiled creature, so it won’t trigger the ETB effect. So, if you make your creature a copy of Atraxa, Grand Unifier, you’ll only get the creature body. It’s better with creatures with attack triggers, like Cityscape Leveler.  
  • In an Abzan deck, the surveil ability on Kaya can be used to fuel the graveyard, so you can explore synergies with the new collect evidence mechanic. What’s more, collecting evidence will trigger Kaya’s passive ability. So, you can dump a big creature in your graveyard, get the benefit from collecting evidence, and turn a small creature into a big beater.
  • Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator is a fantastic follow-up to Kaya as another planeswalker with an exile-related passive. I’m eager to test these two together in Standard.


Tidy Conclusion - Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme

Tidy Conclusion | Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme

Kaya is always represented as a planeswalker with an exile subtheme and tokens, particularly spirit tokens. Their latest design is shaping up to be very solid in Standard, with implications in EDH and Pioneer. Eternal formats in MTG have plenty of ways to put more cards into the graveyard, so Kaya may find a way into other formats too.

What do you think about this new Kaya? Is it finding a home or am I overselling it? Please let me know what you think in the comments section below, or over at the Draftsim Discord. Thanks for reading, guys, and check out our blog for more exciting articles and news on Murders at Karlov Manor.

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