Have you heard about Kaya, Ghost Assassin? Kaya has an origin story, a biography, a fascinating story of coming into existence, and now we see the card attached to all this. And it’s good!


Kaya, Ghost Assassin is never likely to get beyond five loyalty, outside of proliferate and Doubling Season shenanigans. But when you look at her in the context of the other planeswalker conspicuously lacking a positive loyalty ability, one striking thing stands out: Kaya’s ability to reset herself means that she’s going to be spending many a turn at three or four loyalty. And that’s pretty cool!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Sarkhan the Mad. While his zero-loyalty ability is powerful, as drawing cards always proves to be, he is an unreliable ally. Even if the average converted mana cost in your deck is less than two, absent a way to control the top card of your library, he’s going to die at least once when you need him. Add in the fact that he’s a compelling target, and Sarkhan the Mad ends up spending less time on the table than you’d think.


Kaya, Ghost Assassin, though, will prove harder to kill. If you untap with her, you get to send her away for a turn and start the next turn with a five-loyalty planeswalker in play. Sure, it costs some life, but her minus one ability quickly negates that cost. And she too helps you draw cards, templated for multiplayer, making her a solid choice for inclusion in any decks that can run an Orzhov card.


(Let alone the benefit you can get pairing her with something like Phyrexian Gargantua.)


And at the end of the day, that’s what’s so revolutionary about Kaya, Ghost Assassin. Not only is she good, but she’s resilient and cheap. She’s just under the bar of major threat, likely drawing about as much attention as Phyrexian Arena once she’s there. And should your opponents take a swing at her and miss, she just blinks out and returns a refreshed powerhouse.


Kaya, Ghost Assassin means that Orzhov-friendly decks are going to spend a bunch of games with a black woman on the battlefield for an extended period of time. Not only will she be seen by those of us who like spoilers, she’ll also be seen by your opponents, by your friends. She will be present in a way that many other diverse characters are not; Alesha, Who Smiles At Death, for example, has a more restrictive mana requirement and a more finicky ability. While it’s awesome we have a badass trans character, how many people see her at any given point in time? She’s basically just a build-around-me Commander, still important and awesome, but hardly omnipresent. Black women are a far bigger demographic than trans folk, and received a persistent planeswalker that will help keep their existence in the minds of Magic’s disproportionately white male playerbase.


I was happy with Kaya before I saw her card, and now I am ecstatic. While I hope that this is the start of a trend of seeing more women of color highlighted in Magic, and specifically black women, and while I wish that Wizards were diverse enough that they could have done this entirely in-house, on the whole Kaya, Ghost Assassin is amazing. Good job Wizards! Way to go!


Jess Stirba is a believer in positive reinforcement.

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