You may remember yesterday I mentioned it was the first time in 100s of boosters that I’d found a planeswalker. Imagine my surprise today, then, when I found my second one in as many days1:

Kaya, Orzhov Usurper

Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is a 3 loyalty planeswalker for 1 Generic ManaWhiteBlack.

  • +1: Exile up to two cards from a graveyard and gain 2 life it at least one creature was exiled this way. There aren’t a huge number of options with an ability like this but it’s an easy way of gaining loyalty — and potentially life — whilst also depriving an opponent (especially those of the Golgari persuasion) from doing sneaky graveyard shenanigans. Bear in mind that you can do this to your own graveyard should it be necessary in order to gain the two life and that it is “up to” two cards. At worst, this can be a bit like Dovin, Grand Arbiter in that your +1 does nothing but give you loyalty (if all the graveyards are empty which is likely if you played this turn 3).

  • -1: Exile target nonland permanent with CMC 1 or less. I’d have preferred this to have been a -X cost in order to exile targets with CMC X or less but this will do. In practice you are likely going to use this to remove tokens, especially those nasty 4/4 beasts with trample that Domri, Chaos Bringer and Thrash // Threat are able to produce.

  • -5: Deal damage to player equal to the cards they own in exile; you gain that much life. Now this is where the card comes into its own and paves the way for some very interesting synergies! First of all, this can be triggered after 2 turns if you activate the +1 ability twice meaning you can already do 4 lifelink damage for an 8 life differential. What gets me excited though is the idea of pairing this with a milling deck and a card like Mnemonic Betrayal, Remorseful Cleric, or Sentinel Totem that allows you to exile everything from a graveyard2. If you can get a decent chunk of the library milled into the graveyard and then get those exiled, pulling this final trigger on Kaya is almost certain to be game ending. It would be a great ability if it just did the damage but the fact that it is effectively life-linked means that even if you don’t get the coup de grâce you are still going to be in a significantly stronger position. This is surely the ultimate answer to those that counter milling by bringing a deck of 240 cards

I’ve seen a few people dismiss this card3 but I think it has legs even if you are just using it for a bit of a life boost and to do some basic lifelink damage with the ultimate. The defensive measure to get rid of tokens (including those pesky flying afterlifers) is mildly useful but that ultimate ability is sure to do some serious damage when paired correctly - the fact that the card is being dismissed means you get a bit of an advantage as well, especially if you activate Mnemonic Betrayal and then the -5 ability when your opponent is tapped out4.

I’m currently working on a WhiteBlue milling deck with a splash of Black (mainly for The Haunt of Hightower) so I’ll definitely be looking to get this into it. More on that soon!

  1. Here’s hoping I find Domri, Chaos Bringer tomorrow! ↩︎

  2. Phyrexian Scriptures is also an option but a little harder to pull off due to the number of turns required (i.e. you’d really want this done before you bring Kaya out to play so you’re talking 6 turns at least to pull off the game ender). ↩︎

  3. Which is fair for draft where Dovin, Grand Arbiter does beat this. ↩︎

  4. It’s unlikely they’ll see it coming. ↩︎