It has begun!
This is BDC; fresh off reading over Wotc’s first story on Strixhaven and checking out the flood of cool new cards for the set and I’m into deep speculation, as always. If you haven’t read the Strixhaven MAGIC STORY, I must warn SPOILERS ABOUND!
First off, we don’t get much farther to find out why Liliana is REALLY at the school besides being a professor. We do find that she attended the school as a student which we didn’t know before. But I’m sure there are a whole Biblioplex somewhere full of all the things we don’t know about our favorite necromancer. And speaking of the Biblioplex (aka the Strixhaven library), this is where we see her first.
But considering the card, Confront the Past, like Nissa, Liliana is haunted by Gideon’s death. It seems to be a focal point of the former Gate Watch. But especially Liliana. This is because she probably feels it’s her fault that he’s dead. And, seeing that she backed the king of nasty, Nicol Bolas, and that death blow was meant for her, she has good cause to feel a bit bad about his death.
But the question remains, ‘Why Strixhaven?’
My first thought is that she is possibly looking for a way to bring Gideon back. And I don’t mean back like one of her zombies. She feels responsible and, possibly, the only way to retribution is to find the magic to bring him back to the land of the living. Now this leaves several possible endings to this type of thinking.
One: She will actually find a way to bring him back, but there’s a cost. Any one for trade one planeswalker for another?
Two: She finds it impossible and must face facts and find another way to atone for her sins.
Three: Maybe one clue to a solution is in the College of Lorehold and all of that ‘SPIRIT’ action. Huh? Maybe she can bring back his spirit? I don’t know.
And then we have the mysterious creature she came upon in the Biblioplex. It wielded a purple hued magic that, according to Lilia…Professor Onyx, wasn’t taught at Strixhaven. It was stealing a pile of books which I still would like to know what the content was. But it left in a hurry.
“The figure was masked, she could see now—the space where the eyes should be were covered only with smooth, flat metal. She’d heard of the Oriq, of course. The school was full of concerned whispers about the secret society of mages, the ones obsessed with forbidden magics and power at any cost.”
Metal face masks, huh? I would like to say Phyrexian, but I haven’t gotten any clues to say that. Although, I still hold the option that, if these ORIQ aren’t Phyrexian, they may be working with them. I mean, forbidden magics…power at any cost…sounds about right. But, if Elesh Norn IS somewhere in the planar shadows, Wotc is keeping that VERY close to them. Maybe that was as screw up that put that Vorninclex in the Commander Legends packs? And that spoiler made them announce him at the beginning of Kaldheim spoiler season against their plans? Once again, I don’t know. But all of us are on Praetor watch 24/7.
And what about these mysterious Oriq?
A secret society of mages digging into forbidden magics and willing to take chances by infiltrating the school. Once again…interesting.
We meet Extus briefly at the end as Lukka sticks his planeswalking nose where it probably doesn’t belong. BUT, his story did have him come across as sort of a bad guy. It’s not a far leap to think he wants to dip into the dark arts. Maybe he’s exactly where he wants to be.
Still doesn’t explain how he found out about them or if he’s even a student at Strixhaven. Doesn’t look like it. And, despite the artwork below, he did bring his big cat with him. Would have like to see it in the art too.
So, back to the Oriq. The secret society of mages. On Arcavios. Near the School of Strixhaven. Near Kasmina. Ok, I guess I need to draw you a map.
This set always brings me back, time and time again, to the original write-up for Kasmina for War of the Spark. She is called the LEADER of a shadowy cabal with mysterious goals. Strange, right? So, there are only three options here.
ONE: Kasmina is the ‘leader’ of Strixhaven which IS the shadowy cabal who are using the school as a front to prepare for an event that (and I always feel a need to say this) DWARFS War of the Spark.
TWO: Kasmina works for the school and ALSO leads a shadowy cabal that we have not seen yet and isn’t important to Strixhaven.
THREE: OR Kasmina has infiltrated the school for her own nafarious purposes, but actually leads the Oriq as their leader. She’s either EXTUS or she’s the power behind him.
ALSO this doesn’t rule out the Phyrexians. If she and the Oriq will do anything for power and dark knowledge, they may be willing to side with Elesh Norn and become a part (or maybe have already started becoming a part) of the coming nightmare legion. To be honest, this is a far outside speculation.
ALTHOUGH, what the HELL is that? The Mage Hunter looks a little like some Phyrexian nightmare, right? It was ‘CREATED to seek out and snuff the arcane’; which is a little against their Manifesto, to be sure.
But, the Mage Hunter is more Slither than Phyrexian with the absence of metal and it is far more possibly that they are working alone for their own dark purposes.
And the bad boy listed below, the BLOOD AVATAR, is the goal of the Oriq and, obviously, Will and Rowan will end up fighting it in the end.
But, we did get Will and Rowan, the Royal Scions. Good part of the story. And, YES, they started in Kylem. Which probably means their whole time in Battlebond happened after Eldraine.
And, according to the card, Practical Research, they will definitely be taking on Extus and his followers. You need to watch how much Kasmina is involved in this. According to the end of Professor Onyx’s story, I’d bet she instigates it since she’s the only person taking the threat seriously.
(I mean, are there some of the professors in on this enclave? Is that why they don’t take the Oriq seriously, because they are one?)
And don’t expect to see Garruk. Apparently, he is ‘satisfied with their security’.
But I find it interesting that the invitation from Kasmina and Strixhaven came soon after his departure. Hmmm.
Guys, that’s all I got for now. I’m sure, as soon as this is published, I’ll think of more. But the speculation is never ending. What do you guys think? What’s you ‘hot take’? Phyrexians? Who’s the REAL bad guy? Lili…Professor Onyx? Kasmina? The Oriq? Only time will tell!!