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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 18 2018 12:00pm
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Art by Brad Rigney

 SUMMARY OF CONTENTS

 As soon as the first planeswalker cards were introduced by Lorwyn in October 2007, 14 years since the game's inception, they created one of the biggest earthquakes in the history of Magic. They truly felt like something the like of which had never existed before, and some players feared the game would radically change from that moment on. Indeed, the arrival of the planeswalkers did change many things...

 WHAT A PLANESWALKER WAS
 For starters, it changed the background setting: previously, the planeswalkers were immortal, godlike beings with almost limitless powers, just like the players themselves — who are planeswalkers by premise — result pretty much omnipotent compared to the other elements of the game they would toy with. If that kind of planeswalker were to be transposed into cards, it would get rule texts like: "This card can't be countered. When this card enters the battlefield, exile all permanents, hands, and libraries you don't control until the end of the day", or "0: Target player loses the tournament". There were issues with the narrative as well, as pop-culture heroes are rarely such powerful semi-deities, since that would prevent identification by the audience while creating all sorts of storytelling problems. Therefore, back in Time Spiral (the block where the planeswalker cards were originally meant to appear), a solution was introduced: the Mending. A cosmic event triggered by Jeska, which sealed the time space rift that was threatening the existence of Dominaria (where most of the pre-Mirrodin stories were set), but also caused ripple effects throughout the entire multiverse. One of these effects, conveniently, changed the nature of the planeswalkers, depriving them of their immortality and godlike powers.

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Art by Michael Komarck

 WHAT A PLANESWALKER IS (Story Mode)
 A planeswalker is now an individual that can travel through the planes of the multiverse (that are, essentially, like planets in a sci-fi setting).  At some point in their life, either come adulthood or some traumatic event or other mystical occurrence, the soon-to-be planeswalkers develop the "spark", which is the power of jumping between the planes. They also have a set of magical and non-magical abilities, be they innate, triggered by the spark, or acquired through study and experience; but while still powerful enough to single-handedly influence the fate of a plane through their actions, they're far from the living gods of yore. They've been transformed into what are essentially old-school cosmic superheroes (say, a Doctor Strange or an Adam Warlock, that kind of thing), colorful characters that, not by chance, are perfectly suitable for the most refined marketing purposes and ancillary branding like novels, comics, and videogames. But for this to make sense, the planeswalker cards needed to be a notable presence in the game, a goal accomplished by making them into permanents like none else before.

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Art by Izzy

 WHAT A PLANESWALKER IS (Duel Mode) 
 A planeswalker is still what the players of Magic: The Gathering are. But now other planeswalkers can appear during a game: the ones the players call to their assistance. Flavor-wise it's a tricky proposition, because a player's library contains dozens of different spells/tricks, while most of the planeswalker cards only have three. The spells of a planeswalker card also apparently all come with built-in buyback, whereas the players seem to be very forgetful. And your allied planeswalkers cast their spells by, essentially, taking damage, like if there was a Channel constantly in use, except for at least one spell that instead costs 0 and provides some level of lifegaining on top of its effects. Of course, all these differences only exist to make the use of the planeswalkers viable, lest you would just summon another player to team up with you against your opponents. But it's interesting to note that a planeswalker card is, de facto, a miniature version of what would happen if our opponent suddenly had to battle another player: they can choose to send any or all of their creatures to attack either you or one of your planeswalker allies, or otherwise target their life total (since Dominaria, no redirection is even needed), which is, also interestingly, called "loyalty". This is another intriguing aspect of the flavor behind the card: the loyalty, in fact, isn't as much a surrogate life total as it's the level of devotion your super-friends have for you and your noble cause of smashing the face of your opponents versus the risk of endangering their own butts in the process. In this sense, and through a bit of fanwanking, a spell like Dreadbore, able to utterly destroy a planeswalker right away, may be seen as akin to some "you win the game" card you would use against a regular player, while other ways to get rid of them come through the either implicit or explicit action of another planeswalker, like Vraska's Contempt or the activated ability of Garruk, Apex Predator.

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Art by Jason Chan

 WHAT A PLANESWALKER DOES
 A planeswalker works like a legendary (since Ixalan) sorcery-speed permanent that however can be attacked and killed like a player; it's a battle station of activated abilities, a mini-me capable of casting a selection of veritable spells, and accumulating or depleting resources, in the form of loyalty points, that allow to generate much greater effects. It's a type of card deceivingly simple to evaluate: most of the planeswalkers are the chase mythics of their sets, providing strong and desirable effects. They routinely make the top money cards of any new release, and have soon become essential components of most competitive decks. They come in different flavors: some provide tactical support for aggro strategies; some work like repeatable control or card advantage engines; others are build-around me, combo-oriented pieces. But upon closer examination, we may find out that it's not as easy to play with them as it seems. They're vulnerable, being the most easily killable permanent type in the game. You rarely can afford to drop them on the battlefield blindingly: you'll need a careful tactical plan and board position to ensure their long-term survival and development. And most importantly, you need to know why are they even in your deck to begin with, as their strategic value and interactions with the other card types might not be immediately obvious.

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Art by Jason Chan

 THE PLANESWALKER SYMBOL
 Since at least 2009 (but already foreshadowed in May 2007, hidden in the Future Sight card Barren Glory), the planeswalkers have a symbol, a sort of five-pronged thingie, or a stylized hand, or a series of diverging paths.

 

 It represents the various choices a walker faces when traveling the planes, but also the idea of "five becoming one", according to Mark Rosewater, possibly in reference to the original five walkers, themselves representing the five colors of mana, a role that's been constantly fulfilled in subsequent reworkings of that first group. The symbol has been used pretty much everywhere since its creation, most notably in the logo for both Magic Online and MTG Arena. The original symbol that was going to be associated with the planeswalkers back when they were still part of Future Sight was entirely different.

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 THE PLANESWALKER FILES
  Welcome to the Planeswalker Files! This series will devote one entry each for all the members of the planeswalker union with at least three iterations, then a collective installment for all the others. The present article will work as a central base of operations, updated once per year to constantly provide a complete list of all existing planeswalkers up to that point, plus some overall statistics based on the currently available data. The next section will track the history of the planeswalker releases over the years; a battery of statistical data follows. In the meanwhile, the final list of all the articles in the series links to pages that will go live in due time, as most likely the whole endeavor will take several months to be completed.

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THE PLANESWALKER WAVES

 

Art by Aleksi Briclot

 Since their introduction in Lorwyn, each block of new Standard-legal sets had contained at least five planeswalkers (six in the cases of Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad); this changed when Kaladesh debuted the Planeswalker Decks, starter level products that contain different, low-powered versions of two of the planeswalkers from the relative set, bringing the new total to 9 or 10 new planeswalkers per block, until the Three-and-One Model kicked off in 2018, revolutionizing the whole paradigm in ways not entirely clear yet.

Meanwhile, the core sets used to reprint the five original planeswalkers from Lorwyn, as it happened in both Magic 2010 and Magic 2011, then switched to a mix of old and new in the following releases: if put together, Magic 2012 and Magic 2013 present new versions of each of the Lorwyn Five, while Magic 2014 and Magic 2015 replaced Liliana with Nissa and featured two different Garruks.

Curiously, the distribution of the planeswalkers within the blocks has never reached a standard. The Lorwyn block had all 5 in the first set; Alara had 4 in the first set, 1 in the second set, zero in the third set; Zendikar used a 3-1-2 distribution, Scars of Mirrodin's was 3-1-1, Innistrad's was 2-1-2, Return to Ravnica's was 2-2-1; then Theros repeated the SOM distribution, and Tarkir the ISD one. During the years of the Two-Block Paradigm we had 3-2, 4-2, 6-4, and finally 5-4 twice in a row, which is the only case of the same distribution being applied back to back.

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 First Wave: Lorwyn (2007)
 Ajani Goldmane; Chandra Nalaar; Garruk Wildspeaker; Jace Beleren; Liliana Vess

 Where everything started. The "Lorwyn Five" established themselves as perfect representatives, in flavor as much as in abilities, of the five colors of mana. We had the noble white lion a la Narnia, the introverted mind mage, the treacherous dark lady, the (literally) fiery redhead, and the lone wolf hunter. Mechanically, they're a mixed bag, possibly due to concerns over the new type's power level. Garruk is the only one that's still relevant, providing a good balance between board presence, threat and ramp for a reasonable cost. The original Jace is a one-trick pony, but since his trick is drawing one extra card per turn, he saw play.

 

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 Second Wave: Alara block (2008-2009)
 Ajani Vengeant; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; Sarkhan Vol; Tezzeret the Seeker; Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

 The second block of the planeswalker era has them now exclusively appearing at the new mythic rarity, which positions them beyond any doubt as the most desirable cards in the game. Four new types are introduced here, with Ajani being repeated in a more powerful iteration, which is also the first instance of a multicolored planeswalker. The presence of this second Ajani in Shards of Alara established right away not only that one of the characters could come back on a different card, and with a different moniker, but that they could switch colors as well, following their storyline events. Among the other walkers, the monowhite Elspeth would prove popular, seemingly taking Ajani's place as white's herald, despite the Lorwyn Five still being reprinted for the next two years in core sets. Nicol Bolas, the first card to revisit an existing character in walker form (the only truly worthy member of the Elder Dragons from Legends), took immediately the role of the archenemy of the walker universe, while setting the bar for both maximum cost and power of a planeswalker card. Sarkhan appears as the least interesting of this group, but the character was going to get a complex arc, culminating in a starring role in Tarkir block.

 

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 Third Wave: Zendikar block (2009-2010)
 Chandra Ablaze; Nissa Revane; Sorin Markov; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Gideon Jura; Sarkhan the Mad

 The Zendikar lineup brings the total number of planeswalker types to 12, but it's all very hit and miss. Mostly known for the second iteration of Jace, powerful to the point of being broken (and indeed banned on occasion), it also debuts stereotypical good guy Gideon as a strong, easily playable mix of aggro and control. On the other hand, Nissa joins the game in a terrible guise that hardly foretells her future successes, and Sorin doesn't present his best self right away either, while Chandra keeps betraying the hard time the designers seem to have in devising a sound monored walker. On the plus side, they start to introduce some diversity in the human-only club that these early planeswalkers seemed to describe: on top of a Cat and a Dragon, now we have planeswalking Elves and Vampires, too.

 

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 Fourth Wave: Scars of Mirrodin block (2010-2011)
 Elspeth Tirel; Koth of the Hammer; Venser, the Sojourner; Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas; Karn Liberated

 SOM block offers one of the best collections of planeswalkers ever put together. Koth is the first monored walker that truly makes sense, Venser and Tezzeret are brilliantly interactive cards that reward dedicated deckbuilding, Elspeth returns with another winning iteration, and Karn (a new blast from the past) is the first colorless walker, and because of that arguably the most powerful after Big Jace.

 

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 Fifth Wave: Magic 2012/Magic 2013 (2011-2012)
 Chandra, the Firebrand; Garruk, Primal Hunter; Jace, Memory Adept; Ajani, Caller of the Pride; Liliana of the Dark Realms

 With Magic 2012, core sets started featuring entirely new planeswalkers. This first group revisits the Lorwyn Five in different versions, but a power level slightly inferior compared to the Standard sets. Garruk is solid but essentially a one-time draw spell; Chandra improves, but is still not working.

 

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 Sixth Wave: Innistrad block (2011-2012)
 Garruk Relentless (transforms into Garruk, the Veil-Cursed); Liliana of the Veil; Sorin, Lord of Innistrad; Tamiyo, the Moon Sage; Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

 During the same years the core sets were unfolding new iterations of the Lorwyn Five, Innistrad had already proposed the best versions of two of them: powerful control queen Liliana of the Veil, who dropped the minimum casting cost of a walker to 3 (Tibalt would further decrease that to 2, but with less impressive results), this becoming the most coveted planeswalker card to this day; and the first transformer walker, Garruk Relentless, providing a record five different abilities across his two sides. Multicolored Sorin and new monoblue Moonfolk gal Tamiyo are both excellent as well.

 

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 Seventh Wave: Return to Ravnica block (2012-2013)
 Jace, Architect of Thought; Vraska the Unseen; Domri Rade; Gideon, Champion of Justice; Ral Zarek

 Mostly good, not great specimens during the Ravnica comeback block. The Gorgon walker Vraska is arguably the best of the bunch. Jace and Gideon have decent iterations, new guys Domri and Ral are okay-ish.

 

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 Eighth Wave: Magic 2014/Magic 2015 (2013-2014)
 Chandra, Pyromaster; Garruk, Caller of Beasts; Ajani Steadfast; Jace, the Living Guildpact; Nissa, Worldwaker; Garruk, Apex Predator

 In the cycle collectively described by the next two core sets, Nissa has the best comeback, and is starting to install herself as the new face of green, following Garruk's increasing forays into black, due to his Liliana-induced madness stemming from the Innistrad events (Liliana herself is notably the only one of the Lorwyn Five not featured here). Chandra keeps getting better, but still has places to go. Also, planeswalkers start being referenced by spells and effects that either kill them directly, like In Garruk's Wake or the Apex Predator's activation, or interact with them in other ways, like The Chain Veil.

 

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 Ninth Wave: Theros block (2013-2014)
 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver; Elspeth, Sun's Champion; Xenagos, the Reveler; Kiora, the Crashing Wave; Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

 New planeswalker (implicit) races: Merfolk for Kiora, Satyr for Xenagos, and whatever Ashiok is. The Sun's Champion is Elspeth's most powerful iteration yet (on the less bright side, she did die here, ending up trapped in the plane's underworld, thus preventing new cards to her name for a long while).

 

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 Tenth Wave: Khans of Tarkir block (2014-2015)
 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker; Sorin, Solemn Visitor; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; Narset Transcendent; Sarkhan Unbroken

 Two different iterations of Sarkhan in the block that's all about his timetraveling adventures, plus a good Orzhov-colored Sorin (though sort of similar to the previous one), but the real star here is the Spirit Dragon Ugin, the second colorless planeswalker after Karn, and just as powerful.

 

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 Eleventh Wave: Magic Origins (2015)
 Chandra, Roaring Flame (transforms from Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh); Jace, Telepath Unbound (transforms from Jace, Vryn's Prodigy); Gideon, Battle-Forged (transforms from Kytheon, Hero of Akros); Liliana, Defiant Necromancer (transforms from Liliana, Heretical Healer); Nissa, Sage Animist (transforms from Nissa, Vastwood Seer)

 Novelty concept: Magic Origins, at the time devised as the final core set, explores the past of the five main monocolored planeswalkers, featuring them in their youth, as creatures that turn into walker form after a certain trigger condition is achieved. This technically makes Gideon the first one-drop planeswalker, albeit he's not acting as a planeswalker on turn 1 (nor on turn 2, for that matter). This lineup confirms Gideon and Nissa have replaced Ajani and Garruk as standard-bearers for white and green, respectively.

   

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 Twelfth Wave: Battle for Zendikar block (2015-2016)
 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Kiora, Master of the Depths; Ob Nixilis Reignited; Chandra, Flamecaller; Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

 The occasion of a new battle against the Eldrazi on Zendikar sets the stage for the introduction of the Gatewatch, the planeswalker equivalent of the Avengers or the Justice League, further cementing their status as the multiverse's superheroes. From now on, specific enchantment cards with "Oath" in their name would signal a planeswalker joining the Gatewatch, swearing to defend peace and order and things like that. Of the four original monocolored members who pledged in the eponymous Oath of the Gatewatch set (Liliana would add her black allegiance in the next block), only three appear with cards, with Jace starting to reduce the frequency of his appearances due to fervently voiced fatigue of the player base. The three featured Gatewatchers all get strong iterations, though, Gideon and Nissa as solid and cheap token generators, while Chandra is in one of her best forms as the Flamecaller, which also adheres to the creature token theme to a degree. The second Kiora improves on her earlier version, while Ob Nixilis makes his planeswalker entrance into Standard after having appeared the previous year in a Commander deck.

 

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 Thirteenth Wave: Shadows over Innistrad block (2016)
 Arlinn Kord (trasforms into Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon); Jace, Unraveler of Secrets; Nahiri, the Harbinger; Sorin, Grim Nemesis; Liliana, the Last Hope; Tamiyo, Field Researcher

 Among the highlights of the sophomore visit to Innistrad there's the Werewolf planeswalker Arlinn, which is necessarily the second transformer walker after Garruk Relentless; but even more so a very powerful Nahiri incarnation, another walker previously featured in Commander 2014. Liliana is back on a 3-mana card, which makes for a truly successful reappearance, but just like every Jace version after the Mind Sculptor never quite recaptured that same level of mightiness, similarly a Liliana truly on par with her Veil form is still a sight unseen.

 

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 Fourteenth Wave: Kaladesh block (2016-2017)
 Chandra, Pyrogenius; Chandra, Torch of Defiance; Dovin Baan; Nissa, Nature's Artisan; Nissa, Vital Force; Saheeli Rai; Ajani Unyielding; Ajani, Valiant Protector; Tezzeret the Schemer; Tezzeret, Master of Metal

 Kaladesh began a somewhat unfortunate walker multiplication by adding low-power versions exclusive to the Planeswalker Decks. They're mostly entirely irrelevant cards, but they muddy the waters a bit when it comes to dissertations on the planeswalker type such as this. Anyway, Nissa has another first-rate showing, continuing a streak of positive incarnations that confirms her new position as green's favorite avatar; Ajani joins the Gatewatch; and a four-ability Chandra is finally at her most powerful ever, just in time for the trip to her native plane. Dovin is the first Vedalken walker, Saheeli the first Human walker of evident South-Asian ethnicity (since Kaladesh is inspired by Indian culture).

 

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 Fifteenth Wave: Amonkhet block (2017)
 Gideon of the Trials; Gideon, Martial Paragon; Liliana, Death Wielder; Liliana, Death's Majesty; Nissa, Steward of Elements; Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh; Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver; Nissa, Genesis Mage; Samut, the Tested

 During the visit to Bolas's own plane, the ancient Dragon predictably returns in a couple of iterations that remain as demanding yet rewarding as the original one. Gideon regains some control elements in a neat 3-mana version, Liliana is back playing with zombies and the graveyard, Nissa ventures into Simic territory, and Samut further testifies to the efforts towards a wider representation of women and minorities in the game.

 

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 Sixteenth Wave: Ixalan block (2017-2018)
 Huatli, Dinosaur Knight; Huatli, Warrior Poet; Jace, Cunning Castaway; Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage; Vraska, Relic Seeker; Angrath, Minotaur Pirate; Angrath, the Flame-Chained; Huatli, Radiant Champion; Vraska, Scheming Gorgon

 Thanks to the Planeswalker Decks, Ixalan native walker Huatli debuts in three different iterations. Vraska is now a Pirate, Angrath gives the Minotaur tribe their walker, and a subdued Jace is the only Gatewatch member to appear in the block, following the decision to cut down their appearances (as the idea of having all of them always present in each Standard rotation ultimately proved unpopular).

 

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 Seventeenth Wave: Three-and-One Model (2018-present)
 Chandra, Bold Pyromancer; Jaya Ballard; Karn, Scion of Urza; Teferi, Hero of Dominaria; Teferi, Timebender

 The first standalone set of the Three-and-One Model, Dominaria brings us back to the primordial Magic setting, resulting in the resurfacing of a few old acquaintances like a now elderly Jaya and a very vigorous Teferi, ready to join the Gatewatch and take the reins of UW Control builds. The second coming of Karn in diminutive form is also very effective, while Chandra only shows up as a Planeswalker Deck figurehead, opposite a weaker Teferi. In the meantime, both Nissa and Liliana left the Gatewatch, as referenced on Broken Bond and In Bolas's Clutches, respectively.

 

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 Special Sets: Multiplayer products (2014-present)
  Dack Fayden; Daretti, Scrap Savant; Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury; Nahiri, the Lithomancer; Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath; Teferi, Temporal Archmage; Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast; Kaya, Ghost Assassin; Rowan Kenrith; Will Kenrith

 2014's Conspiracy was the first non-Standard-legal set to feature a planeswalker, the master thief Dack, who would even see some play in Vintage, being a cheap enough looter who permanently takes control of Sol Rings and Time Vaults. Later the same year, Commander 2014 would introduce five new walkers with the ability to be commanders, including the first planeswalker versions of Nahiri, Teferi and Ob Nixilis (the latter two had been previously represented by creature cards), as long as conflicted former goddess Freyalise. Conspiracy: Take the Crown, the follow-up to Conspiracy released in 2016, reprised Daretti, the first Goblin walker from the C14 decks, and paired him up with ghost hunter Kaya (she's not a ghost, she kills ghosts). In 2018, Two-Headed Giant specific product Battlebond debuted Magic's own Wonder Twins, siblings Rowan and Will.

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PLANESWALKER STATISTICS

Art by Steve Argyle

 Total number of planeswalker cards: 111 (not including two transformed sides and Unstable's Urza, Academy Headmaster)
 Total number of planeswalker types: 41

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 Type Frequency

  • Chandra: 9
  • Jace: 9
  • Nissa: 8
  • Ajani: 7
  • Liliana: 7
  • Gideon: 6
  • Garruk: 5
  • Sarkhan: 4
  • Sorin: 4
  • Tezzeret: 4
  • Bolas: 3
  • Elspeth: 3
  • Huatli: 3
  • Teferi: 3
  • Vraska: 3
  • Angrath: 2
  • Daretti: 2
  • Karn: 2
  • Kiora: 2
  • Nahiri: 2
  • Nixilis: 2
  • Tamiyo: 2
  • Arlinn: 1
  • Ashiok: 1
  • Dack: 1
  • Domri: 1
  • Dovin: 1
  • Freyalise: 1
  • Jaya: 1
  • Kaya: 1
  • Koth: 1
  • Narset: 1
  • Ral: 1
  • Rowan: 1
  • Saheeli: 1
  • Samut: 1
  • Tibalt: 1
  • Ugin: 1
  • Venser: 1
  • Will: 1
  • Xenagos: 1

 Conclusions: Four of the original five planeswalkers are still the more frequently seen, with Chandra and Jace leading the pack with 9 different iterations each, which means they appeared in average every other wave. The greatest improvement story belongs to Nissa, though, who only had one card in the first seven waves (and an underwhelming one, to boot), then a record seven during waves 8-15, as many as Chandra and Jace combined, and only two of those were Planeswalker Deck cards; taking Garruk's place as the signature green walker turned her into the busiest of the walkers who didn't start their career in Lorwyn. Another one who grew up to be as recognizable as the Lorwyn Five is Gideon, as reflected by his role as the de facto leader of the Gatewatch.

 

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 Colors

  • White: 31 (of which 13 mono, 5 Azorius, 4 Boros, 4 Orzhov, 4 Selesnya, 1 Bant)
  • Blue: 33 (of which 13 mono, 5 Azorius, 4 Dimir, 3 Izzet, 3 Simic, 1 Bant, 3 Grixis, 1 Temur)
  • Black: 29 (of which 11 mono, 4 Dimir, 3 Golgari, 4 Orzhov, 4 Rakdos, 3 Grixis)
  • Red: 35 (of which 15 mono, 4 Boros, 5 Gruul, 3 Izzet, 4 Rakdos, 3 Grixis, 1 Temur)
  • Green: 29 (of which 12 mono, 3 Golgari, 5 Gruul, 4 Selesnya, 3 Simic, 1 Bant, 1 Temur)
  • Colorless: 3
  • Total monocolored: 67
  • Total multicolored: 44

 Conclusions: Mostly thanks to Chandra's popularity as a beloved character (contrasted by her only sporadic success as a muse to card creators), red is the more represented color among planeswalkers, a whopping six cards ahead of both black and green, which lie at the bottom of the ranking. Selesnya has been the two-color combination missing a planeswalker for the longest time until Ajani, Mentor of Heroes in Journey into Nyx completed the guilds. Other than Grixis star Nicol Bolas, the only other planeswalkers with three-colored cards are Sarkhan (as Sarkhan Unbroken) and Tamiyo (as Tamiyo, Field Researcher). Karn and Ugin are the only colorless ones.

 

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 Races (calculated on the current 41 types)

  • Human: 22
  • Dragon: 2
  • Elf: 2
  • Cat: 1
  • Devil: 1
  • Demon: 1
  • Goblin: 1
  • Golem: 1
  • Gorgon: 1
  • Kor: 1
  • Merfolk: 1
  • Minotaur: 1
  • Moonfolk: 1
  • Satyr: 1
  • Vampire: 1
  • Vedalken: 1
  • Werewolf: 1
  • Unknown: 1

 Conclusions: As already noted, the new-recipe planeswalkers (the ones that were possible to put on actual cards) are akin to classic superheroes, and this forces the vast majority of them to be human, in order to more profitably work both as a focus of the storylines (inviting identification) and as poster children for the game and its merchandising (because a strapping warrior type or a pretty redhead sell more than some goblin). As a consequence, Human accounts for more than half of the total. In more recent years, the number of different tribes getting their planeswalker has definitely increased, considering that little more than four years ago, we could bizarrely count a Gorgon, a Devil and even a Satyr planeswalker, but still no representatives for classic and beloved tribes such as Goblin and Merfolk, and just one Elf (and a minor one at that). The Nissa success story, and the emergence of Kiora and Daretti (albeit the latter still has to show up in a Standard set), helped mitigate the issue.

 

 It's worth noting that these types are entirely inferred by the character's looks or established through back story, because the planeswalker cards, not being creatures, don't bear any creature type themselves. More so, only types representing "races" have been considered here, because "classes" are much more elusive, harder to desume with any degree of certainty; we could guess Gideon must still be a Soldier like he was before his spark ignited, while both Jace and Bolas clearly have to be Wizards, Garruk is probably a Druid, and Vraska has evidently turned into a Pirate at some point (also, Ugin should probably count as a Spirit, while Tibalt and Freyalise were viewed only as a Devil and an Elf, respectively, while they actually are half-human). Adding this kind of "roleplaying" categorization wouldn't be particularly useful, though, as deep down what we're discussing here is racial diversity.

 And Magic has actually worked hard to improve the diversity of its "cast" in recent years. It took the game four waves of planeswalkers to feature a human character represented as the recognizable fantasy equivalent of African ethnicity (and then he was mostly depicted as an angry, shirtless black man); even Liliana as a Latina woman seems more like Brad Rigney's interpretation than anything commonly held as fact, and if we later learned that Chandra's last name was actually supposed to suggest an Indian heritage, she still is a white chick with red hair and freckles. The new decade tried to turn the tide on this aspect. Gideon was redefined as Greek, and Sarkhan as Central Asian. Teferi and Kaya are casually black. And we had characters looking East Asian (Narset), Indian (Saheeli), East African (Samut) and Native American (Huatli).

 

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 Gender

  • Male: 23 (63 total occurrences)
  • Female: 17 (47 total occurrences)
  • Unknown: 1

 Gender-wise, the gentlemen have stopped being an overwhelming dominating presence over the ladies. At the end of 2013, the male walkers were more than twice the number of the female walkers; since then the gap has become smaller and smaller, and seems destined to be entirely bridged soon enough, as the current numbers say the male-female divide among planeswalkers amount to 57.5% vs. 42.5% (not counting Ashiok, whose gender remains a mystery, and is probably n/a).

 The related issue of sexism is also looking better. Both the original female planeswalkers, Chandra and Liliana, were young, conventionally attractive, at times extremely sexualized women. Later, Elspeth was still extremely beautiful, yet always dressed sensibly, almost chastely. Saheeli, Samut and Huatli further toned down the sexualization, all looking very far from pin-ups (Liliana herself has undergone some transformation in this regard: just compare Liliana, Death's Majesty outfit with her early outings). And even more importantly, the age cliché was broken as well, allowing for the depiction of middle-aged or elderly ladies like Arlinn and Jaya.

 

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 Converted Mana Cost

  • CMC 1: 1
  • CMC 2: 2 
  • CMC 3: 16
  • CMC 4: 36
  • CMC 5: 27
  • CMC 6: 21
  • CMC 7: 5
  • CMC 8: 3

 Conclusions: The majority of the planeswalkers has a midrange cost of 4 or 5 mana. It used to be a larger share, though, since over the years the experiments at CMC 3 multiplied, while the Planeswalker Deck-only cards contributed to the proliferation of more casual CMC-6 walkers. The cheapest planeswalker that doesn't require a transformation trigger is still Tibalt at CMC 2, while the two Dragons, Bolas and Ugin, hold the ceiling at CMC 8. For the purpose of this list, Nissa, Steward of Elements was considered at her minimum casting cost of 3, but being the only planeswalker with X in its cost, she's potentially the more expensive of all.

 

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 Loyalty Progression

Progression to Ultimate T1 T2 T3 T4 T5 T6
Jace, the Mind Sculptor 5 7 9 11 13 1
Teferi, Temporal Archmage 6 7 8 9 10 0
Huatli, Radiant Champion 4 5 6 7 8 0
Nissa Revane 3 4 5 6 7 0
Ajani, Valiant Protector 6 8 10 12 1  
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver 5 7 9 11 1  
Daretti, Scrap Savant 5 7 9 11 1  
Nahiri, the Lithomancer 5 7 9 11 1  
Jace Beleren 5 7 9 11 1  
Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage 6 7 8 9 0  
Jace, Telepath Unbound 6 7 8 9 0  
Ajani, Caller of the Pride 5 6 7 8 0  
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes 5 6 7 8 0  
Angrath, the Flame-Chained 5 6 7 8 0  
Elspeth, Knight-Errant 5 6 7 8 0  
Jace, Architect of Thought 5 6 7 8 0  
Kiora, Master of the Depths 5 6 7 8 0  
Sarkhan Unbroken 5 6 7 8 0  
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage 5 6 7 8 0  
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 5 6 7 8 0  
Ajani Vengeant 4 5 6 7 0  
Domri Rade 4 5 6 7 0  
Dovin Baan 4 5 6 7 0  
Liliana, the Last Hope 4 5 6 7 0  
Nissa, Sage Animist 4 5 6 7 0  
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar 4 5 6 7 0  
Nissa, Worldwaker 4 5 6 7 0  
Saheeli Rai 4 5 6 7 0  
Arlinn Kord 3 4 5 6 0  
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded 3 4 5 6 0  
Nissa, Nature's Artisan 8 11 14 2    
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon 10 13 16 1    
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh 9 11 13 1    
Chandra, Pyrogenius 7 9 11 1    
Gideon, Martial Paragon 7 9 11 1    
Liliana, Death Wielder 7 9 11 1    
Nissa, Genesis Mage 7 9 11 1    
Vraska, Scheming Gorgon 7 9 11 1    
Ajani Unyielding 6 8 10 1    
Liliana, Defiant Necromancer 5 7 9 1    
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath 5 7 9 1    
Venser, the Sojourner 5 7 9 1    
Nissa, Steward of Elements 3 5 7 1    
Angrath, Minotaur Pirate 7 9 11 0    
Narset Transcendent 7 8 9 0    
Sorin, Grim Nemesis 7 8 9 0    
Garruk, Apex Predator 6 7 8 0    
Jace, the Living Guildpact 6 7 8 0    
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets 6 7 8 0    
Jaya Ballard 6 7 8 0    
Liliana Vess 6 7 8 0    
Ob Nixilis, Reignited 6 7 8 0    
Tezzeret, Master of Metal 6 7 8 0    
Ajani Steadfast 5 6 7 0    
Chandra, Pyromaster 5 6 7 0    
Chandra, Roaring Flame 5 6 7 0    
Chandra, Torch of Defiance 5 6 7 0    
Elspeth, Sun's Champion 5 6 7 0    
Garruk, Caller of Beasts 5 6 7 0    
Jace, Memory Adept 5 6 7 0    
Ral Zarek 5 6 7 0    
Samut, the Tested 5 6 7 0    
Tamiyo, Field Researcher 5 6 7 0    
Chandra, the Firebrand 4 5 6 0    
Dack Fayden 4 5 6 0    
Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast 4 5 6 0    
Garruk, Primal Hunter 4 5 6 0    
Liliana of the Dark Realms 4 5 6 0    
Liliana of the Veil 4 5 6 0    
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad 4 5 6 0    
Xenagos, the Reveler 4 5 6 0    
Kiora, the Crashing Wave 3 4 5 0    
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker 8 11 2      
Huatli, Dinosaur Knight 6 8 1      
Sorin Markov 6 8 1      
Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury 5 7 1      
Karn Liberated 10 14 0      
Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver 8 11 0      
Vraska, Relic Seeker 8 10 0      
Teferi, Timebender 7 9 0      
Chandra Nalaar 7 8 0      
Nahiri, the Harbinger 6 8 0      
Rowan Kenrith 6 8 0      
Will Kenrith 6 8 0      
Chandra Ablaze 6 7 0      
Chandra, Bold Pyromancer 6 7 0      
Liliana, Death's Majesty 6 7 0      
Tezzeret the Schemer 6 7 0      
Vraska the Unseen 6 7 0      
Ajani Goldmane 5 6 0      
Sarkhan Vol 5 6 0      
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker 5 6 0      
Sorin, Solemn Visitor 5 6 0      
Jace, Cunning Castaway 4 5 0      
Koth of the Hammer 4 5 0      
Garruk Relentless 2 3 0      
Elspeth Tirel 6 1        
Nissa, Vital Force 6 0        
Tezzeret the Seeker 5 0        
Garruk Wildspeaker 4 0        
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas 4 0        
Gideon Jura 4          
Gideon, Battle-Forged 3          
Gideon of the Trials 3          
Kaya, Ghost Assassin 3          
Sarkhan the Mad 3          
Karn, Scion of Urza 2          
Chandra, Flamecaller 0          
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 0          
Huatli, Warrior Poet 0          
Gideon, Champion of Justice 5 ? ? ? ? ?
  loyalty after activation

 Conclusions: The table shows the sequence through which the planeswalkers increase their current loyalty turn by turn until the turn they can use their "ultimate", assuming the constant use of the ability that produces the greatest number of loyalty points. The final, highlighted numbers are the residual loyalty after the ultimate is activated. An ultimate is defined as the ability that costs the greatest number of loyalty points.

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 Some notes:

  • The progression for the Magic Origins transformers start from the turn they've achieved planeswalker form, which isn't necessarily (nor likely) the first turn they have entered the battlefield.
  • The ultimates for Gideon Jura, Kaya, Ghost Assassin and Karn, Scion of Urza have been considered as their most expensive minus abilities, despite not being characterized as traditional ultimates.
  • Gideon, Battle-Forged doesn't have an ultimate. The table just lists him as using the only ability that doesn't increase his loyalty.
  • Gideon of the Trials's ultimate costs 0.
  • Chandra, Flamecaller and Huatli, Warrior Poet have ultimates with X in their costs. The table assumes X is paid right away with all the available loyalty counters.
  • Gideon, Champion of Justice's progression strictly depends on the board status, therefore it's not predictable. The worst case scenario (no creatures on the opposite side for the entire cycle) would lead to the slowest progression by far, taking him 12 turns to ultimate.
  • Garruk Relentless and Arlinn Kord's progressions take into consideration the steps required to transform. In the case of Garruk, it assumes the immediate presence of an eligible target for its second ability.
  • Nissa, Steward of Elements's progression assumes she's been cast as soon as possible, therefore with X = 1.

 

 Some trivia:

  • Greatest first-turn loyalty: 10 (Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon)
  • Smallest first-turn loyalty: 1 (Garruk, the Veil-Cursed, assuming Garruk Relentless's transformation is triggered by 2 damage)
  • Greatest printed loyalty: 7 (Sarkhan the Mad; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh)
  • Smallest printed loyalty: 2 (Nissa Revane; Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded; Kiora, the Crashing Wave)
  • Most expensive ultimate: 15 loyalty counters (Gideon, Champion of Justice; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon)
  • Fastest progression: +4 (Karn Liberated only)
  • Second fastest progression: +3 (Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; Nissa, Nature's Artisan; Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver)
  • Survival after ultimate: 29 cases, not counting Gideon, Battle-Forged and Gideon, Champion of Justice
  • Natural first-turn ultimate: 8 cases, not counting Gideon, Battle-Forged and Nissa, Steward of Elements
  • Artificial first-turn ultimate via Doubling Season: 72 cases, not counting Nissa, Steward of Elements (whose availability of a first-turn ultimate still strictly depends on the mana spent on her casting cost), but including Chandra, Flamecaller, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Huatli, Warrior Poet, whose ultimates either increase in power or allow survival under Doubling Season.

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THE PLANESWALKER ARCHIVES

 All the planeswalker types with more than two iterations will receive a dedicated article; the others will be combined in two collective articles. Each time a planeswalker enters the three-card club, they'll be upgraded to focus page as well, in due time. The present article and the collective articles will be updated once per year, the single pages only when necessary. The order of the following list tentatively matches the order of publication.

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