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By: R Koster, Rob Koster
Nov 14 2019 1:00pm
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Recently I got to thinking. All my favorite things are old. My favorite band has been broken up for almost 14 years, all my favorite albums are easily old enough to vote in every country. All the music I hear on the radio just sounds like inconsistent dribble to me. Words the young kids use these days to me just look like someone smashed keys on a spelling check. I know, I'm basically a cranky old man in a young god's body.  I routinely find out that stuff I think is pretty new is 10-12 years old. I mean, I still refer to Shards of Alara as "recent," and Khans of Tarkir still feels like yesterday. In my defense, Khans of Tarkir limited is terrific. Easily my favorite drafting format of all time, so it figures it would stick in my mind.

So with that being said, after writing last week's article in which I mentioned that I would prefer banning Saheeli Rai over Felidar Guardian I got to thinking, and I realized that I enjoyed the game more when Planeswalkers weren't around.

None of my casual decks ever have Planeswalkers in them; in my cube, I cut them more and more. When I and some friends were designing our own cube with self-made cards, the most significant problems we encountered was balancing the Planeswalkers, and we cut almost all of them in the end because they didn't improve gameplay.

It's been 13 years since the first batch of Planeswalkers has been introduced, and when I think about it. Most of them have just been value machines.

Just bad gameplay.

Most of them create a game state in which you have to decide if you want to attack the player or the Planeswalker, which, on its own. Isn't that bad. But when you think about it, every reasonably playable Planeswalker has a way to get rid of creatures, which leaves the board with a Planeswalker on it that the other player now has to get rid of. The game has gone from a game of Magic the Gathering to a game of Planeswalkers the Killining.

If a Planeswalker ever lives more then 2 turn-cycles, the game is basically over. It may not look it, but it usually is. Remember when I broke down Questing Beast for how much mana it should cost? It works just as well with Planeswalkers. And it has only gotten more egregious.

(Elspeth, Knight Errant) Makes a 1/1 soldier token every turn. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a repeatable Brainstorm. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria draws a card and untaps 2 lands.

Those things should cost mana. And they sure shouldn't be repeatable effects every single turn. Think of them like this.

Random Global Effect 0CMC
At the beginning of your turn. You get a 1/1 soldier token.

Jacesculptor, Better than all 0CMC
At the beginning of your turn, Brainstorm, Fateseal, Scry or Unsummon

Teferi's Not a Puzzle Box for 0CMC
At the beginning of your turn, untap two lands and draw a card.

We would ban these so fast they would be banned from even getting printed. Even the printer they come from would be doubting its life's choices while these come through.

And I know, we pay the price upfront for Planeswalkers, and they can be attacked. But after they live a turn-cycle. They really are just really good 0 mana enchantments or artifacts that after a while randomly win you the game. The old ones at least died on a regular basis. The latest set of Planeswalkers have almost more loyalty then they know what to do with. For some of these, it's like they just tossed a die to see how much it should start with. Seriously, why do 3 mana things have 5 or 6 loyalty and just absolutely insane abilities? I mean, look at what happened to Standard. First Teferi, Time Raveler, now Oko, Thief of Crowns. But they are hardly the first offenders. Anyone remember Caw-Blade? That Jace, the Mind Sculptor based Stoneforge Mystic deck went from too good for Standard to a very reasonable archetype in Legacy with minimal changes.

Wizards just keeps pushing Planeswalkers more and more. And I get why they drive sales, they give the game a face. They give players something to do every turn, even if they are just flooding out. They provide the game a definite shape, something that is very appreciated when you are just starting out learning. Knowing you can always just jam your Planeswalker and just get some value every turn is just a great crutch to start with. It's a roadmap to victory that everyone can read and understand. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially starting players really need some guidance as to what they should be doing in a game, or when they should be doing it.

And it's not like all Planeswalkers are horrible cards that make me groan every time I see them. Some absolutely do, but a lot of them are fine. I love Planeswalkers like Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner that just want to be in a specific deck, and once they are in there, just help out. No one will ever claim that a card like Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage dominates a game. It just helps out an archetype, and that's fine. They feel like cogs in a machine instead of just an extra value-machine. They are subtle and archetype-specific. They add an extra dimension. I would love to see more of this kind of Planeswalkers. These are 2 instances of 3 mana Planeswalker that feel very reasonable and fun for a targeted audience or deck. They are like the offspring of oldskool enchantments with all sorts of abilities that you just put in your limited deck because they were reasonable.

Maybe that's the thing I'm having trouble with these days. A lot of the Planeswalkers aren't reasonable cards anymore. They are stone-cold killing machines that are just miles and miles better than everything else you could be doing. Why would you ever play something like Dragonlord Ojutai when you can play Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? Why would you ever play Worship if you can just jam Serra the Benevolent in your deck? It's the same thing, but better. And I get that old cards will be replaced by better cards, it's just how a card game works. But it's just so obvious with the Planeswalkers these days.

The last thing that I want to address that really bothers me with the newer Planeswalkers is that a lot of them say someone can't do anything. Can't play at instant speed, can't draw cards, can't gain life. If there is something that I've learned over the years is when you are forbidden to do something in a game that you are used to doing, it sucks. I have no problems with things like Blood Moon or Ensnaring Bridge. Which both are cards people hate with a passion, but when someone plays a Teferi, Time Raveler or a Narset Transcendent against me, my mind just zones out. The whole thing I love about Magic is that you get to do a lot of stuff, you get to draw cards. You get to play at Instant speed. You get to gain life. You get to make a ton of choices and influence the game you both are playing. When parts of that get taken away, it just makes me bored and wants to do literally everything else with my life. If I wanted to play Hearthstone, I would download it and play it. But I don't want to. Why does Wizards force me to play it anyway? Do they want me to join their competition? Please, just don't print cards that forbid us from playing the game. Or if you print cards like that, at least force someone to build their deck around them to break them. Make it have a cost to break the game. Instead of playing the right colors and having nothing better to do on curve.

Anyway, this has all been something that has been bothering me for a while now, and I just wanted to get it off my chest. I don't know if I'm the only one thinking this. But I wanted to have said it at least.


Planeswalkers were introduced by Lawnmower Elf at Fri, 11/15/2019 - 05:08
Lawnmower Elf's picture

Planeswalkers were introduced in Lorwyn. I didn't like them.

Then in Shards they made them go ultra-rare. That's when I stopped buying magic.

Yeah, Mythics are something by R Koster at Sun, 11/17/2019 - 11:11
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Yeah, Mythics are something else I very strongly dislike. They have done nothing but make the game a lot more expensive.

This seems to be a growing by olaw at Fri, 11/15/2019 - 09:13
olaw's picture

This seems to be a growing opinion which isn't surprising after War of the Spark oversaturation and the overpowered Oko that Wizards are now desperately avoiding banning.

I think there is also an issue that they have protected planeswalkers, to try and keep them special and interesting, while also ticking up their power and reducing their cost. Planeswalker removal is still woeful compared to removal for other permanents. There's really no justification for Fatal Push/Path to Exile/Doom Blade not to hit planeswalkers now that planeswalkers are so cheap and powerful.

Yes, this! I have no idea by JXClaytor at Fri, 11/15/2019 - 11:29
JXClaytor's picture

Yes, this!

I have no idea why they fear quality removal spells for walkers so much, but it's something that should have been fixed by now.

Yes, I fully agree with this. by R Koster at Sun, 11/17/2019 - 11:13
R Koster's picture

Yes, I fully agree with this. There should definitely be removal for them. I honestly would just like to see them go though, although I know it will never happen.

Did you see this tweet from by CottonRhetoric at Sat, 11/16/2019 - 12:29
CottonRhetoric's picture

Did you see this tweet from (the) Jon Finkel on the topic? https://twitter.com/jonnymagic00/status/1188918066824011782

I had not seen it. But by R Koster at Sun, 11/17/2019 - 11:14
R Koster's picture

I had not seen it. But agreeing with Jon Finkel can never be a bad thing. Glad I'm just not alone on this it had been bothering me for a while.