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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Dec 23 2013 11:38am
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Normally I like to write my articles over the weekend.  I start writing when my son leaves and stop for a dinner break and then finish the projects I am working on.  This weekend was thankfully a bit different.  Cassius is on his winter break from school and will be here until Friday, which to me is pretty awesome.  We get limited time every other weekend, so instead of waiting for him to leave, I am writing this article on a Monday morning, I'm at my desk typing, he's playing a game with his cousin.  It's a pretty good setup.  The boys are entertained, I'm doing work, and things are in a good balance.  

This week is Planeswalker week here at PureMTGO.com.  The card was first mentioned in Future Sight, in the reminder text for Tarmogoyf.  When Future Sight was out, we already had the other card types mentioned with the exception of Planeswalker and Tribal.   Though I guess Bound in Silence made up for Tribal in Future Sight.  Planeswalker was weird, and there was a lot of speculation to if we would ever see the card type, or if it were just a distraction, a red herring of sorts made to keep the players on their toes.  Lorwyn block would of course answer those questions.  Both Tribal and Planeswalker would feature heavily in the next block.  

I remember the article that announced the new Planeswalker type like it was published yesterday.  Of course it was not yesterday, but rather 2007 that Planeswalkers entered the game.  I remember how much people trashed WotC for being uncreative in the card type.  It boiled down to walkers being wow like.  In the WoW tcg, you had heroes and allies, in combat you could attack the allies or the hero, and the hero had an ability that could be used.  Of course the combat systems in the two games were vastly different but I could see the point that WoW players were making.  After leaving the tcg last year I was able to put it in a bit more perspective.  Maybe WotC was inspired by wow for the card type, maybe not.  They both played similarly, (Heroes and Planeswalkers that is, Heroes in WoW were much more limited in what they could do ability wise.  For most of the games life cycle, the Hero power was weak, and could only be used once a game.  That changed towards the end of the game.)  and they both added a bit of tension to combat.  In WoW the game was over when the hero took lethal, but in Magic your planeswalkers death does not have the same kind of punishment.  Could you imagine someone casting a walker on a full board and then dying the turn after because the Planeswalker was killed?  So while the two card types were alike, they were also vastly different.  One was a win condition, the other is not.  One has multiple abilities, some of which do not outright suck, the other has one ability, which for the most part is not as game changing as Upper Deck or Cryptozoic would have you believe.  One gets to be attacked directly by your opponent, (Heroes of course represent the player in Wow, where in Magic, Planeswalkers represent a different less powerful wizard than the two that are battling.)  the other gets to block.  One game is dead, the other just celebrated its 20th anniversary with little fanfare. 

So maybe the Lorwyn five were inspired by WoW, maybe not, but I think the added gameplay element that Planeswalkers bring to the table has been good for the game.  It's made it a bit more complex while the game has been seen by some to be watered down.  In the six years since Lorwyn has been released we've seen 42 planeswalkers.  Ajani has three versions (Lorwyn, Caller of the Pride and Vengeant.).  Chandra has four, (Lorwyn, Pyromaster, Firebrand and Ablaze.).  Garruk has four, (Lorwyn, Caller of Beasts, Relentless, and Primal Hunter.).  Jace has four (Lorwyn, Architect of Thought, Mindsculptor and Memory Adept.).  Liliana rounds out the original five and has three versions as well (Lorwyn, the Veil and Dark Realms.)  Outside of the original five, there have been block specific walkers.  Elspeth has had three versions, while Gideon, Sarkhan Vol, Sorin and Tezzeret have had two versions.  Cores sets are where the Lorwyn five usually get to shine (with the exception of Gideon and Sorin making an appearance in M12 over Ajani and Liliana.). 

I guess I've given enough of a history lesson into the card type, let's move on to my list of top ten favorite walkers! 

10.  Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
Tibalt is the cheapest Planeswalker in converted mana cost.  For the low price of RR you get a walker that Gambles your hand, plays a Sudden Impact, and ultimates into an Insurrection.  Of course, Tibalt did not exactly see a lot of play in Standard while he was legal.  Great Planeswalkers have the ability to protect themselves.  Tibalt has no such protection, and the random nature of the +1 ability made it hard for players to get behind.  He's on my top ten list because he's like the Little Engine that Could, but rarely did.  If he were an athlete, Tibalt would be a 12th man on the basketball team.  The victory cigar that only saw play in garbage time.  This is the Rudy of Planeswalkers. 

9.  Vraska the Unseen
The representative of Return to Ravnica, this gorgon was teased to great fanfare and has seen little play since.  Sure the gal has a home in decks like Green Black Hexproof (you know the one deck that I wrote about a long time ago.) but again this one does not see much play in Standard.  She protects herself in a weird way, what with actually having to be dealt damage to get rid of the threat, but she is reusable removal, and has a pretty sweet ultimate the will end the game if the tokens go unanswered. 

8.  Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
The last remaining Elder Dragon Legend has no time for the format named after him and the rest of the elder dragons.  He is much too busy remembering his victories on Madara and in the Dragon War.  Bolas was responsible for the first temporal rift in Magic, the death of Teferi, the corruption of Tezzeret, Leshrac's death, and the first multicolored card in a core set.  Nicol Bolas is the most expensive walker mana wise, but all three of the abilities he has are absurd.  +3 to deal with a non creature permenant, -2 to take control of a creature and -9 to do a super (Cruel Ultimatium)

7.  Ajani Vengeant
The second version of Ajani to see print saw a ton of play in Standard and still sees play in Modern.  This version is supposed to represent Ajani on the quest to make the murderer of his brother pay.  When he found the one responsible for Jazal's death, he let the anger go.  Ajani was responsible for the banishment of Bolas from Alara.  What made Ajani great in game play was he was able to protect himself easily (the tap ability), could deal with threats thanks to the second ability and had a killer ultimate.  He was also aggressively costed, at 2RW, and has three staring loyalty. 

6.  Chandra, Pyromaster
This version of Chandra is the newest walker on the list.  When first released it was mocked as another unplayable Chandra variant.  It turns out that she is actually pretty good!  She is better suited in aggresive decks, as her +1 does not really protect her, unless the creature is a x/1.  It does offer a pseudo protection though.  What do I mean by that?  Well if your opponent is not blocking they are taking a lot of damage from the creatures that you have in play.  To be able to block again the opponent has to deal with Chandra, which takes resources away from killing you and focuses on dealing with the walker threat.  She may be more Veteran Bodyguard than planeswalker if you look at her in this light.  The second ability is also great, because it's a form of card advantage in a color that does not get it often.  The ultimate is neat, casting the same spell three times is pretty amazing, and I actually remember winning a match with the ultimate in limited.  I got to cast three Act of Treason after my opponent had three creatures left in play and attacked for lethal! 

5.  Jace Beleren
Can you imagine a time where no one played with Jace at all?  Lorwyn came out, and Jace was the least thought of walker.  Then people started to play with him in control decks, and suddenly the blue walker has become one of the most hated (Or loved if you listen to MaRo and the market research he shares on his tumblr.) characters in Magic.  For three mana you get a 3 loyalty Planeswalker.  His +2 lets each player draw a card, the -1 lets a target draw a card, and the -10 mills twenty.  What made people discount this Jace, which saw a ton of play in Standard and still sees play in Modern?  This Jace has no way to protect himself or deal with threats.  People saw this Planeswalker as a Divination that could be attacked.  He was discounted, and then actual game play saw the minds of people change (Much like it has with Chandra!) 

4.  Garruk Relentless
The only walker that flips was a mainstay in Standard while he was around.  He was easy to flip, easy to protect, and game breaking when he was able to search for creatures.  The overrun ability was icing on the cake that played well with the ability to tutor up creatures.  This planeswalker has the most abilities of any walker on a card, with five. 

3.  Jace, the Mind Sculptor
The walker that nearly killed Magic checks in at number three.  I may be a little overstated there, but this Jace was a dominant force in Standard while he was legal in the format.  He was dominant in Extended, and never got a chance to shine in Modern as he was banned when the format was created.  This walker is a mainstay in Legacy.  This version of Jace is the only planeswalker to be banned in Standard play.  He has four abilities, all of them are great ones, and was so oppressive in tournament play that the game saw decreased tournament participation while he and Stoneforge Mystic were legal together. 

2.  Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
We are nearing the end of the article, and with it comes a heavily biased view.  Sorin is the walker I have played with the most.  He was a mainstay in nearly all of the decks I played when he was first released in Dark Ascension until he rotated out.  I'm sure a ton of people came to see where Jace was on the list and then started to trash me in the comments.  That's fine.  I don't really care, the article is called The Ten Things I Think I Think after all!  Power level wise there are better walkers out there, but game play to me, Sorin was one of the best, and one of my favorites, he's closer to 1A than 2 in my book! 

1.  Karn Liberated
The only colorless walker checks in at the number one spot.  He's a mainstay in Modern thanks to the fast mana the format has in tron lands.  He also has one of the most fun ultimates in the game.  Restarting the game has a soft spot in my heart, and the ultimate does that and gives you a bit of an advantage! 

So that is my look at the walkers in Magic!  I hope you enjoyed the piece and have a great week! 

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2 Comments

Lily by chiznad at Mon, 12/23/2013 - 17:29
chiznad's picture
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No Lilliana of the veil? all that power for three mana. At around $50 both online and off she is certainly worth every cent or ticket.

Was never a fan of Liliana by JXClaytor at Mon, 12/23/2013 - 22:07
JXClaytor's picture

Was never a fan of Liliana for the Veil. She also did coincide with a period of time that I played more wowtcg than I did magic though, Garruk did not really pick up until later on, so I had more play experience with him when I got back in to paper magic.