What are the Pros and Cons of Planeswalkers? Some people don't bother with them, others near always use them and/or build decks around them. But when examined in a vacuum, is a planeswalker really that good?
I'm starting this with my own Ideas and conceptions, and I'd love to hear what others think on the subject, or on a particular Planeswalker.
First up, lets cover the basic pros and cons of near all Planeswalkers: Pros
- All Planeswalkers provide repeatable effects. If they are not dealt with in a timely manner then there is a good chance (depending on the individual Planeswalker) that they will tip the game in their controller's favour, especially if they can activate their ultimate ability;
- All Planeswalkers automatically get to use an ability before an opponent can do something about them. When a player successfully casts a Planeswalker and it enters the battlefield, that player retains priority as the active player. No opponent can do anything until that player takes an action and if the first action taken is to activate a Planeswalker Loyalty ability then they'll get to do that before an opponent can respond. It is possible to kill a Planeswalker before that ability resolves, but most Planeswalkers' abilities affect things other than just the Planeswalker (so removing the Planeswalker won't cancel the ability's effect); and,
- Planeswalkers provide an alternative target for the opponent. Instead of simply trying to reduce your life total to 0, they now have to reduce the Planeswalker's Loyalty to 0 (or destroy it), lest it take over the game as described in my first point. In the case of attacks with creatures then they have to actually decide to attack the Planeswalker instead of yourself and in the case of burn they have to redirect it as the spell resolves. Either way, their focus is split and that's a good thing.Cons
- If you cast a Planeswalker and don't have any way to protect them (and they don't have any way to protect themselves) then they can be killed very easily in a single combat step; and,
- Not all Planeswalkers are created equal. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded are two very different cards and it would be foolish to assume that since they're both Planeswalkers that they're both equal in power level.
[spoiler=My Pros and Cons]Pros
- Practically all Planeswalkers affect the board from the turn they're summoned. This can be by dealing damage (Ugin, the Spirit Dragon's +2) or giving you a permanent that can't be removed (Gideon, Ally of Zendikar's -4)
- Planeswalkers can be versatile, and can give a well built deck a higher amount of victory potential.Cons
- If you've used all you mana to summon them, there is a chance you opponent can get rid of them before they can even effect the board (Counter and Burn Spells).
- When they're in your hand, any discard spell runs the risk of forcing you to discard the Planeswalker (Mind Rot, Duress)[/spoiler]
Now lets look at the most recent Planeswalkers from the Battle for Zendikar
expansion.Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Until end of turn, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar becomes a 5/5 Human Soldier Ally creature with indestructible that's still a planeswalker. Prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn.0:
Put a 2/2 white Knight Ally creature token onto the battlefield.?4:
You get an emblem with "Creatures you control get +1/+1."[/spoiler]First Ability:
[spoiler]As Gideon is already on the battlefield, he isn't going to trigger any Rally abilities. Whilst this may not be an issue with a good number of low-drop Ally creatures, if you're playing him on Turn four with only four mana available, this abilitity isn't going to do you much good, as at the end of your turn he reverts back to being just a planeswalker.
In addition, spells that can't be countered by abilities (Wild Slash with Ferocious triggered) can do damage to Gideon as a creature, and so can cause him to be dropped down to zero Loyalty Counters. Assuming these spells are being done at instant speed, you will not be able to respond by triggerin Gideons -4 [see below][/spoiler]Second Ability:
[spoiler]This will trigger Rally, and so would make the best sense as the first ability you trigger in a Rally-focused deck. You get a 2/2 Knight Ally creature token. This works best if you already have Chasm Guide
on the field, as his Rally Ability gives all creatures you control Haste.
As this Ability doesn't change Gideon's Loyalty Counter total, it does run the risk of leaving Gideon open to burn spells, or attacks by your opponents creatures. Its probably best to use this ability if you have a good set of defensive creatures on your side to keep damage to you and Gideon to a minimum.[/spoiler]Third Ability:
[spoiler]Emblems are not treated as Permanents, and so cannot be removed without restarting the game, such as with Karn Liberated
Giving all your creatures +1/+1 for the rest of the game could easily swing it in your favour. I think this ties in well with any deck that goes for a wide board of creatures instead of a relatively narrow board with powerful creatures. Having multiple creatures out will get the best use out of this Emblem.
Unlike most Planeswalker Ultimates (the third or fourth ability), this one can be used as soon as Gideon hits the board, and isn't targeted by Removal spells. It almost works as an Enchantment, but being an Emblem makes it more powerful.
Using gideon's Ultimate when he first comes out is possible a decision you'd make if you now Gideon himself wouldn't survive or if you're on the losing side. If Gideon can survive the battlefield for multiple turns, using his Ultimate twice or more would be a good goal.[/spoiler]Gideon Pros:
- Can be a reliable source of Ally creatures to trigger Rally.
- Can confer a permanent buff to your army, which also rewards players who go wide (lots of "weak" creatures) rather than tall (selection of "strong" creatures).Gideon Cons
- Can be slow to get going if you focus on his first two abilities.
- Can be removed through spells that evade Indestructible when in Creature form.Kiora, Master of the Depths
Untap up to one target creature and up to one target land.?2:
Reveal the top four cards of your library. You may put a creature card and/or a land card from among them into your hand. Put the rest into your graveyard.?8:
You get an emblem with "Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may have it fight target creature." Then put three 8/8 blue Octopus creature tokens onto the battlefield.[/spoiler]First Ability:
[spoiler]In green, there are a number of Creatures that can be tapped for mana, combined with untapping a Land this can give you can two mana per turn, making Kiora's first ability Ramp (you have access to more mana faster than your opponent). This can mean getting a second smaller creature out on the same turn, or leaving mana available for your opponents turn to cast Counter and Flash spells.
You can also use the ability to untap good defensive creatures and Awakened lands, to give yourself some breathing room in your opponents' turn.[/spoiler]Second Ability:
[spoiler]For -2 Loyalty, you're gaining card advantage, at the cost of discarding two cards.
In early game, this could potentially force you to discard one/two of three or four good cards you reveal. It can also telegraph to your opponent what you're planning, especially if you're playing a match and its the second or third game.
If you have a deck that can work with a large graveyard, such as a Sultai of Tarkir deck which makes use of Delve, then this could work, and become a second form of Ramp to get bigger creatures or more powerful spells.
For pure card advantage, the ability may work well in some decks, but not in others. It gives Kiora some versatility, but can also work against you.[/spoiler]Third Ability:
[spoiler]For -8 Loyalty, this is a pretty powerful Fight Spell (a spell that literally has one creature fight another), whilst also reverberating through the remainder of the game.
You're going to be making your opponent worry about when you have creatures in your hand for the remainder of the game, after you have thrown three seperate instances of 8power at potentially their strongest creatures. This Emblem works best on the turn it comes out if your opponent has gone for large creatures in few number, as it forces those creatures to take damage before the rest of your board declares any attacks.
Assuming you have eight mana by turn eight, from turn nine onwards you're likely going to be able to summon most, if not all creatures you have in your deck, and each time you summon a creature, you're dealing damage to your opponents'.
A weakness to this emblem, is if your opponent still has access to a number of Counter spells. If your opponent manages to prevent you summoning more creatures, then this emblem becomes useless. In addition, if the remaining creatures in your hand and deck do not have enough power to kill your opponents' or your own board is wiped, then you run the risk of leaving yourself open in your opponents' turn.[/spoiler]Kiora Pros
- Excellent in a Green/Blue Ramp deck.
- Situationally good Fight emblem.Kiora Cons
- Can force you to lose good cards.
- Fight emblem depowered by Counter Spells.Ob Nixilis Reignited
You draw a card and you lose 1 life.?3:
Destroy target creature.?8:
Target opponent gets an emblem with "Whenever a player draws a card, you lose 2 life."[/spoiler]First Ability:
[spoiler]For a Mid to late game, losing one life to gain +1 card advantage is a double edged sword. You're potentially going to be faing a large number of weak creatures of a wall of stronger creatures. At the same time, you will have one more card in your hand for next turn, which could allow you to deal even more damage in your next turn.
Black does come with the advantage of having Life Link creatures, and spells that related to the lose and gaining of life. If you're able to risk losing a point of life per turn, then gaining card advantage is likely a no brainer.[/spoiler]Second Ability:
[spoiler]With no limitations, this is powerful removal. It doesn't mater how big your opponents' creature is. This can help you get rid of key card on your opponents' board, such as Breaker of Armies
, or Managorger Hydra
The drawback is its only one creature per turn. If your opponet is setting up a wide board of smaller creatures, this -3 ability is wasted. You may still be able to pick off the odd Key creature, but likely not fast anough to dent your opponents' growing offensive.[/spoiler]Third Ability:
[spoiler]A guaranteed 2life drop against an opponent of your choice. While this doesn't effect the board directly, it does put your opponent on a timer. This would work best if you know your oppoent will try to draw cards regularly. For each time they cast a spell to draw, they will also lose two life per card. This can lead to forcing your opponent to not cast any spells relating to card draw, and ultimately make them discard their own cards at the end of their turn.
The downside is if your opponent favours lifegain tactics, such as Extort from Return to Ravnica, or Lifelink Vampires. If your opponent know they can gain ove life than they lose, the emblem reduces in threat.[/spoiler]Ob Nixilis Pros:
- Card Advantage
- Reliable Removal
- Life draining EmblemOb Nixilis Cons:
- Requires investment in Life gaining cards to offset first ability.
- Not so good against wide focused decks.
- Emblem doesn't work well against opponents who favour life gain.
Out of the three, if I had to chose one to take and build a deck around, I'd likely go for Gideon first, and Kiora second. Ob Nixilis seems to have too much of a drawback on his abilities, and this can really hamper your own victory potential.
What do you think? Are some of the Pros really cons? Who would you choose given the choice?