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Offline Narric

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Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« on: October 21, 2015, 04:50:47 PM »
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 (click to show/hide)

Now lets look at the most recent Planeswalkers from the Battle for Zendikar expansion.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Spoiler: Abilities (click to show/hide)
First Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Second Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Third Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

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
Spoiler: Abilities (click to show/hide)
First Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Second Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Third Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

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
Spoiler: Abilities (click to show/hide)
First Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Second Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Third Ability:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Ob Nixilis Pros:
 - Card Advantage
 - Reliable Removal
 - Life draining Emblem

Ob 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?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 08:11:51 PM by Narric »

Offline Masked Thespian

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2015, 06:27:10 PM »
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.

For the most part, the Pros outweigh the Cons.  Your list of Cons could apply to pretty much any card type in the game and they're not unique to Planeswalkers at all.

Generally, when evaluating a Planeswalker, the first question you need to ask yourself is, "Can this Planeswalker protect itself from creatures?"  If the answer is, "Yes," then that's a very good start.  You have to assume that there are going to be times when you have no creatures in play and your opponent has some.  Therefore, if you cast a Planeswalker that can't protect itself then you're just going to lose it on your next turn.  In terms of protecting itself, that can range from creating creatures to block with, to bouncing or killing creatures, or even applying a penalty to their Power.

The next thing to think about is their survivability.  What is their starting Loyalty and how much can they gain by plussing on that first turn that they're in play.  Planeswalkers with larger Loyalty here are better.

After these two points you have to start evaluating the Planeswalkers in terms of what they do for your deck.  For example, there's no point in using Narset Transcendent if you have a mostly creature deck as her first two abilities key off of non-creature spells.


In terms of the three BfZ Planeswalkers, I think Gideon is the most powerful, followed by Ob Nixilis, followed by Kiora.

Gideon comes down and gives you a creature straight away, protecting himself.  That creature is an Ally so you're probably going to want him in an Ally deck but he's probably good enough that it doesn't need to be a focus.  For the most part, you're never going to +1 him on the first turn because he has Summoning Sickness so can't attack; the only reason you'd think of doing so would be to get him to 5 Loyalty immediately.  But, in turns after that, he's going to be swinging in as a 5/5 with Indestructible, which is going to be hard for your opponent to deal with.  Using his Ultimate ability straight away isn't the best but, depending on your board position, isn't the worst thing that can happen.

Ob Nixilis comes down with a lot of Loyalty and can kill a creature straight away.  If you've got a stable board then he's going to start drawing you cards.  It's not worth worrying about the life loss from his +1 as the card draw way outweighs that, though it's obviously a concern if it's later in the game and you're on a low life total.  His ultimate works best in a controlling deck rather than an aggressive one.  Your thoughts on his ultimate being countered by life gain aren't really relevant.  Life gain isn't something that you need to be too worried about, for the most part.

Kiora isn't too great.  She can't protect herself on the turn you play her.  You need other creatures around or else you're going to lose her, which is why I rate her the worst of the BfZ three.  Her +1 isn't all that great, giving one of your creatures Vigilance (effectively) and giving you an extra mana.  Her -2 is okay, if you have enough creatures to protect her, so you can start to outpace your opponent in terms of cards drawn.  Her ultimate is going to take a long time to get to, but if you do then you've probably won the game.  As you point out, though, it's highly dependent on having more creatures.  The 3 8/8s are going to help, and will likely kill 3 of your opponent's creatures, though.


Given the choice, I'd probably prefer to build a deck around Ob Nixilis, but then I'm a big fan of drawing cards and killing creatures.  It also helps that I've already pulled one of him yet not either of the other two.  I can see Gideon's sheer power, and wouldn't mind playing with him, but the fact that he was one of the stand out cards at the Pro Tour means that he's quite expensive and I don't plan on buying him any time soon.
Regards,
MT.
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Offline Narric

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2015, 08:10:29 PM »
In a way, Kiora can defend herself, assuming you put her in an Awaken centric deck, and play her after a few Awaken spells. That way she's either untaping a Creature with some sort of Mana-tap ability, or she can untap two Awakened Lands, which can help defend you and her. That also makes her starting Loyalty of four not such a drawback in Midgame.

In retrospect, her -2 actually works best in a Landfall deck, with the Emblem already out, as you can get both a creature and a land into your hand. You may also be lucky to get one of the Zendikar Lands (the ones that act as spells) which both triggers Landfall, and confers and extra effect, assuming either Fertile Thicket or Skyline Cascade. the former helping with Landfall again, the later freezing an opponents creature.

Quote
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)

A Planeswalkers first ability use is faster than an Instant? So from the next turn onwards you can use the ability whenever you want, or is it something that has to be done at the start of your turn?



I definately agree with Gideon being the strongest. I don't however think he is the most versatile. In my mind Kiora takes that title.

I'll edit the OP to include your Pros and Cons.

Offline Masked Thespian

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2015, 04:28:02 AM »
In a way, Kiora can defend herself, assuming you put her in an Awaken centric deck, and play her after a few Awaken spells. That way she's either untaping a Creature with some sort of Mana-tap ability, or she can untap two Awakened Lands, which can help defend you and her. That also makes her starting Loyalty of four not such a drawback in Midgame.

But that requires that you have creatures on the battlefield.  When I say that a Planeswalker must be able to defend themself, I'm talking about the extreme case where you have no creatures in play, even animated lands.

You've got what is referred to as "Best Case Scenario Mentality" or BCSM for short.  When evaluating a card it's quite easy to say, "Well, in this situation this card is the greatest," but you've got to take into account how often that situation happens.  You need to also consider the worst case scenario and the average case scenario, too.



Quote
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)

A Planeswalkers first ability use is faster than an Instant? So from the next turn onwards you can use the ability whenever you want, or is it something that has to be done at the start of your turn?

Technically, yes.  After casting a spell on your turn successfully, you are the first player to get priority.  At this point in time your opponent is not allowed to take any action.  You get the first chance to do anything.  That could be cast another spell or activate an ability.  If you activate a Planeswalker ability as your first action after casting it then your opponent cannot prevent you from doing so.  They are, however, allowed to cast an Instant in response to the ability use, though.

Planeswalker abilities can only be used once per turn, at any time the stack is empty, and only on your turn in a main phase.  Not in your upkeep, nor in your draw phase, combat phase, or end phase.  Only in a main phase.


I definately agree with Gideon being the strongest. I don't however think he is the most versatile. In my mind Kiora takes that title.

Versatility isn't as good as raw power.
Regards,
MT.
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Offline The Man They Call Jayne

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2015, 10:15:37 PM »
I think it rather depends what deck you are building around. As a primarily casual player, I have a great spot for the new Kiora in my blue green deck because it makes use of Clockspinning and the "Buyback" mechanic. With enough mana in reserve I could get her to her ultimate on the turn I play her, then she can go for all it matters, because my deck just throws fatties on the field, add to that the old Kioras ultimate, get a 9/9 Kraken for free every turn, and you are doing to major damage that can't really be countered.

Of course, that is very specific to me, granted, but it changes her perceived power level to me, compared to how you might look at her. I have no real use for Gideon, so I don't see him as all that useful to me.
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Offline Masked Thespian

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2015, 03:53:13 PM »
That's a very subjective view, though.  Of course, in a Blue Green deck that makes use of Clockspinning, Kiora is going to be the card you're going to want out of those three.

Objectively, Gideon is probably the most powerful with Kiora the least.  But that doesn't mean she's no good.  Heck, I've heard tales of how Tibalt, widely lambasted as the worst Planeswalker card of all time, has won people games.  I've even had an opponent choose to attack my Tibalt because he was threatening to ultimate and steal all of his creatures.
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Offline Narric

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2015, 08:54:27 PM »
I've ultimated both Jace, Architect of Thought and Kiora, the Crashing Wave.
Jace was/is surprisingly hard to ultimate, even though his +1 is only to reduce attacking opponents creatures -1/-0 :P

Kiora I've got to ultimate repeatedly. A 9/9 every turn is killer, and the most recent game I was up against Phyrexian with Infect. Keeping Kiora on the field to buble a creature was really fun as well. :P

Would one of you explain Clockspinning please :P



What about the Origins Planeswalkers? They have an extra downside of being unplayable if they get bounced back to your hand.

Offline Masked Thespian

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2015, 03:12:42 AM »
Would one of you explain Clockspinning please :P

Clockspinning is an Instant from Time Spiral (a set from around 12 years ago) that says, "Choose a counter on target permanent or suspended card.  Remove that counter from that permanent or put another of those counters on it."  It costs U (Blue) to cast.  But, it also has Buyback 3.  A card with a Buyback cost can have that cost paid when you cast it.  If you pay the cost then instead of the spell going to the Graveyard when it finishes resolving, it goes to your hand instead.

Essentially, using Clockspinning you can add or remove Loyalty counters.  And if you pay 3U for it then you get the card back to use again.  With enough mana you can get a freshly played Planeswalker to a high enough Loyalty value to ultimate them on the turn you play them.

I feel that it's a bit of a farfetched scenario, as it won't happen all too often that you'll have enough mana but nothing else to do with it, but the possibility does exist.


What about the Origins Planeswalkers? They have an extra downside of being unplayable if they get bounced back to your hand.

The Origins Planeswalkers have the advantage that most of them are cheap (so it's not too hard to cast them again), are good creatures on their "Sun" side, and usually aren't too difficult to transform.  Kytheon only needs 2 other creatures to attack alongside, and can make himself Indestructible so you don't have to worry too much about your opponent blocking him.  Jace only needs to wait a turn and have 4 cards in the Graveyard (though if you've previously transformed him then you'll already have the five).  Liliana only needs another creature to die, not terribly hard in Black.  Chandra is probably the hardest, as you'll either need to cast 2 Red spells in one turn or have your opponent have no blockers and only cast one spell.  And Nissa simply needs you to just play lands, which is something you're going to be doing anyway.
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Offline Narric

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2015, 10:58:06 PM »
Looking forward to seeing the Planeswalker cards for Jace, Chandra and Nissa in Oath. A least I assume they will be in it, as they're featured in the artwork.

Gideon was already in Battle for Zendikar, so I highly doubt there will be a second version of him. Unlike Sarkhan in the Tarkir block, Gideon is likely not undergoing a dramatic change of character. At least I'd assume he isn't :P

Offline Narric

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Re: Planeswalker Discussion [MtG]
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2016, 05:56:16 PM »
Posting this here becuase I think it would be an interesting discussion point :)

I think Non-human Planeswalkers have been more common in the Multiverse then the game shows.

This is mainly based on Xenagos, and his ascension to God on Theros, showing that at the least on Theros, it is possible to acquire power beyond a planeswalker spark, at the price of traveling the multiverse.

Heavily assuming that all gods of Theros were once Planeswalkers, with Helios being the first, as he is seemingly the “king of the gods” or similar, we have a Merfolk (Thassa), a Centaur (Iroas), a Naga/Snake Humanoid (Pharika), a Minotaur (Mogis), and of course Xenagos himself who is a Satyr. (sudden point of note that the rest of the Gods are Humanoid, and considering only 11 out of 31 Planswalkers are non-human (Though Ob Nixilis was human originally) this almost represents that humans are the most common planeswalker in the mutliverse, but not the only race that has sparks)

Each one would have come to Theros, and in turn would have discovered the ceremony thats triggers ascension (which likely Helios himself probably created), with the only notable excepting being Xenagos himself being a native to Theros.

Now this is were this devolves into pure speculation based on artwork.

As we can see from the differences between Xenagos as a Planeswalker, and Xenagos the god, features become highly exagerated during the ascension. In Xenagos’ case, his horns duplicate and enlarge.

Looking at Thassa, we can see she has features similar to in artwork of Coral Merfolk, however we don’t see the tentacle like hair Thassa is sporting. The closest we see of this is in Harbinger of the Tides, Benthic Explorers, Merfolk Sovereign, with the closest being Seasinger. Could this mean that Thassa is from a Plane we have yet to visit?

Iroas has the subtle difference of body in that his lower half is that of a feline animal, notable by the tail, and the much more muscular build. These traits can’t be seen in any other iteration of the Centaur tribe, as they have always seemingly been Equine in nature.

Pharika has no similarity to the Naga of Tarkir, as their faces are still distinctly serpentine.  Kaseto, Orochi Archmage from Commander again has little resemblance, spouting additional arms and a decidedly serpent face. Indeed, the closest similarity to Pharika is the Coiling Oracle, and most all other Snake humanoids have additional limbs, whereas Pharika does not.

For Mogis, a key feature is the additional horns growing on the underside of his jaw. As we can see with Xenagos, the ascension to God-hood does not produce new features, only exagerate existing ones. Mogis’ jaw horns are not shared by any other Minotaur in the game. Then there is his armour, an aspect that only Boros guild Minotaurs share, but not because it is something Minotaurs do, but more likely as Unifrom. The closest a Minotaur has gotten to wearing “armour” but not a uniform is Canyon Minotaur, and here we do not see the skulls and other design motifs seen on Mogis’ own armour.

Then we must return to Xenagos himself. Or at least his bio (Yes, a Wiki page, what else can I use with so much info on it?) which shows Helios “being offended” by Xenagos’ ascension. Could this be becuase Helios and the other gods were all outsiders assuming positions of power, and Xenagos being a native to the plain being a natural heir to “king of the Gods” status that Helios had claimed for himself? Strangely we see him direct his anger at the mortals of Theros, rather than directly at Xenagos himself, a point made more interesting in that Nylea could target Xenagos whilst he still occupied the Mortal plan, but (seemingly) could do no further harm to him once ascended. Cosnidering we see the Gods being blinded by Xenagoses revels, we can assume the gods feed on the “Dedication” of their followers, but still have their own reserves of power, possibly remains of their planswalkers sparks?