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All About 'Walkers - Brian Baker (9/18/2007)

I don’t know if you have heard, but a new large set is near. It is called Lorwyn, and it promises to satisfy with all the goodness a new Magic set can deliver. Lorwyn’s central focus is on a tribal theme, which is to say that the cards and mechanics center around creature type synergies. Tribal is a theme that resonates well with me, since I didn’t really get into Magic until Onslaught
Onslaught
OnslaughtSet: Exodus
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
C
Number:
92
Artist:
Paolo Parente
Text:
Whenever you successfully cast a creature spell, tap target creature.
block. The tribal theme is a discussion for another day, however.

Let’s take a ‘walk, shall we?


Liliana Vess
Liliana Vess
Liliana VessSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Planeswalker
Sub Type:
Liliana
Rarity:
R
Number:
121
Artist:
Aleksi Briclot
Text:
+1: Target player discards a card. -2: Search your library for a card, then shuffle your library and put that card on top of it. -8: Put all creature cards in all graveyards into play under your control.

3BB
Planeswalker – Liliana
+1: Target player discards a card.
-2: Search your library for a card, then shuffle your library and put that card on top of it.
-8: Put all creature cards in all graveyards into play under your control.
Loyalty 5


The card above might look familiar to those of you “in the know.” It has been previewed on official Wizards website (www.magicthegathering.com) and was explained along with another comparable card on Monday September 3rd. As of the date of writing this article, the list of spoiled Planeswalker cards has been increased to 3, with the other two getting some attention below.

The card is a Planeswalker card, and if you haven’t seen this before, you’re probably a little shocked. Liliana and four others (one for each color, conveniently enough) are the first editions of a brand new, not-merely-tweaked-but-really-brand-spanking-new card type.

This is big.

I would hope that anyone who even started playing Magic yesterday would realize that this is an important change, since it’s new. The issue is even more pointed for more experienced players, who know very well that nothing this innovative has happened since the rules overhaul of sixth edition (which was both less innovative than this since it did not produce a totally new card type, and actually more innovative since the changes enacted changed the way the game was played). As a result, I feel that the subject is important enough to discuss for a while. As of the time that I am typing this, only Liliana, Garruk, and Chandra have been previewed, so there is every chance that you reading this have more information that I have writing it. That being said, I believe that the discourse contained therein will still suffice to get your mind working about this rather monumental addition.

There is some controversy surrounding the newest additions to our cardboard family. Some people argue that there is simply no need to introduce a completely new element as basic as a card type at this point in the game’s history. Some argue that they are out of “flavor” or contradict what place planeswalkers have in the structure of the game. Others take more practical approaches, saying that the cards are too slow or vulnerable for serious play. I’ll take each of these points individually.

First of all, there is the argument that the addition of Planeswalker cards to Magic is simply unnecessary. The game is as healthy as it has ever been, and some (including myself) would say that it is the best it has ever been. Why would Wizards of the Coast, the sworn protectors of Richard Garfield’s golden vision, tamper so recklessly with the very fabric of reality for the game will all love?

The answer is simply because they can and they should. I hate to break it to some hardcore old school players out there, but Richard Garfield did not plan to make a game that would remain basically unchanged forever and still be able to turn out new and interesting expansions. He is more like the drafters of the Constitution of the United States of America than Merlin staring into a crystal ball, he provided a solid framework that has lasted for years, but not without modifications being made along the way. These modifications have almost always turned out to be better for the sustaining of the game into the future. The addition of Planeswalkers may make an impact, but the game is not so perfect that an impact must invariably be a bad thing.

Second, the flavor of planeswalkers (the fictional characters within the story) has changed. If you have been up-to-date on the planeswalkers mini-website or have read Future Sight
Future Sight
Future SightSet: Onslaught
Cost:
5
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
84
Artist:
Matt Cavotta
Text:
Play with the top card of your library revealed. You may play the top card of your library as though it were in your hand.
, you know how this came to be. I won’t get into it here, to avoid either spoiling the story or rehashing material. This fundamental change into the nature of planeswalkers allows them to be characterized within the game. For those that are upset because they feel that this ruins the way that they look at planeswalker characters, I would encourage you to keep an open mind to the possibilities that this new characterization brings to the worlds of Magic. Finally, for the die-hard fans, just remember that there are at least two older planeswalkers still running around the Blind Eternities.

Are these cards slow? From what we have seen, the answer is a resounding “maybe.” This will be easier if we can reference Garruk and Chandra, so here:


Garruk Wildspeaker
Garruk Wildspeaker
Garruk WildspeakerSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
4
Color:
Green
Type:
Planeswalker
Sub Type:
Garruk
Rarity:
R
Number:
213
Artist:
Aleksi Briclot
Text:
+1: Untap two target lands. -1: Put a 3/3 green Beast creature token into play. -4: Creatures you control get +3/+3 and gain trample until end of turn.

2GG
Planeswalker – Garruk
+1: Untap two target lands.
-1: Put a 3/3 green Beast
Beast
BeastSet: Garruk vs. Liliana
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Beast
Rarity:
C
Number:
1
Artist:
John Donahue
Power:
4
Toughness:
4
creature token into play.
-4: Creatures you control get +3/+3 and gain trample until end of turn.
Loyalty 3

Chandra Nalaar
Chandra Nalaar
Chandra NalaarSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
5
Color:
Red
Type:
Planeswalker
Sub Type:
Chandra
Rarity:
R
Number:
159
Artist:
Aleksi Briclot
Text:
+1: Chandra Nalaar deals 1 damage to target player. -X: Chandra Nalaar deals X damage to target creature. -8: Chandra Nalaar deals 10 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.

3RR
Planeswalker - Chandra
+1: Chandra Nalaar
Chandra Nalaar
Chandra NalaarSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
5
Color:
Red
Type:
Planeswalker
Sub Type:
Chandra
Rarity:
R
Number:
159
Artist:
Aleksi Briclot
Text:
+1: Chandra Nalaar deals 1 damage to target player. -X: Chandra Nalaar deals X damage to target creature. -8: Chandra Nalaar deals 10 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.
deals 1 damage to target player.
-X: Chandra Nalaar
Chandra Nalaar
Chandra NalaarSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
5
Color:
Red
Type:
Planeswalker
Sub Type:
Chandra
Rarity:
R
Number:
159
Artist:
Aleksi Briclot
Text:
+1: Chandra Nalaar deals 1 damage to target player. -X: Chandra Nalaar deals X damage to target creature. -8: Chandra Nalaar deals 10 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.
deals X damage to target creature.
-8: Chandra Nalaar
Chandra Nalaar
Chandra NalaarSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
5
Color:
Red
Type:
Planeswalker
Sub Type:
Chandra
Rarity:
R
Number:
159
Artist:
Aleksi Briclot
Text:
+1: Chandra Nalaar deals 1 damage to target player. -X: Chandra Nalaar deals X damage to target creature. -8: Chandra Nalaar deals 10 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.
deals 10 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.
Loyalty 6


I think the issue of speed is more adequately addressed if it’s clear what we are using the ‘walker for. In the cases we have seen, we are spending four or five mana. You get an immediate effect if the spell resolves (if it doesn’t, the whole issue is moot), but you don’t get a body that can attack or block (or can it block? More on blocking in a bit.). The prospect of tapping out on turn five to play Liliana, then losing her during the opponent’s attack phase after making them drop a single card or getting a single tutored card isn’t exactly thrilling. Here is the thing, though: if you play a Planeswalker, you should be able to protect them. Making sure that you have a creature to play before turn four isn’t exactly bending your deck around the card.

Another important aspect when assessing their value is their abilities (they are why you play them after all, besides giving Tarmogoyf
Tarmogoyf
TarmogoyfSet: Future Sight
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Lhurgoyf
Rarity:
R
Number:
153
Artist:
Justin Murray
Power:
*
Toughness:
1+*
Text:
Tarmogoyf's power is equal to the number of card types among cards in all graveyards and its toughness is equal to that number plus 1. (The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, planeswalker, sorcery, and tribal.)
a little boost). The +1 ability of each gives you a positive effect for no additional cost. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS. Just because it only has a value of 1 does not mean that this is less important than those 4 or 8 abilities. If you can get a positive, repeatable, mana-cost-less ability every turn that “restocks” itself, you’re looking pretty good. Liliana’s ability keeps you ahead in card advantage, enables your madness cards, and allows for more impressive abilities to become possible. Garruk’s first ability can immediately give him a much-needed loyalty boost and accelerate your mana (hint: play with lands that give you more than one mana). Chandra’s ability can keep other Planeswalkers from gaining loyalty or just turn a standstill in your favor. Don’t read these ‘walker cards and jump right to the last line, you may find yourself playing the card just for the first ability.

Finally, regarding their “frailty,” it has been argued that these cards are too easy to eliminate. They can be Saltblast
Saltblast
SaltblastSet: Planar Chaos
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
15
Artist:
Parente
Text:
Destroy target nonwhite permanent.
ed, Vindicate
Vindicate
VindicateSet: Apocalypse
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
126
Artist:
Brian Snoddy
Text:
Destroy target permanent.
d, Boomerang
Boomerang
BoomerangSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Alan Rabinowitz
Text:
Return target permanent to owner's hand.
ed, Misguided Rage
Misguided Rage
Misguided RageSet: Scourge
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
99
Text:
Target player sacrifices a permanent.
-ed, or Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt
Lightning BoltSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Lightning Bolt does 3 damage to one target.
-ed to death. They can also die from an aggressive attack. These are valid points, so I want to give them credit. There is something about those answers to Planeswalkers, though- they all answer creatures. Do you stop playing with creatures simply because there are a number of ways to kill them? No, because the element that they bring to the game is too important to discount simply because they can be killed, even easily. An answer card may kill a threat, but the threat that demands an answer will always be more important.

Regarding what I said about Planeswalkers being able to “block” earlier, they can’t in the strictest sense. Playing one, however, may have a similar effect. When a player attacks you, it is because they want to beat you before you can do something to beat them. Now, if you have a Planeswalker, they have a choice. Each unblocked/trampling attacker they send or each burn spell they cast (player-targeting burn only, remember not to give Shivan Meteor
Shivan Meteor
Shivan MeteorSet: Planar Chaos
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
106
Artist:
Chippy
Text:
Shivan Meteor deals 13 damage to target creature. Suspend 2-1RR (Rather than play this card from your hand, you may pay 1RR and remove it from the game with two time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter. When the last is removed, play it without paying its mana cost.)
too much credit here) CAN hit your Planeswalker, but will it? If they hit the ‘walker, that is damage you don’t take. If they hit you, that damage is that much loyalty the Planeswalker has to utilize, and we’ve already been through how much of a difference those abilities can make. Having to split an opponent’s decision between you and a Planeswalker may give you the game.

So there you have it. Do I think that Planeswalkers are the best thing since sliced bread, unstoppable killing machines with no downside that will forever change the face of every Magic game ever? No, but I don’t think that they are a negative addition either. It is clear that the heads in WotC have put some time and energy into crafting this design, and it is important to go into this brave new age with our eyes open. Whether you play three every game, never touch one, or save your Angel of Despair
Angel of Despair
Angel of DespairSet: Guildpact
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Angel
Rarity:
R
Number:
101
Power:
5
Toughness:
5
Text:
Flying When Angel of Despair comes into play, destroy target permanent.
just for ‘walkers, I hope that you can appreciate what is to come.

As I leave you to whatever business you were doing or are about to do, I thought I would share some potential Planeswalker cards with you. I have to be careful, I suppose: I have no connection to Wizards of the Coast or any of its affiliates. These are just mock-ups of what Planeswalker cards CAN look like, not what they definitely will. This is just to give you an idea of the possibilities out there, and I’m sure that Wizards will come up with far more creative ideas than I can dream.


Albert, Master of Chaos
3RR
Planeswalker – Albert
+1: Albert deals 1 damage to target player or 2 damage to target creature.
-1: Add RR to your mana pool.
-7: Choose target opponent. Untap all permanents that player controls and gain control of those permanents until end of turn. All permanents untapped this way gain haste until end of turn.
Loyalty 4


Jason, Man of Deathly Ways
BB
Planeswalker – Jason
+2: All creatures get -1/-1 until end of turn.
-1: Target player loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.
-4: Each opponent loses 3 life for each creature card in his or her graveyard.
Loyalty 2


Michael, Angel of Righteous Wisdom
4WU
Planeswalker – Michael
+1: Creatures you control gain vigilance until end of turn.
-2: Tap or untap target creature. Michael may use one additional ability this turn.
-3: Creatures you control gain “whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player this turn, you may draw a card.” Michael may use one additional ability this turn.
Loyalty 4


Enjoy the upcoming/ongoing Lorwyn previews, and I’ll check back in later. Thanks for reading!


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