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Monday, June 30, 2014

M15 Previews, Part 3! Planeswalkers, Planeswalkers, Planeswalkers!

Welcome back to M15 previews! The previews today are the 6 Planeswalkers in M15.

Yes...6 Planeswalkers.

Let's get started!

(NOTE: All but 1 image are from the M15 Card Image Gallery at the bottom of the product page. The final Planeswalker comes from the Arcana "The Hunter.")

The White Planeswalker you already know. But allow me to re-introduce Ajani Steadfast!

You can read my thoughts on Ajani in a previous blog post.

In Blue, we have the return of a Jace!...only the...uh...*still is counting*...5th Jace. Ha ha! This is the 2nd one where we know the setting: Jace became the Living Guildpact at the end of Return to Ravnica block. So let's introduce...Jace, the Living Guildpact!

Okay, okay...I know, it seems even less interesting than Jace, Architect of Thought. It's not even a milling Jace!

But let's consider the following:

1) Doubling Season test: If Doubling Season is out when Jace, the Living Guildpact enters the battlefield, he'll have 10 Loyalty Counters. So for -8, I get to Timetwister with 1 exception: I'm the only one who draws 7 cards! Combined with Jace's Erasure it's more like "Timetwister except you mill 7 instead of drawing 7."

2) +1 ability: If blue decks ever do some kind of Graveyard strategy (Flashback-based decks, perhaps?), this will be a house. You get to look at the top 2 cards, effectively setting up your next draw and possibly putting something in the graveyard to Flashback (either through the Sorcery or Instant's inherent Flashback or Snapcaster Mage).

3) For -3, you get to return a nonland permanent to someone's hand. At -3...that may be too steep. But it was effectively -1 on Jace, the Mind Sculptor and it only hit a creature so maybe this isn't too terrible...maybe?

4) If you can't Doubling Season, I don't see the value in the -8. It basically self-mills you after you shuffling everything in! And we know Jace was a milling-based Planeswalker, so this is a bit baffling. Perhaps they're seeing how much of the old Power 9 they can push onto a Planeswalker and make it balanced? Who knows.

For Modern or Legacy, I could see this being used for its +1 ability. The -8 would just be the icing on the cake. I don't see this being Standard-viable unless a U/B reanimation deck comes to prominence (or returning a nonland permanent to hand for 4 mana and leaving a 1-Loyalty damage soaker is stronger than I think).

Next up for Black, we start hitting reprints. Garruk is the focus of this Core Set, so we're revisiting the Planeswalker that made him the Veil-Cursed Planeswalker he is now. No, we're not getting Liliana of the Veil. It's been deemed too powerful in the current Standard environment. So we're going way back to...Liliana Vess!

So let's recap a few things...

1) Doubling Season test: Liliana also doubles to 10 with Doubling Season out. Considering Doubling Season and Liliana Vess are at earliest 5th- or 6th-turn drops, you're decently into the game already when she hits. If you've been protecting yourself by destroying creatures or milling them, get ready for your army: Activate her ultimate, get back all those nice creatures to your side, and still have a 2-Loyalty Planeswalker that can get you any card next turn or can start building back up for another run at her ultimate. :)

2) +1 to discard this late may be useful. But once your opponent sees her, they'll know their hand is in "use it or lose it" mode and will just start casting and top-decking as often as possible. On the plus side, you only have to target a player, not necessarily one that has a card in their hand so you can always +1 her. :)

3) -2 to Demonic Tutor is extremely powerful, especially when it leaves her with 3 Loyalty and she could do it again next turn!

4) Her -8 is just going to practically end games no matter how you get there. End of story...unless that story involves a bunch of cheap, low-power creatures. Then good luck winning. :p

Red provides another reprint. Re-introducing...Chandra, Pyromaster!

1) Doubling Season test: So Chandra, Pyromaster comes up and get 8 Loyalty counters, enough to get her Ultimate off the turn she enters. But a random chance to get an instant or sorcery to cast for nothing? Some of the better Red spells I'd cast probably have X in their cost, and being a Red/Green deck she'd go into I'd be mana-ramping to take advantage of that X. Also included would be damage preventers, so I'd really just be getting an 8-Loyalty Planeswalker that can keepa creature from blocking and deals 1 damage to my opponent.

2) +1 can be useful at times. Hit your opponent and their biggest creature to have a better chance of taking out some of their other creatures in combat or forcing them to use combat tricks to keep their smaller creatures alive. But it only hits 1 creature. Just...keep that in mind.

3) +/- 0...really depends. Drawing your card and using the 0 ability could effectively mean you've drawn 2 cards. Not bad for Red, but the condition is you'd need to cast that card to get use out of it. Exiled a Fog? Sorry! Exiled a Magma Spray you otherwise wouldn't have had until next turn? Better. Exiling Sould of Shandalahr (sp?) and getting to cast it a turn earlier than you otherwise could have? Priceless. :)

4) -7 again is just too risky for my taste. It exiles all 10 cards, then you better hope that Instant or Sorcery is worth copying. Most burn spells in Standard are nice enough to copy, as they'll either do 2 damage and exile each OR just deal 3 damage...which tripled will be 9..OR in Fated Conflagration's case could take out 3 creatures while letting you Scry up to 6 if needed. Hmm...maybe I should reconsider this. :p But outside of Standard, again, the better spells sometimes are the ones with X in their cost. Especially with Miracles like Bonfire of the Damned or Entreat the Angels, you hit one of those with this and if it's the only thing you hit you'll be facepalming from here to M16. :P  Now...in an "extra turns" deck, hitting Temporal Mastery or Time Warp could about be leathal in itself. Put another way...in 4 total turns (current + 3 extra), you better be able to win. ;)

Next up (and 2nd to last, only because of the way we go around the color wheel. :p), we've seen Nissa Revane only once since Zendikar (which makes her only a few months older than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Whoah!) as an Elf-centered Planeswalker. After the Eldrazi were freed, she was badly injured and on the border of dying. Rescued by fellow Zendikar inhabitants, she eventually heals up and takes on some of the smaller Eldrazi threats (well...smaller than, say, Kozilek!)...revealing new powers in the battle.

Presenting...Nissa, Worldwaker!

1) Doubling Season test: At 6 Loyalty when doubled....Gah! I'll have to activate one of her +1 abilities and wait a turn or run her with Ajani Steadfast to get the ultimate in the same turn. Considering her 2nd "+1" is to untap 4 Forests, though, this means if you're using all Forests she effectively only costs 1 mana. I can't complain at that point. I could run some Proliferate artifacts and use the now-freed-up mana to put 1 more counter on her.

2) The first +1 is pretty nice. "Oh, hey guys! I'm a 4-Loyalty Planeswalker that gives my controller a 4/4 body to deal with if you want to attack. Even if his/her field is clear, as long as my controller has an untapped land after I hit the field he/she will have a creature."

3) The second +1 again effectively makes her cost only 1 mana. Combine this with lands like Breeding Pool and you can make sure you have your second color ready to go in case your opponent tries to deal with her.

4) Her -7...wow! So by this time, perhaps you don't need basic lands. Cool, that's fine. But could you always use 4/4 Elementals with trample? I'd say the answer is YES! And read carefully...they don't enter tapped. You have even 6 basic lands left in your deck? Nah...that's 6 4/4 creatures that just happen to be lands! ;)

Casually, she'll be a favorite. Tournament-level, we'll see but I doubt she'll be an obscure Planeswalker. Her "untap 4 Forests" +1 is very reminiscent of Garruk Wildspeaker's "untap 2 lands" +1. He was seeing play widely partially because of that! Now apply that to Nissa. Yeah...as long as you're running Forests, you get to untap 4 of them a turn. While Return to Ravnica block is legal, you really have no reason not to be playing her in a 2- or 3-color deck where your non-basics are "Land - Forest [land type]." Price wise? I'd expect $20 early on, not going below $15 while Ravnica is in Standard, then possibly dipping closer to $10 depending on the themes in Khans of Tarkir in October.

Finally (WHEW! That's a lot of typing! lol!), and speaking of Garruk, we have our 6th Planeswalker. Last Thursday, I previewed a Garruk that we'd be using during the Pre-release as an activity thing. He had 4 abilities and was a Black/Green Planeswalker.

Well...guess what? Our actual in-set Garruk is also Black/Green...and comes with 4 abilities! Presenting, last but certainly not least (by a long shot)...GARRUK, APEX PREDATOR!

So I need to note this...officially (as in, for regular-sized Magic cards) this is only the 2nd...or perhaps 3rd... Planeswalker to have 4 or more abilities. The previous 2? One we know for sure, the ever popular Jace, the Mind Sculptor! The other, it depends on your definition of a singular Planeswalker. I'm looking back at Garruk Relentless/Garruk, the Veil-Cursed. Although two slightly-different Planeswalkers, you can't have one without the other as it's a Flip Card. So counting both sides, his Planeswalker card has 5 abilities. However, only 2-3 are usable at a time.

1) Doubling Season test: Yes, yes please give me that ultimate the 1st turn he hits! I want my Llanowar Elves to be 6/6 creatures attacking! Yes, since he's 7 mana I've probably already cast Primeval Titan so let's make him an 11/11 on attacking! Oh, can I get that up to ultimate twice? Why thanks for not attacking! I'll make my few creatures that late into the game a minimum of 11/11 (1/1 creature with 2 Emblems triggering) and perhaps at most a 16/16 (Primeval Titan). Not...too...shabby. :)

2) His first +1 ability is just plain scary. "Destroy another target Planeswalker." I...I really don't see Planeswalker control decks doing too hot against this Garruk. I know 7 mana's expensive, but considering he starts at 5 and instantly goes up to 6, I think being able to destroy an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes threatening to launch off his ultimate for +100 life is well worth it at that stage. Without mana ramp, though, don't expect this to be of any use until right near when any good Planeswalker can use its ultimate ability (if it hasn't already).

3) His second +1 harkens back to just about every other version of him. This time the token he gives you is a 3/3 Beast with Deathtouch. Fine, let that Trampler come in. It's the last time it'll be doing anything. :) Definitely worth using once Garruk hits. Just blow up a Planeswalker next turn!

4) The -3 ability can be a life saver. You're facing down an Emrakul that's having to wait a turn to attack. No problem! Cast Garruk, -3, destroy Emarkul and gain 15 life. REalistically, though, I'd say you'll be doing good to gain 4-6 life on using this ability. The life gain isn't quite as important, though. You can just decide to get rid of the biggest threat to your board the turn he hits. Again, not...too...shabby.

5) I've already made my thoughts clear on the 4th, "ultimate" ability. Outside of Doubling Season, I can see it being used...exactly once. But at +5/+5 and Trample on even a set of 4/4 creatures, that's still a ton of damage the opponent has to either soak up or say "GG" to.

And there you have them! All 6 Planeswalkers. We have 2 reprints and 4 new ones. If you've got opinions, please feel free to share them here or on the group's Facebook page.

I may get some more updates in before the end of the week, but the spoiler goes fully revealed either Friday or next Monday so there's not a lot of new stuff left. Take care and catch you all later!

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