Hey everyone! With Spoiler Season in full swing, today I'm going to talk about the new Planeswalkers that have we've seen so far. I think all of the Planeswalkers are great and will definitely have an impact on Standard. I have always enjoyed the core set releases because it means that Standard will be eight sets deep (two blocks and two core sets). With that many cards, the format should be very diverse. Wizards usually does a good job at making core sets matter in Standard and from what I read so far that looks to be the case. All of these Planeswalkers fit into existing strategies and some of them will even cause new archetypes to emerge. I'm not going to discuss Chandra, Pyromaster because she has already been in Standard for a year or Liliana Vess because she has been around forever with numerous reprintings. Let's get started.
Jace, the Living Guildpact
Let's start off with one of the splashiest cards in the set, shall we? I have heard a lot of things about this new Jace and most of it has not been good. Many players think this Jace is unplayable. If you remember when Jace, Architect of Thought was released, he was hated on a lot too. I mean, reveal three cards? Three cards is so much less than five cards like Fact or Fiction was, so this Jace is terrible! Of course every Jace is going to look awful if you compare it to Jace the Mind Sculptor, which was banned in Standard and is currently banned in Modern. If you look at Jace, the Living Guildpact's applications in the current Standard format, you will see that it is actually pretty good. It's only four mana, which is the baseline for most Planeswalkers to see play in constructed. Five mana is usually expensive for a Planeswalker (see Jace, Memory Adept which only sees play as one-ofs in sideboards) unless that Planeswalker has a huge effect on the board when it hits play (see Elspeth, Sun's Champion).
The first ability allows you to essentially scry one. Unlike with Jace, Architect of Thought, you aren't gaining any actual cards but rather gaining card quality. Unlike normal scrying, the card you don't want actually gets put in your graveyard. This is actually a very useful ability. There are lots of cards that want cards in your graveyard such as Nighthowler, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, and anything with scavenge. There are also quite a few reanimation spells in Standard such as Obzedat's Aid and Whip of Erebos, making Jace a pretty good discard outlet too. Of course it's very possible that I'm playing way too much Vintage Masters draft on Magic Online and I'm just looking for more ways to fill up my graveyard for Grizzly Fate. This ability also has amazing synergy with Courser of Kruphix and I wouldn't be surprised if players start playing this Jace in their green midrange decks.
Jace's minus ability bounces a permanent. It goes to two loyalty when you activate it which is coincidently the exact same loyalty of Jace the Mind Sculptor when you activate his bounce ability. The bounce ability will be primarily used for defense which makes Jace good at protecting itself but the bounce can also be used to gain value out of any creatures with "enters the battlefield" abilities. There are quite a few creatures with "enters the battlefield" effects in Standard such as Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Angel of Serenity, Ashen Rider, Abhorrent Overlord, and Eidolon of Blossoms. Some of these creatures see very little Standard play and it's possible that new archetypes can emerge based on this strategy.
Jace's ultimate ability is just bonkers. When I first read it I thought it was just a Timetwister but then I realized only you draw seven while the opponent discards their entire hand. If you're playing a control deck, it's safe to say that you will be keeping your opponent's permanents off the board and your opponent will usually be sandbagging creatures to protect himself against Supreme Verdict. Therefore if you are able to pull off Jace's ultimate, it will always win you the game. Even if you are slightly behind you will probably find enough answers in the seven cards you just drew. Jace only needs to be in play for four turns for this to happen which isn't too bad.
What I like the most about the new Ajani is that it only costs one white making it easily splashable in a nonwhite deck. This Ajani is a little awkward because you will want to play this in a white aggro deck but you will also want to play it in a heavy Planeswalker deck. Ajani's first ability is really not too special. You only get the +1/+1 until end of turn unlike Ajani, Caller of the Pride which gave a counter permanently. However, the ability itself is very aggressive and all three abilities that the creature gains are very good. First strike makes it very hard to block, lifelink will make races in your favor, and vigilance allows you to keep your Ajani protected from opposing attackers while still being able to get in the red zone. Overall it's a great ability for an aggressive deck.
The negative ability reminds me a lot of Ajani Goldmane from back in the day. That ability was amazing in the white aggressive decks that dominated the format. Turn three Spectral Procession into turn four Ajani Goldmane was usually unbeatable and while this Ajani is nowhere as powerful, giving your guys +1/+1 permanently is nothing to laugh at. I really don't think putting counters on your Planeswalkers will come up very often. We can play this Ajani in a Bant Superfriends shell similar to what Frank Lepore won the TCGplayer 5k Orlando with, but if we have an Elspeth and a Kiora in play we are probably winning the game anyway and have no real need to pump our Soldier Tokens and our Kiora. I would much rather play Ajani in an aggro deck. Here is Frank's list for reference.
It's very obvious that Ajani's ultimate is powerful but honestly I don't really think it's very good in the decks that this Ajani shines in. Again, we can play it in Bant Superfriends but if you have three or four different Planeswalkers in play we are winning that game anyway. Regardless, having undying Planeswalkers is a pretty cool ability and I'm sure many players will build superfriends decks based on this ability as a result.
Garruk, Apex Predator
You gotta love the planeswalker with four abilities. The art gets real small just so you can fit all of its text in the box. Regardless of the tiny art, this Planeswalker is very powerful. The last Planeswalker to have four abilities was Jace, the Mind Sculptor and we all know how that ended up. Seven mana is a lot of mana, but this guy is just broken when it hits the table and is totally worth it despite the high cost. I remember when Elspeth, Sun's Champion was spoiled last year and everyone complained about its six mana casting cost, but that card ended up being the best card in Theros Block Constructed and is played in every white midrange and control deck. I have a feeling that Garruk will have the same fate. Garruk will also cause the format to slow down a bit as the primary "game-winning" spells will cost seven mana instead of six as three color decks featuring Garruk become more popular.
Garruk, Apex Predator is insanely good at protecting itself. Two of its four abilities protect Garruk from opposing attackers. You can either plus him to get a 3/3 deathtouch wolf which is capable of taking down any opposing attacker, or minus him to kill the creature outright.
Unlike some Planeswalkers, Garruk is useful against any type of deck. There are some Planeswalkers that are good against some strategies but bad against others. Kiora, the Crashing Wave is a good example of this. Kiora is great against midrange or aggro because you can Fog their creature every turn until she goes ultimate, but against control or monoblack, all she really does is draw you a card and give you a land drop until she dies to Hero's Downfall or Banishing Light. Garruk on the other hand is good against everything. Against control you can make 3/3s every turn or kill a Jace, Architect of Thought or an Elspeth. Against aggro you will probably be making beasts but you have the option of killing a creature and gaining life if you need to. Against midrange, all of the abilities are very good.
Garruk's ultimate reminds me a lot of Elspeth's ultimate in that you will be ticking up Garruk to make deathtouch beasts and when you're ready you can ultimate to make the creatures into 8/8s with trample. Elspeth only makes 3/3 flyers but it is the same idea. Honestly all of the abilities of Garruk feel like ultimates to me. Killing a Planeswalker for free feels very broken, getting a 3/3 that trades with literally anything is really good, and killing creatures while gaining life seems insane. Of course it's always nice to have a Planeswalker ability that will end the game when used.
I think Nissa, Worldwaker has a cute name considering that she was originally printed in Zendikar. Shouldn't Nissa, Worldwaker have been in Worldwake? I really liked the old Nissa but unfortunately it just wasn't that good in Standard because it was really narrow and required you to play a bunch of weak elves. Luckily, this Nissa seems very Standard playable. It's kind of like a "fixed" Garruk Wildspeaker. It costs one more, but it can untap more lands. It makes creatures the same way that Garruk Wildspeaker did, but instead of getting a token, it makes your land into a creature giving you the versatility of being able to tap it for mana if you need to. Of course, having your land that's also a creature makes it vulnerable to removal and can potentially Mana Screw you.
I can see Nissa being great in a green ramp style deck. On turn five (or turn four with a Sylvan Caryatid) you can cast Nissa and still be able to cast a Kiora (or any other four mana spell). Kiora can give you an extra land drop and on the following turn you can make ten mana. That's a lot of mana for the fourth turn of the game! Nissa gives you a way to cast really high casting cost spells. Maybe Worldspine Wurm will see play in Standard? If Wizards prints another two mana ramp spell in either M15 or Khans of Tarkir, I can see ramp being a very viable strategy. I would love it if Farseek gets reprinted but I'll gladly settle for Rampant Growth. Rampant Growth would actually be a great addition to a Nissa deck because you can only untap forests with her +1 ability and her ultimate can only search for basic lands.
Nissa's ultimate, as with most of the Planeswalker ultimates is game winning. Your opponent will have one turn to deal with your infinite 4/4s or else they are just dead. If your opponent does have Supreme Verdict or something, your deck will have no more lands which means you are guaranteed to draw spells for the rest of the game. I remember playing Mana Severance back in Tempest block and always thought it was a pretty cool card. Once I had enough lands in play I could just remove the rest of them from my deck and be guaranteed to draw gas. This plan would fail badly if your opponent was playing Armageddon or something but that's never going to happen in Standard.Wrapping Up
I think M15 is looking to be a great set. Usually core sets give us some new tools, but it seems that this core set is much more impactful than most. All of the new Planeswalkers seem insane and I'm looking forward for the rest of the cards to be spoiled so I can start building decks. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!
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