Thank you, Wizards of the Coast!
First, you invite me to a tournament with a first-place prize of $250,000 and then you unveil that War of the Spark is going to have 36 planeswalkers! How do you expect me to practice for the Mythic Invitational when all I can think about is what these cards are going to look like? All I do now is think about the different possibilities that could exist with a set that has a planeswalker in every pack!
There are so many ways to think about this. For starters, they might not change the usual rarity on these cards. That means there would be 36 mythic rare planeswalker cards in the set and also one in every pack. That would be absurd! Just think about it for a second. Constructed and Limited might be completely different from anything we've ever seen in the 25 years of Magic while War of the Spark is in Standard. Oh, and all those amazing animations on Arena!
Obviously this would be insane, but there are ways to make it work. Maybe War of the Spark is a bigger set than we're used to. This would help allow the set to have some non-planeswalker mythics, but it wouldn't fix the Limited issue of busted 'walkers everywhere. The "fix" could be more planeswalker removal like a Ravenous Chupacabra that kills them, but that also might not be all that great. Honestly, the only plausible, and really freaking cool way to do this, is for planeswalkers to venture into other rarities.
What in the world would a rare planeswalker look like? What about uncommon or even common?! It's been a subject many are speculating on, as it's the most interesting question to think about in some time. Do they just enter the battlefield with one ability that kills them? Do they only have insignificant abilities that tick downward? Would they have an "ultimate" that feels powerful? Do they work together? Do any transform into creatures?! There are just so many cool things to think about!
We're about to go ham speculating on what we want out of these cards, but first we should take the time to discuss what we don't want. Over the years, certain styles of planeswalkers ended up being too powerful and thus not very fun. There are two that come to mind that break all the rules.
Both of these planeswalkers defined their formats for some very specific reasons. First off, they only cost four mana yet can still protect themselves. Once stable, they both generate card advantage, and on top of all of that, they simply just win the game all by themselves. That's just too good. We could put Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in this category as well, but honestly this card had an error built into it. If the card wasn't mistakenly designed to win the game by itself, it would have been a good, but fair card.
So clearly there's a list of dos and don'ts when it comes to planeswalkers and my favorite "do" is when they're unique. They just tend to be more fun when they're themed with something. Tezzeret is a good example, as he always centers around artifacts. Due to this restriction he also is usually good but never busted outside of a deck that works perfectly with him. Themed 'walkers are just great!
It's also nice when planeswalkers are a little random. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver comes to mind, as sometimes you'd be casting a very powerful creature on the very next turn but other times the card would barely do anything. Having a little variance pumped into these cards is great, as they'll never just be degenerate like Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
We could talk about all the old planeswalkers all day and not get anywhere, so let's get into the good stuff! To kick things off, let's list them out with first being the most likely to be mythic rare. Note that I don't know all of the planeswalkers on all the stained-glass windows; I'm accepting my ignorance on that front, and not speaking on what I don't know. I also have a crazy theory that Nicol Bolas might be the only mythic planeswalker, but that's most likely wrong. I'd imagine Gideon is also mythic, as he's probably going to die, as it seems foreshadowed in the trailer. I also assumed Garruk would show up, but there are already 36 pieces of art, so that's most likely not happening.
Most likely mythic rare:
- Nicol Bolas
Most likely rare:
- Ral Zarek
- Ob Nixilis
Now, this list really doesn't mean anything. I'm just using it to predict where planeswalkers would fall on specific rarities under the assumption that the rarity will change. I'm also about to make some of my own planeswalkers, but by no means believe these cards could see play. They're just examples of how the design space could operate in a set with so many 'walkers. Most of them might have a centerpiece ability worth talking about, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out the rest of the cards. That means we will be talking about specific ideas on "completed" cards, but by no means think I'm suggesting these as final products.
Designing cards isn't easy!
There's a ton of lore that I could get into right now, but it's probably best to only bring it up when it seems relevant for card design. An example of this – Ral Zarek creating a machine to get all the planeswalkers to come to Ravnica (or at least that's what I've heard is happening). Since that's the case, I could see the main ability on Ral being an ability to gain control of an opposing planeswalker. These are the types of abilities that are rarely seen on planeswalkers as they are rarely interacting with one another. That's changing on Ravnica this time around which means the design space for interaction grows larger. We could see abilities like this starting to pop up!
Obviously Contraptions won't be in War of the Spark, but I have no idea what the other abilities should be. I just think it's interesting to think about planeswalkers interacting with each other in a setting where there's a ton of them. This ability seems awesome in Limited, but also random, since an opponent might not draft many planeswalkers. Abilities with some variance are a ton of fun to play with, and especially so in Limited.
Another way to think about this would be a planeswalker literally designed to just help other planeswalkers you control. It's tough to protect a ton of planeswalkers hitting the battlefield one after another, so I'm guessing some of them will help make this a reality.
Now, this isn't the most impressive card, so I'd assume it would be slightly better, but not by much. Uncommon planeswalkers could get out of hand if they were too good. I think it's important for uncommon planeswalkers to only be able to interact with the battlefield when they would "loyalty out." This card can replace itself and potentially help other planeswalkers. Seems good enough to me!
What about a planeswalker designed to act as a removal spell? I'm not talking about what we've become used to, like Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Ob Nixilis Reignited. No, I just mean a planeswalker that's supposed to be slightly better than an Impale and most likely die the turn it enters the battlefield.
Again, this isn't exactly powerful, but at the same time it's a fairly decent removal spell in Limited. Not often do four-mana removal spells gain card advantage, so this has the feel of a planeswalker, even if it has a one-time use.
The next idea surrounds planeswalkers losing their spark, becoming ordinary people like the rest of us. I selected Tezzeret to show this design, as I've always loved his 5/5s and also the fact that in the story he beat up Jace so badly that he almost died. If any planeswalker could handle themselves without a spark, it would be The Tezzerator!
I'm thinking this card might be too good, but I do like the idea of a Dimir planeswalker being able to act as a Nekrataal. Given enough time, this card can try to get an artifact onto the battlefield to gain indestructible, but if time is of the essence, this card can kill something right away, transforming it into a 5/5 creature. The main issue I have with this hypothetical Tezzeret is it's not epic enough. Teferi lost his spark by mending time. Tezzeret should just go down beating up Jace.
Another way to think about this card is to make the -1 into a +1, and then change the loyalty to 3. This would mean the card needed a turn to transform, as it will already be in the graveyard by the time it would if you used that ability right away. Sure, sometimes you'd have to, which makes the card more interesting to play.
Something that would also be cool is stealing planeswalkers for the turn. Zealous Conscripts was such a unique card thanks to its ability to do this that it's often found in most Cubes. I'd imagine Angrath is up for this challenge!
Maybe all these ideas are bad, but I won't know until y'all read this and tell me. Until then I'm just going to keep making random planeswalkers, because it's so much fun! What other ideas are out there? Well, like I said earlier, I'm pretty sure Gideon is going to join Elspeth in the underworld. Wait, is that new "Mortal Kombat"-looking planeswalker Elspeth back from the dead? That could make sense, as I have no clue who that is. Anyway, the trailer makes it seem like Gideon is going to die and that it most likely is caused by him trying to protect the rest of the Gatewatch.
The jig is up. I have no idea what I'm doing here. In fact, I should not even publish this article if I ever want a job in Play Design. Oh well, too late! Gideon, Protector of the Spark looks bad to me, but I can't really think of why. There are just so many things you can and can't do with this card. I guess it could make creatures attack it, but whatever. Let's just move on to emblems.
I have a sneaking suspicion that emblems will play a rather large role in this set. I'm not talking about "win the game in one way or another" emblems, but more like the one that Sorin, Lord of Innistrad made, small ones that have an impact on the game, but not big enough to have everything revolve around them.
I could make a ton of guesses about what these would be, but the better prediction is that emblems will finally be able to be interacted with for the first time since planeswalkers were introduced. That's right – I think we will finally see cards that can destroy emblems. Not many, maybe just one or two, but they will exist! I don't know if they will look more like Hero's Demise, Reclamation Sage, or Blink of an Eye, but there will be something.
I also think there won't be great planeswalker removal in the set. Sure, there will be one or two cards that can kill them, but we won't see cards like Ravenous Chupacabra that can kill a planeswalker. I don't think Wizards of the Coast will want to make too many Standard-playable planeswalkers, so I don't think they want them so easily killed (at least that's what I think).
I know I just threw out random ideas today, but this is really the first time I've been excited about new cards. Usually I just wait until the set list comes out, but after sixteen years of playing this game, WotC finally found a way to get me hooked. I just can't wait to see these cards!
So what do you think about my predictions? What are your ideas?