Friday, March 18, 2016

Walkin' on Innistrad - Standard Planeswalker Speculation

DISCLAIMER: Yarrg, thar be baseless speculation ahead. The full set has not been released, so we can't say for sure how these walkers will perform. Even if the full set were released, I'm a dumb dumb and you shouldn't hold my opinion too highly.

HELLO ladies and gentlenerds. We're right in the middle of the sexy rut that is Spoiler Season right now, and I gotta say, it feels pretty fuckin' good.  During the morning at work there are spoilers to browse so I can avoid work, and then at 11 more spoilers show up so I can avoid more work, and then in the afternoon I get to talk about spoilers to avoid work. Honestly, I should be fired. But hey, I met my quotas so who really gives a fuck.

"Johnson, where are those tax reports?" "Well, I for one believe that Thing in the Ice is modern playable."
This week we got bonus delicious morsels spoiled. The cards that will inevitably be way overpriced and necessary for most decks to be any sort of good - the Planeswalkers. A Planeswalker to a deck is like frosting to a donut. Sure, you don't need it, but then you're just eating dry cake. Or something. 

The walkers of this set are particularly exciting. We get a new Nahiri card, a character which players have been waiting to see again for quite a while. There's also a new flip werewolf Planeswalker, which has some people so excited that they should seek medical attention. Then there's Sorin, which is a big who cares, and finally Jace, which everyone is excited about because we haven't got that many printings of him and he traditionally hasn't made for very strong cards anyways.

Jace? Never heard of him.
So that's neat. Gender equality, and all that. But how do the cards actually look? Are they going to perform well in standard, or will they be casual cards? Will Jace warp another format, or will he be Living Guildpact 2.0? Let's look at the strengths and weaknesses of each walker and see if you should be willing to pay their stupidly overpriced pre-order costs.

Sorin, Angry Digital Art:

It looks like they photoshopped an '80s metal album cover over top of the art of an Island.
EDIT: My cousin made me realize that this is just Ronny James Dio art. I mean, it isn't really, but it might as well be.
Well, no matter what else happens with this card, your first step should be to get it altered, because the art is pretty sad. Sidenote, I do alters, so you should contact me. Not to toot my own horn, but toot toot, I'm pretty fuckin' good at them:

Hire me, Wizards.
Sorin is costly, at a whoppin' six mana. But each one of your little manas will buy you an entire loyalty counter, and a walker starting at 6 is unusually high. He looks like he'll be good in a more controlly deck, or in the top end of your standard midrange goodcrap deck. Having Anguished Unmaking in the same colors certainly makes him look better.

"+1: Reveal the top card of your library and put that card into your hand. Each opponent loses life equal to its converted mana cost."

Sorin's +1 ability is some fairly standard advantage; drawing a card is nothing new, powerful though it may be. The unique part of it is how much damage it can do. There aren't a lot of walkers whose plus ability can win the game on it's own, let alone draw you more cards as you do it. Sure, you'll flip up lands a lot, but all it takes is flipping a couple medium to high-cost cards to swing the lifetotals totally in your favor. Not to mention, each opponent makes this card balling for multiplayer games, so the casual crowd can get in on this sexy vampire action, too.

"-X: Sorin, Artistic Disaster deals X damage to target creature or planeswalker and you gain X life."

This is a good minus ability, and very strong removal. The fact that he can suck other planeswalkers dry is kind of hot, and this will kill most every creature you'll face, since he starts at a sultry six loyalty.

"-9: Put a number of 1/1 Vampire Knight creature tokens with lifelink onto the battlefield equal to the highest lifetotal among all players."

Sorin's ult is a doozy, but not necessarily an instant game-ender. They don't have haste, and in a regular game, by the time you can pop this off, you're either so far ahead that 20+ vampires is whatever, or the lifetotals are low and you really don't get that much. However, over in EDH land, Oloro says "Sorin, make me over one hundred vampires, please," and Sorin obliges. Sadly the tokens are bitchass 1/1's, so it does not take much to get rid of them.

Curses, foiled again!
Conclusion: 9/10

So how does Sorin rate? Well, I'll be dropping him at a solid 9 out of 10. His plus is very, very strong, and perfectly able to win the game without even looking at the rest of the card. His minus is very good, and will kill whatever is bothering you most on their board. His ult is dumb, so I took a point off. Stupid weakass vampires. You'd think that being Knights they'd at least be well armored.

Nahiri, Jilted Ex-Girlfriend:

Walking away from Sorin's destroyed house, listening to Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style".
Nahiri is in one of my fav color combos, so she has that going for her right away. Her art, while also just a generic picture of a fantasy person holding a sword standing in front of rocks, somehow ends up being way cooler than Sorin's. Maybe it's the fire? Or maybe it's because she has an air of casual badassness, whereas Sorin looks like he has to poop real bad. Either way, let's check out what this certified-cool Kor is capable of.

She costs four, which is fairly aggressive, as you'd hope from a RW walkerooni. She starts at four loyalty, which is a fair amount for the cost. She's also a mythic rare, so I'll never open one. The most likely home for her is the top end of a fast deck. Rummaging will be important there, and killing a dude is always nice. She could also work in midrange, though I fear Gideon will take her spot there more often than not.

"+2: You may discard a card. If you do, draw a card."

Rummaging is fun, and always a great ability for Red to have, as often Red decks hit a point where they don't want any more land, and pitching one to get a shot at a threat is welcome. Also this is plus a mighty two loyalty, which is dope. It's worth noting that you don't have to rummage either to get the counters. You're more than welcome to plus her up with an empty hand, or hang onto whatever crap you have.

"-2: Exile target enchantment, tapped artifact, or tapped creature."

Exiling things that could kill you is good, I think. There are some pretty strong enchantments right now that you can exile, such as Silkwrap, Stasis Snare, and Quarantine Field. Artifacts... I dunno. I'm sure there's something that I just can't remember. The fact that the critters and artifacts need to be tapped is a bit sad, but she is a good "Surprise!" walker, since you can drop this after they attack you and fuck 'em up. 

"-8: Search your library for an artifact or creature card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library. It gains haste. Return it to your hand at the beginning of the next end step."

This ult seems like it just doesn't fit with the rest of the card. It feels like the plus and minus abilities want a fast deck, but then there's this ult that basically reads "Search your deck for an eldrazi and fuck them in the face with it." I'm nervous about casually slotting an Ulamog into my RW agro deck on the off chance that I can ult him with Nahiri, so my guess is that this won't be used often in standard.

Conclusion: 7/10

Nahiri is alright, but only gets a 7 out of 10. While not bad at all, the four drop slot is super crowded, and given the choice between rummaging and knights, I think a lot of people are going to pick knights. Her minus ability is pretty stronk, and might be enough to get her in play. We'll see to see what other goodies SoI has to offer for Red and White to know for sure.

The Arlinn Kord Kard:

Oh god, so many abilities
Arly looks kickass, but I'm still not sure if that's because she's actually good or just because there is a shitload of text there. She flips, and everyone wanted a flipwalker, so that's good. She's also a werewolf, which everyone wanted! She is not however, able to be used as your commander, so there are dozens of butthurt nerds out there who still don't have a legendary werewolf commander. Sorry guys, maybe when we do Return to Shadows over Battle for Innistrad next year.

Spring 2018, probably.
She starts at only three loyalty for a four cost walker, which is a bit low, but her ability to make defenders or quickly make your board spoopy helps out. Being Red/Green, it's obvious she'll be in some sort of beatdown deck, and her abilities make that obvious.

"+1: Until end of turn, up to one target creature gets +2/+2 and gains vigilance and haste."

In RG face-beaty decks, vigilance, haste, and more damage is incredible. This lets your threats on future turns swing at that booty right away, and not even turn sideways. The turn she drops this lets you get in damage and also keep a blocker up. Overall, this is good™.

"0: put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield. Flip Arly."

Another ability to get you a blocker is good, and this one makes you flip out as well. Arly's flipside abilities effect all of your creatures rather than one, making the wolf you just made more relevant. 

"+1: Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain trample until end of turn."

Makes your shiny new wolf a 3/3 tromple, which is cool, and makes your existing dudes more swole. Tromple is good, and is sort of like evasion, so the beatdown can commence.

"-1: Arlinn, Drunk on the Moon deals 3 damage to target creature of player. Flip her back."

Bolt for -1 is so tasty. It does flip her back, though, so you can't do it every turn, which sucks, but you get a wolf every time you need to flip her back over to bolt again. I think that playing her and just flipping her back and forth will be a very real strat, and will probably happen quite a bit.

"-6: You get an emblem with: "Creatures you control have haste and "<tap>: This creature deals damage equal to its power to target creature or player.""."

Boy, that's a lot of nested quotes. This makes it so your dudes can do damage without even attacking, which is a good safe way to end the game. It's only a minus six as well, and those can usually be done in regular games if you didn't waste all your luck trying to get laid on St. Paddy's. This is the first walker we've looked at that has an ult that is totally relevant to it's other abilities! Way to go, Arlinn Kord!

Conclusion: 9/10

Arlinn looks quite strong, and assuming there are good three and five drops to follow her around, she'll be quite the house. I give her a solid 9 out of 10, and expect her to be pretty pricey for a walker. Casual demand alone for a fun flip werewolf will add some to her value, so if she becomes a standard staple, she'll make RG decks expensive.

Jace, Unraveler of Formats:

"Oh my god! Gang, I've found a clue!"
I've heard people joke about Jace Tribal decks, and I'm starting to realize it isn't really a joke. The deck gets another tool this set with... well, another Jace Planeswalker card. It draws, it bounces, it is mono blue. This spoiler was greeted with resounding cheers of "Yup, looks about right." His ult is better than most Jace ults, and probably makes you win. Other than that, no one was surprised or amazed by this card, and everyone sort of agreed he's just a blue Ob Nixilis. You can do better, creative team.

Jace costs five, making him more expensive than his other busted personas, which could hamper him. He does start at five loyalty, which is par for the course (this saying comes from Golf and it took me way too long to realize that). Let's look at his abilities and see if they make you have a raging clue.

"+1: Scry 1, then draw a card."

Well, that's boring. You look at the card, decide if you want it, then draw it or another. Hooray. This ability is better than Obknob's, as scrying before is sufficiently dank than shooting yourself. Unlike Sorin, it can't win you the game, but in Blue, scrying one drawing an extra card every turn is about as close as you can get.

"-2: Return target creature to its owner's hand."

Hey look, Jace bounces things. This is good to help defend himself, and he can do this twice in a row before needing to plus himself again. This can also be used on your own creatures, and we have some good ETB/on cast abilities right now, so maybe this might be your thing. Bounce your own Ulamuggy, that'll show 'em.

"-8: You get an emblem with "Whenever an opponent casts his or her first spell each turn, counter that spell."

This emblem is one of the better ones I've seen. This emblem fucks. It's great in normal games, and in Doubling Season EDH, well, fuck. Instant ult is rough. In one on one games, I'd say 99% of the time, this is just game over. I don't see a way to come back from this unless your board presence is already very strong, and in that case, why the fuck did you let him ult his Jace, you dumb idiot?

Conclusion: 8/10

Jace manages to earn himself an 8 out of 10 from me. Hot enough for me to hit on even if I'm sober, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do so. His plus ability is very strong, his minus ability is acceptable, and his ultimate is absolutely bonkers. The fact that he doesn't have his own win condition built in is all that is holding him back, but even without that, he's tasty.

That sums up the four walkers we get this set. They all seem good, though of course, only time and more spoilers will really show us. I for one am very upset that none of these are Tibalt. If neither Tibbers or Tamiyo show up in Eldritch Moon, I'm out. 

- Dan


Sorin is my favorite walker this set, but I'm a little underwhelmed by his -9. Jace isn't bad, but boring except for that new stylish leather coat which for some reason Wizards did not incorporate into any of his abilites. Arlin Kord is weird but I like her and Nahiri is here-i to kill some vampires and I'm a fan. I'm just waiting for Tamiyo in Eldritch Moon.

What do you think of the SoI walkers? Think I'm wrong? Well, yeah, probably. I'm a stupid. But we'd love to hear you tear me to shreds and call me a dick, so please leave a comment, or send us an email using the form on the sidebar!


  1. Great article! I enjoyed not only the content but the style as well; think I'll stick around!
    Also, gotta love Tibalt. xD