Whether you’re new or an old school player coming back after having been gone since before Planes walkers were introduced, here’s what you need to know: Planes walkers are a unique type of permanent spell in Magic with some very special rules.
All Planes walkers have a number of loyalty counters that they enter the battlefield with upon being cast called “starting loyalty.” Ashok, Sculptor of Fears enters the battlefield with 4 loyalty counters. Take Gin, the Ineffable as an example: “Colorless spells you cast cost less to cast.” As long as Gin is on the battlefield, your colorless spells will be two manas cheaper.
The Planes walker loses a number of loyalty counters equal to the damage done by each unblocked creature attacking it. With the release of Italian, all past and present Planes walkers gained the “Legendary” super type.
If you were to steal your opponent’s Nissan, you would again have to pick which one to keep and the other would go to the graveyard. This move would actually make some kind of sense since you’re taking away their Planes walker and, potentially, boosting your Nissan’s loyalty.
They can be pretty daunting when you first start to play with them, but they’re well worth the effort. A player who has priority may cast a planes walker card from their hand during a main phase of their turn when the stack is empty.
306.5a The loyalty of a planes walker card not on the battlefield is equal to the number printed in its lower right corner. 306.5b A planes walker has the intrinsic ability “This permanent enters the battlefield with a number of loyalty counters on it equal to its printed loyalty number.” This ability creates a replacement effect (see rule 614.1c).
Loyalty abilities follow special rules: A player may activate a loyalty ability of a permanent they control any time they have priority and the stack is empty during a main phase of their turn, but only if none of that permanent’s loyalty abilities have been activated that turn. Previously, planes walkers were subject to a redirection effect that allowed a player to have noncombat damage that would be dealt to an opponent be dealt to a planes walker under that opponent’s control instead.
They weren’t always present as physical cards even though the word “Planes walker” already existed and there was lore out there that dealt with them. This should be clear after reading the comprehensive rules, but no, planes walkers are not creatures.
Some planeswalkerscan become creatures like Gideon of the Trials or Markham the Masterless, but this is the exception, not the rule. This also means that the vast majority of planes walkers cannot “attack” in the traditional sense.
It may hurt your head trying to manage 100 passive and loyalty abilities, but that’s completely fair game. Just make sure you abide by the singleton and color identity rules of the format.
The color wheel was already well represented, but the “wizards fighting magic” aspect proved more difficult to realize. Matt Gavotte, a member of the design team for Future Sight, came up with the idea to create actual Planes walker cards for a new set.
But, eventually, Mark Rosewater realized that this could be the perfect way to finally represent “wizards fighting with magic” in the actual game. The idea proved too big for Future Sight, already a time-consuming set to create, so this bold new move was pushed forward to Loren and the rest is history.
This hadn’t happened yet up to that point, so needless to say, this was a historic moment for Magic. If you were paying attention to the first Planes walker cards, you’ll have noticed that they were printed as rares.
The simple reason for this is that mythic rare hadn’t been introduced yet and wouldn’t come up until late 2008 with Shards of Clara. So, it’s only natural that the chances of opening them mirror the lore of the game.
It deepens the bond between real life and mythos, something that Magic has always been very good at intertwining. Not only did they print a whole slew at rare, but uncommon Planes walkers were popping out of packs left, right, and center.
This changed a fundamental rule that Wizards had set for themselves: that they would print Planes walkers only at mythic rare going forward from the Clara block. However, with the original inception of the Nicole Bolas story arc, a big war was always going to happen.
Planes walkers were always going to be part of this equation and there are only so many slots for each rarity when building a set. Mark Rosewater said it best: “The main protagonists and antagonists got to be mythic rare.
But neither Throne of Elaine nor Theron: Beyond Death featured any rare or uncommon Planes walkers. Personally, I think they should keep the appearances of rare and uncommon Planes walkers at a bare minimum.
From the flavor point of view that becoming a Planes walker is a very rare occurrence and coming across one is as well. They’ve become the most popular card type in Magic and have even changed the face of advertising for Wizards, all because they are the perfect vehicle for storytelling.
Keeping them mostly at mythic rare makes their stories feel that much more special and important. It made sense for War of the Spark, but we probably won’t see quite such a dramatic story arc like that for a while.
Back then, it was the elements that made up the game that Wizards used to promote it. Even when Loren, the set Planes walkers were introduced in, came out, it took a long time for ROTC to realize how they could harness the power of characters that we, the audience, could identify with, care about, follow, and learn from.
As you can see from the above posters and products, Planes walkers have changed promotional material significantly. You care about what happens to them whereas there weren’t any characters that you could apply that same feeling to before.
It’s one of the smartest things Wizards has done over the years and has made the game better for veterans and new players alike. In the beginning, Wizards consciously didn’t put Planes walkers in every set because they wanted them to feel like a rare occurrence, just like the spark that enabled the person to start planes walking.
A real big bad we’ve followed for a long time. Maybe there are worse out there, but we haven’t met them yet, so we’re content to say that Bolas is probably Magic’s ultimate bad guy.
Her iconic flaming locks and Romancer Goggles are pretty in-line with her personality. The self-appointed protector of Zanzibar with a straight-line connection and bad ass elemental sidekicks.
You’ll be able to follow these returning characters on their no-doubt exciting adventures going forward. These are a bunch of great characters that have been getting a push over recent years, as well.
I don’t know about you, but personally I’m rooting for a more diversified focus on multiple characters and less of the “let’s follow these five characters to eternity and back” type of setting that we’ve had to endure in the past. Switching between characters creates tension and excitement to what will happen to our favorites when we see them again.
Defining which are the best and worst Planes walkers highly depends on what format you’re looking at. We’ve taken the impact a Planes walker has on the game when entering the battlefield into account as the main factor.
There have been several discussions over the years about Planes walkers being too powerful and the arguments have heated up again with the recent banning of these two bad boys: I believe the short answer is “no.” In general, Planes walkers aren’t too powerful.
It’s kind of unbelievable that OK and Wren in particular left Wizards’ R&D without being flagged as broken in the first place. That said, OK and Wren seem to have either been intentionally pushed or their potential to break the boundaries of power level was somehow not noticed.
Upon release, this quickly caused multiple formats to feel the warping effect these cards had on the game. If you couldn’t, the chances of you being able to win were incredibly slim.
All of this in a way that simply locks the opponent out when you play these cards, and they don’t have an immediate answer to them. The problem with OK and Wren is that just the one of them that does all that in one foul sweep.
Both OK and Wren play a significant role in the storyline of their respective sets, and it would be a shame if they wouldn’t have been printed, because they add a lot of flavor and depth to the game. Balancing the cards out to make them more reasonable to play with, however, is the answer.
There’s no shame in trying to push the boundaries now and then, it’s something that keeps the game exciting and appealing. Wizard needs to find a way to pick out the bad seeds that take the game into a realm where it stops pushing boundaries and starts breaking in a way that makes it no fun to play.
Time has taught us that when the game is fun it makes you want to play more, not less. You can snag some free ones using Promo codes, buy them in the Arena store using gold or gems, or earn them by or participating in events.
Now you can view them all neatly in the tables up there and wonder at all the work that has gone into them all the way from creating this new card type 13 years ago to the present day.