Magic’s newest Core set is just around the corner, and M19 has the most planeswalkers we’ve seen in a set since 2014 with M15. We have five familiar faces in Nicol Bolas, Ajani, Sarkhan, Liliana, and Tezzeret, and one new walker in Vivien Reid.
Planeswalkers are one of the most exciting card types in Magic’s history and each one almost always sees play in at least one format (sorry Tibalt.) I think this batch of Core set Planeswalkers is the strongest we’ve seen since Magic Origins Flip-Walkers (for reference, that was when we had Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy)! Today I’m going to be reviewing each of the new additions to the Planeswalker family and providing examples of decks I feel like they fit in. Without further ado, let’s get on with it!
Ajani fits best in an aggressive shell that can also play a longer game when need be, and I feel like the best home for him on these fronts is the B/W Knights deck that has been seeing play this standard season. This deck specifically plays three of the strongest aggressive planeswalkers we have available to us while also playing other strong non-creature threats like Heart of Kiran and History of Benalia. This deck also gets to play the full set of knights that are key in removal heavy matchups. Ajani’s main synergies with this deck is returning the knights, or putting counters on a walking ballista or a set of knight tokens to really improve your threats while also working towards a game ending ultimate.
Speaking of game ending ultimates, this one is a doozy. Tezzeret is an extremely powerful planeswalker that requires a very specific style of deck which I feel like is his only downfall. The deck I chose to showcase him in is the U/G Karn deck that was played at Pro Tour Dominaria, with some minor changes for our new planeswalking friend. The main plan for this deck is to slam a Karn and/or Tezzeret and ride them to victory with their respective card advantage and army building engines.
Okay so this deck is really weird and is probably not what most thought the Liliana deck was going to look like. Instead of overwhelming your opponent with a horde of the undead like previous zombie decks this deck is looking to combo kill the opponent.The combo requires the trio of Arcane Adaptation, Liliana Untouched by Death, and a Walking Ballista. To pull this off you need an Arcane Adaptation on the battlefield naming zombies, the Liliana also on the board, and a Walking Ballista in the graveyard. With Liliana’s -3 you can recast zombies from your graveyard, and Adaptation makes Walking Ballista a zombie so you can cast it from your graveyard with X=0 as many times as you want, as it will die due to having no toughness. Now this alone does not do anything to win the game, but with a Metallic Mimic on zombie it is infinite damage to your opponent, as even though Ballista is cast for 0 it would still enter with a +1/+1 counter allowing you to ping your opponent, let the Ballista die, and cast it again for as many times as needed. With a Diligent Excavator instead of the Mimic repeatedly casting the Ballista causes you to mill your opponent out causing them to lose on their next draw step. Now this probably isn’t the strongest home for our new black planeswalker but this certainly looks like the one I’m more interested in playing at the next FNM.
Sarkhan is an interesting one, as he has the ability to ramp out large dragons, or discard unneeded cards to draw new ones, all while building towards a powerful ultimate. One of my favorite interactions with Sarkhan is to discard Spit Flame on turn 3 then use Sarkhan to add mana and play a dragon while returning Spit Flame to your hand for a whole lot of value.
Vivien Reid is the next walker we are going to cover. Vivien might look really plain and unexciting, and that’s because she is. But that certainly does not mean that she is not a good card. She follows the recent model of 5 mana planeswalkers (Ob Nixilis Reignited, Jace Unraveler of Secrets) of +1: Draw a card in some way, -X: Remove target creature. Vivien is the definition of solid; she is almost never exciting, but she is the perfect roleplayer for a removal light creature deck that could also benefit from some card draw
Nicol Bolas is an interesting one to evaluate, because unlike all of the others he is also a creature, and is going to be a creature much more often than a planeswalker. This is something this deck really tries to take advantage of with all of the reanimation effects. Bolas’ enter the battlefield effect is pretty solid, which makes the repeated abuse of it fantastic. It is a major risk and investment to try and flip Bolas, as your opponent can kill it in response, which will lead to some feel bad moments. However, Nicol Bolas, the Arisen is a game ender, and because he does so many things and does them all very well, if this was a normal planeswalker it would be extremely hard to assign an appropriate mana cost to it because it would be so powerful. Regardless, I think Bolas is going to be a pillar of the format and will be something players always have to be prepared for.
Overall I think we got a set of pretty strong planeswalkers this set and they all have potential to see standard play. If I had to rank them It would probably be like this:
#6 – Liliana, Untouched by Death
#5 – Vivien Reid
#4 – Sarkhan, Fireblood
#3 – Tezzeret, Artifice Master
#2 – Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
#1 – Nicol Bolas, the Arisen
Thanks for reading and good luck in your future standard events with these amazing planeswalkers.