Planeswalking with Core 2019

Planeswalking with Core 2019

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!

W/B Aggro

Creatures (15):   

4x Knight of Malice
4x Knight of Grace
4x Walking Ballista
3x Lyra Dawnbringer


3x Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
3x Gideon of the Trials
3x Karn, Scion of Urza
4x Fatal Push
3x Heart of Kiran
4x History of Benalia

Lands (25):

4x Concealed Courtyard
4x Isolated Chapel
11x Plains
6x Swamps

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.

U/G Artifacts

Creatures (16):               

4x Glint-Nest Crane
3x Sai, Master Thopterist
2x Merchant’s Dockhand
3x Scrap Trawler
4x Verdurous Gearhulk

Spells (20):

3x Tezzeret, Artifice Master
4x Prophetic Prism
4x Renegade Map
4x Karn, Scion of Urza
4x Aethersphere Harvester
1x Sorcerous Spyglass

Lands (24):

4x Botanical Sanctum
1x Inventor’s Fair
4x Hinterland Harbor
11x Island
4x Forest

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.

B/U Combos

Creatures (16):                                

4x Walking Ballista
4x Metallic Mimic
4x Diligent Excavator
4x Stitcher’s Supplier

Spells (21):

4x Arcane Adaptation
4x Liliana Untouched by Death
1x Liliana, Death’s Majesty
4x Chart a Course
4x Fatal Push
4x Strategic Planning

Lands (23):

4x Drownyard Catacomb
4x Fetid Pools
10x Swamp
5x Island

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.

R/B Midrange

Creatures (14):

4x Glorybringer
2x Pia Nalaar
4x Rekindling Phoenix
2x Ravenous Chupacabra
2x Demanding Dragon

Spells (20):

3x Sarkhan, Fireblood
3x Abrade
3x Spit Flame
2x Eldest Reborn
4x Vraska’s Contempt
3x Fatal Push
2x Doomfall

Lands (26):

4x Canyon Slough
4x Dragonskull Summit
3x Cinder Barrens
2x Field of Ruin
6x Swamp
7x Mountain

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.

Steel-Leaf Stompy

Creatures (27):

4x Llanowar Elves
3x Resilient Khenra
3x Rhonas the Indomitable
3x Ghalta, Primal Hunger
4x Steel-Leaf Champion
3x Thrashing Brontodon
3x Greenbelt Rampager
4x Scrapheap Scrounger

Spells (8):

2x Vivien Reid
3x Blossoming Defense
3x Heart of Kiran

Lands (24):

4x Blooming Marsh
4x Woodland Cemetery
3x Hashep Oasis
13x Forest

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

Grixis Bolas

Creatures (17):

4x Nicol Bolas, the Ravager/ Nicol Bolas the Arisen
2x Scarab God
2x Ravenous Chupacabra
4x Champion of Wits
3x Whirler Virtuoso
2x Torrential Gearhulk

Spells (17):

4x Vraska’s Contempt
2x Liliana, Death’s Majesty
2x Eldest Reborn
2x Arguel’s Blood Fast
4x Harnessed Lightning
3x Glimmer of Genius

Lands (26):

4x Fetid Pools
4x Canyon Slough
4x Spirebluff Canal
4x Aether Hub
4x Drownyard Catacomb
4x Swamp
2x Island

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.

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Micheal McClure

Micheal is our resident standard afficionado, and is a voracious consumer of online magic content, keeping tabs on both the standard metagame and limited strategies. When he’s not behind the counter assisting Frank with the day to day operations of the store, he can be found offering advice to any and everyone who will listen, or who happens to be in the general tristate area. Micheal’s accomplishments include a PPTQ win, an IQ win, several day 2s at both Opens and Grand Prixs, (mostly in standard), two top 8 finishes in Starcity Games Classics, and two appearances at the Starcity Games’ Invitational tournament.

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