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The Planeswalkers of Shadows over Innistrad!

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Magic Culture

The Planeswalkers of Shadows over Innistrad!

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

Spoiler season is upon us, folks.  The rotation of an unexciting, stagnant Standard is just on the horizon.  Gone will be the days of Siege Rhino and Rally the Ancestors.  I’m here today to help usher in a new Standard, where cards from the future hold the keys to success.

Well…not really.

If you’re like me, you’ve been gleaning over card previews like Jace on Innistrad himself is Poring Over the Pages to find what Pieces of the Puzzle from Shadows over Innistrad fit with cards in previous sets to break open the new format, and find our week one decks.  However, so far, much like when Battle for Zendikar was getting previewed, there doesn’t seem like much to write home about just yet.

We have some cards that people expected.  For example, the new Avacyn, a constructed legal Nahiri planeswalker, a new Vindicate cousin, and a werewolf planeswalker, just to name a few, but most of the cards revealed, and even some of the ones we had expected to see feel a bit underwhelming.  I think the biggest let down for me personally is Nahiri, the Harbinger.

Nahiri was one of those constructed enigmas.  In the story, she ganged up on the Eldrazi back in Zendikar as a non-planeswalker among planeswalkers.  Back then, Nahiri, was not a known as anything but a lithomancer, the creator of the hedrons on Zendikar.

There was a lot of speculation for a while that she was going to be an actual planeswalker but her spark hadn’t ignited yet.  Then the Commander decks of 2014 came around, and had her as a mediocre-but-Legacy-playable mono-white walker.  Even though she saw sideboard play, she was very playable in Legacy, serving as a tool for midrange decks against midrange decks.

When it was announced after Nahiri had not been shown in our return to Zendikar, that we would be going back to Innistrad, speculation began about a Nahiri planeswalker printing in Standard.  There was a ton of hype as well for a character so near and dear to people’s’ hearts.

She was finally unveiled:
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Planeswalker – Nahiri

+2: You may discard a card.  If you do, draw a card.
-2: Exile target enchantment, tapped artifact, or tapped creature.
-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.

What a stinker!  The only things to talk about on this card are the aspects that make her unplayable, at least as current card power levels stand.  I find very little remotely good about this card.  The only positive thing I can say is that the minus, while narrow, is a maindeckable way to deal with enchantments.  That’s really it.

The plus on this card is obnoxiously poor in my opinion.  It doesn’t give card advantage, and you can’t really even argue that it’s card quality, because discarding a card is part of the cost.  It’s not a traditional loot effect, like what Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy provides, where you get to look at all of your information before you discard.  You have to get rid of what might seem like garbage in order to draw potentially worse garbage.  That scenario is a trade down.

Sure you can just not discard, and plus for no effect, but even then, the ultimate on this card isn’t really game breaking.  If you do manage to use her -8 ability, what are you going to get?  There’s no creature in Standard that wins the game on the spot when you attack with it.  Even if you -8 her, and get, say, Ulamog, you don’t get the cast trigger, and you probably can’t cast it once it’s bounced back to your hand, since you’re not really in ramp colors.

In addition to these right now apparently stinky abilities, she’s two colors.  Mana seems to be something that will be more…normal…than it has been the past six months with our almost Modern manabases, so having more than two colors will be much more rare.  This leads to the argument for Madness working with Nahiri’s plus isn’t even that strong, since Madness colors seem to be Blue, Red, and Black, with right now no White support.

I give this card a rating of Narset Transcendent.  When Narset was revealed, there was a lot of hype surrounding her.  However, she saw and is still seeing very little play in Standard.

If you’re even thinking about running this Nahiri, I think the other options in the colors are much better.  If you’re playing white, you have access to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.  If you’re in Red, you have access to Chandra, Flamecaller, whose abilities are just wholly better than Nahiri.

Also, if you’re looking for Nahiri’s abilities just to be better, Ob Nixilis Reignited is just an overall upgrade on this card in my opinion.  Black is a stronger color for these abilities, he comes in with an additional loyalty, actually creates card advantage, and can kill any creature with no stipulation.  His ultimate can also actually be a win condition.

Enough about hot garbage, let’s talk about the other planeswalker spoiled so far:

Arlinn Kord
Planeswalker – Arlinn

+1: Until end of turn, up to one target creature gets +2/+2 and gains vigilance and haste.
0: Put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield.  Transform Arlinn Kord.

Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
Planeswalker – Arlinn

+1: Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain trample until end of turn
-1: Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon deals 3 damage to target creature or player.  Transform Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon.
-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.’”

Now this is a planeswalker!  Oh boy!  This card has so much going on, it’s difficult to even know where to start!  Her +1 on her day side is really good.  As we’ve seen with cards like Mantis Rider and Sylvan Advocate, Vigilance is a very powerful keyword.  The ability also makes your creature bigger, which probably means it can attack freely.  It will probably either kill or at least I expect to trade with something on your opponent’s board.  Her 0 is just like Gideon, which people know is good.  Getting free creatures is its own form of card advantage.  It also flips her into this monster!

Giving your army of dogs a small overrun effect seems powerful.  Especially on a plus!  She also has Lightning Bolt, which means I’m a defacto fan of the card.  The -6 seems very powerful too.  It’s a way to win the game that uses your creatures and doesn’t require attacking, so you have the potential to win even through a board stall position when you’re behind.  You can bust Arlinn, get your emblem, save your dudes to block, and then pretty much fling them at your opponent.  This card seems really good, and as opposed to Nahiri, I’m actually excited to play with this card.

*BREAKING NEWS!*: As I’m writing this article, there is a third planeswalker spoiled, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself for the next week if I didn’t add it to this article!

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Planeswalker – Jace


+1: Scry 1, then draw a card.
-2: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.
-8: You get an emblem with “Whenever an opponent casts his or her first spell each turn, counter that spell.”

So, let’s talk about awkward planeswalkers!  The easiest comparison to make with Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is the obvious Ob Nixilis Reignited, who we’ve already mentioned in this article.  The cost, loyalty, and abilities are pretty much the same as Ob Nixilis, and while the -8 is very strong on Jace, it’s not a game winner like Ob Nixilis’ is.

However, I do think I like Jace’s -8 more than Ob Nixilis’.  Simply because people can still win through an Ob Nixilis ult.  Winning through a Jace ult is doable, but he’s able to control the game a fair amount more than Ob Nixilis.  Jace’s strength is really in his ability to affect the board twice, and then to start generating card advantage.  Sure, bouncing a guy isn’t the same as killing it, but if your opponent has like five cards in hand, paying -3 to kill a guy with Ob Nixilis is about the same as paying -2 to bounce a guy with Jace, and being able to bounce a guy again next turn, while giving yourself an extra turn over Ob Nixilis to get out of a sticky situation.

I also am a big fan of scrying before I draw, rather than losing life.  This means you hit fewer garbage cards with a Jace than you do with Ob Nixilis.  Obviously Jace isn’t great against low to the ground aggro decks, so he most likely won’t be an auto 4 of in blue decks, but he is better in my opinion than Ob Nixilis in spots where you would want Ob Nixilis.

**DOUBLE BREAKING NEWS!**: After I submitted this article initially, the fourth and final planeswalker of the set was previewed! Sorin makes his presence known!

Sorin, Grim Nemesis
Planeswalker – Sorin

+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.
-X: Sorin, Grim Nemesis deals X damage to target creature or planeswalker and you gain X life.
-9: Put a number of 1/1 black Vampire Knight creature tokens with lifelink onto the battlefield equal to the highest life total among all players.


A few items jump to the front of the list when thinking about this card. The first thing, is that he follows the new template for planeswalkers of plus: card advantage, minus: affect the board, second minus: something absurd. I suppose this isn’t new for planeswalkers, as they are meant to be powerful cards, and if you take a really analytical approach to grading planeswalkers, you’ll see most are set up this way. I guess what I’m saying is that this trend has been made more obvious with cards like Ob Nixilis Reignited, Nahiri, the Harbinger, and Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, where you have literal draw a card, literal affect a thing, and some game-breaking (at least in most cases) ability as the third and final one.

Another thing that jumps to my mind when looking at the new Sorin, is that he’s a planeswalker on 6. This means he’ll be graded alongside Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. On a personal level, I think Sorin is slightly weaker than Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, but let’s be real. Elspeth was BUSTED.

Now, without playing with Sorin, he feels really busted too. Having six loyalty on six mana means he can come down the turn after your opponent attacks you with Reality Smasher, kill the Reality Smasher, gain back your opponent’s attack, and still live to draw you cards. This card drawing by the way is killing your opponent, so he feels like a Keranos, God of Storms with upside. Imagine that, Keranos having upside!

Let’s not forget also that Sorin can just decide to hit planeswalkers. He will have the highest loyalty of planeswalkers when he becomes Standard legal, tying with Narset, Transcendent. That means he has the potential to just come down on turn six, and kill almost any planeswalker that people play. If you don’t mind Sorin just dying, you can give him the whole -6 and kill any non-plussed Narset Transcendent planeswalker in Standard. Also right now, there aren’t a whole lot of creatures with a toughness bigger than 5. Most of those creatures that do have toughness at 5 or greater are Eldrazi, so that means against most strategies, Sorin can come down, and if you’re allowed to untap, he can take over a game single-handedly.

I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sorin’s ultimate, which if you are able to get to that point, you’re probably just going to win the game anyway, especially with Sorin’s plus not only drawing you cards, but killing your opponent on your way to his -9.

With B/W being pushed pretty hard so far with the spoilers we’ve been given, I feel like Sorin is sure to not only have a home when he is released, but to be on of the best planeswalkers in Standard, if not THE best. Move over Jace, Telepath Unbound, there’s a new boy in town!

Now we’re getting into the actual meat of the set!  I’m getting more excited seeing Jace revealed.  What cards are you looking forward to in Shadow over Innistrad?  Which archetypes are you looking to make a splash with, or carry over from old Standards?  See you all next week!

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