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Card type
Subtype Planeswalker type
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See also Planeswalker (novel).
Planeswalker card: 1) card name, 2) mana cost, 3) type line, 4) Loyalty ability, 5) Ultimate ability, 6) starting loyalty

In the storyline of Magic: The Gathering, planeswalkers are among the most powerful beings in the multiverse. Within the game, they represent the thematic identities of the players. Planeswalker is also a card type within the game.

Player identity[edit | edit source]

Within the game, each player is supposed to be a planeswalker, which is a point emphasized in the current marketing strategy (for example the intro packs' description refers to your opponents as such). This concept originated from the Alpha rule book.[1]

Card type[edit | edit source]

Planeswalker card types were introduced in Lorwyn.[2][3][4] Like the player, a planeswalker card represents a powerful being that is able to move from plane to plane.[5][6] Planeswalkers borrowed their "attack me to lower my loyalty" mechanic from something called structures that Richard Garfield made for Ravnica: City of Guilds, but never had been used.[7] An earlier design for planeswalkers, meant to be introduced in Future Sight would later inspire the design of Sagas.[8][9]

Planeswalkers enter the battlefield with a set number of loyalty counters, printed in the lower right of the card. A planeswalker can be attacked, like a player, or be dealt damage by an opponent's spell or ability. Damage dealt to a planeswalker removes that many loyalty counters and a planeswalker with no loyalty counters is put into the graveyard, unless they become a Creature by a spell or ability. In that case, they are put into the graveyard also for the reasons a creature is sent there, such as taking lethal damage or reducing the toughness below 1.

Planeswalkers usually have three abilities: one ability that adds loyalty counters as a cost for a small benefit, one that removes a small amount of counters as a cost for a larger effect, and one that removes a large number of loyalty counters for a big effect. The last effect is commonly referred to as the planeswalker's "ultimate" ability and usually leaves the opponent in a devastated state. The starting loyalty of a planeswalker is commonly significantly lower than the cost of its ultimate and a player has to build up the loyalty to access it.

Unlike most other cards in a set, planeswalkers are designed by the people who work on Standard (currently the Play Design team, formerly the development team with contributions from people who played in the Future Future League).[10]

Until War of the Spark, all planeswalkers had been printed with the mythic rare rarity, except for Ajani Goldmane, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, and Garruk Wildspeaker, which debuted in the Lorwyn block when the mythic rare rarity did not yet exist. War of the Spark featured rare and even uncommon planeswalkers.[11] All planeswalkers in the set have a static or triggered ability. In addition, the uncommon planeswalkers have only a minus loyalty ability (no plus abilities),[12] the rare planeswalkers have a plus and a minus loyalty ability,[13] and the mythic rare planewalkers have the usual three loyalty abilites.[14]

By the time of Zendikar Rising Planeswalkers could be released with set-specific mechanics (something which was previously avoided).[15]

Planeswalker symbol[edit | edit source]

Unused planeswalker symbol meant for future-shifted cards

The handprint-like planeswalker symbol {PW} symbolizes planeswalkers and their ability to traverse the planes of the Multiverse.[16][17] It is, for example, used to planeswalk in the Planechase format, as part of the Masters 25 expansion symbol, and hidden in card art (e.g., Barren Glory and Omniscience). It seems to refer to the different paths or planes that a planeswalker can choose to walk. Specifically: five choices, as in the five colors of Magic. On the other hand, Mark Rosewater has said that it also has a “five becoming one” aspect, to match Magic's ethos of the colors working together.[18][19] The latter could also mean there is a connection to the Lorwyn Five or the Gatewatch.

There used to be a symbol designed for planeswalkers in Future Sight, but it was not used when the introduction of planeswalkers was moved to Lorwyn. This was different from the current planeswalker symbol.[20]

Rules[edit | edit source]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (September 25, 2020—Zendikar Rising)

A card type. A planeswalker is a permanent. See rule 306, “Planeswalkers.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (September 25, 2020—Zendikar Rising)

  • 306. Planeswalkers
    • 306.1. A player who has priority may cast a planeswalker card from their hand during a main phase of their turn when the stack is empty. Casting a planeswalker as a spell uses the stack. (See rule 601, “Casting Spells.”)
    • 306.2. When a planeswalker spell resolves, its controller puts it onto the battlefield under their control.
    • 306.3. Planeswalker subtypes are always a single word and are listed after a long dash: “Planeswalker — Jace.” Each word after the dash is a separate subtype. Planeswalker subtypes are also called planeswalker types. Planeswalkers may have multiple subtypes. See rule 205.3j for the complete list of planeswalker types.
    • 306.4. Previously, planeswalkers were subject to a “planeswalker uniqueness rule” that stopped a player from controlling two planeswalkers of the same planeswalker type. This rule has been removed and planeswalker cards printed before this change have received errata in the Oracle card reference to have the legendary supertype. Like other legendary permanents, they are subject to the “legend rule” (see rule 704.5j).
    • 306.5. Loyalty is a characteristic only planeswalkers have.
      • 306.5a The loyalty of a planeswalker card not on the battlefield is equal to the number printed in its lower right corner.
      • 306.5b A planeswalker 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).
      • 306.5c The loyalty of a planeswalker on the battlefield is equal to the number of loyalty counters on it.
      • 306.5d Each planeswalker has a number of loyalty abilities, which are activated abilities with loyalty symbols in their costs. 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. See rule 606, “Loyalty Abilities.”
    • 306.6. Planeswalkers can be attacked. (See rule 508, “Declare Attackers Step.”)
    • 306.7. Previously, planeswalkers 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 planeswalker under that opponent’s control instead. This rule has been removed and certain cards have received errata in the Oracle card reference to deal damage directly to planeswalkers.
    • 306.8. Damage dealt to a planeswalker results in that many loyalty counters being removed from it.
    • 306.9. If a planeswalker’s loyalty is 0, it’s put into its owner’s graveyard. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (September 25, 2020—Zendikar Rising)

Planeswalker Symbol
The Planeswalker symbol {PW} appears on the planar die in the Planechase casual variant. See rule 107.11.

From the "planeswalker uniqueness rule" to the "legend rule"[edit | edit source]

Planeswalker cards used to have a similar rule to the "legend rule": If a player controls two or more planeswalkers that share a planeswalker type, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners’ graveyards. This was called the "planeswalker uniqueness rule".

Starting with Ixalan, this rule was abandoned.[21] All planeswalkers past, present, and future gained the supertype legendary and became subject to the "legend rule". Thus, if a player controls more than one legendary planeswalker with the same name, that player chooses one and puts the other into their owner's graveyard. This has also enabled planeswalkers without types to be printed, such as The Wanderer.

The change was made to simplify gameplay.[22][23][24]

There are no current plans to create nonlegendary planeswalkers.[25]

Planeswalker redirection rule[edit | edit source]

Up until Rivals of Ixalan the following rule was in place: If noncombat damage would be dealt to a player by a source controlled by an opponent, that opponent may have that source deal that damage to a planeswalker the former player controls instead. This is a redirection effect (see rule 614.9) and is subject to the normal rules for ordering replacement effects (see rule 616). The opponent chooses whether to redirect the damage as the redirection effect is applied.

Starting with Dominaria this "planeswalker redirection rule" was removed. Instead each relevant card will tell you on the card specifically whether the card dealing direct damage can target planeswalkers. Older cards received errata to have "player" changed to "player or planeswalker", and similarly for "target opponent". Most others that could previously target a "creature or player" would now refer to simply "any target", defined to include creatures, players, and planeswalkers.[26][27][28][29][30]

Rulings[edit | edit source]

  • Planeswalkers are permanents. You can cast one at the time you could cast a sorcery. When your planeswalker spell resolves, it enters the battlefield under your control.
  • Planeswalkers are not creatures. Spells and abilities that affect creatures won't affect them. They can become creatures by spells or abilities, though, such as Sarkhan the Masterless' ability.
  • All planeswalkers have supertype "legendary" and are subject to the "legend rule". Planeswalkers with the same subtypes can exist under your control as long as they are not of the same name.
  • Planeswalkers each have a number of activated abilities called "loyalty abilities." You can activate a loyalty ability of a planeswalker you control only at the time you could cast a sorcery and only if you haven't activated one of that planeswalker's loyalty abilities yet that turn.
  • The cost to activate a planeswalker's loyalty ability is represented by a box with a number inside. Boxes with a point facing up contain positive numbers, such as "+1"; this means "put one loyalty counter on this planeswalker". Boxes with a point facing down contain negative numbers, such as "-7"; this means "remove seven loyalty counters from this planeswalker". You can't activate a planeswalker's ability with a negative loyalty cost unless the planeswalker has at least that many loyalty counters on it.
  • Planeswalkers can't attack (unless an ability such as the one from Gideon Jura's third ability adds the creature type). However, they can be attacked. Each of your attacking creatures can attack your opponent or a planeswalker that player controls. You say which as you declare attackers.
  • If your planeswalkers are being attacked, you can block the attackers as normal.
  • If a creature that's attacking a planeswalker isn't blocked, it'll deal its combat damage to that planeswalker. Damage dealt to a planeswalker causes that many loyalty counters to be removed from it, unless they are also creatures (in that case, creature rulings apply).

Subtypes[edit | edit source]

The subtype for planeswalkers is called planeswalker type and is exclusive to planeswalkers.

R&D have decided that they don't want to have to rein in other card types because they might impact planeswalkers in a dangerous way. They decided not to add these other types when they chose to not make Karn an artifact Planeswalker.[31]

Planeswalker commanders[edit | edit source]

As from Commander 2014, some planeswalkers (including some pre-Mending era planeswalkers) are now represented as planeswalker cards that can be used as commanders. 5 of these were printed in Commander 2014, their subtypes being Daretti, Freyalise, Nahiri, Nixilis, and Teferi. Two additional planeswalkers with such ability were added in Battlebond, which they can partner with each other that making both become commanders at the same time, their subtypes are Will and Rowan. Commander 2018 has four additional planeswalkers that can serve as commanders, with subtypes being Saheeli, Windgrace, Aminatou, and Estrid.

Planeswalker destruction[edit | edit source]

Black is the primary color that can destroy planeswalkers, its cards often using the text "destroy target creature or planeswalker".[32] Green doesn't call out the planeswalker type by name (Nissa's Defeat being an exception), but can destroy non-creature permanents. Red is not listed here because it uses damage to deal with planeswalkers rather than destroy them outright unless used along with black. Fated Retribution is one of the few white cards that specifically can remove planeswalkers, while Planar Cleansing destroys all nonland permanents, including planeswalkers.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • As of Zendikar Rising, there are 217 planeswalker cards total (including two silver-bordered cards), depicting 58 different planeswalker characters.
  • There are 55 different legal planeswalker subtypes, plus two additional subtypes that only appear on silver-bordered cards. (The Wanderer, while a distinct character, does not have her own subtype.)
  • There is one planeswalker card (The Royal Scions) that has two subtypes, as it depicts two different planeswalker characters (the twins Will and Rowan Kenrith).
  • There are 88 multicolored planeswalker cards.
  • There are five colorless planeswalker cards.
  • There have been at least five printed planeswalker cards for each of the two colored pairs.
  • Seven planeswalkers have been printed with a color identity of three colors: Nicol Bolas, Tamiyo, Sarkhan, Windgrace, Narset, Aminatou, and Estrid. In addition, Ajani, Samut, Huatli, and Nissa have been associated with three colors, but not all at the same time, and Sarkhan has an association with four colors across all his cards. Additionally, Urza's silver-bordered card has all five colors.
  • Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, Nissa, and Nicol Bolas have all been printed as double-faced cards that are legendary creatures on one side and planeswalkers on the other, depicting them in the moments when their sparks first ignited.
  • Jaya Ballard, Karn, Narset, Nicol Bolas, Ob Nixilis, Samut, Teferi, Urza, Venser, and Xenagos have all been printed as both planeswalker cards and legendary creature cards, either because their creature cards were printed before the planeswalker card type was introduced (Jaya, Karn, Bolas, Teferi, Venser, and Urza's first creature card), or because their creature cards depicted them at a time when their spark wasn't currently active (Narset, Ob Nixilis, Samut, Xenagos, and Urza's second creature card). However, it should be noted that Urza's planeswalker card was silver-bordered and is not a canonical representation.
  • Azor, Dakkon Blackblade, Jeska, Ravi, and Slobad are all planeswalkers who've been printed as legendary creature cards, but not as planeswalker cards. With the exception of Azor, their cards were all printed before the planeswalker card type was introduced, while Azor was printed as a legendary creature because his card depicted him after losing his spark.
  • Planeswalker was featured as rules cards 1-3 of 5 in the Lorwyn set and 1 of 9 in the Magic 2011 set.

Highest number of individual planeswalker cards per character[edit | edit source]

Some characters are favored more than others, usually resulting in a higher amount of unique cards representing them.

Planeswalkers that have more than three planeswalker cards as of Zendikar Rising:

Abilities[edit | edit source]

Loyalty counters[edit | edit source]

  • Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, and Nicol Bolas, the Arisen have the most loyalty counters (seven) when they enter the battlefield, not counting 'diminishing' planeswalkers (those who can't gain or restore counters) or the event exclusive Garruk the Slayer (who was meant to be played by itself, without a deck). This was likely done to highlight the fact that Ugin and Nicol Bolas are exceptionally powerful, even by planeswalker standards.
  • Sarkhan the Mad, Arlinn, Voice of the Pack, Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, Kaya, Bane of the Dead, and Huatli, the Sun's Heart also start with seven loyalty, but they have no way to regain loyalty counters. All of these have different design impetuses for the high loyalty:
    • Sarkhan is primarily a draw engine, with situational negative activated abilities. In a low-curved deck, the 7 loyalty allows for more probable activations.
    • Kaya has the most powerful activated ability with the worst passive, so to balance proliferate in the format it requires two proliferates for another activation.
    • Kiora and Huatli are designed in reverse, with draft-around passives, so their high loyalty is to give them longevity, with activated abilities as minor upsides.
    • Arlinn sits in the middle, with the activated ability, passive ability, and high converted mana cost going towards a strong uncommon proliferate payoff, balanced by the fact that she requires three turns to maximize loyalty value, with the first activation giving an under-curve creature.
  • Nissa Revane, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded, Kiora, the Crashing Wave, and Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer have the fewest loyalty counters (two) when they come onto the battlefield.
  • Thanks to the X in the mana cost, Nissa, Steward of Elements may enter the battlefield with fewer than two loyalty counters, or with more than seven.

Storyline[edit | edit source]

Main article: Planeswalker (lore)

References[edit | edit source]

  1. John Carter (December 25, 2004). "The Original Magic Rulebook". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (November 05, 2007). "Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part I". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (November 12, 2007). "Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part II". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (August 05, 2013). "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mark Rosewater. (September 3, 2007.) "Planeswalker Rules. Planeswalking the Walk",, Wizards of the Coast. (Internet Archive snapshot)
  6. Doug Beyer (September 10, 2007). "The Era of the Planeswalker". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Mark Rosewater (April 28, 2018). "Some birthday trivia about planeswalkers!". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  8. Mark Rosewater (March 13, 2018). "It feels like the sagas are the original planeswalker design from future sight.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  9. Mark Rosewater (Mark Rosewater). "Returning Home". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Melissa DeTora (January 19, 2018). "Designing Rivals of Ixalan Planeswalkers". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (April 1, 2019). "Waging War of the Spark, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Mark Rosewater (March 31, 2019). "Do all the uncommon planeswalkers only have minus loyalty abilities?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  13. Mark Rosewater (March 31, 2019). "Do all the rare walkers only have a plus AND a minus ability with no ultimate?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  14. Mark Rosewater (March 31, 2019). "Does every planeswalker in War of the Spark have a non-loyalty ability?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  15. Mark Rosewater (September 21, 2020). "More Zendikar Rising Stars". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Magic Arcana (December 30, 2009). "What's That Symbol?". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Mark Rosewater (December 17, 2012). "Do you happen to know what the "planeswalker symbol" actually represents?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  18. Mark Rosewater (November 19, 2017). "Do you have any trivia or interesting perspective on the Planeswalker Symbol?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  19. Mark Rosewater (December 2, 2018). "Can you talk about what the symbology of the Planeswalker symbol is? Why a “handprint”-like design?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  20. Wizards of the Coast (August 1, 2008). "Ask Wizards - August, 2008". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Matt Tabak (August 28, 2017). "Ixalan Mechanics". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Mark Rosewater (August 28, 2017). "Why was there a need to make planeswalkers legendary?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  23. Mark Rosewater (August 28, 2017). "Having multiple versions of the same planeswalker character out seems 'wrong'.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  24. Mark Rosewater (September 02, 2017). "Do you think it's a flavor fail to be able to summon more than one of the same legendary character from the Multiverse?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  25. Mark Rosewater (October 16, 2017). "Odds & Ends: Ixalan, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  26. Aaron Forsythe on Twitter
  27. Mark Rosewater (October 07, 2017). "What planeswalker redirection rule change?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  28. Mark Rosewater (March 07, 2018). "How soon will we see the planeswalker redirection rule change implemented?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  29. Aaron Forsythe (March 21, 2018). "Dominaria Frame, Template and Rules Changes". Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Eli Shiffrin (April 13, 2018). "Dominaria Oracle Changes". Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Mark Rosewater (November 15, 2019). "Do you think we'll ever see planeswalkers combined with other types?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  32. Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2017). "Mechanical Color Pie 2017". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[edit | edit source]