Planeswalker

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See also Planeswalker (book) and List of planeswalkers.

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.

Within the game[edit | edit source]

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 redirecting the damage one of his or her spells would deal to the player controlling the planeswalker. Damage dealt to a planeswalker removes that many loyalty counters and a Planeswalker with no loyalty counters is put into the graveyard.

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 the Ultimate and a player has to build up the loyalty to access the Ultimate.

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]

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.[11][12] 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.[13] The latter could 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.[14]

Rules[edit | edit source]

From the Comprehensive Rules (Dominaria (April 27, 2018))

  • 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 is treated as if its text box included, “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.)

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.
  • 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 an arrow with a number inside. Up-arrows contain positive numbers, such as "+1"; this means "Put one loyalty counter on this planeswalker." Down-arrows 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 effect such as the one from Gideon Jura's third ability turns the planeswalker into a creature). 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.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • There are 33 multicolored planeswalkers.
  • There are 3 colorless planeswalkers.
  • There has been at least two printed planeswalkers for each of the two colored pairs.
  • Only three planeswalkers have been printed with a color identity of three colors: Sarkhan, Tamiyo and Nicol Bolas. In addition, Ajani and Huatli 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.
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Garruk, Apex Predator, Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh are the only planeswalkers with 4 loyalty abilities. All others have 3, with the exceptions of Garruk Relentless, who has a total of five loyalty abilities or six abilities of any kind, counting the back side Garruk the Veil-Cursed, and Arlinn Kord, who has a total of 5; two on her human side and 3 on her transformed side.
  • Planeswalker was featured as rules cards 1-3 of 5 in the Lorwyn set and 1 of 9 in the Magic 2011 set.
  • All Planeswalkers are in the Mythic Rare rarity, except for Ajani Goldmane, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, and Garruk Wildspeaker, due to their debut in the Lorwyn block, while the Mythic Rare rarity was not introduced until the following block, Shards of Alara.
  • Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, and Nissa 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, 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, and Venser), or because their creature cards depicted them at a time when their spark wasn't currently active (Narset, Ob Nixilis, Samut). Urza has also been printed as both a planeswalker card and a legendary creature card, although his planeswalker card was silver-bordered and thus might not be 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.

Most unique planeswalker cards[edit | edit source]

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

Planeswalkers that have more than two planeswalker cards:

Loyalty counters[edit | edit source]

Storyline[edit | edit source]

For a list of planeswalkers, see List of planeswalkers.

Story[edit | edit source]

Planeswalkers can be born at random in any sapient species, with no outward signs of their latent power. However, there is an incredibly remote chance that any given sentient, natural being will be born with a planeswalker's spark. When that being is put through a period of extreme stress—in many cases death—the spark can trigger, causing the individual to ascend and become a planeswalker.

The defining trait of planeswalkers is the ability to travel between separate universes with ease, while the vast majority of people throughout the multiverse are not even aware that other worlds beside their own exist. Planeswalking is a form of magic. With enough time and mana, or with specialized spell knowledge, or with access to enormous power, it's possible for a planeswalker to transfer clothing, artifacts and/or creatures with them as they planeswalk. [15]

A planeswalker is specifically a being who possesses a planeswalker's spark. The planeswalker spark is more or less a one-in-a-million thing in sentient beings, and having it ignite is even rarer. [16] There are other beings who, through various means, are able to travel between planes, but those are not technically considered planeswalkers (Marit Lage, the Eldrazi and the Myojin of Night's Reach are the best-known examples). Many prerevisionist characters were referred to as planeswalkers but may not technically have been; without any further information, they remain subject to debate.

Traditional planeswalkers[edit | edit source]

Planeswalkers had incredible magical capabilities, surpassing all but the most powerful mortal wizards. Their lives could last indefinitely, and their physical forms were matters of will as they were energy projections of a center of consciousness. Through intense effort, planeswalkers could create their own artificial planes. Because of planeswalkers' prolonged life spans and immense power, some are worshipped as gods; many end up insane, or, at the very least, they come to regard the lives of mortals in low-esteem, if even at all.

Current planeswalkers[edit | edit source]

The new breed of planeswalkers no longer display the near-omnipotence of their predecessors. While they are usually powerful mages, they are still physical beings that in general age normally, can be harmed, and need the same sustenance as other mortals. They stopped being able to transport other people during a planeswalk. They can bring their clothes and some small items, but for example not food.[17] This is in stark contrast to the earlier planeswalkers. Some of them have managed to suppress or avoid some of these limitation by magical means; however, these are specific to each planeswalker.

The new breed manifested itself for the first time in Venser of Urborg, a Dominarian artificer who participated in the solution of the Dominarian temporal crisis. Teferi's first theory was that the rifts mutated Venser's spark, which affected his ascension.

The new breed was born during the Mending, when Jeska sacrificed her life and her spark to mend all temporal rifts in the Multiverse (doing so in such a great scale was probably enabled by her former existence as Karona, the embodiment of Dominarian magic, and the fact that Dominaria is the Nexus of the Multiverse). The Mending caused a change in the very rules of Multiverse and a change in the nature of the planeswalker sparks.

Reasons for change[edit | edit source]

Pivotal for the Mending was the creative team's long-standing wish to make planeswalkers more identifiable.[5] Toning them down provided a solution that also cleared the ways for the new Planeswalker card type.[18] This in turn allowed planeswalkers to be not only the focus of the storyline but also of brand identity.

A further change was made in Commander 2014: planeswalker cards are no longer representing the full power of that planeswalker themselves, but the amount of will that the planeswalker going to help the mage (player) instead[19]. Such changes made any planeswalker, including pre-mending planeswalkers, can be printed as a planeswalker card in the future.

Reception[edit | edit source]

As with most changes, the reactions were mixed. Some deemed it unnecessary to kill off existing characters, arguing that they could have been altered to fit the new approach. Others felt that diminishing their powers made the characters less interesting. Additional criticism was directed at the way the Mending was handled in the Time Spiral Cycle. An open letter was written to Brady Dommermuth that summarizes these viewpoints on Phyrexia.com.[20]

Discussions on differences between the old and new planeswalkers spawned many (sometimes malicious) names for the latter type, generally to make them easier to refer to, but also to show how much they differ from the original ones. Among the most popular are "neowalkers", from Greek neos ("new"), and "Bradywalkers", named after Brady Dommermuth, creative director. For the same (non-malicious) reason, the original breed of planeswalker is often referred to as "oldwalkers."

Subtypes[edit | edit source]

From the Comprehensive Rules (Dominaria (April 27, 2018))

  • 205.3j Planeswalkers have their own unique set of subtypes; these subtypes are called planeswalker types. The planeswalker types are Ajani, Angrath, Arlinn, Ashiok, Bolas, Chandra, Dack, Daretti, Domri, Dovin, Elspeth, Freyalise, Garruk, Gideon, Huatli, Jace, Jaya, Karn, Kaya, Kiora, Koth, Liliana, Nahiri, Narset, Nissa, Nixilis, Ral, Saheeli, Samut, Sarkhan, Sorin, Tamiyo, Teferi, Tezzeret, Tibalt, Ugin, Venser, Vraska, and Xenagos.

Planeswalker Commanders[edit | edit source]

As from Commander 2014, some planeswalkers (including some pre-Mending era planewalkers) are now represented as Planeswalker card that can be used as deck commanders. 5 of these were printed in Commander 2014, their subtypes being Daretti, Freyalise, Nahiri, Nixilis, and Teferi.

Rules changes[edit | edit source]

From "Uniqueness rule" to "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 abandonded.[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 means for example that if you control Jace, Unraveler of Secrets and cast Jace, Cunning Castaway, both Jaces now can exist under your control.

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

There's no current plan to create non-legendary 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 were erratad to have “player” changed to “player or planeswalker”. Others would now refer to "any target".[26][27][28][29][30]

Planeswalker destruction[edit | edit source]

Black is the primary color that can destroy planeswalkers, often using "destroy creature or planeswalker".[31] Green doesn't call out planeswalker by name (Nissa's Defeat being an exception), but can "destroy target noncreature." Red is not listed here because it uses damage to deal with planeswalkers rather than destroy them outright.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. John Carter. (December 25, 2004.) “The Original Magic Rulebook”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater. (November 05, 2007.) “Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part I”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater. (November 12, 2007.) “Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part II”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater. (August 05, 2013.) “Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  5. a b Mark Rosewater. (September 3, 2007.) "Planeswalker Rules. Planeswalking the Walk", magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast. (Internet Archive snapshot)
  6. Doug Beyer. (September 10, 2007.) “The Era of the Planeswalker”, magicthegathering.com, 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”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Melissa DeTora. (January 19, 2018.) “Designing Rivals of Ixalan Planeswalkers”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Magic Arcana. (December 30, 2009.) “What's That Symbol?”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Mark Rosewater. (December 17, 2012.) "Do you happen to know what the "planeswalker symbol" actually represents?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  13. Mark Rosewater. (November 19, 2017.) "Do you have any trivia or interesting perspective on the Planeswalker Symbol?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  14. Wizards of the Coast. (August 1, 2008.) “Ask Wizards - August, 2008”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Doug Beyer. (December 12, 2007.) “Goodies from the Mailbag”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Doug Beyer. (June 24, 2009.) “Odd Job”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Magic Story Podcast: The Mending (May 3, 2018)
  18. Matt Cavotta. (September 06, 2007.) “The Last Quack”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Mark Rosewater. (January 19, 2015.) “Fate-Ful Stories, Part 2”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Squeeman. (June 26, 2007.) Dear Brady Dommermuth
  21. Matt Tabak. (August 28, 2017.) “Ixalan Mechanics”, magicthegathering.com, 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”, magicthegathering.com, 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”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Eli Shiffrin. (April 13, 2018.) “Dominaria Oracle Changes”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Mark Rosewater. (June 5, 2017.) “Mechanical Color Pie 2017”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.

External links[edit | edit source]

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