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.
- 1 Within the game
- 2 Rules
- 3 Trivia
- 4 Storyline
- 5 Rules changes
- 6 Planeswalker destruction
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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.
Card type[edit | edit source]
Planeswalker card types were introduced in Lorwyn. Like the player, a planeswalker card represents a powerful being that is able to move from plane to plane. 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. An earlier design for planeswalkers, meant to be introduced in Future Sight would later inspire the design of Sagas.
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.
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).
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, due to their debut in the Lorwyn block, because the mythic rare rarity didn't exist until the following block, Shards of Alara. War of the Spark again featured rare and even uncommon planeswalkers. The uncommon planeswalkers have a static or triggered ability and a minus loyalty ability (no plus abilities), whereas the rare planeswalkers have a static or triggered ability, a plus and a minus loyalty ability. Also, the mythic rares they had a static or triggered ability in addition of the usual three loyalty abilites.
Planeswalker symbol[edit | edit source]
The handprint-like planeswalker symbol symbolizes planeswalkers and their ability to traverse the planes of the Multiverse. 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. 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.
Rules[edit | edit source]
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 a box with a number inside. Boxes with an point facing up contain positive numbers, such as "+1"; this means "put one loyalty counter on this planeswalker". Boxes with an 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 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.
Subtypes[edit | edit source]
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- As of War of the Spark, there are 177 planeswalker cards total, depicting 53 different planeswalker characters.
- There are 52 different planeswalker subtypes. (The Wanderer, while a distinct character, does not have her own subtype.)
- There are 79 multicolored planeswalker cards.
- There are five colorless planeswalker cards.
- There have been at least four printed planeswalker cards for each of the two colored pairs.
- Six planeswalkers have been printed with a color identity of three colors: Nicol Bolas, Tamiyo, Sarkhan, Windgrace, Aminatou, and Estrid. 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, Nicol Bolas, the Arisen and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh are the only planeswalker cards with four loyalty abilities. Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, Liliana, Dreadhorde General, and Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge have four abilities total, with three loyalty abilities and one static or triggered ability. All others have three or less, with the exceptions of double-faced planeswalkers: Garruk Relentless has a total of five loyalty abilities or six abilities of any kind (two loyalty abilities and a triggered ability on the front, and three loyalty abilities on the back), and Arlinn Kord has a total of five (two on her human side and three on her transformed side).
- Until War of the Spark, all planeswalker cards had at least three loyalty abilities. However, War of the Spark introduced rare planeswalkers that have only two loyalty abilities, as well as uncommon planeswalkers that only have one loyalty ability, although all planeswalkers in War of the Spark have a static or triggered ability.
- Until War of the Spark, all but three planeswalker cards had positive loyalty abilities (i.e. loyalty abilities that gave them more counters). The only exceptions were Sarkhan the Mad, Kaya, Ghost Assassin, and the front side of Garruk Relentless, which only had neutral or negative loyalty abilities. However, Kaya's card had an ability that allowed players to exile it and return it to the battlefield (thus restoring its starting counters), and Garruk's card had positive loyalty abilities on the back side, making Sarkhan's card the only planeswalker that couldn't gain or restore counters on its own. This changed with War of the Spark, which features 20 uncommon planeswalkers who only have negative loyalty abilities.
- 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, 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 legendary creature card and a planeswalker 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.
- Planeswalker was featured as rules cards 1-3 of 5 in the Lorwyn set and 1 of 9 in the Magic 2011 set.
Highest amount 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 of them.
Planeswalkers that have more than three planeswalker cards:
- Eleven cards: Jace
- Ten cards: Ajani, Liliana, Chandra
- Nine cards: Nissa
- Eight cards: Gideon
- Seven cards: Sarkhan, Tezzeret
- Six cards: Vraska
- Five cards: Sorin, Nicol Bolas, Garruk (Garruk Relentless notably is a double-faced card, with both sides being planeswalkers; in this case, it is still considered one card.)
- Four cards: Ral Zarek, Domri, Teferi, Dovin, Huatli
Loyalty counters[edit | edit source]
- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh have the most loyalty counters (seven) when they come onto 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, so their high starting loyalty was intended to balance that drawback by allowing them to stay in the game for longer. (However, most of the 'diminishing' planeswalkers from War of the Spark only start with five loyalty.)
- Nissa Revane, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded and Kiora, the Crashing Wave have the fewest loyalty counters (two) when they come onto the battlefield.
- Nissa, Steward of Elements (thanks to the X in her mana cost) may come into play with less than two loyalty counters, or with more than seven.
Storyline[edit | edit source]
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.
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. There are other beings who, through various means, are able to travel between planes, but they are not 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 actually have been; without any further information, they remain subject to debate.
Every planeswalker planeswalks slightly differently. Some can planeswalk swiftly, some more slowly. Some require great effort to planeswalk, some can do it with ease. Some can planeswalk again in a short amount of time, some can take a while. Some can carry more inorganic material with them. A rare few can planeswalk organic material (and those usually have restrictions - Yanggu, for example, can only planeswalk with Mowu specifically).
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 losing their sanity, 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. 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. Toning them down provided a solution that also cleared the ways for the new planeswalker card type. 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 no longer represent the full power of planeswalkers themselves, but only the amount of assistance a planeswalker is willing to provide to the player. Such changes made any planeswalker, including pre-Mending planeswalkers, available for printing 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.
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."
Planeswalker commanders[edit | edit source]
As from Commander 2014, some planeswalkers (including some pre-Mending era planeswalkers) 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. 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.
Rules changes[edit | edit source]
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. 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 can now simultaneously exist under your control. This has also enabled planeswalkers without types to be printed, such as The Wanderer.
There are no current plans to create nonlegendary planeswalkers.
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.
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". Green doesn't call out the planeswalker type by name (Nissa's Defeat being an exception), but can destroy noncreature permanents. Red is not listed here because it uses damage to deal with planeswalkers rather than destroy them outright. Fated Retribution is the one of the few white cards that specifically can remove planeswalkers.
References[edit | edit source]
- John Carter (December 25, 2004). "The Original Magic Rulebook". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
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[edit | edit source]
- Brady Dommermuth. (August 16, 2007.) "You Are a Planeswalker", magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast. (Internet Archive snapshot)
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