Ranking the WAR Uncommon Walkers for Limited
War of the Spark is exciting for a multitude of reasons. The story arc is fully unfolding, the Mythic Championship will be on prerelease weekend, and for the first time ever we will get to play with uncommon planeswalkers! There was a lot of speculation about how the planeswalkers might look given there were going to be 36 of them. We can see now that the ten mono-color and ten hybrid uncommon planeswalkers only have minus abilities and each have a passive effect. The vast majority of planeswalkers printed to date have been bombs in Limited, but how will these stack up? Without any real time to prepare for the Mythic Championship between the full set list date and the tournament itself, I decided to do some theorycrafting analysis about these uncommon planeswalkers, diving into each one’s perceived usages, strengths, and weaknesses, and rank them against each other. Note that at the time of writing this article, there are still three left to be revealed: one blue-black, one white-green, and one mono-blue. I hope that reading my breakdown of the cards will help you better analyze new cards and new Limited formats, beyond the scope of just looking at planeswalkers.
17. Teyo, the Shieldmage
With all these planeswalkers running around in War of the Spark, evasive creatures and evasion-giving spells get a boost in playability. Given this incentive, along with the ability to Amass a bigger Army, I’m concerned that Teyo’s Walls won’t be as useful as they could have been. Even though the card is starting us off at the very bottom, it’s still likely playable in various white decks. Out of the sideboard, other than the obvious usages against aggressive decks and burn, its passive can help laugh off discard spells. Teyo is a poor late-game topdeck, but that will generally be the case for anti-aggro cards, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a major strike; generally if someone is going under you, you need to have a critical mass of early game cards just to help you survive until later with the expectation being that you will outvalue your opponent on average.
16. Dovin, Hand of Control
Dovin reminds me of Tumble Magnet; proliferate is even back to help out. Dovin is probably better than Tumble Magnet in a controlling deck due to having more charges, but it's awkward if you don't have enough control of the board, enabling your opponent to chip at your planeswalker. Unlike Tumble Magnet, Dovin doesn't do a good job helping an aggressive deck clear out blockers. The passive ability is helpful but will probably only be a minor annoyance as it does not hamper creatures or planeswalkers, which are typically the cards you care about casting on curve.
15. Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
Similar to Dance with Devils from Shadows over Innistrad; better in that you can play it out on turn 3 and there are a bunch of planeswalkers that you can shoot with leftover die triggers, worse in that you don’t get to perform instant-speed ambushes. Tibalt is relatively consistent in what it does compared to some of these other build-around planeswalkers, but is not very high impact. Tibalt is particularly good against someone trying to attack you with one-toughness creatures, though I can’t imagine not playing it in the main of any red deck. The Devils are convenient sacrifice fodder if there’s enough support for that sort of thing.
14. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Saheeli is a build-around card that is more like an enchantment since the minus ability is so situational. Its passive helps protects itself, and while it does have a high ceiling, it has the low floor of not doing anything if your deck or draw doesn’t line up. Triggering off any noncreature spell instead of just instants and sorceries is a nice benefit. Note that for some reason I thought this made Thopters instead of Servos at first and I had to dramatically downgrade my rating. When you got Efficient Construction going in Aether Revolt, it could take over the game. Looping cantrips is easier than Artifacts, but making Servos instead of Thopters is a big deal. Perhaps I am underrating the minus ability, but you can only use it twice for temporary benefit and you can only copy your own creature or artifact.
13. Nahiri, Storm of Stone
Nahiri seems a bit awkward. The passive makes you want to attack, but if you do, your opponent might kill Nahiri or make it not be able to kill something meaningful. Sorcery speed and size-based adds a lot of restriction. Maybe Nahiri deserves a higher rating if viewing the card as an “expensive” removal spell without other expectations. Sorcery speed “destroy target tapped creature” has been fine but unexciting in recent sets and usually only cost 1W. If you manage to pair Nahiri with Law-Rune Enforcer, then you can really do a number on your opponent’s forces.
Seven loyalty is a lot, but it's needed because you're sometimes playing it as a Locket that your opponent can attack to kill. Giving something pseudo-viligance can be useful beyond just untapping mana sources. Kiora is similar to Colossal Majesty, but Kiora is a pretty miserable topdeck all-around. There will be some games you only occasionally activate Kiora and mostly keep it at high loyalty to protect the value train.
11. Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted
Ob Nixilis is a really weird card. Destroying your opponent’s creature to give them two cards is not generally where you want to be. Sorcery speed Altar’s Reap is not where you want to be either. However, the passive opens up interesting lines of play. If you can curve out into Ob Nixilis and use it two turns in a row, sure, your opponent will have netted two free cards, but they will have taken at minimum six extra damage, not counting the extra damage from them having fewer blockers. If you play this and plan to target your opponent’s creatures, you should really be trying to end the game quickly as they will be drawing a heap of answers and threats. Activating Ob Nixilis on your own disposable creature and letting its passive slow-drain your opponent is a nice backdoor approach to utilizing the card. Getting two activations on your own creatures could be tough unless you are really stalling out the board.
10. Samut, Tyrant Smasher
Samut does one thing but does it pretty well. Note the minus ability gives haste despite the passive ability so you can use the last counter or have your opponent kill Samut in response but still get haste. I like the bonus Scry for helping to keep creatures flowing to bash your opponent. The one nonbo aspect is that you want to swing with your creatures as soon as you play them, which means you won’t have blockers to protect Samut. However, this could lead to races in your favor. Rhythm of the Wild was quite strong on curve; Samut similarly provides the option for haste with some size buffs. Rhythm is probably overall stronger, but it was gold instead of hybrid and Samut might be a better late-game topdeck.
9. The Wanderer
It's tough to rank The Wanderer without getting to try out the format to get a feel for the Limited metagame. On one hand, we just had Bring to Trial which often didn't even make the maindeck. On the other hand, it is pretty good against Amass if your opponent is doing a bunch of that. Even if it doesn't do enough in your maindeck, it seems like a phenomenal sideboard card. If your opponent is playing big creatures, exiling two for four mana is a ridiculous rate. If the format ends up being relatively slow, The Wanderer will easily jump some ranks. It will be interesting to see how the mystery of the format unfolds, just like the mystery of this character.
8. Jaya, Venerated Firemage
Note that Jaya only boosts OTHER red sources. I like that Jaya can help snipe a planeswalker. I don't like that in the middle of the game, the Shocks might not have a big impact. If you're an aggressive red mage, this is a sweet curve topper as you can play it and attack all-out, getting a bunch of extra damage from the passive and letting you "trade up" with the minus if your opponent tries to make favorable blocks. This planeswalker is reasonable on its own with a bit of build-around bonus, putting it towards the better end of the batch.
7. Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter
Jiang Yanggu reminds me a bit of Song of Freyalise, which ended up overperforming. Make sure to build with enough creatures to take advantage of the abilities. It is somewhat awkward that you have incentive to play more cheap creatures to carry counters while also having incentive to run more expensive payoffs to make the setup worth it. It's a serviceable lategame topdeck, especially if you can pair it with proliferate. Cute interactions with cards that naturally carry +1/+1 counters like cards with Amass and Pollenbright Druid.
6. Arlinn, Voice of the Pack
Preferably my six mana planeswalker has a higher impact on the game, but it does potentially pack some value. I originally had this at a worse rank until I realized how disgusting the card can be with even a single proliferate. Arlinn could drop back down in potency if the late-game 3/3s end up not meaningful enough, or if there are not enough reliable ramp and proliferate options available. Sadly, Mowu is a Hound and won't get the ultra bonus. Poor pupper.
5. Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
I've seen some mixed opinions online so far. Mind Rot has been a reasonably playable Limited card for quite a while. I think it's a really interesting card from a Limited analysis perspective. Getting multiple cards at once like with Mind Rot has some benefits, but Davriel's ability to keep your opponent empty handed over the course of multiple turns works well with the passive. Once the card hits the table, your opponent can immediately plan out the upcoming turns, whereas sometimes Mind Rot just wiped out all their options without a chance to respond. Davriel really shows its power if played on turn 3, making it likely to get a full three cards of value. Mind Rot is much better cast in the later stages of the game when your opponent has fewer options to throw away, potentially throwing a wrench in whatever plan they were crafting, such as hitting their big payoff cards. Amusingly, in the very-late game when discard does basically nothing, Davriel at least can do something with its passive.
T-3. Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor
This card screams value to me. Even if the 2/2 bodies don't end up making a big splash in this format, having some mid- or late-game looting to help you find desired lands or spells is a big benefit compared to Call of the Cavalry. The passive seems useful as well, increasing the chances that the creature you make sticks around to protect Kasmina and let you activate the second time.
T-3. Angrath, Captain of Chaos
Angrath has some obvious overlap with Kasmina and I ended up giving them the tie for third place. It's cool that both of these planeswalkers can have a solid impact on the game even when drawn late; Kasmina helps you filter stockpiled lands for gas, and Angrath potentially opens up a devastating attack with its passive. Do beware of Angrath getting killed mid-combat, since that can be a pretty big blow-out if you were going for lethal. The combination of Angrath’s passive and activated ability will lead to some really tough combat decisions on both sides, especially with the Army token- bonus points to the card designers for fostering interesting gameplay! Like most of the planeswalkers, it pairs well with removal, but this one also pairs well with combat tricks as menace forces double-blocking scenarios and can help you supplement your defensive line to keep Angrath alive.
2. Vraska, Swarm's Eminence
A 1/1 deathtouch seems useful in this set as it can trade with a giant Army. Getting two out of one card, with the first one protecting Vraska from combat, is powerful. The passive is useful too to protect your deathtouchers from pings like Chandra’s Pyrohelix (note that it only boosts deathtouch creatures). In the late game, Vraska can put your opponent in an awkward spot where they might be priced into trading their good creature with a 1/1 deathtouch since it will just keep growing and demand a trade later. The same applies when you can threaten to one-shot a planeswalker with your Assassin.
1. Kaya, Bane of the Dead
Kaya’s passive is basically flavor text, but the rest of the card delivers. It shouldn't be difficult to setup a spot to kill your opponent's best two creatures. At worst, you kill their best creature and gain a bunch of life. Permanently exiling a creature is four to five mana in recent sets, meaning you are well above rate here. It will be really frustrating to deal with this in Sealed, but even in Draft it can act as a sort of game ender against anything but a go-wide deck. It might not do enough if you are getting steamrolled, so try to craft your deck and gameplay around trading off resources. Note that unlike all of the other planeswalkers here, a single proliferate can’t provide you with another activation.
So, how do you think I did? How do your rankings differ? In less than two weeks, we will get to find out how good these planeswalkers are first hand at Mythic Championship London. It feels like April has melted away and there is still Modern to figure out for the Constructed portion of the tournament. Next week, Pascal Maynard will have an article about cards from War of the Spark for Modern. After that, stay tuned for our MC London tournament report. Good luck at the prerelease!