Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting | Illustration by Chase Stone
Phyrexia: All Will Be One is bringing some spicy planeswalkers to a format near you. Five mythic rare compleated planeswalkers face off against five, rare, uh, uncompleated ones in a showdown that will determine the fate of the Multiverse! That seems to happen a lot…
How do these 10 new planeswalker cards square up against each other? Who will be victorious? Let’s dive in and find out!
Kaya, Intangible Slayer | Illustration by Marta Nael
There are 10 new planeswalker cards in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, more than the last two sets combined! These planeswalkers are also very powerful. Most can activate their third ability the turn they land, or be cast for cheaper using the compleated mechanic.
The five compleated planeswalkers are all mythic rares, while the five uncompleated planeswalkers are all rares.
It remains to be seen if the five compleated planeswalkers (Jace, Lukka, Vraska, Nissa, and Nahiri) will return in future sets, or if this spells the end for some of Magic’s most iconic characters. I personally wouldn’t mind if we never saw Jace again, but that’s just me!
I was so excited to hear Koth was coming back. Then I saw Koth, Fire of Resistance. Four mana for four loyalty counters is a fair trade, especially considering it ticks up two counters at a time.
It can’t use its ultimate ability until two turns later, and it fills your hand with Mountains you’re forced to play one at a time while you wait. Koth’s -3 is expensive for what should be about four (maybe five) Mountains when it’s activated, so I’m not convinced it’s worth the trouble.
Koth can’t really protect itself except by removing any threatening creatures with its second ability. It’s also the only rare planeswalker in this set without a static ability.
Is it just me, or does this feel like a whiff?
The half-ghost half-girl Kaya, Intangible Slayer is one of my favorites from ONE, albeit maybe not the best. A 7-mana cost with and means it’s an expensive investment, especially in a Standard environment. But its hexproof ability should at least keep it from being instantly removed.
This Kaya hits the field with six loyalty counters, which is a little less than I’d like for seven mana. None of its abilities cost more than three loyalty, though, so it’s not that big of a deal. Having an Oath of Kaya as its +2 ability makes me feel like I’m playing Ajani Vengeant, but better.
I’m not so sure about that second ability. Sure, drawing two cards is great value, but giving your opponents a free scry hurts more than you may think. So much of Magic involves denying your opponent’s advantages, so letting them filter for answers isn’t beneficial.
Magic’s special little guy returns for what may be his final appearance in Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Jace, the Perfected Mind seems really cool on the face, but I think it’s being overvalued.
It enters with five loyalty counters when it’s cast for four mana. Activating the ultimate immediately mills your opponent 15 cards, or 12 if you want to keep the Jace around. Four mana for 15 cards is fine, especially in a Standard environment, but ticking that Jace backup just won’t be worth it.
Jace’s +1 ability does “protect” it, albeit in the most boring way possible. This just doesn’t shine compared to some of the other mythic rares’ abilities. Its -2 is probably its best ability, with the biggest potential payoff over multiple turns. The condition of having 20+ cards in a graveyard makes it hard to pull off, especially if you’re casting it early for its compleated cost.
Lukka, Bound to Ruin is absolutely stuffed with value for its cost. Hitting the field for five mana with five loyalty counters means Lukka can use its third ability immediately, letting your biggest creature punch an opponent right in the face.
The wording on this ability means your opponent can’t remove your big creature in response to the activation. Well, they can, but you still get to deal damage equal to its power.
Lukka can generate extra mana to cast a creature or make its own toxic Phyrexian Beast token to block to defend itself. It’s just not very exciting, but it gets the job done.
Tyvar is apparently having a great time playing Punch-Out!! with the Phyrexians in All Will Be One. Meanwhile the rest of the cast gets compleated if Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler’s art is anything to speculate from.
It’s kind of funny to me that Tyvar’s abilities don’t really have anything to do with removal or damage. This version is allegedly brawling, but that’s beside the point.
What really makes Jubilant Brawler exciting is its Thousand-Year Elixir-style effect. The intent here is simple: return a creature with mana value two with a tap-based activated effect for value. Some great targets in Standard include Bloodtithe Harvester and Shigeki, Jukai Visionary. The possibilities are endless outside of Standard.
A mill engine with a reanimation effect is always good, but Golgari () rarely gets both for such a steal. Tyvar is the cheapest of the five rare planeswalkers at just three mana. It enters with just three loyalty, but it returns or untaps a creature to use as a blocker right away. It’s no Oko, Thief of Crowns, but it’s definitely not unplayable.
Kaito, Dancing Shadow is going to be an absolute value engine in Standard. This might be the first instance of a planeswalker with a built-in way to activate its abilities twice, except for Teferi, Temporal Archmage’s emblem ability (even then, you activate it on each of your opponents’ turns rather than twice during yours).
I love the design of this card. Kaito wants you to connect with your opponents in combat and bounce a creature (in a pseudo-ninjutsu manner) to grant you another activation, and it can do this very consistently. Already have a creature? Use its +1 and sneak it past a blocker. Need a creature? Use the -2 to create a deathtouch Drone, which makes an unattractive block target when it can attack the following turn.
Either way that second activation is always valuable. At worst it draws you a card, and at best it ticks up Kaito while preventing creatures from attacking.
The Eternal Wanderer is a rare mono white planeswalker with one of white’s favorite things: a board wipe! Having access to that -4 the turn it arrives and sticking around really squeezes the value out of its 6-mana casting cost.
Leaving a weak planeswalker on the field is risky, especially considering the Wanderer can’t do a complete board wipe. Luckily it comes with two great ways to protect itself: it can create a 2/2 double striker for free (some of the best token generation ever seen on a planeswalker), and its Silent Arbiter-style static ability means that token can be put to good use trading into whatever’s attacking.
The uptick ability is tempting to use as removal, but the prevalence of ETB-effects means you’re better off building around blinking your own permanents. I don’t have to tell you how valuable doubling up on ETBs is. Even commons like Inspiring Overseer can become the engine to keep a deck running into the late game.
Nahiri, the Unforgiving is the fourth planeswalker printed without any native abilities that subtract loyalty counters. Dropping Nahiri early for three mana and two life could be devastating. Its 0-cost ability to create a hasted token copy of an equipment or creature in your graveyard has a ton of utility across formats.
Here’s my pitch: Luxior, Giada’s Gift. A 1-cost means Nahiri can create a copy the turn it comes down, no matter what. With no way to reduce loyalty counters and its +1 ability using you, the player, as the blocker, it just gets bigger and bigger each time you use Luxior to attack. This might not be as powerful as top tier Standard decks, but think about that flavor!
The 7-mana Nissa, Ascendant Animist will definitely see play. Nissa packs one hell of a punch at its full mana or its compleated cost. Whether it’s the big Phyrexian Horror tokens it makes as early as turn 4 (possibly sooner) or the -7 Overrun effect, this planeswalker is going to make an impact the turn it arrives no matter what. The built-in Naturalize is just icing on the cake.
Ascendant Animist is the only planeswalker with two Phyrexian mana symbols in its mana cost. Remember that it enters with two fewer loyalty counters for each of those pips you pay with life. That doesn’t scare me! And four life shouldn’t scare you either, especially when you consider this may be the most efficient planeswalker card to date.
At its weakest this generates a 4/4 the turn it arrives, more than enough to use as a blocker until the following turn when it makes a 5/5. The turn after that it makes a 6/6. Sure, it dies to removal, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t threatening.
There’s been a lot of well-deserved hype over Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting. It relies on proliferate effects to tick up to that nasty ultimate with no innate loyalty abilities that add counters. The “draw a card and lose a life” is pretty good value, but you’re really looking to afflict your opponent with poison counters and proliferate those.
Folks have commented on how flavorful Vraska’s -2 ability is, and they’re right! I’d hate for Vraska to lose the classic gorgon stone-glare ability, and turning things into Treasure tokens is a near-perfect analogy for that.
Those poison counters are what’s really exciting here. Vraska’s third ability brings a player up to nine poison counters. That’s not enough to kill them, but it is enough that one more from a proliferation effect or unblocked toxic creature will.
You can break this with a little build-around. Say you have Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider on the field. Casting Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting for its compleated cost means it enters with four loyalty counters, except you can resolve Vorinclex’s ability before the compleation trigger. This means you’d double the number of loyalty counters Vraska enters with and then subtract two for being compleated. Now you can use its third ability immediately, and it still has one loyalty counter left to stick around!
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
Nissa, Ascended Animist | Illustration by Chase Stone
Each of the new planeswalkers in Phyrexia: All Will Be One are powerful in their own way (well, except for maybe Koth, Fire of Resistance). I’m excited to see how these planeswalkers will fit into the format, and to hopefully never hear from Jace again.
What do you think? Is Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting worth the hype, or will Nissa or Nahiri see more play? Has anyone made an “I Wanna Be Compleated”/”I Wanna Be Sedated” joke yet? Let me know in the comments or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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