If the nonsense year of Magic cards that is 2019 has proven anything to me, it is that there need to be more common, aggressive answers to planeswalkers. This year’s pushed, high-impact planeswalkers have warped Standard, Modern, Legacy, and Vintage around themselves, and it’s time that Magic made planeswalkers as easy to deal with as any other type of permanent.
With that in mind, I recently designed some custom cards that would allow each color to answer planeswalkers in their own unique way. Not all of these cards are necessarily good, or good ideas. Some of them might not be costed correctly. But I think all of them fit squarely within the correct section of Magic‘s color pie, and could be templates for how each color can begin fighting back against high-impact planeswalkers.
Blue: Attack ‘Em and Bounce ‘Em
Planeswalker-Stalker is small enough that it won’t make a huge impact on most battlefields, but its hexproof ability will keep it protected from (most) opposing planeswalkers as it does its job – which is to make sure an opponent can’t easily accrue value off repeated ‘walker activations. If an opponent wants to use a planeswalker more than once, they’ll either need to have a flying blocker, have non-targeted removal, or be ready to cast their planeswalker multiple times.
Hexproof is a dangerous keyword, but I think it’s necessary in this case, to ensure Planeswalker-Stalker can stick around long enough to actually attack and bounce opposing planeswalkers. Note that I considered giving Planeswalker-Stalker flash, rather than hexproof, but then remembered that Teferi, Time Raveler invalidates flash. It’s possible that Planeswalker-Stalker should be a two mana flash and flying creature, rather than a three mana hexproof and flying creature, but at this particular moment, I’d rather lean toward the seemingly-stronger answer.
Black: Punish ‘Em for Existing and Activating
A pushed version of Tainted Aether, Aether Plague fights against the card advantage engines baked into most planeswalker designs. If an opponent wants to put a planeswalker into play, they’ll need to be prepared to lose a permanent to do so. And if an opponent wants to activate a planeswalker’s abilities, most of which are worth about a card’s worth of value, they’ll have to be prepared to discard a card.
As White is the color of balance, I could see it implementing its own version of this card’s first effect – as long as the templating was updated to apply to both players or incorporate White’s propensity to ask for a tax (ala Smothering Tithe) rather than force an opponent’s hand. I put this card in Black, rather than White, because I wanted to combine both effects – and only Black can force both sacrifices and discards.
Green: Fight ‘Em
For years, players have wondered when Green’s creatures will be able to fight planeswalkers, in addition to other creatures. The implementation seems easy enough (see the reminder text above), and I think now’s the time to update Magic‘s creature-on-creature fights to include planeswalkers as potential combatants.
When designing the “planeswalker fight card,” I had a tough time figuring out whether to attach it to an instant or sorcery (ala Prey Upon) or to a creature (ala Voracious Hydra). I am wary of Green’s creatures being able to efficiently eat an opponent’s as they enter the battlefield, so I chose to create Prey Upon (Planeswalkers) instead of Voracious (for Planeswalkers) Hydra. However, for this effect to work against planeswalkers that destroy or otherwise invalidate creatures, it needs to either be available at instant speed (as Prey Upon (Planeswalkers) is) or be attached to a creature.
One way to balance the creature option *might* be to have the creature enter the battlefield tapped if it is used to fight an opposing creature or planeswalker. This would at least give the opponent a chance to attack through the creature if it is used as a removal spell, providing a tiny bit of tension.
Red: Damage ‘Em (Especially When They Activate)
Meet the Oko killer.
OK, Crafty Roadrunner doesn’t actually kill an Oko in most any situation. But it does punish planeswalkers that target it, especially those that downtick in an effort to remove it. And haste means the Roadrunner will get to attack an opposing planeswalker at least once before getting targeted (provided the board is clear for it to get through).
I based the Roadrunner on Thunderbreak Regent and Leyline of Combustion, two cards that Red has previously used to punish those that mess with its stuff. This time, though, I expanded the effect just a bit, to be able to punish opposing planeswalkers in addition to opposing players.
White: Exile ‘Em (and Replace Them with Something Else)
Peace In Our Time is the most pushed planeswalker answer I’ve created. But I think that, outside of the “balance” or tax effects I discussed above, permanently exiling planeswalkers and replacing them with something else is White’s best bet at answering them.
Typically, White answers planeswalkers by exiling them temporarily using enchantments. Cards like Prison Realm answer opposing planeswalkers, but do so only after those planeswalkers have already had a chance to use one ability (and create some amount of value for their controller). And even worse, if a Prison Realm is destroyed, the opposing planeswalker gets to come back and start accruing value again.
To allow White to answer planeswalkers in a more complete fashion, I adapted the technology used to create Baffling End. Since Peace In Our Time is much more powerful than Baffling End, I chose to give the opponent their replacement creature right away, rather than make them destroy an enchantment to get it. And to balance *that* out, I made the replacement creature a fairly lackluster 1/1 flier.
What Do You Think of My Planeswalker Answers?
I think I hit upon some good ways to start combating planeswalkers at a higher density than Magic does currently. But I’m curious to see what others think about these answers. Are they too pushed? Not pushed enough? Do they bend (or even break, though I tried to avoid that) the color pie?
If you have your own thoughts on how planeswalker answers could become more prevalent (or if they even should), be sure to leave them in the comments below. Then, be back here in two weeks, for my final article in this crazy year of Magic.