Top 5: Planeswalkers

Planeswalkers are a fairly recent addition to the game, debuting in 2007’s Lorwyn after first being planned for Future Sight. Although I’ve been with the game for much longer than that, I have to say I love the overhaul with the great mending and the planeswalkers and their power-level. The pre-mending planeswalkers of old, i.e. Urza and friends, were god-like beings, capable of feats such as eternal life, construction or destruction of entire worlds and so on. In short, they weren’t that exciting to either tell or read stories about. The new generation of planeswalkers are much better from a storytelling perspective, which is why they’ve made it into the marketing quite heavily, but also as a neat card type.

This top five lists my top 5 planeswalkers from a flavour standpoint, a design standpoint, and a storyline standpoint. Otherwise, it’d be full of Jaces and Elspeths.

garrukwildspeaker.full5: Garruk Wildspeaker. As one of the original five Lorwyn planeswalkers, Garruk has had a lot of time to flesh out his story and go through several character arcs. He’s featured in the comics and the books and is a focal point of the M15 marketing, much in the came way Chandra was for M14. However, from a card standpoint, and a story standpoint, Garruk tends to flip-flop a lot. First he’s fine, the epitome of the hunter in Garruk Wildspeaker and Garruk, Primal Hunter. Then he runs into Liliana Vess and gets cursed and shows up as the rather cool transforming planeswalker in Garruk Relentless/Garruk the Veil-Cursed, and at the end of the storyline of Avacyn Restored, he gets almost cured by Avacyn’s cursemute, and he returns in M14 as Garruk, Caller of Beasts. So far so good, character arc completed. Until M15, where he has gone really off his rocker and becomes Garruk, Apex Predator, now firmly green-black and way more badass than before. Flip-flopping, as I said.

 

ajani,mentorofheroes.full4: Ajani Goldmane. Ajani is the only non-human planeswalkers of the original Lorwyn 5, a nacatl from Naya, with a tragic backstory and a cool axe. What’s interesting about Ajani is that when we first meet him, it’s in medias res – later in Shards of Alara, we get to see a younger Ajani in Ajani Vengeant. Turns out, Ajani was near-driven mad out of grief and anger over his brother’s murder and only later in the storyline comes to terms with this and becomes the more stable Ajani Goldmane. We also encounter him as Ajani, Caller of the Pride and Ajani Steadfast before we finally end up with Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, past-rival and now trusted friend of Elspeth Tirel and all-around good guy. Ajani goes through all the stages of remorse over the course of his storyline and comes out stronger on the other end, so he takes the fourth slot.

 

xenagos,thereveler.full

3: Xenagos. There are a few instances where we’ve had Magic characters who have appeared on cards long before the planeswalker card type was introduced, as creatures, and then later also got a planeswalker printing. Examples include Karn, Silver Golem from Urza’s Saga who appeared as Karn Liberated in New Phyrexia; Venser, Shaper Savant from Future Sight who later appeared as Venser, the Sojourner in Scars of Mirrodin and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir from Time Spiral (but who has had cards named after him as far back as Mirage) and who will appear as a planeswalker in the upcoming Commander 2014 set. Xenagos went the other way, he first appeared in Theros as Xenagos, the Reveler and ascended to godhood in Born of the Gods as Xenagos, God of Revels. He actually upsets the entire pantheon on Theros, which prompts Heliod to send Elspeth after him. Xenagos, as a character, made a progression unlike any planeswalker before him, so he takes the third spot for creativity. Also, he’s totally a frat boy who does nothing but parties, and he really gets what he deserves by the end of the Theros storyline.

 

sorinmarkov.full#2: Sorin Markov. Sorin, introduced in Zendikar, looks and acts like a real evil dude. All of his abilities are clearly black, his entire card oozes, though not playability, evil. He drains the opponent, kills creatures, drains half the opponet’s life in one go, and finally enslaves his mindA sangromancer talented in “blood magic” and a Vampire, Sorin has nothing good going for him. However, when we see him a couple of years later, printed in Innistrad as Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Sorin is not pure black anymore, he’s black-white. Over the course of the block, we learn that Sorin was actually the creator of Avacyn, the sole counterweight to all the evils in the plane, and upon returning home for the first time in centuries, he feels responsible for the plane’s inhabitants and works to restore the balance between the human victims and the monsters of Innistrad. He’s also one of three planeswalkers who originally sealed the Eldrazi inside the plane of Zendikar, along with Ugin and “The Lithomancer”, a currently un-named planeswalker who’s basically a magic stone mason. We now see him returned as black-white again in Sorin, Solemn Visitor in Khans of Tarkir. This is what I like about Sorin as a character. He’s not quite evil, he’s pragmatic, and he’s capable of feeling remorse, contrary to some other “evil” characters.

 

elspeth,knight-errant.full

#1: Elspeth Tirel. Elspeth debuted in Shards of Alara, where she was a knight of the plane Bant, and at peace with that. All she’s been looking for all her life is a home to settle down into, and although Bant provided that for a while, the Shards of Alara storyline wouldn’t have it. The Conflux fused the shards back together, effectively destroying Bant as Elspeth knew it. We see her again helping Koth and Venser searching for Karn on Mirrodin later on, but her time to shine wasn’t until last year’s Theros block, where she was printed as Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and the entire story revolves around her. She’s made the heroine of a greek tragedy, and the story for once comes to a conclusion, something which is quite rare in Magic terms. She’s not quite as well-portrayed in cards as some of the others on this list, but she is the main protagonist of an entire block, and I really like how she’s a strong, female character without the obvious over-sexualisation and fanservice so common in the industry.

 

And with that, our list is concluded. I apologize for the very soft content today, but it is Sunday after all, and sometimes it’s good to just wallow in the casualness of the Magic “lore”.

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