A hallmark of core sets is five monocolored planeswalkers, one in each color. Historically, these planeswalkers aren’t world-beaters, although there are exceptions – Vivien Reid, for example, saw a lot of play after her release in Core Set 2019. Today we’re going to look at five Adventures in the Forgotten Realms planeswalkers, try to figure out how they stack up against each other and predict which may make the cut into Constructed play.
Ellywick doesn’t impress me on any axis. She doesn’t protect herself, loses half her loyalty to replace herself and has a super narrow +1. Maybe with a dedicated Dungeon-delving deck, she might put in a shift or two, but… even then, she’s slow, clunky and will be easy for your opponent to pick off without you having much to show for it.
With the right setup, you could defend her while she ticks up, completes a Dungeon and then ults – but what’s the payoff? A difficult-to-achieve Overrun that takes four turns to set up, without any hugely enticing dungeon rewards to enjoy afterwards? I suppose you could rush the Tomb of Annihilation with her and be left with a 6/6 trampling deathtoucher for your trouble, but defending a four-drop planeswalker with no self-protection though Pox-like effects is a tall order.
Ellywick is a sweet character on a cool card, but I think it’s fair to say that she’s the worst of all the Forgotten Realms planeswalkers by quite a margin. Unless venturing into the Dungeon becomes so strong in Constructed that three-color venture decks that want a 2GG planeswalker become a reality, I think Ellywick will remain on the sidelines.
Mordenkainen has a nice set of abilities, but it’s his mana cost that consigns him to fringe playability (at very best). Six mana to draw a card or make a 4/4 or 6/6 isn’t great, although he does have a high starting loyalty that lands him on up to seven loyalty the turn he comes down. That’s pretty good, but then you remember he’s coming down on turn six, and contesting even a seven-loyalty planeswalker is probably pretty doable by then.
I don’t think he’s better than any of the other cards Sultai Ultimatum searches up, so I don’t think he’ll see play there, and while his ultimate is flashy and powerful, he just feels way too expensive to be playable in Standard (let alone any other format). Again, all of his abilities – card draw and filtering, making a creature to protect him – are strong, but the initial outlay is just too steep.
Very few six-mana planeswalkers have “made it,” and the ones that did were a lot better than this. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion could stabilize almost any board immediately. Chandra, Awakened Inferno punished do-nothing control decks. Liliana, Dreadhorde General ticked up to protect herself and provided card advantage as she did so. I’m sorry to say that I don’t think Mordenkainen comes close.
Mono-Red Aggro has, largely speaking, been a very playable deck for quite a long time in Standard. Between Fervent Champion, Anax, Hardened in the Forge and of course Embercleave, red deck has indeed won, especially on the ladder where it’s a Best-of-One favorite. Could Zariel insert herself into a deck like Mono-Red Aggro, and take it up another level?
I don’t think so. Considering the power of Mono-Red’s current top end – Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Embercleave – Zariel doesn’t really offer anything new. Both Torbran and Embercleave end games faster than Zariel will, although having her on board to give your top-decks haste is pretty spicy. As it is now, however, I don’t think Mono-Red has room for another four-drop.
After rotation, as things stand now, Mono-Red doesn’t exist. It loses everything, and there won’t be a deck for Zariel to fit into outside of some extremely aggressive options coming in the new Innistrad set. Zariel isn’t a midrange card – she’s the curve-topper of an aggressive deck. As soon as one of them re-emerges, look for Zariel as a potential inclusion.
Man, this card is weird. I had to check and re-check with some judges as to figure out exactly how the static ability works. Short answer: the same as Sarkhan the Masterless‘s +1: once he gets to seven loyalty, Bahamut stops being a planeswalker and so can’t lose loyalty due to taking damage (you can’t even attack him!), but retains his loyalty abilities which can still be activated.
If you can keep him around until he “ultimates,” for want of a better term, you’ve snagged yourself a real threat. A card that locks down your opponent’s best threat or recurs a cheap creature that grows over time (or just chump-blocks) isn’t too bad, never mind one that turns into an indestructible flying 7/7 after awhile. I suspect this card is actually quite good.
However, he does cost four and if your opponent has a sizeable board his protection ability quickly becomes irrelevant – not to mention he doesn’t have a huge amount of loyalty to begin with. I don’t think Grand Master of Flowers is broken in half, but I think as the top-end of an aggressive white deck, he’ll see some play and force action from slow decks lest they die to his dragon form.
While you can’t just bung Lolth into any old black deck and call it a day, I still think this card has the highest power level of all the Forgotten Realms planeswalkers. Lolth offers so much when built around effectively – she wants a deck filled with small creatures that can die to gain her loyalty then help to deal eight damage every turn once she hits her ultimate.
This card is excellent from any position you might find yourself during a game. She immediately draws a card for no loyalty on a stalled board – also a useful ability while ahead. When behind, producing two decently-sized reach blockers that also have reach means that she protects herself and gums up the board most effectively – not to mention she can do it again next turn if both the Spiders die. The Spiders also present a decent clock, especially with menace, if you’re looking to get the game over.
Where she’ll really shine is in some sort of green-black deck with Witherbloom nonsense from Strixhaven: Pests to chump block and sacrifice, pile on loyalty and make sure her ultimate triggers every turn once you get it. I think the ceiling is very high on this card, and the floor is five mana for two decent creatures that gum up the board and buy you time to get back in the game. Lolth is pretty good!
What do you think? How wildly wrong am I, and how disgracefully robbed was Ellywick with these rankings? Let me know how you’d have ranked the Forgotten Realms planeswalkers!