We’re on day 8 of the War of the Spark spoilers and it’s pretty much all about the planeswalkers.
Let’s kick things off with Dovin and Saheeli. They are both low cost planeswalkers starting with 5 loyalty although unless you can increase that Saheeli is going to get a maximum of two activations to Dovin’s five. With Dovin your opponent is going to be paying more to cast artifacts, instants, and sorceries, a fair enough ability given the low cost of getting him on the board; it you play it on turn 3 then that could feasibly screw up a deck that is sticking tightly to a mana curve. His -1 ability is also fairly good in that you can prevent all damage that would be done by a permanent be that a creature, planeswalker, or even something like Ill-Gotten Inheritance. It’s a shame planeswalker abilities activate at sorcery speed as it would be a far greater deterrant if you could lock creatures down during their attack phase. Usually we get to see a card named after the planeswalker at the reveal; I can’t yet tell if Dovin simply doesn’t have one or if he is breaking the pattern and getting Law-Rune Enforcer as his companion. Regardless, the enforcer seems a good first play card especially as you only need to pay and tap to then tap a creature with CMC 2 or greater. That seems really useful, especially in limited.
Saheeli is a bit more interesting in that her ability spawns 1/1 servos1 whenever you cast a noncreature spell essentially making her cheaper2 and better3 than a Murmuring Mystic. Her -2 ability lets you turn an artifact into a copy of a creature or artifact you control effectively allowing you to make your little servo be whatever monstrosity you have on the board. Her companion is Saheeli’s Silverwing, a 2/3 flyer that lets you peek at the top card of your opponent’s library when it enters the battlefield. I’m a sucker for a peek ability and it’ll be the first time this has been in standard since 2010 so colour me excited.
Jaya’s abilities are very straightforward with her passively giving any damage from a red source an extra 1 damage. I like planeswalker cards like this which are nice and simple to understand but can easily become your undoing if you forget about them4. Her -2 ability (which can be activated twice by default giving her starting 5 loyalty) does 2 damage to any target; you’d think that actually means 3 damage given her ability but it specifically says “if another red source” which makes me think it doesn’t. Fortunately her companion card, Jaya’s Greeting, does get the benefit of the planeswalker text boosting it from 3 damage to any creature to 4 damage followed by a scry 1. For the same mana cost you could use Lightning Strike which would hit any target and also get the +1 damage clause so I’m not too excited by this. I guess the scry is nice but WotC seem to be adding that to anything they think is a little undervalued at the moment.
And speaking of scry, Ral, Storm Conduit also makes use of it as a +2 ability to his base 4 loyalty. The more interesting ability is the -2 that allows him to copy your next instant or sorcery and give it new targets especially as his passive ability pings an opponent or planeswalker for 1 damage whenever you cast an instant, sorcery, or copy of either. That effectively means that his -2 ability is going to hit something for 2 damage (or two things for 1 damage each) and duplicate a spell. That is pretty good, especially in the instant and sorcery heavy Izzet decks. Add to that Ral’s Outburst, a Lightning Strike that lets you look at your top two cards and put one in your hand and one in your graveyard. Again, in Izzet wizard decks that is going to be a mighty fine card although it’s a shame that it costs the same as the planeswalker. I love the flavour text though!
The big excitement of the day was getting a look at everyone’s favourite hothead, Chandra, Fire Artisan. Her passive ability is a bit of an odd one in that she deals damage to target opponent or planeswalker equal to the number of loyalty counters being removed from her. The only loyalty reducing ability she has is a -7 that lets her exile the top seven cards from her library and then play them this turn. As it stands, there is no way to remove loyalty counters from her in standard aside from using that minus ability. There is one card in the history of Magic that can remove loyalty counters: Heart of Kiran, an Aether Revolt vehicle that let you take a planeswalker loyalty counter rather than pay the crew cost. Could that be seeing a reprint shortly or is this ability aimed at the modern and commander folk? It’s still a semi-useful ability as using the +1 ability and proliferating will get you that ultimate fairly quickly but it seems a shame to waste a passive ability slot on something so esoteric. Speaking of the +1 ability, it allows Chandra to effectively draw a card and play it this turn otherwise it gets exiled which is decent.
Update: OK, I’m an absolute idiot. Planeswalkers have loyalty counters removed WHEN THEY ARE DEALT DAMAGE 🤦🏻♂️. I take it all back, this card is good. It works as a good deterrent to being attacked and if your opponent hesitates that damage is only going to grow. This is good.
Chandra’s first companion card, Chandra’s Pyrohelix, is a simple instant that lets you deal 2 damage to one target or 1 damage each to two targets. This could be a useful planeswalker finisher, a decent spectacle trigger that can also kill a token, or it could pair nicely with Jaya, Venerated Firemage to be 3 damage to one target or 2 damage each to two targets. I’m glad this is an “any target” spell rather than a “target creature” spell but there seem to be far better ways to accomplish the same in standard already. Chandra’s Triumph is likely the more interesting card given that it appears to show Chandra defeating Dovin. It’s also yet another spell today that can be compared to Lightning Strike given the 3 damage at a 2 CMC. This one does have a “target creature or planeswalker” clause so not quite as good as Lightning Strike but the damage does increase from 3 to 5 if you control a Chandra planeswalker; that’s a decent amount of damage that could go up to 6 damage if controlling Jaya, Venerated Firemage or Ral, Storm Conduit.
That seems to be the real story of the day; synergy. I guess it is no coincidence that this is happening when the story is showing the fightback of the “good” planeswalkers but the number of abilities that help buff other planeswalkers released today shows a complex synergistic weave that is going to be fun to unravel and exploit.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more spoilers but as usual you can check out everything spoiled so far on my cards page. You can also drop a note in the comments or join my Discord community if you think there is something I’ve missed.
I am utterly intrigued to see how many tokens are going to be in this set. By my count there are 9 unique tokens so far and 1 emblem (but there’s still a long way to go). ↩︎
And she’s hybrid mana so you could play this in mono blue. ↩︎
That applies to both your opponent forgetting and making a big mistake but also to yourself; I’ve seen many a game lost because the player forgot to use an ability they had on the battlefield. ↩︎