Death to Planeswalkers

Posted in Beyond the Basics on June 29, 2017

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

One minute things are going great, the next an unruly planeswalker has come down and is threatening incremental advantage over the game. Your teeth begin to grit as you realize you have to deal with this big threat.

The mighty Nicol Bolas would not approve of these other planeswalkers running amok. It's rather irksome, really.

We've all had that feeling. And the good news is that fortunately there's an easy out: if you have creatures, you can try to attack that planeswalker. We talked all about that in a previous article, "Walkership Down." Creatures are some of your best weapons against planeswalkers, after all.

. . . But what if you don't have creatures?

Well, that's going to be a problem. Your options start to become a lot more limited. But it's a case you absolutely need to be prepared for!

So, what are you to do?

Evaluating Your Deck

Knowing what kind of deck you are ahead of time is very important. For many decks, you can just safely rely on attacking. But some decks can't—and if you don't think you'll be able to reliably attack, you need to identify that ahead of time.

This most commonly comes up when you're playing a control deck, as that's a strategy usually light on creatures, especially early ones. There can be midrange, combo, or ramp decks where that's true too, but it's an especially big issue in control. Planeswalkers are something you want to land . . . and something you want to make sure your opponent doesn't.

Control decks are all about controlling the board and making sure you slowly gain advantage over your opponent. And, well, that's going to be difficult to do when your opponent is drawing cards, making tokens, or using some other dastardly planeswalker ability every turn.

Okay, so it's a problem for control. What are your options?

Counterspells

One aspect of planeswalkers that adds to their strength is that if they hit the table, they're always going to be able to fire off one of their effects. You resolve a planeswalker, and you end up with priority right back to activate an ability.

However, the key word there is "resolve."

Since the dawn of Magic, one of the strongest answers to, well . . . everything has been counterspells. And even in formats where countermagic isn't always the strongest, blue-based control decks have employed permission to help fend off crucial spells in the mirror match.

This, for example, is part of why you so often see cards like Negate in the sideboard of blue decks. Having that two-mana counterspell to both the answers and planeswalker threats a control deck can throw at you makes it a pretty consistently safe option to sideboard in. And even if your opponent is a more aggressive deck, Negate can still be used to good effect against many of their spells—planeswalkers included.

If you're worried about fighting off planeswalkers, countermagic is a reliable place to turn. If your opponent can't resolve a planeswalker, you cut them off from that option.

Of course, this only works if you're a blue control deck. We'll have to look elsewhere for other color options.

Planeswalker-Specific Destruction

Given the prevalence of planeswalkers, we've taken the opportunity to make a few cards here and there that can specifically deal with them.

For example, Never // Return or Imprisoned in the Moon.

These cards call out planeswalkers as one of the card types they can deal with. If you're worried about losing to planeswalkers, wielding a few of these can be absolutely fine space to turn to. Even if it's a slightly less efficient removal spell, playing, say, two of these can make sure you have answers when you might otherwise not have anything to do. It's entirely reasonable to split your removal in this fashion.

And don't forget: planeswalkers are permanents too. Cards like Cast Out or Anguished Unmaking can dispose of planeswalkers just fine.

Burn and Haste

If you're playing a red control deck, then chances are your deck has some burn. And potentially, some of it can hit players. (Which therefore means you can redirect the damage to a planeswalker.) This can be a big way to keep planeswalkers under control.

If you want to fight off planeswalkers, one thing to consider is how much damage your burn spells are doing. Take Shock, for example.

Shock is a very solid card—but it's not the best at dealing with planeswalkers. You can sometimes double up on Shock to do the trick if you draw two, but even then you're two-for-one-ing yourself, and many times your opponent will have more than 4 loyalty on their planeswalker.

If you're worried about planeswalkers, it could be right to play some Incendiary Flows instead.

If you draw two Flows, you can almost assuredly take out a planeswalker. If you draw a Flow and a Shock, you can likely deal with most planeswalkers.

Another route can be haste. While control decks don't usually play midsize haste finishers, being able to hit planeswalkers out of nowhere can make a huge difference. Take Glorybringer as an example.

Bam! Even if you want to keep your deck low on creature count for whatever reason, Glorybringer is great at closing games, dealing with creatures and planeswalkers, and always being on the top of your library exactly when you're playing against somebody who is streaming Magic Online.

Now, these are certainly all great—but what other options might there be?

Hour of Devastation

What I'm really excited to talk to you all about today is Hour of Devastation. No, not just Hour of Devastation, but specifically Hour of Devastation.

This might get confusing.

I don't like to talk during movies, at all. Laughter is fine, of course, but talking during films is a big no-no with my film-watching group. But there is one exception I'll stand for. When we're all together in one of our houses, the first time in a film when a character says the verbatim title of the movie, it's okay if someone shouts, "They said the thing!" Because, well, they just said the title of the movie.

So, let me introduce you to today's preview card.

"They said the thing!"

There it is! The set's namesake. And if you've been waiting for a control answer to planeswalkers—well here you go!

In addition to being a five-mana card that sweeps most creatures off the board, it also should eliminate most planeswalkers from the table. Usually board sweepers have the problem of not being able to hit creatures and planeswalkers at the same time, which makes your decision hard. You want to kill off the creatures, but then your opponent is just going to activate their planeswalker next turn.

Hour of Devastation changes all that.

This is a card I would expect to see a good amount of in the weeks and months to come. Oh, and did you spot that clause that graciously avoids Bolas? Perfect: what a nice follow-up after you cast the God-Pharaoh himself.

Planeswalkers: run while you still can.

Planesrunning Away

I hope you enjoyed today's look at the ways to fight off planeswalkers! May you unleash your dastardly schemes—and give your opponent's planeswalkers a true scare.

With the Prerelease next weekend, your chance to check out Hour of Devastation—and Hour of Devastation—is just around the corner. Soon after, we'll have a whole new Standard to look at. Start your deck-building engines now!

Have any thoughts or questions on today's article? I'd love to hear from you! You're welcome to send me a tweet, ask me a question on my Tumblr, or e-mail me (in English, please) at BeyondBasicsMagic@Gmail.com.

I'll talk with you again next week. Enjoy the final reveals for Hour of Devastation!

Gavin
@GavinVerhey
GavInsight

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