Planeswalk This Way, Part 1

Posted in From the Lab on February 18, 2010

By Noel deCordova

Greetings, fellow Johnnies, and welcome to a results column that hopefully has been anticipated by many! I'll spare you all the folksy introductions today, and instead cut right to the juicy parts, since this article will be long enough as it is.

This is the first of two results columns for the almighty Planeswalker Contest, which I kicked off at the end of last December. I've been plugging it as much as possible since, hoping to keep you all interested while I filtered out the results, and today is finally the day we see them! (If you are new to this Contest, go ahead and click this link to read the original challenge.)

Unlike the Birthday Contest (my first contest, which was held last summer), in which I had the painful task of selecting the overall best decks out of 238 submissions, I had it far easier this time. Instead of 'grading' decks against each other, I picked the best decks for each respective planeswalker that was in existence at the time. (This restriction counted out Jace, the Mind Sculptor.)

If you recall, this Contest began with a super-flavorful email about Chandra Ablaze, and if you all don't mind me starting the results, I'd like to begin with another!

Josh Jelin writes, "Have you seen Chandra's hair? What is that? Is she in a band? I think this deck conclusively answers the question: yes." Here's his rocking deck list.

Hair Metal

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Josh gushes, "Chandra plays at the Krark-Clan Ironworks. She ends all of her concerts by either smashing all of her instruments (Shrapnel Blast) and combining it with a three-part flaming guitar solo (Lava Axe) or turning it up to 11 for some heavy metal (Darksteel Colossus). Song of Blood helps fill the graveyard for Chandra's encore performance. And of course, what hair metal concert would be complete without the final countdown (Final Fortune)?"

Chandra Ablaze
Final Fortune

Obviously, the deck riffs on artifact and red instants and sorceries to create a killer set list. Use your early Myr as fodder for the Krark-Clan Ironworks or Shrapnel Blast, or just play defense with them and Angelsong. Either ramp into an "Iron Man" (the Darksteel Colossus) or unleash Chandra Ablaze's Ultimate, letting loose some Lava Axes along the way.

Not all the entries were humorous in nature, though. QuickRime put a lot of time and effort into his red and black, super-flavorful Sorin Markov deck, which really hit all my criteria for a Vorthos-happy planeswalker deck. In parts of an email that is, sadly, a bit too long to quote in its entirety, QuickRime analyzed the flavor texts of Day of Judgment and Feast of Blood to debate Sorin's exact personality. Take it away, QuickRime:

Sorin Markov

Sorin Markov: Let's start with the picture. Sorin Markov looks down out of his portrait with distinct scorn. He radiates arrogance and cruelty, but without extravagance. There are no glowing auras, no corpses scattered at his feet, no spirits crying out in anguish. Sorin is subtler than that. Looking at his abilities, which I will refer to as Sorin Markov's First, Second, and Third, these conclusions are supported by the card's mechanics.

Sorin Markov's First mimics Vicious Hunger. It would seem that any cards of the Drain Life school are in flavor. Sorin Markov's Second is much more interesting. It does not exactly halve an opponents life; instead it sets it at 10. This is not a blind attack but a calculated alteration, potentially even restoring life. Obvious cards that combine well with this ability are the Zendikar vampires, but I am going to stay away from those, for reasons explained below. Instead, I have chosen something far more devious: Hidetsugu's Second Rite. This card's role is also explained in greater detail below. Sorin Markov's Third is, amazingly, even more interesting than his second. Mindslaver represents the ultimate in dark control magic. This proves Sorin Markov's manipulative nature, and cards like Blackmail seem to fit in well.

Hunger's Reward

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QuickRime also explained his all-spell deck list flavorfully:

Nice! There were a lot of attempted Hidetsugu's Second Rites in Sorin Markov decks (which were easily the most popular), but I felt QuickRime did the least stretching to include it in this contest. Great work!

While Sorin Markov generated the most decklists, Elspeth generated the least. Of these happy few, Gabriel Gutierrez's creation was easily the best.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant

When Elspeth, Knight-Errant found her planeswalker spark, she left her home and never turned back. And from the moment she walked into Bant, she never wanted to leave. She just loved the Bant Panoramas. She trained to become a Knight, becoming a champion of Valeron, and under her guidance and her Master Warcraft, Akrasan Squires long to become Sigiled Paladins, respecting the rules of battle the Bant have forged. She took a Faithful Squire by the name of Aran, and took him to a corrupted place, a rhox monastery turned into a Ghostly Prison. There, she learned of the breach in her world, a threat that suddenly turned real. With the help of the Angels (Archangel, Battlegrace Angel and Baneslayer Angel) and her army, led by the Knight-Captain of Eos, and full of Fresh Volunteers and Knight of the White Orchid, took in demons and shadows into a battle. Those foul creatures encountered Bant's army, a Wall of Swords and a Wall of Shields, but nevertheless, those creatures took the upper hand in the battle. Elspeth, Knight-Errant, armed with the Sword of the Paruns and the Pariah's Shield, battled fiercely, but even with her skill she could not prevent Aran's fatal injury. The demons thought they had taken away the Honor of the Pure, but they did not count on Elspeth, Knight-Errant's planeswalker powers. She performed a Resurrection spell on her fallen comrades, and Exiled the demons away. The Bant laws forbidden her from resurrecting fallen comrades, and so she Honor the Fallen in battle, and then set herself on her own Path to Exile, while Bant counted the losses in Silence.

Knight of the White Orchid
Master Warcraft

The deck is very simple, it can follow a White Weenie Strategy, but can hold its own on an advanced game. Master Warcraft is the finishing spell, allowing your army to attack unblocked and finish the games. Elspeth, Knight-Errant's abilities help your army, and her ultimate ability makes them indestructible. I just went for a more straightforward approach in deckbuilding in order to tell Elspeth, Knight-Errant's story. Hope you like my creation!

Elspeth's Purity

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Flavorful Poetry:

Two clever readers wrote some Vorthos-tinged poems to add to their decklist, and both were so exemplary amongst the rest of my emails that I had to include them. Here's Kelvin's poem about Ajani Vengeant:

Vengeant's Despair

Ajani Vengeant
A Burning Inquiry seethes in his mind:
Who killed my brother?

Grief and pain Poison the Well of his soul
Vengeance, his only goal.
His planeswalker spark burst into a Pyroclasm
A Punishing Fire to burns down hovels and castles.
Each step he makes sends a seismic shudder
And his roar is Hell's thunder.
So insidious has his fury become
That he prays and prays to the demigods of revenge
Longing for that Divine Verdict, that Day of Judgment.
The fight to the death.

He took to forging his Lava Axe and Lavaball Trap.
Setting Pitfall Trap, laying Runeflare Trap.
Letting loose vindictive wretches such as Hellspark Elemental,
Magma Phoenix and Obsidian Fireheart.
His steed is the vicious Spitemare
A creature who shares his Dark Temper.
Yet despite his claws and Double Cleave
He could not find reprieve.
Revenge is a Journey to Nowhere, a lost cause
Where he could never hope to Redeem the Lost .

Vengeant's Despair

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Kelvin adds: "This deck is a reflection of Ajani Vengeant's mind: how his rage can be sweeping (Pyroclasm) or how his logic can have an element of chaos in it (imagine casting Burning Inquiry in the hopes of casting Runeflare Trap after, or pulling off a Lavaball Trap after casting a Path to Exile and/or having Goblin Guide hit the opponent)."

Sounds fun and flavorful to me!

Flavorful Poetry:

Michael Lenahen dared to write a flavorful poem about the Big Bad himself: Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker.

-The Ballad of Nicol Bolas-

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
A black wind blows, howling through the cold air,
Now comes the coiling Tendrils of Despair
Now all that is good seems at a loss
Now is the Ballad of Nicol Bolas

From his Claws of Gix Innocent Blood pours and flows
Fueling Dark Rituals, his power grows
Unearthing Grave Pact and Hatching Plans and plots
The Wastelandwasteland around him withers and rots

Fire-Field Ogre bend their knees to his dark form
His shadow falls over the land like a storm
This is the hour of dark doom and loss
This is the Ballad of Nicol Bolas

From the graves come black Ravenous Rats and Shambling Remains
An army of Ashen Ghoul to stain the world red
From ridges and Darkwater Catacombs they writhe
From the Lake of the Dead, pours a dread tide

His lair, a frothing Crucible of Worlds
He waits for his dark Hatching Plans to be unfurled
Thus a terrible sum, his triumph costs
Thus is the Ballad of Nicol Bolas.

The Ballad of Nicol Bolas

Download Arena Decklist

Michael also mentioned that the deck's goal is to put forth an early game of recurring creatures, while eventually wreaking havoc with Nicol Bolas himself. Deliciously evil!

Two more decks and we're finished for this week. The following email was probably the best one I received for the whole contest. Mark Wischkaemper wrote me with the best father-son bonding story this side of The Road (er ... take that as you will). Mark and his father, both avid Magic players, discovered my contest and decided to challenge each other, with a unique twist: each picked the 'walker for the other. In a supreme example of family ties, they both picked Ajani Goldmane!

Here's Mark's resulting life-gaining deck, Ajani's Pride.

Ajani Goldmane
Ajani Goldmane has experienced a Blessed Reversal. As he's aged, he has created his own Intervention Pact to calm the fires in his heart. He prefers, now, the Order of the Stars; the Blessed Wind ruffling his mane or a few tender moments of Silence. He has built around himself walls — Wall of Essence and Wall of Reverence together. He travels lonely areas such as the Kabira Crossroads. He might enjoy a few moments with some cubs, even of races other than the Nacatl, such as the Children of Korlis.

When forced into battle, Ajani Goldmane would almost always prefer to convince his enemy of the values of Pacifism, or attempt to turn his Swords to Plowshares. If needed, he may summon a lowly Goldenglow Moth, a noble Knight of Meadowgrain, or the fearsome Archon of Justice. He may bring to his aid an Auriok Champion or help usher the fate of a Figure of Destiny. He might Chastise his opponent for not following the rules of battle, or he may even call upon the Wrath of God to bring about a Day of Judgment. And if it must come to a killing blow, he will bring to his side a stable of awesome avatars, including the powerful Divinity of Pride, the unkind Merit Lage (brought up from his Dark Depths), or even an avatar of himself.

Archon of Justice
Wall of Reverence

Ajani's Pride

Download Arena Decklist

And here's Michael Wischkaemper's +1/+1 counter–loving version, Together We Kill:

"Ajani Goldmane looked principally for creatures which could use the strength he could add to them specially, or could add strength to others as required. Ajani Goldmane recognized that his assistance alone might not be enough, but he looked for other methods of building strength to wield the swift sword of destruction."

Together We Kill

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I'll be back next week with a "normal" article, and then the week after we'll visit the best decks built around Garruk Wildspeaker, Liliana Vess, Jace Beleren, Tezzeret the Seeker, and Sarkhan Vol!

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