PLANESWALKER PATROL

Posted in GRAND PRIX SANTIAGO 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 1, 2014

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

Two weeks, two tournaments, and a world away ago in Los Angeles, I was deep in conversation with a Hall of Famer. I explained my grand plan to do an article at Grand Prix Santiago, that would go into the inner workings of all the Planeswalkers in Standard. Which to play, when to play them, when to let them die, when to offer them up as bait, when to counter them, when to up them, when to down them, when to ultimate them...this would be a truly useful guide to those of us who are still befuddled by what is – let's be honest – the class of permanent we have least experience in playing with, or against.

The Hall of Famer, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, sat in silence for a time, and then explained (in not so many words) that another Hall of Famer had tried something similar, and that it had been an admirable attempt, but it wasn't something that he would be looking to write any time soon. So, Hubris is more than just a card name, but when two Hall of Famers aren't enough to write an article properly, one Newsdesk anchor probably won't be either.

And yet I still want to talk about Planeswalkers, precisely because they are indeed the rarest of permanents. Very few players truly understand how they work, and that's just when you're dealing with one of them on your own side of the table. Once there are Planeswalkers on both sides, the intricacies just keep on multiplying. If there's one thing I've learned from watching this Standard at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, Grand Prix Los Angeles, Grand Prix Stockholm, and now here at Grand Prix Santiago, it's that Planeswalkers matter. Know what you're doing with them, and the right loyalty can lead to game win after game win. Few areas of the game offer more opportunity to outwit your opponents.

And so, certain that Planeswalkers would play a big part this weekend, I stepped out into the fray of more than 600 players. Which Planeswalkers would we find on the battlefield? Here's the evidence:


It's dice all over the battlefield, as Xenagos, the Reveler (bottom) and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker (top) go to work.


Either Elspeth, Sun's Champion has been in play for a while, or she's probably activated her middle ability.


It's Planeswalker central in this one. With Chandra, Pyromaster and Elspeth, Sun's Champion already in the graveyard, we all know that another Chandra, Pyromaster is on the way. Thanks, Courser of Kruphix, we love surprises.


There are three very powerful cards here, and killing Xenagos, the Reveler is going to be pretty tough.


More middle ability action from Elspeth, Sun's Champion, as Wingmate Roc (plus friend) take to the skies.


So who wins this battle? On the right, Chandra, Pyromaster, while on the left it's the first appearance of Sorin, Solemn Visitor.


Rather better than having one Planeswalker on each side of the battlefield is getting greedy and having two Planeswalkers just for you. Sure, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker may be ticking down, but Elspeth, Sun's Champion is in great shape.


It's action shot time. Thanks to the Courser of Kruphix on the right of your screen, we knew that moments ago that card going into hand was a Chandra, Pyromaster. It's just like watching it live!


There's a lot to like in this one. There are awesome sleeves. There's a Sorin, Solemn Visitor. And there's a cute baby Vampire.


Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Chandra, Pyromaster get ready to go at it once again, with plenty of support on both sides.


Now that's a healthy-looking Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. Are we expecting emblems any time soon?


Wow! Now that was unexpected. This wasn't at one of the absolute highest tables, more the middle of the room, but still – Kiora, the Crashing Wave, ladies and gentlemen.


And here's our first sighting of Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Go on, you've got 8 counters on there, gain 100 life, I double dog whipped cream on top dare you.


For a moment, I thought we were going to get Ajani, Mentor of Heroes going ultimate on two tables next to each other. Then this one hit the graveyard. What kind of loyalty is that? (Zero, is the answer.)


Apparently, in Spanish, Nissa has been doing some desertadora-ing, which probably involves rising from slumber. In any case, Nissa, Worldwaker, joining the Planeswalker party.


Another addition to the ranks, and it's an oldie but goodie. Welcome Liliana Vess, who has just made an opponent discard a card. She does that. You can see it right there.


In truth, I haven't shown every single Planeswalker in play this round, but I did want to draw your attention to the fact that Xenagos, the Reveler has come to play at a lot of tables this weekend, and that's not something I've seen at any of the earlier Standard events this season.


Ah, the joys of Blue-White control. I can almost taste the Elixir of Immortality, the Supreme Verdict, and the Sphinx's Revelation. (Sob).


Now that's what I call a board state. Sorin, Solemn Visitor on 2, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes on 8, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver on the other side of the board on 5, and a fourth Planeswalker peeking out from underneath Ashiok. Think Planeswalkers aren't a big deal in Standard? Think again.


Looking to break the pattern Elspeth, Sun's Champion on both sides? This player couldn't wait to show me his Nissa, Worldwaker. Then again, she has been signed by the artist.


See, this one isn't fair. We've got Sorin, Solemn Visitor, he's making Vampires, and we've used Banishing Light to get rid of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. As I said, not fair.


This is what happens when you let Ajani, Mentor of Heroes get away from you. So. Many. Dice.


There are some big players on the battlefield in this one. Xenagos, the Reveler faces off against Sorin, Solemn Visitor, but the supporting cast includes Stormbreath Dragon and Anafenza, the Foremost.


This was only the second Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver I could find. Which is a shame, as I like Ashiok quite a bit.


I wasn't expecting to see as much of Nissa. Worldwaker as I did. But, here she is again, doing her thing.


And finally, the most talismanic Planeswalker in the room.