A new cycle of mono-colored cards has been printed that grant Planeswalkers iconic abilities from the past. These cards are not available in March of the Machine Draft Boosters or the Commander decks and can only be found in Set and Collector’s Boosters. They are only legal in Vintage, Legacy, and Commander.
Known as “the talent cycle” each of these five cards is an aura that grants the ability of a Planeswalker from the past to the card it is attached to. They provide the enchanted card with a new loyalty ability, as well as a beneficial static effect.
Are these cards spectacular Superfriends support or shockingly stale wastes of cardboard?
Let’s give them a look and find out…
For four mana, Elspeth’s Talent grants the +1 ability of Elspeth Sun’s Champion to the enchanted Planeswalker. The card also grants all of your creature’s +2/+2 and Vigilance until the end of turn whenever the enchanted Planeswalker activates one of their loyalty abilities.
The +1 loyalty ability of Elspeth Sun’s Champion is, famously, one of the strongest (non-ultimate) loyalty abilities in the game. The Soldiers it provides do a great job of protecting the Planeswalker that generates them, and they can also go on the offensive on future turns. The +2/+2 buff and Vigilance granted by the second effect of this card means that the soldier it generates can be used both offensively and defensively.
All of this should help you maintain a strong board presence, whilst continuing to tick your Planeswalker’s loyalty up into ultimate range. It’s very difficult to damage a Planeswalker enchanted with this card in combat, though they can still be removed by effects like Hero’s Downfall.
Teferi’s TalentTeferi’s Talent grants the enchanted Planeswalker the ultimate ability of Teferi, Temporal Archmage alongside the static ability of Teferi Temporal Pilgrim. At five mana, this is the most expensive card in the cycle. In a deck with plenty of card draw, however, it gives Planeswalkers loyalty counters at an incredibly fast rate. The ability to gain huge numbers of loyalty counters here is significantly more useful than the -12 ability which, although undoubtedly strong, is costed at an impractically high rate (two points of loyalty higher than on the original card).
It is best to put Teferi’s Talent on a Planeswalker with a very powerful ultimate that struggles to generate loyalty counters, like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, rather than hoping to use the -12 loyalty ability which it provides.
At two mana, Liliana’s Talent is the cheapest card in the cycle. This card provides the ultimate ability of the original Liliana Vess Planeswalker from Lorwyn to the card it is attached to (possibly better known as the effect of Rise of the Dark Realms). Liliana’s Talent also destroys any creature which damages the enchanted Planeswalker.
Liliana’s Talent goes best on a Planeswalker that starts with a high amount of loyalty so that it is possible to activate the ultimate ability which it provides. Kaya, Intangible Slayer seems like a particularly good target for this card since she can reach the required threshold of eight loyalty after a single turn. Kaya having Hexproof, alongside destroying any creatures which attack her thanks to this effect, will make her a nightmare for opponents to deal with.
Overall, Liliana’s Talent seems like possibly the most niche card in the cycle. Its static ability serves as more of a deterrent than an actual protection effect and the ultimate which it provides, though powerful, is also very costly.
Rowan’s Talent provides the enchanted Planeswalker with the +1 ability of Rowan, Fearless Sparkmage. This is a decent ability, but what makes Rowan’s Talent particularly exciting is that it allows the enchanted Planeswalker to duplicate any loyalty abilities they use. Your Elspeth Sun’s Champion will create six 1/1 soldier tokens at once, and your Sorin Markov will be able to drop two players down to 10 life.
Since only the effect is copied, any changes to loyalty are not duplicated by the effect of Rowan’s Talent. This is both a blessing and a curse, as it prevents both huge loyalty gains from happening but also prevents loyalty costs from doubling.
Vivien’s TalentVivien’s Talent grants the enchanted Planeswalker the +1 loyalty ability of the original Vivien Reid, while also granting the enchanted Planeswalker a loyalty counter whenever a creature enters play. This is one of the best cards in the cycle, what makes it so good is that the two abilities synergize beautifully. The +1 effect helps you search the top of your deck for creatures and then the static ability grants loyalty counters once those creatures enter play. It’s all the better, as this spell will ensure you always have creatures in play to protect the enchanted Planeswalker. Put this on a Planeswalker with subpar regular skills, but a powerful ultimate which you want to build towards.
So just how strong is this cycle overall? It’s complicated…
The primary problem with the cards in this cycle is that they require you to already have a Planeswalker in play to use them. This keeps them out of decks that aren’t dedicated Superfriends decks stuffed full of Planeswalker to enchant. These cards also have the same issues that all Auras have, in that once the attached card is killed you’re losing two cards worth of value at once. The bonuses these cards provide are incredibly powerful though. They are also often quite undercosted compared to the strength of the effect that they provide (although the cost of playing a Planeswalker for them to enchant should also be considered).
These cards help defend the Planeswalker they are attached to, whether that’s by providing a large number of blockers or by giving them lots and lots of Loyalty counters. Given that many Planeswalkers functionally win the game, or at least take out one opponent, when their ultimate is activated cards these cards fulfill a fun role. The cards from the talent cycle help turn the ultimate abilities of cards like Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Kiora, Master of the Depths from impractical effects dangling just out of reach, to genuinely attainable win conditions.
In terms of Strength, these card can probably be ranked from worst to best like this…
- 5. Liliana’s Talent
- 4. Teferi’s Talent
- 3. Elspeth’s Talent
- 2. Rowan’s Talent
- 1. Vivien’s Talent
Whether these cards end up being powerful in practice, or not, they are certainly very fun to brew around.