From Time Travel to Villainous Choice, the Doctor Who Commander decks are bringing some new and unique mechanics to the world of MTG. Of course, there are also a wide range of well-established mechanics that are being utilized and further supported. Some of them, such as Vanishing, are relatively underrepresented abilities that haven’t been featured much in MTG’s history. One ability in particular, though, is returning that rarely appears on MTG cards. That ability is none other than Planeswalk.
The reason this ability doesn’t appear on cards often is that it is specifically used in the Planechase format. As the name suggests, this format was popularized alongside the Planechase MTG set. With a surprise focus on this format among some Doctor Who cards, such as Susan Foreman, we thought it was essential to break down exactly how the Planechase format works. For anyone looking to get into this exciting multiplayer format, look no further. Let’s start by breaking down the basics of the format.
Planechase is an interesting version of an MTG game that traditionally acts as an augmentation to other multiplayer formats. The most popular format that this game variant supplements is certainly Commander, hence why the Doctor Who MTG set has a focus on it. Just like with a normal game of Commander, players will bring their own decks crafted like normal for the format. The catch is that each player will also bring a deck of at least ten plane or phenomenon cards, like the card shown above. This is known as the planar deck.
MTG Plane Cards
These cards are oversized cards that will form a separate deck containing nothing but these plane cards and phenomenon cards, which we will cover in a bit. These decks exist in the Command zone, and each deck should not feature duplicates of cards. Importantly, players can either choose to keep their plane and phenomenon cards separate or mix them together and share a single deck of them. This decision will vary from playgroup to playgroup.
The goal of these plane cards is to add an extra element to the game by adding a specific effect that usually affects everyone at the table, just like the card above. At the beginning of each game, one card will be turned face up and used for the foreseeable future. Typically, only one of these cards is face up at a time.
MTG Planar Die
From there, players resume a Commander game like normal, except that, besides having the option to use mana to play cards from their hands, each player on their turn can invest mana to roll the planar die. The planar die is a six-sided die whose faces have slightly different instructions. Four of the six faces are blank, in which case rolling a planar die and having it land on a blank face does nothing, unless the plane card specifically says otherwise. For instance, rolling a blank while the Pompeii plane is face up allows you to Scry 2 and put an eruption counter on it.
One side of the die will have a Planeswalker symbol on it. This is where the Planeswalk ability comes into play. When landed on, you will Planeswalk, which means you put each face-up plane or phenomenon card on the bottom of the deck face-down, then put the top card of the deck face-up, and its effects become present. Some Doctor Who cards, like Susan Foreman, have certain abilities whenever you Planeswalk, so keep that in mind.
In terms of actually rolling the Planar Die, on each player’s turn, that player gets one free roll of the planar die. Each subsequent roll costs an additional mana to use. So, if you have three mana and nothing to do with it, you could roll the planar die three times. First for free, then for one mana, then for two mana. Rolling the planar die must be done at Sorcery speed, so make sure to plan out your turn accordingly.
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MTG Chaos Ensues
In many cases, the real payoff for rolling the planar die is if you can roll on the one face that has a chaos symbol. The chaos symbol matches the symbol on each plane card next to the text “when chaos ensues.” For example, if you roll the planar die with New New York as the face-up plane card, you get a Treasure token and a 2/2 Alien token. Many cards provide benefits when chaos ensues, so if you have extra mana lying around, it’s often worth using it to roll the planar die extra times.
MTG Phenomenon Cards
The last important thing to mention is that, often times, some of the cards in the planar deck will be phenomenon cards instead of plane cards. Phenomenon cards work a little differently than traditional plane cards. While plane cards stick around until someone uses the planar die to Planeswalk, if a phenomenon card is encountered at any point, an effect typically takes place immediately. For example, the card above allows players to choose up to two Creatures they control, then create token copies of the first Creature and put a number of +1/+1 counters on the token equal to the power of the second Creature chosen. Phenomenon cards, after their effects have taken place, then require you to Planeswalk once more.
Both phenomenon and plane cards add some extra spice to your typical Commander game in an often unpredictable manner. It’s super cool to see Doctor Who show off the Planechase format, and if you enjoy Commander, definitely consider giving the Planechase format a try.