Since they were introduced in 2007’s Lorywn, Planeswalkers have become a near-guaranteed staple within modern MTG sets. Not only are these cards typically rather powerful, but they’re also the focal point of a set’s story. Due to this, Planeswalker cards have become incredibly popular and recognizable over recent years.
As much as many MTG players may love them, however, it seems their future is somewhat nebulous. For starters, thanks to March of the Machine: The Aftermath, Planeswalkers aren’t what they used to be. As if that wasn’t enough of a change, however, it seems MTG’s latest and greatest product won’t bring Planeswalkers back.
Regardless of whether you love them or hate them, Planeswalkers reportedly won’t be a part of crossover Universes Beyond sets.
A Universe Without Planeswalkers
After a handful of teases and leaks, last week, the spoiler season for The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth finally concluded. With awesome Commander and Constructed staples aplenty, MTG players definitely had plenty to be excited about. Despite this, one of the most important card types in Magic was missing.
While they have become a quick fan favorite, we’re not talking about Magic’s new Battle Cards here. That being said, these newfangled cards were missing thanks to the order of set development. Instead, the biggest surprise of Tales of Middle-earth was that it was missing MTG’s iconic Planeswalker cards.
Despite having plenty of potential Planeswalker candidates, Tales of Middle-earth doesn’t have a single Planeswalker card. Even when you include the Commander cards, Gandalf, Saruman, and Sauron all don’t have Planeswalker cards. Instead, each of these iconic characters just has, at least, a trio of legendary creature variants.
Given the fact that the powerful Dungeons & Dragons Wizards Elminster got to be a Planeswalker, this may seem like an odd choice from Wizards. While that certainly is the case, we did at least have plenty of forewarning about this detail. Back in May, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater flatly confirmed “There are no Planeswalkers in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.”
Despite this early confirmation from Rosewater, many MTG players have been left wondering what’s going on. Tumblr user 2killcreepers-blog, for instance, was curious if Planeswalkers were missing because they simply didn’t fit. Asking if this was the case for both the Warhammer and Lord of the Rings sets, unfortunately, Rosewater had a disheartening answer. “We are only planning to do Planeswalkers in Wizards-owned IPs.” While this does sound concrete, it’s important to note that plans may change over time.
Planeswalkers B’ Gone
With Planeswalkers not planned to appear in future Universes Beyond crossover sets, it seems they’re almost going extinct. After all, the majority of in-universe Planeswalkers also recently lost their spark at the end of the Phyrexian Arc. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean the card type has been eradicated entirely, however. Some characters, such as Ajani Goldmane, have kept their spark, for the time being, at least.
While this is good news for Planeswalker fanatics, Universes Beyond fans are still out of luck. Considering how fun and interesting Planeswalkers can be, this is unsurprisingly quite disheartening news to some. One such disappointed player is Shin-chan17 on Tumblr. Highlighting how some Universes Beyond sets, such as the upcoming Doctor Who Commander decks, would be a great fit for Planeswalkers, Wizards’ decision certainly seems suboptimal.
Due to this, Shin-chan17 questioned Rosewater on the reasons behind this somewhat surprising decision. Unfortunately, however, when addressing this question, Rosewater didn’t provide a concrete answer. Instead, MTG’s Lead Designer simply reiterated what we already know. “We’re not getting rid of the card type. It’s just not being used outside of Wizards IPs.”
Reasonable Removal Reasons
Since this response from Mark Rosewater doesn’t really give us an explanation, it’s hard to say it’s ideal. That being said, however, it is fairly early to make inferences as to why Wizards made this decision. The most obvious reason is that Universes Beyond products are for new players more so than enfranchised veterans. Because of this, it seems sensible to keep the complexity down where possible, so as to not overwhelm prospective players.
Compared to normal MTG spells, Planeswalkers, like Battles, are rather complicated due to how much they have going on. Loaded with activated and passive abilities, Planeswalkers can be less approachable for new players who’d have to learn additional rules. Thankfully, it typically doesn’t take long to learn these rules, however, Planeswalkers certainly aren’t universally known.
Previously, Mark Rosewater has confirmed that roughly 75% of all MTG players don’t know what a Planeswalker is. While this statistic is due to the huge number of casual players it nonetheless presents a significant barrier to entry. Since Universes Beyond is an excellent player acquisition engine, it marks sense Wizards wants to remove these barriers.
Alongside this potential problem, it’s also worth noting that Planeswalkers can’t automatically be your Commander. Thankfully, this can be changed by a single line of text, however, that line isn’t used everywhere. This could cause some players to be left disappointed since they can’t play with their favorite character how they’d like. Due to this, it seems sensible to keep iconic characters such as The Doctor, Aragorn, and Magnus the Red being legendary creatures, rather than Planeswalkers.
The Way It Is
At the end of the day, while Planeswalkers are undoubtedly iconic, they’re iconic to MTG, not any other IP. Because of this, Wizards may understandably want to keep Planeswalkers all to themselves. After all, if every crossover IP had its own Planeswalkers, it may harm Magic’s unique brand.
Admittedly, previous Universes Beyond releases have proved this isn’t the biggest concern. According to Mark Rosewater, the vast majority of players tolerate, not hate, Magic’s new crossover cards. Even if this isn’t a concern, at the end of the day, MTG is still run by Wizards of the Coast. Subsequently, if they don’t want Planeswalkers in Universes Beyond sets, that’s the way it’s going to be.
Considering Planeswalkers are seemingly being phased out of most MTG sets, this Universes Beyond quirk hopefully shouldn’t be a monumental loss. In fact, if Rosewater’s statistics are right, many players may never even know what they’re missing out on.
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