Flipping Out over the Flip Walkers

Magic Origins, the final core set. I still remember wandering into the first game shop I would call, “My Store” and buying packs of fifth edition when they were the newest and hottest cards available (and pulling an [card]Aladdin’s Ring[/card], back when this card was playab… okay, just kidding this card was never playable). I’ve always had an affinity for Core Sets. I just dig the nostalgia and getting a second chance to break cards that passed by the wayside.

And now it’s going away.

At least Wizards is going to go out with a bang. Magic: Origins is going to delve into flavor unlike any set before it. And, it all hinges on the Origin stories of Planeswalkers.

Which makes sense, right? Planeswalkers have become THE face of Magic. They are what drive the story, they are almost always the “premier” faces of the story structure of the blocks, and they drive sales. Going back and seeing the moment when they each gained their spark is a win on every level. The mechanics of the cards being so simple and so obvious, that I never thought we’d see it happen. A legendary creature has something happen and kaboom, they become a Planeswalker.

While I think that all five are flavor wins, what most of us really care about is how well they will play out in games. While it is entirely possible that these end up being the five best cards of the set (hey, it could happen), there’s still going to be a pecking order.

Disclaimer: Ranking any card before a meta is spoiled is inherently subjective. I’m mainly looking at how these cards fit into archetypes and the raw power of their abilities. So, if Chandra is “De Nutz” in 3 months because there are some awesome burn spells printed. I reserve the right to not look like a total mouth breather.

Ranking the Magic: Origins Walkers

5. [card]Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh[/card]

Look, I don’t have a vendetta against Chandra. I swear. Sure, I thought [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] was Wizards taking the face of their marketing campaign for a set and smearing it with feces while proclaiming that it smelt like roses, but this is different. She may be the worst of the bunch, but she will probably see play (in the sideboard if nothing else) in Standard. In fact, it may be that you want to play her when you’re on the play, and board her when you’re on the draw. Chandra’s biggest problems are that she 1) needs to stay alive for a turn, 2) dies to almost everything, and 3) needs additional red spells to be anything more than a Gray Ogre. Attacking, dealing two, then casting a red spell to untap her and then using her ability to trigger her ‘Walking mode is the dream, but a LOT has to happen just right for this to work. Late game, she’s probably a horrible top deck. But, I can see some tempo red decks playing her. I mean, a flipped Chandra can deal 2 damage a turn and it’s not like we have another way of doing that so easily (*cough* Mogis *cough*).

4. [card]Kytheon, Hero of Akros[/card]:

Gideon would see play if it was just a 2/1 for W that could go indestructible. The fact that it’s ridiculously easy to flip in an aggro deck and then becomes a 4/4 indestructible is just gravy. Delicious, delicious gravy. Hell, Craig Wescoe all by himself could make sure that this card never dips below playable. It feels wrong to rank an eminently playable ‘Walker as the fourth best, but I just don’t see Gideon having a play outside of aggro decks (even if he goes into almost every aggro deck packing Plains). A control deck wouldn’t want to invest three mana a turn into a blocker, and if they have three creatures on the board they’re probably already winning and don’t need the flip.

3. [card]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[/card]:

I can’t decide if Baby Jace is going to be insane or horrible, so I’m putting him in the middle. There is power here, and a ton of potential, much like the characterization of the Planeswalker himself. Thoughtseize (to clear the way) into a turn two Jace is potent in the early game, and late game, with counterspell back up, it should be relatively easy to send him ‘Walking. It’s not like a two mana looter is entirely unplayable anyway. And, when he goes Super Saiyan… I mean, there’s a reason Snapcaster Mage is $85. Sure, you’re bound to casting the card on your turn, but it’s still pure card advantage. There is definitely Boom potential here. But, if I had to take a hard stance, I’d say he’s closer to a Bust than the big two (and maybe worse than Gideon, but I think he’s definitely better than Chandra).

2. [card]Nissa, Vastwood Seer[/card]:

I like Nissa a lot, and I will probably make getting a playset a top priority, but I can’t justify ranking her ahead of Lily. While she has the best set of walker abilities (collectively), getting to seven lands can be difficult, unless you’re building your deck around doing so, and then you’ve got to wonder if the format will allow you to durdle that long. Nissa costs three mana, but realistically, the earliest you’re going to be able to consistently get her ‘Walking is turn five. Her saving grace is that she’s not horrible as a vanilla creature early, and late game flipping her is practically automatic (Nissa is going to be a fantastic topdeck when you have 6 or more lands). Then again, it’s also entirely possible I’m giving this card the “Green Mage bump”.

1. [card]Liliana, Heretical Healer[/card]:

The first Flip Walker spoiled is also the best of them, and I don’t think it’s close. Liliana is the most playable, and I think she will see play in both Modern and Standard. Given black’s propensity for sacrifice effects, flipping Lily isn’t hard. She fits the Modern Collected Company deck like a glove, and should immediately become a staple there. In Standard, even if you aren’t using a sacrifice outlet, the natural procession of creature combat suggests something will die and trigger her. She’s in the color with the best disruption spell in either format (Thoughtseize, for a little while at least), so you should be able to make sure she lands, and she even leaves behind a damn token to protect her. Her abilities have fantastic synergy, her ultimate is game winning… if you can’t tell I’m a front seat passenger on the Lily Express.

If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day. You can also hear me on the Horde of Notions podcast each week, discussing deck ideas for FNM level events and the PTQ grinders.