War of the Spark is on the horizon. With 36 Planeswalkers in the set; one in each pack, this is going to be a set, and a Prerelease, like no other.

Brian Holland

by Aaron Graham

 

On April 27-28, players around the world will gather at their local game stores and finally get to play with the cards that have been delicately leaked and spoiled over the last few weeks. And what a set it’s shaping up to be!

With War of the Spark being the culmination of the last few years of Nicol Bolas’ plots, we were treated to a very special trailer in which we view Liliana turning the Dreadhorde back onto Nicol Bolas.

Along with these, we received the first few cards, but let’s examine the spoilers in the way they were intended to be revealed- in three large story arcs.

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First of all, the Interplanar Beacon has summoned Planeswalkers from across the Multiverse to Ravnica. This is already a very clear symbol of the importance of Planeswalkers in this set- and an uncommon to potentially build around in Sealed or Draft. With a Planeswalker in each pack, this is the land that’s going to help you cast those off-colour Planeswalkers with ease, while gaining you a bit of life to make sure you’re staying in the game.

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The Emergence Zone is an incredible piece of artwork- depicting Bolas’ Planar Bridge opening, smack-dab in the middle of Ravnica, destroying the Chamber of the Guildpact in the process. The card itself is also quite strong for casual formats- and will see a home in many Commander decks in the future, enabling some ridiculous sorcery-speed things at the end of an opponent’s turn. Crucible of Worlds, anyone?

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Through the emergence zone come the Dreadhorde, Nicol Bolas’ zombified army of Amonkhet’s greatest warriors, covered in blue Lazotep (in order to ease the planar transition). This is our first look at the Amass mechanic, which is restricted to Bolas’ Grixis (blue/black/red) colours.

Amass is, unsurprisingly, more powerful the more Amass cards you have. These cards show what the Amass mechanic is going to look like at each rarity- with Dreadhorde Invasion being a Bitterblossom-esque constant source of power/toughness/bodies as the game goes on, with a big pay-off for Amassing as large an Army token as possible.

Invade the City is what the uncommon build-arounds will look like- not very powerful by themselves, but brutal if you can pick up enough support. And finally, our bread-and-butter commons with Amass like Herald of the Dreadhorde will not always give you your army when you want, but will be an important piece of the Amass deck’s puzzle. I’m expecting a huge amount of synergy between the Amass cards, and is the first deck I’m already pumped to draft once the set drops. Just be wary of enchantment removal on your big army, as it’s quite hard to make a second one!

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Leading the army at Bolas’ behest, Liliana, Dreadhorde General is an intensely powerful ‘walker. This is our first look at War of the Spark’s new twist on Planeswalkers- static abilities! Functioning more like enchantments, these abilities are really impressive as they give them game on either players’ turn.

This Liliana is also reminding me a lot of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in terms of immediate board impact at 6 mana, while also potentially drawing you a bunch of cards from your sacrifice fodder! This will go well in Standard decks like Golgari/Sultai Midrange as a Carnage Tyrant replacement, as coming down and making them sacrifice two good creatures as sacrifice a couple of mana dorks and draw two cards is back-breakingly good. This is also likely to be the biggest Limited bomb in the set. Wowee, Lili.

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So we’ve seen a bomb Mythic planeswalker before, so how about some uncommons? Vraska, Kiora and Tibalt are back, joining the legion of 20 Uncommon planeswalkers in the set.

These have all been kept relatively simple, with a static or triggered ability, and only abilities that can tick down. Most also have odd loyalty entering the battlefield, and tick down in even numbers so will be left on one loyalty after a couple of activations. These Planeswalkers are obviously leagues below Liliana in power, but are we still excited about them?

Let’s examine each a bit more closely and try to find parallels between cards we’ve seen previous. The closest parallel we might find are Dominaria’s sagas; The Eldest Reborn et al. They had an effect when they entered the battlefield, and when they stuck around, you’d get to do a few other cool things.

These Planeswalkers are similar, but worse in most ways as they can be killed with direct damage or creatures! So then we must discuss whether they are still worth including in our Limited decks. Vraska, Swarm’s Eminence and Tibalt, Rakish Instigator are very similar, ticking down to create bodies that can directly impact the battlefield. The creatures they create are both defensive, but Vraska’s Assassin tokens can pick off opposing planeswalkers and potentially grow in size.

Getting one body with these abilities for 4 mana is not horrendous, but getting two is quite strong, and you’re more likely to be able to activate her twice as the Deathtouch token will kill any attacker. Tibalt on the other hand doesn’t have a completely cohesive gameplan, and just spits out two Footlight Fiends over a couple of turns. For 3 mana, this isn’t a completely raw deal, but doesn’t really tend towards either an aggressive or defensive game plan, so I’ll be less likely to want to play Tibalt.

Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner is a very interesting case, as it reads more like a global enchantment that has a life total! Untapping permanents in Limited is going to be ‘Untap target land’ in order to help you hit your 5 drop earlier than normal, while potentially drawing you a card in the process. And later in the game, untapping your huge creatures to give them pseudo-Vigilance is going to protect your board and keep you and your ‘walkers alive. Kiora has a clear plan and is one I’m excited to play with in the upcoming Limited season.

Now, if only there was some way to get more counters on these planeswalkers...

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Finally coming back after debuting in Scars of Mirrodin many years ago, Proliferate is here to bump your Planeswalker loyalty up so you can get another activation out of them, plus bumping up any +1/+1 counters that you might have on your creatures.

Karn’s Bastion is an auto-include for any SuperFriends deck, especially in Commander, and is my pick for sleeper $10+ card once this set stops being opened (see cards like Thought Vessel, Reliquary Tower before reprint and Paradox Engine for more evidence about how huge the impact of Commander is on prices).

Wanderer’s Strike is our common white removal spell, and with the added bonus of Proliferating, you’ll want to play as many of these as possible in your Sealed and Draft decks.

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Act II of the story is focused on the Gatewatch fighting back against Nicol Bolas and his Dreadhorde, by rallying the inhabitants of Ravnica against the invading army. Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi may be one of the largest power/toughness cards they’ve created for 5 mana, and potentially at instant-speed, no less!

Casting this as an instant at the end of your opponent’s turn then untapping with a 9/9 is truly terrifying. Maybe not as terrifying as attacking in 6 open mana and getting your best creature ambushed by a 9/9, so keep your instant-speed removal handy for this one!

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The second part of Act II is the incredible return of the Amonkhet Gods!

Raised from death by Nicol Bolas, and enlisted to fight at the head of the armies, the God-Eternals are here to wreak havoc on Standard and Limited alike. Eschewing the indestructible nature of previous gods for rising from your deck over and over again, these creatures will be an absolute pain to deal with, as you can’t even exile them from the battlefield without them coming back in a few turns! Each of these bodies are far above average, and will warp most games around them. Keep your eye out for any enchantment-based removal to get rid of these bad boys ‘n’ girls.

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In Act III of the story, it seems that at least some part of Nicol Bolas’ plan has backfired. After killing Niv-Mizzet, Bolas has accidently revived him, with access to White, Black and Green mana too! This card is tough to cast, but drawing even two or three cards from his ability is not unlikely with the large amount of multicoloured and hybrid cards in the set. As we aren’t aware of the set’s mana fixing, we don’t know whether Limited will be able to support 5-colour decks, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying!

 

War of the Spark is looking incredible so far, and it’s definitely going to be like no other, with a bevy of Planeswalkers, armies and powerful spells running rampant.Be sure to register for the prerelease next weekend at your local Good Games store!

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