Insider: Evaluating the Origins Planeswalkers

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

There's a rule in Magic finance when it comes to preorders and planeswalkers, and it's that you never do it. With all of the new transform planeswalkers in Magic Origins pre-ordering in the twenty-dollar range, they will be no exception. These card are extremely likely to be casual hits due to the sweet flavor, so they'll also coincide with the other planeswalker finance rule that after they bottom out when they rotate they'll increase in value over time.

So the finance here is boring, but the cards themselves are anything but. With Pro Tour Vancouver being my long-anticipated return to the PT, I've been paying very close attention to Origins spoilers, and I feel that evaluating these cards correctly is paramount to maximizing my odds of success. Now that we have seen the entire set of five, it seems the appropriate time to find out what they're made of.

Kytheon, Hero of Akros // Gideon, Battle-Forged


Kytheon has the advantage of fitting the bill for a constructed-playable one-drop even without the ability to transform. The legendary supertype is, of course, a drawback, but with Origins in Standard the format will be huge and there will be a handful of one- and two-drops available to battle alongside him.

I've heard complaints that the planeswalker is boring because it's basically just Gideon Jura. This doesn't really bother me, because Gideon is great.

The problem with a card like Kytheon, is that Drown in Sorrow and Anger of the Gods are still legal, which makes trying to be a low-to-the-ground aggressive deck difficult. The upside is that flipping into Gideon leaves you with a 4/4 attacker even if your opponent has a sweeper. Sure, Gideon can be Downfalled, but then they just spent three mana on your one-drop.

Boros hasn't been good in Standard since the printing of Dromoka's Command, and it's hard to imagine that Kytheon alone properly addresses the barriers that the deck has to being competitive. Kytheon is definitely a strong card, but I think his power level is pretty obvious and he seems a little weak for Standard play.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound


The image there is a little hard to read, so here's the card text:

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
1U Legendary Creature- Human Wizard (0/2)
Tap: Draw a card, then discard a card. If there are five or more cards in your graveyard, exile Jace, Vryn''s Prodigy, then return him to the battefield transformed under his owner's control.

Jace, Telepath Unbound
Planeswalker- Jace (5)
+1: Up to one target creature gets -2/-0 until your next turn.
-3: You may cast target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard this turn. If that card would be put into your graveyard this turn, exile it instead.
-9: You get an emblem with "Whenever you cast a spell, target opponent puts the top five cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard".

I've heard a lot of disappointment with regard to Jace. Part of this is the fact that Merfolk Looter doesn't look as much like a constructed card as Savannah Lions. Even when Jace flips, people aren't too impressed. All told, Jace's backside is pretty weak. The reason that I think that the card has potential is that you get all of this for two mana, which might be worth it in total.

If you look at Jace as just a two-mana planeswalker, the card does exactly as much as I would hope that a two-mana planeswalker would; it has one ability that seems kind of good. -3 is a lot of loyalty, but that second ability is certainly worth two mana to activate once. From there, Jace can even kind of protect himself.

The -3 is a little weak abstractly, but contextually this Standard supports it very well. I've been trying to find a way to make Jace work with Treasure Cruise ever since I first saw the card, and Thoughtseize is also a great one to rebuy.

I don't think that a Merfolk Looter would be close to good enough in Standard, so having ways to flip Jace quickly will be essential to unlocking his potential. It also happens that cards that do this tend to play well with Treasure Cruise.

Jeskai Ascendancy Combo is the most obvious place to shoehorn Jace, but once again Dromoka's Command is a serious detriment to our new planeswalker friend. There's also the fact that the deck was kind of fringe even pre-Command, and that Jace is a very bad topdeck in a deck that has a lot of air in it in the first place.

I have half a mind to try to build a Jace deck with Temur Ascendancy, though I really have no idea how to construct such a thing. Being able to flip Jace the turn you play it is great, but the two cards are rather incoherent as the baseline for a deck. I know that ways to mill yourself, Jace, Ascendancy, and some fatties are what you want, but I haven't yet been able to come up with a list that isn't just a worse version of some other deck.

At any rate, I see constructed potential in Jace, even if I haven't figured it out just yet.

Liliana, Heretical Healer // Liliana, Defiant Necromancer


The front half of this Liliana is really bad if it just eats a removal spell, but the planeswalker side is great and the free zombie you get when she transforms also makes this card worth well more than three mana when it works.

Butcher of the Horde and Tymaret, the Murder King are the best ways to flip Liliana immediately by your own volition, though decks featuring these cards aren't necessarily in the market for a card like Liliana.

Collected Company is an exciting way to set up Liliana, either by grabbing two copies, sacrificing one to the legend rule and flipping the other immediately or by just finding a different creature to block mid-combat. I'm not positive that a Liliana CoCo deck is great, but it's where I would start looking if I wanted to Liliana.

Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh // Chandra, Roaring Flame


Chandra is often referred to as being the worst planeswalker in multiple cycles. For this cycle, I'd say she's clearly the worst. Cinder Pyromancer is not remotely constructed-playable and the planeswalker side here is extremely under-powered even if you could just cast it for three. I honestly can't think of any way to try to make this work in Standard, especially when Goblin Rabblemaster isn't even a given anymore.

I've stood up for Chandra Nalaar plenty, but this Chandra just doesn't cut it.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer // Nissa, Sage Animist

Once again, the image here sucks. Here's some card text:

Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2G Legendary Creature- Elf Scout (2/2)
When Nissa, Vastwood Seer enters the battlefield, you may search your library for a basic Forest card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.
Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, if you control seven or more lands, exile Nissa, then return her to the battlefield transformed under her owner's control.

Nissa, Sage Animist
Planeswalker- Nissa (3)
+1: Reveal the top card of your library. If it's a land card, put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise, put it into your hand.
-2: Put a legendary 4/4 green Elemental creature token named Ashaya, the Awoken World onto the battlefield.
-7: Untap up to six target lands. They become 6/6 Elemental creatures. They're still lands.

Nissa would clearly be absurd if you could just cast her for three, but given the way the card works she's really more like a seven-drop. The real tragedy here is that you only put the land that you tutor into your hand, so you don't even get chain Nissas to flip one early.

At the end of the day, Nissa generates card advantage, which makes her a solid option for breaking open grindy mirrors. She's definitely not as good as Elspeth and in a way occupies the same space that Elspeth should, though the tutoring for a land does make the decision to play her or, say, the fourth Elspeth less obvious.

If a Rampant Growth effect shows up in Origins then a deck with Nissa and Kiora might be a thing, but for now the support just isn't there. Atarka's Command also helps us turbo out Nissa, though the other modes on the card just don't make sense in a Nissa deck. Nissa seems great with the proper support--we just don't have it yet.


Planeswalkers were very misunderstood when they were first printed, and indeed many new Magic cards are. This cycle is one of the wildest things to happen to Magic in some time, and I'm excited to get to work battling with them. Except for Chandra. Man, she really sucks.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.

Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.

Quiet Speculation