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"Planeswalker Pantheon" by Brad Rigney.

In the storyline of Magic: The Gathering, planeswalkers (or 'walkers) are among the most powerful beings in the multiverse.

Description[ | ]

The defining trait of planeswalkers is the ability to travel between separate universes with ease, while the vast majority of people throughout the multiverse are not even aware that other worlds exist besides their own. Planeswalking is a form of magic. With enough time and mana, or with specialized spell knowledge, or with access to enormous power, it's possible for a planeswalker to transfer clothing, artifacts, and/or creatures with them as they planeswalk.[1]

A planeswalker is specifically a being who possesses a planeswalker's spark, an imprint of aether on a being's soul.[2] In a way, Planeswalkers function as avatars of the Blind Eternities.[3] One in several million sentient beings is born with a planeswalker spark, and having it ignite is exceedingly rare.[4][5] Many of these die shortly after completing their first planeswalk: left in catatonic states, lost in the Blind Eternities, or simply dying due to the stress.[6][7] There are other beings who, through various means, are able to travel between planes, but they are not considered planeswalkers (Marit Lage, the Eldrazi, and the Myojin of Night's Reach, for example). Many prerevisionist characters were referred to as planeswalkers but may not actually have been; without any further information, they remain subject to debate.

There is only an incredibly remote chance that any given sentient and natural being is born with a planeswalker's spark. Planeswalkers can be born at random, with no outward signs of their latent power. Such a being is called an "ember".[2] Fewer still will ignite their spark. When an ember is put through a period of extreme stress or strong emotion, the spark can trigger, causing the individual to ascend and become a planeswalker.[8] Ignitions are often caused by near-death experiences, though it is possible for an ember to undergo such an experience — even dying — without igniting their spark.[9]

Planeswalking[ | ]

It can take weeks or months to get the hang of planeswalking, and it can take a lifetime to master it.[10] The act of Planeswalking is a spell, and like how every mage practices magic differently,[11] every planeswalker planeswalks slightly differently.[12] Some can planeswalk swiftly, some more slowly. Some require great effort to planeswalk, some can do it with ease. Some can planeswalk again in a short amount of time, some can take a while. Some can carry more inorganic material with them. A rare few can planeswalk organic material (and those usually have restrictions - Yanggu, for example, can only planeswalk with the questionably organic Mowu specifically, and Wrenn needs to be in a symbiotic relation with a Treefolk to take them with her). Kaya is exceptional in that she can merge her body and mind with another being and take that individual with her on a planeswalk.[13] Nissa had a packet of Zendikari seeds she planned to plant on another plane.[14] Ugin was able to bring Nicol Bolas to the Meditation Plane wrapped in his wings, though the Blind Eternities grievously injured and blinded Bolas, and it is implied that Bolas only survived the trip because he was a powerful Elder Dragon.[15]

Planeswalkers can planeswalk to specific locations, though their accuracy is determined by their experience, mana, time, and familiarity with the destination.[16] A planeswalker can also effectively teleport by planeswalking to the Blind Eternities and then back to another location on the same plane.[11][17]

Teferi Akosa described his first planeswalk as a passenger of Urza's as "like walking on clouds in a rainstorm through a rainbow. The colors were vibrant yet misty — at the same time," while Jhoira noted that she only felt nausea.[18] Karn likened it to floating it in water, while he compared traveling through time to walking against a windstorm. Chandra described her sense of other planes and planeswalking as akin to her peripheral senses.[19] A planeswalker's arrival can be sensed by the sound of their displacement of air.[20]

Any planeswalker can follow another planeswalker by following the "aether trails" in their immediate wake.[13][21][22] A planeswalker can potentially describe a plane or method of locating it to another planeswalker, but this method can be unpredictable.

It is unknown if a planeswalker's soul can planeswalk after death. Kaya Cassir speculated that her spirit would remain on the plane on which she died.[23]

Requirements[ | ]

For a creature to become a planeswalker under normal circumstances, they must have a soul and be a mage of some kind.[24] Artificial creatures like Angels and Demons, which are manifestations of mana, do not have the right soul or essence to hold a spark, although Calix managed to turn into a Planeswalker through some unknown process.[25] Up until recently, the requirement of a soul prevented Phyrexia from Compleating planeswalkers. Jin Gitaxias has since found a way to compleat them while preserving the soul enough to keep the spark. It is unknown at this time what the ramifications of this are for the planeswalker.[26]

Though the spark is inherently magical, beings with no magical training can attain a spark.[27]

History[ | ]

Pre-revisionist[ | ]

In original continuity, any sufficiently powerful wizard could become a planeswalker. Even non-planeswalker wizards familiar with two adjacent planes could travel from any location on one to the other, similar to passage between connected planes in Kaldheim's World Tree in modern continuity.[28]

Traditional planeswalkers[ | ]

Planeswalkers had incredible magical capabilities, surpassing all but the most powerful mortal wizards. Their lives could last indefinitely, and their physical forms were matters of will as they were energy projections of a center of consciousness. Through intense effort, planeswalkers could create their own artificial planes. Because of planeswalkers' prolonged life spans and immense power, some are worshipped as gods; many end up losing their sanity, or, at the very least, they come to regard the lives of mortals in low-esteem, if even at all.

Current planeswalkers[ | ]

The new breed of planeswalkers no longer displays the near-omnipotence of their predecessors. While planeswalker leads to broader experiences and a greater chance to learn, most planeswalkers are not any more powerful. They are still physical beings that in general age normally, can be harmed, and need the same sustenance as other mortals. They stopped being able to transport other people during a planeswalk. They can bring their clothes and some small items but, for example, not food.[29] This is in stark contrast to the earlier planeswalkers. Some of them have managed to suppress or avoid some of these limitations by magical means; however, these are specific to each planeswalker.

The new breed manifested itself for the first time in Venser of Urborg, a Dominarian artificer who participated in the solution of the Dominarian temporal crisis. Teferi's first theory was that the rifts mutated Venser's spark, which affected his ascension.

The new breed was born during the Mending, when Jeska sacrificed her life and her spark to mend all temporal rifts in the Multiverse (doing so on such a great scale was probably enabled by her former existence as Karona, the embodiment of Dominarian magic, and the fact that Dominaria is the Nexus of the Multiverse). The Mending caused a change in the very rules of the Multiverse and in the nature of the planeswalker sparks.

In March of the Machine: The Aftermath, it was revealed that the consequences of the New Phyrexian Invasion caused many planeswalkers to lose their sparks as the multiverse was forced to open paths between planes. At least twelve named planeswalker with printed cards were "demoted" to legendary creatures. What issue this was meant to address, be it a lack of planeswalker design or creative difficulties, is not yet revealed.

Reasons for change[ | ]

Pivotal for the Mending was the creative team's long-standing wish to make planeswalkers more identifiable.[30] Toning them down provided a solution that also cleared the ways for the new planeswalker card type.[31] This, in turn, allowed planeswalkers to be not only the focus of the storyline but also of brand identity.

A further change was made in Commander 2014: planeswalker cards no longer represent the full power of planeswalkers themselves, but only the amount of assistance a planeswalker is willing to provide to the player.[32] Such changes made any planeswalker, including pre-Mending planeswalkers, available for printing as a planeswalker card in the future.

The change in Aftermath would allow for non-planeswalker characters to interact across planes, and also lower the number of planeswalkers necessary to carry a story.

References[ | ]

  1. Doug Beyer (December 12, 2007). "Goodies from the Mailbag". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b Jay Annelli (2022). Magic: The Gathering - The Visual Guide, DK. ISBN-13 978-0744061055.
  3. Seanan McGuire (January 18, 2024). "Roots of Decay, the DVD extras". Seanan McGuire.
  4. Doug Beyer (June 24, 2009). "Odd Job". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Pete Venters, Kij Johnson, and Scott Hungerford (April 1997). "Dominian Chronicles". The Duelist #16, p.63-65
  6. Adam Lee (August 25, 2010). "Slime, Trials, and the Inner Garruk". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on September 22, 2020.
  7. Doug Beyer (May 2, 2013). "Traumatic spark ignition". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  8. Doug Beyer (August 4, 2015). "Spark Ignition". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  9. Doug Beyer (March 28, 2015). "A latent planeswalker spark isn’t a guaranteed Get Out of Death Free card". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  10. Doug Beyer (August 13, 2013). "The power of planeswalking". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  11. a b Michael Yichao (March 2019, 2017). "Impact". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Mark Rosewater (April 7, 2019). "Do any planeswalkers besides Yanggu have special planeswalking powers?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  13. a b Greg Weisman (November 2019). "War of the Spark: Forsaken". Del Rey.
  14. Kimberly J. Kreines (September 23, 2015). "Nissa's Quest". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Greg Weisman (April 2019). "War of the Spark: Ravnica". Del Rey.
  16. Doug Beyer (January 08, 2015). "A lot of factors contribute to how accurate your planeswalking is". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  17. Langley Hyde (August 11, 2022). "Sand in the Hourglass". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Will McDermott (April 1999). "Scars of the Legacy". The Official Urza's Legacy Game Guide
  19. Magic Creative Team (February 1, 2017). "Renewal". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Emily Teng (May 2, 2023). "March of the Machine: The Aftermath - Beyond Repair". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Doug Beyer (March 28, 2014). "Is it possible for a PW to communicate to another PW the location of a plane which the latter has never visited?". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  22. Valerie Valdes (July 1, 2024). "Bloomburrow Episode 1: Calamity Comes to Valley". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Seanan McGuire (January 18, 2024). "Episode 10: Roots of Decay". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Sparking Joy: The History of What Makes a Planeswalker. Hipsters of the Coast (May 15, 2019).
  25. Doug Beyer. "Although demons and angels cant get the spark...". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  26. Akemi Dawn Bowman (January 27, 2022). "Episode 5: Threads of War". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Doug Beyer (December 7, 2014). "The planeswalker spark is inherently magical". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  28. Richard Garfield. (1994). "Dominia and Its Walkers." Magic: The Gathering Pocket Player's Guide. Wizards of the Coast.
  29. Magic Story Podcast: The Mending (May 3, 2018)
  30. Mark Rosewater. (September 3, 2007.) "Planeswalker Rules. Planeswalking the Walk",, Wizards of the Coast. (Internet Archive snapshot)
  31. Matt Cavotta (September 06, 2007). "The Last Quack". Wizards of the Coast.
  32. Mark Rosewater (January 19, 2015). "Fate-Ful Stories, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.