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Card Type
Subtype Planeswalker type
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Parts of a Magic card 3

Planeswalker card: 1) card name, 2) mana cost, 3) type line, 4) Loyalty ability, 5) Ultimate ability, 6) starting loyalty

In the storyline of Magic: The Gathering, planeswalkers are among the most powerful beings in the multiverse. Within the game, they represent the thematic identities of the players. The idea of them having loyalty counters further enhances this idea. Planeswalker is also a card type within the game.

Player identity[ | ]

As part of the lore of the game, each player is meant to be a planeswalker, which has been a part of the lore and marketing since the Alpha rule book.[1] This hasn't changed despite the radical changes to planeswalkers that have occurred throughout the series. The lore behind what the "planeswalker" type means has changed as the rules around them vary, but it has been somewhere between "calling in a favor" - which reflects loyalty - and some form of time manipulation - to justify deceased characters and multiple selves.

In terms of the rules engine, however, players are not related to the type "planeswalker" for targeting. Attempts to retain flavorful rule quirks (planeswalker redirection, type-line uniqueness) have been revoked in favor of more practical gameplay.

Card type[ | ]

Fendari Garruk

Original Future Sight playtest card for Garruk.

Planeswalker card types were introduced in Lorwyn.[2][3][4] Like the player, a planeswalker card represents a powerful being that can move from plane to plane.[5][6] Planeswalkers borrowed their "attack me to lower my loyalty" mechanic from something called structures that Richard Garfield made for Ravnica: City of Guilds, but never had been used.[7] An earlier design for planeswalkers, meant to be introduced in Future Sight would later inspire the design of Sagas.[8][9][10]

Planeswalkers have an intrinsic ability to enter the battlefield with a set number of loyalty counters, printed in the lower right of the card. A planeswalker can be attacked, like a player, or be damaged by an opponent's spell or ability. Any damage dealt to planeswalkers removes that many loyalty counters and a planeswalker with no loyalty counters is put into the graveyard. Changing the card type to another will remove this vulnerability. Much of the development revolves around the fact the strongest answer to a planeswalker is being attacked by a board of creatures, and the turnwise advantage engine makes it prized against all archetypes.

Planeswalkers usually have three abilities: one ability that adds loyalty counters as a cost for a small benefit, one that removes a small number of counters as a cost for a larger effect, and one that removes a large number of loyalty counters for a big effect. The last effect is commonly referred to as the planeswalker's "ultimate" ability and usually leaves the opponent in a devastated state. The starting loyalty of a planeswalker is commonly significantly lower than the cost of its ultimate and a player has to build up the loyalty to access it.

Unlike most other cards in a set, planeswalkers are designed by the people who work on Standard (currently the Play Design team; formerly the development team, with contributions from people who played in the Future Future League).[11] Due to Mythic exclusivity, storyline relevance and recency bias, planeswalkers that overshot on power level are often greatly maligned.

Until War of the Spark, all planeswalkers had been printed with the mythic rare rarity, except for Ajani Goldmane, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, and Garruk Wildspeaker, which debuted in the Lorwyn block when the mythic rare rarity did not yet exist. War of the Spark featured rare and even uncommon planeswalkers.[12] All planeswalkers in the set have a static or triggered ability. In addition, the uncommon planeswalkers have only a minus loyalty ability (no plus abilities),[13] the rare planeswalkers have a plus and a minus loyalty ability,[14] and the mythic rare planeswalkers have the usual three loyalty abilities.[15]

By the time of Zendikar Rising, Planeswalkers could be released with set-specific mechanics (something which was previously avoided).[16] Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty introduced the first planeswalker-exclusive keyword in compleated.

Phyrexia: All Will Be One introduced Ichormoon Gauntlet, the first card to grant non-copied loyalty abilities to planeswalkers. March of the Machine's Commander release printed a cycle of "Talents", which are the first Auras to specifically enchant planeswalkers, and also grant them a new loyalty ability.

Starting with Wilds of Eldraine,it was announced that the number of Planeswalker cards would generally be scaled back to one per premier set.[17] This decision was both story-driven and play-design-driven.[18] However, because of the cancellation of The Big Score epilogue set, its planeswalker card Jace Reawakened was added to Outlaws of Thunder Junction just three sets later as its second planeswalker card alongside Oko, the Ringleader.[19]

Planeswalker symbol[ | ]

Main article: Planeswalker symbol
Planeswalker symbol correct width

Planeswalker symbol

The handprint-like planeswalker symbol {PW} symbolizes planeswalkers and their ability to traverse the planes of the Multiverse.[20][21] It is, for example, used to planeswalk in the Planechase format, as part of the Masters 25 expansion symbol, and hidden in card art (e.g., Barren Glory and Omniscience). It seems to refer to the different paths or planes that a planeswalker can choose to walk. Specifically: five choices, as in the five colors of Magic. On the other hand, Mark Rosewater has said that it also has a “five becoming one” aspect, to match Magic's ethos of the colors working together.[22][23] The latter could also mean there is a connection to the Lorwyn Five or the Gatewatch.

Rules[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

A card type. A planeswalker is a permanent. See rule 306, “Planeswalkers.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 306. Planeswalkers
    • 306.1. A player who has priority may cast a planeswalker card from their hand during a main phase of their turn when the stack is empty. Casting a planeswalker as a spell uses the stack. (See rule 601, “Casting Spells.”)
    • 306.2. When a planeswalker spell resolves, its controller puts it onto the battlefield under their control.
    • 306.3. Planeswalker subtypes are always a single word and are listed after a long dash: “Planeswalker — Jace.” Each word after the dash is a separate subtype. Planeswalker subtypes are also called planeswalker types. Planeswalkers may have multiple subtypes. See rule 205.3j for the complete list of planeswalker types.
    • 306.4. Previously, planeswalkers were subject to a “planeswalker uniqueness rule” that stopped a player from controlling two planeswalkers of the same planeswalker type. This rule has been removed and planeswalker cards printed before this change have received errata in the Oracle card reference to have the legendary supertype. Like other legendary permanents, they are subject to the “legend rule” (see rule 704.5j).
    • 306.5. Loyalty is a characteristic only planeswalkers have.
      • 306.5a The loyalty of a planeswalker card not on the battlefield is equal to the number printed in its lower right corner.
      • 306.5b A planeswalker has the intrinsic ability “This permanent enters the battlefield with a number of loyalty counters on it equal to its printed loyalty number.” This ability creates a replacement effect (see rule 614.1c).
      • 306.5c The loyalty of a planeswalker on the battlefield is equal to the number of loyalty counters on it.
      • 306.5d Each planeswalker has a number of loyalty abilities, which are activated abilities with loyalty symbols in their costs. Loyalty abilities follow special rules: A player may activate a loyalty ability of a permanent they control any time they have priority and the stack is empty during a main phase of their turn, but only if none of that permanent’s loyalty abilities have been activated that turn. See rule 606, “Loyalty Abilities.”
    • 306.6. Planeswalkers can be attacked. (See rule 508, “Declare Attackers Step.”)
    • 306.7. Previously, planeswalkers were subject to a redirection effect that allowed a player to have noncombat damage that would be dealt to an opponent be dealt to a planeswalker under that opponent’s control instead. This rule has been removed and certain cards have received errata in the Oracle card reference to deal damage directly to planeswalkers.
    • 306.8. Damage dealt to a planeswalker results in that many loyalty counters being removed from it.
    • 306.9. If a planeswalker’s loyalty is 0, it’s put into its owner’s graveyard. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Planeswalker Symbol
The Planeswalker symbol appears on the planar die in the Planechase casual variant. See rule 107.11.

From the "planeswalker uniqueness rule" to the "legend rule"[ | ]

Planeswalker cards used to have a similar rule to the "legend rule": If a player controls two or more planeswalkers that share a planeswalker type, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners’ graveyards. This was called the "planeswalker uniqueness rule".

Starting with Ixalan, this rule was abandoned.[24] All planeswalkers past, present, and future gained the supertype legendary and became subject to the "legend rule". Thus, if a player controls more than one legendary planeswalker with the same name, that player chooses one and puts the other into their owner's graveyard. This has also enabled planeswalkers without types to be printed, such as The Wanderer.

The change was made to simplify gameplay.[25][26][27]

There are no current plans to create nonlegendary planeswalkers.[28]

Planeswalker redirection rule[ | ]

Up until Rivals of Ixalan the following rule was in place: If noncombat damage would be dealt to a player by a source controlled by an opponent, that opponent may have that source deal that damage to a planeswalker the former player controls instead. This is a redirection effect (see rule 614.9) and is subject to the normal rules for ordering replacement effects (see rule 616). The opponent chooses whether to redirect the damage as the redirection effect is applied.

Starting with Dominaria this "planeswalker redirection rule" was removed. Instead, each relevant card will tell you on the card specifically whether the card dealing direct damage can target planeswalkers. Older cards received errata to have "player" changed to "player or planeswalker", and similarly for "target opponent". Most others that could previously target a "creature or player" would now refer to simply "any target", defined to include creatures, players, and planeswalkers.[29][30][31][32][33]

Rulings[ | ]

  • Planeswalkers are permanents. You can cast one at any time you could cast a sorcery. When your planeswalker spell resolves, it enters the battlefield under your control.
  • Planeswalkers are not creatures. Spells and abilities that affect creatures won't affect them. They can become creatures by spells or abilities, though, such as the abilities of several Sarkhan and Gideon planeswalkers, among others.
  • All planeswalkers have supertype "legendary" and are subject to the "legend rule". Planeswalkers with the same subtypes can exist under your control as long as they are not of the same name.
  • Planeswalkers each have activated abilities called "loyalty abilities." You can activate the loyalty ability of a planeswalker you control only at the time you could cast a sorcery and only if you haven't activated one of that planeswalker's loyalty abilities yet that turn.
  • The cost to activate a planeswalker's loyalty ability is represented by a box with a number inside. Boxes with a point facing up contain positive numbers, such as "+1"; this means "Put one loyalty counter on this planeswalker". Boxes with a point facing down contain negative numbers, such as "-7"; this means "Remove seven loyalty counters from this planeswalker". You can't activate a planeswalker's ability with a negative loyalty cost unless the planeswalker has at least that many loyalty counters on it.
  • Planeswalkers can't attack (unless an ability such as the one from Gideon Jura's third ability adds the creature type). However, they can be attacked. Each of your attacking creatures can attack your opponent or a planeswalker that the player controls. You say which as you declare attackers.
  • If your planeswalkers are being attacked, you can block the attackers as normal.
  • If a creature that's attacking a planeswalker isn't blocked, it'll deal its combat damage to that planeswalker, regardless of what other types the planeswalker has.
  • A planeswalker is removed from combat if it's being attacked but ceases to be a planeswalker. Its attackers will not be removed from combat and will still exchange combat damage with any blockers, but will not deal damage to the (former) planeswalker it was attacking.
  • Any damage dealt to a planeswalker causes that many loyalty counters to be removed from it. This does not apply if they have ceased to be planeswalkers, such as if they have turned into a creature (in that case, creature rulings apply).[34] If they are both a planeswalker and a creature, damage affects them as both types, so they do lose loyalty and also have the damage marked on them as creatures.[35]
  • If a planeswalker is also a creature, it may block as normal, including blocking a creature attacking the planeswalker itself! It deals combat damage as normal as a blocker but does not deal combat damage to creatures attacking it that are unblocked (or which deal trample damage to it).[36]
  • Loyalty abilities can be used by non-planeswalkers. A planeswalker that turns into a creature can still use its loyalty abilities, with the same timing restrictions and the same cost or addition of loyalty counters as usual.[34] It will not go to the graveyard for having 0 loyalty until it becomes a planeswalker again.

Subtypes[ | ]

The subtype for planeswalkers is called planeswalker type and is exclusive to planeswalkers.

R&D have decided that they don't want to have to rein in other card types because they might dangerously impact planeswalkers. They decided not to add these other types when they chose to not make Karn an artifact Planeswalker.[37]

Planeswalker commanders[ | ]

Some planeswalkers (including some pre-Mending era planeswalkers) are now represented as planeswalker cards that can be used as commanders. Some have text allowing them to be commanders, while others are double-faced cards with legendary creatures on the front side and planeswalkers on the back side. The current number of planeswalkers that can be used as commanders is 36, which come from the following sets with the subsequent subtypes:

Planeswalker interaction[ | ]

During the time of release, planeswalkers were rarely referred to in the rules text, being withheld from commons to increase the mystique of the card type. Over time, and especially after the release of War of the Spark, R&D relaxed this requirement, and now many more spells can interact with them.

  • White is the color that most interacts with planeswalkers. It can search the library for them and get them back from the graveyard, among other positive interactions.[38]
  • Black is the primary color that can have the text "destroy target creature or planeswalker".[39] A small number remove counters from planeswalkers or a subset of permanents.
  • Red previously could damage planeswalkers through the planeswalker redirection rule, but with the rule change damage spells now need to specify planeswalkers as valid targets. Due to Lava Axe type effects being liabilities often, both damage spells to creatures and damage spells to players may now carry planeswalkers as secondary targets.
  • Green doesn't call out the planeswalker type by name (Nissa's Defeat being an exception), but can destroy non-creature permanents; however, this effect is fairly rare, and to compensate for some of Green's Bite effects have started to target planeswalkers.
  • Blue normally countered planeswalkers alongside other noncreature spells like with Negate. Lately blue has now some creature-target counterspells that also hit planeswalkers (Reject, Anticognition), and also some bounce spells and controlling spells that hit creatures or planeswalkers (Barrin, Tolarian Archmage, Mass Manipulation).

Non-canon planeswalkers[ | ]

Some iconic Dungeons & Dragons characters have appeared as Planeswalker cards in the cross-over sets Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. However, this does not mean that these characters have a planeswalker's spark. According to Wizards of the Coast, they wanted to make these characters as cool as they could be, and as Planeswalkers were a regular part of new Magic sets, the Planeswalker card type in their opinion would make a great fit.[40][41]

Further non-canon planeswalkers were originally said to be found in sets belonging to the Universes Beyond-series.[42] Later, it was said that they were planning to do planeswalkers in Wizards owned IPs only.[43][44]

In retrospect, Mark Rosewater thinks that R&D should not have put them in the D&D sets either.[45]

Storyline[ | ]

Main article: Planeswalker (lore)

Gallery[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. John Carter (December 25, 2004). "The Original Magic Rulebook". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (November 05, 2007). "Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part I". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (November 12, 2007). "Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part II". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (August 05, 2013). "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mark Rosewater. (September 3, 2007.) "Planeswalker Rules. Planeswalking the Walk",, Wizards of the Coast. (Internet Archive snapshot)
  6. Doug Beyer (September 10, 2007). "The Era of the Planeswalker". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Mark Rosewater (April 28, 2018). "Some birthday trivia about planeswalkers!". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  8. Mark Rosewater (May 17, 2021). "Future Sight Design Handoff Document". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Mark Rosewater (March 13, 2018). "It feels like the sagas are the original planeswalker design from future sight.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  10. Mark Rosewater (Mark Rosewater). "Returning Home". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Melissa DeTora (January 19, 2018). "Designing Rivals of Ixalan Planeswalkers". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Mark Rosewater (April 1, 2019). "Waging War of the Spark, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Mark Rosewater (March 31, 2019). "Do all the uncommon planeswalkers only have minus loyalty abilities?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  14. Mark Rosewater (March 31, 2019). "Do all the rare walkers only have a plus AND a minus ability with no ultimate?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  15. Mark Rosewater (March 31, 2019). "Does every planeswalker in War of the Spark have a non-loyalty ability?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  16. Mark Rosewater (September 21, 2020). "More Zendikar Rising Stars". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Magic: The Gathering (July 28, 2023). "Mark confirms the general intent is that it is one Planeswalker per set.". Twitter.
  18. Mark Rosewater (July 28, 2023). "Was the shift to one planeswalker card per set more story-driven or play-design-driven?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  19. Outlaws of Thunder Junction - Debut Aftershow (Video). Magic: The Gathering. YouTube (March 27, 2024).
  20. Magic Arcana (December 30, 2009). "What's That Symbol?". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Mark Rosewater (December 17, 2012). "Do you happen to know what the "planeswalker symbol" actually represents?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  22. Mark Rosewater (November 19, 2017). "Do you have any trivia or interesting perspective on the Planeswalker Symbol?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  23. Mark Rosewater (December 2, 2018). "Can you talk about what the symbology of the Planeswalker symbol is? Why a “handprint”-like design?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  24. Matt Tabak (August 28, 2017). "Ixalan Mechanics". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Mark Rosewater (August 28, 2017). "Why was there a need to make planeswalkers legendary?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  26. Mark Rosewater (August 28, 2017). "Having multiple versions of the same planeswalker character out seems 'wrong'.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  27. Mark Rosewater (September 02, 2017). "Do you think it's a flavor fail to be able to summon more than one of the same legendary character from the Multiverse?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  28. Mark Rosewater (October 16, 2017). "Odds & Ends: Ixalan, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  29. Aaron Forsythe on Twitter
  30. Mark Rosewater (October 07, 2017). "What planeswalker redirection rule change?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  31. Mark Rosewater (March 07, 2018). "How soon will we see the planeswalker redirection rule change implemented?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  32. Aaron Forsythe (March 21, 2018). "Dominaria Frame, Template and Rules Changes". Wizards of the Coast.
  33. Eli Shiffrin (April 13, 2018). "Dominaria Oracle Changes". Wizards of the Coast.
  34. a b Cf. rules text for Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker.
  35. Cf. Gideon Blackblade.
  36. Cf. Gideon, Champion of Justice.
  37. Mark Rosewater (November 15, 2019). "Do you think we'll ever see planeswalkers combined with other types?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  38. Mark Rosewater (October 18, 2021). "Mechanical Color Pie 2021 Changes". Wizards of the Coast.
  39. Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2017). "Mechanical Color Pie 2017". Wizards of the Coast.
  40. Magic: The Gathering (May 20, 2021). "To get it out of the way: This doesn't mean that these characters have a Planeswalker Spark.". Twitter.
  41. Mark Rosewater (August 9, 2021). "Odds & Ends: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  42. Mark Rosewater (July 5, 2021). "Will UB sets be allowed to make do without planeswalkers?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  43. Mark Rosewater (June 11, 2023). "Is no planeswalkers going to be the norm for Universes Beyond, or did they just not fit in 40K and LotR?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  44. Mark Rosewater (April 12, 2024). "That has been decided, so I would set your expectations accordingly.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  45. Mark Rosewater (December 1, 2023). "I’ve noticed that “Universe Beyond” sets don’t ever seem to have planeswalker cards.". Blogatog. Tumblr.

External links[ | ]