View Full Version : MtG Planeswalkers // Map vs Territory

2019-04-04, 11:13 AM
So, if you have a psychological aversion to moving goalposts, you may hate this thread. Because I'm not sure I'm after what I think I'm after. You've been warned.

Ostensibly, my question is pretty simple: can anyone explain the modern perception of MtG mages, and what the difference between a "normal" MtG mage and a "planeswalker" is?

But I think that this question will get into "rules as map vs rules as territory" territory.

See, in the original novels, the authors rather firmly reinforced the notion that MtG gameplay pretty well mirrored the territory: casters went around collecting links to lands and creatures, carried physical talismans to remind them of these links, and accessed them randomly during their battles. So, two players sitting down with decks? That was a (more or less) "perfect" simulation of the battle between two MtG mages.

It was even complete with the assumption of playing for ante paralleling creatures being left behind when a mage lost.

But, more and more, I'm getting the feel that the "feel" of the MtG mage isn't necessarily tied 1-to-1 back to the CCG. That the rules of the CCG are more and more treated as just an abstraction rather than a simulation.

So... what is the modern MtG mage? How are they / their abilities defined?

And, that out of the way, what distinguishes a "planeswalker", exactly?

Lastly, how does that make you feel?

Clear as mud?

2019-04-04, 11:44 AM
I think it's important to distinguish that a Planeswalker is basically just a classic mage (with your description) that happened to get their Planeswalker Spark, which is triggered by some traumatic experience that allows them to travel to other Planes from some universal magical power. Once they've accidentally done it once, it gets a lot easier to do on command.

You can see this pretty well with someone like Gideon (or Kitheon, when he was younger). Gideon's only real magical power was becoming physically indestructible. After accidentally destroying his own city and being the only survivor, his Planeswalker Spark happened and he now had Planeswalker powers. He's still very limited in his power. Many years, battles, and releases later, he's basically the same friggin' thing. His powers have always been limited to "I become hard to kill, and I punch the thing", or "People like me, because I punch the thing, so I suggest that THEY punch the thing!" He's...not very bright. Being a Planeswalker helps him run away from fights he can't win, or it helps him gain more experience and learn new things and meet new people, but it doesn't inherently make him any better of a mage.

Planeswalking gave the excuse to create more abstract worlds and still tie them into other, unrelated worlds. Now, instead of transitioning from a Fire World to a Jungle World with no real reasoning and two entirely separate stories, the sets transition from the Fire World to the Jungle World because that's where Jace just happened to go to next and we happen to be following his narrative for the time being.

Mechanically, it does kinda make sense, considering how available board wipes are now and how restrictive direct damage has become over time. When a nuke is dropped on the world that destroys the entire battlefield, how else is your Mage still alive if they didn't warp somewhere else? With them warping all over the place, it's much harder to burst them down from direct damage alone (using something like a Grapeshot Storm combo).

2019-04-04, 02:25 PM
Well, I suppose that that answers my secondary question about "what makes a (modern) Planeswalker different".

However, when a Gideon deck summons soldiers, it sounds like that doesn't represent Gideon summoning soldiers (since he's apparently inept at that sort of thing). So, instead, we have a single mechanic (random deck) representing two or more in-universe mechanics (casting spells, and allied aid), the extras of which don't necessarily map as well.

Sound about right?

2019-04-04, 02:36 PM
Well, I suppose that that answers my secondary question about "what makes a (modern) Planeswalker different".

However, when a Gideon deck summons soldiers, it sounds like that doesn't represent Gideon summoning soldiers (since he's apparently inept at that sort of thing). So, instead, we have a single mechanic (random deck) representing two or more in-universe mechanics (casting spells, and allied aid), the extras of which don't necessarily map as well.

Sound about right?

Sure, but too be fair, there are plenty of legendaries that don't match their narratives. For example, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, was a Barbarian gladiator, turned Druid.

Despite having gladiator experience, he's actually a terrible bruiser for his cost. Even though he was a Druid, his card abilities don't match his actual narrative talents (with his card turning a bunch of plants into monsters and then using Overrun multiple times when you have stupid amounts of mana).

My point is, WotC still has to diversify things using card mechanics, and sometimes that doesn't always fit 100% with what the card's lore is from. Gideon's big thing is that he can't die and he's frustratingly likable, so they took that and see what limits they could push that kinda fits. Because if they just kept reprinting the same cards over and over again, they'd lose money (of course, that still doesn't stop them from printing Gideon with the same friggin' ability every single time).

2019-04-04, 02:56 PM
Well, they can cast plane shift at will, for one thing. More generally?

Easy power. But that's an oversimplification, because current, post-Time Spiral planeswalkers, also called "neowalkers," are powerful but not, like, that powerful. They get some free superpowers and only the mightiest of mortals can stand up to those. That ... doesn't necessarily square well with the "players are planeswalkers" thing, because lots of planeswalkers don't seem like they could be players.

In the past, we had so-called "oldwalkers," and they were different. Oldwalkers are phenomenally, unthinkably powerful, so much so that they generally couldn't be the protagonists of MtG stories unless reality itself was in danger and/or the antagonist was named Yawgmoth. They were mages, artificers, summoners, scholars, and more - ageless winners of the Doctor Manhattan Prize. For them, the "I have a sixty-card deck," bit definitely made more sense. But again: it was hard to place them at the center of stories. Until the power-down in Time Spiral, they would go numerous blocks with barely an appearance for the simple reason that they'd be able to resolve the plot at will.

That's bad for marketing. If you're going to tell players, "this could be you," you want to make your tie-in fiction actually star the characters in question. For the same reason, Neowalkers tend to be a lot sexier and younger and cooler than Oldwalkers on balance, who were a motley collection of psychotic wizard-gods.

For comparison: the iconic oldwalker (https://gamepedia.cursecdn.com/mtgsalvation_gamepedia/9/9d/Urza1.jpg?version=e4618c4b50b602518e8bcfc7d5ece6c9 ), and the iconic neowalker (https://mtg.gamepedia.com/File:Jace2.jpg).

tl;dr Planeswalkers used to be lunatic summoners and schemers fielding armies and impossible powers, but they got a power down to make them more relatable.

2019-04-04, 10:06 PM
For the map argument, you have old mechanics like [land]-walking that basically makes a creature unblockable. Also the map argument then makes sense that you somewhat place your "lair" or "stronghold" in the lands you linked to your mana base. And [land]-walking is no mystical thing either, but just a rangery "I know where to go and what to do"-thing.

Another more important question is imho a sense of scale and decks so to speak. You have the world Ixalan where the goal of basically any planeswalker is to get to the Immortal Sun first. If you have a (control) deck that plays that, that doesn't necessarily mean you got a spare one in your pocket but just that you got to it in time.

Have a Grixis deck with Nicol Bolas for example. Your character suddenly "controls" one of the most powerful beings in Magic, you channel your magic to kill and main your opponents, you lock them out of spells (discard mechanics). You play vs. a Boros general that generally just summons a few champions.

In broader (D&Desque) game mechanics, you just play an immortal dragon god vs. someone who is just an army general with a bit of skill towards fire and lightning spells. The power disparity is immense, but imho you can explain that away that a planeswalker starts off on a plane with no links to the planes' mana sources (start of the game). Dragon god has to link much much more mana to get going while Boros dude basically just waltzes into their headquarters and points at three soldiers and says: "you, you and you, come with me."

2019-04-05, 04:17 PM
You, the player, are one of the old planeswalkers that survived the Time Spiral. You are like unto a god when compared with these new planeswalkers you demand loyalty from. However these new planeswalkers are not nothing, they are like demigods compared to the other wizards you can summon. These new planeswalkers at least understand how to walk between planes even if they can't compare to the player.

When I play a knight, it might be a Knight Exemplar (http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=243431). When Gideon (http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=401897) makes a knight it might be a normal knight (https://6d4be195623157e28848-7697ece4918e0a73861de0eb37d08968.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.c om/105009_200w.jpg).

So you range across a plane creating connections with various locations of power while you amass an army to take down one of the rival old planewalkers "sitting" at the same "table". Depending on the circumstances your grand war might even span multiple planes (if you are using that format) where you are doing a dance of strategic retreats vs chases.