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Planeswalkers Don't Have Feelings and That Matters

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Readers!

I hate to be the bearer of disturbing news, but Planeswalkers, fictional characters all of them, don't have real feelings. They were created by the team at Wizards of the Coast and despite having proper names and a loyalty score which some might say represents their "life" total, they cannot experience pain or sorrow or, and this is the most important one, salt. A planeswalker will be scoured from reality with a removal spell or smashed into by a giant creature, and it won't hold a grudge. You could attack a Planeswalker with a +1 loyalty ability with a 2/2 creature 5 times until you finally make it feel disloyal enough to go somewhere else, but that Planeswalker won't hold it against you. In fact, you can make the player whose 'walker just died feel like it was their fault you killed their card and you can explain to them that if they didn't want to have their planeswalker executed in front of them, perhaps they shouldn't have played a planeswalker. Maybe the player feels salty, maybe the player does not, but the planeswalker never feels salty because it can't. It's a piece of cardboard.

When you think about it in those terms, it seems almost fraught to bring a piece of cardboard to a game of Commander. If you play a Lurking Predators and someone gets it with a Krosan Grip, you may be a little miffed because you wanted to do Lurky things and get value out of your card but someone had the removal for it and as long as there wasn't a much better target, you tend to kind of shrug your shoulders. It's what you would have done. So, it's natural to feel the same way about a Planeswalker, a card that could potentially go ultimate and harm the table when someone kills it. However, I think it's a LOT more likely that your Planeswalker will get killed than that your Enchantment will be destroyed. There are quite a few reasons for this, and I will get into them.

First of all, everyone has Planeswalker removal. They're called creatures, and the table is likely to have three times as many as you do. While playing a Lurking Predators forces K Grip player to have K Grip, if players can just chip away at your walker, no one player has to be solely responsible for killing it, they can all pitch in. Don't they feel bad doing that? Of course not, a piece of cardboard has no feelings and players don't feel the same remorse for removing a Planeswalker as they do attacking a player, even for 2 or 3 damage. Even if you get salty about having your 'walkers descended upon at first opportunity, players don't feel as awkward attacking a 'walker as they do attacking a player, especially early. If everyone is at 40 life, chances are everyone with a creature will attack the Planeswalker before they change someone's life total, and that's an important dynamic to understand. People shouldn't feel any guilt or awkwardness for attacking someone early in the game because early damage can matter later when it's harder to attack. That said, people are still less reluctant to attack a Planeswalker, especially if all of the cool kids are doing it and no one has quite established themselves as the archenemy.

Since it's easier both physically and emotionally to get rid of a Planeswalker, it's going to happen unless you have a plan. I have long been of the opinion that it takes a deck somewhat dedicated to Planeswalkers to make enough of them stick around to do anything, and I never want to devote that much deck-space to making sure Planeswalkers stick around. That said, it's very possible; I have some ideas and if you want to find the space, you can make sure you get as much value from Planeswalkers as you do from Enchantments. It takes some work and it takes some deck slots, but if you put the work in, you'll benefit from having a powerful companion that draws some focus, gets you some value and if you play your cards right, sticks around for more than one turn cycle.

Deter

Cunning Rhetoric
Marchesa's Decree
Revenge of Ravens

Not all cards are templated this way, unfortunately, but more and more cards lately will trigger if someone attacks you OR a Planeswalker you control. If they can attack your Planeswalkers with impunity but risk some sort of drawback if they attack you, you haven't incentivized them to attack a different player. Players who find it unpleasant to have other players use their cards will think twice about swinging at your Planeswalkers when you have a Cunning Rhetoric out. Marchesa's Decree can do double duty sometimes- punishing them for attacking you and introducing the Monarch mechanic to the game so they attack each other to get that card advantage. A lot of cards that use the Monarch mechanic work better if you are the Monarch, but there is a strategic benefit to losing it immediately and not trying to get it back to let them fight each other. Revenge of Ravens, Blood Reckoning, Riddlekeeper - any small deterrent helps your cause. In fact, I recently added Riddlekeeper to my Tasha, the Witch Queen deck that I use to play on stream because it fills their 'yards with useful spells or it keeps the heat of the larger-than-normal number of Planeswalkers in that deck. I just love Planeswalkers that say "Liliana" on them - both because that's my daughter's name and also because Liliana tends to get creatures out of the graveyard and make them your creatures. I'd love effects like that to stick around. Besides, it's awkward when someone says "I'll kill Liliana" and I say "We've all thought about it." I summoned her, I can unsummon her, or whatever my parents used to say.

Prevent

Dueling Grounds
Silent Arbiter
Blazing Archon

If deterring them to leave your 'walkies alone, why not just not let that be an option? If the table has lots of creatures and you can't possibly play three times as many creatures to have enough blockers, why not instead work on just three? If you play Crawlspace, suddenly you only have to deal with 3 creatures a turn cycle rather than as many as they feel like sending at poor Oko Editor's Note: Crawlspace actually doesn't work that way. Dueling Grounds, Silent Arbiter, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, Blazing Archon - plenty of Magic cards reduce the number of creatures that may attack you down to one or even zero. The same Sphere of Safety that routinely saves your bacon in an Estrid, the Masked deck protects Estrid, too, leaving you free to do shenanigans.

If you can't prevent the attack, you can always prevent the damage. Constant Mists, Fog Frog shenanigans, Sunstone and Glacial Crevasses - there are a lot of ways to prevent combat damage from being dealt and therefore making your opponent tire themselves out trying to damage your walkers fruitlessly. Are they going to keep tilting at windmills and leave themselves open to counterattack, will they just attack someone else, or will they keep their creatures at home? Only one way to find out. A well placed Aetherspouts or Settle the Wreckage will make your 'walkers seem like a much less attractive target and they might set the most aggressive player at the table back to the stone age, which is always fun for the whole table. Well, 75% of the table will be happy, anyway, which I think is where that name comes from.

If it's spell removal and not attacks you're worried about, might I suggest packing some countermagic? Narset's Reversal on a Vindicate streaking right for the head of your favorite Texas ranger could really turn the tide of a game. Protecting your investment from spell-based threats is just as important, and if you're not in Blue at all, there are other ways. Cards like Privileged Position can be vital tools in your arsenal, and let's not forget Teferi's Protection, too.

Overwhelm

Just play more Planeswalkers. If you have one and they kill it, you saved some damage and maybe got an activation or two, but if you play a more dangerous 'Walker, they'll switch gears and attack that Planeswalker. More choices means more chances for them to make a mistake, and if you start tutoring for them, doubling their counters to make them tougher to kill or doing some Chain Veil shenanigans, you'll quickly take their attempts to attack with creatures off the table. Elspeth wiping the board, Liliana resurrecting attackers as blockers, Gideon... turning himself into a creature for some reason but also being a Worship, which is rad - you have options. The more Walkers, the more confusion and you benefit from confusion.

I'd like to recommend a small package of Planeswalker protection every time you play with more than 4 or 5 Planeswalkers in your deck. Properly protected, they're a constant source of value, stress for the opponent, a division of their forces and a serious threat with lots of powerful emblems and ultimate abilities possible. I don't play with Planeswalkers enough and I certainly don't include them in decks often enough. Cut some cute cards and throw in a Crawlspace or a Sunstone to protect that investment and it will pay itself back a million times over.

That does it for me - thanks for reading and don't forget to share this on social media. Until next time!

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