I still don't understand why players hate Planeswalkers.

General forum

Posted on March 18, 2023, 12:03 p.m. by TypicalTimmy

Granted I entered MTG after Planeswalkers were a thing, and the first batch of them did have ultimates that generally speaking were wincons in their own right many of the times, but I truly do not understand why so many people are against them even to this day.

The first time you spend an entire turn casting it, it's basically a sorcery. That's what a Planeswalker really is. It's cast at sorcery speed and is a killable, modal permanent that takes multiple turns to go anywhere meaningful with.

Yes, after your initial casting, it's now essentially a once-per-turn free sorcery. ("Free" being loosely applied here. You still pay for it, just in the way of loyalty. I mean free as in you aren't paying any further mana, sacrificing permanents, discarding cards or paying life)

I'm sorry, do players not enjoy free stuff anymore?

Some say "They are too slow!". Okay fine, so don't play with them. If you play quicker games and your opponent casts a Planeswalker, great you just got an advantage in the game.

Others say it takes too long to realize potential. That goes back to being quick games, e.g. "too slow" Don't use them then.

Or the classic "It's too much of an investment.". Okay so you're saying you don't want to pay time and mana and resources into something, you'd rather win immediately on the spot? Okay. Same thing. It's too slow, don't use them.

And the only other argument against them; "BUT I HAVE TO PROTECT THEM!!"... and you don't have to protect, YOURSELF?? Hogwash. If anything it buys you time if your opponent focuses their resources on the Planeswalker and NOT on you.

Lastly, which is a totally invalid argument by the way, "ugh there's better things I can do with that mana!"

Uuh, yeah. Sure. That can literally be said about anything in the game.

Every conceivable (good) argument comes down to them being "too slow", which I'm sorry but if you aren't winning the game by T4 and are miserable about it, that's a you problem and not a game problem. The rest are just petty squabbling about having to actually PLAY the game.

Then you hear about how BUT JACE / LILIANA / WRENN / TEFERI / OKO ARE TOO POWERFUL THEY ARE BROKEN WE NEED THEM BANNED, okay so what you're saying is:

  • ew Planeswalkers are slow and garbage and I don't like them because they take too much time to set up and I want to win NOW!!

That's just crying, just to cry.

I don't understand it.

Gidgetimer says... #2

For me it isn't turns that they are too slow in. It is minutes invested in faffing about with the damn things. Most players already take too long to make decisions. Planeswalkers give them more decisions to make each turn as well as requiring time to update the board state. Any Planeswalker that affects the game enough to justify the time that it takes away from actually playing the game is either going to be so strong as to need banned or so mana intensive as to be unplayable.

March 18, 2023 12:52 p.m.

Daveslab2022 says... #3

I disagree Gidgetimer

Choice is a good thing. It makes the game more engaging and increase the skill cap of the game.

There’s a great YouTube video by Rhystic Studies about this. It’s called “The Choices of Tarkir.” And explains why a lot of people liked those sets because of cards like Kolaghan's Command which gives you options. Same for RTR. The charm cycle like Selesnya Charm increased the amount of things you can do with your limited amount of cards. It also opens the door for misplays or, conversely, really cool plays.

Yes they do increase the amount of time it takes to play a game, but by such a minuscule amount I don’t think it’s relevant enough to complain about.

March 18, 2023 1:04 p.m.

legendofa says... #4

I was around when planeswalkers were introduced, and I remember a lot of comments about how they were unnecessary since existing cards already do everything, they were too complicated and powerful with three free abilities (reanimate everything for five mana? mill twenty for three mana? Overrun every other turn for *two* mana?, nobody's ever going to use them and they were a gimmicky waste of time, and they pulled focus away from the players because players are the real planeswalkers. Some of these arguments still float around, some are being transferred to Battles, and some have faded away as people learned how to use them. In the last few years (don't tell me the real number), the game has adapted, players have adapted, and planeswalkers are now generally expected and uncontroversial.

March 18, 2023 1:26 p.m.

Gidgetimer says... #5

Daveslab2022 In high level or competitive games Planeswalkers may barely increase the time taken. And I agree that overall choice should be a good thing. However, I have been in enough 4 player games where someone takes up 80% of the entire play time on just their turns because of having multiple Planeswalkers that I dislike the entire card type. If I could I would eliminate people who suck at making decisions from the game. I would like to just bar anyone who takes a turn longer than 5 minutes that doesn't end the game from ever playing casually. I can't, so I dislike cards that give them too many choices to make.

March 18, 2023 1:56 p.m.

Caerwyn says... #6

Seconding everything Gidgetimer said. Building on that, I have two additional problems I take with the card type.

First, even if a player knows their planeswalkers and can quickly activate their abilities, they can still lead to slow play. With multiple abilities, they tend to have long walls of text in a way other cards don’t - and walls of text that get utilised every turn. That means the other players are far more likely to ask “hey, can I read that card?” leading to slower play as the card gets passed around and read (often to multiple players and quite possibly multiple times per game). They also slow down everyone else’s combat, since now there is the additional metric of “hmm, do I attack the Walker or something else?”

At any casual game, particularly at an LGS, you are not only likely to wind up playing against someone who might be slow with their own walkers, you are likely that someone else at the table might be slow with other folks’ walkers. This creates an environment which compounds upon itself.

The second issue I have - they tend to warp Limited formats where they are rare and ways to remove them are likewise rare. A dibble planeswalker on the field can run away with a game in Limited. They’re bombs that put you at a huge competitive disadvantage, particularly since removal options for them tend to be scarce, requiring you to attack them, which is generally harder to do in Limited due to having worse creatures and more stalled boards. Didn’t end up with flying creatures or red burn? Enjoy being trounced by their fortunate pull.

March 18, 2023 2:19 p.m.

wallisface says... #7

I generally just play competitive modern, as well as draft/sealed, and nobody i’ve played has taken too much time activating loyalty abilities, so much of the above commentary is something I haven’t seen.

Personally I don’t have any big issue with planeswalkers, other than minor irks from a gameplay perspective. They’re generally either trash/unplayable, or very strong/oppressive - if left of the board for a few turns they create soo much advantage that the game’s just over.

All i’d like to see are more efficient ways to remove a planeswalker. We have loads of options for removing every other card type, but this one remains annoyingly hard to get rid of without creatures. Wotc has started printing more options in recent sets, so i’m optimistic this will get fixed over time.

March 18, 2023 4:02 p.m.

I’m on board with what both Gidgetimer and Caerwyn have said here, so I’ll try not to restate any of that. The two other issues I was going to raise were (1) they are a perfect embodiment of the “all upside” era of magic that we’re in, and (2) the “railroad plotting” era we’re also in. For (1): Asymmetrical value and gameplay is not new to magic, but it usually took multiple spells/draws to pull it off. Or, to put it more simply: it was a thing that you had to pull off. For a while now we’ve been given cards that have that baked in, such as Fevered Visions. The controller of that spell really shouldn’t be exempt from the damage. Planeswalkers have generally been the apex of asymmetrical gameplay, and that’s okay. It makes sense, I just don’t like it. When they’re relatively balanced it’s not a huge deal, but it’s easy to have them spill into a total mess of a card. For (2): when PWs were added to magic, it was very disappointing to me, because I was one of the weirdos who grew up with RPGs in the 80s and spent a significant non-zero amount of time imagining things like “what is it that the guy in Pitfall (on Atari) has in his backpack?” PWs drew the game closer and closer to a “sit down and watch the movie” feeling for me. “Play the heroic intervention that has Ajani on it to save your purple-vested 1/1 from that net spell your opponent just cast” can start to build a feeling in some (like myself) that the game is being built more and more as a re-enactment rather than a “here’s a pile of tools, build something fun” game. When magic was full of nameless Time Elementals and Goblins of the Flarg it drove people to write stories about them... less so the other way around. Having that lead to “make a story and then make cards about the story” is a totally understandable and natural progression for the game to have taken, and lord knows WotC doesn’t actually owe me anything, but it still leaves me a little sad. Luckily, there’s nothing that stops me from building my own theme decks and enjoying them... but I end up spending a lot less time interacting with rather large groups of people here who are into the lore (which also sorta makes me sad, I like all you dorks). So those are my two big reasons for disliking PWs. It’s totally personal, and honestly a little silly, but I just don’t like them. Having said all that, I don't roll my eyes and groan when someone uses one, because I still love playing magic and hope to for the next thirty years.

March 18, 2023 4:35 p.m.

StopShot says... #9

I joined MTG after planeswalkers were a thing. I mostly ever play Commander and some Pauper, but for EDH I never use them. My philosophy is planeswalkers only live for one turn, so if a planeswalker can generate enough value off of the first turn it comes in to justify its inclusion I'll run it, otherwise I don't consider it.

Maybe with powercreep I might change my mind. I would love to see more Planeswalkers that given you emblems right away like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad.

March 19, 2023 9:02 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #10

StopShot reminded me of another thing I dislike about Planeswalkers - Emblems. Emblems fundamentally break a core principle of this game - that everything should have an answer. By virtue of being impossible to remove or otherwise interact with, Wizards has placed Emblems in a uniquely problematic are of game design.

This is particularly unacceptable with cards like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. With ultimates, there is an argument to be made that, because you put in the effort to ultimate, you deserve to receive a permanent boon (an argument I do not buy, and which gets worse every time a new synergistic card for gaining loyalty is printed). But cards that give you something no one can interact with immediately? Yuck.

March 19, 2023 12:08 p.m.

RoarMaster says... #11

You are presenting a false dichotomy here. There are a plethora of reasons asides from “too slow” or “too good” for people to dislike PWs. But the ‘too slow/too good’ complaints do highlight one of the issues with PWs, which is balancing. For such a relatively small card pool, smaller by far than any other card type, they have had a larger than usual number of ‘problem cards’ which have warped formats.

PWs had a rough start when they arrived, not only usually being both a value engine and a win-con, but there also being a distinct lack of removal for them available for quite awhile. They were a bit OP when they came out, and many considered them to be ‘super cards’ showcasing powercreep in the game.

PWs tend to slow the game down and complicate the state of play. They slow it down both by adding multiple additional abilities that may be activated at a variety of times, and by creating a diversionary permanent that needs to have attack phase resources put into removing.

Some deck types/colours simply have a much harder time playing around PWs than others as well. If you ever tried playing Mono-G aggro into Ugin in standard not too long ago, you may be able to sympathize.

March 20, 2023 7:53 a.m. Edited.

RoarMaster says... #12

Another balancing issue with PWs is that they are sort of like Threshold. In the wrong circumstances they suck(not having threshold/the ability to protect your PW), but in other circumstances they are very powerful and can win you the game. They are either an overcosted sorcery, or a versatile value engine depending on the circumstances.

War of the Spark seemed to try and mitigate this, by turning them into glorified enchantments and at common rarities, but that merely led to further dislike of the PWs as they had become cheap and normal and no longer special.

Then there is the immersion aspect, for those that care about such things. You and I are planeswalkers doing battle, and it is weird to just ‘summon’ up some other planeswalker as just a card to tick off abilities with. I’m personally not a Vorthos sorta guy, but even I always felt it was rather incongruous.

March 20, 2023 7:56 a.m.

nhhale says... #13

I don’t like them because they don’t really fit my play style and I imagine this is true for most Johnnys. If you like building around the interactions between cards, planeswalkers are often either difficult to accommodate or there is another card with the effect you want and most of the other options on the planeswalker you are considering aren’t very helpful.

I don’t care if you play them, though. Also I don’t mean to generalize my opinion to others, this is just what I have observed.

March 20, 2023 12:58 p.m.

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