A New Frontier: Power Rankings – Planeswalkers
‘A New Frontier’ is a new series of articles based around the recently created MTG format that uses only cards with the new border from the M15 set and onward. In these articles I plan on follow the results from tournaments, talk about viable decks in the format, as well as powerful cards. I hope to do at least an article each month with updates on the format, results, as well as the current status of its popularity. Please keep in mind that these are merely exploratory articles and that the Frontier format is still trying to find its footing. It could end up doing very well and develop a following like EDH has, or become just another footnote like Tiny Leaders.
With very few standard tournaments under my belt since my last metagame report (and with so-so results at that), I decided that I’d start working on a new Frontier deck and low an behold it came to me just like that.
|BW Frontier Tokens|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Shambling Vent
3 Westvale Abbey
|4 Raise the Alarm
4 Servo Exhibition
4 Secure the Wastes
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Anguished Unmaking
2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
2 Declaration in Stone
23 other spells
15 sideboard cards
I really missed playing with Secure the Wastes and Monastery Mentor and wanted to to build a deck with those in it. When I started out building this deck, I wasn’t too sure that it would even be viable in Frontier, but the more I messed around with it and added in cards, the better it seemed to look. I mean, who doesn’t like following up a huge Secure the Waste with a Gideon Emblem and a +1 activation from Sorin, Solemn Visitor? This deck can create so many tokens it’s scary.
I think it goes without saying that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Secure the Wastes, Monastery Mentor, and Raise the Alarm are automatic includes. These cards are the go to token cards from recent past and present token based decks. It’s after these cards that things get a little bit tougher to pick. For starters, I think that Voldaren Pariah is just too good in this type of deck not to play.
This deck can make tons of tokens relatively quickly and if you have creatures to spare the Pariah will gladly thank you for your sacrifice and force your opponent to do the same. This is a great way to get around cards that have indestructible effects like Ensoul Artifact or Ulamog. The problem with playing this card is that it’s 5 mana, so I wanted to give the deck a way to somewhat cheat it in while still having the token synergy so I decided to add Cryptbreaker to the build. Aside from letting you cheat the Pariah into to play, it also gives you a way to make tokens with unneeded cards, and the zombie creatures you create also have synergy with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.
While there aren’t a lot of destroy effects in this deck (because I feel that exiling is much more important), mainboard Kalitas is a great way to shut down Rally/Aristocrat decks game 1, and also eats any of those extra zombies to grow stronger. I would think that if you’re playing a critical mass of tokens and pumping them in various ways that your opponent is going to be forced to block and that you’ll get a lot of extra tokens from Kalitas the longer a game goes.
As for Sorin, I like to think of him as Gideon emblems 5 and 6. The lifelink is definitely important in those GR Aggro and Ensoul artifact match ups, but for the most part you’re playing him to make your tokens 3/2 lifelinkers that are great both on offense and defense since his +1 doesn’t end until your next turn. Gideon deserves the 4 of treatment though, because he’s such a bad ass in any situation.
As for my removal, I’m running Declaration in Stone and Anquished Unmaking because like I said before, exiling is what you want. With Rally and indestructible creatures, you really don’t want to be caught with your pants down. If you need more speed or less damage, you can always switch out to Ultimate Price or Utter End, but these will get the job done for the most part. Otherwise, you can just throw some tokens in front of creatures to block until you can build up a superior army. Between the Pariah and this removal package, I think it will be enough.
The only cards I’m not too sure of in the mainboard is Servo Exhibition. I figured 4 more token makers couldn’t hurt, and they are only 2 mana so it’s not like they’re more helping towards that big turn 4 when you cast a Gideon and emblem or use a Sorin. They could prove to be ineffective, but until I test them out further, they make the cut.
As for the sideboard, I’m looking to attack a variety of decks with my removal packages. A complete set of Declaration in Stone would come in against GR aggro decks playing tons of goblin tokens or other token decks, while the Ultimate Price would handle cards like Rabblemaster and Monastery Swiftspear. Fumigate could also work against these aggro decks, but I think it would also be good against decks like Abzan midrange or other decks with lots of heavy hitters. With a Kalitas in play it leaves you with an army of zombies upon destruction of theirs.
Hallowed Moonlight and Lost Legacy, on the other hand, seem to be good cards for keeping Collected Company, Aristocrats, and Rally the Ancestor decks. Targeting their win conditions and keeping them from comboing off will easily win you some games.
The last two cards, Sorin, Grim Nemesis and Utter End, are what I would use against slower midrange or control decks. Sorin gives me great card advantage while putting pressure on an opponent and threatening a huge ultimate if you’ve been gaining a lot of life, and Utter End gives you some more ways to exile permanents without the cost of life from Anguished Unmaking. Again, these might not be the right cards at the moment, but I think it’s a good start and will adjust as I play a few more tournaments.
Power Rankings – Planeswalkers
I said in my first article that I planned to do some initial power rankings of various cards in the format, and today I thought it would be a good idea to get started. I’m starting out with the lowest number of cards out there; Planeswalkers. Instants, Creatures, and even artifacts will be huge undertakings and take a lot of time to sift through and evaluate, but I think it’s not too hard to take a look at which planeswalkers are available in the format and how they’d fit into the pecking order. I plan on using a 5 Star system to rate the cards.
The highest level, 5, are strong cards that you’ll see all around the Frontier format in various decks. These are probably 4 ofs, and will probably be the first cards to see a spike this format takes off.
At 4 stars, we see cards that are still powerful but are usually confined to 1 or 2 decks. This could be a combo piece that only fits in one deck (but is incredibly powerful), or a card that can only reach it’s full potential with a deck built around it to support it. Once it gets going though it’s almost impossible to get rid of.
For 3 stars, we have cards that are showing up more in the sideboards than the mainboards, but depending on the metagame they could show up and be potentially good against a large variety of decks. These are cards that could be silver bullets against certain strategies, but also be weak to other cards unintentionally.
Once we get to down to 2 stars, we start to see fringe playable cards that are good in the lower tiered decks, but probably not a first choice or even the best choice for that deck. You’ll rarely see these 2 star cards played.
One is a card that will probably NEVER show up in the format. For the sake of time, I will be focusing mainly on 3-5 star cards and only briefly touching on 1 and 2 star cards when they become relevant.
5 Star Planeswalkers – The Cream of the Crop
- Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- Liliana, the Last Hope
It’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but Gideon is hands down the baddest dude out of them all. He’s great in control, great in aggressive decks, and has no problem in midrange either. He’s a Jack of all trades and besides showing up in various token decks (GW, RW, BW, etc), I’m sure he’ll find a place in Esper or Jeskai control once they become popular as well. He’s a heavy hitter in standard at the moment, commanding a 2500+ yen price tag in Japan at the moment but is sure to go even higher before rotating at the new deadline now of Fall 2017. I’m sure he’ll be the most popular planeswalker in the Frontier format, so I doubt rotation will slow him down much from his current $30 price tag.
Liliana, the Last Hope won’t be as popular, but I expect a lot of black decks to be played in the format. First and foremost is GB Delirium (and its variants) which should do well in Frontier, but there is also the possibility of her showing up in Aristocrat/Rally decks. This seems less like the case since the double sided Liliana works better with Collected Company and Rally, but I wouldn’t count her out. BW Control is another powerful possiblity as she works well against aggressive cards such as Toolcraft Exemplar, and she also works well against tokens. I don’t expect her to hold as much of her value after rotation, but she’ll still command around a $25 price tag when she’s is no longer standard playable.
4 Star Planeswalkers – Heavy Hitters
- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
- Nahiri, the Harbringer
- Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
- Nissa, Worldwaker
- Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Did anybody forget how strong Ugin was when he was in standard? There is a reason Eldrazi Ramp was so good. If your player is playing a greedy, 4 color deck he will positively wreck them. Ugin is great against Jeskai Black, Abzan Red, 4 Color Rally (if they don’t have a sac outlet), and even against GR aggro decks (if you can survive to turn 4 or 5). The only deck in Frontier that he might not be good against would be Ensoul artifact decks, and even then he still gets rid of Ensoul Artifact, making the deck bearable. I could easily see him hitting $30 again from his current $23 price tag in the coming months with play in Eldrazi ramp, various control decks, and even 3-4 Color dragon decks as well. He’s one of the strongest planeswalkers in the format and the only thing holding him back from being in more decks is his mana cost which is a bit restrictive.
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is the other side of the coin for GW Token decks, but she will also see play in Hardened Scales decks. Write her off at your own peril. As you can see from my BW token list, there are quite a few white cards that could make GW Tokens a tier 1 deck again in Frontier. Her duel deck printing will probably hold her value back, but as we get further away from Zendikar I could see her doubling her current value to $12. Don’t forget she’s also shown up in modern with Gideon in GW tokens as well.
I expect Nahiri to show up in some Mardu or Jeskai decks, and she’s not that bad against some of the midrange decks like Abzan or an Ensouled Artifact either. Sorin, Solemn Visitor should also see a bit of play. He was a mainstay in Abzan aggro, Mardu, and a few other decks when he was in standard. He’ll be pretty important against aggressive decks so I think he’ll have a lot upward mobility in the format. At only $4, I see a lot of potential for him to double or triple up in value due to his versatility in this new format.
Nissa, Worldwaker was another favorite of mine back when she was standard legal. Do you remember mono green ramp that played 4 of her? People would play Darksteel Citadel in those decks just to give her +1 ability some added oomph. We don’t have Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Polukranos, World Eater to really abuse her +1 ability, but she’ll be in a variety of ramp decks no doubt. I could see her being a lot of fun with Genesis Hydra and in some situations being down right unfair. Without Xenagos, she could also help to enable See the Unwritten decks somwhere down the road. She’s still a casual favorite so her $10 price tag might seem a little high, but I’d keep my eye on her just in case. An influx of Frontier players and popularity in ramp decks could definitely spike her price, but I don’t think it will be too much higher when coupled with the casual demand.
3 Star Planeswalkers – Team Leaders
- Arlinn Kord (GR aggro and midrange decks)
- Narset Transcendant (UW control decks)
- Tamiyo, Field Researcher (control or bant humans)
- Ob Nixilis, Reignited (control, black midrange decks)
- Sorin, Grim Nemesis (tokens, control, BW midrange decks)
- Nissa, Vital Force (delirium and graveyard themed decks)
- Chandra, Torch of Defiance (ramp, burn, or red aggro)
- Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker (red midrange decks)
- Garruk, Apex Predator (Sultai or Jund control)
While I like a lot of these cards and think that they have potential in the format, I don’t see any of them as format breaking or format defining. Narset Transcendant could be useful in control deck mirrors, Tamiyo would be pretty good with Bant Humans Collected Company in the sideboard, and Arlinn Kord could be pretty explosive in the right GR aggro or midrange deck.
These cards could be powerful, but only in a few decks which I don’t think would be considered top tier. For example, the new Chandra, Torch of Defiance seems like a sweet card for red aggro/burn decks and perhaps some ramp decks, but otherwise I’m not sure where she’d fit in the format. Some of these cards are main deck playable, and others are better left to the sideboard to give you an advantage against certain match ups. Frontier is still in its infancy so the metagame could go in a totally different direction and we could see one or two of these take off but I don’t see any upward pressure on their prices at the moment.
Best of the Rest
- Sarkhan Unbroken
- Dovin Baan
- Chandra, Pyromaster
I think Chandra, Pyromaster is totally outclassed by Chandra, Torch of Defiance but I think that she works better in some decks than Torch does. I could see her being added to a Pyromancer Goggles deck to give you extra reach and increase your chances of burning out your opponent in one huge hit. Dovin Baan is a card that you could add to control decks, but I think he’d be more of an audible from a card from Narset or Nahiri. Might see a few of him, but not a lot. Sarkhan Unbroken is still kind of out there, but I expect him to show up in some fringe decks. Converge decks play him for a little bit, as did some dragon decks, but perhaps we could see him appear in the new Temerge decks as well? Aside from Dovin Baan, the other cards are pretty cheap at $3-4 apiece and not too much of a risk. Might be worth grabbing some if you don’t have any.
If there are any other planeswalkers that you think should have been included in this list, please feel free to add them to the comments below, as well as where you see them being played, how popular you think they will be, and what you would rank them.
With Kaladesh Game Day last weekend, there wasn’t too much Frontier going on last weekend, but Hareruya did update their deck list page with results from the Frontier tournaments they’ve held. As of today, they’ve only posted results from their October 19th tournaments, but I’m sure you’ll start getting a steady stream of winning decks in the weeks to come. It seems like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Liliana, the Last Hope are getting a lot of play, and even Thermo Alchemist has shown up a few times in winning decks. I don’t know how this will be different from Nagoya tournaments, but if I have any new results over the next few weeks you can be sure I’ll share them with you.
If you have any deck ideas or updates about Frontier in your area I’d love to hear them, or you can tag @mtgfrontier on Twitter to have them retweet the information. I hope you’ll join me sometime in the coming weeks for my next Frontier article where I’ll cover another card type and discuss what their chances are of doing well in the format. Be sure to check back from time to time to look for updates, but in reality it will probably be in the first or second week of November before I finish my next article. Until then, happy brewing and I hope you enjoy the format!