The Japanese War of the Spark Planeswalker Art Rankings
Wizards of the Coast pulled a fast one on us the other day by announcing that Japanese booster packs of War of the Spark will have a 50 percent chance of opening an alternate art Planeswalker. Since most stores overseas had already put in their requests for Japanese boxes, there is most likely going to be increased demand for Japanese product over the next few months. This is great for me of course since I live in Japan and can easily buy it for the duration that MTGWAR is being sold. But it got me thinking, between the Japanese players here and the players living outside of Japan, which of these new Planeswalkers would be the most popular? There are definitely some obvious ones, but after the top, it gets a little murkier.
So today I decided to make a ranking of each planeswalker from 1 to 36. While making these rankings, I took a number of things into consideration such as art style, playability, as well as the if it was a superior image to the original art. Before starting though, I wanted to link you to a great thread post by Shivam over on Twitter (@ghirapurigears). In his post he talks about a large number of the Japanese artists and what they have done in the past. You might not agree with some of my choices, but I think it will be close!
War of the Spark Japanese Planeswalker Rankings – Best to Worst
There’s really no contest here. Liliana, Dreadhorde General checks all the boxes. It’s playable, it’s mythic rarity, and it’s made by famous Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano. He is the most widely known Japanese fantasy artist around the world.
The art by LACK on Sarkhan the Masterless is absolutely amazing. The colors, the positioning, the power eminating from Sarkhan; it all looks beautiful in my opinion. Being a rare card he shouldn’t be as hard to come by as Liliana, but I would think he’ll become great ‘bling’ for Dragon players in EDH, and casual players will like him too. That’s why I’m putting him at #2. I also think this art is better than the non-Japanese one, and people might seek this version out as well.
- The new Karn, Creator of Worlds is basically Null Rod, but a lot harder to get rid of since he starts with 5 loyalty. His -2 is also crazy powerful, being able to search for an artifact card outside of the game or in exile to bring it into your hand. Karn will see play somewhere, possibly in eternal formats, and DEFINITELY in Commander. Stopping people from using their mana rocks is going to make a lot of enemies though. Besides being playable, the art is also spot on. Karn is tired of standing around and now he’s ready to use his power. I think the art is much better than the English version. Also at rare, this alternate art will be harder to find.
I’m a big fan of the art on both Domri, Anarch of Bolas cards, but I like the Japanese one better. It’s more dynamic and I love how it breaks out over the top of the frame. I don’t think he’ll see any play outside of standard, but casual players will love him. Again, being a rare this alternate art will be harder to come by so I’m putting him in the 4th spot.
There have always been a lot of die hard Tamiyo fans, and that’s probably what will make this alternate art sought after. This anime art is kind of charming. She doesn’t seem to be playable outside of casual formats or EDH at the moment so the demand won’t be too high, but people will still be more than happy to have a copy since she’s a rare card and won’t be opened that much. It’s actually hard to pick between this or the non-Japanese version. The regular art is also pretty good in its clarity and simplicity.
Anybody else getting a Castlevania-esque vibe from Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord? I like him a lot. I can tell he’s pissed just by the look in his eyes. He has that 1000 year stare that could break apart stone. He’s got a very interesting static ability that gives everybody lifelink, and his -X ability is great in aggressive decks. I think he’ll see a lot of play in standard, and possibly even in the next format between standard and modern. It’s very cool art and has a totally different feel from the western style artists. I think there will most likely be a market for his Japanese art.
The cutesy art style isn’t for everybody, but I think there will be a lot of Japanese fans of this alternate art for Nissa, Who Shakes the World which should make it harder to find than some of the others. The non-Japanese art is kind of dark so I could see some people wanting this art because its more colorful as well.
Speaking of cutesy, the alternate art for Saheeli, Sublime Artificer is in my opinion the perfect balance of cute and cool. There’s so much going on in this picture and we get to see a more youthful Saheeli than we’re used to seeing which will appeal to a lot of people. I also think the card itself is very playable and could see play in multiples which means people would want to pimp out their deck with more than just one. Even if it is an uncommon, I think it will be very hard to find the Japanese version of.
I really like both Ashiok, Dream Render pictures, but the Japanese version has so much more depth to it than the other. Magic cards have moved towards a lot of computer produced looking art recently, but this Ashiok seems to call back to those hand drawn cards of old. The style gives the dark mist coming off of Ashiok more of a grainy feeling and the art looks similar to something I’d see in a Final Fantasy RPG. It’s not quite Yoshitaka Amano level, but close.
- I probably should have ranked this a little bit higher except that Arlinn, Voice of the Pack is probably going to be unplayable in any format. The art is absolutely sublime. I feel like I’m reading one of those old manga from the 1990s and early 2000’s before the shift to the current “cute/kawaii” style. On art alone, I think I would rank Arlinn in my top 5, but overall I think she’s far lower. Her demand will be based solely on art, and not for play. Shouldn’t be too hard to get her.
- Don’t “F” with Ugin, he’s Ineffable . . . *crickets chirp in the background*. Heh, all jokes aside, Ugin seems like he’ll be a highly playable card in various formats. Being able to make all colorless cards you control cost 2 less to cast is a powerful effect, and he’s pure card advantage with his +1 ability. The art styles are similar between the Japanese and non-Japanese versions, but I like this one better. This one looks like Ugin is about to lay some smack down on somebody. It also doesn’t look as animated as some of the others which will appeal to the players who aren’t into that sorta thing. Again he’s rare so the alternate art won’t be that easy to come by, and if you remember how crazy that last alt art Ugin became, I think you can be sure this one will be popular as well.
This is where it starts to get tough to rank the walkers. Chandra, Fire Artisan has some sweet alternate art, but it could have been better if more of the picture was shown. The text box obscures the monsters she’s burning with her flames and that’s a shame. This is much more of an action oriented picture than the cute ones, and it’s rather refreshing to just see a female character being bad ass for once in anime form. I also think that this picture is much better than the non Japanese version, so it should be pretty popular with collectors and players alike.
What really sets Vivien, Champion of the Wild’s Japanese art apart from the other one is its total disregard for borders. This card explodes in all directions and looks a lot less generic than the other one.
Ral, Storm Conduit in Japanese is another piece of art that’s totally different from its counterpart. The lightning jumps out of his magic reservoir and dances all over the card. I like how the electricity illuminates him and the card. It actually feels like his channeling the lightning around his body in this picture instead of just showing it where to go. I think he has some playability as well, so he should somewhat popular to collectors.
Teferi, Time Raveler is a good card, don’t get me wrong, but this is one alternate art where I think the original one is better. I think people will favor the non Japanese one over this version, but this art is still good. Its playability as a 3 mana rare walker will help add to its demand, but I think it won’t be that different from the English version.
Gideon has a lot of hype surrounding him and people will definitely want to play him in their decks, but I don’t think this art is good at all. It feels more like a generic children’s cartoon that doesn’t really match the character of Gideon. The darker, grittier English version is better in my opinion, but again because of how hard it will be able to acquire because of its mythic rarity, there will be a market for it.
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God’s card is another alternate art that I don’t care for. The colors, the proportions of the God Dragon . . . are just off. The English version is much better but like Gideon before him, because he’s a playable planeswalker, there should be some demand for him. I just don’t think there will be a premium on Bolas like some of the others such as Sarkhan or Karn.
Great art, should probably be ranked a little higher but its rarity and the fact that the card is mostly unplayable means that Vraska, Swarm’s Eminence’s alt art shouldn’t be that hard to come by. The foils might be nice though!
I could definitely see Narset, Parter of Veils being played in some casual formats like EDH. The amount of detail in this picture and the way it leaves little dead space in the frame make this one of my more favorite uncommon planeswalkers. I also like how the animation isn’t too cutesy either. Foo Midori did a good job with her.
Nahiri, Storm of Stone is another one of those love the art, hate the card Planeswalkers. Pretty unusable in any format, but I think this art is much more desirable than the non-Japanese version. A cool fact about this card, it goes along with the Sorin alternate at walker. They are done by the same artist and both characters are fighting in a church it would seem.
- If you’re a fan of anime like Naruto or any of the other recent hits in Japan, then I think you’ll be a big fan of Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter. I absolutely love his dog in this picture and this has one of the best backgrounds out of all of the alternate art walkers. Not sure if he’ll see play but I think people will want this version more than the other for their casual decks.
Another janky card that will see no play but has great art. Would never play Huatli but I’d like to have her as part of my collection. The art saves an otherwise forgettable card.
I actually don’t think that Tibalt, Rakish Instigator is totally unplayable. He might have a slot in some deck down the road. The pseudo Sulfuric Vortex effect is decent, and being able to put some creatures into play isn’t horrible. The art really helps set him apart from a lot of the other planeswalkers though. Clover.K gives us a very distinct and memorable Tibalt.
Jace has better name recognition than a lot of the other planeswalkers on this list, but I’m not super impressed by the art or the card. It’s a build around casual card that won’t see competitive play, but Jace is Jace so people will still care about this card regardless. I’d be fine with the English version though.
A 3 mana hybrid card that makes all of your opponents spells and artifacts more difficult to play sounds delicious, but that ability is all but worthless. In a true control deck this would be debilitating against the mirror, but I think this card will more likely see EDH play. I prefer the looking down art over the English art that looks from below. His hand placement also adds more depth the Japanese picture than in the other one.
- Ajani, the Greathearted
- The Wanderer
- Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor
- Kaya, Bane of the Dead
- Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
- Teyo, The Shieldmage
- Samut, Tyrant Smasher
- Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
- Angrath, Captain of Chaos
- Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted
- Jaya, Venerated Firemage
As for my bottom 10 cards, none of the pictures are horrible per se, but with most of these they either seem too generic to set themselves apart from the other art, or I just like the non-Japanese versions better. Some of it will also come down to how much people will want the card, and I don’t see there being huge demand for non-competitve cards other than completing the full set of alternate walkers. The top 25 will probably be the most popular in my opinion, but not necessarily in my order.
I’d like to hear what you think the most popular Japanese alternate art walkers will be though, so if you want to leave your top 5 (or 10) down in the comment section below it would be much appreciated! Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll come back to visit in the future!