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June 21, 2019

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Daily Dose of Core Set 2020 #5 – Esper Planeswalkers

Welcome all to the Daily Dose of Core Set 2020 where today I’ll be talking about a trio of new planeswalkers, one each from the Esper Colour wheel. Wait though, isn’t there already an Esper Planeswalkers deck in Standard now? Yes there is, but why not throw three more into the mix to give the deck a little more value. Core Set 2020 single-colour planeswalkers from each of the five colours and this allows them to be more focused on building decks around them as we have seen with the Elemental focus on the Chandra planeswalkers from the set. Let’s see what these three planeswalkers bring to the table.

I’m going to start by talking about everyone’s favourite cat. Here is Ajani, Strength of Pride.

Having a starting loyalty of 5 with a nice plus ability will make it a little harder to kill. Let’s break down the abilities of this planeswalker.

[+1]: You gain life equal to the number of creatures you control plus the number of planeswalkers you control. – This is a guaranteed one life gain because of Ajani itself, but could be a lot more depending on your deck build. If you are playing Selesnya tokens, there is an opportunity to gain life at a greater pace. Same could be said for Mono-White Aggro as well. You then must ask yourself though, wouldn’t I rather just want to play Ajani, the Greathearted in that case. I guess you would need to build a deck that really takes advantage of that life gain, or Ajani, Strength of Pride’s last ability might be enough.

[-2]: Create a 2/2 white Cat Soldier creature token named Ajani’s Pridemate with “Whenever you gain life, put a +1/+1 counter on Ajani’s Pridemate.” – This works well with Ajani’s first ability and allows you to protect Ajani, Strength of Pride when needed. It’s too bad it doesn’t gain counters equal to life gained, as it could get out of control.

[0]: If you have at least 15 life more than your starting life total, exile Ajani, Strength of the Pride and each artifact and creature your opponents’ control. – Getting to 35 life in Standard isn’t an easy task, but is doable. Usually you can achieve it in two scenarios. There is a stalemate on the battlefield, or your opponent is applying no early game pressure with a Control deck of some kind. If you are in the stalemate, then this ability is amazing. If you are playing against Control and have this life total, chances are there will be little to no targets for this to exile.

Now that we know the big cat is back, it’s time to welcome a new planeswalker to Core Sets. This is the first time we have seen this planeswalker in a major expansion. Here is Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer.

This planeswalker has a very low starting loyalty, but three mana planeswalkers tend to have low loyalty to start. Let’s break down the abilities of this planeswalker.

[+2]: Until your next turn, up to one target creature gets -2/-0 and loses flying. – We have seen an ability like this before on a planeswalker before and is a great way to deal with one creature on the battlefield. If there are multiple creatures you need to deal with, this won’t do much to stop that. Having a creature lose flying until your next turn could help you block something that might have had evasion against any blockers you might have.

[-3]: Create a 4/4 blue Elemental Bird creature token with flying. – It would be nice to be able to use this ability the turn that you cast Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer, but at 3 mana that might have been a bit too strong. (i.e. Sarkhan the Masterless makes a 4/4 Flying creature for five mana). If Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer can survive a turn, this creature will protect itself for future turns.

[-8]: You get an emblem with “Islands you control have ‘T: Draw a card.'” – This ability is something that will take 4 turns to achieve, but what an ultimate ability it is. This ability makes it tough to play multiple colours to get maximum value, but even if you have 3 or 4 lands that can tap for cards, you’ll still be happy with that.

Finally, it’s the return of a Mono-Black Sorin, for the first time since it’s original printing as Sorin Markov. Here is Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord.

This marks the first Mythic planeswalker with 3 or less mana cost, to only have one coloured mana in the casting cost. With that and its high starting loyalty, it could see some play in a few different Vampire decks in Standard. Let’s break down the abilities of this planeswalker.

[+1]: Target creature you control gains deathtouch and lifelink until end of turn. If it’s a Vampire, put a +1/+1 counter on it. – All of these abilities really want you to play an all-Vampire deck, but this is the only of the 3 abilities that can be used no matter what deck you have built. Giving a creature deathtouch and lifelink will make it hard to block and help you gain some life each turn. If it happens to be on a Vampire, even better.

[+1]: You may sacrifice a Vampire. When you do, Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord deals 3 damage to any target and you gain 3 life. – This is a strong plus ability, but you must have a Vampire to sacrifice to it. There are some Vampires in Standard that have abilities that trigger when they die as well. Cruel Celebrant will help you drain another life. Vengeant Vampire will allow you to destroy a creature and gain 4 life. Being able to hit ANY target with this ability makes it very strong, even though you won’t probably be able to use it every turn.

[-3]: You may put a Vampire creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. – Now this ability has a lot of potential for me. This allows you to put out any Vampire from your hand straight onto the battlefield, getting around any counterspells. This can be of any casting cost, and any colour you want. Let’s see what Vampires are in Standard that you might want to put on the battlefield.

Arvad the Cursed – 3/3 deathtouch, lifelink and ready to pump your other legendary creatures.
Champion of Dusk – This could help you draw a few cards if you were able to play a few Vampires on turn 1 and 2.
Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood – This 7-casting cost Vampire will give you an early 4/4 Flying creature that can only grow stronger.
The Haunt of Hightower – This might be one of the best options you can put onto the battlefield. If it can start getting attacks in, it will be hard to deal with and give you overall card advantage.
Vampire Sovereign – You get a 3/4 Flying creature and you get to drain your opponent for 3 life.
Vona, Butcher of Magan – I wouldn’t mind putting out a 4/4 Vigilance, Lifelink creature that can exile nonland permanents.

There you have it folks, three new planeswalkers to build decks around. With so many planeswalkers previewed already, there aren’t room for many more. Thanks again for reading the Daily Dose of Core Set 2020. Join me next week as we dive into week two of preview season!