Shadows Over Innistrad Spoilers: The Planeswalkers
We now have the full spoiler for Shadows Over Innistrad, and we have a total of 2 more sets of cards to talk about. First up: the 4 new planeswalkers we get access to in a few weeks.
This Jace looks bad somewhat due to how powerful certain other planeswalkers that share his type have been in the past. At 5 mana he’s likely too slow for the older formats, but he’ll fit right in with a number of decks in the new standard. Being able to use his + ability and then being at 6 loyalty is pretty big, as it makes him very hard to kill if you have any sort of control over the battlefield. The -2 leaves him at 3 while also removing the biggest threat from the board. It also allows you to get really cute later on and bounce your own creatures, just in case you want extra value out of them (Reflector Mage comes to mind). His ultimate seems very lackluster, however. At that point in the game the opponent likely will be able to hold onto spells that don’t matter and are cheap in order to get through a spell that matters. It doesn’t win the game on the spot or even on the next turn, nor put you in such a commanding position that victory is almost assured within the next few turns. Rather it gives you a huge edge for however long it takes you to close out the game. Chances are if you were able to get this emblem, you already had that huge edge and you may even be better continuing to +1 for card advantage (certainly go to 9 before making the emblem).
Jace will likely see play in any of the /x control decks that show up in standard going forward. The card quality is just too good, much like Jace, Architect of Thought. To get the best out of him you either need to be playing cards to slow down the game (like Thing in the Ice) or enough removal to make sure that he doesn’t just go away the turn after you play him.
Nahiri comes down fairly quickly and builds to a respectable loyalty very quickly. While rummaging (discard, then draw) is 100% of the time worse than looting (draw, then discard), the ability is still fine especially in a format that has madness around (and Fiery Temper will see play, especially in decks with Nahiri). Her -2 works much like the old Gideon Jura, allowing you to clean up the board somewhat but it gives you even more options. Her -8 seems really strange because you really need to be getting a creature that provides good value when it enters the battlefield. I think the new version of Avacyn works perfectly for this, as it lets you swing with your team this turn and not fear your opponent’s blocks, and then gives you a flash 4/4 to play defense on your opponent’s turn that again makes your team indestructible.
Sorin is the king of cleaning up stalled boards. Not only do you get a buider that draws you a card AND whittles away at your opponent’s life total, you also have the ability to kill something and gain life in the process. You can even pay your 6 mana, -5 Sorin, kill something, gain 5 life, and still have him around at 1 loyalty, which isn’t even a bad use of your mana at that point. His -9 will likely end the game on the next turn, but I would wager it’s almost better to continue using his +1 until your opponent loses his last life (unless he has gained a ton somehow).
Sorin will likely be a staple of midrange decks, helping them stabilize against aggressive decks, and giving them card advantage against control decks or the mirror. The biggest concern is if / will function well as a color pair or if you’d need to splash a third color (and then figuring out just how tough it makes the mana base). Though I suppose there’s always the option of running Eldrazi midrange, as Caves of Koilos functions as a triple land for you and there are plenty of options for utility lands (and that lets you play Matter Reshaper, Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher easily).
Arlinn is likely going to be very hard to play well with, as she has so many abilities and you often will have to plan ahead which abilities you want (as you may need to flip her first). On her front side you can either make a 2/2 wolf and transform her, or you can attack with a vigilant creature that then gets to stay around on defense but keep her on her “day side”. The value of the +1 ability will fall heavily on whether you have a good 3 drop that can play defense (if only Courser of Kruphix was still legal) and whether you need to deal 3 damage to something on the next turn.
Once Arlinn transforms she goes from working well with a single creature to rather working well with a group. The line of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar into Arlinn will be extremely powerful, as on turn 5 you are potentially attacking with 2 2/3 plants and a 4/4 wolf while still having your planeswalkers alive and access to 5 mana. The -1 will be able to clean up smaller creatures, threaten larger ones in addition to your attack with your wolf token, or just dome your opponent and let you continue to make an army of wolves. Her ultimate basically makes it impossible for your opponent to win, as the emblem allows you to just machine gun down every creature your opponent may have and then just chew through their life total.
I think that Arlinn will see play in super friends style decks that rely on tokens (a mix of her, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar) as well as midrange decks that have strong 3 mana plays (like Deathmist Raptor!).