We’ve already taken a look at Chandra, Pyrogenius to figure out if she’s actually playable in Standard. Not only was it extremely unfair to compare her to the Chandra in the proper Kaladesh set, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but it seems that she’s more of a reimagined version of the original Chandra Nalaar from Lorwyn. In fact, she turns out to be weaker, meaning that she is the most underpowered Chandra planeswalker ever.
Will Nissa, Nature’s Architect fare any better than Pyrogenius? Before we compare her to her own counterpart in the set, Nissa, Vital Force, we will consider the Architect’s abilities in a vacuum first.
Like her Red Planeswalker counterpart, this version of Nissa costs a total of six mana to cast, 4 colorless and 2 Green (4GG). Nissa enters the battlefield with 5 loyalty counters, which is a fine number. As do many planeswalkers, Nature’s Architect has three abilities. She has the traditional plus ability that adds counters, the minus ability that removes counters, and an “ultimate” ability that removes a good number of counters for a strong effect.
Nature’s Architect has a +1 ability that gains you 3 life. While this doesn’t sound exciting, it’s not the worst plus ability out there. For six mana, though, you kind of want something with a bit of punch, don’t you?
Nissa’s -4 ability allows you to reveal the top two cards of your deck. If one or both of them are land cards, you can put them directly onto the battlefield. This is an ability that I like, and pretty good value for a planeswalker ability. Additionally, if one or both of those cards isn’t a land card, you still get to add them to your hand. Drawing 2 cards is a decent enough ability. But is it worth bringing her down to 1 loyalty counter right away to do so?
The Architect’s “ultimate” ability costs a whopping 12 counters! This is quite a high number, to be sure! What does it do? It gives all of your creatures +5/+5 and trample until end of turn. That is an extremely powerful effect, of course. But for 12 loyalty, you kind of want something a bit more permanent, don’t you?
This Nissa doesn’t seem too exciting. Granted, this Nissa is meant to be an introduction to planeswalkers, and to newer players, I could see some being excited just to cast her. She can do something, and by the time you cast her, that 3 life she gains isn’t nothing. In fact, doing that every turn could actually prove rather annoying to your opponent. The ultimate is awesome, if you get there, and given just a handful of creatures, it probably can end the game.
Unfortunately for Nature’s Architect, whereas Chandra, Pyrogenius at least served as a watered down version of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Nissa, Vital Force is just leaps and bounds more powerful.
+1: Untap target land you control. Until your next turn, it becomes a 5/5 Elemental Creature with haste. It’s still a land.
So right off the bat, Vital Force can add a 6th loyalty counter and potentially affect the board in a big way.
-3: Return target permanent card from your graveyard to your hand.
On the surface, drawing 2 cards seems better as a minus ability, especially when one or both can go into play if they are lands. But this allows you to pick up a card you really need.
-6: You get an emblem with “Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may draw a card.
Let’s just say with how easy it is to achieve this ultimate ability, you’ll probably draw a good amount of cards with this emblem.
Obviously, Vital Force is really good at protecting herself, as that Elemental sticks around during your opponent’s next turn, too. Nature’s Architect decidedly is not. The minus ability on Nature’s Architect seems better on the surface, but knowing exactly what you’re getting to your hand is good, too. There is value in card selection, after all! The ultimate on Nature’s Architect is probably game-winning, certainly, but not as useful from a card advantage standpoint.
Will watered down and under-powered exclusive Planeswalkers be the norm for headlining these Planeswalker Decks? That is probably the case. Do keep in mind that these aren’t meant to be as powerful as the Duel Decks planeswalkers, which are in fact, actual Standard-legal planeswalkers on their way out of Standard.
With Chandra, Pyrogenius, I considered her a fun card. It really seems that these planeswalkers were designed for newer players excited about casting their first planeswalker. So I’ll ask the same question as I did for her: is this planeswalker worth casting for 6 mana? Certainly not. Most of the time, the best case scenario is she finds you two lands to put into play and gain you 3 to 6 life. That may be worth 6 mana over the course of a couple turns in a vacuum, but I feel like she really doesn’t do enough.
That being said, I will take her over most intro pack rares any day. She’s highly collectible, and Nissa is an awesome character in Magic. I’m actually happy to check out these decks as they come out and look forward to reviewing them! I may even stick this Nissa into one of my Commander decks where I can just sit there and gain 3 life forever until I run everyone over with her ultimate. She’s underpowered, purposely so, but she CAN do something... eventually! Chandra is probably better overall, but I like my Nissa and I’ll find somewhere for her!
Until then, happy planeswalking!