It’s game day here at spalanz.com and, if you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that I recently bought myself the Planechase Anthology box that came out at the end of last year. (If you don’t follow me there, why not?!) While I don’t always like to have a glut of similar stuff on my blog in one go, I wanted to feature this on a game day blog despite Amonkhet being released officially at the end of this week, so prepare for cardboard goodness for a while!
Planechase is a variant format for Magic the Gathering that is similar to regular games in almost all respects, except for the addition of a Planar Deck of ten cards that each player uses alongside his or her regular constructed deck. These cards are usually Plane cards, featuring a location and artwork from one of the many iconic locations found across the Multiverse, though there are also Phenomenon cards that can crop up. Planar decks consist of ten cards, no two of which can have the same name.
Planechase was originally published in 2009, with four products that featured 60-card casual constructed decks, and four ten-card Planar decks. The constructed decks were almost entirely reprints from earlier Magic sets, but also included four preview cards for the upcoming Zendikar block. These decks were five-colour, red/white, red/green, and mono-black. In 2012, a new set of four products was released, with new Planar cards and the new Phenomenon cards, alongside four 60-card casual constructed decks. Unlike the 2009 set, Planechase 2012 introduced a slew of 21 new cards that were legal in eternal formats, several of which became popular enough to receive multiple reprints over the last few years.
What is the Planechase format?
At the start of the game, the first player reveals the top card of his or her Planar deck, and that card’s effects take place across each player’s turn. Some cards, such as The Academy at Tolaria West, have an effect that takes place throughout the turn, whereas others, like Orzhova, only trigger when you Planeswalk away. To Planeswalk, you roll the special Planar die, and if you roll the Planeswalker symbol (that fork thing), the active plane is put on the bottom of its controller’s deck, and the player who rolled the symbol gets to reveal the top card of his or her own Planar deck. You can Planeswalk any time you can cast a Sorcery spell, and for each additional time you choose to Planeswalk on your turn, you must pay one additional generic mana to do so. There have been a total of 86 Planar cards printed for the game, all of which are included in the Planechase Anthology, and depending on how you’ve built your Planar deck, it could form a hefty part of your strategy to Planeswalk multiple times in the game to ensure you get to use those effects.
Four sides of the Planar die are blank, and have no effect in the game, but there is also the Chaos symbol (the weird colliding-planes thing), which triggers the Chaos ability of the active plane if it is rolled. I’d say that the Chaos abilities on the Plane cards can be the more beneficial reason to keep them in your deck, and sometimes, you might not want to Planeswalk away too soon. Chaos abilities use the stack, and so can be responded to if you need to.
As well as including all of the Plane and Phenomenon cards ever printed for the game, Planechase Anthology includes four 60-card decks from the 2012 edition of the game. While the 2009 edition were all reprints, it would have been nice to have had both sets of the constructed decks, not least because those decks include hard-to-find things such as the Mirrodin Artifact Lands, Cabal Coffers, Phyrexian Arena and Master of Etherium (although Wizards has been reprinting many of these things in products like the Commander pre-cons).
At any rate, the four decks included are each led by a legendary creature, and I know that Maelstrom Wanderer at the very least is pretty much a Commander staple. The cards in these decks are really nice to have, and while I mentioned earlier that some of the newly printed cards have since seen reprints, there are still ten that have only ever been printed in Planechase 2012 or else here in Planechase Anthology (Elderwood Scion; Felidar Umbra; Fractured Powerstone, which is admittedly somewhat format-specific; Indrik Umbra; Krond the Dawn Clad; Preyseizer Dragon; Sai of the Shinobi; Sakashima’s Student; Silent-Blade Oni, and Thromok the Insatiable). In order to buy the four legendary creatures and the rest of these cards that have never since seen a reprint would cost just over £30 as of the writing of this blog – importantly, that’s the price to buy this printing of the singles, as well; some cards like Silent-Blade Oni and Maelstrom Wanderer have a significant premium attached to their actual 2012 printing. I feel really pleased, then, that I actually managed to pick up this box of cardboard goodness for £60 from my local game store in Wrexham, which is cheaper than every other place I’ve seen. They originally reduced it in January to £80, and I did consider getting it at the time, but I’m really glad that I waited!
While I’m sure that, in time, I’ll be pulling these decks apart and making all kinds of weird and wonderful things with the contents – or else adding in different things to change them up and whatnot – for now I quite like the idea of using it almost as a boardgame. Much like I have kept the duel decks that I’ve bought intact, I like the fact that I have a collection of decks that are designed to be played against each other, and require little more than pulling off the shelf and shuffling up before I’m playing.