Dominaria United is right around the corner, and with it, we’re getting a slew of sick cards to look at! I don’t know about you, but to me, these are some of the most exciting spoilers I’ve seen in a long time. Between super cool designs and beloved callbacks, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up being one of the best sets of all time.
Today I’m going to be looking at the next Planeswalker to unfortunately succumb to compleation, Ajani, Sleeper Agent.
So at it’s base we have a four mana planeswalker starting at a pretty typical 4 loyalty. The +1 is card advantage of sorts as it can draw you a creature or planeswalker if it’s the top card. I love my planeswalkers having card advantage abilities, especially on the plus, but you will have to have a very high density of creatures and planeswalkers to make this consistent.
The minus ability is a fun one with you being able to distribute 3 +1/+1 counters as you choose and give all those creatures Vigilance as well. This should make racing quite difficult for the opponent considering they will have to deal with a board of suddenly larger creatures that can also defend for the turn!
Finally, we have one of the most creative ultimates I’ve ever seen with an opponent getting 2 poison counters every time you cast a creature or planeswalker. It’s not the perfect analog, but this most reminds me of the ultimate on Chandra, Torch of Defiance which also turns cast cards into a win condition. This is more stringent though as you’ll need 5 spells (assuming the opponent has no poison on them already) and they need to be creatures or planeswalkers.
It seems like we’d be done, but we have to mention the most important part of Ajani: the phyrexian mana! So instead of paying four mana, you can cast Ajani a turn early at the cost of two life and loyalty! Three mana planeswalkers are definitely scary, but this play is inhibited by stopping Ajani from doing anything other than the +1 should you choose to do this.
So going over all of Ajani’s abilities, it is abundantly clear that playing it in a deck full of creatures is mandatory. Literally all the abilities revolve around it so let’s take a look at a prospective deck he could fit into.
Selesnya Humans seemed close before, and out of any deck I can think of, it likely benefits the most from the addition of Ajani. The deck is playing almost exclusively creatures to make all his abilities as relevant as possible, and since we’re still missing Brushland, it’s going to be hard to slot him into a different Selesnya deck that plays a lot of creatures.
However, this still begs the question, is Ajani good?
Even in the best case scenario, I’m not terribly impressed by Ajani. I built around it the best I could and I could still only make the +1 do something half the time. The minus ability is decent for what it’s worth, but is at its best when you have a lot of creatures which is already going to be a favorable position for you. Lastly, while the ultimate seems flashy, it seems quite bad as it forces you to cast five creatures or planeswalkers after activating it to do literally anything. I’m sure there will be games won off of it, but your hand is unlikely to be flush with spells by the time you’re ultimating a planeswalker. Overall, I’m quite disappointed in Ajani and don’t envision it seeing much, if any play. I may be wrong as getting a draw a card even half the time may be good enough when combined with the decent minus ability, but when you compare this to Liliana of the Veil, it’s a real tough sell.
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