Narset of the Ancient Way
– Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths
April 24, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 2.83
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I find it a little curious how powerful that mana ability of Narset’s is. That’s not usually a Jeskai specialty; indeed, gaining life at the same time as you get relevant colors is something we now associate with the Great Henge. The restriction is notable, but also largely irrelevant in a deck built around it. I also like her -2, because while it’s good enough when you’re just using it for extra cards, it has an extremely high ceiling in terms of impact. Consider how readily it destroys Teferi in a way he finds hard to stop, and remember that there’s an Ultimatum in Ikoria with the same colors as Narset.
Ultimate abilities sometimes have less impact on a planeswalker’s prospects than their “regular” ones, but Narset’s is actually quite good. It can help you close out a game surprisingly fast, especially since recent sets have more cheap cards that operate like Opt and Cathartic Reunion than you might guess. It does a passable, Standard-legal impression of storm decks, and that’s pretty cool.
War of the Spark had surprisingly many impacts on Narset’s home world. While Sarkhan may be the only one who remembers the previous timeline, Narset has reconnected with the ancient Jeskai traditions, and that’s bound to be important at some point. In addition, Ugin sealed himself into the metaphysical fabric of Bolas’ former meditation realm, which is now a jail cell. Considering the close connection between Ugin and Tarkir’s dragons, there may now be an opening for someone who knows the ancient way to take action – particularly when they’re cool enough to pick out a mountaintop in Ikoria and just do a kata.
Narset is back in her “original” colors, though I suppose that’s a point of lore debate. Either way, this planeswalking Narset is the third one of its kind, and she’s finally back in Jeskai colors after reawakening that connection. And this Narset…is pretty legit, all things considered.
Her +1 and -2 both play in a resource space that Jeskai likes: the +1 is some life and a bit of mana for noncreature spells (their favorite kind of spell), and the -2 is a combination of card advantage and removal. The wording on this ability is likely to be a bit fiddly: you announce the target as you -2, before you draw, and then you decide if you discard into damage. (She always has a target for it in herself, so there’s no risk of it being dead.) Her ultimate is a perfect spellslinger weapon, and it’s less pie-in-the-sky than most planeswalker ultimates, though she can’t easily protect herself without help as she ticks up towards it.
Being three color will make Narset a bit more challenging to play than most planeswalkers, but a powerful set of utility abilities will always help her do something in a game. She’s not likely to be a deck’s star, but a strong roleplayer is a good place to be.
Hello everyone and welcome back to Pojo’s Card of the Day, today we’re looking at a fan favorite planeswalker Narset who last appeared in War of the Spark to shake up the world of Vintage and Legacy. So let’s take a look at the newest iteration.
When I first saw Narset spoiled I had to say I was pretty saddened by her new suite of abilities. A +1 that gains 2 life and adds mana isn’t too exciting in the same way that Temur Sarkhan was pretty underwhelming. Her -2 allowing for card draw and a bit of removal dependent on the discarded cards CMC might have some utility in turning a dead card in hand into a Fireblast/Bolt/etc. Her ultimate which lands at 6 allows all of your non-creature spells to have a shock attached and honestly that feels fairly weak in comparison to the abilities of planeswalkers that have come about in the past year.
Looking over these abilities it’s time to ask, where does she fit in?
Standard is probably going to take one glance at her and pass, there’s a lot of powerful planeswalkers for her to contend with specifically her Jr. version that parts veils, and a game-halting Teferi. Where she might find a place is in the Jeskai Fires deck where she might simply find value as a bonus planeswalker that can be dropped in color and offer a bit of removal as well as life gain against early aggressive decks.
Commander is far and away from caring about this planeswalker given that of her four mana CMC 3 of it is color based and her +1 is hardly anything to write home about. Her ultimate is also incredibly lackluster in a world where Ultimates can exile libraries, exile permanents, and in the case of Bolas simply win the game outright.
In Draft she’s going to be okay, it’s a great pick but it’s going to immediately place you in colors that are going to be hard fought for and more often than not you’re going to be using her to simply draw 2 cards over the course of two turns, maybe add mana for ramp and gain some life on a turn to keep her alive a little bit longer. On an empty board you can maybe ultimate her as long as she’s protected but most Standard Draft decks run a cap of 7 non-creature spells to have a good curve so you might run out of ammo for that ultimate pretty fast.
In Cube… She does not go in cube. At Four mana you have much better options like a Mind Sculpting Jace or even at 3 mana, Dack Fayden and Saheeli Sublime Artificer which are more flexible and going to do a lot more than Narset.
The weaknesses of Narset are many but it might simply be that the pendulum is starting to swing back in the way of spells rather than creatures and planeswalkers. In all honesty this might be okay and simply might be time for a weaker suite of planeswalkers to occupy the Standard Rotation, after Teferi, T3feri, and Oko, it might be time to simply pump the brakes.
Constructed 1/5 – Might see plays in Jeskai Fires, not worth the mana inconsistency in other control decks.
Limited 2/5 – Honestly you’d probably much rather have opened a Vivien Reid.
Commander 1/5 – She’ll get tossed in the coulda, shoulda, woulda, bin with Temur Sarkhan.
Cube 1/5 – I’ll just have to make due with Narset, Parter of the Veils as my pride and joy Narset walker.
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