The Wandering Emperor – Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
Date Reviewed: December 30, 2022
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale: 1 is bad; 3 is average; 5 is great.
I remember when War of the Spark came out, what feels like 150 years ago, and there was some speculation about who The Wanderer was. There were some pretty underwhelming suggestions, but also a few I thought were fancifully entertaining, like Elspeth as a Returned who had retained her spark, or an aspect of Emrakul reaching out from Innistrad’s moon. Then we saw her full reveal in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, and it was even better than anything we’d expected.
I’m serious. Her abilities would be great in combat even if she didn’t have the ability to use them during an opponent’s turn once, and the fact that she can is just incredible. She can easily catch an opponent in the middle of what seems like a favorable attack and turn it around completely, and has three different ways to do so, in a way that fits with existing white decks’ plans and even enables some new ones. Her results in Standard speak for herselves, and her flexibility and speed speak well for her prospects in future bigger formats. I once described her in a different context as the “best Emperor ever”; I stand by that, and can’t see her being topped any time soon, and hope this is a statement of intent for future white cards. (And that she channels The Bride upside New Phyrexia’s head, but that’s a matter for the gameplay-free reviews section!)
It’s almost the end of the intercalary, nearly the last day of the year; so take some time to play some Magic!
This card was no.2 on my Top 10 Cards of 2022 list.
While Boseiju racked up its accolades in deeper formats, The Wandering Emperor took her talents to Standard as well as all of the deeper formats that Boseiju did, and I’d definitely call her a wholly deserving card for top billing. While she lacks a conventional “ultimate”, being able to flash her in during combat to knock an attacker out forever is an excellent use of four mana, and she even can jump in to break up a combo if necessary. Beyond that, she’s subtly good at thumbing the scales of combat in your favor with an extra blocker or extra pop on an attacker, ensuring that she’ll usually have some impact through multiple turns. And it’s not easy for her to be offed on the turn she comes in, since she can make her entrance after attackers are declared.
The Wandering Emperor is not just a good planeswalker, but a good value card on her own. She’s removal, combat stats, and an extra target to be gotten rid of at a solid rate, and while no ultimate seems a bit underwhelming, she has three excellent day-to-day abilities to make your opponents beg for mercy. She’s a threat whenever four mana is left open for a white deck, and I feel like she’ll continue to be a threat for both her Standard run and whenever decks in white are a Thing in deeper formats.
Constructed: 5 (I’d say she’s more than earned this)
Commander: 4.25 (mostly a combat trick, but an excellent one)
See you next year!
(which starts next week but who cares)
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