The Wandering Monster

Ben Fischer • February 8, 2023

The Magic community has been playing with ONE cards for under a week, but the word is already out: there’s a menace in this Limited environment, and she’s here to end games. Is this new planeswalker a true Wandering Monster, or is she destined for the bulk rare bin?

I always keep my ear to the ground during Prerelease weekend. I’m constantly refreshing Twitter to see new trophy lists, checking up on various Discord servers, and playing in as many Prerelease events as I can. There are three or four things I’ve grown accustomed to hearing every set release. The usuals include, “This set is broken,” “It’s worse than the last set,” and the eye-roll-inducing, “I can already tell this format is bad.” The set isn’t even out yet! Chill!

Certain card names tend to pop up often, as everyone wants to be first to nail the best cards in the set. This time, I heard a bit more talk about a single card than usual- a certain dimension-jumping planeswalker. Indecent sets, planeswalker designs have felt appropriately balanced or limited, with cards like Karn, Living Legacy and Saheeli, Filigree Master. The Eternal Wanderer, though… probably not so much. At best, we have a very, very, very strong rare. At worst, we might have another Dream Trawler issue on our hands. I opened The Eternal Wanderer in my Prerelease pool, and after spending a whole day casting her, I’m confident that this will be one of the most-discussed cards in the format.

What a card!

A disclaimer- I believe that over-the-top reactionary responses offer very little to the game or the limited discourse, so we’re going to take a more reasonable approach (if you’re looking to get into a screaming match over this card, I suggest you try Magic Twitter instead). First of all, The Eternal Wanderer is printed at rare, meaning that you still won’t see it all that often. The fact that it’s a highly-impactful card will make the games in which you play against it more memorable, and might make it seem as though you had played against it more often than other rares of similar quality.

Second, this is a six-mana card. This format has high-impact cards at 1, 2, and 3 mana, and with poison, it is reasonable to have your opponent severely behind or even dead before a six-mana effect can be cast. This is no Dream Trawler. Alongside the speed of the format, there are more commons and uncommons that answer planeswalkers for profitable mana advantage than usual. From my experience at Prerelease, a planeswalker cast on-curve rarely survives a few turns. The strength in The Eternal Wanderer is that she just needs to be on the board one turn for her board wipe effect, but board wipes are not new to limited. This one just requires some more finesse.

Slicing through the competition.

Third, I offer a hot take: it is 100% okay for a set to have a busted bomb rare or two. Could The Eternal Wanderer have been printed at mythic? Almost definitely. Can a few early matchups against a card like this lead a less-experienced player to dislike a format? Unfortunately, yes. But remember- for all the times you get beaten by a pushed bomb rare, you have probably beaten someone else with another pushed bomb rare. For someone that participates in 5-10 drafts across a format, there is a very solid chance that player will get to open and play with a given rare, as well as against it. For those that play consistently across a format (especially on Arena), you’re almost guaranteed to see it early enough in the draft to have it in a deck eventually. This is a hard mental hurdle to leap, but an important one for reducing personal tilt. If you or a loved one was personally beaten by The Eternal Wanderer this Prerelease weekend, I have a suggestion: rather than see this as a sign of a bad format, start looking forward to activating her abilities yourself.

Let’s dive into those abilities. The Eternal Wanderer has a very interesting static ability, preventing more than one creature from attacking her each combat. This means the common removal spells are some of the best ways to answer her. If you’re still looking for reasons to draft decks with efficient removal spells, there you go! This ability acts as pseudo-protection, as it pairs very well with her 0 ability. These double-striking tokens can eat or trade with most potential attackers, but can always repeatedly chump-block in order to buy you time to draw that key removal spell.

Eternals, Phyrexians, whatever...

The Eternal Wanderer’s +1 ability is incredibly flexible. You can use this to re-trigger enters-the-battlefield effects, give something pseudo-vigilance after attacks, reset a creature being locked down with a negative aura such as Planar Disruption, or even reset an artifact back to its original number of oil counters, like Incubation Sac. You can also target your opponent’s creatures! Kill tokens permanently, use it as a single-turn removal spell or remove positive buffs like auras or oil counters.

The real power of The Eternal Wanderer is in the -4 ability. This allows you to reset the board, save for two creatures of your choosing. Let’s be honest: if you were curving into this, you probably only have one or two valuable things on the board. You get to keep your best creature, and your opponent gets to keep their worst creature. Effects like this rarely allow you to choose for both players. Ticking down to 1 loyalty is risky- I had my Wanderer destroyed with burn damage after activating this just today- but often worth the ability when you need it. The best part is that if you’re ahead on board, she’s still great- just pump out an army of double-strikers instead!

All great plansewalker cards, all great art. 

The combination of all of these fantastic abilities on The Eternal Wanderer make for a very powerful late-game win condition. I have a feeling we will all be sick of the discourse around this card before long, so I leave you with this- Magic is a fantastically fun game, and I try to focus on the positives. Rather than allowing your experiences early in a format with a card to bring you down, try to find ways to be excited, motivated, and inspired by these experiences instead. I promise this- in a few years, you likely won’t remember the games in which you died to The Eternal Wanderer, but you will likely remember the game in which you beat her!

For more limited nonsense and Phyrexia: All Will Be One discussion, check out the Draft Chaff Podcast. Happy Drafting!