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Planebound Accomplice: Exclusive Modern Horizons Preview


Modern Horizons is looking amazing so far, and thanks to Wizards hooking us up with a preview card, we've got another awesome new card to show off for you today. Imagine if all of your planeswalkers cost just a single red mana rather than their mana cost. What could you do in Modern with a one-mana Karn Liberated, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? With the addition of Modern Horizons to the format, we'll get a chance to find out. Take a look at Planebound Accomplice:

Planebound Accomplice

Planebound Accomplice is a unique card. It calls back to the Legacy staple Sneak Attack, but instead of putting a creature into play for a single red mana, it drops a planeswalker onto the battlefield. Of course, the power of getting a one-mana planeswalker comes with a big drawback: you have to sacrifice the planeswalker at the end of the turn, which means it takes some work to truly take advantage of Planebound Accomplice

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While just putting a planeswalker into play for a single mana to get one activation is fine, generally speaking, the true power of a planeswalker is that it generates repeatable advantage turn after turn, which is something that's missing if we're putting planeswalkers into play with Planebound Accomplice since they sacrifice themselves at the end of the turn. However, the equation does change quite a bit if your planeswalker only costs a single mana. While getting a single Jace, the Mind Sculptor activation might not sound exciting, when you consider that Brainstorm costs one mana and it's perhaps the most important card in Legacy, putting a Jace, the Mind Sculptor into play with Planebound Accomplice, Brainstorming once, and then watching your Jace die doesn't actually sound all that bad. The same is true of a lot of planeswalkers. While one turn of Karn Liberated to exile a land or of Chandra, Torch of Defiance to kill a creature isn't as exciting as several turns with the planeswalkers, a one-mana Vindicate or a literal Flame Slash is still more than fine in a pinch. That said, if you're playing Planebound Accomplice, you're probably looking to do more than just turn Jace, the Mind Sculptor into literal Brainstorm. Thankfully, there are some ways to make Planebound Accomplice much more devastating.

The Immediate Ultimate

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By far the most powerful thing you can do with Planebound Accomplice is to build your deck in a way where you don't really care that you're only getting the planeswalkers it puts onto the battlefield for a single turn, by ultimating your planeswalkers immediately with something like Doubling Season or even The Elderspell. In the not-too-distant past, we had a semi-competitive Modern deck that looked to do exactly this: Double Moon Walkers.

The main plan of Double Moon Walkers is to get a Doubling Season on the battlefield, play a planeswalker, and immediately have enough loyalty to ultimate the planeswalker thanks to Doubling Season adding extra loyalty counters. With a Doubling Season out, you can immediately ultimate Nahiri, the Harbinger to tutor out an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, ultimate Xenagos, the Reveler to put a bunch of cards from your library into play, or super-Bribery with Jace, Architect of Thought. Planebound Accomplice seems like a perfect fit for this type of strategy. Sure, your planeswalkers will die at the end of the turn, but the most powerful thing you can do with pretty much any planeswalker is ultimate it anyway, so the downside of Planebound Accomplice is almost completely eliminated—your planeswalker will have already done its job.

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The Elderspell is a bit harder to build around, but in theory, for just five mana, you could put three planeswalkers into play from your hand, activate them, and then kill two of them with The Elderspell to add four loyalty counters to the remaining planeswalker to reach the ultimate right away, basically making a janky but potentially faster version of the Doubling Season combo we just talked about. While this might be somewhat Magic Christmas Land since you need a bunch of planeswalkers in hand, immediately ultimating a planeswalker is powerful enough that it might be worth trying at the very least. And even if the plan isn't competitive, it's at least funny and fun.

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Here, it's also worth mentioning that if your goal is to ultimate a planeswalker immediately, we have a sweet new option from War of the Spark in Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God. While most planeswalkers virtually win the game when you ultimate them thanks to the value they'll generate over the course of a few turns, Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God literally wins the game as long as your opponent doesn't have a legendary creature or planeswalker. This means that something like Doubling Season or The Elderspell (with enough planeswalkers to kill) basically ends up being a one-mana "I win the game" combo if you have a Planebound Accomplice on the battlefield and a Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God in hand. While probably not a truly competitive list, something like this could be a lot of fun and maybe even win some games:

The basic plan of Planebound Bolas is to disrupt the opponent with discard and removal in the early game and then either cast a bunch of powerful (but not too expensive) planeswalkers or use Planebound Accomplice to get a weird sort of combo-kill with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God. For example, for just five mana, we can put Liliana Vess into play with Planebound Accomplice to tutor The Elderspell to the top of our deck; put something like Teferi, Time Raveler, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or Narset, Parter of Veils into play to draw The Elderspell; and then put Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God into play, allowing us to kill our other two planeswalkers with The Elderspell, get Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God up to eight loyalty, and win the game by ultimating our new Bolas. In theory, thanks to mana from Simian Spirit Guide, we can do all of this as early as Turn 4, with our planeswalkers helping us dig through our deck to find our various combo pieces.

Mana-Producing Planeswalkers

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Another interesting possibility is to use Planebound Accomplice with planeswalkers that have an ability that does something but also generates mana, which should allow you to activate Planebound Accomplice again, assuming you have another planeswalker in hand. Sarkhan Unbroken is a good example of this: you can use one red mana to put it into play with Planebound Accomplice, immediately +1 to draw a card and make a red mana, and then perhaps repeat the process if you have another Sarkhan Unbroken (or another planeswalker) in hand. Vraska, Relic Seeker is similar, but instead of drawing a card, it puts the opponent down a card (by blowing up an artifact, creature, or enchantment). Meanwhile, Xenagos, the Reveler can actually turn into a ritual if we have a few creatures on the battlefield, potentially generating several times as much mana as it costs to put it into play with Planebound Accomplice. While it's probably a risky plan because it would require running a lot of expensive planeswalkers (leading to some rough games if Planebound Accomplice dies), this could allow for some sort of weird planeswalkers combo deck where the goal is to put as many planeswalkers into play in a single turn as possible and then figure out how to win the game later, possibly by reanimating our planeswalkers after they die or by saving them through other measures.

Saving Your Planeswalkers

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Another easy way to break Planebound Accomplice is to figure out a way to keep your planeswalkers on the battlefield thought the "sacrifice it at end of turn" clause. While we do have a couple of planeswalkers in Venser, the Sojourner and Kaya, Ghost Assassin that can do this by blinking themselves (turning them into new objects and essentially fizzling Planebound Accomplice's sacrifice clause), we've also got a lot of interesting non-planeswalker options that could form the foundation of a fun deck.

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Cards like Flickerwisp, Felidar Guardian, and Teferi's Time Twist all offer ways to reset planeswalkers put into play with Planebound Accomplice. With the help of something like Aether Vial to cheat creatures into play, things could actually get pretty scary. Imagine something like getting an Aether Vial up to three counters, putting Planebound Accomplice into play at the end of your opponent's turn, using Planebound Accomplice to put Karn Liberated into play for just one mana, activating Karn, putting Felidar Guardian into play to blink Karn Liberated, and then activating Karn again. The end result is not only two planeswalker activations but Karn Liberated sticking around, since the game see it as a new object, unaffected by Planebound Accomplice's sacrifice condition. Of course, in a situation like this, you don't even really need to use a big, expensive planeswalker like Karn Liberated. The same line works with cheaper, more hard-castable planeswalkers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, or Nahiri, the Harbinger.

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If you want to go full-on jank mode, Sundial of the Infinite can simply end the turn to keep the planeswalkers around after you put them on the battlefield and activate them. In some ways, the artifact offers one of the fastest plans for abusing Planebound Accomplice. Imagine something like Birds of Paradise on Turn 1 into Planebound Accomplice on Turn 2 into Sundial of the Infinite plus put a huge planeswalker into play with Planebound Accomplice on Turn 3. While not as clean and consistent, the combo of Planebound Accomplice can leave you with a Karn Liberated on the battlefield just as quickly as Tron.

Returning Planeswalkers from the Graveyard

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Another option for building around Planebound Accomplice is to to accept that our planeswalkers are going into the graveyard after one turn but then to get our planeswalkers back from the graveyard for more value. Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Nissa, Vital Force give us planeswalkers that can achieve the goal. Let's say we use Planebound Accomplice to stick a Karn Liberated into play and eat one of our opponent's lands. On the next turn, we can put a Nissa, Vital Force or Tamiyo, Collector of Tales into play for a single mana, use their minus ability to get our Karn Liberated back from our graveyard to our hand, and then put Karn Liberated (or whatever big, devastating planeswalker we're built around) back into play with Planebound Accomplice to get another activation.

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There are also some spells that can get planeswalkers directly from our graveyard to the battlefield. Primevals' Glorious Rebirth can theoretically reanimate an entire graveyard full of of planeswalkers, while Obzedat's Aid can snag any single planeswalker and put it into play. Faith's Reward is probably the least competitive but most fun option. Imagine that we can put two or three planeswalkers into play with Planebound Accomplice to get their activations and then, on our end step, after they sacrifice themselves, use Faith's Reward to put them all back on the battlefield, essentially turning our temporary planeswalkers into permanent threats.

The plan of Faith's Reward Superfriends is pretty simple: we ramp into Planebound Accomplice, use Xenagos, the Reveler to make some extra mana, and use that mana to put as many planeswalkers into play with Planebound Accomplice as possible, getting a bunch of Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance activations. Then, after we have our fun, we go to our end step, sacrifice all of our planeswalkers, and cast Faith's Reward to put them all back on the battlefield permanently. Even just a planeswalker or two should be enough to win us the game if we untap the next turn, especially since we have some of the biggest, baddest, most powerful planeswalkers in Modern in our deck.

Big Activations

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Maybe the most fair way to play Planebound Apprentice is to just jam it into a deck with a bunch of big, expensive planeswalkers that have at least one powerful ability. Take Karn Liberated, for example. While obviously not as strong as when Karn Liberated sticks on the battlefield for a few turns, even just a single 3 to exile your opponent's best permanent basically ends up being a one-mana Vindicate, which is a pretty busted card. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can turn into a one-mana wrath for colored permanents, and while it takes three cards rather than two, if you can put a Garruk, Caller of Beasts into play with Planebound Apprentice, you can then use Garruk's 3 to put something like Progenitus into play for just a single mana! This is basically the floor of Planebound Apprentice, assuming you're playing it in a deck with a reasonable number of planeswalkers, and the floor is actually pretty high. 

The Challenge

Considering that Planebound Accomplice is fairly cheap to cast and efficient to activate, in a vacuum, the card showing up in Modern isn't out of the question. The biggest challenge with Planebound Accomplice is in deck building: for Planebound Accomplice to really shine, you will need a critical mass of planeswalkers, preferably powerful and likely expensive ones. Without having a planeswalker in hand to cheat into play, Planebound Accomplice doesn't really do much of anything. The question is whether it's possible to build a deck with enough planeswalkers (and potentially some of the support pieces we've been talking about) to make Planebound Accomplice good but with a functional enough game plan and curve that the deck can still compete if it doesn't draw Planebound Accomplice (or if it dies). The planeswalkers also need to be somewhat expensive to make Planebound Accomplice worth the effort. If your goal is to get Chandra, Torch of Defiance onto the battlefield rather than casting a Planebound Accomplice on Turn 3 and putting Chandra, Torch of Defiance into play on Turn 4, you may as well just cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance on Turn 4 and have it stick around, rather than losing it at the end of turn. This is a pretty narrow opening to fit through—lots of expensive, powerful planeswalkers and a functional curve—and it's going to take some deck-building effort to really make it work.

As such, the most likely hope for Planebound Accomplice for the immediate future is an updated version of the Double Moon Walker deck we talked about a while ago. The deck naturally has enough planeswalkers to make Planebound Accomplice work while also having a built-in plan to get around the downside of of sacrificing planeswalkers at the end of turn. While it's sort of clunky that we really want Doubling Season on the battlefield before we start dropping planeswalkers into play with Planebound Accomplice, having some big, wrathing planeswalkers like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Chandra, Flamecaller will help, since if we can't just win the game with Planebound Accomplice and Doubling Season, we can at least use our planeswalkers to stay alive while we are looking for some pieces.

Probably the biggest upside of Planebound Accomplice in a deck like this is that it allows us to do multiple things in a turn. Thanks to all of our mana dorks, we can ramp into Planebound Accomplice on Turn 2 and then, by somewhere around Turn 4, potentially play Doubling Season and still have a red mana left over to immediately put a planeswalker into play with Planebound Accomplice's ability, speeding up the kill by an entire turn and allowing us to avoid whatever countermagic our opponent might be intending to use on our planeswalkers (although Doubling Season can still be countered). Is this enough to bring Double Moon Walkers to the forefront of Modern? Probably not, but it still sounds like a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, this is probably the main use of Planebound Accomplice. While the deck-building clunkiness of needing a critical mass of (mostly expensive and powerful) planeswalkers might keep the three-drop out of top-tier competitive decks, putting a massive planeswalker into play for just a single mana is a super-fun ability, and doubly so since it calls back to a popular Legacy staple in Sneak Attack. The dream of playing Planebound Accomplice on Turn 3 and then putting four planeswalkers into play on Turn 4 might not win a Grand Prix, but it will make for an epic Against the Odds video or a great story at your local FNM. Because of this, even if it ends up that Planebound Accomplice won't be a tournament staple, the card is still super unique and amazingly fun, and considering players' love for superfriends-style lists, I expect we'll see a lot of spicy brews featuring it, whether they are competitive on a tournament level or not. The card is just that sweet!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Thanks again to Wizards for hooking us up with a spicy Modern Horizons preview card! What do you want to do with Planebound Accomplice in Modern? What other sweet combos or synergies can you think of for a planeswalker version of Sneak Attack? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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