If you’ve been playing Magic for any length of time, you’re almost certainly familiar with the biggest, baddest Planeswalker of them all, [mtg_card=Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker]. With an origin in the early days of Magic, mister Bolas is one of only a handful of characters we’ve actually seen turn Planeswalker. Back in the day, Bolas was just [mtg_card=Nicol Bolas], a Legendary Elder Dragon creature. Nowadays, however, he’s revered as the single most powerful Planeswalker in the multiverse.
Ugin hasn’t been around quite as long as Bolas, but he’s still got a bit of history in the game. The earliest printed reference to Ugin was on [mtg_card=Ghostfire] from the Future Sight set. Ugin is affiliated with Colorless mana, rather than one of the five primary colors most typically associated with the game, and [mtg_card=Ghostfire] highlights this with its first line of text “Ghostfire is colorless,” despite having Red in its casting cost. His colorless nature made Ugin the perfect mastermind against the similarly-aligned, world-crushing Eldrazi. With the help of three lesser Planeswalkers, Ugin managed to trap the Eldrazi beneath Zendikar for ages, until they were unleashed upon the Multiverse once again in the Zendikar block.
Nicol Bolas isn’t really one to share his place at the top of the Planeswalker heap, however, and seeing another Planeswalker – another Dragon, no less – with power that rivals his own, Bolas made his way to Ugin’s home plane of Tarkir (also the birthplace of [mtg_card=Sarkhan Vol]), where Bolas settled once and for all any debate about who was the most powerful Planeswalker. The moral of this story is: Never fuck with Bolas.
After getting wrecked by Nicol Bolas, Ugin wasn’t quite dead, and Sarkhan Vol started hearing the voice of the dragon’s spirit in his head. From [mtg_card=Tormenting Voice], you see this quote from Vol: “Unwelcome thoughts crowd my mind. Are they my own madness, or the whispers of another?”
With the backstory out of the way, let’s talk about Ugin’s reunion tour in the form of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. At eight mana, he’s right on par with [mtg_card=Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker] who was previously the most expensive Planeswalker ever printed. Of course, colorless mana is at a lower premium than colored, so technically speaking, Bolas still basically deserves the title. Additionally, Ugin starts with seven Loyalty, which is again tied for the highest ever printed, tying with [mtg_card=Sarkhan the Mad]. If nothing else, he’s a beast of a tank, offering more than 1/3 of your starting health total in damage absorption, assuming your opponent decides to attack him… which they should, given his abilities.
His +2 ability is a [mtg_card=Volcanic Hammer], [mtg_card=Lightning Bolt]’s differently-abled cousin. One of the most important factors in determining a Planeswalker’s power level is whether or not it can protect itself in some way. [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion], for example, is incredible, since she churns out three chump blockers every turn. Having a 3-damage removal ability, especially as a +2, is incredibly potent, and Ugin hasn’t even begun to begin.
His second ability is -X, reading, “Exile each permanent with converted mana cost X or less that’s one or more colors.” Hoo-boy, that’s a doozy. Given that he starts with seven Loyalty, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that he can’t immediately exile, and survive to boot. With the vast majority of permanents seeing play having CMC of five or less, you’ll almost certainly get to utilize the sweeper ability and keep him around for another turn, unless you’re facing down a ton of Morph or Artifact Creatures. Sweepers are always nice, and having one attached to your Planeswalker may well prove to be absurd.
Finally, we get to his ultimate ability. It’s got a steep cost at -10, but he only needs to +2 twice to get there, so it’s not unreasonable to achieve. “You gain 7 life…” that’s key for stabilizing against a more aggressive strategy. “…draw seven cards…” ermahgerd. That’s really nice. Refilling your hand late in the game is critical for most control strategies. “… then put up to seven permanents from your hand onto the battlefield.” Oh. Em. Gee.
With the new Legendary rules in effect, it’s not hard to imagine a situation where you proc his -10, draw another Ugin, drop him for free, sac the old one, then either wipe the board, or tick up the new-gin. Seems prettttty good.
Pre-release events for Fate Reforged start on January 17, and we at The Escapist have every intention of diving a little deeper into the set as a whole once it’s been fully revealed, so stay tuned for more in the next few days! Also, remember, Bolas is still best.