Ok, I realize WotC says, 2CMC or less isn't possible to balance. I'm not claiming mine are perfectly balanced either, but I believe it is possible, once you let go of the restriction that an ultimate must basically say “you win the game”.
So for my cycle of 1drop walkers, I use some 2cmc-3cmc effects for ultimates instead.
Obviously, the +1 must be close to worthless and the - must be worth less than a 1drop spell.
gideon, the 1drop W
+1: you gain 1 life.
-1: ~ becomes a 2/2 Human Soldier creature with indestructible until end of turn. Prevent all damage that would be done to it.
-3: exile target tapped creature.
Jace, the 1drop U
+1: look at the top card of target player's library.
-1: tap target creature. it doesn't untap in its controller's next untap step.
-4: draw two cards.
(the one thing about this that'd worry me balance-wise is the - protecting it. Draw two on a 1drop isn't too scary, says Ancestral Vision)
Liliana, the 1drop B
+1: target player reveals three cards from their hand.
-2: name a nonland card. target player discards a card with that name. if they can't, they reveal their hand.
-4: target player sacrifices a creature.
(I know 3 cards to reveal is out of character after Jace revealing only 1, but with only 2 they'd reveal the land and spell they're going to play next turn, while 3 cards still leaves plenty option for the opponent to double-spell or reveal multiple lands)
chandra, the 1drop R
+1: you may exile a card at random from your hand. If you do, draw a card.
-2: you may cast a card exiled with ~.
-3: ~ deals 3 damage to any target.
(I realize this reminds a bit of 4drop Karn, but without the card-advantage (or really any advantage) on the +, I think it's fine--Only thing the + does beside set up - and ult is mitigate mana-screw and flood a bit)
nissa, the 1drop G
+1: up to one target creature gets +0/+1 until your next turn.
-1: add G
-4: create Ashaya the awoken world, a legendary 4/4 elemental token.
karn, the 1drop 1
+1: do nothing.
-10: you win the game.
(because I like breaking my own rules. Also, this is more of an alt-win than a proper planeswalker)
Not feasible. The power level has to go down so much that it's almost an enchantment, artifact, a wizard or a legendary creature.
I disagree. People have done it before, myself included. I don't understand your argument that low power level makes walkers feels like other permanents. It's not like powerful artifacts and enchantments didn't exists, so the association makes little sense.
The point of any PWs is to play like a crazy strong enchantment/artifact that can go down in combat or to red removal. The same thing applies to one mana walkers.
Private Mod Note
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Standard - Serious U Tempo W Weenies UR Izzet Drakes Standard - For Fun / Testing BRG Aristocrats GUR Gates WU Tempo Skies WB Knights GWR Nikya Ramps Huge Dinos
Ok, these cards were literally slapped together in minutes, so I guess it's not too surprising they feel that way.
Anyway, Liliana is out of character with the spying, but not with the discard. She's done discard previously, if not on planeswalker cards, then at least on liliana-flavored cards. But perhaps there's a planeswalker that would be a better fit for these abilities (maybe Ashiok? (with a different ultimate, that is; although I really don't know what that would do))
About Nissa: Generic mana dorks have previously been considered too powerful for standard and might again be absent some day. I agree though that she makes zero sense in a standard format that has LLanowar elves.
I've been thinking about 1cc walkers since the uncommon ones were announced in WAR.
First, I think we can't do it with any existing walker. They are simply too powerful lorewise to see weakened down to 1cc, and no one really wants to see their epic hero in weak noob form. BUT... perhaps a fledgling walker who just sparked? You don't already have to be a powerful mage for your spark to trigger, so it fits.
Second, I think the most crucial aspect of a 1cc walker is that it can't protect itself, at least not with its main + or - abilities (ie: no tokens, full-round tap, burn, etc). This will keep it from getting out of hand and ruining the early game. Any ability that could protect itself would have to be limited to its third "ultimate" ability, if seen at all. It could also, perhaps, psuedo-protect itself, such as untapping a creature you control. This would allow a little protection, but it doesn't do it by itself.
I would also discourage any card advantage or permanent gains outside of the ultimate. If you drop one first turn on the play you can +it and -it before your opponent generally has a chance to kill it, with only a few exceptions. As such, the Walker's first two abilities combined shouldn't be able to do more than what we'd get from a good 1cc Spell. This would be a good rule of thumb that limits the early game power before the opponent can properly interact with it.
Two examples along these lines:
Svengol, Silhana Champion
Legendary Planeswalker - Svengol
+1: Untap up to one target creature.
-2: Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
-4: Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control.
Brogsten, Legion Drillmaster
Legendary Planeswalker - Brogsten
+1: Up to one target creature can't block this turn.
-1: Target creature gains haste until end of turn.
-4: Creatures you control get +2/+0 until end of turn.
(Brogsten would be the final version of the little Legion Goblin that has worked his way up the ranks in Boros. He was first seen as a Recruit, and went on to become a full fledged Loyalist, before his time as a Warboss triggered his spark as shown above).
Of course, making "weak" walkers is the opposite of what Planeswalker cards are suppose to represent.
But, no reason it can't be explored here for fun, right?