With the return of Innistrad comes double-faced cards, and that means we get our second double-sided planeswalker! Garruk Relentless // Garruk the Veil-Cursed was a very cool card, and an interesting play experience—but he only flipped once.
Arlinn Kord is not bound by such restrictions, and she has no problem going from human to werewolf and back again. Take a look:
Secretly (or not so secretly), Arlinn is just a planeswalker with five abilities. Take that, Jace! You don’t have access to all the abilities at once, but using the right ones lets you switch back and forth, letting you plan out multiple turns of strategic planeswalker activations.
First, let’s take a look at her human form:
+1: Until end of turn, up to one target creature gets +2/+2 and gains vigilance and haste.
This is a solid +1. It threatens much more than just 2 damage, because it not only gives haste, but also lets a smaller creature attack past a bigger one. It even gives your creature vigilance, which makes the ability defensive as well as offensive. Add all that up and you have an ability that helps when behind or ahead, even if it requires a creature to get going.
0: Put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield. Transform Arlinn Kord.
Arlinn looks similar to Elspeth, Knight-Errant based on these two abilities—and in case that wasn’t clear, that is very much a compliment. Elspeth is one of the best, and still even shows up in Modern from time to time. A 4-drop planeswalker that has a good power-boosting ability and can make 2/2s would be interesting, but the flip mechanic really pushes Arlinn over the top.
Her werewolf form gives us the following options:
+1: Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain trample until end of turn.
Making a Wolf and setting up a mini-Overrun is a great way to keep the pressure on. This ability is very good when you are ahead, and increasing Arlinn's loyalty gives your opponent two threats to deal with—they have to avoid dying to your large trampling army while doing something about a planeswalker threatening to ultimate.
-1: Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon deals 3 damage to target creature or player. Transform Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon.
Here is where the meat is. Lightning-Bolt-on-a-stick is one of the best things you can get, and at a cost of just -1 to boot. Because the loyalty cost is so low, it's not difficult to imagine firing off multiple Bolts, even if it takes many turns to do so. This does flip Arlinn, so you are limited to a Bolt every other turn, I imagine due to flavor. Lightning isn't supposed to strike twice, after all. The upside is that making a Wolf protects Arlinn, and lets you keep on dealing 3 until you are forced to start using a +1.
Arlinn would make a huge impact if all she did was alternate Wolves and Lightning Bolts, and she does much more than that. I suspect that many of the games involving Arlinn will revolve around getting as many Lightning Bolts as possible.
-6: You get an emblem with “Creatures you control have haste and ‘[T]: This creature deals damage equal to its power to target creature or player.’”
Besides featuring the rare double quotation marks, this ability gives you a significant long-term advantage. Ultimates tend to be great, and making all your creatures into hasty repeatable burn spells fits that description.
That's quite the slate of abilities. Arlinn has both the power and flexibility needed to show up in all sorts of decks and potentially even multiple formats.
She does the most in decks with a bunch of creatures, and that's the natural place for her to show up. I'd start by constructing an RG Beats style of deck, where every ability on Arlinn is a threat. She fills in the gaps if your draw is light on creatures, can remove opposing threats by dealing 3, and pumps your team if you need a finisher.
Even though Atarka Red is losing some of its pieces—Hordeling Outburst chief among them—Arlinn seems like the perfect kind of card to top off the curve. Nissa may provide a bigger burst in a token-heavy build, but without Outburst, it's a little harder to assemble that many creatures. Arlinn is more powerful by herself, and is exactly what I'd want in any midrange or control matchup.
Even setting aside the multiple abilities that pump creatures, Arlinn alternates between making Wolves and shooting down enemies. That's something control decks can get behind, and conveniently enough, Arlinn creates an army that can benefit from her creature-boosting skills. I can imagine her being great in decks like Jund, as she is very well-suited to grinding out card advantage and maintaining a good board presence.
Arlinn is going to make a major impact on Constructed, across all sorts of decks. Figuring out how to play with and against a planeswalker with this many abilities, including the flip aspect, is a challenge I’m looking forward to facing. Arlinn is a complicated card, and one you will see frequently. Plus, she is incredibly cool, and lives up to the hype of being the first flip planeswalker that can keep going back and forth. Garruk may be relentless, but Arlinn can turn beast mode on and off at will.