What is a Planeswalker?

In the fictional multiverse of the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game, a planeswalker is a powerful mage, able to travel across the planes of existence. All players are planeswalkers; non-player planeswalkers are described in Magic’s back-story (which is represented in novels, starter-deck inserts, online articles and card flavor text), and with Lorwyn the first Planeswalker cards were introduced. Planeswalkers have a near-monopoly on travel between and knowledge of the various planes, though other powers capable of opening portals between worlds do exist.

Here is a sneak preview of the 2012 trailer for duel of the planeswalkers

Only those with a rare and innate ability called the "planeswalker spark" can become planeswalkers. (The spark can be transferred from one being to another, but the process is highly dangerous and potentially fatal.) Only one individual in a million is given the spark. Even then, they must "ascend", which usually occurs spontaneously during a time of great stress (most common being a form of horrendous death, e.g., the sylex blast or its aftereffects). This ascension, as well as the extraordinary amount of power at their fingertips, drives almost all planeswalkers insane over time. In an attempt to prevent this, most planeswalkers are tutored by older ones. Wilders, or planeswalkers that decide to travel the multiverse untutored, exist (Ravidel) but are often extremely dangerous and sometimes utterly insane.

A planeswalker has complete control over his or her physical appearance, and does not physically need to eat, drink, sleep, or even breathe (although some, such as Urza, do these things to help preserve their sanity). Planeswalkers are very difficult to kill and can't die of natural causes, (such as being stabbed, or even dismembered). This is due to that fact that the Planeswalker's spark that is present within his or her brain is the source of the Planeswalker power. While the brain still exists, a Planeswalker still has the ability to traverse the many planes, can regenerate and shapeshift at will, and can stay alive for millennia upon millennia—and, of course, perform magical activity.

Due to their near-immortality which radically alters their perspectives and personalities, Planeswalkers rarely have relationships with non-Planeswalkers. They know, as soon as they meet someone, that they will outlive them, and that they will have to live with the loss. However, some Planeswalkers, such as Urza, may associate with mortals if he or she finds an advantage in doing so. Urza made two exceptions, one for Xantcha (an artificial Phyrexian human loyal to him), and Barrin the master wizard, who had learned to magically reverse and control his aging. Both Xantcha and Barrin eventually died, though not of old age.

During the Time Spiral cycle of novels (which includes Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight), a series of rifts in the actual fabric of multiverse has begun to cause havoc and apocalyptic destruction in many planes. Specifically in the plane of Dominaria, Planeswalkers have begun to seal those rifts to repair the rents in time and space, whether according to their will or not, by giving up their Planeswalker sparks (though it usually demotes them to the status of mortals or kills them outright)—called "mending." Though it seems that the worlds of the multiverse have begun to heal because of this mending, it is revealed that all the tears in the multiverse result from entropy due to world-scarring events such as the Dominarian Apocalypse, but also because of the Planeswalks of powerful Planeswalkers—which have gradually accumulated over time.

Thus, the creation of Planeswalker sparks has been irreversibly altered by the laws that govern the multiverse. The result is a new breed of Planeswalkers, sometimes called "neowalkers," "planescrawlers," or "jumpers" by fans because of their exponentially decreased powers. These new Planeswalkers can Planeswalk between the multiverse's many planes but do not have the other advantages of the old Planeswalkers. Though they have a small boost in power compared to other mages, the new Planeswalkers are no longer immortal and must rely on their own wizarding abilities, rather than gain the magical might and potential that was immediately gained by their older counterparts.

By the end of the novel Future Sight, in Dominaria, several of the prominent Planeswalkers have been destroyed and some new looking Planeswalkers have appeared, such as Venser, an artificer living in fear on the island of Urborg and Radha, a Keldon elf.

The Spark: One in a Million

One in a million sentient beings are born with “the spark,” the ineffable essence that makes an individual capable of becoming a Planeswalker. Of those born with “the spark,” even fewer “ignite” their spark, enabling them to realize their potential and travel the planes. Most Planeswalkers have their spark ignited as the result of a great crisis or trauma, but every awakening is different. A near-death experience might ignite a Planeswalker’s spark, but so could a sudden, life-changing epiphany or a meditative trance that enables the mage’s grasp of some transcendent truth. There are as many such stories as there are Planeswalkers.

The Blind Eternities

The “Blind Eternities” is a somewhat poetic term for the space between planes. The Blind Eternities are a chaotic, logic-defying place of quasi-existence filled with raw potential called Æther. Only Planeswalkers can survive there, and only for a limited time. Mortal beings without the Planeswalker spark are soon destroyed by raw entropy and uncontained mana that suffuses the Blind Eternities.

The Life of a Planeswalker

After the Planeswalker spark ignites, one has the power to dedicate one’s life to a personal mission, whatever that may be. A Planeswalker’s life is consumed with the exploration of the Multiverse, the discovery of strange secrets and experiences, and the plumbing of the depths of one’s own mystic soul. The life of a Planeswalker is a life of choice and self-determination, unrestricted by the boundaries of world or fate. With the freedom to travel and the power of magic, each Planeswalker has the power to carve his or her name on the face of history.

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