BW Smallpox is a Black based control deck that is built around the card Smallpox for early disruption. We play lands like Flagstones of Trokair that reward us for sacrificing it and we play cards like Lingering Souls to discard to break the symmetry of Smallpox. Smallpox punishes early starts and can set our opponent back a turn while keeping us ahead. Our threats are most often planeswalkers and tokens which help us get around the draw backs of Smallpox.
The general game plan of BW Smallpox is to disrupt our opponent early and win through small advantages over a long game often back up by a big planeswalker. The most exciting play the deck has is casting Smallpox on turn 2 with a Flagstones of Trokair in play and a card like Lingering Souls in hand. Smallpox will destroy an opponent's creature, land, and a card in hand, while we get a land back from Flagstones and put Lingering Souls in the graveyard.
Similar to BGx decks and 8rack, we play a lot of removal and hand disruption. Since we can only play 4 Smallpox we supplement it with the usual black disruption cards. Our primary win conditions are meant to dodge the drawbacks of Smallpox: Planeswalkers and Tokens. Since we are focused on slowing the game down powerful white sideboard cards are key to winning a lot of match ups.
The core of the deck usually looks something like:
Typically we run 24-25 lands. This is to support our expensive 4 mana cards as well as having extra lands to sacrifice to Smallpox when we can't pull off the combo with Flagstones. We have plenty of discard outlets to discard extra lands so it's suggested to play a lot of lands. Even a deck like Jund runs 24-25 lands and they don't sacrifice their own lands. It's OK to run a lot of "man lands" but we want a high land density.
Flagstones of Trokair: the graveyard trigger is the most important part of this card. The legend rule doesn't matter too much here since we get to search for a plains when it's destroyed. We almost always run 4 of this card because staying ahead on lands after a pox is an amazing tempo swing. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: This card makes Flagstones into a swamp, enabling a turn 2 Smallpox. We should not play 4 because we need to hit four lands and the legend rule can be painful. Most lists have 3. Fetid Heath: This lets us produce double black on turn 2 with a Flagstones, enabling turn 2 Smallpox. I've seen decks with anywhere from 2-4 copies. The more you play the more you risk having a clunky land base just like with Urborg. Another reason to not run all 4 is that if you have a flagstones, fetid heath, smallpox in hand you don't get to make a turn one play most of the time. Shambling Vent / Mutavault: These are our "man lands" that give us threats when we draw too many lands. Shambling Vents fixes our colors but Mutavault can attack sooner and more often. Since the deck is so color hungry shambling vents is the man land of choice. Godless Shrine: Our usual fetch target with Flagstones and sometimes Marsh Flats. We need more shock lands than the average 2 color deck because we sort of run 8 "fetch lands" if you include Flagstones. 3 is the usual number to run. Plains: Another fetch target. Works great with Urborg. Most lists play just 1 because we already have too many white sources and turn 1 mono white lands (flagstones). Marsh Flats: Triggers revolt and fetches basics against Blood Moon decks. We don't auto include all 4 because sometimes we want the land density when we are liberally sacrificing and discarding our lands. Usually 3-4 are played. Swamp: Most of our deck is black so we want a good number of basic swamps.
This is the most common way for us to take over the game after a smallpox. Planeswalkers generate long term value and help grind the game out.
Liliana of the Veil: the most important walker in our deck, kills things and discards cards. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: Gideon is a great way to close out games. He can also make tokens and can pump our tokens. Sorin, Solemn Visitor: Very strong with lots of tokens and can create a Vampire in a pinch. Sorin is pretty bad by himself but when we have a few tokens he is almost always game winning. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad: Can make more tokens than Solemn Visitor but doesn't give lifelink when pumping our team so it's played less. Still a very powerful option.
Inquisition of Kozelik / Thoughtseize: Our most common turn 1 play. These cards let us slow our opponent down and help us time our other spells against counters / creatures / etc. Smallpox: the cornerstone of the deck. We have ways to negate the symmetry of each effect on this card. Collective Brutality: This is the closest to Smallpox 5-8 we have access to. It lets us discard cards that want to be in the graveyard for extra effects. Lingering Souls: Our first choice when discarding cards to Liliana / Smallpox / Brutality. Damnation: Board Sweeper that we can use when we are falling behind. We don't want to overload on this since we end up with a lot of tokens but it's a good tool to have. Never // Return: This is a card that, like Lingering Souls, has value in the graveyard. It is very slow and Return is very weak so it is not a common choice.
Fatal Push: The most efficient Black removal spell. We usually play 3-4 of these. Mana Tithe: Major blow outs are possible with this card. It fills a similar role as our targeted discard does so it fights for slots there. Our smallpoxes keep this relevant for longer than the average deck can but we can't hold it forever. There are many people that play 4 to great success. Other people play 0 Mana Tithe so it's a pretty contentious card. It's a difficult card to evaluate but basically it's a high risk / high reward card. Dismember: This is a removal spell for certain metas. It's most useful for delve threats like Gurmag Angler. Cast Down: This is a removal spell for certain metas. This is useful against big creatures like Primeval Titan. Murderous Cut: Another removal spell that can be useful in certain metas. Anguished Unmaking: This is a painful catch-all that's usually a sideboard card. It's good for planeswalkers / artifacts / enchantments. Path to Exile: I want to mention this card here because it seems like an auto include in any white deck. This card is pretty bad in our deck because smallpox is meant to get rid of lands. Giving your opponent a land is a real cost that shouldn't be ignored like it is in some other white decks. It is suggested to NOT play this card without a good reason.
Bloodghast: This is a great card to discard to Liliana / Pox / Brutality. Recently many decks have moved away from Bloodghast because of its low impact. It's a very easy card to block and many decks have a plan to take care of it. Dark Confidant: This is one of our few ways to generate card advantage but it does not play nicely with Smallpox.
Bitterblossom: It's a great way to make a bunch of tokens. A common replacement for Bloodghast in recent decks.
The primary match ups we are concerned about with our sideboard are Graveyard decks and decks that don't play many creatures. The few cards in this section are recommended for most metas. More sideboard cards can be found in the Budget and Alternate Card Choices section.
Leyline of the Void / Rest in Peace / Nihil Spellbomb: Graveyard hate is a must currently in the meta and our discard and removal spells sometimes aren't very effective at slowing these decks down. Different metas require different answers. Rest in Peace is often a fine sideboard choice because our graveyard interaction is often incidental while our opponent's is mandatory. Nihil Spellbomb can also be a good mainboard card if the meta calls for it. Stony Silence: Great against Affinity and Artifact combos. Also very powerful against Tron. Fulminator Mage: supports our land destruction plan and helps against UWx control and Tron. Surgical Extraction: More graveyard hate and also helps against combos. Zealous Persecution: Great against tokens where our edicts are bad. We can also win combat with tokens against aggro decks or just use it as an anthem. Very versatile card. Damnation: Good against go-wide decks. Can be mainboard or sideboard. Anguished Unmaking / Disenchant / Celestial Purge: These cards helps us beat problem permanents like Blood Moon, Ensnaring Bridge, and Liliana, the Last Hope.
Concealed Courtyard: Produces colored mana turn 1 but means we probably aren't running fetchlands. The main drawback is that it can't be untapped on turn 4 which is still an important turn to have untapped mana. This is usually a budget replacement for our fetches but it can work in non-budget lists. Caves of Koilos: Another budget replacement for fetchlands. Ghost Quarter / Field of Ruin: More land destruction is always good. The deck is very color hungry so it's tough to put many of these in. Vault of the Archangel: Usually a good card in token decks but it costs too much to make me want to play it.
Myth Realized: This is a great turn 1 play but gets much worse as the game progresses. It's fine in slower metas but can sometimes be a difficult tempo loss when played turn 1 against aggro. Be wary of cards like Cryptic Command that can bounce it and remove all of your progress. Without card advantage I fear this card is too weak. Smuggler's Copter: good with tokens, helps filter past top decking lands. A bit awkward if we don't have tokens. Heart of Kiran: This card works well with our planeswalkers providing a great attacker and blocker. This is a pretty awkward card when we don't have planeswalkers since it would be hard to crew with tokens. Tombstalker: Having one or two delve creatures can give us a powerful late game threat as we tend to fill our graveyard. We can't get these out as quickly as other decks so playing Tombstalker is almost free since it's just one extra mana. Flying is very relevant in the meta too. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet: One of our best sideboard creature threats. There are other options such as Baneslayer Angel and other similar creatures.
Night's Whisper: The deck lacks card advantage / selection for the most part so any option is worth considering. The life loss is very relevant and only getting two cards is very fair for modern. Phyrexian Arena: Another source of card advantage. Very effective against slow decks but most of modern is very fast currently.
In general BW Smallpox is good against decks that have a few "puzzle pieces" they try to fit together because of the resource denial aspect of the deck. Decks that play a pile of "good cards" are generally more difficult to deal with. Decks that gain a lot of advantage out of the graveyard are also difficult to deal with game 1.
This deck has some very explosive draws that just can't be beat but we have enough disruption to make this a close match up. Mainboard we are able to deal with their low threat count fairly easily. We can keep their hand under pressure with all of our hand disruption spells keeping [/card]Arclight Pheonix[/card] at bay. Most graveyard hate is good in the match up. Surgical Extraction is great because of their low threat count. There aren't many bad cards in our mainboard in the match up but cutting a big planeswalker or two may be beneficial because of how fast the game moves.
This is a good match up. Again, the deck has a very low threat count so our edicts are great. The games we lose are usually because of a timely Temur Battle Rage. After sideboarding they bring in Liliana, the Last Hope so you should bring in Anguished Unmaking. A little bit of graveyard hate can be useful.
This match up is very draw dependent and is close to even. Game 1 it's important (and quite difficult) to keep pace with your opponent's threats. The tempo game plan of cards like Spell Queller are very effective against us so timing is critical. After sideboarding we should have more board sweepers which help a lot. You will want to board out hand disruption as they tend to dump their hand quickly.
This is a bad match up. Game 1 We help them discard their hand and most of our disruption is weak against them. Be sure to take out most or all of your Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil because they give our opponent a choice of which card to discard. Keep in your Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize. These will take your opponent's acceleration and sideboard cards. Board in any graveyard hate you have. Be aware that your opponent will have cards like Assassin's Trophy to destroy your Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void. Do not mulligan too low in this match up. Sometimes your opponent just has to keep a bad hand. Dredge tends to "lose to itself" once in a while.
This match up is very similar to the Spirits match up: pretty even. They have less card advantage so it's easier as long as your have a good amount of removal. Again, board in sweepers and take out some hand disruption.
This is a good match up. Usually a Thoughtseize or two will buy you a lot of time. Be sure to take their Primeval Titan and tutors as you can. Try to time your smallpox so it hits a karoo land such as Simic Growth Chamber. This puts our opponent way back on mana. Bring in as much targeted removal for Titans as you can. Surgical Extraction is also very good.
This is a pretty even match up. Our deck is very similar to theirs with a little more disruption and more planeswalkers. The planeswalkers are the key to this match up: any incremental advantage puts us very far ahead. Smallpox is also very useful as it can cripple risky hands and slow down our opponent's 4 drops. Your opponent will have Liliana, the Last Hope so you will want Anguished Unmaking. You want to board out some amount of hand disruption but keep the Thoughtseize for cards like Bloodbraid Elf.
This is a good match up. Like UR Pheonix there are hands we can't keep up with but a few bits of hand disruption and removal and your opponent will slow way down. Graveyard hate is very good in this match up. Bring in board sweepers because of Empty the Warrens.
This is a good match up with the right hands. Being able to keep our opponent low on lands is vital because they can't cast their important spells. Fulminator Mage makes this match up favorable after sideboarding. Jeskai keeps our planeswalkers at bay so it's a bit harder to close games but tokens are very powerful in the match up.
This is a slightly bad match up. Smallpox isn't quite enough land disruption to slow them down enough. After sideboards the match up is quite even when you include Stony Silence and Fulminator Mage. Be sure to keep some hand disruption to take Nature's Claim.
i've been brewing around and playing arktype on a budget for a while.
so points to add to and flesh out the primer (specifically looking towards more budget constrained builds)
Caves of Koilos and is pretty interchangeable with Concealed Courtyard (its almost 50/50 in these ) and is the most serviceable none standard dual lands
fetch lands, either plains+ or swamp+ fetches work absolutely fine and cna be a solid budget alternative to marsh flats
path to exile is a solid option for the deck, as against things like deathshadow, ur birdy and humans, there not necessarily going to have many basics and the exile clause can be extremely relevant
board wipes 1 is fine but most build of this deck i've seen run 2 mb at least.
other board wipes that are just as viable as damnation (and a lot cheaper) Day of Judgment (regenerate only matters against elves and this is less lightly to be named against humans) Wrath of God (+ $25 = Damnation)
the new board wipe Kaya's Wrath may be a solid option if your not running mutavaults and field of ruins
i also recommend running different board wipes instead of 3 damnations as Meddling Mage is still a thing
i've also seen Bontu's Last Reckoning make appearances in top 8 list in sb slots as it gets under teeg, and can kill of the hyper aggro decks that currently dominate modern
be very careful running Dark Confidant! as he generally means you need to lower the cmc significantly (sorins become very risky) (he also tops you running delve cards like murderous cut ect)
speaking of which murderous cut a solid 1 of with very little downside.
mb Nihil Spellbomb are generally very viable in the mb (similar to how a fair amount of prison/control decks run relic in GY heavy metas)
are all solid addions for the deck Gideon of the Trials (wincon, and solid damage reducer) Ob Nixilis Reignited (best budget option) Sorin, Grim Nemesis (solid wincon generally only a 1-2 of)
cSorin, Lord of Innistrad[/c] (the tokens and the emblems are all surprising effective and in a build with a solid token plan b its really is a solid option over 4 solem visitors) Elspeth, Knight-Errant (seen her played not bad but im not in love either) Gideon Jura ( is also solid as sees a little play in builds with strong gideon subthemes )
Legion's Landing early life gain or stall solid against things like burn, also a source of ramp and value in the late game (generally 1 of) Secure the Wastes instant speed is great, normally a solid option if already stuck a board wipe or can clog the board against creature decks for a turn or 2. (generally a 1-2 of and made redundant bitterblossoms)
start//finish is a strong card if you go all in on the smallpox plan (adding 2 death clouds as backup ect) also a good budget alternative fo a lot of cards in the deck.
in more land destruction based builds (more fields of ruin, ghost quarters and maybe Rain of Tears )
both Aven Mindcensor and Fulminator Mage can do a lot (turn two pox followed by turn three mage/ well timed mindcensor can be very hard to beat)
Westvale Abbey is a solid one of in sorin/token builds, as its survives wipes and is also just a fun way to win (normally works about as well as vault of the archangel) Isolated Chapel and Temple of Silence can work as 1-2 ofs in budget builds over fetches if need be
this becomes a auto SB include in you don't run lily for budget reasons Blessed Alliance bogles, burn, hollow one, spirits, humans, phoenix Timely Reinforcements in sb its just so good against a lot of deck aggressive deck
Smuggler's Copter, lootings almost always card advantage with souls, blood, never and/or start to choose from
hope you find some of this useful to add to the primer
Thanks for more ideas. I will add most of these though I'm not going to add any new cards like Angel of Grace just because I feel that a primer shouldn't speculate on new cards. We can discuss those in the comments.
This is what I have been testing as of late. Major changes are removing the Sorins for Kaya, Orzhov Usurper. This serves as an alternative wincon/finisher, especially when bunkering down behind Ensnaring Bridge. The occasional life gain is also very helpful. Having nothing over 3 mana feels nice as I had multitude of occasions when I could not cast 4 drops after aggressive Smallpox usage.
Without Gideon or Sorin the tokens strategy isn't very powerful. the real draw to Bitterblossom is that you can give your tokens a boost with Gideon emblem / Sorin +1. Otherwise I think Bitterblossom on its own is too weak. I often end up losing if BB is my only threat.
I think it's correct to use only 3 drops when playing bridge like you're doing. Maybe Kaya is enough to regain health from BB.
Why do you want to use wrench mind? It feels like our deck is already really well positioned against control - or any deck that wants to keep a full hand. So Wrench mind doesn't seem too necessary.
Thanks for posting your list! It's definitely different.
Few things I noticed when I played Sorins is that since I use Ensnaring Bridge, setting up to have 2 cards on hand made things awkward. If I am committing to the bridge plan, I try to empty my hand as quickly as possible. Collective Brutality is part of that plan. If I play Sorin without a bridge, he gets quickly dealt with I try to be offensive. Instead of Sorin, I run a singleton Vault of the Archangel. This provides me with 3 benefits. It is a land so there is limited interactions against it, easy to setup behind bridge, and lifelink/deathtouch. Deathtouch is very useful to have when swinging at big things.
Kaya is a whole different beast. Plays nice with Surgical Extraction and is quite happy being behind bridge. If I don't happen to surgical Snapcaster Mage for example, I can exile cards that would impact me if they are flashed back. Otherwise, I can just be exiling whatever along with the occasional creature for life. Smallpox into Kaya +1 is very nice, or Liliana +1 or -2 into Kaya +1 for that matter. The -1 I have yet to make extensive use of yet but it does hit annoying things like Vial, EE, and other things. The Ultimate is pretty potent as well, especially with the aforementioned surgical strikes.
Right now, I am thinking of adding Westvale Abbey as another wincon and as a countermeasure against board wipes. I may replace Fetid Heath or have it as a sideboard card since it does not play well with Ensnaring Bridge.
For Wrench Mind, it is just something I been thinking for another flavor of the deck. In this case, no BB and/or LS, with bridge and wraths mainboard. Just another variation for Kaya to eat more stuff. May want to include Rest in Peace mainboard and try to maximize those 2+ for 1s.
Bridge is a powerful card but it actively hurts you in a lot of match ups. In my opinion Gideon is the most powerful card in the deck and you can't play him because of the bridges. Sorin is also on the top of the list of powerful cards. I haven't been able to test Kaya yet (they just arrived yesterday) but I'm not convinced she can replace Sorin / Gideon. Her ultimate provides a bit of reach but on an empty board Gideon can win in three turns which just can't be matched by Kaya unless you heavily build around her.
I just want to add - I think building around Kaya is a trap. You need 20 cards in exile to win the game and that's completely on your opponent to get that many cards unless you start milling. But at that point it's a different deck. Some decks (like BW Smallpox for example!) only draw one card a turn and have no (or very little) card advantage. You'll never get to 20 cards against those decks before turn 20 (accounting for lands) and very few modern games last that long.
I think Bridge is more of a sideboard card for when you know it locks up the game. There are too many match ups where Bridge is just meaningless (Storm / Burn / Tron / UWx) and a few where it's easily dealt with (BGx). That way you can still play Gideon and Sorin and you can always board them out. I think token strategies have to have anthems to be viable in an open meta. Otherwise they are just too slow.
Overall idea is to stress the opponent's hand early and often to the point that Obzedat, Ghost Council, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can close out the game. Myth realized as mentioned earlier is nice for early game but falls off. I find obz is able to help close out the game when you've grinded out the opponent.
No sideboard added as I've changed up the sideboard multiple times and I don't have anything concrete at the moment.
So long as fast linear decks are favored in our format, it makes sense to me to run bridge mainboard. Gideon is an amazing powerful card, don't get me wrong, but Gideon won't do much if my opponent is already coming at me with phoenixes, horrors, or goblins. This means that at best if still alive, board wipe on turn 4 and Gideon on turn 5, which then won't begin swinging till turn 6. It could be enough, sure, but they could just rebuild and ignore Gideon (or path him) and kill you. The hope here is to also have Sorin on turn 6 to give Gideon lifelink but at least when I tried it did not have enough copies of either of them to make it consistent (2 Sorin and 1 Gideon). Instead of Gideon, I ran Sorin, Lord of Innistrad which provided more token support and a potential game winning ultimate. The main parts of the deck are already good with control, spending a few slots for hard agro answers mainboard is not too much to ask. In the end of the day, this is a control deck, and its job is to make things as painful to our opponents as possible, not win as fast as possible. Other decks do that better.
As for Kaya, it is never the intent to ultimate for 20 damage, at least with my current deck. Yes, I agree that it would be a completely different deck that would be focused on maximizing Kaya's ultimate, but it can still employ the Smallpox strategy to that end. It is not hard to get many cards in exile quickly though. Anyways, in my current deck, if you have to ultimate Kaya as soon as possible, I average about 8 damage. This is part of the fun of main board Surgical Extraction. At best, an important playset is removed, at worse the playset exiled serve as Kaya fodder. If I fire the 2 main board surgicals, that is 12 damage on turn 5. Of course this is in best case scenario, as opponents scoop at 2 hand attacks then 2 surgicals. This power is further increased if you have additional surgicals and Kayas in hand. Losing Kaya is no loss either as another Kaya can threaten for even more damage. Kaya is in no means a trap of a card and can win games. At the absolute worst, you ultimate for 4 damage and gain 4. That worse can be sufficient enough to finish off an opponent after token swarming, surviving a burn matchup, and other things. On that note, Leyline of Sanctity, Runed Halo and good'ol Pithing Needle are hard answers, but then again, those hit Liliana as well.
I love Myth Realized! So long as you have board wipes and can surgically extract things like Fatal Push or other creature affecting spells, they are pretty potent. There are times I would like to build something with Raven's Crime, but I personally try to minimize the use of my graveyard with all the hate going around. Since you are at 25 lands, you may want to replace one with Vault of the Archangel. It will be useful to give Gideon and Lifelink/Deathtouch in later game.
I think a bridge build can work but there should be a way to turn the corner quickly. I'm not suggesting we need to goldfish a win on turn X, that's not the point of the deck. But once you've discarded your opponent's hand and dealt with their board you want to win quickly before they top deck well. I would argue we sit between Midrange and Control. Blue based control decks can wait forever to win but we need to win quickly since we can't interact with the top of the deck.
Myth Realized + Liliana of the veil is great because you can force them to discard their fatal push, etc. Raven's Crime is an interesting card. I'll have to add it to the primer and try it out.
I too been thinking of what things I can do if I am in a matchup that I can sideboard out the bridges. I added a single Westvale Abbey to sideboard for control matchups as a top deck Supreme Verdict can really mess with our token swarm. Hopefully there will be no Cryptic Command or Path to Exile afterwards but I think its worth the attempt. I think it is safe to assume that every deck you face is a fast agro deck and be ready mainboard. If this is not the case, there is nothing wrong going midrange with Gideon and other beaters once you know you can survive to that turn.
I think that is what is great with Smallpox. It can be configured to taste and be powerful in different ways.
I totally agree, based on your threat base you can skew your deck to beat any match up. My meta must look much different from yours since there is almost no aggro around here right now.
Bitterblossom is amazing against control and it's much harder to be blown out where Ormendahl, Profane Prince can be pathed. I could also see Gideons in the sideboard to replace your bridges with in slow games. even against Path decks where he is a little worse than average you can still make gideon a token producer or an anthem.
My meta is pretty diverse with many good players so I try to cover a lot of things. Had an opportunity to have a Spirits matchup and Kaya's -1 did some serious work. That matchup now feels much better than before.
Part of trying out Ormendahl is just to have counter board wipe tech attached to a huge flyer but maybe I am over thinking it. Lot of things need to line up in order to maximize that. Part of the draw to it that it is a land though. Archangel Avacyn was another card I want to try. Gideon is not a bad choice either. Not a flyer but would work very well with Vault. I will give this some thought. I think I am pretty content with my main deck. My sideboard is almost there. One Dismember can be swapped with one of the aforementioned cards.
The most popular board wipe is Terminus which unfortunately hits Ormendahl.
I played Kaya for one night Friday and boarded her out in 3/4 matches so that wasn't fun. I'll try her again this week but I'm starting to get pretty skeptical. She will probably just end up in my "if the meta goes crazy" box haha. I could see her working in a very specific meta but right now my local meta is more midrange.
Someone mentioned that she could be a sideboard card but I'm not a fan of her there. What is she realistically replacing? She doesn't outright win any match ups (Think RIP / Stony / Surgical type cards) so I don't think she fits in the sideboard. She reminds me a lot of Liliana, the Last Hope. She could fit in the right meta but probably won't be a staple.
In all my matches, I have yet to come across a situation where I would side out Kaya. At worse, I would side out 1x of Liliana and 1x Kaya or 2x Liliana for The Last Hope. I wish my meta was heavy midrange as I feel I have an easier time as this deck can out grind grindy decks. As for you siding out Kaya, I can see that. I do feel she works best with Surgical Extraction and some form of prison/engine, more control. There are build considerations when working with that card. Having said that, she does not necessarily replace or upgrade "anything", or have to be a silver bullet that wins on the spot. I feel the modern Planeswalker design is that they are created to be for niche use. Of course they would seem weak in comparison to previous Planeswalkers, but that is because people want them to replace something, a strategy or idea that already exsists. However, if the niche is found using such card, they become very powerful and perhaps give birth to new decks. This is a potentiality for any card actually. In my version of BW Smallpox, Kaya does fulfill a niche I did not know I needed to be able fulfill until this card was announced. I am not saying she goes in every BWx deck or even every Smallpox deck, but she found a home in my deck and I very happy now with both how the deck plays and functions.