Nissa, Nature’s Architect is an exclusive planeswalker from one of two Planeswalker Decks released with the Kaladesh set. These decks were the first two Planeswalker decks, which replaced the under-powered Intro Packs that used to come with the release of each new Standard-legal set. While this Nissa nor her Red counterpart Chandra, Pyrogenius are in the actual Kaladesh set, both cards are considered part of that set. So, yes, these planeswalkers were Standard legal just like any other cards in the decks.
Before we compare her to her own counterpart in the set, Nissa, Vital Force, we will consider the Architect’s abilities in a vacuum first.
Like her Red Planeswalker counterpart, this version of Nissa costs a total of six mana to cast, 4 colorless and 2 Green (4GG). Nissa enters the battlefield with 5 loyalty counters, which is a fine number. As do many planeswalkers, Nissa, Nature’s Architect has three abilities. She has the traditional plus ability that adds counters, the minus ability that removes counters, and an “ultimate” ability that removes a good number of counters for a strong effect.
Nature’s Architect has a +1 ability that gains you 3 life. While this doesn’t sound exciting, it’s not the worst plus ability out there. For six mana, though, you kind of want something with a bit of punch, don’t you?
Nissa’s -4 ability allows you to reveal the top two cards of your deck. If one or both of them are land cards, you can put them directly onto the battlefield. This is an ability that I like, and pretty good value for a planeswalker ability. Additionally, if one or both of those cards isn’t a land card, you still get to add them to your hand. Drawing 2 cards is a decent enough ability. But is it worth bringing her down to 1 loyalty counter right away to do so?
The Artisan’s “ultimate” ability costs a whopping 12 counters! This is quite a high number, to be sure! What does it do? It gives all of your creatures +5/+5 and trample until end of turn. That is an extremely powerful effect, of course. But, for 12 loyalty, you kind of want something a bit more permanent, don’t you?
Is Nissa, Nature’s Artisan Playable?
This Nissa planeswalker doesn’t seem too exciting. Granted, this Nissa is meant to be an introduction to planeswalkers for new or returning players. To newer players, I can see her just be exciting to cast for the first few times in a casual setting. Nature’s Artisan can do something useful right when she enters, and by the time you cast her, that 3 life she gains isn’t nothing. In fact, using the life-gain ability could actually prove rather annoying to your opponent. The ultimate ability is awesome, if you get there; given just a handful of creatures, it probably can end the game.
Unfortunately for Nature’s Artisan, whereas Chandra, Pyrogenius at least could serve as a watered down version of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Nissa, Vital Force is just leaps and bounds more powerful.
Nissa, Vital Force VS Nissa, Nature’s Artisan
For comparison, here’s a rundown of Nissa, Vital Force’s loyalties abilities.
+1: Untap target land you control. Until your next turn, it becomes a 5/5 Elemental Creature with haste. It’s still a land.
Right off the bat, Vital Force can add a 6th loyalty counter and potentially affect the board in a big way.
-3: Return target permanent card from your graveyard to your hand.
On the surface, drawing 2 cards seems better as a minus ability, especially when one or both can go into play if they are lands. But this allows you to pick up a card you really need.
-6: You get an emblem with “Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may draw a card.
Let’s just say with how easy it is to achieve this ultimate ability, you’ll probably draw a good amount of cards with this emblem.
Obviously, Nissa, Vital Force is really good at protecting herself, as that Elemental sticks around during your opponent’s next turn, too. Nature’s Architect decidedly is not. The minus ability on Nature’s Architect seems better on the surface, but knowing exactly what you’re getting to your hand is good, too. There is value in card selection, after all! The ultimate on Nature’s Architect is probably game-winning, certainly, but not as useful from a card advantage standpoint.
How to Use Nissa, Nature’s Artisan
These planeswalkers were designed for newer players excited about casting their first planeswalker. So, I’ll ask the same question as I did for her: is this planeswalker worth casting for 6 mana? Certainly not. Most of the time, the best case scenario is she finds you two lands to put into play and gain you 3 to 6 life. That may be worth 6 mana over the course of a couple turns in a vacuum, but I feel like she really doesn’t do enough.
That being said, she’s significantly better than most “intro pack” rares we had in the past. She’s still a unique planeswalker card. As a planeswalker, Nissa is highly collectible as a very popular and awesome character in Magic. As it would happen, watered down and under-powered exclusive Planeswalker cards of popular planes-walking characters would become the norm for headlining these Planeswalker Decks. Granted, these iterations were never meant to be as powerful as the Duel Decks planeswalkers, which were typically Standard-legal planeswalkers being reprinted not long before their exit from the format the following October.
While this Nissa would be far from Standard playable, and really not much good in any other competitive format, she has found a way into the occasional Commander deck. Green decks that already produce an embarrassment of mana will occasionally play here. Gaining 3 life turn after turn is certainly useful. Plus, her ultimate ability IS actually a potential win condition that opponents actually have to keep in mind.
Yes, this Nissa planeswalker is awfully under-powered. But, she’s given a foil card with gorgeous artwork, collector’s appeal, and these Planeswalker deck exclusives are rarer than you might realize. Chandra, Pyrogenius from the other Planeswalker deck released for the set is probably the better card as a game piece overall, but Nissa, Nature’s Artisan is still a great card for any Magic the Gathering collection.