Leading into the spoiler season for the next MTG set, Unfinity, many players were skeptical, to say the least. Thanks to the introduction of Acorn cards, an Un-set’s cards could be Eternal legal for the first time ever. This prospect was understandably concerning to some because of how ludicrous and overpowered past Un-set cards have been. After the initial reveal of Stickers in July, many players’ concerns were proven right, as Eternal formats were primed to become a whole lot weirder. Stickers, however, appear to have just been the tip of the MTG iceberg as Unfinity wasn’t anywhere near done being bizarre.
Just as Dominaria United had a candidate for MTG’s worst Planeswalker, Unfinity has a strong contender for MTG’s strangest Planeswalker. Entering the race for this dubious award is Space Beleren, aka Space Jace, Unfinity’s Azorius Jace Beleren. Through their ability, Space Sculptor Space Beleren introduces a new battlefield minigame mechanic into MTG’s Eternal formats. This passive ability divides Magic: the Gathering’s humble battlefield into three sectors, named Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.
After players take turns assigning each of their creatures to one of these zones, Space Beleren can make their first move. Unsurprisingly, considering their novel ability, each of Space Beleren’s abilities care about the sectors that have just been meticulously created. For instance, Space Beleren’s +1 ability makes it so “creatures in each sector can be blocked this turn only by creatures in the same sector.” While arguably the least powerful, this +1 ability may be Space Beleren’s most useful feat since their other Planeswalker abilities are symmetrical.
With the ability to distribute +1/+1 counters on creatures or destroy all creatures in a sector, Space Beleren’s -1 and -5 abilities are undoubtedly strong. As symmetrical abilities, however, they don’t come without the extra implicit cost of harming you or helping your opponents. Thankfully, careful placement during the Sector selection process can mitigate some of this added cost. This can essentially turn MTG into a completely different game for a time, with the sector-based strategy being all that matters. That is, however, only if you care about maximizing the effects of this efficiently Lightning Bolt-able Planeswalker.
A Cause for Concern
As you might expect from how unique this ability is, Space Beleren is proving decisive amongst players. On the MagicTCG subreddit alone, many players are lamenting Space Jace as the end of Magic as we know it. Meanwhile, more enthusiastic players can’t wait to get their hands on this novel Planeswalker in both Draft and Eternal formats. There are, of course, also players memeing and innocently joking about the mere concept of a Space Jace.
While they do present interesting gameplay mechanics, admittedly, Space Beleren isn’t all fun and games thanks to their abilities setup time. “Even for an Un-set, this is a bad design,” Reddit user u/Towishimp states. Should Space Beleren be promptly removed, they ultimately may be “tons of extra bookkeeping for potentially no point.” Thankfully, this concern can be mitigated by clear communication around a table to stop any unnecessary sorting. On Magic Online, however, players may have no choice but to organize their boards meticulously.
Alongside the potential time-wasting shenanigans, Space Beleren threatens to make everything much more needlessly confusing. Reddit user u/trbopw11, for instance, states that “this is definitely one of those fun cards [that are] going to be a pain to keep track of the game state properly.” While three sectors may be somewhat simple to keep track of in a 1v1, u/ThePawnOfOthers noted that in Commander, “4 players divided into three lanes might be a bit complex.”
Unfortunately for players looking to ease the confusion, Wizards of the Coast isn’t coming to the rescue. After being asked whether Unfinity has tokens to identify each of the new MTG sectors, Mark Rosewater revealed: “sadly, no.” This means players are on their own to create tokens or keep track of Space Beleren’s antics.
Nothing We Haven’t Seen Before
While this mechanic may seem like something entirely new in MTG, surprisingly, Space Beleren’s creature-dividing antics aren’t all that unique. As many players joked on the MagicTCG Subreddit, Space Beleren feels oddly familiar to Raging River. By dividing creatures into piles for blocking, both cards, at least, are notable for being a headache to track. Surprisingly, however, not many players were lamenting Raging River for being Eternal legal, similarly to Space Beleren. Instead, as the new card, Space Beleren seemed to be the focal point of players’ anger at the revived mechanic.
As one of the first spoilers in the Unfinity spoiler season, Space Beleren has undoubtedly captured the MTG community’s attention. The extensive complaints may be somewhat overdue, however. While they may be interesting, style points alone don’t make Space Beleren playable. Commander players may enjoy the novelty, just as they can with Raging River. However, in Legacy and Vintage, Space Beleren is outclassed. This may ultimately make all this fuss somewhat premature. Ultimately, Space Jace may end up being far less of a big deal than all this hubbub suggests.