Hello folks! I hope that your day is going well!
Today I want to deep dive into the unheralded aspects of Planeswalkers, those made for the Planeswalker decks. No one thinks about them or spends any time on them, but there are many good options out that way!
They have grown into the most impactful of card types after possibly creatures. They dominate and punch above their casting cost. They have grinding value turn after turn and they exemplify the trait of sticking around. There are multiplayer values that some cards have that famous multiplayer writer Anthony Alongi created. One of these is called pigeon and it measures the ability of a given effect or card to do its effect repeatably. A card like Volrath's Stronghold provides no card advantage but selecting to draw your best creature from your graveyard turn after turn after turn wins the game under its grinding pigeon-y power.
Planeswalkers are all about that pigeon power.
That should be a superhero team name - behold the grandeur of Pigeon Power!!! Or maybe an EDM band...
Anyways, Planeswalkers rule. We know it. We live in a planeswalker world, especially after War of the Spark.
Let's look at my list! Ready?
Honorable Mention #1 - Elspeth, Undaunted Hero
Most of the planeswalker decks' leaders are a not-so-svelt six or more mana. Not so with the Undaunted Hero version of Elspeth! She drops for a nice 5 mana, although she may be hard to cast in some builds. Her first ability to spread out some counters for a powerful +2 is nice and helps out the team. Her -2 is very similar the first version of Nissa Revane, and you can load up your deck with them. Sunlit Hoplite rocks first strike on your turn, a useful -2 for a five-mana leader. Her ultimate is also good in a deck with dorks. If you dropped her you can easily give +7/+7 and flying to your team, and her +2 gets you to -8 very quickly and won't die after she does and she'll stick around after her ultimate. Welcome to the club!
Honorable Mention #2 - Gideon, the Oathsworn
I really enjoy Gideon, the Oathsworn for his static ability. If you swing with at least two dorks, then each hat swung gets a permanent +1/+1pump in the form of a counter. He's better in an aggro deck than something like a Glorious Anthem. He also can turn himself into a creature and swing away. Note that if you control one dork then you can net that trigger with Gideon and your creature while he +2's himself. He also will be a 6/6 on that swing, as well as on future turns as he keeps the counter. He's very synergetic with himself. He's ultimate is pretty good at ending the game as well as an exiling version of Plague Wind. Don't forget about him!
10. Teferi, Timeless Voyager
Generally, the 5 mana planeswalkers all have the +1 draw a card ability like Jace, Memory Adept or Sarkhan Unbroken. Some of them will add an ability to the drawing of a card like the scry of Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. The Planeswalker decks have several six-mana costed 'walkers that draw a card without any additional abilities. For the next four spots, we'll be looking at four of them. I am ordering them based on their second ability and how good it may be. For Teferi, Timeless Voyager, I rate his -3 the weakest of the lot. You can only do it once without a lot of +1'ing in the meantime and it will only library bounce a creature, nothing else. But library bounce is card advantage unlike normal bouncing so don't sleep on him!
9. Ral, Caller of Storms
His +1 will keep the card flow going and his -2 is a great Arc Lightning that can take out multiple targets. Note that it'll hit anything from fellow planeswalkers to opposing dorks to foes. And it'll stretch as needed making it very flexible burn that can fit most situations. Just send extra damage that's not needed to kill a dork at the owner's head. Enjoy him!
8. Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist
This iteration of Tezzeret is pretty strong. Again, don't sleep on the card flow of the first ability. The second ability can be activated if Tezzeret lives, although it won't grow his loyalty. Use it before combat to swing with a Sol Ring or another non-creature artifact at someone open for 5 damage. That's awesome! Also note that you can turn an artifact dork into a bigger one! That Solemn Simulacrum? It's now a 5/5! Also note that you keep it around for a full cycle of turns so if you are expecting some swinging your way you can use the artifact to block for a few cycle of opposing turns rather than swing. That'll keep back some folks. This version of Tezzeret is better than some of his more well-known iterations!
7. Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage
Now let's look at the highest charting, Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage. Again, the card flow is great! His starting loyalty is strong, and he begins to punch with a +1 ability as his second ability rather than a -3, -2, or even Tezzeret's +0. Untap your team! Swing with your team and then +1 after combat and untap to block. Tap a Prodigal Sorcerer to ping a dork or foe and then untap it and do it again! Untap some dorks for mana and then untap the whole crew! Loads of untapping fun will follow! And his ultimate is more doable than others above him due to that double + ability above it.
6. Vivien, Nature's Avenger
Hello Vivien fans! I love how powerful that +1 is at permanently Giant Growth'ing one of your dorks. You can do it turn after turn and in two turns your Llanowar Elves is a 7/7! I think that you might win that game! Her -1 is also very strong as you can get a dork and keep the power going. It's better than raw card drawing as you are sure you'll get something that will impact your battlefield. You don't want to draw a land mid or late game. However, her low loyalty keeps her from cracking my top five.
Who does make it?
5. Nissa, Genesis Mage
7 mana for the win! That keeps her at #5 on my list. Her +2 is where it's at. You can use it all day to untap lands and make mana. As we saw with Teferi you can swing and then untap, or untap mana dorks or those with other cool tap abilities. I love her ability to untap lands as well. On the turn you cast her, you can untap two of the lands you used and get that mana back, making her more of a five-drop. If you tapped your Birds of Paradise or something to make her you can get even more mana back. If you tapped a land or dork that taps for two or more mana then you got even more mana back. That's how awesome she is. She's a better Garruk Wildspeaker. Her -3 can really push folks around with a big boost to a dork abut to swing and take down someone. You could turn that aforementioned Birds of Paradise into a 5/6 flying dork of doom. It works well in a deck that has a lot of cheaper dorks that are used to cheat out more powerful stuff. Don't ignore her as she plays very well.
4. Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears
As we looked at above, card drawing is a key way of making sure you are in the game, especially as you play against multiple opponents who are outdrawing you naturally with their 3:1 or 4:1 card drawing steps innately. Enter Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears. Her +2 to draw cards helps with loyalty and can mill everyone and thus provides a useful game-winning ability as she can force your foes to deck themselves (make sure you have additional ways to not kill yourself and deck them faster). And then her -5 is very synergetic with that as you can recur any dork from a graveyard to your battlefield, even foes'. If you killed or milled something good, just bring it back with Ashiok. The -5 is rough on the loyalty and you cannot do much afterwards so she slips here at #4 behind a similar walker in the next step. But combining card drawing and mass milling is awesome for Sultai and others.
3. Dovin, Architect of Law
Draw a card. Gain two life. That life gain may seem incidental, but it lets you win games. I've won games with Dovin making me 8 or 10 life at 4 or 2 life. It works. It's also not sexy amount of life gain, so Dovin slips past a lot of radars, especially in Commander where you begin with 40 life and the life gain is seen as less valuable. His -1 is more playable than Ashiok's but less powerful. You can lock down a creature for a full turn. You can keep them from swinging your (or Dovin's) way. You can tap them and then swing past them without worrying about opening yourself to a counter swing. Good stuff! Although I've won with Dovin and I never used it his +1 is so good. I have sat him on his ultimate and not gone off as drawing and life gain is better for the situation.
2. Garruk, Savage Herald
Hello Garruk Fans! Who's back? This guy!
His +1 is strong if you have something to manipulate the top of your library like Sylvan Library or Sensei's Divining Top, heavily played in Commander and other kitchen table formats, and it's pretty good for Green. His -2 is creature kill in an on curve Green deck as it's the improved version of fighting where the damage isn't dealt back. Both card flow and creature kill aren't often in Green and thus this guy can do a lot to lead a victory for his color. Enjoy the new Garruk!
1. Chandra, Flame's Catalyst
This card inspired today's article as it's the best and it was only just released! There are three styles of play that someone might be used to. Let me give you my evaluation of each in turn:
- Duels - Chandra is solid in duels. Her +1 clock does a strong Lava Spike each turn, which is amazing for decks that want the range to finish the game. She will end folks in the mid-game and late-game and has a lot of value here. Her -2 is strong in a duel. You can get two of them up front, and there are other spells you may desire to really push the table around. Note that you need to use the mana cost. Overall, in duels with 20 life, she's a 4 outta 5.
- Commander - Chandra is great in Commander! The fact that they start with 40 life limits her +1 ability somewhat, but the fact that you are dealing that damage to everyone in one fell swoop is great! Her -2 can grind out winning conditions and adds value to your build. She can win and punch. Overall, in Commander she's a 4 outta 5 here as well.
- Traditional Multiplayer - In traditional multiplayer formats where folks have 20 life, she is a nasty powerhouse of the format. The -9 or -12 you'll get every activation of her +1 will kill very quickly! Her -2 adds value here, but you'll be leaning into that amazing +1 most turns. She'll end the game in just a turn or three easily. Overall, here she's a 5 outta 5 and compares favorably with the best 'walkers available!
And there we go!
What did you think of my list? Anything in here that you forgot about or never knew existed? Anything I missed? Just let me know and have an awesome (and safe) day today!