Hello folks! I hope that your day is shining strongly over all of the clouds of the world with happiness and passion twinned to your hearts like joy-rockets of love.
Magic exists with characters and story. Over the last decade or so, those characters have been less ordinary mortal people like Kamahl or Gerrard and more in the powerful planeswalker category. We are now following "Dimples" Gideon instead of "Dimples" Gerrard.
Ever since we moved to the planeswalkers as the central cast, they have begun to control the story with increasing power and pizazz.
Today I want to take a look at central planeswalker characters that have really resonated with me down the years. Now, this is not a list of the most powerful or strongest cards. That's not a part of the conversation.
Liliana of the Veil is one of my favorite 'walkers to build around in duels and older formats, and I have lots of her in places like Legacy and Vintage. I love her! I would argue that she's the most powerful planeswalker ever printed, outside of multiplayer or Commander or something. Period. And I doubt that if I were to write an article about how she's tops, that I'd get much pushback. A few Jace, the Mind Sculptor fans may jump up and shake their fist a little, but my central thesis would resonate, given how strong she has proved to be.
I've also argued that Liliana Vess is the strongest planeswalker ever printed for multiplayer and Commander style kitchen tables, as she can tutor, force discards, and win with her -8. Now I would consider Angrath, the Flame-Chained, Sarkhan Vol, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and a few others to be in the conversation, but I still feel that that she's arguably the best.
Liliana the cards? Strong! She's great.
But Liliana the person? She's never resonated with me in any way, shape, or form. She is not one of my favorite planeswalker characters of all time.
For today's list, I am only going to consider characters that have been printed as a planeswalker card, so I will not consider someone like Taysir or Commodore Guff or anyone else.
Obviously, any list like this is going to be subjective. These are the ones that have really resonated with me. Note the last word in that sentence. After we have finished, I'd love to get your lists!
So let's do this thing!
I consider Ajani to be the most fleshed out of the initial 'walkers (save for Liliana). He has a strong story, ignited by the death of his brother, and then he rages across the planes angry and vengeful, but then his time with Elspeth sees him learning the path of peace without rage and anger, and he leaves that behind and embraces his modern, contemplative warrior self. He seeks to protect others. He was always fun, but now he's new and interesting.
9. Lord Windgrace
Windgrace is an Urborg Panther planeswalker and a member of the Nine Titans that went with Urza to invade and destroy Phyrexia with the Soul Bombs during their invasion of Dominaria. He was one of the few to survive the Invasion, although he would give his life during the Time Spiral Block storyline.
He's always been a compelling character, but I've never been fully sure why he's Black as one of his colors, as you never really feel it. Is it because he's from Urborg? Does the story force folks from Urborg to be at least partially Black-aligned? Okay. Then why is my #7 choice below absent Black? Exactly, I have never felt it from Windgrace as he has been written. But hey, what do I know?
I still love him, and he's my second favorite of the Nine Titans (Where is my Taysir?).
I enjoy the character arc of Elspeth from Bant Knight who protects the law from rebels, to rebel on New Phyrexia (albeit she was brought to the plane against her will) to the Champion of the Sun God who is the only one who can take out the new crazy god on Theros. She is a very strong, and interesting character.
Oh, and by the way, my guess is that she's The Wanderer.
Hello Venser, from Urborg! How are you doing today? Glad ta hear it! My favorite Venser moment is the end of the Scars storyline where he basically teleports his heart, which is the only part of him that remains truly free of the Phyreixan taint, into his friend's chest, to strengthen and help free him. He knows he'll die. But no greater love hath a man than this, that he give his life for his friend.
Venser is the ultimate friend.
Please note that, unfortunately, we've never seen the brilliant artificer side of Venser in card form thus far. I'd love to see that in a Commander deck or something at some point in time. Venser was a noted artificer, so let's get that over here!
How can you not have Jaya in your top ten? She's fun. She's sassy. She's clever. She's witnessed so much and remains grounded. She three times the character (and power) of Chandra. Now matter how hard Wizards may want me to see Chandra as New Jaya with goggles and more, nope. She's not my Jaya.
And she never will be.
Compare and contrast their flavor text.
Which one owns the Sassy Pyromancer trope better?
It's Jaya. All. Day. Long. It's Jaya!
Urza? Teferi was right. You may not like it, or him. But. He. Was. Right. He protected others. He did what was right. Urza only saw the Phyrexians, and that's all he ever saw. He never wanted to save potential allies in his all-consuming cause against the Phyrexians. Urza was a manipulative and irritating person at the best of times. Uzar's personal grudge against the Phrexians for what they did to Mishra was something he could never forgive, or forget, and it consumed him. Teferi stood up to him, and protected many from the incoming invasion by untethering them in time. Sorry Urza, you were wrong.
I know this might seem a little weird to most of you. Teyo just appeared, and there are only two cards out there, although he's the POV character for the War of the Spark novel and some stories, so you get a chance to feel for him. Why Teyo? He's just a freshly minted planeswalker who was forced into the Bolas War at the pinnacle. But he's competent, and strong, and I respect that.
But he also feels like me. If I were to manifest any sort of magical ability, I hope I would use them to protect others, just as Teyo does. I would want to erect walls and shields and more to protect people in large and smaller amounts.
Teyo even plays similar to me in Magic, particularly in multiplayer. As I have stated many, many times, "You cannot win a game of Magic, until you fail to lose it." Not losing puts you on the path to winning. Walls. Effects like Maze of Ith and Leyline of Sanctity and such are all things that appeal to me. I enjoy Commander Eesha and Cho-Manno, Revolutionary.
In fact, I was intending to write an article entitled, "How Teyo Became My Favorite Planeswalker," but after sitting with him and the others for a bit, I realized he cracks my top five, but not my top three.
So let's look at who made it higher!
I'm going to be honest. I've always had a bit of a crush of Kaya. Her quick but pivotal appearance in the next Conspiracy set was great, and her card was incredibly powerful in multiplayer too, and I have heralded it for a long time. I wrote about her loads before she was pushed into the bigger continuity.
I created a deck where I thought she had what it took to be a member of the Gatewatch, I asked what an Oath of Kaya card would look like and then used that as a great example of jumping off point (along with Venser) for a Commander deck.
Later, I named her as my top choice for a reprinting in the latest Ravnica block and pointed out just how Orzhov she was! We didn't know then that she was destined to lead the guild and such, but there you are.
Kaya also reminds me of my second favorite Avenger (I have always been a huge Avengers fan, I have every comic from the 1st issue through 2013 of every series, mini, solo comics at the time their character was on the team, and more.) Monica Rambeau, aka Captain Marvel
She was a competent, capable, and interesting character from the beginning. She had a unique range of powers (the ability to change her body into any form of energy), and her creator, Roger Stern was a long-time writer of the Avengers. She was in many major storylines in the 80s, such as Secret Wars. She was the first black woman on the team. Roger Stern, by the by, is one of my favorite writers for the comic, as he had a lot of great additions (like She-Hulk and Namor), wrote the Wasp better than anyone else before or since, and also brought in powerful characters like Black Knight (Dane Whitman) and really fleshed them out. Stern was a master story-crafter.
He was fired in the middle of a six-issue arc after he refused to follow the editor's decision. While his editor (Mark Gruenwald), was writing Captain America at the time, sales of one of the flagship comics for Marvel were dropping, so in order to boost sales of his own comic, Mark wanted Roger to write Captain Marvel as an incompetent chair who became increasingly over her head, and then Cap America was forced to return to the Avengers, and kick her off the Avengers, and then take over again.
Now think about that. Not only was that not the character of Monica Rambeau, but it's also a decision that was biased in favor of a comic the editor was writing, as well as removing the first black female Avenger for incompetence. That was not her. She was always a strong character, which made her compelling to me.
And in some ways, Kaya reminds me of my 2nd favorite Avenger, who we are about to get over on Disney streaming. (Who is my favorite Avenger? Firebird).
Bonita Juarez is a devout Catholic, social worker living in Albuquerque who is hit by a bolt of fire at night and given her powers. She believes they came from God, and that she is on a divinely appointed mission from above.
You are welcome internet. You are welcome.
Karn has had a lot of roles over the years. Pacifist. Planeswalker. Legacy. Protector. Great Creator. Karn is, in my opinion, one of the single most compelling characters in the entire story. We are clearly going to be following Karn and I suspect we'll head back to New Phyrexia soon to check in on the nasties there as well as the limited rebellion there with Koth, Melira, and others helping.
Karn has been one of the most iconic and in Magic-dom.
How about a romance for Karn?
I adore Kiora so much that I built a Kiora Commander deck prior to her being printed in card form. I've always had a strong connection with her. She ramps into big sea creatures like sea serpents, leviathans, kraken, and loads more. She is trying to find creatures big enough to fight the Eldrazi back on her home world of Zendikar. Think of how cool a background that can be!
She's also fun, flawed, and fearless. Love her! She is much better as a Zendikari Elementalist than New Nissa after her retcon. Kiora for the win!
Now there are some popular characters that have never resonated with me. Gideon Two Dimension Jura. Jace the Forgettable. Now please don't take that as an insult if you love your Gideon or your Jace! We all have our favorites, sure! And my personal relatability with the characters may not be yours.
So, what are yours? I'd love to see your favorite planeswalker characters of all time (that have been printed in a planeswalker card form).
Thanks for reading!
In case you care, here are the quick lil demographics of my 'walkers:
Male - 5. 6 if you count Karn.
Female - 4.
Panther Warrior: 1
Of my 6 human walkers I love, 2 appear to be black (Kaya, Teferi) and none appear to be other ethnicities (this is an assumption, hence my usage of the term "appear." As we find out more about some of them, that may change. For example, Teyo might wind up being his home plane (Gobakahn) version of Hispanic).