Myth Realized - What if Any Planeswalker Could Be Your Commander? (Black)

(Sorin Markov | Art by Michael Komarck)

You Should Not Be Scared of Sorin

This question has been brought up in the Magic discourse an infinite number of times with no real answer. People say it would kill EDH as a format, others say it will do nothing but give more options to an endless pool of commanders. I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. My name is Nick, and the third installment of Myth Realized will cover the color black and the planeswalkers found therein, and how they would each ruin (or not ruin) your favorite 100-card singleton format.

A quick disclaimer for this article: there is no true disclaimer. There are always exceptions to every rule in this game, but mono-black alone does not have synergies with planeswalkers compared to the other colors talked about so far. Most of these will just be taken at face value, but that does not mean the finding will show them as weak, so let's just get started.

We do not start the list with a banger. A 'walker from the jam-packed War of the Spark, Davriel doesn't do anything better than other mono-black commanders, and this is a much better card in the 99 of discard strategies.

The list continues with another 'walker that's not going to be worth your time. Courtesy of a Core Set Duel Deck, this card will only ever kill the mill player if their entire deck is creatures and all of them are in the graveyard, provided before all of this they do nothing for a long list of turns.

A solid role-player of a card. It protects itself, it fills your graveyard with its other abilities, and in the right deck is a one-sided Wrath effect. Nothing special, but it doesn't need to be.

If you're utilizing the big mana strategies that black has to offer, this card can be an engine piece when paired with a sacrifice strategy. A bit too expensive for its other abilities to make a massive impact, but the card can do big things if left unchecked.

Now we're really getting somewhere in this hypothetical 'planeswalkers as commanders' scenario. Here we have mono-black ramp. This card is underrated to a massive degree just in general. It makes sure you never miss a land drop, it can Defile a creature when needed, and if you ever get to ultimate with this card you'll have more mana than you will ever know what to do with. This wouldn't break the game - green's already doing more with mana production than this would - but I think it needs to see more play in black-heavy decks.

A menace in 1v1, the ultimate three-mana powerhouse herself. Every Modern Jund player's dream of a three-drop and every opponent of the modern Jund player’s worst nightmare. Sadly, in a multiplayer format, this card is not going to be impactful, and its reputation would probably make it a bigger target if it was seen in the command zone.

While this doesn't single-target destroy one of your opponents (like its predecessor), if you cannot ultimate this with a big board of Zombies and get another turn, you're not doing anything. This is a bit disappointing because it's honestly a very cool card, even if it doesn't measure up.

Not sure why Liliana planeswalkers from Core Sets have decent ultimates, but we have another one right here. Once again, we only have a hard-to-get-to ultimate, and nothing else worth it on this card.

Once again: Zombies. This card is good in a Zombie-based deck or a weird Changeling-style deck where everything is a “Zombie”. If you're not in a Zombie deck, then this card isn't going to do anything good for you. This would not be my go-to commander for a Zombie deck even if it was an option and even if I only wanted to play mono-black Zombies.

I love this card. Not because it's good, but because it was the first planeswalker I ever opened. I would make a deck around this card if it were legal for the nostalgia of it. The effects of this card aren't terrible, since you have Vampiric Tutor and Rise of the Dark Realms stapled to it... but yeah, it's expensive and slow. Wow, there really haven't been many interesting mono-black 'walkers that would make for compelling commanders, huh?

This card is a bit all over the place. It wants you to do many few different things that all have the potential to work together, but just not for the cost. This card doesn't protect itself with an uptick, so it's hard to get to the ultimate, and you need to have a stocked graveyard to facilitate its removal.

At five mana, this... is just a consistent draw engine. With a zero-loyalty ability that draws cards, and an ability to gain loyalty pretty regularly, this just feels like a role-playing 'walker. The ultimate is interesting, maybe, but it likes combat, while the other parts of this card like aristocrats, and those don't always mix. I could see it at the helm of a deck with a Dungeon & Dragons theme, but other than that, it's feeling like just another card for the 99.

The cookie-cutter black planeswalker himself. This was the design for 'walkers back in the day: equal parts card advantage, removal, and game-winning ultimate. This is still not a terrible card, but like many black 'walkers before it, was most likely better in the 99.

Okay, okay, stay cool. We found it: the first card in this entire list that would have real potential to lead a deck. Combining this card with Peer into the Abyss can take out one player in a very interesting way. Not sure what will happen after that, but that one person will be dead! (Look, I'm trying here, okay!?)

Ah, we've reached the Chain of Smog part of the article. This 'walker has a famous infinite Magecraft combo with Smog, so if 'walkers were legal commanders, this entire deck would just be built around tutoring out and deploying that one single combo. Oh boy, that... sure would be a thing! I don't even have much to say about it, and I think that right there is a sign of how much fun it would be, and how much long-term appeal it would have - not very much at all.

Okay, interesting. Ya know what, I actually think this card would be a great alternative to a Vampire commander. It's cheap, does good things, and can gain you some card advantage. It doesn't have a true ultimate, but buffing creatures, gaining life, and cheating on mana cost are all things every deck should want to do. I'd enjoy seeing this in a command zone.

This card is possibly the entire reason for the conversation around the legality of all planeswalkers as commanders. Having a -3 ability that sets someone’s life to 10 has terrorized the dreams of Commander players for years. The real question, though, is what does that do? There are certainly ways to make this card hit more than one person, such as Rings of Brighthearth or Lithoform Engine, but there are cards already legal that could win the game with those same combos. Perhaps that's the better lesson, though - just setting one person's life total to 10 and singling them out might carry a certain social tension. Anyway, this card tends to be a go-to example for a reason not to legalize planeswalkers as commanders, but I don't think it's the strongest example, not by a long shot. If you don't like the idea of all 'walkers as commanders, lead with stuff like Narset, Parter of Veils rather than ol' Sorin here.

Just a solid card for the 99 once again. Some top-deck manipulation can mitigate the life loss of this card, and the token it makes is a very solid body for both attacking and blocking, but a lackluster ultimate keeps this card from being great in the hypothetical command zone.

The same song and dance as many cards before. A Core Set 'walker with an expensive cost and bad abilities with an ultimate that's interesting but not achievable. Almost every 'walker with multiple versions has this happen to them, but it seems a bit more prevalent in black.

Even with a new color scheme, this card could not be saved. While the ultimate does win the game if you have some evasive creatures, it's too expensive, and you need too many turns to get there. What's worse is the ultimate does not give you an emblem, which might be expected with this type of effect, but an until-end-of-turn effect makes it a bit of a letdown.


This is, to me, the most surprising color so far. Mono-black 'walkers are often powerhouses in 1v1 formats, and Sorin Markov is often the fuel for the fiery discourse of whether planeswalkers should be legal as commanders. Ultimately though, this color seems very safe, if not outright lackluster! I feel these wouldn't impact Commander to a big degree at all. If you had asked me at the start of this series, I might have picked black as one of the strongest mono-colored card pools, and the one that might have the biggest effect, but due to the lack of extra-counter-gathering effects and/or Proliferate synergies, and due to the 'walkers having higher mana costs and more expensive loyalty requirements, everything leads to the perfect storm of mediocrity.

Next up we tackle red! I was surprised at how safe black planeswalkers were - will this hold true for the next piece of the color pie?

Player and lover of all Magic the Gathering formats. Forged in the fires of Oath of the Gatewatch expeditions. Always down to jam games with anyone and everyone. When not playing Magic I am doing something else equally, if not more nerdy.