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

(Chandra's Defeat | Illustrated by Kieran Yanner)

Everything is Most Assuredly Not On Fire

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 fourth installment of Myth Realized will cover what I found about the color red and the planeswalkers they possess, and how they would each ruin (or not ruin) your favorite 100-card singleton format.

A quick disclaimer for this article. Red has some effects that work exclusively with planeswalkers, like Chandra's Regulator and Repeated Reverberation, but as you will see, the cost of those cards, mixed with what these cards below do, makes them inconsequential at best. I'm mentioning them now, but they did not factor much into the overall decision.

We start cold, considering we're in the red section of the 'walkers. At six mana, this card won't help you without first setting up. If you can stock your graveyard, you get a Mizzix's Mastery for the ultimate of this card, which can win you the game.

This card would be great at the head of a Chandra superfriends deck in mono-red. A color that doesn't get Proliferation effects in spades finally gets one, and it's stuck to a three-mana 'walker, with some minimal upside thrown into the other abilities. Not broken, but not bad.

This spell can’t be countered. That line of text is crucial for this card to be good at six mana. It'll kill people if you can keep the board clear. Red can ramp, so getting this out is not the most concerning thing in the world, but it might not be worth it for the slow burn this card brings along with it. I don't think this would be a problem in the format, but it would draw lots of attention when opponents see it in the command zone, a lot like Mogis, God of Slaughter. This hypothetical commander's non-interactive emblems are definitely balanced out by the archenemy status it would confer onto you as its pilot.

The first Intro Deck Chandra. At this point, you all know that intro deck 'walkers are nothing to consider, and this one fits the mold. Bad damage abilities for an over-costed permanent, and an ultimate that can be achieved with spells rather than waiting several turns to use it? Pass.

The emblem on this card is exciting, but for seven loyalty and the requirement of paying mana into all the spells you exile - assuming all the cards you hit are spells - it's just lackluster.

War of the Spark saturation shows its face soon here in the lineup. Another Chandra with an ultimate that lets you play cards but makes you pay mana for them. Too slow and too bad.

Too expensive for a Wrath effect and too expensive for a self-wheel. Surprising in its Standard time, but at six mana, this card is not leading any deck anytime soon.

Again another six-mana Chandra, something that's not going away anytime soon in this article. What is exciting about this card is the hard-to-reach ultimate. At eight loyalty, you get a draw seven, and the ability to cast anything you draw for free is big. I'd call this one a stronger contender to draw player interest than many of the others we've seen so far.

No, you did not read this card wrong, I had to double-take it as well. This card is almost word for word the same as Chandra, Bold Pyromancer, and it is just as bad, and I will never understand why they made two of these.

With two uptick abilities, this card can reach ultimate relatively fast, but what you get for it is underwhelming. Discarding your hand only to draw three every turn is only good if you build strictly around it, but I'm dubious whether people will let you get away with Psychosis Crawler synergies here. Also, the ultimate doesn't even let you cast stuff for free. You get to select your spells and get six mana, so all is not lost, but still, if we're playing a planeswalker in the command zone, we want it to build to something really special, right? At the very least, this card not being another six-mana Chandra is a point in its favor.

The first Chandra and, once again, the same ultimate as two of its later versions. I have nothing to say about this card other than if you don’t succeed at first, try again. And then try again later on. And maybe try a few more times.

A bad planeswalker with non-synergistic abilities. Mono-red Elementals are not something you'd go out of your way to have a planeswalker commander to do. Plus, a minus ability for mana is terrible when other Chandras go up for that effect, and a -2 for only two damage is laughable.

The fastest of the six-mana Chandras to get to what is, in a shocking twist of design fate, a worse version of the reused ultimate. This time less damage for more loyalty. Woo.

Finally, something worth doing! The uptick on this card is situational, but I'm not mad about it. The zero-cost ability to get some card advantage is a fine ability, and the ultimate of this card can be absurd. Triple-casting a spell!? Maybe something like Brass's Bounty for all the mana in the world??? That will get a table talking. That feels like what we want out of a game of Commander.

If you compare this to a red copy spell, it's terrible. If you can reuse this card a few times without it dying and treat it like a red copy spell, it could be okay. I would throw it in a box and never look at it again if it were more than four mana, but at exactly four mana, I would at least take a peek.

There's a reason this Chandra sees play above the others: because it's good. I think it would be fine if it could lead a Commander deck. It has a very quick-to-kill ultimate and is good at giving card advantage and mana ramp. Four mana is a good spot for this card to be, and is by far and away the best Chandra in both conversations for leading a deck and in general. Given the versatility, the fame, and let's be real, the art, I think this would be the most popular Chandra option by a wide margin.

I think this card would do more if it could lead a deck than it has ever done in the 99 of other decks. Drawing this card, taking a turn off to play it, and getting it shut down, just feels bad. But if it was in the zone, always being able to pick your spot to deploy it might just help it out, more than it ever knew it needed. Fill the deck with stuff like Squee, Goblin Nabob and Flashback spells so you always have tricky stuff to do, and a fresh supply of new cards constantly within arm's reach.

If Chandra, Torch of Defiance wasn't the red Jace, the Mind Sculptor, then this version of Jaya is definitely not one either. I've played with this card a few times, and it can do cool things, but it just has some unexpected awkwardness mixed in with it. I appreciate that it could defend itself by making tokens, though. That's worth pointing out. I don't think it holds up, but I'd root for this deck if I saw it in a game.

An expensive inclusion into the ever-growing “pinger” archetype that appears across red decks. Even if this Jaya could be a commander, it would go in the 99 of those decks rather than be in charge of them. Even then, it'd be there for redundancy more than efficiency.

I'm surprised this card doesn't see more play in Commander. This is the perfect card for your deck if you want to do some big red shenanigans. Not strong enough to be worried about, but it is generally underrated. I'd be all about this guy as a deck, it would be very thematic to have a "Mountains matter" deck full of stuff like Claws of Valakut, Granite Grip, Spawn of Thraxes, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

Transmogrify in the command zone. Everything else on this card does not matter. If you want to play a mono-red deck with every one of these effects imaginable, then here is the card to lead your machine. If every game you want to find exactly one card the whole deck is built around, Lukka's got you covered. The only problem is that he doesn't make you a token to Polymorph away. This deck would end up being a lot like Illuna, Apex of Wishes.

Insurrection is not the card it used to be. A five-mana version that needs to get to nine loyalty for that effect is just not worth your time.

If you're playing a mono-red Dragonstorm deck and want another copy of that card, then boom, here you'd get one as a commander! It wouldn't be my first pick for a Dragon deck led by a mono-red planeswalker, though. The ultimate dazzles, but the mana cost is high and the other loyalty abilities are sad.

This would most likely be the best red planeswalker just in terms of just leading a deck. It does what you need the card to do in a mono-red deck looking to cast big flying lizards, and it does it exceptionally well. On top of doing what it does for Dragons, you also get a card advantage if you need it. This card will not win the game for you, but it facilitates a deck perfectly, and when you look back at the game it helped you play, you'll realized that this engine is exactly what helped you achieve victory.

This card is a trap. It is a five-mana haste creature with an ultimate that will be worse for you in almost every conceivable situation. It most likely suffers from early planeswalker design, as it is one of the older cards on the list, and has not aged well.

Protection for mono-red superfriends! From personal experience, this card is surprisingly annoying at keeping your 'walkers alive, even with just one Dragon on the battlefield. This card currently acts as a backup win condition for 'walker-heavy strategies, so I'd want it to lead a mono-red superfriends deck if it could be a commander, too. It would be way more effective than opponents expect.

Trouble with lifegain decks? Sleeve this card up at the front of your deck. If not, play it because you like Tibalt as a character. Anything in between is some dead space for this card. Thanks, War of the Spark.

There might not be a Magic player who hasn't heard of this atrocious card. I already mentioned that Insurrection has become just kind of okay over the years; no one has made this card good yet, and I don't think anyone ever will. However, this card would be undefeated in the meme category of commanders if it was allowed to be one.

Underrated and just waiting to break out! This card does so many things so well, and I think it just got pushed out of sight due to it never finding Standard play. Giving creatures haste and a buff is fantastic if you want to get aggressive. The zero ability to make a Devil can perhaps be ignored, but hey, this thing defends itself! The ultimate is perfect for a combat-focused deck looking to attack a bunch until the game is over. It's very Karlach, Fury of Avernus but also with haste options thrown in, and I like that versatility. I look at this thing and wish it could be a commander, and that's what this whole hypothetical is all about.

Wrap Up

Going into this article, you could not have convinced me that there would end up being nothing to worry about at all for red. This might be one of the strongest cases for just how different the powerful planeswalkers are in 1v1 formats compared to Commander. At the current moment, there would be nothing to worry about with people playing these as commanders. Red having the worst ability to Proliferate or to activate 'walkers multiple times (at least, without heavily leaning into artifact builds) keeps the color in check. However, I'm sure this is not the case for our next color in the pie, the color that can do everything, the color that all other colors are jealous of: green. Join us next time!

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.