Ranking 2020 with EDHREC: Planeswalkers

(Teferi, Master of Time | Art by Yongjae Choi)

A Nostalgic Stroll

And we're back! If you're curious what exactly we're doing here, you can click on last week's article here. Otherwise, I see no reason to just move onward. Let's rank all the planeswalkers that came out in 2020!

Planeswalkers of 2020

  • Eligible Sets: Core Set 2021, Jumpstart, Zendikar Rising, Zendikar Rising Commander, Commander Legends
  • Previous number of planeswalkers: 203
  • New Additions from 2020: 15
  • New Number of planeswalkers: 218

Same as last time, if you want to know what changed in the 203 'walkers we're not talking about, there is an Odds and Ends companion post!

Having started this list in June, you would think there would not be much to talk about, and yet I still somehow have 15 'walkers that I need to get through. Better get started then!

218: Basri, Devoted Paladin: 55 Decks

217: Teferi, Timeless Voyager: 89 Decks

214: Garruk, Savage Herald: 113 Decks

213: Liliana, Death Mage: 156 Decks

203: Chandra, Flame's Catalyst: 386 Decks

Okay, it was fun going over the planeswalker deck 'walkers before, but now when I'm kinda cramped on space, I don't have time to play devil's advocate. These are all bad. They aren't made for Commander play, and you can clearly see that!

If I was gonna pick one here that wasn't completely terrible, it would be Chandra, Flame's Catalyst. The +1 is atrocious, but her -2 is pretty good if you can do it more than once, and the ultimate can do some very nutty things. Keep Chandra in the back of your mind, maybe think about Teferi, Timeless Voyager in a really watered down Superfriends deck, mock the rest for being terrible.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: This is also probably the last set of PW deck 'walkers we're ever gonna get, so wave goodbye to these terrible but utterly fascinating Magic cards.

180: Chandra, Heart of Fire: 785 Decks

Hmmmmmmmm. I'm getting some weird Avaricious Dragon vibes here off of Chandra, Heart of Fire's first +1, (Yeah, I just compared Chandra, Heart of Fire to Avaricious Dragon. Do something about it!) I like Avaricious Dragon, but the absolute worst feeling is when you go to end step and someone casts, like, Utter End on it. You basically spent four mana for negative value.

Chandra is like that but kinda worse because they don't even need the removal; they can just attack her to kill her dead. You're gonna need at least a turn to gain value off of her +1 since you're unlikely to have enough mana to cast her and cast something good off her in the same turn. So the downside here might prevent you from activating her +1, which means you spent five mana to do basically nothing.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Like, if you aren't discarding your hand, what else are you gonna do with this Chandra? Five mana Shock isn't exactly great, either.

162: Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients: 1,176 Decks

Hey, look! It's an Equipment 'walker! It all connects! The Megill Ranking cinematic universe is in full swing here!

Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients reminds me a lot of Nahiri, the Lithomancer, and I wasn't very high on that card. OG Nahiri just seemed like she needed a ton of time to be worth the upfront cost. New Nahiri gains you value a bit quicker. Even just doing the -2 once before she dies isn't a terrible use of the card. It's not amazing, but it's fine, I guess?

I don't know, what am I hoping she actually does? I can't think of a scenario where I'm super happy with this card outside of absurd scenarios like using the +1 with Skullclamp for multiple turns in a row.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Maybe the next Equipment-based Nahiri we see will finally be the one to persuade me.

156: (tie) Jace, Mirror Mage: 1,318 Decks

I have an irrational love for Crystal Ball. Nobody ever gives it a second glance until you get your Intet, the Dreamer out, and suddenly it's frustratingly scary. I like Jace, Mirror Mage for a lot of the same reasons. It's way more fragile and it absolutely fails the single activation test: scry 2 one time for three mana is incredibly bad.

If you can protect him, though, Jace can be a lot more than Crystal Ball, especially if you can Kick him (and I know some people in my audience would love to do so). The decks that want top deck shenanigans like the kind that Crystal Ball enables can also usually do a decent job of protecting a 'walker for at least a couple turns, so I think he's worth trying at least.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: After composing this write-up, I said to myself, "You know, I could probably make good use of this dork in Jalira, Master Polymorphist." You know you make a good argument when you've persuaded yourself.

155: Garruk, Unleashed: 1,320 Decks

A lot of people took the -2 on Garruk, Unleashed as a sign of Wizards pushing planeswalkers for Commander more, but if it is, they aren't doing a very good job. It doesn't matter if it costs -2 or -1, 3/3 Beasts don't exactly scale well to Commander.

There's nothing else on Garruk to hook you in. The +1 is kinda cute with, like, Voltron, or Infect, but four mana for that is not worth doing. Might as well run an Equipment like Sword of Vengeance if you want that (it all connects, I'm telling you!). Very down on this one.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Ok, here's your homework for the week. I need you to take the Magic 2015 Garruk trailer, and put Endless Possibilities in the background. I need this.

140: Basri Ket: 1,531 Decks

Basri Ket being this high must just be new card syndrome. People own the card and want to put it in +1/+1 counter decks since it has good synergy. Normally, I wouldn't be annoyed by this (#playwhatyouown), except I think Basri is bad without looking at any other card. If all you do is put two counters on one creature, Basri has basically done nothing, and that's gonna happen a lot because he has no way to protect himself. You could play almost anything over Basri that said "counter" on it, and it'd probably be better.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: This is the poster child for generically good 'walkers that do not transfer to Commander at all. Nothing about Basri is exciting.

136: Nissa of Shadowed Boughs: 1,809 Decks

I've been fairly negative these last few 'walkers. Let's talk about a fun 'walker. I'm super into Nissa of Shadowed Boughs. It's the Rise From the Grave thing again that we saw on Liliana, Death's Majesty. Often, the worst that Nissa can really be is the best creature in your graveyard with two counters on it or hand as well because let's put more words on this card, I guess! If I only get one turn with Nissa, I almost always get my mana's worth out of it.

That's not even touching on the ludicrous Landfall ability, and I'm not even talking about in Landfall decks. Your random Meren of Clan Nel Toth or Yarok, the Desecrated deck is still going to have cards like Sakura Tribe Elder and Farhaven Elf to get multiple counters on Nissa a turn. Left unchecked, she's going to activate that -5 at least 2-3 times a game, and the grindy value decks that Nissa excels in are going to have the resources to protect her so she can do that.

In the Landfall decks with Fetchlands, extra land cards like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, and with commanders like Lord Windgrace, it's gonna be impossible to keep Nissa low on loyalty. Honestly, the only thing I'm not into here is the +1, and even that's not awful. Very much my type of value nonsense card.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Like, do I need to have Nissa in play when I cast Splendid Reclamation? No, but I absolutely want to make that happen.

131: Jeska, Thrice Reborn: 1,808 Decks

(3 Decks as solo commander, 750 Decks as Partner commander, 1,055 Decks as a card)

Jeska, Thrice Reborn is an odd commander to talk about because she's barely a planeswalker. She's like a one-shot Fiery Emancipation, and that's terrifying. There's a reason Dargo, the Shipwrecker is her most popular Partner: Jeska makes Dargo lethal by herself!

That's all you need to make this card playable... and that's also basically all she has. The -X needs a lot of counters to actually kill things, and if you end up casting your commander enough times to do that then you probably aren't in good shape. She does one thing, and it's a really great thing, so I'm absolutely on board.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I also want it on the record that I love Jeska's regular art. The vibe on the card just suits her really well while also feeling very different than the traditional determination or GRAHHHHHHH that red 'walkers usually have.

110: Liliana, Waker of the Dead: 2,582 Decks

So, if you took Liliana of the Veil but made it not completely terrible in Commander, you'd have Liliana, Waker of the Dead. Better +1 for discard decks. Better minus for the bigger creatures in Commander. Better ult to punish greedy graveyard players. All fine, but I still don't think she's very good as a whole. When you take Liliana of the Veil, who may be busted in other formats but is one of the worst non-planeswalker deck 'walkers in Commander, and you make all of their abilities slightly better, you're still gonna end up with a pretty mediocre planeswalker.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I guess the discard decks, like Tinybones, Trinket Thief, could consider this, but even then, I feel like you can do much better.

106: Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools: 2,669 Decks

(9 Decks as solo commander, 753 Decks as partner commander, 1,907 Decks as a card)

I'm so confused by that spread of decks. They clearly made Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools to be a commander. The innocuous +2 that needs time to be good, and the +1 straight-up mentioning "sacrificing a commander" means he's at his best when you can keep him around multiple turns to gain a bunch of value off, like, Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh or something.

So why is most of his play as a bog standard 'walker in Superfriends decks? Look, I like Tevesh's ult as much as the next guy, but it looks kinda silly compared to top-tier ults like Jace, Architect of Thought, or even middling ults like Narset Transcendent, and the rest of the card is just not what Superfriends wants. You have to be able to do better, right?

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: And because I have to fit this in somewhere: it doesn't even work well with Doubling Season.

40: Teferi, Master of Time: 6,058 Decks

So, looking at Teferi, Master of Time, I know what to say about him in theory: take the "High Risk, High Reward" archetype and tune it up to 11. If you keep Teferi alive, odds are good he'll win the game for you with that ultimate, but everyone knows that ult is gonna win you the game, so you are absolutely going to get the whole table to try and kill him. Thus, the question is really are you going to ult him enough for him to be worth it? Is it easy to pull off? Is it too win more? How much of a board state do you need to protect Teferi?

Those aren't rhetorical questions. Someone please help me out here. Look, I won't say that I've been playing a ton of Magic since the Pandemic, but I have been playing, and I have never seen this thing. More than that, I've also been consuming Magic content at my usual rate. Never seen this thing there either. You know what my first thought was on seeing this Teferi was? "Oh right, this thing!"

This is supposed to be the best planeswalker in Commander ever printed, and I've officially seen it as much as I've seen Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Like, did everyone just decide this card was miserable and not play him? Maybe the fact that I haven't seen him is supposed to indicate the reputation is overblown on how impactful he'd be, but I really have no idea. How is he in 6,000 decks when I forgot he existed? Agh!

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I feel like I should have more to say, but I honestly got nothing. Do let me know in the comments if you've seen this dork

I am Teferi! Master of Time. Hahahahahaha.

And thus, one remains. Next one's gonna be a doozy, as I have about 40 lands from 2020 to rank. That'll be fun to sort out. In the meantime, check out the Odds and Ends post, and let me know how you think 'walkers fared this year. Has Nissa of Shadowed Boughs been insane for you? Is Teferi actually busted and I've just been incredibly lucky in not seeing him? Let me know in the comments. Until next week!

Joseph started playing in Theros Block but decided that the best way to play the game was to learn every single card and hope that would somehow make him good at Magic. It hasn't. He is a college student in Santa Fe, New Mexico and also enjoys reading and other games of all shapes and sizes.