Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Finale: Top Ten People Who Are Good at Walking
(Liliana, Dreadhorde General | Art by Chris Rallis)
Partners, Comrades, Companions on this long journey, we have arrived at the final part of this series where we rank every planeswalker based on the number of decks on EDHREC! This is in essence what this series has been working towards. The top ten 'walkers. The crowned jewel. The pinnacle of this esteemed journey...
Okay, look. I have a lot I wanna talk about. Can we skip the hyping up and just get to the cool 'walkers already? It's the top ten! That's exciting on its own. Let's just get to it!
10: Vivien, Champion of the Wilds: 11,127 Decks
So Vivien, Champion of the Wilds. Ehhhhhhhhhh?
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cards that cast things at instant speed, especially when they aren't seven-million dollars, but a lot of the green decks playing Vivien just look like standard stompy decks. The real power in cards like Vedalken Orrery is when you have cards like Seedborn Muse or Maelstrom Nexus to abuse the ability to cast things on opponents' turns. When you have those, Vivien is absurd, and there’re a few commanders on her page, like Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer, that can take advantage of that, but a lot of them are just random green stompy decks. Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma decks aren't going to be using Vivien for anything more than casting creatures on an end step that they'd normally just be casting in their main phase. That's not worth a card in most cases.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: This is a Gilded Lotus situation. I think she’s definitely in the top 50. I just don’t think she should be in the top ten.
9: Tezzeret the Seeker: 11,942 Decks
You might have noticed that the further up the list we get, the more the ‘walkers become perfectly average cards stapled to planeswalkers. Well, here's the least planeswalker-esque 'walker every printed. Tezzeret the Seeker is very rarely going to function like a planeswalker. He can derp around by untapping… I was gonna say Time Vault but that’s banned, soooooo Lux Cannon?
Whatever, that’s not really gonna happen. He's mainly just a Fabricate straight to play with the -X. Find your Sol Ring, or Skullclamp, or… still can’t say Time Vault... uh, Acorn Catapult? Anyway, for perspective, Whir of Invention is in 13,000 decks, so Tezz floating around 11,000 feels about right.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: He’s there for assembling whatever combo floats your fancy, like Voltaic Key and… Kry Shield? Man, this is hard.
8: Nissa, Who Shakes the World: 12,011 Decks
BREAKING NEWS! Mono-green likes mana-doublers. More at 7:00.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Nissa, Who Shakes the World has some other text about making lands into creatures, but she’s basically just a Caged Sun. A fragile Caged Sun, but a Caged Sun nonetheless.
7: Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: 12,818 Decks
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is one of the best and stupidest mass removal spells I've ever seen. Few wraths are as destructive as Ugin’s -X. Like, look at Merciless Eviction, and then realize that Ugin is basically that, but you get to pick all the modes at once, and, oh yes, then just have an eight-mana planeswalker on an empty board! I would never wish for a card to become more expensive, but let’s just say I won’t be as upset when Ugin stops being available to everybody.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I once played a game against someone that wrathed the board with the minus, and then kept Ugin around long enough to ultimate... twice. That was fun.
6: Liliana, Dreadhorde General: 13,943 Decks
Speaking of stapling totally playable cards onto a planeswalker: how about a planeswalker version of Grim Haruspex? Considering Haruspex is in 17,000 decks, I think Liliana, Dreadhorde General is gonna be pretty good. Just a hunch. Heck, Lily counts tokens, too, so even Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder can join in the fun!
What else do you want, you greedy pigs? You wanna make Zombies to protect Lilly, too? You wanna Barter in Blood and then draw cards off Lily’s static? Like, when the baseline for Lilly is a card these decks already want to play anyway, it’s difficult to critique her abilities; hers are just gravy!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Sure, you gotta protect her to gain value, but... look, back in my day, all we had was Dark Prophecy. You remember that? That was bad, but we still played it, and you're whining about having to protect your busted card draw engine? You ungrateful heathens!
5: Elspeth, Sun's Champion: 15,614 Decks
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is not only one of the best planeswalkers in EDH, she unequivocally feels like a planeswalker, which, I swear, is more of an achievement than it sounds! This isn’t like Liliana, Dreadhorde General, where it feels like a weird enchantment, or Karn Liberated where he's actually just Scour from Existence. You'll want to activate all of Elspeth's abilities, and you'll want to protect her. In other words, she plays like a planeswalker does in other formats, which is pretty rare in Commander.
Even more rare, though, is that she's also amazing! All her abilities lend themselves to a variety of different decks. Token decks love the three Soldiers every turn off the +1, control decks loves that Elspeth protects herself super well, blink decks love a repeatable, tough-to-kill wrath. Elspeth looks at the criticism that the gameplay of 'walkers doesn't transfer well to Commander, and says "Yes, it does! You just have to work extra extra hard to make it work!"
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: And also very flavorfully white. When mono-white is mono-white, it's good to point out the cards that are flavorfully within the color pie, and also really, really good.
4: Ashiok, Dream Render: 16,264 Decks
Okay, we need to talk. I think we, as a collective, can stop pushing graveyard hate so hard. Sure, in 2014-2016, when decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth ran around the format basically unopposed, we were right to say that it was underplayed. Graveyard hate always feels boring, so we fought valiantly to show the power of cards like Rest In Peace, and we highlighted that even non-graveyard decks have cards like Regrowth that graveyard hate can shut off, but the tides of change were slow, so we pushed and pushed and pushed.
But now when a card like Ashiok, Dream Render is in the top ten most played planeswalkers ever, I think we did our job. Sure, Ashiok does some other things. The "no search" clause can really sink some commanders, like Arcum Dagsson, but speaking from experience, Ashiok is a stumbling block, not a stax piece. You rarely protect Ashiok to shut opponents out forever; you gain some value by nuking the graveyard and forcing opponents to get rid of Ashiok. Like, there's a lot of extra goodies on this card, but, primarily, 15,000 people are playing a fancy Tormod's Crypt.
We won the battle. We can stop now. Like, if anything, I think we might be swinging too far the other direction. Ashiok is good, but if Ashiok keeps climbing, I think the card is going to end up in decks where it might be better served to play interaction like Counterspell. We can go home. Nice work, everyone!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Alright Joey, I think that convinced them to stop playing hate against your Meren deck. I expect my bribe in the mail. Now, don’t forget to delete this note before you post!
3: Ugin, the Ineffable: 16,424 Decks
Ugin the Ineffable is the other 'walker that I might argue should be #1 on this list, mainly because he's colorless. The phrase "EDH Staple" gets thrown around a lot, but I honestly can’t think of a colorless deck that doesn’t play Ugin. It's removal and card draw, both things colorless decks really need, and it's only a few dollars. You can't ask for much more.
So people figured out that this was an amazing colorless card pretty quickly. It took a little longer for people to find out, “Oh, turns out Ugin is just good in everything.” Yeah, I’m not high on Scour from Existence, but when you add card draw and random reduction on mana rocks, it does look way more appealing. I wouldn’t play it in every deck. Three-color+ decks are probably going to have better removal spells, but in most mono-color decks, and a lot of two-color decks, flexible removal that draws cards and is also ludicrous ramp in Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain seems like a decent card.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I can’t decide if I hope Ugin v3 is just as good or way worse than the previous two.
2: Jace, Wielder of Mysteries: 22,647 Decks
Laboratory Maniac and friends are the type of cards that I totally understand why they see play, but will also probably never actually put in a deck. I have similar feelings about them that I do about Cabal Coffers. Any deck with self mill, or lots of card draw, or even just decks that want to control the board, all lend themselves incredibly well to winning with cards like Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. When I saw Ormos, Archive Keeper for the first time, I was put off because it was just a Lab Man that was way harder to pull off, but then I realized “Wait, that’s exactly what I want!” The idea of winning by killing yourself is amazing, but at some point Lab Man became too ubiquitous and easy. It's something I've seen a million times. I want more Ormos-style puzzle boxes, and so I basically pretend that cards like Jace don’t exist.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I mean, despite my complaining, Jace absolutely deserves the amount of play he receives. A lot of people love these types of cards, so my complaining is very much "Old man trapped in college student body yells about cardboard."
But even he isn’t the most played ‘walker. There’s still one more above him that reigns supreme. Out of 211 ‘walkers, the most played planewalker is…
1: Narset, Parter of Veils: 29,700 Decks
This is a first for me. When I did my previous two series, I, and basically everyone reading, knew what number one was going to be before I started. When I started this series, number one was an open question, and it actually changed over the course of this series. I’m not tackling a commander auto-include, like Command Tower or Sol Ring, which means I get to do something very fun.
I get to call the most played planeswalker overplayed.
Narset, Parter of Veils is a really good card. Card advantage in Commander is like butter on biscuits: it’s what makes it so delicious. Every deck is trying to draw cards, and Narset is a big “Nope” to any of that. You play her against a control deck, you will win if she sticks around, and because it’s one-sided, you can still reap the rewards while making other suffer. That's not even considering following Narset up with Windfall, which is pretty close to a two-card auto-win. There’s a reason Leovold, Emissary of Trest is banned and everybody is freaking out about Hullbreacher
However, the difference between cards like Leovold and Narset is that Narset is really hampered by her card type. Similar to Ashiok, Narset is a stumbling block. She’s going to die, and considering her reputation, probably very quickly, so people will just hang on to their draw spells until then. She’s a delaying tactic. A very good one, but a lot of decks won’t be able to take advantage of the time that Narset buys for them.
Plus, Narset isn't a haymaker against every deck. Sure, all decks draw cards, but a lot of decks will let you stifle opponents while they cast their giant beaters and kill you. As for the decks that are really hampered by this card, they will devote every living second to making sure you die long even after they kill Narset. You take away people’s card draw, they will get mad at you. Them’s just the facts, and some decks don’t want that type of aggression directed at themselves.
All of this is not to say Narset is a bad card, but she’s not 30,000 decks good, and compared to all the 'walkers we've seen, does she really seem like the best planeswalker to end this list? Not by a mile, I’d say.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Fight me.
The Last of My Garbage Opinions
It's wouldn't be a ranking series without a top ten Overplayed and Underplayed cards to end on. I'll stress: this is my opinion, and to post your own opinion in the comments. Blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. Let's do it!
Top Ten Overplayed Planeswalkers
HM: Sarkhan, Dragonsoul, Gideon, Champion of Justice, Huatli, the Sun's Heart
- 10: Teyo, the Shieldmage: 2,620 decks
- 9: Narset Transcendent: 5,095 decks
- 8: Narset, Parter of Veils: 29,724 decks
- 7: Sorin, Solemn Visitor: 2,102 decks (Actually, just put all the B/W Sorin's here. Can't distinguish them anyway!)
- 6: Nissa, Voice of Zendikar: 6,413 decks
- 5: Saheeli Rai: 3,569 decks
- 4: Vraska, Golgari Queen: 6,261 decks (I did not expect this one to be my hottest take this series, but I stand by it! There are much better sac outlets, much better ways to draw cards, and much better Golgari 'walkers.)
- 3: Elspeth, Knight Errant: 4,894 decks
- 2: Liliana of the Veil: 3,323 decks
- 1: Teferi, Time Raveler: 10,145 decks
Top Ten Underplayed Planeswalkers
HM: Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, Gideon Blackblade, Xenagos, the Reveler.
- 10: Chandra Ablaze: 919 decks
- 9: Jace, Ingenious Mind Mage: 849 decks
- 8: Garruk, Cursed Huntsman: 3,452 decks
- 7: Will Kenrith: 2,185 decks
- 6: Kaya, Ghost Assassin: 1,985 decks
- 5: Garruk, Caller of Beasts: 1,824 decks
- 4: Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast: 973 decks
- 3: Nissa, Worldwaker: 2,956 decks
- 2: Gideon, Martial Paragon: 549 decks (This card beats me every time it's played against me.)
- 1: Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast: 1,800 decks
One Last Stroll
Sooooooo we're done right? Journey over? Time to put the spreadsheet away? Well, not exactly. I still have one unresolved question in the back of my mind.
I started this series wondering if planeswalkers were good in Commander at all, and you know, I think I need to write one more article answer that question. Next week, we'll do one last deep dive on planeswalkers before chucking them into the garbage and moving on to something else.
But speaking of that something else, what exactly should that be?
And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts! What do you think of the top ten 'walkers? Does Narset deserve to be #1? What do you think should be in the top ten? What's getting kicked out over the next few years? Let me know in the comments. Until the next journey!