Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 13: Your Life Would Be Better As a Dragon
(Chandra, Awakened Inferno | Art by Chris Rahn)
Everybody Stop For a Sec!
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. That was nice. Even a tangent master like me has to stop and just live in silence for a little bit. Go on, dwell in the ellipses for a little while. Think about bunnies and tea. Mmmmmm. Don't you feel better now? Good.
Oh, right. Uh, welcome back to ranking every planeswalker with EDHREC. Let's put that contentment to good use, shall we?
80: Huatli, Radiant Champion: 3,303 Decks
Remember when I said Dovin, Grand Arbiter was a cool design as a planeswalker whose sole purpose was to ultimate, but he was kinda disappointing because the ultimate wasn't really worth it? Huatli, Radiant Champion is what I was looking for. Her +1 does actual, factual nothing but put loyalty on her, and the -1 can be good, but for four mana I need more than Might of the Masses.
All eyes then fall on the ultimate, and it delivers. You get an indestructible Guardian Project that even works for tokens! That's amazing, and when you have fodder for the +1, that fodder also protects her, so it's not even that hard to get. You only need four creatures to ultimate her the turn after she comes out. That’s totally doable in Selesnya! Huatli is excellent. She basically has to be answered the turn she's cast, or you're going to have a very bad time.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I want to play a game where I make her emblem multiple times.
79: Saheeli Rai: 3,332 Decks
What in the fifth circle of Hellkites is Saheeli Rai's page? I have never seen so much random crap on a card's page and yet not particularly liked any of it. You'd think she'd be fairly simple. She looks predominately like an artifact card, but not a great one. The +1 is garbage. The -2 is cute, but if that’s all she’s doing, you might as well just run a card like Echo Storm, and while the ultimate is cute, it's a million turns away. Saheeli doesn’t do nearly enough to justify a spot when there’re a million better artifact planeswalkers that you could play instead.
Ordinarily, this is where I’d like to be done, but there’s a whole bunch of other nonsense. The first thing that you'll notice on Saheeli's page is a ton of staples for Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. Now, I got indoctrinated into the Brudiclad cult years ago, (all hail the 2/1 Myr,) so I can say from first-hand experience that I don't like Saheeli in Brudiclad. You almost never want to cast Brudiclad without a big token payoff. The token on Saheeli is only temporary, meaning that you have to either play Saheeli first and protect her, or play both Brudiclad and Saheeli in the same turn, which is a big mana investment. She’s not awful, but you can do much better.
Then there’s also Felidar Guardian. Yeah, I bet some of you were waiting for me to discuss the infinite combo. With Saheeli’s -2, you can make a copy of Felidar Guardian, which can then blink Saheeli and let her use the -2 again to make another Guardian, which blinks Saheeli, which makes a Guardian, repeat until heat death of universe. Now, most decks with Guardian aren't going to be playing many artifacts, so Saheeli would basically be useless in those decks except when combo-ing off. I'm not a big fan of playing cards that are useless 98% of the time unless you're built around them, so I'm tempted to say she's overplayed here too.
But there's still more stuff here! There're random commanders like Obeka, Brute Chronologist that have very marginal synergy, then there's a bunch of Superfriends cards, which seems like a terrible place for her artifact synergies, and then I saw she's sometimes played in five-color decks with Yarok, the Desecrated, and I don't... I can't....
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?
78: Nahiri, the Harbinger: 3,360 Decks
I mentioned Boros is probably one of the worst color combos at protecting planeswalkers. Usually, the creatures are small and aggressive, neither of which makes them great defenders for 'walkers. That said, Nahiri, the Harbinger meshes with the color identity adequately. The -2 on Nahiri is good enough that it isn't the end of the world if that's all she does. If she does it twice, that’s Return to Dust, and I still like that card, Joey! Between that and the "card advantage" of the +2, she's a vanilla value play that you could play in any Boros deck, but I would never be excited about it.
However, I think this card is severely underplayed in Superfriends decks. She's everything you want in those decks for $2! She comes down early, she's removal, and she does stuff on an empty board. You're pretty okay if she dies after a couple activations, and if you get her to the ultimate? Well, I don't know if Superfriends can run Blightsteel Colossus, but they always could.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I think's it's passable in Boros, but legitimately excellent in Superfriends.
77: Dovin Baan: 3,364 Decks
These deeply medium 'walkers like Dovin Baan are always the hardest to write about.. If a card is atrocious, I can riff on it. If it's a hidden gem, I can highlight it. If something is niche, I can talk about the unique applications it has. If something’s a staple, I can discuss if it should still be one, but when I have a mediocre 'walker like Dovin... like, what do I even say?
Dovin is generically okay without a clear home, but also not bad enough to say the card's unplayable or worse than other options, so I basically have to resort to reading the card's abilities. “The +1 protects Dovin, and it’s pretty good. The -1 draws a card, and it’s pretty good. The ultimate locks opponents out of the game, and it's pretty mean, but also pretty good.” Not every 'walker can be the game-winning-est card, so it’s probably fine in Superfriends, and if I saw him in an Azorius deck as a filler card, I wouldn't be against it, but I can’t really say Dovin should see more play. In what? Why? What's here to excite you?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: He certainly exists.
76: Jaya Ballard: 3,509 Decks
Jaya. Jaya. Jaya. I tried, girl. I really did. Your double +1’s both looked excellent! You were ramp for stuff like Mizzix’s Mastery, and you could sculpt the perfect hand from nothing. I had no illusions about being able to reach your ultimate, but if I could just rummage a few times, maybe ramp a little bit, and let you eat some aggression, I thought you'd be worth the investment.
However, despite all the cool abilities, you are one of the worst 'walkers at protecting themselves. For crying out loud, Jaya, most Planeswalker Deck 'walkers can protect themselves better than you can! Now, maybe, in an artifact deck, or a control deck, the strong abilities would make you worth protecting, but Spellslinger decks can’t wastes spells on you. Every spell that I use saving you is one fewer spell that I have to protect myself. I tried you in mono-red spells, Izzet spells, heck, even Gruul spells, but every time I tried, you just never did enough before you got crushed.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: You broke my heart, Jaya.
75: Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted: 3,589 Decks
Hi. My name is Joseph, and I’m a Group Slug-aholic
I adore Group Slug decks. If you’ve only got 10-15 minutes and need to squeeze in one quick game, Group Slug will accomplish that goal. Now whether that quick game happens because you force opponent to kill themselves for trying to commit the heinous crime of wanting to play Magic, or whether it's because you played Manabarbs and the entire table goes, “Huh. Well I guess now you have to die,” that's up in the air. Either way, though, it's gonna be a roller coaster, and I love it.
Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted is a staple for that type of deck. It doesn't even matter that it's a fragile planeswalker, as opposed to a card like Underworld Dreams. Group Slug naturally promotes aggression. If you play Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted and follow it up with Windfall or Molten Psyche, your opponents might try to kill it, or they might just try and kill you. It doesn't really matter. Either way, Ob’s gonna accomplish its goal or he's gonna kill you both while trying!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Quite frankly, I don't even think you should bother killing Ob in most cases. The best removal for these effects is player removal.
74: Chandra, Awakened Inferno: 3,600 Decks
I did just profess my love for Group Slug, so you know I'm very intrigued by the +2 on Chandra, Awakened Inferno. The dream is to activate that, like, four times and watch your opponents slowly burn before you with no way to stop it.
That’s cute, but it's also very slow, ironically, and the rest of the card doesn’t do much. Sure, you can Anger of the Gods, but Anger is a lot worse in the late game, and that -X has really terrible returns in Commander. We’re basically on the +2 or bust with Chandra, and how many times do you have to do that before you're happy paying six mana for this? More times than you're probably ever going to, I'd say.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: That said, I would be interested to see her in an Aikido deck. She seems like a great finisher in a deck full of ways to screw with combat.
73: Kiora, Master of the Depths: 3,742 Decks
Kiora, Master of the Depths' abilities are this weird mishmash of archetypes. The +1 wants mana dorks or big creatures for the untap to really pay off, so I'm thinking, like, a stompy ramp deck, but then the -2 wants you to be playing around in your graveyard. That's way more value-oriented than I'd like. Okay, so maybe I just ignore the -2 and try to turbo her until the ultimate, except the ultimate is kinda lackluster. It's good, but I wouldn't play her just to turbo into that ultimate. I need more than that, so which deck wants her? Graveyard controlly stuff? Rampy rampy big times? Superfriends? It’s not great in any one of these decks, so maybe a deck that contains all those elements makes Kiora a good card? I can't imagine many of those decks exist.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Okay, I'll make one exception: she's very cute in Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
72: Sarkhan the Masterless: 3,915 Decks
Ironically, despite the fact that I often use Sarkhan as an excuse to talk about my big flying bois, I think Sarkhan, the Masterless is pretty bad in a typical Dragon deck. If you already have six Dragons, is anyone actually going to attack you? "Yes, I will poke the giant flying bears. What could go wrong?" I suppose you could argue that they might try to kill Sarkhan, but in a Dragon deck, he’s basically a 4/4 that makes a 4/4 every few turns. That is not nearly the scariest threat in a Dragon deck. I’d play Sarkhan, Dragonsoul over this one.
However, I am totally on board for Sarkhan in a Superfriends deck! It’s not like those 'walkers are doing much after they activate their abilities. Why not get them off their lazy butts and make them 300% cooler?! The static and the minus get a lot better in Superfriends, too. You probably won't have a ton of Dragons for it, but even 1-2 damage will deter a lot of attackers. It’s definitely a weird 'walker, and one whose place is more niche than it currently looks, but I dig it!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: One other quick thing: Sarkhan can let you do similar mutate shenanigans as you could with Oko, the Trickster, except now with any 'walker you please! Gideon, Champion of Justice seems much better as an unkillable mutate target.
71: Ajani Unyielding: 3,907 Decks
According to the data, Ajani Unyielding tends to be the Ajani of choice for Superfriends decks. Bit of an odd choice, but I can kinda see it. It checks all the boxes. It can draw a ton of cards, it can snipe certain creatures, and the ultimate will just about ultimate every other planeswalker you have. All that for less than a dollar, thanks to a Commander 2020 printing, so he can even go in our mythical budget Superfriends deck I'm still not confident actually exists. If I had experience with non-Superfriends decks, I might question if Ajani is actually the best choice for those decks, but my blood is made up of a large percentage of Worchestershire sauce, so I'll side with the data and trust that people know what they're doing.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Is it just me, or does this Ajani’s face make him look like a completely different cat person? Ah, I bet this is Ajani’s cousin, Aganee.
Putting the 'Content' into 'Contentment'
Real quick before I sign off, I did want to follow up on the poll from a couple weeks ago. Ended up being pretty close, but it looks like we'll be postponing the 2020 retrospective until April or May of next year to account for Commander Legends. Huzzah!
Anyway, let me know what you think about these 'walkers! Can you decipher Saheeli Rai? Have you won a game with Sarkhan the Masterless's +1? Let me know, someone on the internet. Until next week!