Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 15: The Bogeyman Arrives

(Sorin Markov | Art by Michael Komarck)

I Shall Enjoy My Merriment

It's finally the article before Christmas! I look forward to this one because I get to share the holiday cheer that I have to keep bundled up for the rest of the month so I don't look tacky. Time to let loose the holiday spirit! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Habari Gani, and may any other holiday that allows you to express joy be a merry one!

Does this article where we rank every planeswalker based on their number of decks on EDHREC have anything to do with the holidays? Nope, but I'm doing it anyway!

60: Xenagos, the Reveler: 4,504 Decks

People sleep on Xenagos, the Reveler far too much. Whenever I talk about how great Xenagos is, everybody goes “Oh, Xenagos, God of Revels is amazing," which I can't argue with; he is quite swole, but that doesn't mean you should forget about OG Xenagos. I think he's one of the top ten best 'walkers for Commander. I can explain why in a sentence: look at the price tag on Gaea's Cradle. If the +1 doesn't make Xenagos free after you cast him, you're doing something wrong. Your Gruul, Naya, Jund, Temur, or whatever stompy deck suits your fancy is going to love being able to cast giant dorks with the +1, which also manages to protect Xenagos, and if you're a token deck? Whooboy! Wort, the Raidmother could not ask for a better +1!

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: It’s not like the rest of the card is bad either. When you have no creatures, Xenagos can just be a better Goblin Assault. The ultimate is also pretty game-winning in any nontoken decks, but, honestly, if all you ever do is make a gazillion mana with the +1, that should still make him a Gruul staple.

59: Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury: 4,544 Decks

(522 Decks as a Commander, 4,022 Decks as a Card)

Should be obvious why Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury is seeing play with all the Elf cards on her page, but interspersed with those are a bunch of superfriends staples, because look at that! We have the Naturalize as a minus on Freyalise too! I hope after last week when we saw a bunch of these "Removal 'walkers," you can find a better option for those decks than Freyalise. Use Vraska, Relic Seeker, or Nahiri, the Harbinger, or some of the ones we'll see later. Freyalise just does very little else in superfriends.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I do actually think more creature-based decks, like Chulane, Teller of Tales, could take advantage of her, but not enough to balance out all the superfriends decks.

58: Sorin, Grim Nemesis: 4,620 Decks

Of the cavalcade of Orzhov Sorins, we finally reach one I think is okay! I mean, I still wouldn't run Sorin, Grim Nemesis in Vampires. He's far too slow. Would you rather cast clunky clunkerson at six here, or a Vampire like Edgar Markov or Nirkana Revenant? Seems obvious to me.

But unlike all those other Sorins, this one's got some meat on his value-based bones. Imagine that +1 in a superfriends deck. Flip Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, dome for eight? Mmmm, delicious. Plus, the fact that he's so beefy means that getting to the ultimate on this card is a possibility. Don't get me wrong, I'm not excited for Sorin, and if I never saw him in play, I'm not sure I'd notice, but I think it is playable in superfriends, which is a higher bar than most of these Sorins on this list.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Still not a Vampire card, but this one's not completely worthless.

57: Karn Liberated: 4,645 Decks

Karn Liberated! AKA: Sorcery-speed Scour From Existence.

Okay, that’s not fair. Sometimes he’s two Scour from Existences, but he’s very rarely a 'walker. Even if he does stick around for more than two turns, he's basically a seesaw of destruction. Tick up, tick down, tick up, tick down. The Karn lives to eat things, and colorless decks are pretty bad at that. Like, the worst case on Karn is still something that sees play in over 6,000 decks.

So Karn's a staple in colorless decks. Should the colored decks be running a seven-mana Vindicate? I mean, if you want that, and budget isn’t a concern, Karn is the best one. Being sorcery-speed is made up for in spades by him being repeatable. If you want colorless expensive removal, I’d recommend Karn, but do you want colorless expensive removal? Green and white have no trouble in the removal department, blue has all manner of counterspells to catch things, and red has Chaos Warp. The only iffy one is mono-black with artifacts, but even they have reanimation to snag an opposing Reclamation Sage, or just kill opponents through whatever artifact is bugging you. The removal is nice, but he basically does nothing else, so you might as well just run better removal, especially in superfriends. If there is a deck that doesn't need an expensive removal spell, it's absolutely superfriends.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: And before we move on, please, please please, don’t ever try and ultimate the Karn.

56: Sorin Markov: 4,653 Decks

If EDHREC had a salt score in 2013-2016, I can guarantee that Sorin Markov would be on it. That -3 was the ultimate neutralizer. It didn’t matter how much board state you had acquired. It didn’t matter how far ahead you were. If Sorin ticked down, and you couldn’t immediately win on your turn, you suddenly got really nervous. I did not actually see a ton of Sorin in my groups, partially, if not entirely for salt reasons, but the few times Sorin's ire got pointed at me, I lost those games, brutally.

Of course, now we’re living in the modern Commander age, where stuff like Expropriate wins the game on the spot, Aetherflux Reservoir puts a loaded gun on the table, and Teferi, Master of Time abuses the format to an uncomfortable degree. Does Sorin Markov still deserve his status as a bogeyman of the format? Maybe not as much as he used to, but he should still absolutely be respected. If anything, EDH has gotten even less combat-centric in the past few years with value engines like Chulane, Teller of Tales ruling the day, so decks have probably stopped protecting themselves from damage as much as they should. 10 life still leaves opponents dead to a lot of things. Plus, once you do the -3, opponents are gonna smell blood in the water, and are probably happy to get that one player out of the game.

Even if you completely ignore that ability, he's still good. He can murder small things, and he can build up to Mindslaver in two turns. He absolutely rewards you for protecting him. Not to mention, he’s super funny with Doubling Season, getting to ult and then survive. The one stumbling block, his mana cost, isn't even much of a problem in mono-black, or even in black-heavy decks. If you've never played with OG Sorin before, try him out. I promise, you won't regret it!

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: He may not command the fear he once did, but you should cast him a couple times and remind people why he commanded that fear in the first place.

55: Elspeth, Knight-Errant: 4,672 Decks

Hey! Long time, no see, Elspeth. Don't think we've seen you since the 120s. Did you get some new tricks? 

Ehhhhhhh. Not really. Like, I think the only reason Elspeth, Knight-Errant is seeing play is because (everybody sing along) she works well with Doubling Season. There's not much else here. She can cast Angelic Blessing, but if that's all you want, you can just play an Equipment, like Maul of the Skyclaves, that's way less fragile. Anything else, Elspeth? No? Just the Season thing. Okay.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: It's not even that good of an ultimate. Like, it's annoying, but opponents can absolutely kill you through it.

54: Kiora, the Crashing Wave: 4,694 Decks

I always think Kiora, the Crashing Wave costs three mana, and then I read the card, see that she costs four, and am disappointed. She’s only got two loyalty, and the most appealing thing about this card is the thing that removes loyalty. Double Explore is probably worth four mana in certain decks, but she’ll die to a poke with a stick before you get that. If she had just a couple more loyalty, she'd be better, but as is, she's a pretty lackluster 'walker.

However, to break from tradition, I think she’s actually an excellent superfriends 'walker in the early game. If she explores once and then takes heat from the 'walkers that you really want to keep alive, that’s pretty good. If she sticks around, she can help pillowfort and work towards the ultimate late game. Plus, the issue of being made of toothpicks is softened by the Proliferate in these decks. So bad Simic card, pretty good superfriends' card: split down the middle?

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Watch out, Kiora! You're gonna crash! Ah!

53: The Wanderer: 4,700 Decks

Why on earth is The Wanderer seeing any play? Sure, if you happen to run into a player running Blasphemous Act, then she’ll come in clutch, but everywhere else, that card text is never gonna come up. Maybe Djeru, with Eyes Open runs it as tutorable removal, but other than that, no one should play this. Double Reprisal is not what you wanna spend four mana on in any superfriends deck. You should just forget this card exists. Rant rant rant, Chulane, Teller of Tales... high-power decks....

Looks around nervously.

Have all the sensible people scrolled past this section yet? Okay, now that they’re gone, let’s talk jank. Obviously, The Wanderer prevents your own wraths, like Chain Reaction, from hurting you, but that’s thinking too small. Ever built Boros group slug? Sulfuric Vortex, Manabarbs. You can move into black for Havoc Festival to really get things moving. Maybe that’s too mean. You could also just play symmetric effects like Brawl, or Pandemonium. With Wanderer in play, you can let opponents have fun with those cards, so long as they don't try to hurt you with it. What else? People had a ball playing Wanderer with Command the Dreadhorde in Standard. That sounds like it'll lead to some ludicrous turns in Commander. Ooh! How about fight tribal? Play her with stuff like Living Inferno, or Apex Altisaur to lock opposing creatures out basically forever. The world's your oyster with this card. Go nuts! Just don’t play it like a clunky removal spell. Now I better go. I’m sure all the regular readers jumped to the Overplayed section. Ahem....

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Totally unplayable in all respects. Just never think about this card again. It doesn't do anything.

52: Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter: 4,807 Decks

Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter is almost too powerful for his own good. Cryptolith Rite is one of the scariest cards in the right decks because it gets you to stupid amounts of mana very early on. Jiang may be more restrictive, but counters are cheap, and he can even assist with that. He's definitely impactful.

That’s not the issue. The issue is that the moment he comes down, a smart table is gonna target him, and he's only got three loyalty. The token decks can definitely protect him, but for how long? Cryptolith Rite is fast, but it isn't usually instant gratification. It takes some time to be amazing. I'm torn. The ability is super powerful, but I think he's just too fragile most of the time to take advantage of it.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Although, if you're hankering for this ability, Citanul Hierophants is a hidden favorite of mine.

51: Jace, Unraveler of Secrets: 4,810 Decks

If you took all the 'walkers whose +1s were basically just Howling Mine, I think Jace, Unraveler of Secrets would be the best one to play in your average deck. Not even because he's particularly powerful. He's just vanilla enough to be good in the most situations. All his abilities are relevant, he's pretty beefy, he adds a scry to the draw ability, and he only cost five mana, so he wins!

If your deck can play a 'walker without it instantly dying, you can't really go wrong running Jace. You wanna lock combat? Well, you might as well run card draw while you're at it. Superfriends? Yep. He’s got an ultimate that works with Doubling Season. Classic control? Jace will happily buy you some time. Krakens? Yes, Jace does enjoy the wall of beef protecting him, thank you. If anything, Jace should see more play. There’s not a blue deck that doesn’t like drawing cards, and Jace can have upside on top of that. If you care even a little bit about not being punched in the face, why is Jace a bad card in your deck?

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: The best way to describe my feelings on this card is just by going “Yup. That’s a good magical card there.”

Turns Out 'Unraveler' Isn't a Word. The More You Know.

May whatever holiday you celebrate warm your soul! It would help warm mine to hear your thoughts about any of these 'walkers we talked about! Is Sorin Markov still the monster he was before? Was I too hard on Karn? Let me know in the comments! May you have the merriest holiday!

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.