Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 17: The Queen is Dead

(Liliana, Death's Majesty | Art by Chris Rallis)

We Vikings Now


Okay, I can't shout for the whole article. I'm gonna blow out my keyboard using it that hard. Let's channel the spirit of the vikings in less shouty ways, like uh, the musical side! We can all be very cheery and bouncing during this article. That's much better.

40: Tamiyo, Collector of Tales: 5,505 Decks

It's pretty easy to look at the +1 and the static on Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and conclude she's not really made for Commander. Heck, I did when I first saw it, but that's because I was looking at the +1 as a way to draw cards. It will obviously never do that in Commander. You know what that +1 really says? Mill four. Ignore any other words on that ability, that’s all you need. I’ve resorted to Wood Sage before because repeatable mill fills your graveyard up all day long!

See, the thing about Tamiyo is that she's secretly a Sultai card, because not only does Sultai love filling the graveyard, but they also love Regrowth. Even at her worst, Tamiyo is a four-mana sorcery Regrowth, which is still a great card to have when you need that Toxic Deluge back. The fact that Tamiyo can also fuel her recursion with the +1 gives her a lot of value when you don't need something back right away.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Plus, any future recursion with Tamiyo in the graveyard has some pretty great returns. Looping Tamiyo with an Eternal Witness is the epitome of spinning your wheels, and I love it.

39: Liliana, Heretical Healer: 5,756 Decks

(598 Decks as a commander, 5,158 decks as a card)

Liliana, Heretical Healer is the only creature ‘walker where her being a creature is an asset. It's incredibly easily to flip Lily, but the reward for doing so isn’t amazing on its own. The only really exciting ability is the -X. That will usually snag a decent creature, but if she only does it once, that's probably worse than even a card like Rise from the Grave. However, thanks to her creature side, you can easily get her back with stuff like Meren of Clan Nel Toth and do that -X multiple times. It's a soul-crushing loop of death and resurrection. Hooray!

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Not a heady historic handmaiden, but a humble heretical healer.

38: Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner: 5,812 Decks

When people are playing cards like The Great Henge, and Temur Ascendancy, Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner doesn't exactly stand out. She provides some ramp with her -1, and it's cute with stuff like Karametra's Acolyte, but I don't think that makes up for the fragility of being a planeswalker. Seven loyalty is a ton, but the fact that she can die is a definite downside, especially when compared to stuff like Guardian Project, which is all upside. It's always good to run one or two cards like Project, but Kiora is never going to be the best one.

What’s that? Kiora is 50 cents? Like, the perfect budget card for any Simic deck, unlike most of those other card draw options?

Excuse me a moment. I need to go find 50 copies of this.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: This and Garruk's Uprising are basically the only budget Guardian Projects that exist, so even if they aren't the best, they should be in basically any stompy deck that can play them

37: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy: 5,873 Decks

(259 Decks as a commander, 5,614 decks as a card)

I actually really love Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. It’s one of my favorite cards I’ve never owned, but I think that his Snapcaster Mage ability isn’t great in EDH. That -2 is the main reason a lot of decks are running him, but why go through the effort of doing that when you could just return the spell with Call to Mind or Mystic Retrieval or Regrowth? Jace is so dang slow. Sure, you can wait to flip him until you have something good to cast, but top-decking Jace is way worse than just top-decking Call to Mind because you have to wait a full turn cycle before you can get your spell back, or worse, get your Snapcaster plan ruined by a removal spell. It's just far too much effort when there're better ways to do it

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: And if you’re not Snapcastering, there’s basically nothing else for him to do. His other abilities are even worse.

36: Ajani, the Greathearted: 5,892 Decks

So I've been teasing the budget Superfriends deck for a while, partly because I'm the type of person that would walk into a gold-leaf-wrapped caviar store and ask, "So what can I get for $2?" However, I think budget superfriends appeals to me a lot because it was certainly not a thing you could do a few years ago. Even the cheapest 'walkers used to run you $5-10, not to mention that the cool ones everybody wants to play like Jace, the Mind Sculptor costing upward of $100. No high school student's got the budget for one of those, let me tell you, and I didn't even touch on the five-color mana base or the white whale of this series, Doubling Season. Superfriends was definitely the deck for those that wanted to really splurge.

But now, thanks to War of the Spark's introducing a ton of cheap 'walkers like Ajani, the Greathearted, I think you can totally build $50 superfriends. Sure, you can't afford some of the top tier 'walkers, like Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, but thanks to WAR, and a bunch of other sets, you have a ton of cheap replacements. A lot of the support cards, like Deploy the Gatewatch, are also fairly cheap. Heck, Oath of Teferi is only $1.50, and that’s one of the scariest cards in any superfriends deck. Even Doubling Season, while still being utterly unique and an “I Win” button for the tribe, has stuff like Evolution Sage or Deepglow Skate that can fill a similar role. Sure, it won't have the flashiest 'walkers, like Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, but let's be real, most of those 'walkers weren't really great cards in Commander, anyway. I am at least interested in attempting to build budget superfriends and I encourage you all to try as well.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: 14-year-old me would be proud.

35: Dack Fayden: 5,946 Decks

Okay, I’ve been pretty mean to the Izzet planeswalkers, but I can’t be rude to the greatest thief of the multiverse, Dack Fayden. Everybody was freaking out about Thieving Skydiver as a new EDH staple, and even that cost a million mana to steal even just a Hedron Archive. Dack Fayden on the other hand? It’s the same amount of mana to steal a Sol Ring or a Blightsteel Colossus, and when he doesn’t have a good thing to steal, he can also just Careful Study every single turn. You never draw dead with a Dack in play.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Like, who cares if Dack dies in a turn or two? His floor is a good card. His ceiling is an amazing card!

34: Vraska, Golgari Queen: 5,955 Decks

If I ever made a list of worst loyalty abilities on 'walkers, I think Vraska, Golgari Queen's +1 might be the only non-Planeswalker Deck, non-Tibalt 'walker on there. Most of the time, you'll just tick up and do nothing, and isn't that a great ability? "+2: do absolutely nothing." Maybe you'll have a useless mana rock or land to sacrifice to it, but you're probably going to need those until late in the game. Even when you do draw a card off the +2, Vraska's still this giant sitting duck.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: The rest of the card would need to really wow me to overcome that, and it really doesn’t. The minus is just okay, and while I’ll concede that the ultimate is very funny, it’s gonna be forever before she gets there. I can’t even really say she’s good in superfriends. Your return on investment is quite slow.

33: Karn, Scion of Urza: 5,997 Decks

I go back and forth on how good Karn is. I’ve never seen it in play, so I can’t really pull on any previous experience here. The most appealing thing here is he’s a colorless way to draw cards, and we’re still pretty hungry for that even with stuff like Coercive Portal and The Immortal Sun existing. He’s not amazing card draw, but you can usually strike a deal with an opponent to get a key wrath or removal spell that you might reveal. That’s also not all he does, either. In artifact decks, the Karnstructs can be massive creatures that can protect Karn or just attack for ten.

There's definitely a lot to like here. There's just a lot of downside if Karn flips two lands off the +1 and then dies. That's a pretty low floor on Karn. I think if I were building a deck and owned a Karn, I might try him out anyway because there is so much to like, but he's also $8. Like, I could buy Staff of Nin, Mind's Eye, and a Coke Zero for that price. I don’t know if I can justify giving him a shot.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I’d still like to see Karn in play. I think there's a chance he's better than he looks

32: Nissa, Voice of Zendikar: 6,053 Decks

I’ve come to the conclusion that Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is some sort of hypnotic wizard disguised as a Magic card. People see this card, and I swear they hear this siren call. Oooh, a +1 that makes Plant tokens that work well with pump spells. Oooh, a minus that pumps a whole team. Oooh, she works well with Proliferate since it increases the +1/+1 counters she gives and gives her more loyalty counters. Woooooooooooooaaaah.

And then somehow, in seeing all this cool synergy, they enter into a catatonic state and are oblivious to what Nissa actually does most of the time, which is either “Make a 0/1 Plant, and then die,” or “Do a Gavony Township and then die.” Being three mana is not a boon for Nissa because the 0/1s are really terrible at protecting her from any defense stronger than a loaf of bread. Most games I see Nissa, it is very easy for me to kill her, and I’ll say that to people, and they'll say, “Oh, but when that doesn’t happen, she’ll really go off.” When does that not happen, world? What black magic hath infected y'all?!?

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I swear, either I'm in games where Nissa gets incredibly unlucky, or Wizards has been sneaking some sort of catnip into the cardboard.

31: Liliana, Death's Majesty: 6,078 Decks

Poll time! When’s the last time you’ve seen a Rise from the Grave cast? I expect two answers: never, or last week. Rise from the Grave is pretty outclassed by stuff like Reanimate, Stitch Together, Ever After, Extract from Darkness, etc. There’s definitely better options, and if you’re playing in a higher-power meta, you’ll probably never see this card.

But also, it’s not bad. Wizards, for some reason, likes to put this card in precons, so depending on where I'm playing, I will see Rise a fair bit, and I gotta tell you, I lose to it a lot. You can say whatever “strictly better” option you want, but the fact is games tend to end when you cast a five-mana Terastodon, or a five-mana Diluvian Primordial, or a five-mana Craterhoof Behemoth... you get the idea. It kinda doesn’t matter that Rise from the Grave feels so mediocre. It’s a mediocre way to get the best creature any deck is playing. That kinda has to be good.

So when I talk about Liliana, Death’s Majesty (See, my rambles have a point... sometimes) and say that 95% of the time she’s just Rise from the Grave restricted to your graveyard, that's not a bad thing. Sure, when she gets to stick around, she’s much better. You can occasionally get to the ultimate, which is going to be pretty one-sided in the right deck, but often that’s just a bonus. Most of the time, she’s an expensive Reanimate that gains you some life, and that’s totally fine.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Does that ranking refer to Rise from the Grave or Liliana? Yes.

Staying on Topic? What's That Mean?

Well, go celebrate the Kaldheim previews by learning to play a Talharpa. While you're doing that, sing about what you think about this batch of 'walkers. Is Vraska, Golgari Queen better than I think? Do you have a budget superfriends deck? Serenade your thoughts 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.

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