Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 18: I Had an Article but Now it's an Elk

(Oko, Thief of Crowns | Art by Yongjae Choi)

Spoilers Season is Already Full of Itself!

It occurred to me that I usually write two openings for this series riffing on spoilers season for the most recent Magic set. However, for Kaldheim, I made a joke about spoilers season before spoiler season actually started, so that one plus the one from last week would mean that if this opening was also about Kaldheim, I'd have three openings riffing on Kaldheim spoiler season.

That just seems unfair, so you know what? I'm not gonna make this opening about Kaldheim!  I'm gonna make it about something completely different and unique! Here we go!

Hello, and welcome back to this series where we rank every planeswalker based on their number of decks on EDHREC... uhhhhh... have y'all tried Baklava? It's delicious.

Good enough.

30: Liliana of the Dark Realms: 6,183 Decks

I have seen Liliana of the Dark Realms in play a lot, and it’s only now that I have to ask: why? Why is this card such a mono-black staple? Do we all love Pilgrim’s Eye that much? Do we all dream of a super duper Torment of Hailfire off the ultimate, which is pretty difficult to achieve in mono-black? Do we just like her incredibly long hair? I’ve never questioned this card's dominance before, but now that I'm trying to judge it, I can’t point to what it did that earned it that level of dominance.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Like, maybe I’ll play against it and go “Ooooh. That’s why,” but I can't place it right now.

29: Domri, Anarch of Bolas: 6,370 Decks

Domri, Anarch of Bolas probably isn't ramping you the turn you cast him, unless it’s like turn seven or eight where being a mana dork isn’t as good. That’s sketchy when his -2, his only source of protection, leaves him dead to a stiff breeze.

That said, I'm getting some Heraldic Banner vibes off this card. Domri’s fragile, but if he survives three turns, he's probably ramped you enough, and unlike most ramp, he’s a good draw late game thanks to the fight ability and the static pump. I don’t know. I kinda talked myself into it. Maybe it’s okay as a weird mana rock with some extra stuff.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Can we fit Domri onto the scale of Manaliths?

28: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria: 6,397 Decks

I called Jace, Unraveler of Secrets the best "Howling Mine 'walker" but you could probably argue that that title should go to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Teferi has a similar pedigree as Jace, i.e., there’s not really a deck where Teferi is bad. Control decks will love being able to draw cards and leave up counters, blink decks will love blinking Teferi to reset him after the -3, and Superfriends decks have a million bajillion 'walkers that ultimate off Doubling Season, but Teferi also does enough for Superfriends to be good without season.

Both Jace and Teferi are probably some of the best 'walkers you can play in Commander just due to their flexibility. I think I'd give the edge to Jace because of Teferi's price tag. $30 for a generically good card is steep, but they both are playable in just about anything.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I'd almost say Teferi is also underplayed, but again, being $30 pushes him down a lot.

27: Venser, the Sojourner: 6,418 Decks

If there’s a deck archetype that could afford to run more planeswalkers, it’s the blink decks. Blink decks have tons of fodder to protect planeswalkers thanks to the million value creatures they have. Blink decks are usually in defensive colors like white and blue that have tools like Dream Tides to protect 'walkers. Blink decks are drowning in card advantage, so they can spare a removal spell or two to keep their ‘walkers safe. Most importantly, though, blink decks can reset ‘walkers. You can tick down Jace, Architect of Thought or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, then flicker them, and when they come back in, look at that, they’re back at starting loyalty!

Basically, what I’m saying is that planeswalkers are really dang good in blink decks, and when you have a planeswalker like Venser, the Sojourner that's already just Conjurer’s Closet that also has some other relevant abilities, and also is in the blink archetype that really likes ‘walkers, you basically have a blink staple.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: This card is a beating. I really hope they get around to putting him in a precon soon.

26: Garruk Wildspeaker: 6,427 Decks

Really, the fact that Garruk Wildspeaker is this high just really makes me question why everyone is sleeping on Nissa Worldwaker. Like, the best ability on Garruk is the double ramp, and Nissa is double that for mono-green decks! Not to mention Nissa makes 4/4s to Garruk's 3/3s, and the ultimate is way cooler! If you’re playing Garruk is mono-green, try swapping him for Nissa, I think she’s just Garruk, but better.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Hm. Maybe I should use Garruk Wildspeaker's write-up to talk about Garruk Wildspeaker? Isn't that a crazy thought? Well, there is a lot to like! If you aren’t mono-green, the ramp on Garruk gets a lot better. If you’re in a deck built around Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or some other land that makes a million mana, Garruk can be the best kind of overkill.

25: Tezzeret, Artifice Master: 6,794 Decks

Okay. This is getting out of hand. We have got to cool it on the Superfriends staples that litter every 'walker's page. Tezzeret, Artifice Master is a really excellent 'walker, if only because his 0 draws you two cards every turn in the right deck, but you know what else he is? An artifact card, so why are there a bunch of Superfriends staples on his page? He does very little in a non-artifact deck. Yeah, he ultimates off Doubling Season, but if you think that's unique, you have not read the past 16 parts of this series! I don't get it. Planeswalkers like Tezzeret actually have a ton of application, but for some reason, we’re lumping them together with all the other 'walkers as “Superfriends card."

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I am sure that someone has built some sans-white artifact Superfriends brew. It’s probably super cool, but that’s gotta be, like, one of the over 1,500 Superfriends decks playing this card.

24: Karn, the Great Creator: 6,895 Decks

My first thought was that people were playing Karn, the Great Creator to lock people out with Mycosynth Lattice. Lands tapping for mana is an activated ability, so if you make them artifacts then Karn’s static ability prevents all opponents from playing the game. Oh, joy! I don’t actually think playing Karn just for the ability to lock people out with Lattice is worth it, but I was surprised to see that Lattice is only in 35% of Karn decks, so that's not the main reason Karn is seeing play.

Which is interesting, because outside the static, none of his abilities seem very good. Are people just playing Karn in case they’re up against artifact decks where the static is good? I do hear past me screaming at people to play more graveyard hate, but have artifacts reached that same level of ubiquity? Every deck has some sort of Regrowth-like effect, so Scavenger Grounds is never truly dead. Not every deck is gonna have a key Lithoform Engine or Trading Post. Most of the time, Karn's just going to be shutting down mana rocks, which isn’t nothing, but it’s unlikely he's gonna come down before mana rocks become pretty redundant. There’s a handful of decks that Karn just obliterates, but unless your meta is 50% Breya, Etherium Shaper, I don't think you need Karn.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Maybe in a couple years, rocks and miscellaneous artifacts become so good that you'll want to slot Karn in any random deck, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. 

23: Jace Beleren: 7,038 Decks

For the uninitiated, here’s how Jace Beleren, AKA "Party Jace" works. As long as you never, ever, ever do anything else but the +2, Jace will never die. He will be a Temple Bell, and opponents will be forever grateful. Should they kill the Jace? Sometimes, but it’s never gonna happen. Nobody ever stops the party, so long as it’s fun for everyone.

However, the instant you decide to use that -1 and restrict the party to yourself, that’s when Jace leaps onto the stage with a great big "Kill Me" sign, because now you're just being rude. Doesn’t matter if you try and make nice later with the +2 again, your opponents will think to themselves, "I saw what you’re really after, you just want cards for yourself!"

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Either we all have fun, or no one does!

22: Oko, Thief of Crowns: 7,737 Decks

Oh boy! Here’s a card that no one has any strong feelings about. Noooooooooooooope.

In case you were sleeping under a rock for the past year and a half, Oko, Thief of Crowns kinda broke, uh, everything. Standard, Modern, Pioneer, Historic, Brawl, probably Tiny Leaders, too, for all we know! Obviously, not exactly a card people are happy existed in 1v1 formats, but hey! Commander is the format for Magic mistakes to make a new life for themselves. Let’s not forget that, although we love Skullclamp now, it was banned six times over the course of its career in competitive Magic. Maybe Oko can be a card that does cool things in our format. Let’s give him a shot! What’s he do?

Completely shut down commanders? Hm. Well, back to jail, Oko!

Okay, I’ll be truthful. I kinda like Oko, Thief of Crowns. Wasting a removal spell on a commander always feel bad, because it only delays a problem. Stuff like phasing, theft spells, or other cards like Imprisoned in the Moon always feel amazing to cast because commanders are so powerful. Oko can permanently deal with commanders repeatedly. It doesn’t even matter what else he does, (which isn’t a lot, to be fair.) His +1 can neuter any creature, and every deck has one pretty excellent creature they have access to at all times, so Oko will always have an excellent target.

But make no mistake, your playgroup is probably gonna hate this thing. The problem with this type of removal, even though it’s really good, is that people play Commander for the commanders! Commander removal often makes that player unable to really play the game, and again, Oko can do that to multiple people! I consider my playgroups to be pretty lax when it comes to salt-inducing cards, and even then, if I put Oko in a deck and Elked someone's commander, that person would probably try and kill me the rest of the game. Some people might say that you should build your deck with cards like Oko in mind, and I'd agree, but it doesn’t matter if you should or not. The fact is a lot of people, myself included, build decks as if they’ll always have their commander, and Oko means they won’t. That’s gonna cause salt.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Some playgroups might shrug at Oko's existence, and if that's your group, I recommend you play him! He seems super cool! As for others, well, you play him at your own risk.

21: Nissa, Vastwood Seer: 7,992 Decks

(269 Decks as a Commander, 7,723 as a Card)

Nissa, Vastwood Seer is a bad seven-mana ‘walker. I know that the mana cost is 2G, but a bad Civic Wayfayer is not worth 8,000 decks. The base creature is fairly bad, so what you’re really playing her for is her flip side, which only happens in the late game, so yeah, you're playing a bad seven-mana ‘walker.

It’s when put in that context that Nissa becomes pretty mediocre. Her best ability by a mile is that +1. It’s like a cross between an Oracle of Mul Daya and a personal Howling Mine. I won’t dispute that the +1 feels amazing, but on what is essentially a seven-mana ‘walker? A seven-mana Howling Mine is a worse deal than even something like Staff of Nin. Plus, it’s a fragile Howling Mine. I find Nissa attracts a lot of ire, and that makes it difficult for Nissa to stick around long enough to be worth it

What else does Nissa offer? Honestly not much. A -2 that makes a hefty creature but leaves her loyalty pretty low, and a rather tame ultimate that needs some help to be game-winning. Not exactly great feels to have your ult countered by Lingering Souls. Despite all the fluff of the creature side, all we really have here is a fairly bad late game ‘walker on layaway.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Goodness. You can tell the ‘walkers I have chips on my shoulders about.

Thank You for Reading the Airing of my Grievances

Well, I'm gonna go eat Baklava. I guess? Once you grab some nutty flakey goodness, you can let me know what you think of this batch of 'walkers. Does Oko have a home in your playgroup? Is Venser as underplayed as he seems? 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.

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