Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 19: Jace, the Jace Jace.
(Jace, the Mind Sculptor | Art by Jason Chan)
Almost Through Our Stroll
I think there's still Kaldheim spoilers going on outside, but in this comfortable bubble, we're on the penultimate article of this series where we rank every planeswalker based on their number of decks on EDHREC. These articles are always fun to write because now we're onto cards that everybody knows and that everybody has an opinion on. Step away from the new hotness and stroll with me as we look at some of the most powerful 'walkers from across Magic's history.
Ooh, starting off with a good one!
20: Jace, the Mind Sculptor: 8,226 Decks
In some sense, 20th place feels far too low for Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He is, and probably forever will be, the most iconic planeswalker of all time. He’s probably not the most powerful anymore; I think we kinda have to give that to everyone's favorite Elk machine, but Jace is probably #2 by a wide margin. Jace was released well before I started playing Magic, but even I can regale you with the tale of the Standard menace, Cawblade. A finely tuned death machine of Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, and Batterskull that killed fast but also got to run Jace, who took over any game he survived in. Jace was the first planeswalker that was so powerful that he had to be banned, and this was in 2012 when banning things in Standard only happened every eight or nine years. Jace still sees play in formats as far back as Vintage. Of course, people are going to want to play a card that holds such a resume in Commander. He's the original busted planeswalker that you heard whispers of in the cafeteria, and, unlike Oko, a lot of people have fond memories playing him.
However, in another sense, 20th place also feels way higher than Jace, the Mind Sculptor deserves. In Commander, Jace is closer to Liliana of the Veil than he is to Oko, Thief of Crowns: he doesn’t scale to multiplayer well. When your opponent plays a Jace in 1v1, they can make him difficult to kill. They can get him out of Lightning Bolt range with the +2, they can bounce whatever dork might kill him with the -1, and if they think Jace is safe, then they can just Brainstorm all day long and overwhelm you with value. With multiple opponents, five loyalty isn't going to keep him alive as long, and bouncing one creature doesn’t stifle two of your three opponents. None of Jace's abilities are awful in Commander, but Jace really only works when he sticks around eating opponents' resources. He’s not gonna do that much in Commander. You’ll probably only Brainstorm a couple times before Jace kicks the bucket. He's kinda looking comparable to Riverwise Augur, and that's a sentence that I thought I'd never say.
So can I really say the mystique of Jace is worth the lackluster gameplay? I mean, Jace has a lot of other homes. Jace is still a Modern card, a Legacy card, a Vintage card, a cube card, and more. He certainly doesn't need Commander. Can I really say that the ethos of Jace is worth it when the card might never actually live up to that ethos?
Do you even know who's writing this?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Come on! If I ever opened a Jace, how could I not windmill slam him in any blue deck I had?! Commander is the format where there's more to deckbuilding than how the card mechanically works.
19: Ob Nixilis Reignited: 8,297 Decks
I think this is the most played Howling Mine ‘walker in Commander, and as a vanilla ‘walker for black decks that gains some value before dying, Ob Nixilis Reignited is fine. Draws cards, kills creatures, has a lot of loyalty, and was recently reprinted in a precon, (Side note, Wizards please keep doing that.) He definitely flourishes in slower, lower-power metas, but he does good work in those metas.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: The ultimate only messing up one opponent is pretty weird. You could just have him say "Whenever a player draw a card, each opponent loses 2 life," but whatever.
18: Ral, Storm Conduit: 8,349 Decks
Picture this. You play an Izzet spellslinger deck. You’ve been considering planeswalkers like Ral, Izzet Viceroy, but they just don’t do it for you. Suddenly, Wizards gives you Ral, Storm Conduit! He’s basically everything that your spellslinger deck could want from a 'walker. His -2 is a free way to fork whatever spell you wish, his static is basically Guttersnipe that also works with spell copies, and he goes infinite with cards like Doublecast! He’s basically a perfect spellslinger 'walker!
Small problem: your deck is still an Izzet deck, and while Ral can do a lot of what your deck wants on paper, in practice, he’s going to die before he actually does much of anything. He just does nothing to protect himself, and you'll want to save your protection spells for cards like Thousand-Year Storm. You look at cards that deal damage on spells like Firebrand Archer, you look at copying spells like Doublecast, and you look at infinite combos you have with Bonus Round. Sure, you know that Ral is all of those things, but you know that everything he does is replaceable. Ral is so close, but he's still not quite good enough to overcome his downside. You sigh, and put Ral down, shedding a single tear for what might have been.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: The moral of the story? Don’t have introspective soliloquies about Magic cards; they don’t have feelings.
17: Daretti, Scrap Savant: 8,416 Decks
(983 Decks as a Commander, 7,433 Decks as a Card)
And we reach the last of the planeswalker commanders, although Daretti, Scrap Savant is mainly this high off of play in the 99 of random artifact decks. I was never a huge fan of Trash for Treasure as a card. It's fine, but it's more work for my recursion than I would like. However, you tack on some rummaging when you don’t have any creatures in play, and an ultimate that gets downright nutty with stuff like Coercive Portal or Krark Clan Ironworks, and it looks a lot better. I do worry a bit because artifact decks are overloaded with planeswalkers to play, but Daretti is mono-red, so he can go in more artifact decks in general.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Although I will take this opportunity to remind you of Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast. It’s ludicrous that that Daretti is so low.
16: Liliana Vess: 8,837 Decks
Liliana Vess was in the top ten planeswalkers before the data got updated, and when it fell out, I was kinda sad. OG Lilly was one of the few pre-War of the Spark ‘walkers that people pretty unanimously decided was good enough for EDH. Most of the time, Liliana is basically just double Vampiric Tutor at five mana. Sure, that’s really slow, but it's also wonderfully derpy in a way that EDH loves. The fact that such a meticulous, over-the-top effect as tutoring twice over two turns is not only playable, but pretty dang good in grindy games is, like, half the reason I love EDH as a format.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I don’t think I can say more decks should be playing Lilly, but I am a bit sad about it.
15: Chandra, Torch of Defiance: 8,847 Decks
Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a tricky one to evaluate. On the one hand, I like every ability Chandra has. She's got the Outpost Siege as the +1. She's got mana ramp as her other +1. She can remove decent threats if necessary, and her ultimate passes the test of winning most games you resolve it. She’s both flexible and powerful.
On the other hand, I’d kinda like her to stay a while, and I’m not sure how well red can help her do that. Her minus is the only way she can protect herself, and that only snipes a single threat. Plus, when you play Chandra, the only thing you can really do with her is dome the table for two. It's unlikely you'll have enough mana to cast an impactful card off either of her +1s until the late game.
I can't quite decide if Chandra is excellent or mediocre. I think ultimately, I'll give her the thumbs up because her suite of abilities is really good, but I may retract that after the eighth time that she dies without doing anything for me.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Next time someone asks for your favorite Outpost Siege, say Chandra, Torch of Defiance. That'll get them!
14: Garruk, Primal Hunter: 9,046 Decks
Introducing fancy Soul’s Majesty!
What’s that? There’s other text on this Garruk? That may be, but the last time I’ve seen the +1 activated on this Garruk was when it got reprinted in the precon event in 2020, and they only did it because they had no creatures to snap his neck for. Your Soul’s Majesty and Rishkar’s Expertise are always at least Concentrate or Opportunity, and often much, much more than that.
And that’s a great ability, but have you ever actually read the rest of this card? Because the other abilities are also pretty dang good. His +1 makes a 3/3! Those will be pretty decent blockers against all but the biggest board states, and then if you decide to turbo to his ultimate, he’ll create a lethal board basically every time.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I can see why most of the time people choose to snap his neck, but don’t forget there is more text on this guy.
13: Teferi, Time Raveler: 9,919 Decks
I'd argue Teferi, Time Raveler is mainly seeing play because of his reputation of being broken in 1v1 Magic, but unlike Jace, few people have happy memories of playing Teferi, so I don't think he deserves to be this high. Yeah, sure, the static is backbreaking against certain decks. I won’t deny that most of my blue decks live in fear of cards like Grand Abolisher, but most of my green decks laugh at the thought of playing things at instant speed. Heck, sometimes, Teferi is a boon to me. "You wanna shut down counterspells and removal? Okay, I cast Overwhelming Stampede.” More players means more answers, and locking those out can be very bad. Unless you're a hardline control deck that can really take advantage of locking opponents out, Teferi is probably going to do very little at best, and be harmful at worst.
Even when he does do things, he’s very easy to disrupt. When Teferi is good, he’s public enemy number one, and his -3 isn't going to help him much with multiple opponents. All this together makes Teferi a card I would only run only in the most stax-y of stax decks. If you don't want opponents to interact with your stuff, it's probably better to run cards that make your stuff uncounterable, like Taigam, Ojutai Master, or give it hexproof, like Privileged Position, that aren't as fragile as Teferi.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Let the scars from other formats fade, and I think people will see what this card really does here, which isn't quite as much as you'd expect.
12: Nissa, Vital Force: 10,480 Decks
When I think of Nissa, Vital Force, I think of her Nature’s Spiral-ing things, or making lands into giant dorks, but I completely forget she’s also Horn of Greed with Suspend 1. Heck, she’s eclipsed Horn of Greed at this point and is approaching Tireless Tracker. Guess no one actually cares about Nissa’s feelings. They just wanna get the emblem and throw her in the garbage.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Sorry, Nissa. Hard to fault them, though.
11: Saheeli, Sublime Artificer: 10,712 Decks
I’ll be honest, if you were to ask me what should be #1 on this list, I might say Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. Sure, being two colors does limit it, but I think if you made a Venn diagram of every single Izzet archetype, at the center of that diagram would be this one card. Spellslinger loves this card as another copy of Young Pyromancer. Artifacts decks clearly love Saheeli making synergistic dorks every turn. Control decks wanna have ways to clog up the board. Even Izzet superfriends will play her to make a ton of blockers for their 'walkers. The cherry on top: it’s 25 cents! I think if you were trying to make an Izzet auto-staple, it’d be tougher to do better than Saheeli.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I’m guessing this will be one of the highest-ranked card I ever give an underplayed to.
And soon it ends! I'll be taking next week off for EDHREC set reviews, but when we come back in two weeks, we'll go through the top ten 'walkers! What do you think of these 'walkers that don't quite reach the heights of the single digits? Do you have a good deck for Teferi, Time Raveler? Is there a 'walker you're surprised didn't make the top ten? Let me know in the comments! Until next time!
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