Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 4: The One With Tibalt in It

(Sarkhan the Mad | Art by Chippy)

One Year of Ramblings and Ravings

In the excitement of Zendikar Rising spoilers (Yes, I finally saw the set. Yes, the modal DFC lands seem super sweet!), I forgot that my one-year anniversary of writing for EDHREC happened last week! Yes, one year ago, I convinced the powers that be of this website to publish my elaborate fan fiction where I rank every single card of a subtype (currently planeswalkers) based on their number of decks on EDHREC. Clearly, this calls for a long retrospective looking back on it all and celebrating my esteemed career.

Wait, my article has no space for a long indulgent intro. How? What card could I possibly have spent so much space talking about?

Oh, right...

170: Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded: 759 Decks

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Tibbles, Tibbles, Tibbles.

I don't think I can completely capture why this card became the meme that it is, but I'll do my best. Let's go back to the beginning. Before War of the Spark, and planeswalker decks, being a planeswalker had a special sort of weight. The very first 'walkers were rare, but the next block introduced the mythic rarity for the first time. From then on, planeswalkers were just the coolest dang thing imaginable. Not only were they doing unique things never seen before, they were tough to find. The odds of opening a mythic rare were so low, new players opening packs would probably only ever hear about these new cards and not actually own one, which gave planeswalkers a special type of mystique. Tales of 'walkers like Jace, the Mind Sculptor running rampant across all formats, or Sorin Markov destroying most casual tables, would trickle down to new players who'd never held either of these cards, only increasing the allure of the card type. Sure, not every 'walker was a powerhouse, but they all got some credibility just because they all looked like they did something flashy. Planeswalkers really carried this respect as powerful, special cards.

And then Tibalt showed up.

Where do I start? The +1 is probably the worst ability on a planeswalker, ever. Full stop. I know we've seen bad loyalty abilities, like Sorin, Vampire Lord's +1, but at least the worst-case scenario for that ability is that it does nothing. Tibalt’s +1 is actively harmful to activate! There’re a lot of times that you won’t even wanna activate Tibalt because he might discard a critical land, or value spell, or any decent Magic card, and the best part is that the +1 is all you can do with Tibbles when he comes out! You have to activate it twice before you can even think about doing anything else. 

It's basically that same level of insanity all the way down. The +1 is utter garbage, the -4 probably isn’t gonna do much by the time you can do it. He dies to a stiff breeze. He literally can’t protect himself in any way. His ultimate takes four turns to get to while you’re sitting there whittling away your hand. He doesn’t even combo with Doubling Season. Is he the worst 'walker ever made?

In an age of planeswalker deck 'walkers, probably not. I could imagine scenarios where Tibalt isn't useless, but he came out when 'walkers carried this special reputation. He was supposed to stand alongside planeswalkers like Liliana of the Veil as a continuation of this legendary card type, and he so clearly doesn't fit, it's laughable. It would be like if a theatre known for excellent performances of Shakespeare's plays suddenly decided to adapt Plan 9 From Outer Space. Tibalt is so clearly bad, and yet the card type he holds is supposed to put him in the same realm as cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Bravo Tibbles. You're beautiful.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: You can’t really judge him based on power level. Tibbles transcends playability entirely and sees play just so that we can point and laugh at it

169: Chandra, Bold Pyromancer: 775 Decks

There’s basically only one reason to take note of this one. With some shenanigans involving Planebound Accomplice, Cloudstone Curio, and any other 'walker, you can use Chandra’s +1 to deal infinite damage to each opponent. That’s cute, and more than some of these other 'walkers can say. Besides that, and the ever-popular Chandra tribal, this isn’t what you want. It's certainly not a regular superfriends card like people appear to be playing it as.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: They really did like using that ultimate, didn’t they?

168: Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer: 790 Decks

Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer is the type of 'walker that lives or dies on whether you can get that ultimate. The +1 is not going to be much of a shrink for creatures that want to kill Yanling, and that’s the only thing you can do when you play her. The -3 is better, but it puts you eons away from the ultimate, and it’s not like she's doing much in the meantime, so yeah, it’s really only worth your time if you manage to get that ultimate. If you do, you’re probably set to win. If not, you probably shouldn’t be playing it, and in most decks, it seems like the latter is gonna happen more often than not.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I say it's overplayed, but I’ve seen this card's ultimate happen more times than I’d like to admit.

167: Jace, the Living Guildpact: 804 Decks

Tibalt may have been the first 'walker that damaged the mystique of planeswalkers, but for me, the card that really killed that mystique was Jace, the Living Guildpact. Magic 2015 was in my pre-Commander phase, so I was still a kitchen table, casual player, and planeswalkers were still cards I held in high regard. Even 'walkers that weren't super flashy, like Jace, Memory Adept, still had a uniqueness and impact on a game that could be visibly seen without ever physically playing the card. Then M15 came out, and Woah! Garruk, Apex Predator has four abilities! Woah, Nissa, Worldwaker can make all your lands into threats! And then this new Jace is spoiled, and... Sigh

I mean, it’s not baaaaaaaad. It functions as a 'walker. It provides a form of draw filtering, even if it doesn’t provide card advantage. It protect itself, and the ultimate will win you the game, but it doesn’t hold a candle to any Jace they’ve released before or since. Yes, that even includes Jace, Arcane Strategist. It's almost worse that Living Guildpact isn't a garbage fire. At least Tibbles can hide behind humor and memes. This Jace is just so dull. Younger me looked at this card, and the mystique of planeswalkers just sorta drained away. “Oh. I guess these are just Magic cards. Huh.”

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I think my Magic innocence died that day.

166: Chandra Nalaar: 817 Decks

I feel like I’ve reviewed this card, like, six times now. It’s a bit unfair to blame that on Chandra Nalaar, herself, as this was not only this first Chandra, but the first red planeswalker ever from that aforementioned cycle of rare 'walkers. Really, all the other Chandras we’ve seen were taking inspiration from this one, but it’s generally not a great sign when the planeswalker deck versions are using the same idea of punch a thing, punch a different thing, punch everything, and some of them do it better than Nalaar.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Overall, Chandra Nalaar can get to the ultimate very fast, and she does get some points for being the first Chandra, but she still dies pretty dang easily.

165: Tezzeret, Master of Metal: 837 Decks

Before War of the Spark, I knew some people were playing Tezzeret, Master of Metal just for the -3 to drain opponents out, but now that Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge exists, it doesn’t even have that. I suppose we could go with the jank plan where we only run one artifact and then Tezzeret is guaranteed to find it every time with the +1, but I couldn’t find anything busted to do with it. If you come up with something interesting, let me know.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I am Tezzeret! Master of Metal! Hahahahahahahahaha!

164: Sarkhan the Mad: 839 Decks

I’m going to guess that most of the time, Sarkhan the Mad is just in a deck to put a shotgun shell in someone’s head. Maybe not always. I don’t think I’d ever use the 0, in “my curve is a very steep hill” Dragons, but maybe you can snipe an indestructible creature with the -2, and you don’t really care about the puny 5/5 because you have Dragons. That’s cute, but probably not coming up much.

It’s much more about the ultimate. Sarkhan can easily kill an opponent with that -4 in a dedicated Dragon deck, and he can do it straight away. No combat to worry about, no blockers to get in the way, no tricks to stop you. Play this, aim it, kill someone. That’s all you need, and I think more decks could use it. There’s all sorts of anti-combat cards, like Peacekeeper, that Sarkhan just does not even care about. I think it’s worth slotting this into more Dragon decks, if only because he's super metal!

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: He's no longerv the only 'walker with no plus ability, but he is still the coolest one.

163: Nissa Revane: 841 Decks

Does your Elf deck want another copy of Wellwisher that dies after a use or two? If yes, then Nissa Revane is for you. Don’t even worry about the other abilities. Just play her to gain, like, 60 life and move on.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Nissa’s Chosen isn’t even in the high synergy cards. You gotta scroll a bit to find it.

162: Sarkhan, Dragonsoul: 889 Decks

$20 for the planeswalker deck 'walker?! Good gravy.

It seems like people are only playing Sarkhan Dragonsoul for the ultimate. I can’t see any other reason that you’d play this. The +1 is bad for a six-mana 'walker, and the -3 is basically garbage in this 40-life format, so it must just be for the ability to search out all of the Dragons.

Presuming that your color identity doesn’t allow you to play Sarkhan Unbroken, because that planeswalker actually does some relevant things, is it really worth it to play this derpy 'walker that does nothing? Sure, the ultimate probably wins without even entering combat between Lathliss, Dragon Queen, Terror of the Peaks, and about a million Dragons entering play, but playing Sarkhan is a big neon sign that signals to the table they need to kill it ASAP. Part of the beauty of Sarkhan, the Mad is that he can ultimate immediately. Sarkhan Dragonsoul takes three turns, and if they kill him, that’s it. You wasted six mana on nothing. For the amount of effort and resources that it takes to get Sarkhan to ultimate, it seems like you could have found an easier way to win.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: For $20, I'd really like something that wasn't such a glass cannon.

161: Huatli, Dinosaur Knight: 937 Decks

Any other tribe and I think Huatli, Dinosaur Knight is pretty unplayable, but Dinosaurs have Gishath, Sun’s Avatar as their primary general, and I don’t think that you could have engineered two random Dinosaur cards to work better together. Gishath is an army in a can, so she can easily make blockers to protect Hualti while still being able to stay offensive. Meanwhile, Huatli can make Gishath bigger so she can find more Dinos, get rid of creatures that might kill Gishath, and makes an average board of Dinos found by Gishath into a very lethal one with the ultimate. Hualti is not just a Dinosaur tribal card, she’s a Gishath tribal card, and although I don't think she belongs in any other deck, Gishath helms almost 3,000 decks, so Huatli should probably see more play.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: This Hualti is more expensive than its counterpart from the regular set. This is the world we live in.

I Need an Art Alter of Huatli Riding Gishath!

Well, I guess I'll save my big retrospective for my two-year anniversary, if EDHREC doesn't get sick of my digressions before then. In the meantime, what do you think about this batch of 'walkers? Did you live through the year of Tibalt? Are you surprised by the power level of some of these planeswalker deck 'walkers? What do you think of the new 'walkers from Zendikar Rising? Let me know in the comments! Until next week, and whatever lies beyond!

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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