Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 5: 152 Blaze It
(Chandra Ablaze | Art by Steve Argyle)
Hello, and welcome back to this series where we rank each planeswalker based off the number of decks they have on EDHREC. Zendikar Rising has been out for a while now, so I hope you aren't feeling too crabby! Get it? From Ruin Crab?
No, wait. That's stupid. Let me try again. Ahem...
Hello, and welcome back to this series where we rank every planeswalker. Zendikar Rising is returning to all the classics, including our friend Omnath, Locus of Creation. I mean, I guess he's not really a classic since we just saw him was last year in Core Set 2020, and, wait: can anything from Zendikar be a classic since OG Zendikar came out in 2009? Hm.
Wait, wait. I got it! One more try.
Hello, and welcome back to this series where we do the thing. Modal lands are broken in EDH... or they aren't? People seems pretty split on them, and I can't have a contrary opinion if there is no opinion to be contrary to. Uh. Anybody excited for Canyon Jerboa?
You know what? Why don't you just go ahead and read the article? I'll come back to you with this opening.
160: Vivien, Arkbow Ranger: 971 Decks
Under normal EDH rules, the -5 does literally nothing, so Vivien, Arkbow Ranger isn't exactly off to a strong start here. That being said, the +1 is a decent piece of evasion and pump for big buff bois, and while the -3 isn’t great to use right away because it leaves her pretty vulnerable, it can be a great way to eat opposing commanders if Vivien sticks around a bit. I think despite having only two abilities, Vivien's actually decent. Mono-green has a surprisingly high number of Voltron-esque commanders, like Renata, Called to the Hunt, or Mowu, Loyal Companion, and Vivien seems a great way to help those creatures get through.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Outside of mono-green, I doubt she's worth the restrictive cost.
159: Jace, Ingenious Mind Mage: 976 Decks
I tend to think Gideon, Martial Paragon is the best of the planeswalker deck 'walkers, but Jace, Ingenious Mind Mage is a pretty close second, ironically for similar reasons. It works incredibly well with any creatures with tap abilities, and there are a lot of those. From popular tribes like Wizards, to top-tier jank like Persistent Petitioners, there's definitely a home for Jace's untap ability.
While that's definitely the best ability, it's not like the rest of the card is bad. Even as just a random superfriends card, he's a personal Howling Mine with a decent ultimate. It's certainly not a game-winning ultimate, but it'll easily clear a board stall. He even synergizes with Doubling Season. He's certainly not the best 'walker you could play, but for a planeswalker deck 'walker, he's pretty generically good in most decks, and he really shines in others.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: The only reason he's not a total slam dunk is that $6-pricetag, and, unfortunately, I doubt they're going to find a place to reprint these planeswalker deck 'walkers anytime soon. Sigh.
158: Kaya, Bane of the Dead: 1,025 Decks
Is there a secret cult of players trying to summon Cthulhu by playing Glaring Spotlight? Because I never quite understood why it sees so much play. I very rarely see creatures with native hexproof. Usually, creatures get it from cards that grant hexproof, like Lightning Greaves, and you can usually just target those cards with kill spells first. If you must have this type of effect for a commander, like Diaochan, Artful Beauty, I find that it's always better to play a land like Detection Tower rather than take up a slot in my deck.
So if I’m not a big fan of paying one mana for Glaring Spotlight, I’m definitely not going to be a fan of paying six mana for it in Kaya, Bane of the Dead, even if she's also a double Unmake. You can definitely remove two creatures way more efficiently than Kaya, with cards like Curtain's Call or Ashes to Ashes. Basically, nothing this card does is very exciting or good.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I’m not even a fan of her in budget legendary decks. Six mana is just a ton for this meh effect.
157: Kaya, Orzhov Usurper: 1,032 Decks
So uh, Exile Tribal? I mean, it's not like anything else Kaya, Orzhov Usurper does anything else that's exciting. She doesn't protect herself at all, and her abilities are pretty low impact, but the ultimate does peak my interest. Can we make this work? Hmm.
There is, in fact, an EDHREC page for exile matters, and it's certainly intriguing. There’re a lot of ways to get cards into exile, like Rest in Peace, Oona, Queen of the Fae, and even quirky stuff like Dimensional Breach. The enablers exist, but the issue is that there’s not many payoffs. The only ones I could find were Kaya, herself, Oblivion Sower, and Ashiok, Nightmare Muse. None of these are really worth building an entire deck around. I guess that you could also just exile everyone’s libraries, but that’s no longer exile tribal, that’s just fancy mill. Seems like the payoffs for building exile Tribal aren't really there, unless you go full on jank.
Okay, I buried the lede a bit here. There is one more exile payoff: the terrible Processor Eldrazi from Battle for Zendikar! You remember these, right? The cards that Mark Rosewater said were probably mistakes due to their unpopularity. I love the dorky five-color Eldrazi deck, but the Processors don’t even meet my janky standards. They're mostly Limited fodder. Ruin Processor, Oracle of Dust, Cryptic Cruiser. They take so much infrastructure to function, and even when they do, they're just okay.
However, maybe playability isn't a concern for you, so fine. If you just want to build something stupid and jam five-color Eldrazi exile Processor tribal, go for it. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is definitely a staple of that deck. I’d have to imagine maybe 15 people wanna build that, so what do we say about the 1,000 other decks on Kaya's page?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: If we step back from the deep jank pit, we’re really just left with a 'walker that barely impacts the board. Probably would have taken less time if we just led with that.
156: Chandra, Novice Pyromancer: 1,033 Decks
The only uncommon 'walker outside of War of the Spark! Although, for EDH purposes, Chandra, Novice Pyromancer, is basically just an anthem for Elementals. Not a bad one, though. She's fragile, but even if you do the +1 once, that can still easily amount to 15-30 extra damage, which is decent if you can't afford stuff like Shared Animosity.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Outside of that, she's not doing much. Maybe you can kill an opponent with the two damage once every 10,000 games. I won't say it's impossible.
155: Arlinn, Voice of the Pack: 1,044 Decks
I always thought that Arlinn, Voice of the Pack had a -3. Nope. You can make three tokens, and probably three 3/3s at that. That’s actually a decent deal for six mana, but only if Arlin survives long enough to make three tokens. Since that's not a guarantee, I think that still restricts her to the Wolf and Werewolf tribal decks, which is still a totally fine place to be. People are very hungry for more payoffs for this tribe.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Three 3/3s. Say it aloud a few times, three 3/3s, three 3/3s, three 3/3s. It's fun!
154: Vraska, Swarm's Eminence: 1,051 Decks
Okay, so my first thought here was that Vraska, Swarm's Eminence was just a deathtouch tribal card, which, now that Hooded Blightfang exists, we have exactly two payoffs for! Woohoo!
However, even if you're not going all-in on deathtouch, there’re tons of commanders that make dorks with deathtouch, like Hapatra Vizier of Poisons or Pharika, God of Affliction, which Vraska can randomly make into decent threats over time.
She's also just a cheap planeswalker that works well with recursion. Vraska can tick down twice to make combat difficult for opponents, and then she's free to be sacrificed and recurred with cards like Storrev, Devkarin Lich. Repeat to your heart's content. Even if you don’t care about the static at all, you still probably want this in budget builds of Kethis, the Hidden Hand or that budget superfriends list that I’m still not sure actually exists.
Finally, she's just cute with Chevill, Bane of Monsters. She makes Chevill bigger, and she makes tokens to kill the creatures with bounty counters. It's neat.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Actually, neat is probably the best way to describe Vraska. She's definitely not ZOMG broken, but she's decent across the board. I like her.
153: Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker: 1,096 Decks
Five mana for a 4/4 hasty Dragon might be enough for other formats, but it’s not really what I want in Commander. Sure, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker does some other stuff, but that’s what it’s primarily doing, and it’s not nearly the best Dragon that you can play at five mana. The most appealing bit is probably the ultimate. It’s a pretty good source of card advantage, but even that can be situational. Overall, he's pretty meh.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Although, I do sometimes think Avaricious Dragon should see more play. It’s risky, but I think it’s better than it looks in decks that like to discard, like Anje Falkenrath.
152: Chandra Ablaze: 1,127 Decks
There was a time when people would have said Chandra Ablaze was one of the worst planeswalkers ever made, probably only behind Tibalt. Now, though, after going through some of the 'walkers that we've seen on this series, Ablaze suddenly looks amazing. At least she protects herself and has abilities that aren't terrible, and I don't wanna throw her into the sea. That's more than I can say for others.
Honestly, maybe it's just from the comparison to the truly bad 'walkers, but I kinda like Chandra Ablaze in Commander. The obvious comparison is with Chandra, Flamecaller, and, while Flamecaller is probably better in the average deck, Ablaze does have some merit on her own. The biggest stumbling block is the +1. It's definitely card disadvantage, but since red is the queen of discard interaction with stuff like Squee, Goblin Nabob or Hazoret, the Fervent, that +1 can hurt a lot less. Sometimes it's even upside in decks like Anje Falkenrath.
The real star of the show is that -2. Each player wheels. Each! Not only can you restock if you’re empty-handed, but you can also just make the person with eight or nine cards in hand start sobbing uncontrollably. The worst case scenario with Ablaze is that she does the -2 and then it dies. That’s not amazing, but that’s the floor on this card, and the ceiling is quite high. Unlike Flamecaller, Chandra Ablaze has an ultimate to work towards. It’s pretty easy to keep her alive at six loyalty, and, if they don’t kill it eventually, then yeah, you'll basically win the game. I think Ablaze is definitely janky, but worth considering in spell-heavy decks, or in decks that like to discard, like Zurzoth, Chaos Rider.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Not the best 'walker, but definitely shouldn’t be thought of alongside Jace, the Living Guildpact.
151: Dovin, Grand Arbiter: 1,150 Decks
I’m always a bit disappointed when I look at Dovin, Grand Arbiter. The whole planeswalker is built around turbo-ing to the ultimate. The +1’s only purpose is to get counters on Dovin, and the -1 isn’t really worth doing unless you need fuel for the +1, so the whole card is about getting toward the ultimate, and then when you finally get there... it’s just a fancy Dig Through Time.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Dig Through Time, and Dovin’s ultimate is an ever better version of that card, but we jump through these hoops to get Dovin to its full potential, and it’s just a decent value play. Instead of jumping through the hoops for this ultimate, I could just run Drawn from Dreams or Manifold Insights, or instead of trying to put counters on Dovin with the +1, I could just play Coastal Piracy, or Reconnaissance Mission. I understand that they didn’t want players to have a game-winning ultimate on turn four or five, but now I just look at Dovin and he doesn't seem worth the effort.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I actually really love the design, and I hope they try and make similar 'walkers in the future, but this one doesn't do it for me.
Dovin Driving His Designated Dolphin, Donovan
Hello, and welcome to this serie-Wait, it's over already? Ugh. Next week, I'll figure out this intro thing! Until then, let me know what you think about this batch of 'walkers. What do you think about Dovin, Grand Arbiter? Do you have a sweet idea for exile tribal? Let me know in the comments! Until next week