Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 7: A Tezzeret Test
(Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas | Art by Aleksi Briclot)
We've Survived the Purge!
Hark! Welcome back, my friends, to the realm of ranking every planeswalker with the help of EDHREC. Behold! The skies have opened up! The data gods have taken the old decks to their final resting place, and lo, it is a blessed day!
As you may know, EDHREC collects data only from decks made or updated within the past two years in order to better reflect the current meta. This means that, every so often, they'll remove a bunch of decks that are past that deadline from the website. For me, this is a trial gifted by the stat gods to rerank everything with the new data again, hence why I needed to take last week off. Ultimately, this isn't going to affect this series much. I only bring this up to explain where I've been, and why last article ended at a card with 1,369 decks, and now we're on a card with 1,010 decks. Long term, the placement of these cards will mostly stay the same, on average.
With all that out of the way, let us proceed! The data gods demand it!
140: Liliana, Death Wielder: 1,010 Decks
Here we are! Liliana, Death Wielder is the last, and most played, planeswalker deck 'walker! Not the secretly good Gideon, Martial Paragon. Not the flavorful Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver. Not even the explosive Sarkhan Dragonsoul. This is the 'walker that players have pulled from the obscurity of the planeswalker decks as most worthy of being played!
I don’t get it.
I mean, I think I understand why decks might theoretically play it. Obviously -1/-1 counters are a pretty popular theme, but Liliana seems underwhelming. She costs seven mana. There’s loads of ways to put -1/-1 counters on things that not only cost way less mana but also aren't nearly as fragile. The minus is actively worse than such stellar 'walkers as Vraska, Regal Gorgon, and the ultimate takes a million turns to get to.
I'm not trying to say that the card's unplayable. If it was a budget card, I'd say it was worth it for lower power decks. However, it's $8, and out of all the planeswalker deck 'walkers that we've seen, this is the one that is the most played?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Which is kinda a bummer note to end these on. The planeswalkers deck 'walkers weren’t all bad. I found some that were worth playing, and even this Liliana is a fine card. You can sleep on most of them, but keep the few that peaked your interest throughout this series in mind.
139: Ajani Vengeant: 1,080 Decks
"Destroy all lands target player controls." That one little word turns Ajani Vengeant, a planeswalker that’s just going to die immediately, into this weird political card that can be used to make an alliance against a certain player. You shouldn’t play Ajani if your group isn’t okay with Land Destruction, because that’s all anyone’s going to see when you play it. Nothing else the card does is that spectacular, so there's not much appeal to running Ajani if you're going to avoid the ultimate.
Even if LD is accepted in your group, there's no way any opponent will leave a planeswalker alive with an ultimate that could make them auto-lose the game, which is why you need to convince most opponents that you don’t want to blow up their lands. Clearly, you’ll be blowing up the opponent pulling ahead, or the Rubinia Soulsinger player for stealing your commander, or that one person who spitefully killed you in that game two years ago. Suddenly, you really only have to worry about one person trying to kill Ajani, and, depending on the game, your other opponents might actually help you ultimate Ajani. You know, help deliver some long-needed vengeance, once and for all.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: If such salty shenanigans sound dreadful to you, don’t touch Ajani Vengeant. If, however, that sounds like something that your group can manage, I wish you good luck.
138: Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas: 1,150 Decks
Is Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas still good in Commander? I seem to remember a time when he was a decent threat, though maybe I was just hypnotized by the ultimate. You could kill an opponent with the ultimate the turn after you cast it! That felt amazing! I thought that was just the coolest thing as a new player.
The problem now is that Tezz has some competition, and mostly from his future self: Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge. Master of the Bridge can basically do Agent's ultimate every turn to all opponents, and is also a busted Magic card in a variety of other ways. If you’re just in the market for the drain, Master of the Bridge is definitely the way to go, but maybe Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas still does enough other things to make him worth it?
This Tezz comes down much earlier than Master and is better in the card advantage department. Master is a super swingy card, but he's not great on an empty board. Agent can just generate a lot of value overtime, and then maybe ultimate to kill someone later. Screw it! I’m saying he’s fine! There’s enough here that Agent of Bolas isn’t completely usurped by his future iteration.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: There might be decks that want both Master and Agent, but I doubt it. There’s only so many non-artifact cards that you can play in an artifact deck.
137: Samut, the Tested: 1,203 Decks
I seem to remember when Samut came out, people were... underwhelmed. And by that, I mean they were calling her the worst 'walker since Tibalt, so I was expecting to be able to just trash this card, but, at least for EDH, she doesn't seem atrocious. If anything, the issue is that she does just enough to be threatening. Double strike will kill an opponent quick, so opponents aren't going to let Samut do that for long. It's probably better to play one of the safer ways to give double strike, like Blood Mist, Duelist's Heritage, Avenging Huntbonder, etc. Sure, none of them have the cheese potential of the ultimate, and, if she can get there, you will probably win on the spot, but you really have to protect her to get that, and you can't put "Gruul" and "not attacking" together. They are opposing concepts.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: When she released, there was also some talk of putting her in superfriends to combo with Doubling Season, and immediately ultimate her to get like Craterhoof Behemoth and Avenger of Zendikar. I admit that that's cute, but if you want that so badly, Tooth and Nail exists.
136: Jace, Cunning Castaway: 1,533 Decks
Time for stupid sexy Jace! Please don't take that out of context.
Besides being super stacked, Jace, Cunning Castaway doesn't bring a ton that's useful in Commander. The +1 and -2 are both pretty lackluster, and the ultimate allows you to make more Jaces so that you can activate the other lackluster abilities multiple times!
Really, the main reason that this Jace sees play is, you guessed it, Doubling Season! With Doubling Season, Jace can immediately ultimate, and then the tokens of Jace that come in can immediately ultimate, and so on and so forth. Then you make infinite Illusions with the -2 ability, and still lose to Touch of Darkness! On the scale of game-ending Doubling Season combos, this one does win all on its own, but it takes a full turn without a haste-enabler, so you can probably do better.
However, it’s also really funny, and I guess that here I reveal my own bias. When someone plays Jace, I almost never attack it. Partly because it has minimal impact on the game, but partly because I want to see how many Jaces they’ll end up making.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Definitely not for playability reasons, but purely because the card is cute!
135: Ajani Goldmane: 1,246 Decks
Hey, looky y'all! It's Ajani Goldmane! The one that gains two life every turn. Ooooooooooooooo....
Yeah, when your +1 is only slightly better than Liliana, the Necromancer, that doesn't exactly make me wanna sacrifice a goat to the gods of playability. If you can get past that, though, there's actually a fair bit to like about Ajani. Even if all Ajani ever does is the -1, he can do that four times. Four Cathars' Crusade triggers will make any board lethal, and with the vigilance that he grants, those creatures can also protect Ajani quite well. Plus, on an empty board, Ajani can just tick up to make a Serra Avatar. Like, he's not the greatest 'walker that I've ever seen, but I think he's actually a good choice in token decks.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: When I first saw this card, I thought I was going to give it overplayed, but the -1 really carries the rest of the card.
134: Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath: 1,250 Decks
(120 decks as commander. 1,130 decks as card.)
I always forget that Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath exists. Could you have designed a more generic mono-black planeswalker commander? Reading the card is just like a mono-black wiki stub. The +2 is life gain, and it works well with ways to pay life; the -2 is a threat, but you have to pay a cost; and the ultimate works well with sacrificing creatures, and big mana, and did you notice that I fell asleep half way through talking about this card? Ob Nixilis is so boring that I'm doing his write-up while dreaming about Doctor Who fighting Teletubbies!
He's not bad. His dullness makes him playable in basically anything, but he's never going to be amazing. You could put him in the 99 of any mono-black deck and it wouldn't look wrong, but you could also cast every copy of this card into the river Styx and I don't think that many people would notice. I would say his amount of play is fine because of how utterly passable he is, but there're a ton of superfriends cards on his page, and he's absolutely not a superfriends card. As soon as you add more colors, you can absolutely find better 'walkers with ultimates that actually win the game.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Maybe he's a decent Demon tribal commander, although even then you might as well go with an actual Demon. Maybe Seizan, Perverter of Truth? That sounds like a fun deck! Demon Stompy with punisher cards like Polluted Bonds!
...What was I talking about again?
133: Kytheon, Hero of Akros: 1,259 Decks
(166 decks as commander. 1,093 decks as card.)
Speaking of 'walkers that can be your commander: Kytheon is from the Origins cycle of creatures that can become planeswalkers, A.K.A the defacto commanders for planeswalker tribal decks. You really can’t get more on-theme for Gideon tribal than having a Gideon as your commander!
That’s all fine, but that’s only a handful of decks that Kytheon, Hero of Akros is seeing play in. He seems to be seeing play primarily as just a really good Savannah Lions for aggro decks. It’s definitely no secret that Aggro isn’t exactly a top-tier strategy in Commander, but I do think that it’s gotten better over the last few years. There’re a lot of commanders now that lend themselves to getting through obscene board states, like Odric, Lunarch Marshal, not to mention that you can lean into the good tribal stuff. Human Tribal is pretty scary now, with the amount of lords and "I win" cards, like Shared Animosity or Molten Echoes. It’s still got a way to go, and I doubt that it'll ever be a top-tier strategy, but I actually think that cards like Kytheon are going to look less and less weird in the format as time goes on.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: He's fine where he is, but I want to see him get higher.
132: Chandra, Pyromaster: 1,309 Decks
Chandra, Pyromaster probably was playable a few years ago just off the back of the 0, but since the +1 isn’t super appealing, which means you're never getting to ultimate because you're doing the 0 all the time, she's probably not good enough anymore.
It's nice when I can cover a card in a single sentence.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: The fact that Chandra doesn't do anything to protect herself means that it's probably better to just play Outpost Siege.
131: Arlinn Kord: 1,345 Decks
Arlinn Kord is a cool card in concept, but is actually kinda boring in how it plays out. The back and forth nature on this card looks super cool, but every time I see it played, it just flips to the Wolf side and stays there in hopes of reaching the ultimate. The +1 on the Human side seems like it’d be fairly useful, but if you flip Arlinn and then decide that you want to give something haste, you have to flip her back over, then wait a full turn cycle. Who knows what the board is gonna look like then, so it's almost always best to just flip her and leave her. Once you do that, most of the time you'll just tick up over and over and maybe luck into the ultimate. Kinda boring, but not bad.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Once you accept that she's mainly just a way to give evasion and pump to the whole team, she's pretty fine.
Well, my quest from the gods has been fulfilled for now, but what, pray tell, do you think of our trek so far? Are you a fan of Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas? Have you built an EDH aggro deck recently? Let me know in the comment! Until next week!