Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 9: Trials and Tribulations

Gideon of the Trials | Art by Izzy)

Another Day, Another Article

Do-do-do. Ah! Another Monday, another article where we rank every planeswalker based on their number of decks on EDHREC. Can't think of anything funny to prolong the opening, so we might as well just jump right in!

What? Something special is happening right now? Why, what do you mean?

Commander Legends? A set with a bunch of new cool cards for EDH? No, silly, that can't be true. I mean if it were, I would be spending a ton of money on a ton of Magic cards to build a ton of different decks, and that would be money and time I can't spend right now, so clearly there can't be a Magic set called Commander Legends right now, stop pulling my leg.

Seriously. Stop it. Let's... move... on....

Nervously twitches in corner.

120: Ajani, Caller of the Pride: 1,835 Decks

Whooboy! That is a -3! That ability will turn any humble Elite Vanguard into an angel of death and despair, let alone what it does to commanders like Aurelia, the Warleader, or Kemba, Kha Regent and her many swords.

I just wish the rest of the 'walker felt as threatening. The +1 does not scale very well to Commander, and while the ultimate is enticing, it requires five turns of not doing the -3, which just sounds boring.

So what if we just chuck all that out the window? Is a three-mana sorcery that gives a creature flying and double strike worth it? Ehhhhhhhhh. I don't think so. It's still scary, but with the amount of less-fragile ways to give double strike and evasion, I think I’d rather just have a better card.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Sorry, buddy. I do still love that ability. You're a good kitty! Yes, you are!

119: Rowan Kenrith: 1,871 Decks

(12 Decks as commander, 536 Decks as commander with Will Kenrith, 1,323 Decks as a card)

"Oh, look at me, I'm Rowan Kenrith! I have to have my own special breakdown on my decks because I can be a commander with Will Kenrith, or be by myself, so I need my own special line on the spreadsheet because I am a ruiner of uniformity, and I hate puppies!"

I'd love to stay mad at Rowan, but I'm honestly a sucker for the Will/Rowan superfriends deck, even though I can't even dream about building it on a college student budget. Unlike five-color or Atraxa, Praetor's Voice superfriends, Izzet 'friends ends up being less combo-heavy and more control-oriented, gaining value overtime. It feels less “fun is a zero-sum game” to me.

That said, outside of being commanders, Will and Rowan are basically staples for superfriends deck in all color identities, if only for their ultimates, and them being able to tutor for each other.

However, I don't think I'd play Rowan without Will. Her +2 seems like a great way to get herself killed in most places, and while her -2 is pretty good at sniping an opponent’s board, it only deals with one opponent. I’d honestly play Chandra Ablaze over Rowan without Will, though I doubt that’s a common opinion. Keep her in the decks with Will, but I wouldn’t try her by herself.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: She might be okay in, like, mono-red 'walkers? Wait, is that a thing? Great, I'm gonna have, like, seven superfriends decks by the end of this series!

118: Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh: 1,882 Decks

(351 as a commander. 1,531 Decks as card)

So I have what I think is a hot take (Heh. Get it? “Hot?" Is joke): I think that there’s probably enough Chandra and Chandra-adjacent cards that you could probably get away with not running every Chandra even in a Chandra tribal deck. I've stated before my ambivalence to the concept, so maybe I'm a poor judge, but I don't know, with a tribe like Bolas, choosing not to run one of the only five Bolas 'walkers is pretty noticeable. With 16 Chandras, I don't think I'd notice if you didn't run the Chandras that come down and instantly die. Maybe cut Chandra, Pyrogenius, Chandra, Novice Pyromancer, maybe even Chandra, Flame’s Fury, or Chandra, the Firebrand, and play the “top” 10-13 Chandras. Is that sacrilegious? You don’t play every Zombie ever printed in a Zombie deck. I understand that there's a Vorthos aspect, but it's not like Chandra, Flame's Fury contributes deeply to the character.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I didn’t talk about Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh at all that segment. How do I ever get anything done in these articles? Well, she’s the default leader for Chandra tribal, and as a card she’s seeing play in burn decks like Obosh, the Preypiercer and Neheb, the Eternal She seems fine in all of those, but she’s not great elsewhere.

117: Sorin, Solemn Visitor: 1,920 Decks

Did all the Vampire players have a collective coma since Zendikar came out and forget that they were a real tribe that doesn’t need to play Sorin, Solemn Visitor? Vampires absolutely are not a tribe like Dogs. They have a ton of different options that they can use. If anything, they have too many options, what with Zendikar, Innistrad, Battle for Zendikar, Shadows Over Innistrad, Ixalan, Commander 2017, Random Core Sets, etc, etc. You could build six or seven different Vampire decks and not have any cards shared between. There’re tons of ways to build them, but they're almost always about punching opponents and being aggressive. Sorin kinda works towards that gameplan with the +1, but Vampire decks are never going to want to stay back and protect Sorin, so he's gonna do that once and die. I’m kinda at a loss as to why this Sorin is this high.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: There’s also some superfriends decks on his page. Those are usually on every 'walker's page, but I wanna mention them here, because Sorin seems terrible in a superfriends deck. The +1 doesn’t do anything, and the -2 is something you’re almost never gonna wanna do.

116: Gideon of the Trials: 1,963 Decks

Hey! The progenitor of the planeswalker tribal decks! Imagine how less fun the world would be if that last ability said “...a planeswalker named Gideon of the Trials

This Gideon may be the reason that Gideon tribal decks exist, but outside of that, I don’t think it’s that great. The +1 keeps it alive early on, but won’t do much later. The emblem doesn’t do much when there’re only a few Gideons in a deck, and as a punchy boy, it's probably better to just run a 4/4 that can't be attacked and killed to stifle your aggression. Even in dedicated 'walker decks, it’s more aggressive than those decks would like to be. Methinks this is one of the lesser Gideons in Commander.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Unless you’re doing something really stupid with Chance for Glory; I give you full permission to do that!

115: Nahiri, the Lithomancer: 1,969 Decks

(239 as a commander. 1,730 as a card)

Nahiri the Lithomancer seems oddly situational. I won’t deny that ramp in mono-white Equipment isn’t exactly plentiful, and I guess that Nahiri can save mana on paying Equip costs the with the +2, or casting the Equipment with the -2, but on the other hand, you didn’t really “save” that mana. You cast five-mana Nahiri instead, and then she lets you do whatever you were gonna do before. It's kinda a nothing effect. Nahiri would have to stick around a fair bit before I’m comfortable saying that she actually did something. The +2 is okay at defending herself, so maybe you can make that happen, but I don’t know. It seems like Nahiri is often just spinning her wheels.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: She's much better as a commander; then you can load up on Equipment like Colossus Hammer, and go do real stupid things!

114: Domri, Chaos Bringer: 2,044 Decks

I completely forgot that Domri, Chaos Bringer existed until now, and I’m not sure why. It actually seems pretty decent. The +1 probably isn’t doing much when Domri comes down, but it’s both mana ramp and a haste-enabler, both of which are things that Gruul wants. The -3 will probably draw two cards most of the time, and the emblem actually scales really well to EDH. That says "each endstep," so get ready for 16 power per turn cycle. This Domri honestly checks a lot of boxes.

I think I forgot about Domri because Gruul is one of the tougher color combos to make planeswalkers work. Probably not the worst. They can certainly provide the beef to keep 'walkers alive, but I'd rather attack with that beef. I think about a lot of the Gruul decks I’ve built and played, and I’m trying to imagine a turn where I wasn’t inclined to attack. It’s just not worth protecting 'walkers if they don't do a ton for you. Does Domri pass that barrier? I'm not sure, but I’m interested in trying it out.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I might regret this one in a year, but at $2, the cost to try him in any random Gruul deck is low. Even if the plan is just to try and protect Domri so that he’ll ult, he pays that off pretty handsomely. Let’s slot him in in some more places and see what happens!

113: Liliana, the Last Hope: 2,120 Decks

Someday I'm going to compile the top ten lies that Commander players tell themselves (and that includes me, just to be clear), and one that'll be very high on that list is going to be "I never play a planeswalker just for its ultimate." I'm not even talking about Doubling Season. One of the biggest trends I see from writing this series is that, despite the truism that 'walkers are tough to protect, most people are playing 'walkers to live the dream of the ultimate.

Liliana, the Last Hope is an excellent example. While excellent in other formats, neither the +1 nor the -2 scale very well at all in Commander, yet she's in 2,000 decks. Mostly Zombie decks, according to the data. Huh, isn't that odd? The only ability that even mentions Zombies is the ultimate. Why, isn't that strange? Hmmmmm...

Yeah, Lily is basically just a game-winning Zombie enchantment with Suspend 4. Use whatever excuse you want, that's the only thing I read when you play it against me, and that's not a bad thing. Zombies can absolutely pull off protecting Lilly. An endless army of blockers to protect Liliana can easily be achieved.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Is it the easiest way for Zombies to win? Probably not, but it's super sweet and flavorful!

112: Domri Rade: 2,168 Decks

Domri Rade is a better demonstration of Gruul not really meshing well with 'walkers. Gruul is not going to want to invest the time here to protect Domri. His ticking up maybe draws you a card a turn, which is far too slow, and the ultimate needs a hefty board to be worth it, so it feels kinda win-more.

Okay then, maybe you don't care about protecting Domri, and you just play him to gain a bit of value and then let him die. That’d maybe be fine in any other color combo except Gruul. Part of Gruul being able to apply pressure is that their early game is explosive. They wanna ramp and play threats that gain value fast. Like, would you rather cast this or Somberwald Sage? The answer is pretty obvious to me.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Do you really think Gruul is going to play nice and sit on a value engine for a couple turns? Puny humans. Gruul’s come to smash!

111: Gideon Blackblade: 2,186 Decks

Before this series, I probably wouldn't have given Gideon Blackblade a second thought. Aggro decks are not my cup of tea. However, after evaluating the card more holistically, I think this is one of the best aggro cards for Commander printed in a long while. The awkward thing about the other Gideons is that the creature activation abilities usually comes at the cost of developing your board or protecting the Gideon. Blackblade's activated ability gets around it quite well, and both his loyalty abilities are excellent. His +1 protect himself, helps creatures get through, and keeps the pressure up. Because of this, it often takes a fair bit of effort to kill Gideon, but you still need to kill it, because he's only a few steps away from Vindicate-ing whatever the biggest blocker is and continuing to bring the pain. I don't think Gideon is an all-star card, but in your Odric, Lunarch Marshal or your Adriana, Captain of the Guard, I would strongly consider finding a slot for Gids here.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I’m going to assume that the few superfriends cards on the page are an anomaly due to color identity. It’s really a subpar card if you don’t have creatures for the +1.

Gee, I can't wait to see what Gideon does after thi— Oh, right.

Well, you get back to being excited for absolutely nothing, and let me know what you think about this week's article. Is my religious sect of Chandra tribal heretical? Do you have any experience with Domri, Chaos Bringer? 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.