Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Planeswalkers in Magic
Upon their thunderous debut, planeswalkers dazzled gamers everywhere with their reusable and fearsome abilities. Once cast, planeswalkers utilize a unique "loyalty" system where, once per turn, they can activate one of their abilities by adding or subtracting the corresponding amount of loyalty counters. Loyalty also serves as a planeswalker's health and is diminished whenever one is attacked by an opposing creature.
Many rookies immediately look at the planewalkers' strongest "ultimate" effects, but in reality the day-to-day, er, turn-to-turn abilities matter more because they're triggered far more often. We previously examined the top ten MTG planeswalkers, but many more potent mythical spellcasters await; here are ten more of the best legendary Magic: The Gathering planeswalker cards!
- Vraska, Relic Seeker
- Huatli, Radiant Champion
- Saheeli Rai
- Karn, Scion of Urza
- Jaya Ballard
- Garruk, Caller of Beasts
- Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
- Dack Fayden
- Nissa, Steward of Elements
- Narset Transcendent
10. Vraska, Relic Seeker
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 6
Vraska, Relic Seeker requires both black and green mana, so prepare some Forest and Swamp lands in your deck builder. Her biggest downside stems from her sizable mana demand of six, but she enters the field with a correspondingly high six loyalty (as designated in the bottom-right corner of her card).
Many amateur players only look at a planeswalker's ultimate, but their + loyalty abilities matter more since you always have access to them. Luckily, Vraska has a great +2 that adds two loyalty counters while creating a 2/2 pirate token with menace. Her -3 also works wonders as it can destroy any artifact, creature, or enchantment while also creating you a treasure token that can be sacrificed for a mana. And if you ever happen to accumulate enough loyalty for her ultimate, -10 will reduce a target player's life to 1, ensuring they'll fall with the next blow.
9. Huatli, Radiant Champion
This time, green pairs with Plains-using white for a four cost planeswalker. While the loyalty of three is a bit low, Huatli compensates with an amazing +1 ability that adds a loyalty counter (in addition to the innate plus one) for every creature you control! Since green and white are both great at swarming, this makes Huatli unrivaled when it comes to loyalty production.
Huatli's -1 gives a creature +X/+X power and toughness until the end of your turn, where X is the number of creatures you control, and the ultimate -8 gives you an emblem that lets you draw a card whenever a creature enters the field under your control. While this ultimate is less dramatic than most, the fact that it's actually accessible thanks to Huatli's loyalty ramping helps it stand out; after all, an ability is only worthwhile if you can actually play it.
8. Saheeli Rai
The Islands of blue and Mountains of red combine to give an awesome yet astoundingly inexpensive (only three mana!) planeswalker. Saheeli's standout trait is her superb +1, which simultaneously adds loyalty, damages each opponent by 1 (great for multiplayer), and scries 1. Scrying lets you peek at the top card of your library and return it to either the top or bottom, helping you draw what you want from your deck in upcoming turns.
Her other abilities further boost her prowess. -2 creates a token that copies either a creature or artifact you control and provides it with haste, although it's exiled at the end of the turn. Ultimate -7 not only searches for three artifacts from your deck but places them onto the battlefield for free! I love activating this to field incredible forces like Akroma's Memorial or Caged Sun and decimate opponents with my boosted army.
As a final bonus, Saheeli is perhaps the cheapest (in terms of real world money) of today's entries, and you can usually snag her for a price of under $7.
7. Karn, Scion of Urza
Right off the bat, we can easily see Karn's boons. He's colorless, letting any deck access him, and for only four mana he arrives with five starting loyalty. Karn works as a great draw engine because his +1 exiles the top two cards of your deck, an opponent adds one to your hand, and the other is banished with a silver counter on it. But don't worry about your lost unit; -1 lets you add any of your exiled cards with a silver counter to your hand.
Karn also has a -2 that creates a creature token who gets +1/+1 for every artifact you control. While this isn't the most powerful ability, and while Karn lacks the typical ultimate effect, his first two draw traits, high loyalty, and versatility offer more than enough planeswalker brownie points.
6. Jaya Ballard
Red struggles when it comes to mana production, making Jaya Ballard a welcome addition to any crimson build. Her first +1 ability adds a whopping three red mana to your pool! The catch is that this can only be spent on instant or sorcery cards; luckily, red contains more than a few potent choices, like Lightning Bolt. If instead, you're in need of a new hand, Jaya can also +1 to let you discard up to three cards and then draw a corresponding amount, quickly cycling through your deck to search out what you need.
Finally, Jaya's ultimate -8 bestows an emblem that lets you cast instant and sorcery cards from your graveyard, although they're exiled when used in this fashion. As long as your red deck contains at least a moderate amount of instants and sorceries, you won't regret adding this often-underestimated unit to your strategy, especially considering her high survivability thanks to a base loyalty of five and two loyalty-adding traits.
5. Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Garruk arrives with a disappointing base loyalty of four considering his mana cost of six, but his superb creature-support (green's specialty) abilities prove his worth. +1 reveals the top five cards of your library and lets you add any creatures to your hand (the rest go to the bottom of the deck), often adding two or more cards to hand! -3 lets you put a green creature into the arena by sheer force of will, essentially letting you play it for free; be sure to combo this with the strongest of the strong, like the monstrous 15/15 Worldspine Wurm.
Finally, -7 gives you an emblem that lets you search your library for a creature and field it whenever you cast a creature. This both pulls from your deck (keeping your hand filled) any monster you want and prevents you from needing to spend mana to play it. What else can I say? If you're running a green creature deck, which most green builds opt for, you won't find much better synergy than Garruk.
4. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
White and blue Teferi of the newer Dominaria set demands five mana yet arrives with just four loyalty; luckily, all three of his abilities impress. +1 draws a card and untaps two lands at the end of your turn, keeping your mana pool stocked for instant shenanigans or activated abilities during your opponent's turn. Loyalty, draw power, and bonus mana all in one! Then, -3 places a target nonland permanent into its owner's deck third from the top, a superb removal that bypasses defenses such as indestructible.
Finally, ultimate -8 gives an emblem that exiles a target opposing permanent whenever you draw. Get this out, and you've probably won; this can exile lands, killing your opponent's mana building, creatures, planeswalkers, and more. You draw a card every turn naturally, and if you factor in Teferi's +1, you can easily exile at least two permanents on each of your turns! Good luck surviving that game state.
3. Dack Fayden
Like Saheeli, Dack belongs to the red and blue camp and offers an amazing bargain considering his CMC of three. +1 targets a player who then draws and discards two cards, letting you cycle through your deck or helping achieve a mull win when used on an opponent (where the goal is to reduce your opponent's deck to zero, forcing a loss when they can't draw).
However, Dack's real treat is his -2, which simply steals an artifact, simultaneously adding a unit to your field while robbing your opponent of one. Get Dack out, pilfer an artifact, and gain a huge advantage—even if Dack dies soon after, he'll have done his job and served as a meat shield in his final moments. In the rare cases where you pull off a -6, Dack also gives an emblem that lets you gain control of permanents whenever you cast spells that target them, further denying your opponent their own cards.
2. Nissa, Steward of Elements
Green/blue Nissa's first gift is her ability to adjust to your current mana production. Her mana requirement is a minimum of three mana, which has her enter with a single loyalty counter, but you can spend any number of additional mana to increase her loyalty by the same amount. This keeps her relevant regardless of your current resources. And don't worry, even if she only enters with one loyalty, her +2 quickly fills the gap and scries two, ensuring your next draws are spells you currently need.
Then, a 0 trait looks at the top card of your deck (which you likely already know thanks to the scrying) and lets you place it on the field if it's a land or creature and its CMC is less than or equal to Nissa's loyalty. Finally, -6 untaps two lands you control and has them become 5/5 flying creatures with haste until the end of the turn. A decent effect, but in most situations, you'll want to keep Nissa's loyalty high to make the most of her great +2 and 0 combo.
1. Narset Transcendent
Blue/white Narset Transcendent enters with an astounding six loyalty despite only demanding four mana. Like Jaya, she's geared toward instant/sorcery builds; +1 looks at the top card of your deck and lets you add it to your hand (after revealing) if it's neither a creature nor a land. Also, -2 grants your next instant/sorcery for the turn rebound, essentially casting it twice, and -9 gives you an emblem that prevents your opponents from casting non-creature spells.
All of Narset's abilities work well, and her formidable starting loyalty means pulling off her ultimate is more than possible. Very few decks will recover from that darn emblem that denies them anything other than creatures, and the draw power plus doubled instant/sorceries will keep you more than satisfied until you can land the ultimate.
Future of Planeswalkers
These ethereal entities showcase great power, but remember that just about any planeswalker can be potent in the right situation. Still, plop these recommended warriors onto the field to watch your opponents fall to their ongoing assaults. That said, bear in mind you can only have one planeswalker with the same base character out at a time as they follow a modified version of the legend rule. For instance, casting two different Garruks would result in choosing one to remain on the field and one to send to the graveyard, despite them technically being separate cards.
Now knowing the cream of the planeswalker crop, you can craft your own ideal MTG build, especially if you utilize the several planeswalker support members Wizards of the Coast has produced. But for now, as we await more planeswalker-contain Magic: The Gathering sets, vote for your favorite entry, and I'll see you at our next card countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill