Jeremy enjoys gaming when not working as a manager at the same college he graduated from.
MTG's Best Planeswalkers
Upon their thunderous debut, planeswalkers dazzled gamers everywhere with their reusable and fearsome abilities. 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.
Many rookies immediately look at the planewalkers' strongest "ultimate" effects, but in reality their loyalty-adding abilities matter more because you'll trigger them far more often. With hundreds of cards to pick from, let's take a look at the 30 strongest planeswalkers in Magic: The Gathering!
30. Serra the Benevolent
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Serra enters with respectable four loyalty, and the first thing you probably want her to do is use -3, creating a 4/4 angel with flying and vigilance. That's a tough blocker, making it hard for opponents to attack Serra.
In following rounds, use Serra's +2 to give your flying creatures +1/+1 until end of turn, and if you build up enough loyalty for ultimate -6, you get an emblem that prevents your life from dropping below one while you control a creature.
29. Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
Vivien needs several green mana, making her unwieldy in multicolor decks, but she has decent four loyalty and three nice effects. +1 is the star, distributing two +1/+1 counters among one or two creatures while also giving them trample, two boosts in one.
-3 provides a rare green removal, having your creature deal its power as damage to another creature or planeswalker, and -5 adds a creature from outside the game (this means your sideboard in tournaments) to hand.
28. Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
Like other War of the Spark planeswalkers, Bolas has an enchantment-like passive ability, automatically gaining the loyalty effects of other planeswalkers! That's awesome, but Bolas's are so good (they better be considering his specific mana needs) you may just stick with his own.
Starting loyalty is only four, but +1 both draws a card and forces an opponent to exile a card from their hand or permanent they control (their choice), offering card advantage and removal in one. -3 simply destroys a creature or planeswalker, and lethal -8 makes opponents lose if they don't control a legendary creature or planeswalker!
27. Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Jace is a well-rounded planeswalker who can splash in other colors and enters with handy five loyalty. +1 scries, then draws a card, tinkering what you get, and -2 bounces a creature back to hand, stalling big threats.
Those are both good, but try your best to amass loyalty for -8, which gives an emblem that counters each opponent's first spell every turn! That's an enormous debuff that few foes can overcome.
26. Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Three loyalty is fair considering Domri's low mana cost, and his passive ability gives your creatures +1/+0, an excellent boost in aggro Gruul decks. +1 is also great, adding either a red or green mana to your pool and preventing your creatures from being countered that turn, a handy defense against blue control decks.
-2 has your creature fight an opposing creature, each hitting each other with their power stat (remember, yours will be boosted by Domri's passive).
25. Narset Transcendent
Narset's most notable for her excellent six initial loyalty, meaning she can end her first turn with seven if you use +1. This lets you look at your deck's top card and add it to hand if it's a non-creature non-land, so run Narset in creature-light decks.
-2 gives your turn's next instant/sorcery from hand rebound, casting it for free at your next turn, and Narset's amazing -9 creates an emblem that prevents opponents from casting anything other than creatures!
24. Chandra, Awakened Inferno
Although she needs several mana, Chandra can't be countered, has six loyalty, and quickly gains more with +2, which gives opponents an emblem that damages them for one at their upkeep. You can stack these emblems, hitting them for more damage each turn.
Or, use -3 to damage each non-elemental creature for three, giving some interesting tribal options, or -X to hit a creature or planeswalker for X damage and exile it if it dies that round.
23. Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
Sorin's passive gives your creatures and planeswalkers (including) him lifelink during your turn, recovering your health when they inflict damage. This works well with his +2, which nicks an opponent or planeswalker for one.
With four loyalty and the potential to gain two more each turn, Sorin's pretty tough to kill and can use -X to revive a creature of cost X from your graveyard. This gives reusable blockers, defending him as he hoards health with +2. The resurrected unit also gains the vampire subtype, making Sorin especially useful alongside vampire supports.
22. Koth of the Hammer
Admittedly, Koth only starts with three loyalty, but his +1 is good, untapping a mountain you control and making it a 4/4 elemental with haste for the turn, which can either tap for more mana or attack.
But -2 is the star, giving one red mana per mountain you control, a massive amount in mono-red themes. -5 also impresses, giving you an emblem that lets your mountains tap to inflict one damage to any target.
21. Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
Arguably the most tribal planeswalker in the game, Sorin works much better when you're running vampires. But he doesn't cost much mana, is pretty splashable, and enters with four loyalty.
His first +1 gives a creature deathtouch and lifelink for the turn, plus a +1/+1 counter if it's a vampire. His second +1 lets you sacrifice a vampire to hit any target for three and gain three life, and -3 lets you play a vampire from your hand, a great way to avoid the mana fees of high-cost immortals.
20. Will Kenrith/Rowan Kenrith
For their high cost, twins Will and Rowan only have four loyalty each, but they can be your commanders in EDH format and partner with each other, letting you tutor one from your deck when you cast the other.
Will's especially useful; his +2 makes up to two creatures 0/3s who lose all abilities until your next, an amazing stall tactic. His -2 lets a player draw twice and make their instants, sorceries, and planeswalkers cost two less until your next turn, and ultimate -8's emblem lets you copy your instants and sorceries.
Rowan isn't quite as great, but still a nice bonus to Will. +2 forces an opponent's units to attack on their next turn, -2 hits a player's tapped creatures for three, and -8's emblem copies your activated abilities (including loyalty effects).
19. Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Ajani's difficult for opponents to successfully attack because of his creature-boosting and reviving effects. +1 places a +1/+1 on up to two units, while -2 revives a creature of cost two or less from your graveyard.
With his respectable starting loyalty of four, this provides plenty of defenders to guard Ajani, and if he gets up to seven, his ultimate emblem will create three 1/1 cat tokens with lifelink whenever you end your turn.
A staple for any white deck, Ajani is also one of today's cheapest cards, costing less than five dollars!
18. Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
Ashiok has strong starting loyalty of five, and his +1 creates a 2/3 nightmare token. Not only is this surprisingly strong (especially for Dimir colors), it exiles the top two card's of opposing decks when it attacks or blocks. -3 returns a non-land to hand, then causes that player to exile a card from their hand.
Use the cards Ashiok exiles to empower his -7, casting up to three face-up exiled opposing cards for free!
17. Karn, Scion of Urza
A rare colorless planeswalker, Karn fits in any theme and joins the arena with great five loyalty. +1 reveals your deck's top two cards, having an opponent add one to your hand and exile the other with a silver counter. -1 returns an exiled sliver counter card to hand, and -2 creates a 0/0 construct token that gets +1/+1 for each artifact you control (including itself).
So Karn works best in artifact decks, but his impressive loyalty and card advantage from +1 excel in many themes.
16. Kaya, Ghost Assassin
Unlike most, Kaya can't gain loyalty through her effects, but her +0 exiles herself or a creature until your next upkeep. You lose two life, but this can stall threats or reset Kaya's five starting loyalty, and while she's gone, opponents won't be able to attack her.
Or, use -1 to have opponents lose two life while you gain two, or -2 to have them discard while you draw. Both strong abilities that harass rivals while building your own resources.
15. Liliana, Heretical Healer/Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
The first of our double-sided planeswalkers, Liliana enters as a 2/3 creature with lifelink, transforming and creating a 2/2 zombie token when another non-token you control dies.
In her Necromancer form, Liliana has three loyalty and can use +2 to have all players discard. -X revives your non-legendary creature of cost X (which you can set up with +2), while -8 returns any creature that dies (even opposing ones) to your field at the end of every turn.
14. Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Chandra has solid loyalty and is one of few planeswalkers with four loyalty effects. Her first +1 exiles your deck's top card; you can cast it that turn, but if you don't, you inflict two damage to each opponent, giving card advantage or aggro as needed.
Her second +1 also impresses, adding two red mana to your pool. -3 is a nice removal, hitting a creature for four, and ultimate -7 creates an emblem that deals five damage to any target whenever you cast a spell.
13. Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist
Even as just a creature, Nissa is impressive. She tutors a basic forest from your deck on entry, and while her stats are mediocre at 2/2, she's got the useful elf subtype. She'll automatically transform when you play a land while controlling at least seven.
Her Sage Animist mode has three loyalty. +1 is great, revealing your deck's top card and playing it if it's a land (which doesn't count as your land drop) or adding it to hand otherwise. -2 creates a legendary 4/4 Ashaya elemental token, and -7 untaps six lands while permanently making them 6/6 elemental creatures.
12. Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Sure, Liliana requires several mana, but everything else about her is great. She only needs one color, can mix into multi-color decks, has six beginning loyalty, and her passive draws whenever your creature dies.
+1 creates a 2/2 zombie token, great for tribal decks, and brutal -4 has each player sacrifice two creatures. You can use this even if you don't control any, but even if you do, remember you'll be drawing new cards thanks to her passive.
Ultimate -9 costs several loyalty but will probably win you the game, forcing all opponents to pick one permanent of each type and sacrifice the rest!
11. Liliana of the Veil
Liliana's an excellent early-game planeswalker. She carries three loyalty and can use +1 to have all players discard. -2 handles threats, making a player sacrifice a creature, and ultimate -6 lets you divide all an opponent's permanents (including lands) into two piles; they sacrifice a pile of their choice.
Definitely powerful, but save Lil for 1v1 since both her minus abilities only affect one opponent.
10. Teferi, Time Raveler
For his low price, Teferi has great starting loyalty of four and an excellent passive, only letting foes cast spells at sorcery speed (protecting you from instants during your turn).
+1 is interesting, letting you cast sorceries at any phase until your next turn, but -3 is the real treat, returning a creature, artifact, or enchantment to hand while drawing you a card.
9. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
Jace requires several blue mana, but has fair starting loyalty and a deadly passive, letting you win the game when you would draw from an empty deck (which normally causes a loss). This absolutely destroys opposing mill decks and rewards your own deck-depleting tactics.
Speaking of which, +1 draws a card while having a player mill two cards from deck to graveyard, and -8 draws seven cards, winning the game if your library is now empty!
8. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager/Nicol Bolas, the Arisen
Again, Bolas impresses even as just a creature. He needs three different colors, but arrives as a fierce 4/4 with flying and dragon synergy, also making opponents discard on entry.
Bolas can transform by spending seven mana during your main phase, a hefty fee, but worth it for his seven-loyalty Arisen form. +2 draws twice, -3 deals ten damage to a creature/planeswalker, -4 revives a creature or planeswalker from any graveyard to your field, and lethal -12 exiles all but the last card from an opponent's deck.
7. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
While his stats are a measly 0/2, Jace only requires two mana and has wizard synergy. He can also tap to both draw and discard, manipulating your hand and graveyard and transforming if your graveyard now has at least five cards.
As the Telepath Unbound, Jace begins with a whopping five loyalty. +1 is admittedly weak, giving a creature -2/-0 until your next turn, but -3 basically gives an instant/sorcery from your graveyard flashback, letting you cast it into exile. -9 is interesting if overpriced, giving an emblem that mills five cards from a player's deck whenever you cast a spell.
As a whole, it's not Jace's effects that impress so much as his incredible value, needing only two mana yet bearing great starting loyalty.
6. The Royal Scions
Will and Rowan unite for this low-cost spell that bears excellent starting loyalty of five. Their first +1 both draws and discards a card, tinkering your hand as needed, but I'd usually recommend their second, which gives a creature +2/+0, first strike, and trample for the turn.
That's a lot of power, especially since first strike and trample are usually white and green specialties. -8 is decent, drawing four cards and hitting a target for damage equal to your hand size, but it's that tempting +1 that really makes this card.
5. Karn Liberated
Karn accepts any mana types but needs seven, making him one of the most expensive planeswalkers in the game. Luckily, he compensates with a trio of fierce effects, including the only method to remove emblems in the game (by resetting it)!
- +4 makes an opponent exile from their hand.
- -3 exiles a permanent of your choice.
- -14 restarts the entire game, but you begin with non-aura permanents Karn has exiled!
Both of Karn's first abilities set up for -14, he can add a whopping four loyalty per turn, and his ultimate will almost always give you the win by starting a new game with a massive advantage.
4. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
While his four loyalty isn't great, Teferi impresses with a trio of amazing effects. +1 takes the cake, drawing a card and untapping two lands at your end step, giving mana to cast instants during opposing turns.
-3 offers a strong removal that places a non-land into its deck's third position, and ultimate -8 creates an emblem that exiles an opposing permanent whenever you draw!
3. Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace starts with just three loyalty, but brandishes four effects:
- +2 functions like a scry or fateseal; you can look at the top card of any player's deck, placing it back on top or bottom.
- +0 draws three cards, then sets two from your hand on top of your deck ("Brainstorm" on a stick). This can help prepare cards with the miracle trait, which activate incredible powers if played on the turn they're drawn.
- -1 bounces a creature back to hand.
- -12 exiles all cards from an opponent's library, then makes their current hand their new deck.
Unlike many planeswalkers, Jace's highlight isn't his + effect or ultimate, but his 0 and -1. The former cycles through cards quickly and adds to your hand; the latter provides a cheap and reusable creature removal. Very rarely will you be able to afford -12, but when you do, it's certainly lethal.
2. Wrenn and Six
Two mana for three loyalty is a good deal, making this one of Magic's cheapest planeswalkers. +1 returns up to one land from your graveyard to hand, perfect alongside fetch lands like "Evolving Wilds". -1 simply hits any target for one, a nice way to kill weenies like "Llanowar Elves".
-7 creates an emblem that gives your instants and sorceries retrace, letting you recast them from your graveyard by discarding a land—which you'll have plenty of thanks to +1.
1. Oko, Thief of Crowns
There's a good reason this guy is banned in most formats—he's overpowered as crap. Oko arrives with four loyalty, so if he uses +2, you're turn-threeing (assuming no ramps) a six-loyalty planeswalker! Anyway, +2 creates a food token, which you can sacrifice alongside two mana to gain three life, a nice bit of lifegain, especially outside white and black.
But +1 truly amazes, permanently making a creature or artifact a 3/3 elk who loses other subtypes and abilities, dramatically weakening your foe's best units. Finally, -5 exchanges control of an artifact or creature you control with an opposing artifact or creature with three or less power, letting you trade weak food tokens for more-useful enemy soldiers.
Supporting Planeswalkers in Magic
Today we've examined some of Magic's best cards; how can you support their ranks? Remember that you can proliferate loyalty counters to quickly build for ultimate effects, or use planeswalker-tutoring abilities to find your aces. The "Oath of" enchantments also carry several ongoing planeswalker-supporting abilities alongside immediate triggers.
Remember to defend planeswalkers with creatures to ensure they last long enough to make a difference, but for now, vote for your favorite entry, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: In Magic: The Gathering, wouldn't Jace, Mind Sculptor's -12 cause an opponent to run out of cards in their deck and therefore lose the game?
Answer: The -12 gets them close, but not quite all the way to a deck-out. Remember, after their library is exiled, they shuffle their hand to form a new deck, which usually buys a few turns. And even when a deck runs out, the player doesn't lose until their next draw, so they theoretically have a chance (albeit a small one) for a comeback.
Question: Do you think Garruk is any good? I’m trying to build a Magic: The Gathering beast themed deck and I don’t quite know what planeswalkers to include.
Answer: There are currently six different Garruk planeswalker forms, so please be specific. As a whole, they fall about mid-tier for planeswalkers, though "Caller of Beasts" offers some great ways to field creatures without paying mana costs. Feel free to examine my beast countdown to see some of the best MTG beasts available!
Question: Why is Karn, the Planeswalker, not in first?
Answer: Remember, Karn costs more mana than almost any other planeswalker, a drawback that slightly hinders his still-formidable abilities.
Question: Am I correct to assume this list is based on preference, and not competitive viability?
Answer: Consider it a mix of both. It's also more tailored towards EDH, the format I generally lean towards.
Question: Which Magic: The Gathering planeswalker is the strongest in damage terms?
Answer: Hard to say since many abilities depend on the field state. Angrath, Minotaur Pirate's ultimate destroys all opposing creatures and inflicts damage equal to their power, which often spells game over.
Many Chandra ultimates inflict 10 damage to all opponents and opposing creatures. Nicol Bolas can inflict 7 damage while forcing your opponent to discard and sacrifice permanents.
Question: What do you think of Nissa Sage Animist for one the top MtG Planeswalkers?
Answer: I do very much like Nissa's Animist form, but you're referring to her ultimate ability, which will take time to build for. Even then, lands-to-creatures has never been my favorite mechanic because it exposes your lands to additional removal options, making them much easier for your opponent to destroy.
If anything, I prefer Animist's +1, which both adds loyalty and draws a card, immediately fielding it if it's a land.
Question: What do you think of Chandra Bold Pyromancer in Magic: The Gathering?
Answer: I haven't had much time to test her, but at a glance she seems better than most of her other planeswalker variants. Six mana can be costly, but that +1 loyalty of two extra red mana and a free two damage is hard to overlook.
Question: What do you think of Arlinn Kord? I like her, but rarely see her on lists.
Answer: She's good, but I wouldn't call her great; her low starting loyalty can be a problem, and I consider her color combination (red/green) a tough build in commander unless also supported by blue.
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on June 11, 2020:
Good suggestions, and both are legal in standard as of this writing. Narset's color needs, inability to gain loyalty, and slight chance of misfiring (I've seen multiple cases where there haven't been any non-creature/non-lands in your deck's top four cards) deter me, but her draw lock is undeniably strong, especially for an uncommon.
Karn's nice too, though his ability block against artifacts heavily depends on what your opponents run. His +1 isn't great either, but pulling artifacts from outside the game with -2 is pretty cool.
Paddy on June 10, 2020:
i think that karn the great creator and narset, parter of veils deserves a spot here. maybe ashiok dream render too.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on May 14, 2019:
Both are formidable planeswalkers. I'm inclined towards Bolas's Dragon-God form since he requires less mana and has a more-reliable removal, but you could argue either way.
hunter75x on May 13, 2019:
My friend thinks that nicol bolas dragon god is better than god pharaoh
what is your opinion?