Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
The Best Red Planeswalkers in Magic
Red planeswalkers are an interesting group, as their two parts are somewhat opposed in nature. That is, most red decks aim for a quick win, while planeswalkers accumulate loyalty to eventually access their ultimate effects. Still, today's units give red a fighting chance for a long-term win, and their immediate loyalty abilities keep them relevant even in the short term.
Top 10 Red Planeswalkers
Remember you can only control one of a given planeswalker at once (even in different forms), so avoid saturating your deck with copies of the same character. Fortunately, red offers numerous mystics to choose from; which spellcasters reign supreme? These are the ten best red planeswalkers in Magic: The Gathering!
- Sarkhan, Fireblood
- Chandra, Bold Pyromancer
- Chandra, Pyromaster
- Daretti, Scrap Savant
- Chandra Ablaze
- Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
- Jaya Ballard
- Chandra, Torch of Defiance
- Koth of the Hammer
- Chandra, the Firebrand
10. Sarkhan, Fireblood
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
Fireblood impresses with his low price and solid mana-to-loyalty ratio. His first +1 lets you discard to draw, helpfully cycling out unneeded cards. However, his next +1 is usually the better choice, giving two mana of any colors, but it can only be spent on dragon spells. Then, ultimate -7 gives four 5/5 dragon tokens with flying, enough to overwhelm most foes on your next turn.
Use Fireblood in devoted dragon decks to quickly ramp towards your aces and eventually spawn a battalion of dragons.
9. Chandra, Bold Pyromancer
Our first of several Chandra forms, Pyromancer demands a substantial sum of mana and only enters with five loyalty considering. However, her excellent +1 compensates, adding two red mana to your pool and scoring two damage to a player.
Then, -3 offers a decent removal, hitting a creature or planeswalker for three damage, and -7 deals 10 damage to a player plus all creatures and planeswalkers they control. With just two +1 instances, you can afford this powerful nuke, and if you delay it for an extra +1, Pyromancer can survive the blast.
8. Chandra, Pyromaster
Chandra's next form carries a respectable loyalty value and three impressive abilities. +1 is the highlight, hitting both an opponent and creature for one damage and preventing the unit from blocking that turn—a trio of sweet effects.
+0 exiles the top card of your deck and lets you play it that turn, which is useful if you're starved for lands, and -7 exiles the top 10 cards from your deck, then freely casts three copies of an instant or sorcery from among them. Both are decent add-ons, but +1 is the real prize here.
7. Daretti, Scrap Savant
Daretti's base loyalty is low, but he can serve as commander in EDH format and only needs one red mana, fitting well in multicolor decks. His +2 lets you discard up to two cards to draw as many; use this to set up for -2, which lets you sacrifice an artifact to return one from your graveyard to the field.
-10 provides an emblem that returns artifacts you lose to the field at the end of your turns, but your focus should be on exploiting that excellent -2. First, toss high-cost artifacts like "Akroma's Memorial" or "Ancient Stone Idol" with +2, then use -2 to sacrifice cheap relics like "Sol Ring" to field your titans without paying their costs!
6. Chandra Ablaze
Chandra's Ablaze form burns through mana and only offers five loyalty, but her excellent secondary abilities justify your investment. +1 is a mixed bag, as you have to discard a card, but if it was red, you get to inflict four damage to any target, a solid removal.
This also lowers your hand, useful for Ablaze's stupendous -2, which forces all players to discard their hands, then has them draw three cards. Considering +1 and red's general discard tactics, you'll have little to lose while your opponents will forfeit any card advantage, equalizing the arena.
Additionally, -7 casts any number of red sorceries and/or instants from your graveyard without paying their costs—and thanks to the discards from previous effects, you should have plenty of spells to exploit.
5. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Sarkhan's initial loyalty isn't great, but his sweet +1 turns him into an indestructible 4/4 dragon with flying and haste for the turn. Unlike many planeswalker-to-creature effects (looking at you, Gideon), the haste addition means you can swing even if Sarkhan just arrived, ensuring you're not wasting a turn waiting for summoning sickness to fade.
-3 isn't the best removal, but it's nice to have available, simply dealing four damage to a creature, and -6 gives an emblem that nets two extra draws at your draw step, although it discards your hand at the end of the turn. Still, at that point in the game, you should have enough mana to cast multiple spells at once, meaning you'll likely be able to play all three before the turn ends.
Overall, a nice ultimate and a great +1 make Sarkhan a handy red addition, especially when combined with dragon supports.
4. Jaya Ballard
Jaya works well in many red decks, as she can be combined with other planeswalkers, has a fair loyalty value, and offers several versatile abilities. Her first +1 grants three mana that can only be used on instants/sorceries, an insane ramp for some of red's most common spells. And don't worry if your hand currently lacks any, as her second +1 lets you discard up to three cards to draw as many.
Finally, -8 provides an emblem that lets you cast instants/sorceries from your graveyard, although they're sent to exile and you still have to pay their costs. Honestly, a lackluster ultimate, but it hardly matters next to those excellent loyalty-adding effects.
3. Chandra, Torch of Defiance
As the Torch of Defiance, Chandra offers not three but four loyalty traits, including two +1s. The first exiles the top card of your deck and lets you cast it; if you don't, each opponent suffers two damage, essentially offering either a free draw or some burn damage. A nice ability, but it's hard to compete with the next +1, which simply provides two red mana, an excellent ramping tactic.
Beyond that, Chandra's -3 deals four damage to a creature, and -7 gives an emblem the hits any target for five damage whenever you cast a spell. Neither is especially noteworthy, but they're nice bonuses on top of two great +1 effects.
2. Koth of the Hammer
Koth's starting loyalty is low, but he can work in tandem with other red planeswalkers and quickly generates resources. +1 untaps a mountain and turns it into a 4/4 creature for the turn, letting you either swing with it or simply exhaust it for more mana. Even better, -2 adds a red mana to your pool for each mountain you control, a phenomenal ramp tool in mono-red builds.
-5 is interesting, providing an emblem that lets your mountains tap to deal a single damage to any target. This is a nice way to spend leftover resources, although it's often best to conserve your loyalty for that amazing -2.
1. Chandra, the Firebrand
Like Koth, Firebrand's starting loyalty isn't great, and her +1 is only okay, simply dealing one damage to any target. Fortunately, -2 compensates, duplicating the next instant/sorcery you cast that turn, an excellent way to annihilate multiple foes with single-target removals. -6 isn't bad, either, slamming up to six targets for six damage, though I recommend saving your loyalty for repeated uses of -2.
Firebrand's versatility and instant/sorcery support make her a frequent member of my own red structures, especially since she's amazingly cheap for a competitive planeswalker, costing less than three dollars!
Supporting Red Planeswalkers in Magic
Today we've examined several powerful mono-red planeswalkers, but pairing with other colors offers additional cards. For instance, mixing in blue accesses aces like "Dack Fayden" and "Ral Zarek," and if you don't score a quick win, secondary hues help red endure even in later stages of the game.
While arguably the weakest color in commander, red's planeswalkers have strengthened over time, now containing several top-tier members. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of crimson planeswalkers, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on February 22, 2020:
It becomes a creature, but it's also still a land, so it can tap for mana unless it entered the field that turn, in which case it will have summoning sickness. So you're right in that Koth doesn't give haste, but as long as you select a mountain that you've controlled since your last turn, you'll be able to attack immediately with it.
Here's the official wording of the relevant ruling:
"If Koth’s first ability animates a Mountain that came under your control that turn, it will have “summoning sickness” and be unable to attack. It will also be unable to be tapped to activate an ability with the Tap symbol in its cost, such as the Mountain’s mana ability or the ability granted to it by Koth’s emblem."
Austin Nailor on February 22, 2020:
From what I read from the rules Koth doesn’t give the 4/4 land haste and it cannot tap for mana.