Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Do Planeswalker Cards Work in Magic?
Planeswalkers are one of Magic's most engaging card types, as they offer ongoing effects that can make or break your match. Planeswalkers generally demand a substantial amount of mana, arriving with a number of loyalty counters (shown in their bottom-right corner) used to fuel their effects. For each planeswalker you control, you can only use one ability per turn, and it'll add or subtract a listed amount of loyalty.
If your opponent successfully damages a planeswalker, they'll lose loyalty equal to the attacker's power, so be sure to guard your allies with sturdy creatures. With over a hundred planeswalkers, we have many powerful companions to choose from, but some stragglers are better ignored—here are the 20 worst planeswalkers in Magic: The Gathering!
20. Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 6
The problem with many prebuilt planeswalkers is they're just not as good as their cheaper counterparts. Ashiok needs two colors and requires six mana, only entering with a meager four loyalty. +2 draws a card and has both players mill twice.
That's not terrible, but it does nothing to protect Ashiok, and he has nothing else he can do the turn he arrives—both his -5 and -11 are out of reach on entry. That said, he's not bad if you can protect him (-5 revives a creature, -11 steals them), but he needs support to shine, which isn't great on a six-drop.
19. Vivien, Nature's Avenger
Vivien has some of the worst loyalty in the game, only entering with half as much as her cost. +1 gives a creature three +1/+1 counters, a decent boost. But past that, Vivien is trash. -1 adds the next creature in deck to hand, and -6 gives one creature a +10/10 boost and trample for the turn.
These just aren't the powerhouse effects you want from an expensive planeswalker, especially one entering this fragile.
18. Oko, the Trickster
Oko Thief of Crowns got banned for his fierce powers, almost like he sapped all the power from his prebuilt form. Again we need six mana and two colors for poor four loyalty, and none of the effects here impress.
+1 gives two +1/+1s to a creature, 0 has Oko copy your creature, and -7 gives your creatures base power/toughness 10 and trample for the turn. None of these are terrible, but none are really good either, and there's just better things to do with the mana.
17. Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist
Another six-cost planeswalker, Tezzeret arrives with a frail four loyalty. His +1 simply draws a card, nice but better used on cheaper and less expensive blue planeswalkers. Meanwhile, 0 turns an artifact you control into a 5/5 creature for the turn. Strong battle stats, but remember that adding additional types to your cards makes them vulnerable to different types of removal, so you're risking death with this ability.
-7 places any number of cards from your hand face-down onto the field as 5/5 artifact creatures. This is an atrocious ultimate, as it not only reduces your hand, but doesn't grant your creatures haste, meaning they'll still have to wait a turn to attack, which (especially in the late stages of the game) can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Try Tezzeret's "Schemer" and "Seeker" forms instead.
16. Angrath, Captain of Chaos
While I like that the War of the Spark set made planeswalkers available as uncommons, it's pretty lame that they have no loyalty-gaining effects. You can almost hear Wizards of the Coast taunting players "you need to pay more money for the actual good ones".
To be fair, they do start with nice loyalty. Angrath has five, and automatically gives your creatures menace, making them harder to block. But his only loyalty effect is a -2 that amasses two, creating a 2/2 zombie (or making it stronger if you already have one). That's just not enough power, and without other loyalty options, Angrath lacks the versatility that helps define planeswalkers.
15. Arlinn, Voice of the Pack
Six mana for someone with no loyalty-gain? Yikes, especially since Arlinn really only works in wolf decks, as her passive gives your entering wolves and werewolves a +1/+1. Her -2 creates a 2/2 wolf, effectively a 3/3 with her passive, but by the time you can afford her, you've probably already played most creatures in your hand.
And even if you have some wolves left (assuming you're even using them), an extra +1/+1 just isn't that great at this stage of the game.
14. Jace, the Living Guildpact
Most of Jace's forms rank among the best planeswalkers available, but his Guildpact rendition sadly disappoints. Things start off looking good, as he needs just four mana and arrives with an impressive five loyalty, but he wields a sluggish +1 that lets you look at the top two cards of your deck and place one into your graveyard. Unlike many blue loyalty-adding effects, this does nothing to increase your hand size, and simply isn't as useful as you'd like.
-3 bounces a nonland permanent back to its controllers hand, and -8 shuffles all cards from hands and graveyards into the deck, then lets you draw seven cards. Both are decent, but since Jace can only gain a single loyalty each turn, you'll rarely be able to make good use of them, and there's little reason to choose Guildpact over Jace's excellent "Unraveler of Secrets" or "Mind Sculptor" forms.
13. Jaya, Venerated Firemage
Jaya has your red sources deal an extra damage when they hit, which is nice but too little too late considering her price. -2 deals two damage (three with her effect) to any target. Boy, do I wish Jaya could recover loyalty. Then, we'd have an interesting card with something to do once she's handled any threats, but as is, there's better aggro tools.
12. Gideon, the Oathsworn
Gideon has some of the overall worst planeswalkers, with even his hits not being great, and this one isn't helping his cause. His passive gives your non-Gideon attacking creatures a +1/+1, nice but risky since you want blockers to guard him. +2 makes him a 4/4 creature for the turn, but without haste, this doesn't do anything the turn you use him.
-9 is interesting, exiling himself and all opposing creatures, which is okay but it's unfortunate that you lose Gideon with his own ultimate.
11. Huatli, Dinosaur Knight
Huatli needs a substantial six mana yet only arrives with a lackluster four loyalty counters, and she's very dependent on having dinosaur-type cards fielded. That said, her additive +2 trait gains two loyalty at once and places two +1/+1 counters on a dinosaur you control. That's a decent effect, but it relies on both playing and controlling dinosaurs, and isn't much help after suffering a field wipe.
Her other effects are similarly dependent. -3 has a dinosaur you control deal damage equal to its power to another creature (essentially giving a fight without getting hit back). -7 offers a pathetic ability that only grants your dinosaurs +4/+4 for a single turn, neglecting the game-long emblems or outrageous effects that most ultimates provide.
10. Elspeth, Undaunted Hero
Elspeth needs lots of white, making her awkward to splash in other colors. To be fair, she's not bad at loyalty gain, entering with five and using +2 to give up to two creatures a +1/+1.
Sadly, her other effects disappoints. -2 searches and plays "Sunlit Hoplite" from deck or graveyard (he's basically a 2/1 with first strike on your turn), while -8 gives your army flying and a boost equal to your devotion to white for the turn.
9. Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted
Back to the uncommons, Ob can't gain loyalty, making his starting five less impressive. His passive hits opponents for one whenever they draw, and -2 destroys a creature but gives its owner two draws.
The idea is to destroy an opposing creature and make them lose two life via the draws, but then you're down to three loyalty and your opponent has a boosted hand. The pieces are here, but they just don't line up well.
8. Teyo, the Shieldmage
Poor Teyo gets this lackluster card in his first appearance. He gives you (not your creatures, you) hexproof, the benefit of which really depends on your opponent's theme.
-2 creates a 0/3 wall token, which can help guard, but stalling's just not as great when Teyo can't build up his own loyalty. He does at least start with five, but still, there's no real payoff and the walls can be bypassed by flyers.
7. Basri, Devoted Paladin
As we've learned, four loyalty is bad on a six-drop, and +1 is terrible, giving a +1/+1 and vigilance to a creature. Seriously, the three-cost Basri gives +1 and indestructible, and only has one less loyalty.
Anyway, -1 gives attackers a +1/+1, okay but not great. -6 is a laughable "ultimate", giving your army +2/+2 and flying for the turn.
6. Kaya, Bane of the Dead
Kaya lets you target opposing cards even if they have hexproof. Which can save removal-based themes from getting shut down, but unless you're playing best-of-3, you won't know if you need it until the game begins. Also, in commander, it won't help against older spells with shroud.
-3 exiles a creature, which is a decent removal, but like the other WotS uncommons, Kaya desperately needs a + ability.
5. Chandra, Pyrogenius
Planeswalkers tend to prefer the longer matches of commander format. However, the speedy red faction is better suited for a quick win than a lengthy match, and it's always struggled to utilize planeswalkers effectively. Thus, I'm only fond of a few Chandras, like her "Torch of Defiance" mode.
Chandra Pyrogenius needs six mana and arrives with five loyalty. Her +2 hits each opponent for two damage, -3 deals five damage to a creature, not a guaranteed kill at this late point in the game. Ultimate -10 smashes an opponent and all their units for six damage, a brutal effect but not enough to save Pyrogenius from her other disappointing traits.
4. Garruk, Savage Herald
Garruk might have my least favorite + effect on a six-drop, revealing your deck's top card and adding it to hand if it's a creature. This fizzles too much even in creature-heavy builds thanks to lands, and even if you do get it, your opponent gains knowledge of what's now in your hand.
-2 has a creature deal its power as damage to an opposing creature (sadly this can't hit planeswalkers), and -7 lets your creatures assign damage as if not blocked that turn. Pretty lame ultimate, especially when -2 is handling threats anyway.
3. Aminatou, the Fateshifter
Aminatou looks better than she really is. Only needs three mana, but they have to be specific colors, and +1 draws and discards a card. Weird to see looting outside red, and the fact that no card advantage is gained really weakens it.
-1 blinks another permanent you control. -6 is weird, choosing left/right and having all players gain control of the non-land permanents (other than Aminatou) owned by the player in that direction. This can be powerful, but it's not enough to justify her other weak effects.
Oh, and you can use Aminatou as your commander, but I don't know why'd you'd want to.
2. Liliana, Death Wielder
Liliana's Death Wielder form is just way too expensive for her limited powers. Seven mana for five loyalty means she better wield some devilishly good effects—she doesn't. +2 simply places a -1/-1 counter on a creature. -3 destroys a unit with a -1/-1 counter, which stacks with her first ability, but is one removal really worth three loyalty and two turns of setup?
Ultimate -10 returns all creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield, pretty useful if you've been milling zombies or other cards from your library, but even this trait doesn't combo with Liliana's previous effects. Unless you've been destroying your own cards, she annihilates enemy creatures, which won't do anything to support her -10 revival of your soldiers. Expensive and weak, Death Wielder is far outperformed by Liliana's "Veil," "Last Hope," and "Dark Realms" entries.
1. Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
Tibalt is the game's cheapest planeswalker, needing only two mana, but his effects are lacking even considering his price reduction. +1 draws a card, then discards one at random, meaning your overall hand size doesn't improve and you don't even get to choose what to toss.
-4 isn't much better, dealing damage to a player equal to the card in their hand, an expensive play that usually only nets 1-3 damage by the time you can afford it. Ultimate -6 is better, gaining control of all creatures until the end of the turn, untapping them, and granting them haste, but keeping Tibalt alive long enough to use it isn't easy, especially when red creatures normally want to be swinging for damage, not staying back to guard Tibalt.
How to Support Planeswalkers in Magic
Don't feel too bad for these saps, as most wield far-superior forms to keep their names relevant. And whether using today's jokers or their better alternatives, you can support planeswalkers with cards like the enchantment "Doubling Season", which lets them enter with twice the loyalty, or "Atraxa, Praetors' Voice", whose proliferate adds an extra loyalty counter at your end steps.
Despite a few duds, planeswalkers remain an engaging and prominent spell type that fans continue to love, as they make you feel like you have an actual ally in battle whose abilities progress as the game continues. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next set of powerful planeswalkers, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on February 17, 2020:
I see what you're getting at (Liliana for counters, Scorpion for draw, Locust for token creatures), but doing so requires three specific high-cost spells and three different colors. And even if you pull it off, it's not an infinite combo--black has many superior alternative planeswalkers to consider.
Ethan on February 14, 2020:
Liliana death wielder has a great combo with the scorpion god and locust god
Rex H on November 17, 2019:
AskUrza.com. That made me laugh. I wish it were legal. The look on your opponents’ faces might actually be worth the lost mana, time, and money spent on Urza.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on September 10, 2019:
No, this list was made prior to War of the Spark, and several of that set's less-rare entries will definitely make the update. But at least WotS's rares and mythics were pretty good!
FizzyWizzy on September 10, 2019:
Did this list take into account the war of the spark planeswalkers with no plus abilities? I have one (Jaya, venerated firemage) that is 5 mana with 5 loyalty. It's only abilities are -2 to do 2 damage and passively increaing other red sources by 1 damage.
dedstrok32 on November 27, 2018:
Wow, i feel dumb, Tezzeret was my first planeswalker (yeah, i just started in january) and i thought it was good, but yeah, said that way... its pretty bad, (and i also got ral, caller of storms and i knew it was bad since my first matches with him :p)