Friday 22 June 2012

Top 10 Lists: Planeswalkers

Current List found here:

I love me a list more than anyone really should, however top X lists are becoming popular and so I shall gladly jump on the band waggon. I recently read PVs top walkers list and found myself disagreeing massively with some of the choices. While we are talking lists PV would make my top 5 magicians of all time list and so  when I find something I disagree upon it gives me much greater pause for thought than when someone of lesser insight has that opinion. Granted PVs list was not based on their cube appeal which accounts for much of the discrepancies but even were we to align the premise of our ratings I think we would still be at odds over many.

To be clear about my ordering it will be based on their power specifically in the context of my cube which is designed to allow the best constructed style decks. What I mean by power is a combination of two factors, firstly it is the impact they have on a game when they are made and secondly the frequency by which they find themselves included in decks. The latter is quite a harsh way to assess cards as it can leave very powerful cards that simply have no viable decks that wish to include them with really low rankings. Koth is a prime example of this as he is a very powerful walker however he is a bit too costly for red deck wins and a little too intensive on red to frequent any non mono deck and so sees very little play.

Planeswalker is a very exclusive card type of which, including the upcoming two spoiled in M13, there are only 30 in total. Even more unusual is that all of them are close to playable in the cube with only 20% being really weak and some of those are only due to lack of support. Including the new 3 mana Ajani I deem 12 of the walkers to be A cube mainstays leaving the remaining 12 all as A cube playable but just not seeing enough play to warrant a full time slot. I have tested to some extent every walker printed except Liliana of the Dark Realms which I am in no rush to lose with (PV hit the nail on the head discussing this particular walker and its failings). Timayo is quite new and so may be overrated at present due to not quite enough play however she has been performing similarly to Gideon thus far. The various gold walkers are all more powerful than their rating I have given indicates however the fewer archetypes that support them means they are all a few places lower than they would be if I were ignoring this aspect of a cards viability. Anyway, enough preamble, here is my list, not just of the top 10 but of all the walkers as it is convenient to give and I am qualified to speak on the matter!

C Cube

29. Chandra Ablaze
28. Liliana of the Dark Realms
27. Nissa Revane
26. Sarkhan the Mad
25. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
24. Liliana Vess

B Cube

23. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
22. Jace, Memory Adept
21. Venser, Shaper Adept

20. Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
19. Sarkhan Vol
18. Ajani Goldmane
17. Ajani Vengant
16. Garruk Relentless
15. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
14. Garruk Primal Hunter
13. Chandra Nalaar
12. Koth of the Hammer

A Cube Mainstays

11. Jace Beleren

10. Karn Liberated
9.  Chandra, the Firebrand
8.  Sorin Markov
(I suspect new 3 mana Ajani will wind up in this sort of region)
7.  Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
6.  Tezzeret, the Seeker
5.  Gideon Jura
4.  Liliana of the Veil
3.  Garruk Wildspeaker
2.  Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1.  Elspeth, Knight Errant

I shall just make a few points relating to some of the more controversially placed cards starting with the top end. Elspeth is played in most white decks and is both more resilliant than Jace and more able to send the game spiralling out of control than Jace is. Jace may be more fun but Elspeth wins more games, end of story. Elspeth and Jace are still very close in power and sit a level above the other walkers in my cube. Garruk through to Timayo (assuming she keeps up performance) are the next level of walkers and are all frequent game winners and inclusions in decks. Garruk is perfectly rounded and offers such a wonderful spread of effects that he is rarely left out of a green deck. It is his playability and convenience rather than absolute power that earn him the number three slot. Liliana of the three mana earns the 4th slot through the fantastic synergy she has with many other cards in the cube. Tezzeret of the 5 mana used to be my top rated walker due to his strength in combination with things like Mana Vault. In those kinds of deck he is probably the most abusive walker however he is unplayable in non artifact decks and has slipped down rating for being narrow.

Sorin Markov is probably my most controversial high entry card however he has continually performed way above expectation, perhaps a little like Timayo. He fulfils many things both walkers and black desire. Life gain is great, powerful +2 loyalty effects are great, the ability to protect himself and maintain a high loyalty count are frustrating to deal with. The ultimate is easy enough to use and gives black the potential to do things outside its restricted colour pie. There are many pluses to Sorin and the only real drawback is high cost which with Lake of the Dead and Dark Ritual are less problematic for black. He is one of the best walkers to drop onto a board position where you are behind and offers about as much tempo swing as you could ask for on a card. He might end the game slower than Grave Titan but he is much more robust and versatile of a card for your 6 mana. Chandra the Firebrand is another card I seem to rate much higher than others. I would certainly agree that she has lower power and immediate impact than the rest of the top 10 walkers but she makes up for this by being easy to cast and fairly convenient. In the cube ping is a powerful ability and usually able to work as sufficient protection for her which allows you to make use of the -2 effect which is surprisingly good. Forking a spell in the cube turns out to be really quite savage due to the extreme power of spells in the cube, double Fireblast frequently being a game ender! Chandra just neatly fits into lots of decks and rounds them out nicely.

Karn costs lots but offers great removal to decks that cannot afford the space for niche removal or don't have access to it. Being purely colourless he is included in decks that cast him reliably on turn five or sooner and results in being like so cross between Tezzeret the Seeker and Giedeon Jura. He doesn't seem to end games quite as often as a walker of that power level might suggest but does fulfil an important role as both a threat and an answer. Jace Beleren is probably one of my lowest rated walkers relative to the common opinion. In the cube there are cheaper and quicker ways to draw cards and his best use is to deal with a better Jace of your opponents! He can be what a deck wants but is definitely on the narrow side of things.

Koth I have mentioned just lacks viable homes, Chandra Nalaar however is obviously much much weaker yet is only just behind Koth. This is because she does have a few homes although typically they will elect to have the 4 mana versions. Nalaar is a surprisingly good removal spell in red and can take out most monsters in the cube and still have some loyalty left over. She has seen play in both big red and UR control decks and even in a Swans of Bryn Argoll deck where she could draw a lot of cards! Not a great walker and not to be viewed as a threat really however as a removal spell she will often go at least two for one and regain you some extra tempo on top of that.

The two non-Wildspeaker Garruks are both languishing at ratings below what their power level might suggest. This is because I have never wanted to play either over Wildspeaker in a deck and with the legend rule not working in their favour I am then reluctant to include multiple Garruks. They both do things that Wildspeaker does not do however they are not nearly as rounded a card and able to be useful in any given situation. The gold walkers start to feature around this point in my ratings. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is much weaker than I initially thought. He is just too much easier to deal with than Elspeth and harder to end games with. He is weaker than Vengant but is rated higher purely because BW tokens is a much more likely deck to call upon him than any RW deck is for Vengant. I find Vengeant much harder to abuse in cube than basically everyone else seems too. It feels like he cannot keep things in check with his plus one effect and then immediately dies as soon as you start using the -2. He is too expensive for Boros Deck Wins and has no real other archetype in his colours that want him. If his plus one were the same as Timayo's and actually tapped the thing then he would be one of the very best and worthy of a space in the top 10 as the only gold walker. As it is he is just fragile and difficult to procure as much value from as most other walkers above him.

Sarkhan Vol is the other way around in that I rate him far more than everyone else. I view him like Koth in that he is great in agro decks where you never expect to be behind on the board and so the lack of a protective ability is no longer such an issue. Vol fits reasonably well into most RG beats decks and tends to end games rather well. All of his abilities are good in the RG deck and offers reach in a few different veins. I like Tibalt but he is very niche and I think there are not enough support cards for him to be viable yet however still worth keeping an eye on. I have also only played him a few times and would be happy to be proved wrong. I like the fact that it is a choice as to whether you use the +1 on your turn rather than automatically doing it as is the case with every walker other than Liliana of the three mana.

I have less to say about the other walkers as they are more clearly less use. Venser is just a bit expensive compared to the better alternatives. Nicol Bolas is fantastic but is impossible to cast and has no archetypes that can support him. Nissa is fine but needs some cube errata to be viable due to the singleton rules and is too weak to really bother. I have already reviewed most of these cards in more detail individually and will be doing most of those not yet done slowly over time and so I shall leave it there for now but rest assured I will be doing top X lists for most things imaginable eventually!


  1. While I for one still run "Jace, Memory Adept" I could agree with it's exculsion, but once I chose to Eretta it with a -2 instead of 0 for his mill 10, it was actualy quitte okay...

  2. I fully agree that with errata you can open up a lot of really nice cards for cube play however I find it makes the cube less approachable for new players and even players from other circles when you have enough changes. I did try various ways to get Accumulated Knowledge to work as I love the card so much but it never quite had the right feel. I might do a post covering the various erratas I have encountered that seem interesting or cool but will likely be steering clear of that option myself simply because the options would become unlimited and thus unmanageable!