Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is making waves in Standard – three-mana planeswalkers always have a chance to be ridiculously powerful, given how quickly they can be deployed, and the latest one definitely seems to be towards the more powerful end of things. But for it to be an all-timer, it faces some pretty stiff competition, as we’ll talk about today: there are a lot of three-mana planeswalkers that have strongly impacted various Constructed formats. In some cases, they broke the formats in two! Let’s have a look at the best three-mana planeswalkers from Magic’s history before Ob Nixilis came along – while I don’t think he’ll end up at the top of the list, I definitely think he’ll end up on it somewhere.
10. Saheeli Rai
In and of itself, Saheeli Rai wasn’t a particularly exciting card. She doesn’t draw a card, doesn’t protect herself and has nothing in the way of meaningful interaction or disruption. And so it would have remained – an overlooked bulk mythic – were it not for Felidar Guardian. Saheeli plus Felidar Guardian resulted in an immediate, game-winning infinite combo. Blink Felidar Guardian with Saheeli’s -2, use the token to blink the Saheeli, rinse and repeat until you have an arbitrarily large number of Cats. Ultimately, though, Felidar Guardian got banned for Saheeli’s sins, and the combo didn’t last long.
9. Gideon of the Trials
This version of Gideon was most commonly played (and sometimes still is) alongside effects that would otherwise make you lose the game. Gideon can protect you from your own Pact of Negation triggers, for instance, and sometimes saw play in Ad Nauseam-style decks that used effects like Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife to play through something that should, by rights, end the game. Gideon was never much more than a role-player in those decks, but it saw some play – these days, however, it’s relegated to the odd spot in various Commander decks, such as Kethis.
8. Aminatou, the Fateshifter
Speaking of Commander, there aren’t too many planeswalkers that let you play them as your general in EDH, but Aminatou is one of them – a three-mana planeswalker designed to support blink decks in the Esper colors. Blink decks are almost always base white-blue, but traditionally are paired with green for the classic Bant Blink strategy, often led by Roon of the Hidden Realm. Aminatou, however, opens up black mana for the blink mage instead, and allows you to blink sweet cards like Gonti, Baleful Strix and even Gray Merchant of Asphodel!
7. Ashiok, Dream Render
Ashiok is, of course, a favorite in mill decks of all kinds. Milling 20 cards for four mana if left alone, this card offers a huge amount of bang for very little buck – and if they attack it to get it off the board, hey, that’s life you’re not losing. But it goes further than that, because not only does this card provide a source of graveyard hate, it is also absolutely full of blowout potential. People so often forget about Ashiok’s static, and when they crack an Evolving Wilds into the can’t-search-your-library clause… my goodness, it feels amazing to watch them Stone Rain themselves.
6. Dack Fayden
Dack never really caught on outside of older eternal formats, particularly Vintage. Why Vintage in particular? Because it is, of course, the format where there are juicy treasures like Moxen laying about everywhere, ripe for the taking when you’re the greatest thief in the multiverse. The Faithless Looting ability is nice too, but there was a time in Legacy when people would play Notion Thief quite regularly, and blowing out a Dack player with a Notion Thief in response to his +1 was always absolutely disgusting.
5. Liliana, the Last Hope
While her abilities are somewhat niche, Liliana, the Last Hope was a mainstay during her time in Standard and even made the leap to Modern for a time, at a point in the format where one-toughness creatures were everywhere. Using this Liliana to snipe an opposing Birds of Paradise or Dark Confidant was always a huge swing, and her ability to either close out a game with a reasonably quick ultimate or grind out a longer game with her -2 offered a useful level of flexibility. I think this card’s best days are behind it, but it’s not the only three-mana Liliana floating about, as we’ll see!
4. Narset, Parter of Veils
You have to do something pretty special to be restricted in Vintage, and Narset managed it. It turns out that shutting down all the absurd card draw in the format – like Ancestral Recall, for instance – is a bridge too far, and it isn’t just in Vintage that Narset made her presence felt. With an extremely useful double-Impulse ability on top of her sometimes-backbreaking static, Narset was and still is a widely-played support card in control, being regularly included in decks across Historic, Pioneer, Legacy and even Vintage. She’s just that good!
3. Teferi, Time Raveler
But as good as Narset is, she wasn’t even the best three-mana planeswalker in her set. War of the Spark also brought us Teferi, Time Raveler, one of the most obnoxious control cards printed in recent memory. Not only did Teferi force your opponents to play Hearthstone by turning off instant-speed play, it also could remove more or less any problematic permanent while drawing a card. With high loyalty, Teferi was difficult to remove, and given its cheap cost, this card came down quickly and usually stuck around. After being banned and nerfed into the ground, it’s still played extensively in Modern, and even occasionally in Legacy as well.
2. Liliana of the Veil
Liliana of the Veil was, for the longest time, the best three-mana planeswalker ever printed. A four-of staple in Boomer Jund, a dominant Standard card and all-around powerhouse in any deck that either played out of the graveyard or didn’t mind grinding like Rodney Mullen, this card’s position as the best in the business for its cost looks unassailable. It still plays a big role in Modern, of course, in decks like Jund, GDS and other weirder lists like Reanimator, and it’ll be along time before it’s supplanted in those decks. Hopefully, at least.
1. Oko, Thief of Crowns
But far out beyond the rest of the pack, the best planeswalker ever printed – you know it, I know it, everyone knows it. Oko, Thief of Crowns is banned in almost every format under the sun – you can only enjoy playing this card in Vintage and Commander. And little wonder too, as Oko was one of the most oppressive and overplayed cards in Magic’s history. You had to have a very good reason not to play it in any format it was legal, and I don’t know that there are too many people who miss it now that it’s been consigned to the ban lists in formats from Pioneer to Legacy. Good riddance!