Since 2007 first introduced planeswalkers with the “Lorwyn Five” – Ajani Goldmane, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar and Garruk Wildspeaker, we’ve gone from five planeswalkers to 228. Not all of them can be winners, and in fact most of them end up as little more than bulk mythics, but there are a few that have made their presence felt across formats from Standard to Legacy, and enshrined themselves as the most powerful planeswalkers ever printed. Who are they? Let’s take a look!
Tron players still seem to have a basic misunderstanding of base-10 mathematics. They play one land, tap it, and play a one-drop. Okay, no problems there. They play a second land, tap them both and play a two-drop. Still fine. Then they play their third land, tap all three, and play… a seven-drop?
Were it not for Tron, Karn wouldn’t be the force he is in Magic. While he’s one of the most powerful planeswalkers ever printed when you don’t take mana cost into account (perhaps second only to similarly-expensive Ugin), costing seven is an enormous hurdle to overcome. Or… would be, were it not for Tron lands.
Karn comes down with a stack of loyalty and gains even more by ripping apart opponents’ hands, or just exiles whatever is causing problems for you (including lands!). Then, if you really need to rub things in further, you can force your opponent to start the game again with his ultimate. No, stop, come back, opponent! I wasn’t finished crushing you into the dirt!
There was a time you could argue Liliana was the second-best planeswalker ever printed, but since then a few important new additions have forced her down the list a little bit. Nonetheless, Liliana of the Veil remains one of the best planeswalkers in Magic’s history, it has to be said – especially when a deck is built around her.
Modern Jund is the perfect example. Jund is happy to play off the top of its library and will often have less useful cards as the game goes on (Thoughtseize, for instance), so the discard effect becomes brutally asymmetric. Her edict effect is a useful form of damage control, and she ultimates quickly and with devastating effect.
But more than anything else, it’s the fact that she costs just three mana. She can come down so early that opponents are playing from behind before they’ve played their third land, and often, it’s impossible to come back. She shreds the hand, keeps the battlefield clear and closes games with her ultimate – Liliana really does it all.
A more recent addition to the planeswalker pool, at just two mana Wrenn and Six was bound for great things. The card is so good it had to be banned in Legacy – recurring Wasteland while ticking up a planeswalker was just too powerful, it turns out. Even in Modern, recurring fetchlands and cycle lands has seen this planeswalker replace cards like Dark Confidant as a two-drop card advantage engine of choice.
Wrenn and Six also goes around obliterating x/1s – be careful, Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch – and is rarely irrelevant on any given board. With four loyalty the turn the card is cast, W&6 can be difficult for an opponent to deal with, especially on the play, and will keep cards flowing as the game continues.
In contrast to Karn’s mighty abilities, regrowing lands and pinging for one don’t seem like much to write home about. But just as with Liliana, it’s the mana value of this card that makes all the difference. Landing even a moderately powerful two-drop planeswalker (sorry, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded) on turn two is a great way to pull ahead early, and that’s exactly what Wrenn and Six will do for you.
It wasn’t that long ago that if someone told you Jace, the Mind Sculptor wasn’t an auto-include as the most powerful planeswalker ever printed, you wouldn’t have believed them. It’s Jace, the Mind Sculptor! Scourge of Standard, once banned in Modern, a defining pillar of Legacy – how can he possibly not be the most powerful planeswalker in Magic’s history?
We’ll, he’s not, that much is clear – but he’s still the second-most powerful, and with good reason. The first planeswalker ever to feature more than three activated abilities (and even now, there are only four: Jace, Garruk, Apex Predator, Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh). And these four abilities suit any situation, too. Ahead? Fateseal them. Behind? Unsummon. Somewhere in between? Brainstorm, every turn. Ready to wrap things up? Ultimate.
In Modern, Jace still sees a good amount of play, although he’s starting to become eclipsed by Teferi – both three-drop and five-drop – whereas in Legacy, where he was once a staple, he’s not even found in the top 50 most played cards. Maybe Jace shouldn’t even be second on a list like this any more? How times have changed.
No one saw this coming – especially not Wizards R&D. When first previewed, no one imagined Oko would go on to be banned in virtually every format there is, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Oko resulted in some of the most disgustingly broken Standard decks in history, being included in 70 percent of decks at a single Pro Tour, and went on to be banned in Pioneer, Modern and Legacy as time went on.
Apparently, Wizards R&D didn’t consider using Oko’s +1 ability offensively, instead anticipating it would mainly be used to turn your Food tokens into 3/3s. Instead, what happened was a format where playing essentially any powerful creature was pointless, as Oko would just turn it into an Elk and that would be that. On top of all this, Oko started on four loyalty and gained more while Elking everything in sight.
It didn’t take long for Oko to be banned into oblivion, but he remains the most powerful planeswalker ever printed by quite a wide margin. I’d listen to arguments that Jace shouldn’t be number two on this list, or that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria shouldn’t have been left off, but there’s no way you’re talking me out of Oko being the best planeswalker in Magic’s history.
It’s very interesting to examine how planeswalker power rankings have shifted over the years – when I started playing, it was ludicrous to think that Jace and Liliana were anything but the best, and back then even Elspeth, Knight-Errant was one of the best. What will come next? Will Modern Horizons 2 have the next Wrenn and Six? Who knows what the planeswalker power rankings might look like in a year’s time!