The Top 5 Most Powerful Magic: The Gathering Planeswalkers Ever Printed
If you’ve followed my articles on Manaleak.com over the past year, you may have seen a few articles where I poll the Magic: The Gathering community on a particular topic and then post an article with the results. I enjoy these articles because of the strong role the community plays in their creation. Not only are the results entirely based upon the results of the polls, but I greatly enjoy the conversations between players, communities and how they integrate to form consensus.
I recently polled the MTG community to see what players deem to be the most powerful Magic: The Gathering Planeswalkers ever printed. Of course, there were those who voted for Storm Crow the Storm Bringer, Deathrite Shaman, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded, and John Cena. Nevertheless, eventually the top five Planeswalkers clearly surfaced by the end of the poll.
MTG players voted based on their own criteria, based on either the card’s ability to interact with the board state (and how quickly), card advantage, or raw power. You may not be surprised by the winner, which won by a landslide, but first let’s take a look at who else made the cut…
The honourable mentions were fairly disparate as far as criteria, format, mana costs, and power level was concerned:
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound – The recent “flip Jace”, “baby Jace”, or more accurately “transform Jace” took Standard by storm when it was printed in Magic Origins. At the height of its popularity, Jace’s price came close to $100 as it was a mainstay of Vintage, Legacy, Modern, and Standard.
Dack Fayden – Immediately after its printing in Conspiracy, Dack Fayden started to see Legacy and Vintage play. Dack’s ability to steal artifacts aligns well with the Moxes of eternal formats, and makes it an incredibly popular EDH bomb.
Garruk, Apex Predator – Part of the Apex Predator’s appeal is tied to recent Standard nostalgia, though much can be said for its raw power level. Garruk helps at all stages of the game, from board parity catching up on board state, to staying ahead in late game. Immediately taking care of a creature or Planeswalker is almost Karn-level powerful, and pumping out a 3/3 with deathtouch each turn can quickly take over the game. The Apex Predator was popular in Theros–Khans Standard for breaking the Abzan Midrange mirror wide open, and its legacy lives on in EDH.
And now for the…
Top Five Most Powerful Magic: The Gathering Planeswalkers Ever Printed!
Kicking off with…
Coincidentally, as we prepare to see the newest iteration of Nicol Bolas in Amonkhet, the enigmatic Elder Dragon makes his way into our list of the most powerful Planeswalkers. In Extended and the early days of Modern, Bolas saw play in various Grixis Control shells, as the ability to blow up a noncreature permanent each turn could quickly turn the tide of a game.
Recently the eyes of Modern brewers widened to the potential of playing Bolas alongside Oath of Nissa in Tron. This new Oath of the Gatewatch card enables the Urza lands found in the much-beloved Tron to cast the three-colour walker with no trouble. Chances are, by the time Bolas reaches the ultimate ability, the game is almost over.
Bolas. Always Bolas. https://t.co/2MwbHAQ6s8
— MJ Scott (@moxymtg) June 2, 2016
With such a long history of popularity among Magic players, it’s no wonder Tezzeret isn’t the only Slave of Bolas in the Multiverse.
Speaking of Tron…
How do you define Tron as an archetype? According to many, Tron is defined by a turn three Karn Liberated. At 7 mana, Karn is perfectly costed if all three Urza lands are in play by turn three, and Karn can run away with a game at a blistering pace from there.
Let’s talk about Karn’s raw power level: Firstly, it comes in at 6 loyalty for 7 mana. Depending on your frame of reference this may not seem like a lot, but the first activation can jump it up to 10 loyalty in the blink of an eye. Whether you’re trying to empty your opponent’s hand or ready yourself for an ultimate, this is a truly unique and blisteringly powerful Planeswalker ability. If you’re worried about anything your opponent has on board, Karn has the ability to straight up demolish it (like a literal Demolish, but better).
How many turns does it take for Karn to ultimate if left unchecked? Three. As early as turn five, this bad boy can restart the game and put into play whatever cards became exiled with either of Karn’s abilities before reaching the magical fourteen loyalty. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn? Sure. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? You got it. Karn makes it onto this list not just for its place in the Tron archetype and ability to be powered out on turn three, but also by the sheer power level the Golem possesses.
Speaking of Ugin…
A strong argument can be made that Karn should be at number three on our ranking simply because of its influence on Tron’s early game. In fact, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is often referred to as Tron’s “backup” Planeswalker on most occasions. Nonetheless, when the final results were tallied Ugin came out just barely ahead as the more powerful Planeswalker found in the Tron archetype. ability to quickly churn out ridiculous amounts of mana enables it to play some of the most powerful Planeswalkers ever printed.
What does Ugin have to offer? While Karn is able to quickly steal a game if left contested, but has a somewhat limited ability to interact with the board, Ugin makes an impact on almost all board states. If you’re behind, Ugin can wipe the slate clean. At board parity or later, Ugin’s Lightning Bolt ability does wonders, especially in the Modern format. Finally, the ability to draw seven cards and dump seven permanents on the battlefield is good no matter the format (seven life is good too, I suppose).
Based on power level alone, Ugin comes in at number three, though recent Standard nostalgia may have also contributed to its placing. The final two are at the top of the list for their influence on all stages of the game, and the sheer amount of play they have seen across all formats.
Liliana of the Veil has redefined what a three-mana planeswalker can accomplish – or what a black planeswalker can accomplish, for that matter. Over the course of a long, grindy game of Magic, Liliana slowly builds up card advantage whilst keeping your opponent’s board state in check.
That advantage is accrued by several ways: First, by stripping cards from your opponent’s hand, whilst discarding cards not effective a specific match up or those which interact well with being in the graveyard (i.e. Lingering Souls, or spells that can be hit with Snapcaster Mage). Second, by forcing your opponent to sacrifice a creature (“You’re playing Bogles? What a shame…”). Finally, if Liliana reaches the ultimate ability, games tend to end pretty quickly, as it turns out it’s hard to play Magic without permanents.
A mainstay in every format the card has touched, “LotV” ranks high on the scale of Planeswalkers who shape the course of a game in powerful fashion. However, Lili couldn’t quite scratch the high ceiling set by the one and only…
Our final Planeswalker is so powerful, it has never been legal in Modern and was actually banned in Standard before its natural rotation. That’s right, I’m talking about Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Was there any doubt we’d end up here?
Good ol’ ‘Brainstorm-on-a-stick’ checks all right boxes: Early game impact, card advantage, board interaction, and the ability to close out the game with a destructive ultimate. In the formats where JtMS is actually legal, four-mana is laughably easy to generate. On its first turn, bouncing a creature back to its owner’s hand only puts Jace down to 2 loyalty, though you might also enjoy casting a free Brainstorm or starting the clock on your opponent’s inevitable fate by ticking upward from the onset.
It may take awhile to reach the ultimate ability, but decks that can best utilise the Mind Sculptor have their own ways to win the game that probably involves the sheer avalanche of card advantage Jace provides.
Currently priced between $60-80, Jace, the Mind Sculptor wins the title of the Most Powerful Planeswalker Ever Printed by a landslide. The card has seen three printings, most recently in Eternal Masters, but demand will always be high with players wanting to get into Eternal formats. It is unlikely we will ever see another Planeswalker quite on the same level as “JtMS”, and rightly so.
Community Question: What did you think of the list? Was there a Planeswalker you wish could have made it onto the list? Which Planeswalker holds the most sentimental value for you, or perhaps whose lore particular grabs your attention? Let us know in the comment section!
Thanks for reading,