What Is The Best Planeswalker In Standard Right Now?
Planeswalkers have been a large part of Standard over the past year. So with that in mind, which planeswalker is set to dominate in Hour of Devastation Standard?
We will be looking at three of the top planeswalkers; Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. Gideon of course has been the dominant force in Standard for a while now, but Chandra has been gaining popularity in the online leagues and Nicol Bolas is looking powerful in preseason testing.
The three planeswalkers will be assessed on five different areas of performance; Offence, Defence, Immediate Impact, Self-protection and Versatility. This should give us a true understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each Planeswalker.
In this area Nicol Bolas is very weak. Despite being very powerful and his on board presence leading to game wins the card itself is not an attacking card. Other than his -4 dealing a fair amount of damage to the opponent all his abilities are all very control based. Additionally his high mana cost means he is exceptionally slow and very unlikely to see play in an aggressive deck.
Chandra is certainly better than Bolas when on the attack. Her first ability can easily translate into either damage or card advantage. Her second ability allows for a very powerful follow up play such as Bloodrage Brawler. Whilst her third ability can remove a blocker. So whilst these are not incredibly attacking abilities they certainly have the ability to cause problems when on the attack. She certainly deserves a spot in either Green-Red Stompy or Big Red deck lists.
The best offensive weapon here though is definitely Gideon. His first ability is a four turn clock on it’s own. Not only this but the Indestructible often makes for very awkward blocks. His second ability is a shortcut to amassing a huge army. And his emblem is an anthem effect available from the moment he comes out. All of this comes together as a Planeswalker perfectly positioned to take advantage of any defensive holes.
Here Gideon is far less potent. Whilst his emblem and creature production can certainly help, they often do not impact the board enough to save a defensive situation. And to add to this that his ability to turn into a creature is almost always totally irrelevant when attacking is not a viable option and his defensive qualities are really quite disappointing.
Chandra however is about as good on defence as she is on offence. Her first ability allowing you to dig for answers whilst her second allows you to facilitate huge game-swinging turn sequences. Her potential to deal damage to a creature is often an answer on its own. Whilst if you ever hit her emblem you will win the game no matter how bad the situation looks beforehand.
It is Nicol Bolas that is the king of defence however. His first ability is surprisingly good card advantage. Bolas’ second ability limits your opponents options with their removal spells since if they hold on to them they will get exiled. The burn ability can either get in the final damage or just destroy almost any creature played in the format. And the ultimate is literally the ultimate wrath effect. You will not be on the defensive for much longer if that goes off.
Here Gideon fairs far better than he did on defence. His ability to either create a token or simply apply an anthem effect as soon as he comes out is very powerful, often leading to a surprise win or a temporary solution to a threat. Even his first ability allows for a vehicle crew that may not have been possible before his arrival.
Once again however Chandra is very consistent. She has multiple options within her four impactful abilities. Her second one allowing that follow up play I have mentioned before whilst her -3 can be effective removal. Both of these can influence a game greatly and at speed. This speed giving her a strong impact when she enters the battlefield.
Neither Chandra nor Gideon have an immediate impact to match that of Nicol Bolas however. His first ability gives a far easier follow up play than Chandra whilst his burn ability is simply better than Miss Nalaar’s. The seven damage essentially removing a creature of your choice, or even finish an opponent off: an option not available to Chandra. This leads to him to dominate this category until you remember how much more mana he costs than his counterparts. If I am spending 7 mana on a card I would expect it to have a major immediate impact and any less would simply be unacceptable.
Gideon is exceptionally powerful in the correct deck and scenario but when one of those cannot be supplied his lack of versatility is painfully obvious. He is all about attacking. Nothing on him give card advantage, answers or even threats. He needs to enter a dominant board state to be anywhere near useful. This leading him to be far too inconsistent.
Once again Chandra is strong. She can ramp you into a bigger guy, provide card advantage or a clock, be a removal spell and even a straight win condition. All without outside assistance. She has versatility in quantities to compete with a good pen knife!
Bolas too is versatile, however his lack of offensive abilities can become obvious when both players are drawing blanks. With the ability to remove threats both before and after they enter the battlefield, provide card advantage as well as a reset button he has much versatility within his control. He is as a whole far more versatile than Gideon but no match for Chandra.
Gideon does have a fair amount of self protection. His token once again could act as a chump blocker. But against far wider board states he is unlikely to survive.
Both Chandra and Bolas share the same protection: Burn. Both can kill a creature played on curve with them. However both of these two are also exceptionally weak to weenie. Often more so than Gideon due to them using minus abilities to try and stabilise the board. As a result expect to sideboard in a wrath or mass burn spell in these matches.
The Final Verdict
As a whole I believe Chandra, Torch of Defiance to be the best planeswalker in Standard right now. She fits very well into many decks and is not overly weak in any match up due to her versatile nature. Gideon is still very playable but is simply too irrelevant in too many situations right now. I expect to see Bolas is Grixis control however outwith this he is just too hard to play despite his incredible power level.
Long live our new Queen of Standard: Chandra Nalaar.
Let me know in the comments who your favourite Planeswalker is.
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Thanks for reading,