With Phyrexia: All Will Be One all but here, it's time to take a look at the foes of the Phyrexians, the ten planeswalkers who attacked New Phyrexia in the set. Of those given cards in the set (cough Elspeth cough), five were compleated, and five managed to escape the disastrous attack without contracting phyresis. Let's use the internet's traditional way of looking at these cards, with a top 10 list to see the cards, with the rankings based on Commander, and Constructed.
The one-time poster boy of magic has been compleated and it’s a bit sad that his spot here is so low. It’s not that Jace, the Perfected Mind is unplayable or anything, it’s just that he is very much for one deck: Mill. In that deck he is reasonably efficient, and can cost as little as 3 mana to come down.
Where he runs into problems is that his self-protection ability is weak, mill is very niche, and his draw card ability is essentially Visions of Beyond. It’s definitely no Jace, The Mind Sculptor who could Brainstorm for 0, and Unsummon a creature for -1.
If you want to build Mill, you may want to look at this Jace. It’s possible he could even see some play in a self-mill deck as he can dump 15 cards there for 3 mana, but given that kills him it doesn't feel like quite enough. Otherwise, give Phyrexian Jace a pass, and visit some old times with him instead if you want. Though maybe not the Mind Sculpter if you still want to have friends.
I should mention that even at the low end of this list, these are not bad planeswalkers. They are niche, but do some interesting things generally. The compleated mechanic for the 5 phyrexian walkers creates interesting modality for them, and we see Wizards breaking out a bit more of the planeswalker design space here.
With Nahiri, we’re lacking a strong protection ability, which is a major negative. Her +1 to force attack is okay (and means that creature can't attack her), as is her +1 to rummage (discard, than draw a card), but neither really have a direct board impact. Interestingly she doesn’t have any negative abilities, with her ‘main’ feature being a 0 that exiles a creature or equipment from your graveyard to make a token of it for a turn with haste. Given her effective cost of three mana, this might see some play in Standard, but the exiling part of it creates a problem that other resurrection effects are unable to get the cards back for older formats or Commander.
One particularly notable part is that equipment she brings come without being equipped, meaning you’ll need to pay that cost, unless it comes with a creature or equips to a creature when it comes into play. Ironically, that means in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, the compleated Nahiri wants to work with the Mirran Rebels to take advantage of the For Mirrodin! mechanic.
After a decade of leading Mirran resistance against Phyrexia Koth comes back and... he’s... okay. I mean there’s nothing wrong with Koth, it’s just that there’s nothing particularly interesting about him either. He fetches mountains (basics only), burns creatures, and has an ultimate that is basically a Valakut emblem.
He’s perfectly fine in a big red type of deck. He wants to be in a mono-red midrange or controlling deck. It’s just hard to get excited about the mechanics here as its a traditional planeswalker design, and a very clear echo of what he did the first time around.
Magic’s idiot in chief managed to compleat himself during the strike mission to Phyrexia, so we get a new red/green version that will cost 4 or 5 mana. There’s not a ton of flash to Lukka, but he’s overall pretty solid doing some neat things.
His +1 ability ramps up to bigger creatures, letting you have 7 mana potentially on Turn 5 without any other ramp or effects to play creatures or use their abilities. He also is capable of summoning decent protection with his -1 getting a 3/3 with Toxic 1 Phyrexian Beast token. Not huge, but a capable body to put there.
The big show though is his -4 ability, which if you cast him for 5 mana you can do right away. It deals damage equal to the highest powered creature you control, divided how you wish in creatures and planeswalkers. It can serve as a solid board wipe if you have a decent green creature out there or open a path for your guys to get through. Even if they kill your guy in response, Lukka is able to use it to base his damage as its based on when you activate the ability – which is a nice new wording for that type of ability here.
The Ninja returns, and has thus far survived the attack on New Phyrexia, and we see him pushing again into some interesting design space, as well as synergizing with Ninjas. Returning unblocked creatures to activate his loyalty ability again is a cool design and has a lot of room to play with in deck building or use, and lets you get more value from your planeswalker.
His +1 ability is somewhat weak as a removal option, though its flexibility helps, and if it was too strong it could easily be obnoxious with his passive ability, which it seems to avoid. Drawing a card gives a nice, safe default for the second activation if you don’t want to do anything else – who doesn’t need more cards? At a loyalty 0 cost, its free to do that.
The other key ability here is his -2 which creates a 2/2 Drone with deathtouch, that when it leaves the battlefield drains your opponents for 2 life each, and you gain 2 life. These are strong defenders for Kaito, and also good attackers for returning to your hand with his first ability, as that will trigger their drain if you have nothing else.
A cool design with lots of knobs here, the only concern is that it all feels a bit small at times.
Phyrexia All Will be One has some really sweet planeswalkers, and I can see some people arguing for Vraska at the top of the list, as she’s plenty strong. A veritable bomb in limited, everything points to her being strong in Commander, and possibly even other formats.
Her 0 loyalty ability to proliferate and draw a card (at the cost of 1 life) is the headliner here. It is effectively her +1, but for decks that care about counters, this is a huge boon, and should make her a staple in any Superfriends type decks (especially those with War of the Spark planeswalkers) landing on Turn 5 or 6. It's also good if your opponent has any poison counters as it increases that by 1, and you can increase all sorts of weird counters making this a versatile and powerful ability.
Her -2 ability is a solid protection ability and a really flavorful one for a gorgon. She looks at a creature, and turns it into a statue, which could also be called a treasure. Thus the creature in question becomes a treasure, and loses everything else. It’s a good kill ability, and a ton of fun.
Most of the Phyrexia: All Will Be One walkers lack the traditional Plus/Minus/Ultimate structure, but Vraska mostly sticks to it , and her final ability lets her put a player literally at the edge of death, by putting them at 9 poison counters. It’s a -9 cost so you can’t expect to get it all that often, but it is a pretty clear kill-a-player ultimate.
Seven mana is always a lot, even in Commander, but Kaya comes ready to earn it. First of all, she’s difficult to remove with Hexproof, and a solid 6 base loyalty so no quick tricks are getting her off the field. Second of all, she has some truly fantastic abilities to make use of.
Her +2 ability is relatively plain, causing your opponents to all lose 3 life, while gaining you 3, but it works for getting her loyalty up if you need it. Her 0 ability gives you a draw 2, while having your opponents scry 1, which is a minor cost for getting two cards like this.
The big thing here though is her -3 ability, which you can do right away. This ability lets you exile your opponent’s best creature or enchantment and turn it into a 1/1 flying spirit for you with all its abilities. Exile removal is already strong, and getting to almost steal their creature is just plain crazy and is why she’s so high on this list, along with Hexproof, despite her high mana cost.
Not everyone is high on this version of Tyvar, but I’m definitely drinking the kool-aid. The key to this three mana planeswalker is his passive ability letting you use activated abilities of creatures as though they had haste. This makes a range of creatures a lot better, as often the hardest part for a creature with a strong ability is surviving a turn to activate it.
While good abilities stand out on the surface level, it’s also got a lot of combo potential as well. I can see this seeing play in Modern and Pioneer Elf decks that use it to keep going, and in Commander Green/Black Elves will probably find a way to slot him in as well. You get this going with something like Leaf-Crowned Visionary, or the like and you can just keep playing mana elves as you dig through the deck.
Tyvar can also further support this with his +1 ability untapping a creature, letting you use one of those activated abilities twice in a turn, for even more craziness. If you are relying on small creatures with abilities and your opponent tries to stop you, Tyvar’s -2 lets you resurrect a creature with mana value 2 or less to the battlefield.
Tyvar does lack any ability to protect himself really, or to directly engage with your opponent, so he is more of an engine support piece, but he’s a highly interesting one.
While a cost of 7 is high, Nissa's compleated ability can lower it to 5 if you are willing to cut off some limbs (pay some life) and accept that she’s more loyal to Phyrexia than you right now, helping make her fair more playable.
She comes with two really big abilities that we care about, and one nice utility ability that will probably go unused a lot of the time. Her +1 ability is a strong protection ability, and will see her fitting into midrange green and token decks as it makes an X/X Phyrexian Horror where X is her loyalty. If you cast her for 5, that is a default of a 4/4, while at 7 mana she summons an 8/8 (remember, the loyalty there is a cost, so it applies first).
Her other big ability is her -7, which you can do right away if you play her for 7 mana. It’s an overrun on steroids type ability as it gives creatures you control +1/+1 for each forest you control, and trample. If you activate this you should be expecting to make all your creatures giant and end the game that turn, not disimilar to something like Craterhoof Behemoth.
The flexibility of cost and the utility of the creature are key to why Nissa is so high, and she is an excellent midrange or ramp card. She can come early and plug away with good creatures, or come late and demolish the game. Meanwhile, she also sneaks in a cheeky little -1 ability to destroy artifacts or enchantments, making her somehow even more flexible.
In first place, it is none other than Kamigawa’s Empress, the Wanderer who comes in with her second straight extremely strong card. Starting off she has an ability that most planeswalkers would kill for – especially in commander – that she can only be attacked by a single creature each combat. This stops opponents swarming over your blockers and gives her a lot of passive protection when she drops for 6 mana.
Her +1 ability invites you to put her in a blink deck, but you don’t need to have that as a dedicated influence. Because it returns a creature at the beginning of its owner’s next end step it can also remove a creature from attacking or block for a turn cycle as well. A sort of weaker pseudo-removal option for her that goes well with her passive.
At 0 she continues to deploy her Samurai, this time though they are 2/2’s with Double Strike as apparently the wakizashi is joining the katana out in battle. While nowhere near the monsters Nissa is summoning, it’s a respectable creature especially if you have any bonuses or equipment around.
Her final ability is the major one though as at -4, which you can do right away, you get to choose each of your opponents worst creatures and make them sacrifice the rest of them, while keeping your own best creature. This doesn’t target, you choose the creatures, making it a very strong mass removal ability that can get rid of all kinds of troublesome creatures that your opponent(s) might have.
The Eternal Wanderer’s strong protection, solid creatures, and mass removal ability all combine for her to be my pick as the best Phyrexia All Will Be One planeswalker. But, there’s a lot of good planeswalkers here, and if you wanted to argue for any of the top 5, I could probably see it. Tell me which is your favorite in the comments!