The Best Phyrexia: All Will Be One Planeswalkers

DarthJacen ranks the plethora of new planeswalkers in All Will Be One, with a focus on Pioneer and Explorer.


Every set, it feels like we get a few new Planeswalkers to shake up Pioneer – but once in a while, we get a set that overloads our senses by adding a whole squad of new Planeswalkers. Not only do new Planeswalkers tend to have some of the largest impact on a format, but they are also notoriously difficult to evaluate relative to their game-breaking power levels.

We saw sets like War of the Spark change the entire landscape of Magic thanks to adding thirty-plus Planeswalkers, many which now see play across various formats including Narset, Parter of Veils, Teferi, Time Raveler, and Karn, the Great Creator. While Phyrexia: All Will be One doesn’t quite match War of the Spark’s absurd number of Planeswalkers, ten is still plenty to shake up Standard and Pioneer.

So, of these ten new Planeswalkers, which will come to shake up Pioneer and become format staples and which will merely be a footnote in someone’s Scryfall search?

Compleated Keyword

First, we’ll need to go over the latest Planeswalker-specific keyword: Compleated. Much like static abilities on Planeswalkers from War of the Spark, this new keyword could heavily sway how we evaluate these Planeswalkers.

Planeswalkers with Compleated include Phyrexian mana in their cost and, if you choose to pay the two life rather than paying the mana of that color, they enter with two less loyalty. Since these Planeswalkers can come in a turn earlier with less loyalty, we’ll need to evaluate these Phyrexian Planeswalkers in both modes and consider if their cheaper cost with lower loyalty is a benefit or just a pitfall to avoid.

#10 Kaya, Intangible Slayer

We start off with the latest installment of Kaya, and there’s a glaring issue with this card: the mana value. It takes a lot for a Planeswalker to see play at seven mana. While cards like Karn Liberated jump to mind, even that card needed an entire deck built around cheating on mana to earn it play. While the effects on a seven-mana Planeswalker will always look impressive, the biggest issue is reaching seven mana safely, especially in non-green decks.

Kaya, Intangible Slayer costs {3WWBB}, has Hexproof, and enters with six loyalty counters. Her +2 drains for three life, which is a massive life total swing. It isn’t however, enough to stop an overwhelming onslaught of creatures. So, you will need to be at a relatively healthy life total or under little pressure for this ability to stabilize the board. However, on an empty board, having a free Creeping Chill each turn will kill quickly.

Next up, we have her +0 ability, which draws two cards and then each opponent may scry one. I have a real issue with this ability. While the draw two is great, especially in the mid to late game when she comes down, why do we need our seven-mana Planeswalker to give anything to the opponent? Is draw two on a seven-mana Planeswalker too powerful as a +0? If that were the case, I’d rather she does this ability as a -1 without offering your opponent a bonus scry. The reason this ability will still generally win the game is thanks to the decks that could feasibly cast this card. If you can comfortably reach seven mana in white and black, your two cards should easily outclass the best draw of an opponent. However, in a format with Treasure Cruise, Storm the Festival, and combo decks, you may not actually win that exchange in the end.

Finally, we have Kaya, Intangible Slayer’s -3 ability, which isn’t an ultimate or emblem, but instead is a nice removal ability that can benefit your board. If you minus on a creature or enchantment and it wasn’t an aura, you remove it for good and create a token copy of that permanent that is a base 1/1 flying spirit. Taking Fable of the Mirror Breaker or any large threat and removing it is always powerful, but making it your own does finally feel like a powerful enough ability to go on a seven-mana Planeswalker. If you are facing down a single threat and cast Kaya, all of a sudden you now have a threat, a Hexproof Planeswalker that will generate advantage, and a clear board from the opponent.

That’s the best-case scenario for this card and while that’s quite the nice situation, I suspect unless you are wrathing the turn before dropping this card, you’re much more likely to end up paying seven mana and being unhappy you put this card in your deck. Even if you are an Orzhov Midrange pile, maybe you should just add in another five-drop instead of this card.

#9 Nahiri, the Unforgiving

Nahiri, the Unforgiving is our first Phyrexian Planeswalker and, as you’ll notice, all the Phyrexian Planeswalkers are mythic while the non-Compleated Planeswalkers are all rare. Nahiri costs {1}{r}{rp/wp}{w}, meaning she can come in for three mana and two life or four mana. When she costs four, she enters with five loyalty and for three mana and two life, she enters with three loyalty. The biggest thing holding Nahiri back is her starting loyalty at three mana, but we’ll get to that soon.

Her first ability is a +1 that goads a creature. This can be especially powerful when you target smaller value creatures and force them to suicide into your blockers. Overall, though, these style of abilities tend to work best on high-loyalty Planeswalkers like Gideon Jura or in decks with large early blockers.

Her second ability is also a +1, but it mirrors Nahiri, the Harbinger by allowing you to discard a card, then draw a card. This pairs especially well with her +0 ability and helps you to dump clunky cards, reanimation threats, or combo pieces that work best from the graveyard.

Her main ability though, is her +0, which allows you to exile a creature or equipment card with mana less than Nahiri’s loyalty from your graveyard and then create a token copy of it. The token gains haste and you exile it at the beginning of the next end step. This is an incredibly powerful ability with a pair of three-drop combo pieces in the format – Greasefang, Okiba Boss, and Storm Herald.

The issue, as we mentioned earlier, is that you can only reanimate cards with mana value less than Nahiri’s loyalty. Not “less than or equal to”, as we often see. This especially hurts this card, since both Greasefang and Storm Herald want to play their threat on turn three and Nahiri can’t recur them from the graveyard unless you pay four mana.

If Nahiri started at one higher loyalty, she would be the perfect piece to help push Mardu Greasefang and Storm Herold combo decks a step further by adding in a nice way to recur these threats in case they are discarded or killed earlier in the game. While Can’t Stay Away is an option in Mardu already, being able to loot away cards is a great additional bit of value in both these decks. If either of these decks are going to incorporate this card, it will give added redundancy, while slowing down the decks. Both these decks are looking to go off as early and consistently as possible, so slowing down for redundancy often makes your overall gameplan worse.

If these decks can find a way to make Nahiri work, they’ll both get a powerful upgrade. Unfortunately, neither deck is currently a big competitor and that means Nahiri would need to do more heavy lifting to elevate these decks than I suspect she’s capable of.

#8 Koth, Fire of Resistance

The original Koth, Koth of the Hammer, came out before I started playing Magic. Once I got a little experience with Cube, I finally got my hand on that four-mana Planeswalker. It was one of the best ways to kill control opponents and constantly threatened any deck without Planeswalker removal, which was much rarer back then.

Since then, I’ve seen plenty of three and four-mana red Planeswalkers that can pressure control or midrange and take over the game. The best example being Chandra, Torch of Defiance, which was a great option in both red aggro and big red decks. This Koth – Koth, Fire of Resistance, wants to be a powerful four-mana red threat, but feels lackluster outside of big red, which generally fails to match red aggro’s power and presence.

Koth, Fire of Resistance has a couple of synergistic abilities that culminate in a difficult-to-beat emblem. First up, we have the +2, which allows this 2{R}{R} Planeswalker to go from the starting four loyalty up to six! You get to search your library for a basic Mountain and put it into your hand. That’s right, your four-mana red Planeswalker starts at six and draws a Mountain. That’s not quite how I envisioned the return of Koth if I’m being honest.

Well, how about his -3? You deal damage to target creature equal to the number of Mountains you control. We’re seeing the payoff to the +2 here, but it does reinforce the idea that Koth, Fire of Resistance can only exist in a Mono Red deck. Being able to presumably deal five to a creature is very nice, especially in a format with Sheoldred, The Apocalypse, but not being able to kill Planeswalkers or deal the damage to an opponent does feel a little overly weak for no reason.

Finally, after two +2, you can ultimate Koth with a -7, which gives you an emblem that deals four to any target when a Mountain enters the battlefield under your control. Now, that’s a game-winning ability that makes a lot of sense with this card’s ‘Mountains Matter’ subtheme. While the emblem is back-breaking, it does put into question what kind of deck wants this card, given we don’t have a Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle-style deck in Pioneer.

Koth could be a really interesting addition to Chonky Red decks, but it’s been some time since those made any noise in Pioneer, and I doubt this will change that fact.

#7 Kaito, Dancing Shadow

We have the return of Kaito Shizuki from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. This time around, Kaito, Dancing Shadow is a four-drop that enters with three loyalty. It also has a static ability: ‘Whenever one or more creatures you control deal combat damage to a player, you may return one of them to its owner’s hand. If you do, you may activate loyalty abilities of Kaito twice this turn rather than only once.’

This static ability means that if you have plenty of enter-the-battlefield abilities, you can get repeated value off your creatures and get a bonus activation of your Planeswalker. While this is a very powerful ability conceptually, often these style of abilities prove difficult to manage, since you are trading board presence for extra activations.

So, what are these activations you get multiple of? First off, you have a +1, which makes up to one target creature unable to attack or block until your next turn. Bubbling creatures so they can’t do anything for a turn cycle is very powerful and means your opponent can’t just leave a single creature back to stop your assault. This also means you can protect Kaito since you can prevent attacks from your opponent’s best threat.

Next up, we have +0 draw a card. Simple, clean, elegant. You can draw a card for no loyalty. If you use the static ability, you can even draw two cards a turn. This is particularly powerful in midrange decks that have flash threats, since you can bounce your attacker, draw two cards, and potentially replay your threat with added interaction. It’s the best ability on Kaito and would make this card much better if it wasn’t predicated on connecting with a creature to make it a draw two.

Finally, we have the -2, which creates a 2/2 artifact creature with deathtouch and “when this creature leaves the battlefield, each opponent loses two life and you gain two life”. This is a reasonable ability and mirrors the -2 of Kaito Shizuki while giving a little boost to account for the extra mana cost. This is the perfect creature to block against aggro and works well to trigger your static ability on an empty board, but a four-mana 2/2 with deathtouch isn’t really worth it in Pioneer, so you’ll need this card to earn its value off the +1 and +0, which seems potentially dubious.

This is another example of a card not really having a home and not being powerful enough to make one either.

#6 Nissa, Ascended Animist

Nissa has had some of the most impactful Planeswalker cards in the past few years, including Nissa, Who Shakes the World. While that Nissa has mostly fallen out of favor, we now have a new Nissa to try and reinvigorate her presence in the format. Nissa, Ascended Animist is a seven-mana Planeswalker, but she comes with Compleated and can cost five mana and four life, six mana and two life, or seven mana. The flexibility of Compleated does a lot to help push Nissa well above Kaya.

Her baseline (assuming you pay full rate) is seven loyalty, and she can use her ultimate ability immediately. Otherwise, she loses two loyalty for each set of two life spent to cast her, meaning she could come in at three or five loyalty, respectively.

Like most of the Compleated Planeswalkers, her abilities are obviously stronger when paying the full rate, but even discounted, she does some powerful things. Her +1 creates an X/X where X is Nissa, Ascended Animist’s loyalty. This checks after you’ve activated her +1, meaning you would get a 4/4, 6/6, or 8/8 depending on her paid cost. Five-mana for a 4/4 isn’t a bad rate – especially when it comes with a Planeswalker attached – and each additional mana spent makes her harder to kill and the creature even bigger. The key about this ability is that it makes an army of continuously larger threats very quickly. Even for five mana, you can make a 4/4, then a 5/5, then a 6/6 all while increasing her loyalty.

Next up, you have her -1, which is cheap enough to not feel too bad to use even when you cast her for five mana and two life. Her -1 is a nice clean Naturalize – destroy target artifact or enchantment. While it isn’t flashy, in a world with plenty of vehicles and other targets, this is a nice repeatable ability.

Finally, we have her ultimate, which is a -7 and gives your creatures +1/+1 until end of turn for each Forest you control, and they gain trample. The key here is that your creatures – the ones you made earlier with your +1 especially – get trample. We’ve seen what a difference there is between Overrun and Overrun variants. This ability will allow you to play a seven-mana Planeswalker and just win the game a non-zero amount of the time. Otherwise, it’s a nice threatening ability if your opponent can’t clear your board or your Planeswalker.

Overall, Nissa, Ascended Animist is a really powerful Planeswalker, but she’s best at seven mana. At five mana and four life, she feels a little underpowered to me. She’ll do a great job of gumming up the ground if she goes unchecked, but in the matchups where you need that, four life is a lot to pay. Also, many of the aggressive decks in Pioneer leverage fliers (Angels, Phoenix and Spirits) meaning these big blockers won’t do much to protect your Nissa.

The best thing I can say for Nissa in terms of fitting into Pioneer is that while you can’t hit her off Storm the Festival, she can cost five mana and four life and provide four green pips for Nykthos. Plus, she works well in a deck running nearly all Forests and that might want to destroy Pithing Needles and other artifact hate cards. That being said, I wouldn’t expect her to find too much traction in current Pioneer decks, even though she’s innately very powerful.

#5 The Eternal Wanderer

We now have the return of yet another Planeswalker from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. While The Wandering Emperor became a major staple in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern, how will The Eternal Wanderer stack up? Well, she costs six mana, which is already a bit concerning, and she enters with five loyalty. However, she also has a static ability like Kaito does: “No more than one creature can attack The Eternal Wanderer each combat.”

Six mana is a lot to pay for a Planeswalker, but her static ability protects her from getting attacked by a squad of small creatures, which makes up the majority of aggressive decks in the format right now. While it doesn’t entirely protect her, it does a good job of ensuring she is likely to survive one combat at least.

Her +1 ability is a little odd in the context of her other abilities. It allows you to exile up to one target artifact or creature and bring it back at the beginning of that player’s next end step. I suspect this will end up being the least-used ability, unless decks that want a six-mana white Planeswalker drastically change in composition. The only exception is Mono-White Midrange, which plays plenty of good blink targets like Yorion, Sky Nomad and Charming Prince, which can do brutal things in the mid to late game with free blinks every turn.

Next up, we have her +0, which creates a 2/2 white Samurai token with double strike. This works very well at protecting The Eternal Wanderer, since it can eat or trade with most threats, meaning they would need a 5/5 or bigger to profitably attack The Eternal Wanderer through the 2/2.

Lastly, we have her -4, which she can do immediately and survive. This final ability has you choose a creature for both players (one they control) and sacrifice all the creatures they control not chosen. This is almost like a Tragic Arrogance, but you each get a creature. Obviously, you’ll keep your best threat and leave them with their worst one, which is great, but can prove costly if they remove that threat and kill your Planeswalker.

I suspect this card will see play in Mono-White Midrange or in BW midrange decks, but will have limited effectiveness outside of those two styles of decks.

#4 Lukka, Bound to Ruin

Lukka, Bound to Ruin was one of the hardest cards to place for me until fellow Playing Pioneer writer Bailey (BCS8995) pointed out just how good this card could be in Gruul Vehicles. But before we breakdown the specifics, let’s take a step back and look at Lukka.

Starting off Bound to Ruin”] costs {2}{R}{RP/GP}{G}, meaning he can come down for five mana with five loyalty or come down with three loyalty for four mana and two life. Like many of the other Compleated Planeswalkers, he has a very different play pattern depending on how much mana you pay to cast him.

We start with his +1, which adds {G}{R} to your mana pool, which can only be spent on spells or activated abilities of creatures. While not being able to use this to cast vehicles can be a pain, virtually any deck that would play Lukka has plenty of creatures, and you can double-spell on turn four with a Planeswalker and a two-drop, much like Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the past.

While the +1 is alright, it’s the next two abilities that earn Lukka a slot this high on the list. The -1 is a powerful tool to pressure control decks or block out smaller aggro decks. Repeatedly making 3/3s with Toxic 1 should be able to help stabilize or threaten, even if the Toxic 1 is likely flavor text. Once again though, this ability fits perfectly into Gruul Vehicles, since a 3/3 can crew Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Plus, since it’s a token, you can generate extra copies with Chariot attacks.

Finally, we have the -4, which can happen immediately if you pay the full five for Lukka. This lets you deal X damage divided as you choose among any creatures and or Planeswalkers where X is the greatest power among creatures you controlled as you activated this ability. The key here is that even if your opponent removes your large threat with this ability on the stack, you still get to deal X where the now removed creature’s power counts. This is especially good with Skysovereign, Consul Flagship since you can play the boat, deal three, then crew it and deal six as needed. When given haste, that can be twelve points of damage split among creatures and Planeswalkers.

We’ve seen how good Fury is in Modern, and while this ability is far from Fury when you add in the free side or the ability to cheat it back into play with Undying effects, it still does a great job of massacring creature decks and possibly winning games on the spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lukka ends up being the highest-impact Planeswalker on this list in the end, since the -1 and -4 are both spectacular. The only thing holding it back is the lackluster +1 and the lack of explosiveness gained by playing this at four mana rather than five.

#3 Jace, The Perfected Mind

Jace finally bit the oil and is now a Phyrexian sleeper agent. While we’ve seen plenty of four-mana Jace Planeswalker cards, including Jace the Mind Sculptor, this Jace has the benefit of being Compleated and can be three mana or four mana. Three-mana Planeswalkers are generally incredibly powerful, since they can sneak under interaction and apply immediate pressure to the board.

Jace enters with five loyalty counters when paid in full and three when paid in part with life. His abilities all fit reasonably into any deck that wants to elongate the game and fill its graveyard, but it specifically works best in an unexpected place: Dimir Thassa’s Oracle. We’ve seen this deck start to show up in small numbers with Demonic Bargain, Treasure Cruise, Stitcher’s Supplier, and more tools that help churn through your deck. The biggest issue is surviving the early game and getting through your deck fast enough and Jace, the Perfected Mind works to solve both those problems.

His +1 gives up to one target creature -3/-0 until your next turn. This means the creature is effectively removed from attacking and can’t pressure your Jace as well.

Next up, we have his -2, which allows you to have target player mill three cards (usually going to be self-mill), then you draw one card unless a graveyard has twenty or more cards in it; then you draw three. This is Visions of Beyond on a Planeswalker and works beautifully in any Treasure Cruise deck that wants to fill its yard and draw extra cards.

Finally, we have Jace’s last ability which is -X and has target player mill three times X cards. This can be used to mill out an opponent, set up the -2 to draw three, or to get your library empty. Four mana to mill fifteen isn’t the best rate, but for Pioneer, it does a great job of ending mid to late games or setting up a kill with Thassa’s Oracle.

Jace is an incredibly powerful tool, but it needs the right shell and can’t just go into any blue deck. I think Jace, the Perfect Mind has the potential to be a great asset to many decks in Pioneer, but I do wish it had a little more power when played on turn three.

#2 Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting

Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting looks a lot better to me now than when I first saw it. There is a high bar for a six-mana Planeswalker to be playable, but more than any other Compleated Planeswalker, she functions as a great tool when you pay the life and one less mana.

Vraska comes in with six loyalty to start (four if you paid the life instead of mana) and can immediately answer any target creature or start drawing cards and proliferating – a key theme of the set. While her ultimate may be somewhat lackluster compared to other Vraska Planeswalkers, her other abilities are very strong.

We start with a {+0}, which lets you draw a card, lose one life, and proliferate. In black, this fits all the themes, but with the amount of Toxic, Oil Counters, and more in the new set, I wouldn’t be surprised if the {+0} can vary between being a {+1} draw a card, lose a life and {+1} draw a card, lose a life, add a handful of value to your board.

Editor’s note: {+1} here is referencing the additional loyalty counter placed on Vraska after the proliferate ability resolves.

Her -2 works to ensure that you can answer any creature threat by turning it into a Treasure. While this certainly isn’t an amazing form of removal, since it gives your opponent a resource, there are plenty of creatures I’d much rather be a Treasure than stay on the board unchecked. This also doesn’t destroy or exile – it simply turns that creature into a Treasure, meaning you can’t blow it out like an enchantment that turns creatures into Treasures.

Finally, we have the -9, which brings a target player from any number of poison counters up to nine. It does add those counters, so you can easily win with a single proliferate or if you have any abilities that add one counter, like Winding Constrictor.

Where I’m most interested in this card is any potential toxic decks, any deck that has plenty of Planeswalkers or counters to proliferate, and in one specific throwback deck: Sultai Ultimatum. We saw a Sultai Midrange deck in Pioneer that played Yorion, Sky Nomad, various Planeswalkers, wraths, and removal to keep the board clear. Then, you could cast Emergent Ultimatum to fetch Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, Liliana, Dreadhorde General, and Alrund’s Epiphany. This trio ensured you either won the game instantly or attacked for fourteen or more and take an extra turn. Now, you can add in Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting as an additional instant win with Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, since if she enters with double the counters, she can instantly ultimate and the added counters double, killing the opponent.

Having multiple powerful Planeswalkers that can instantly win the game alongside Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider means your combos become more redundant and easier to find without having to overload on the same effects. Overall, I suspect Vraska will find a home in most black-based midrange and control decks that are already using Planeswalkers as their main threats. Pairing Vraska with other Planeswalkers or creatures with counters makes her +0 incredible and worth a slot.

#1 Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler

While this is a list of the best Planeswalkers in ONE, I can confidently say that there is a big gap between everything on this list so far and Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler. I know we can easily be swayed by the power of three-mana Planeswalkers thanks to Narset, Parter of Veis, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Teferi, Time Revealer, but Tyvar is the real deal.

This three-mana walker has a static ability that allows you to activate abilities of creatures you control as though they had haste. That makes mana dorks free, cards like Fiend Artisan no longer weak to immediate removal, and hundreds of other examples. While this card is yet another combo with Devoted Druid in Modern, in Pioneer it has shells like Elves that will benefit greatly from having hasty activations.

But let’s dive right into his loyalty abilities with his +1, which untaps up to one creature. Remember that comment about mana dorks being free? Well, now they generate mana the turn they’re cast. Elves like Circle of Dreams Druid can now threaten to generate seemingly infinite mana right off the bat. If you get to generate a few mana, untap the Circle of Dreams Druid, and do it again, that can be a back-breaking mana advantage. There are hundreds of powerful creatures with activated abilities and getting to use those abilities twice the turn you play that creature fundamentally breaks the rules of Magic.

You can double use Elvish Reclaimer, Priest of Forgotten Gods, Cryptbreaker, any mana dork, Elvish Clancaller, Fauna Shaman, and many more. This ability will drastically shake up how we have to evaluate creatures with activated abilities, and I suspect it will heavily impact Pioneer.

Well, that’s certainly enough to warrant consideration, but we have another ability. Since Tyvar enters with three loyalty, you can immediately use his {-2} as well, which mills three cards, then you may return a creature with mana value two or less from your graveyard to the battlefield. Remember all those incredibly powerful cards that you want to activate immediately and that your opponent needs to remove immediately? How about reanimating them for free? Cards like Deathrite Shaman, Fiend Artisan, and more all work amazingly here as value cards to reanimate and activate immediately.

Both of Tyvar’s abilities fit perfectly with his static ability, and that’s a huge boon for any Planeswalker. I think Tyvar is an incredible card and I would be shocked if it didn’t make waves right away in Pioneer.

Wrapping Up

There you have it: the best Planeswalkers in Phyrexia: All Will be One! You should be set to hit the ground running heading into the first few weeks of Pioneer after ONE drops. While there are tons of powerful cards in this set that are primed to shake up Pioneer, often it’s the Planeswalkers that have the biggest impact off the bat and this crop of Planeswalkers certainly have the power level to do some damage.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe out there!

  • DarthJacen

    Pioneer Competitive Guide

    Darthjacen has been playing Magic since Dark Ascension and plays Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Limited. With a Grand Prix win in 2015 and an SCG Team Top 4 in 2019, he continues to pursue competitive Magic at every turn.

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One comment

  1. This part seems slightly incorrect or at least a bit ambiguous: “Once again though, this ability fits perfectly into Gruul Vehicles, since a 3/3 can crew both Esika’s Chariot and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.” Esika’s Chariot is Crew 4 so the token can’t crew it by itself.

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