Magic: The Gathering players all have their brewing hats on this week thanks to the announcement of a brand-new competitive MTG format called Pioneer. The new format gives players an interesting timespan of cards to work with and the limited ban list at launch really makes the sky the limit in terms of what kind of decks players will bring to the table. It should go without saying that regaining access to some iconic planeswalkers is one of the most exciting aspects of the new format.
As if Standard wasn't already going crazy with a brand new super powerful planeswalker, now players who are making Pioneer decks have a giant pool of other walkers to choice from. As decks start coming together, there are a handful of planeswalkers who are sure to make the cut for a ton of lists thanks to their past performance.
Power levels of planeswalkers obviously depend on the field of decks in the metagame and the cards that support them. That said, we can still make some strong predictions about which planeswalkers will return to their former (or current) glory as Pioneer starts to take off...
Oko, Thief of Crowns
Oh, Oko. Don't think taking a break from Standard is going to get you away from this already iconic planeswalker. Ever since Oko, Thief of Crowns was spoiled, fans knew that it was going to be a format-defining card. That has definitely held up as a true and some pros are already debating whether or not Oko is the most powerful planeswalker ever printed.
Just take a look at Sam Black's recent take on the planeswalker...
"When it's cast on an empty battlefield, the only thing to do with Oko is to use the +2 ability and create a Food token. This means that you have a Food token and a six-loyalty planeswalker and your opponent has nothing, but it's their turn. If they cast a creatures that's 3/3 or smaller, you have a choice – you can either use Oko's second ability to go up to seven loyalty and turn your Food token into a creature that beats or trades with theirs in combat, or you can use Oko's third ability to give your opponent your Food and take their creature, leaving your Oko at one loyalty, and then you also get to cast another spell. Assuming that's just some creature, you now either have two creatures to their one and a seven-loyalty planeswalker or two creatures to their zero and a one-loyalty planeswalker."
Liliana, the Last Hope
To get an idea of how excited players are to play with this walker again, just take a look at the price spike starting the day Pioneer was announced. This version of the iconic black mana planeswalker went from $4 to $25 in quite a hurry over the last week. Liliana is packed with power and has the potential to cause death and graveyard mayhem the second she hits the battlefield. An aggressive +1 ability and a -2 that allows the chance to fill up the graveyard (which is going to be needed with no fetch lands around) makes this walker everything that a lot of black decks are going to be looking for. And that's not even mentioning her game-winning ultimate ability that can overrun most decks in the field.
Ugin, The Spirit Dragon
Ugin is one of the most powerful planeswalkers ever printed in Magic, despite its steep mana cost. The fact that it is still near the top of the list despite costing eight mana should give a hint as to just how serious its abilities are. There will be a few different Pioneer deck archetypes that want to take advantage of Ugin, including a lot of ramp decks, but its really going to be another major tool for control players.
What would a new format be without an infinite combo planeswalker? Although Saheeli may be part of a deck that eventually gets a few pieces banned, there's nothing holding her back at the start of the format. Expect to see a ton of Saheeli Rai decks as players try to crack the fastest way to go infinite and infuriate opponents with this planeswalker.
The next three planeswalkers will often be seen in the same decklist, so get ready for the Narset, Teferi, Teferi powerhouse. To kick things off, Narset offers just an insane about of card advantage and the ability to get through your deck to the spells that really matter. The fun doesn't stop there though. Once the correct spells are in hand, Narset takes things a step further by offering some degenerate opportunities for recursion thanks to her -2 ability.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Teferi, Time Raveler
The blue/white control deck is going to drive a lot of players absolutely mad and both versions of Teferi are partly to blame for that. The obnoxious combo of planeswalkers that this deck is going to run will constantly feed the control player with card advantage and spells right when they need them, all while locking opponent's out of some crucial instant speed interactions. There will be some aggro decks fast enough to take this strategy down, but you don't want to be the mid-range player going up against these walkers.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Control isn't going to be the only path to victory for fans of white mana decks though. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a super versatile planeswalker that's able to go for the head or create a little white weenie army to overtake the battlefield. Whether in an aggro deck or a control deck, Gideon is a great win condition is a perfect tool for white mana base decks.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
So, does Jace, Vryn's Prodigy count as a planewalker? Considering the impact that this flip creature/planeswalker had on Standard during its original release, it seems too important not to include on the list. Vryn's Prodigy is great at filtering through some cards on the creature side and, once flipped over to Jace, Telepath Unbound, the fun can really begin. Telepath Unbound is sure to be a crucial piece of many deck strategies and players should get used to finding early ways to kill the creature side before opponent's get the chance to take full advantage of it.
As the format continues to evolve and grow, it will be very exciting to see how each planeswalker performs and if there are any other surprise walkers who end up being super powerful in the Pioneer environment.
Be sure to check back in the near future for more Magic: The Gathering strategy guides, news, and updates. Until then, draw well, planeswalkers!
Magic Arena is available now in select regions on Android and iOS devices. The Magic: The Gathering Throne of Eldraine expansion set will release October 4, 2019.