Your Planeswalker Rankings & Modern Kiora

Michael examines the results of the planeswalker power ranking survey from last week and starts brewing with Kiora in Modern for Grand Prix Richmond.

I once read that only a small percentage of people who actually click on an article ever scroll down past the first screen they see.

Even then, an even smaller number make it more than halfway through an article, and the number of people who make it to the very end is but a fraction of the people who originally clicked on the article.

That makes your guys’ (and gals’) response to the planeswalker power ranking survey all that much more awesome. Hundreds of people responded, and only a few people submitted “BS ballots” of all tens or all fives. There was even a submission where someone put Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded at ten.

So today, as promised, I’m going to go over the results from the survey and look into where you all think Kiora, the Crashing Wave sits. Then I’m going to take an initial stab at a Modern RUG Kiora list to start testing out for Grand Prix Richmond.

Planeswalker Survey

Let’s go ahead and take a look at your results; I’ve sorted the planeswalkers based solely on how you all ranked them, but I’ve also included my original ranking from last week in addition to the difference in rank and rating between your rankings and mine.


Right off the bat we can see that there are five slots that everyone seemingly agrees on—those are the first three and the bottom two. After that there’s a decent level of similarity in the Top 10 of both rankings, but from then on everything’s different.

First off, we see that you all seem to think that Karn is a Top 5 planeswalker; while I don’t disagree that it’s an incredibly powerful card, the reason the card wasn’t as highly ranked in my rankings was the lack of playability outside of one deck in Modern and as a finisher in some U/B Control decks while it was in Standard. This hurt the powerful planeswalker in terms of tournament pedigree, but I can understand ranking it so highly based on power level.

Ajani Vengeant and Domri Rade are the consensus next two, and then it gets somewhat twisted. We all have Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas; Garruk Wildspeaker; and Jace, Architect of Thought in the Top 10 in various places. Then everything goes haywire.

The planeswalkers that were much lower in your rankings were Nissa Revane; Gideon, Champion of Justice; Ajani Goldmane; Koth of the Hammer; Sarkhan the Mad; and Chandra Nalaar. Some of the ones that were much higher were Tamiyo, the Moon Sage; Jace, Memory Adept; Sarkhan Vol; and Chandra, Pyromaster. Since much of the questions I got had to do with these cards in particular, I figured I’d do some explaining.

Nissa dropped fourteen spots in your ranking list when compared to mine. I think this is partially because people don’t remember the Eldrazi Elves deck that she was a centerpiece in when she was printed. While the deck was never quite a powerhouse in a Standard dominated by Bloodbraid Jund, Nissa would simply take over games in which she wasn’t answered almost immediately. She also synergized really well with Eldrazi Monument, making sure that you always had a creature to sacrifice (and the Nissa’s Chosens would simply shuffle themselves back in the deck).

She scored decent on Standard tournament pedigree (with nothing gained for any other format) and had a decent (but not great) survivability rating. I think another reason there was a large disparity in our rankings is that I didn’t have a great way to account for the fact that playing Nissa Revane meant that you had to be playing Nissa’s Chosen somewhere in your deck. She (Revane) survived a decent amount of time and could protect herself with 2/3 creatures, but you had to run Elvish Warriors in your Standard deck so she should definitely lose some points there.

Gideon, Champion of Justice got most of its rating from the survivability side; it’s not easy to kill a Champion of Justice. There’s a chance I gave it slightly too high of a tournament pedigree rating since I gave some credit based on tournament potential, which I do believe Gideon has. Those two reasons account for the disparity there.

Ajani Goldmane was a great card when it was being played in Kithkin, B/W Tokens, and G/W Tokens in Standard, as I’m sure my esteemed content coordinator would agree. [Editor’s Note: Agree to agree.] The card got a decent tournament pedigree in my ranking due to how many decks it was played in and also got a decent level of survivability since it was played almost as a curve topper in aggressive decks and gave the creatures vigilance, making them great blockers too.

When seeing how low Koth of the Hammer was ranked, I wondered, “Has everyone forgotten how ridiculous this card was?!” Koth was a card that every control deck feared, and even when I played RUG Cobra, I died to that card more times than I’d like to admit. I think Sarkhan the Mad and Chandra Nalaar both suffered from being older planeswalkers since they did see a decent amount of play when they were in Standard (Chandra more so in sideboards, Sarkhan in Bloodbraid Jund decks).

As for cards that were lower, I didn’t give Tamiyo much credit since even when it was a great card it was still not a centerpiece in any deck. It was a role player in control decks, though I do remember some U/W/R decks with her as the only win condition. This was also a time where I wasn’t playing (the time she was heavily played), so I’m fairly certain that factored in my ranking her lower than you all.

Jace, Memory Adept is the one I got the most messages about, with people wanting me to rank him much higher. The thing is that Jace isn’t a great planeswalker—he’s a good finisher. Whereas with other planeswalkers you can throw them out there when the battlefield is still in flux and use them to help you get ahead and pull ahead in the game, with Jace the rest of your deck has to actually win the game for you. Jace just finishes the opponent off after it’s all said and done. He didn’t win the game for you—the rest of your deck did. Jace just came in after the fighting was done, sipping a latte (with his pinky raised of course) and waving his hands three or four times.

In all reality, anything will be a finisher when the rest of your deck clears a path. Or against control decks when you know they won’t be able to attack it. He’s a great role player, but I don’t consider Jace to be a great planeswalker overall. He has no survivability, and his tournament pedigree is restricted to “Standard sideboard card.” We all remember when Jace was dropped and won the game for our opponent so I think that has an impact on how people view the card, but think back to those games and realize that either your draw was terrible, your opponent made sure you had no way of interacting with Jace, or you were playing control and Jace was a great win condition against you.

Sarkhan Vol surprised me, as I don’t remember Sarkhan doing much of anything in a tournament and he’s an older planeswalker. He also doesn’t protect himself, thus why I ranked him so low. Chandra, Pyromaster ranked low in my list because even though we’ve made a point to talk Chandra up she doesn’t really protect herself that well either and hasn’t done much in a tournament setting. I do like Chandra and own a playset, but I’ve yet to find a decent settling point for the planeswalker.

Those were some of the planeswalkers that got the most attention in my rankings, so I thought I would clear up some confusion. Even though our rankings didn’t line up perfectly, you all came to much of the same conclusions that I came to. I enjoyed seeing the rankings come together as more and more of you responded.

Building With Kiora

Let’s see where you all put Kiora:

Kiora, the Crashing Wave
5.74 Overall Rating
22nd Ranked Planeswalker of All Time

Kiora seemed to be in the same echelon as Xenagos, the Reveler and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, as the three kept swapping places as more and more votes were added to the total. People generally put Kiora at a six overall, which is about where I would expect the planeswalker to rank before we’ve gotten a chance to play with it.

Whodathunkit? Kiora is in the same echelon as Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker . . .

I wanted to use this list to compare prices to how we ranked the planeswalkers. However, in doing so, I found that it doesn’t really matter how good a planeswalker is—the most beloved card type in Magic makes even the bad ones worth some amount of money. Also, other factors would need to be considered, like Duel Decks, reprinted cards, Standard legality, etc.

Chas Andres can take care of that side of things. Finance isn’t really my thing.

So instead of continuing to work on the financial breakdown, I looked into how Kiora could be played in Modern. I started out where I always start out, with RUG, as I talked about last week.

Before any Modern experts rip me a new one, this is just a first draft. This will change a ton long before I ever take it to a tournament. That being said, I do see some issues upfront even with the game plan being a sound one.

The game plan for this is almost the same as the RUG Cobra decks from Standard a couple of years ago; while we don’t have Jace, the Mind Sculptor anymore, the combined might of Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Jace Beleren should both collectively make up much of that ground. We won’t have the ability to pull ahead with Brainstorm every turn, but we can cast Explore every other turn in order to get ahead that way.

Lotus Cobra is the reason I want to run this shell. Basically, if Cobra lives, you’ll pull fairly far ahead in the game. The end result of all your ramping is either having active planeswalkers with counter backup or having an active Inferno Titan or Thundermaw Hellkite. In fact, this deck can get Thundermaw going on turn 3.

Kiora shines in this deck between the interactions with Lotus Cobra and the one-mana spells. Even something as innocuous as Halimar Depths is like casting half of Ponder (and with the fetch lands, we get to pick and choose which cards we want to keep and which we want to shuffle back).

Is this good enough in a format as vast and open as Modern? I don’t know since I’ve only played a couple of Modern events, but I do intend to find out.

Another option could be Bant with Lotus Cobra; this way we get to play Path to Exile instead of Lightning Bolt. My biggest concern with the RUG deck is the fact that we’re incredibly kold to Deceiver Exarch enchanted with a Splinter Twin. Lightning Bolt only does so much, and since we don’t have an Azure Drake or Ogre Magi (or any Hearthstone cards really) to make our Lightning Bolt hit for four damage, we need something else if Splinter Twin is a big concern.

With Bant, we get Path to Exile, but we also get a completely different spell suite to work with. Do we want to go control with Sphinx’s Revelation? Can we just play a similar game plan to RUG but with white spells instead? I’ve never tried this with Bant colors before, but if Splinter Twin (and something like Storm) ends up being a big issue, I may move in that direction.

However, let’s say I’m barking up the wrong tree and Kiora just isn’t going to cut it in Modern. If you’re a Modern expert (or really experienced at all in the format), talk to me. Tell me what you think I should play in Richmond if Kiora doesn’t work; I’m starting to get into the format to see what to play in my next Grand Prix, and I’m open to constructive criticism.