Planeswalkers came into existence in 2007 in Lorywn with the original five we have come to know and love, and Magic: The Gathering has never been the same since. Currently, there are 275 different Planeswalker cards in the game and counting. Their abundance has ignited the spark of a fun deckbuilding theme known as “superfriends”. Superfriends decks are jam-packed with Planeswalkers and seek to overwhelm opponents with multiple loyalty activations. While the theme is incredibly powerful, Planeswalkers are also very hard to defend. As someone who has two superfriends decks, I am unfortunately aware of just how delicate this balance can be. This week I want to show you how to brew a successful superfriends deck regardless of your commander of choice.
Let’s start with my favorite part – the commander. Superfriends can be done in a multitude of ways and there is absolutely no wrong answer on how to tackle the theme. For example, I have a mono-red Chandra tribal deck and a Boros superfriends deck piloted by Cadric, Soul Kindler. One is just a tribal theme and the other is built around creating token copies of Planeswalkers. There is no one way on how to brew this theme.
In order to exemplify this, I took to Twitter and asked the community for some fun examples of commanders to lead a superfriends deck. Of course, you had the iconic generals crop up in the responses. Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice is the most popular superfriends commander due to her consistent proliferation at the end step (more on that later). Carth the Lion, Djeru, With Eyes Open and Lae’zel, Vlaakith’s Champion were the second most recommended commanders due to their tutor ability and additional loyalty counters. These are all incredibly powerful superfriends commanders but they are all pretty common… so I’ll inspire you with a few “off the beaten path” recommendations instead.
The first recommendation that really interested me was Kykar, Wind’s Fury. This commander typically finds a home in spellslinger decks, and yet, it seems almost perfect for superfriends. Each time you cast a Planeswalker, Kykar generates a blocker to protect it in the form of a 1/1 Spirit. What makes Kykar stand out, however, is that he can sacrifice those Spirits to generate red mana, which can help cast your other Planeswalker spells. Sure, he isn’t “typical” superfriends colors, but he has access to some strong ‘walkers like Chandra, Narset, and even Tamiyo!
Another recommendation that piqued my interest was Amareth, the Lustrous. While this shiny Dragon doesn’t specifically say the word “planeswalker”, it does care about permanents entering the battlefield. In a superfriends build with Amareth at the helm, you’re able to look at the top card of your library and possibly put that card into your hand if it shares the type with the permanent that just entered. This fun interaction allows you to get a feel for the top of your library with card advantage potential, and since there are numerous forms of top deck manipulation in Bant colors, this Dragon can get a lot of ‘walkers out fast.
Lastly, we have Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. The ability of this Praetor is absolutely nuts and makes perfect sense for a superfriends deck, however, the fact that it is mono-colored can be rather limiting. That doesn’t mean it is impossible or bad. You have access to some of Magic’s strongest planeswalkers in these colors: Nissa, Garruk, and Vivien. Whether your colors are greatly limited to just one, or you’re doing five color madness, there is always a way to make superfriends work.
Value and Searchin’
Now that your commander has been chosen, it’s time for you to start jamming your deck full of ‘walkers and valuetown spells. When you’re in the superfriends theme, ideally you want to be casting as many planeswalkers as you can… so what happens when you don’t have any creatures to protect them?
Worry not, dear reader, for I have a few recommendations to help smooth these bumps out. Let’s start out strong with tutors. I now that tutors have recently been a point of contention in the Commander community, but they can be key in a planeswalker deck. Sometimes, you just really need that Karn Liberated instead of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Tutors can be key in getting the exact card you need. Cards like Captain Sisay, Search for Glory, Arena Rector, Call the Gatewatch, and Ignite the Beacon all search for planeswalkers in your deck. While not an exact tutor, Deploy the Gatewatch allows you to look at the top seven cards of your library and put two Planeswalkers onto the battlefield without paying their costs. This form of selection can be incredibly helpful when you need to get yourself out of a pinch.
Lastly, we have to talk about value, specifically historic-focused spells. Historic spells are going to be incredibly powerful in your planeswalker deck because all of your planeswalkers are legendary. This meets that sweet historic requirement, meaning you can gain a lot of value from historic spells. You can draw cards with Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, deal damage to your opponents with Cabal Paladin, make tokens with Mishra’s Self Replicator, and tap a creature your opponents control with D’Avenant Trapper. Not only are these value pieces for you, but they can help increase the creature count in a deck where the theme greatly limits your attackers and blockers.
By now, you’ve chosen your commander and have stuffed your deck full of your favorite planeswalkers. That only leaves you with one question… what now? A lot of times when I hear people talk about planeswalkers in Commander, I hear the phrase “never play a planeswalker for their ultimate.” I absolutely love to ignore that rule. Ultimate abilities are the coolest part of planeswalkers, so of course you’re going to want to try to activate their coveted final loyalty ability. Whether it’s a sick emblem or a really cool ability, you want to get there as quick as possible. The issue is that everyone else doesn’t want you to get there. So how do we rack up that loyalty?
Well I’m glad you asked, totally real strawman reader! There are tons of ways to increase your planeswalker’s loyalty without actually activating it. The color identity of your deck will definitely limit these options (unless you’re in five colors), but there are tons of ways to do so regardless of your color(s) of choice. Oath of Gideon has planeswalkers enter the battlefield with an additional loyalty counter, The Chain Veil and Oath of Teferi allows you to activate loyalty abilities twice, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame puts additional loyalty counters on red planeswalkers you control, and Brokers Ascendency puts a loyalty counter on each of your planeswalkers at your end step. These are all amazing ways to give additional loyalty counters, but let’s take a page from Atraxa’s book and talk about proliferation.
Proliferation allows you to give additional counters to permanents/players. When playing an Infect deck, proliferation often means you’re at death’s door. In a superfriends deck, however, you are able to push your planeswalker that much closer to their ultimate loyalty ability. The majority of proliferate cards come in blue and green with a small sprinkling in the other remaining colors. While tough, it is still doable to run proliferation abilities in off-color decks. Artifacts, like Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine, are key because they can be run in any color deck; all you have to do is pay the mana, tap it, and proliferate everything your heart desires. In a similar vein, you also have Karn’s Bastion – a colorless land that allows you to proliferate after paying four colorless mana and tapping it. As someone who plays Mono-Red Superfriends, I am pained with the fact that there is only one red proliferate card (I’m looking at you Volt Charge), so when you’re in off colors, you’ve got to get a little bit creative.
While red may not get much proliferation love, I want to share with you my favorite loyalty card that just so happens to be red – Repeated Reverberation. This card is typically skipped over because people stop reading the spell after the first two lines. They see instant and sorcery and lose interest, however, it’s the card’s third line that makes it pop. It allows you to copy your next activated loyalty ability twice. This means you get three loyalty activations in total. In the right deck, this can be a game ender. Imagine copying Ugin, the Spirit Dragon’s -10 ability three times, or heck, even Garruk, Cursed Hunstman. As someone who has won many superfriends games with this spell, I strongly encourage giving this spell a chance. After all, three instances of a loyalty ability is better than one.
So, now you have your ways to rack up loyalty like a spark wielding pro. Now comes one of the harder parts of superfriends decks – protecting your planeswalkers. My personal favorite strategy is to ugly cry and make it insanely awkward and uncomfortable for my opponents. Surely they won’t swing at my planeswalkers while mascara is streaming down my face. And it’s true – they won’t. But this might not work for you, so let’s talk about a few ways you can protect your planeswalkers.
Protecting planewalkers often means preventing creatures from attacking them. Cards like Propaganda and Ghostly Prison come to mind, but I must warn you that these two enchantments make it so creatures attacking you are taxed, not your planeswalkers. Of course, cards like Sphere of Safety, Baird, Steward of Argive, Norn’s Annex, and Archon of Absolution do take your planeswalkers into consideration when it comes to pillowfort-esque protection. People don’t like to pay their taxes, so these are good options to consider when deckbuilding, but these options are extremely limited because they revolve around combat, so let’s explore some non-combat focused forms of protection.
What if I told you that there was a way to play The Ozolith in a superfriends deck? Well, with Resourceful Defense, you can! Like The Ozolith, this enchantment allows you to transfer counters if a permanent you control with counters leaves the battlefield. Resourceful Defense also allows you to move any number of counters from one permanent you control to another at instant speed. This is a great way to not only increase loyalty for speedier, high-value loyalty activations, but it can save a planeswalker you control mid-combat. If your opponent is swinging 6 at your Kaya, you can simply pay five mana and transfer counters from your least valuable ‘walker or highest loyalty ‘walker onto her, saving her from an early demise! Another tricky way to protect your planeswalkers is a personal favorite of mine – Luxior, Giada’s Gift. This equipment is absolutely insane because it makes your planeswalker a creature. That means your opponents can’t swing at it like normal planeswalkers. Sure, you can still activate its loyalty abilities, but because of the specific wording on Luxior, the equipped planeswalker is now a creature. While this is a fun way to protect a planeswalker, you can also now attack with it during combat. In fact, I once killed a friend in Commander with commander damage because I had equipped Luxior on my Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. You love to see it.
With the recent increase in “legendary matters” cards, we are also seeing an increase in superfriends decks. Whether you’re going with the tried and true Sisay, Weatherlight Captain or trying something odd with Kethis, the Hidden Hand, there is no uniform way to fiddle with one of Magic’s most iconic card types. In fact, I am sure we will be seeing dozens more planeswalkers once March of the Machines releases in 2023.
Show me some of your favorite, wackiest superfriends builds and let me know what you think of my recommendations.
As always, happy brewing, deckbuilders!