The planeswalker Teferi has been on an impressive tear in his last couple incarnations. Core Set 2021 is a Teferi-centric set that brings with it a brand new version that already has some players terrified, if only because of what his name has come to mean.
Teferi, Master of Time is an unusual planeswalker in that he has three loyalty abilities, plus a passive; however, the passive really just modifies his other abilities, so evaluating the card is a unique mystery. While having access to zero-cost activated abilities at instant speed is already interesting, the more profound implication is that you get to use two abilities per turn cycle (or a potentially absurd number in multiplayer games).
With this in mind, let’s take a look at each of Teferi’s activated abilities.
[+1]: Draw a card, then discard a card.
I usually like to evaluate planeswalkers through the lens of the highest-impact option you can choose when you cast the card. While that’s most commonly a middle ability, Teferi is a special case. You can use his middle ability immediately, but then Teferi dies. If you instead lead with the +1 ability, you can use the -3 ability on your opponent’s turn without actually losing the planeswalker, making it the higher-impact first ability to use.
So, how good is “+1: Draw a card, then discard a card”? Isn’t that worse than most four-cost planeswalkers? Well, for starters, that’s not really how I’d look at it. Because of Teferi getting to use abilities twice per turn cycle, it’s actually closer to:
[+2]: Draw a card, then discard a card. Draw a card, then discard a card.
While you don’t get access to both immediately, there’s actually a lot of value to getting to decide until you see what your opponent does on their turn, before committing to what to keep and what to loot away.
Once we’ve ticked up Teferi, the real game begins.
[-3]: Target creature you don’t control phases out. (Treat it and anything attached to it as though they don’t exist until its controller’s next turn.)
The rules have changed on phasing a couple of times, but nowadays, it’s basically like exiling something, except it doesn’t count as entering or leaving the battlefield. This means it doesn’t trigger enters-the-battlefield abilities, nor anything that would trigger from something leaving the battlefield. It does mean it’s not “on the battlefield” though, so any abilities it has would not be functioning (such as a static ability that gives your other creatures +1/+1).
Here, we’d phase a creature out, cleanly eliminating it for a turn cycle. Then, on our opponent’s next untap step, it would phase back in (ready to attack immediately, since it didn’t “enter the battlefield” that turn – it just didn’t exist). This means Teferi provides us with an extra potential line of defense that we don’t have to commit to until we pull the trigger.
- Maybe they don’t have anything, but could cast a haste creature that we’d want to stop.
- Maybe we force them to attack Teferi with extra creatures, on account of the possibility we phase one out.
- Maybe we plan to phase out the biggest attacking threat, but if our opponent casts an extra attacker with haste, we just +1 Teferi instead.
- Maybe we wait to see which creature they target with an Aura, and then phase it out.
- Maybe we could potentially phase out a key blocker, so they end up leaving two creatures back to block, meaning we don’t actually need to phase either one out, and just loot again.
In a lot of regards, phasing a creature out isn’t quite similar to just tapping it, with the added twist of suppressing its abilities. In general, -3 to phase a creature just isn’t that strong of an ability; it’s the flexibility that really matters here, along with remembering that each of Teferi’s abilities is in a way only half an ability, since you can use two a turn.
Considering that Teferi actually ticks up +2 per turn cycle, it doesn’t actually take that long to get to his -10 ability.
[-10]: Take two extra turns after this one.
Two extra turns is an outrageously game-winning play in a lot of situations. You get two extra cards, triple the mana, your creatures have “super haste,” all your planeswalkers use their abilities several times in a row, and you can leverage these turns highly in many more ways. What’s more, if you ultimate Teferi at eleven loyalty, you’ll get two extra turns with him still on the battlefield (including the ability to use him a couple of extra times, though not the twice per turn cycle we’re used to).
In theory, we only need to keep Teferi on the battlefield for four turns before we get to the one where we can get two extra. Once we use this mode, we’ll be back to three loyalty by the time we pass the turn, meaning we’d need another four full turn cycles to get another two extra turns. Being able to take six turns for every four our opponent takes is an enormous advantage if we can pull it off, particularly when we’re usually getting the best of every three cards from all the selection Teferi’s providing.
Okay, let’s take a look at some potential applications. For starters, we should consider the low-hanging fruit of just adding Teferi to an Azorius Control deck. The selection is appreciated, and the defensive option synergizes well with the rest of the Azorius kit. The extra turns are very powerful in conjunction with other planeswalkers. All in all, its just an easy fit.
Yeah, despite costing three extra mana, Yorion is a powerful plan for securing a potentially game-winning advantage.
The ability to retrigger your enchantments with enters-the-battlefield abilities or reset your planeswalkers can translate into several extra cards, enough material to start to take control. Two extra turns would be excellent here, giving us time to actually get Yorion into our hand, use it, and still have our shields up completely.
Runed Halo is a Core Set 2021 reprint I’m excited to try in this new context. White frequently lags a little behind in efficient cheap removal, and Runed Halo is better than it normally gets. It’s especially good at stopping an attacker, and if they draw multiples, you’re getting powerful extra value (not needing to use another card to stop those threats), and it can even be played proactively, naming a threat with haste.
It can also be used in certain spots as a highly nontraditional form of interaction. For instance, if you name Thought Erasure, your opponent won’t be able to Thought Erasure you, effectively blanking four key cards in their deck. Name Mayhem Devil, and you sure aren’t getting hit with any more of its triggers. Name Zenith Flare and their deck might not even function correctly anymore.
The mana requirements aren’t necessarily trivial, but mana in two-color decks is pretty easy right now. I’m definitely optimistic on Runed Halo, though we will want to be careful since we’re already so reliant on enchantments anyway.
If someone hits us with something like a Heliod’s Intervention, we might be in a world of hurt.
An all-time great design, Baneslayer Angel is back and ready for business. While it’s hardly adding a unique dimension these days, it’s a strong enough card to warrant consideration.
Archon of Sun’s Grace is particularly strong with the enchantments Yorion loves so much, but 60-card builds might make better use of the card. That said, there’s a great chance that Baneslayer Angel’s real success will come from non-control decks. This could be in Boros Angels, Selesnya Midrange, Orzhov Control, Mono-White Aggro, or even alongside Demons and Dragons…
Likewise, Teferi, Master of Time isn’t just a tool for Azorius.
Okay, maybe this one is a little goofy, but Teferi, Master of Time does mean we’re “discarding” a lot of cards. Here’s a potential way to put that into action:
- 4 Deafening Clarion
- 2 Dovin's Veto
- 3 Bag of Holding
- 4 Mystical Dispute
- 4 Shatter the Sky
- 4 Boon of the Wish-Giver
- 4 Neutralize
- 3 Shark Typhoon
- 1 Ominous Seas
- 1 Zirda, the Dawnwaker
I’m not at all sure Zirda is worth it here, now that we have to pay three for it, but it is another card we can loot away, and it’s not like reducing the cost to use our Bag of Holding or cycle our cards is a “bad thing.” It’s just that we are giving up some excellent cards: Elspeth Conquers Death, Runed Halo, Banishing Light, Brazen Borrower, and maybe even Teferi’s Ageless Insight.
Teferi’s Ageless Insight is a really intriguing new card draw engine that at first blush looks more dangerous than Teferi himself. That said, the two combine absolutely fantastically. Instead of merely looting twice a turn cycle, Teferi’s Ageless Insight turns Teferi, Master of Time into a card draw engine that gives you two extra cards a turn in addition to an incredible amount of selection.
That said, tons of cards are good with Teferi’s Ageless Insight, and they’re not hard to find. (Hint: It’s the word “draw.” They have the word “draw” printed on them.)
Here’s a first crack at Teferi and his Insight:
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath works excellently with both Teferi cards, giving us extra mana to fuel our engine, a source of card draw to trigger Insight, and an excellent card to discard (since we can escape it out of the graveyard without needing to pay three the first time, plus all this looting means we’ll have lots of cards to exile to pay the escape cost).
Even just cycling becomes incredibly powerful when you’ve got Teferi’s Ageless Insight. Your cyclers are now draw-twos, and they quickly beget more draw-twos. I’m also not sure why we couldn’t build combo decks in more powerful formats that try to win on the spot when they drop Teferi’s Ageless Insight. Maybe it involves just trying to draw cards for zero mana…
Teferi’s Ageless Insight might be a powerful new dimension to add to a High Tide deck. For instance:
You just don’t have to get very many bonus cards from Teferi’s Ageless Insight before you’re just way ahead. This card looks incredible to me (at least in low-powered formats). Maybe it’s win-more or something, but I just don’t have the experience of cycling cards or casting cantrips and that being all she wrote.
As for Teferi, Master of Time?
He seems fine. There’s some decent selection, and he lets you make cool plays, but at first blush he seems more of a role-player than his previous incarnations. I’m not totally sure what’s up with all the tiny variations that are technically alternate art pieces for the Showcase frame, but maybe I’m missing something. They gotta try stuff, I guess. I’m just not sure I get this one. This isn’t exactly the same as printing four versions of Mishra’s Factory across the four seasons or anything.
Teferi’s Ageless Insight, on the other hand? This card looks super-dangerous to me and I’ll look at it closely right out the gate.