This is a question many people ask here. I have often asked the same question. Of course, the correct answer is: "It depends". But that's no fun so I created a semi-objective method for comparing PWs based on 5 criteria.
The first and most heavily weighted rating is the Ability Score (A). This has been totally reworked from the previous version. It is now based on the mana cost of spells/supports/creatures that are equivalent to the PW ability. Those scores are then divided by the cost in loyalty. I sum the best 2 abilities from each PW. The best PW score (Koth/Nahiri) is assigned a 10 and every other PW gets a score based on how they compare with the best. This is much less subjective than before, but I did have to estimate mana scores for abilities where there really is no card equivalent.
The second most heavily weighted rating is the Color Score (C). This is a subjective rating of the value of the colors available to the PW. This and the remaining ratings have also been changed so that the best is set to 10 and the others based on their comparison with the best.
The other factors are M - mana bonuses, H - PW health, and F - flexibility of card types (how many creatures/spells/supports they can use in a deck).
The weights I used to combine these scores are also subjective. I gave A an 8, C an 8, M a 6, F a 3 and H a 3.
I've grouped the PWs into tiers of similarly valuable PW.
For comparison I show the previous score in parentheses after the new score.
Tier 1 - Best All Around
Saheeli RaiA: 6, C: 10, M: 10, F: 10, H: 9, rating: 245 (226)
NahiriA: 10, C: 9, M: 8, F: 6, H: 8, rating: 242 (199)
Nissa(3), Steward of the ElementsA: 8*, C: 10, M: 7, F: 7, H: 9, rating: 234 (191)
Saheeli and Nahiri are just solid all around and Nissa 3 is a cycling monster. I find that I use them in nearly every event. Saheeli is only average in abilities, but everything else is to notch. Her mana generation is crazy good. Nahiri's and Koth's first abilities are completely out of line with other first abiliites. If Koth ever gets nerfed, people will be screaming about Nahiri next. *Speaking of broken, I deliberately understated Nissa's 3rd ability. While not infinite it is arbitrarily huge in mana value. I could have scored her as 10, 20, 100… Note when cycling goes away she'll drop to 6th tier or so.
Tier 2 - Other Great Walkers
KioraA: 7, C: 10, M: 6, F: 8, H: 8, rating: 220 (212)
Tezzeret(2) The SchemerA: 6, C: 9, M: 9, F: 7, H: 8, rating: 219 (203)
KothA: 10, C: 7, M: 7, F: 5, H: 8, rating: 217 (155)
These are all great choices. After adjusting my color ratings, I must admit that Koth is one of the best. I hear endless complaints about his 1st ability, but his 3rd is nearly as bad. If his mana was reliable he'd be at the very top. Kiora's mana is meh, but everything else is excellent. Tezz 2 is also an excellent all around choice, don't let his average abilities dissuade you.
Tier 3 - Slightly Flawed But Still Excellent
Ob NixilisA: 9, C: 7, M: 5, F: 10, H: 9, rating: 215 (172)
Arlinn KordA: 7, C: 9, M: 6, F: 7, H: 9, rating: 212 (200) - standard 188
Ajani(1) VengeantA: 5, C: 9, M: 8, F: 8, H: 9, rating: 211 (200)
SamutA: 7, C: 9, M: 7, F: 6, H: 10, rating: 210 (169)
Samut is pretty well rounded, only her health is top tier, but an excellent aggressive PW. Ob Nix is the creatureless monster, if his mana was better he'd be up there with Koth. Arlinn is only tier 6 for standard but her first ability is so solid she can be used in a pinch. Ajani's abilities are average (second) to total tinykitty (first) but everything else about him is top tier. If they replaced his first with a real ability you'd see him all the time.
Tier 4 - Good PWs, Especially For PvE
ElsbethA: 7, C: 7, M: 8, F: 7, H: 9, rating: 208 (173)
SarkhanA: 6, C: 8, M: 7, F: 9, H: 9, rating: 208 (173)
Jace(2), Unraveler of SecretsU, A: 6, C: 7, M: 9, F: 7, H: 8, rating: 203 (171)
Because of her mana curve Elsbeth is called the "White Koth". But her mana is actually better and her abilities are very good, but not overpowered. Sarkhan's first ability is literally the worst in the game. His dragon focus is a bit limiting, but still a very fun PW. Jace 2 is the best mono-blue by a long shot. His abilities don't look like much, but they can be abused!
Tier 5 - Middle Of The Road
Gideon(3) of the TrialsA: 6, C: 7, M: 9, F: 5, H: 9, rating: 200 (151)
Dovin BaanA: 5, C: 9, M: 6, F: 8, H: 9, rating: 199 (180)
SorinA: 5, C: 9, M: 8, F: 8, H: 5, rating: 199 (176)
Ajani(2) UnyieldingA: 6, C: 8, M: 6, F: 6, H: 10, rating: 196 (163)
Lilliana(3), Death's MajestyA: 6, C: 7, M: 8, F: 5, H: 9, rating: 194 (137)
If Elspeth's mana is a bit too unreliable for you, try Gideon 3. He has an exile focus, but should still be viable even after the current set rotates out. Dovin's abilities are a bit too energy forcused and his mana is meh but very flexible. Sorin's low health and creature based abilities hurt him in PvP. Lilliana 3's third ability requires some planning to abuse, but fortunately you can do well with just her first two. Not very flexible for spells and supports, but the best option for all those "lose x creatures" nodes. Ajani 2 is a (very) healthy pile of mediocre.
Tier 6 - Just Okay
Lilliana(2), The Last HopeA: 5, C: 7, M: 9, F: 4, H: 9, rating: 189 (156)
Gideon(2), Ally of ZendicarA: 6, C: 7, M: 6, F: 8, H: 8, rating: 188 (156)
Gideon(1), Battle ForgedA: 6, C: 7, M: 5, F: 9, H: 8, rating: 185 (145)
Lilliana(1), Defiant NecromancerA: 6, C: 7, M: 5, F: 10, H: 6, rating: 182 (156)
Nissa(2), Vital ForceA: 5, C: 6, M: 9, F: 6, H: 7, rating: 181 (133)
These single color walkers have their uses but can't compete with the top tiers. Lilliana 2 is lacking flexibility and her 3rd ability is fairly lame in standard. Lilliana 1's first ability is a fun answer to many PvE/story nodes but there are better options in Black. Gideon 2 suffers from a very weak 3rd ability and meh mana, but he's great for those "summon x or less creature" nodes. Nissa 2 has good mana and energy but her abilities are meh and she's limited to green.
Tier 7 - People Have Actually Used These To Beat Bolas! (But I Can't Recommend It)
Jace(1), Telepath UnboundA: 6, C: 7, M: 5, F: 10, H: 5, rating: 179 (140)
Chandra(1), Roaring FlameA: 6, C: 7, M: 5, F: 9, H: 5, rating: 176 (137)
Chandra(2), Torch of DefianceA: 4, C: 7, M: 9, F: 5, H: 6, rating: 175 (119)
GarruckA: 5, C: 6, M: 8, F: 6, H: 7, rating: 175 (119)
More recent PWs have passed Jace 1 by, but at least he's not Tezz 1. Chandra 1 has solid abilities but lacks the mana and health to power them. Chandra 2's abilities are the worst in the game. Garruck's abilities only summon creatures, why then doesn't he have more spells and supports?
Tier 8 - Teeny Tinykitty
Nissa(1) Sage AnimistA: 5, C: 6, M: 5, F: 9, H: 6, rating: 163 (137)
Tezzeret(1) the SeekerA: 4, C: 7, M: 5, F: 8, H: 6, rating: 160 (118)
Tezz 1 has some of the weakest abilities in the game. Nissa 1 is a good starting PW, because everything else seems like an improvement.
The actual value of a pw depends on a lot of things. What cards do you have? Do you like aggressive play or prefer control? Which colors do you already have covered?
I welcome comments and criticisms.
This is really interesting, thanks a lot for all this work !
As you note every attempt to rank the PWs is a bit subjective, but your post is really cool to have elements to introduce to new players (and to ramble with old veterans)
Since you've used ratings I find it interesting to see what ratings you gave to each colour for the C criterion :
Mono green : 2
Mono red : 3
Mono blue, black and white : 4
Green/White and Red/Black : 7
Red/Green, Blue/White, Red/White, Black/White and Blue/Black : 8
Blue/Red and Blue/Green : 9
This can be discussed forever of course (personnaly I would rate mono black lower). Nevertheless this automatically puts the mono coloured PWs at the bottom of the list (best ranked are in Tier 4).
Of course having access to two colours is really powerful but Koth and Ob Nixilis for example are extremly powerful PWs. You've ranked their abilities 10/10 but despite that they are ranked 11th and 18th (18th for Koth !! yes you guessed right about the ranting coming :-)
Don't you think the C criterion weighs too much ? Or at least that the gap between giving 3 points for mono red and 9for blue/red is too important ?
@bken1234 Thank you for your comments. Saheeli’s abilities are a bit hard to rate since a) they depend on what cards you own and b) they are set dependent. Her first is a solid level one ability, it doesn’t compare with Koth or Nahiri, but a 4/4 flyer is a fairly serious threat. Her second is meh. But her third just ends games right then and there in most cases if you have any of the best vehicles (especially Boomship and HoK). I’m not sure how to rate that. If your best vehicle is Sky Skiff but even 4 uncommons make a pretty nasty stack. How would you rate her abilities? A 6? 5?
imo flexibility is weighted. spell > support > creature.having 4 for creature slot is nowhere near as inflexibleas having the same 4 for spells. better slots flexibilityusually means better chances at secondary objectives.HH