In every preview season, and we've had a lot of them in the last few months, one of the most anticipated new additions is the Planeswalkers — they are usually a good gauge of the set's power level, and not only portray some of the lore's main characters, they are usually strong enough to impact competitive formats, especially Standard. Others end up being below the expected average or, despite having strong attributes, end up not finding a home due to the rest of the competitive environment.
The new Teferi has been one of The Brothers' War's most discussed cards in the since it was announced. After all, it seems to fall into the category of being powerful enough to impact some competitive formats, but perhaps lacking a home in the current Metagame.
Understanding Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim
Five mana planeswalkers aren't as relevant as they once were unless they do something really absurd to the point of making it an option even in formats like Modern, as was the case with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
The new Teferi, however, carries a set of abilities that are synergistic with each other and easily get out of hand. First, he doesn't gain loyalty only through activating his abilities, but rather with each time you draw a card, which means that for every draw spell or cantrip you use during turns, Teferi will gain an extra counter, and as his first ability grants a draw, he gets up to +2 loyalty per turn.
This brings us to the second ability: Teferi creates a Spirit token that, like himself, also gains counters every time you draw a card. This is the Planeswalker's strongest ability, merely because it's easy for these tokens to grow larger than they should and get out of the opponent's control. In addition, Teferi starts the game with four loyalty, that is, he guarantees at least two tokens and remains in play after these activations, and alongside other effects that guarantee extra draws, such as Connive, both Teferi and his tokens can grow far beyond what you expect.
Finally, the finisher, if accompanied by a positive board position, can win the game instantly, as you "clean" your opponent's board while keeping yours, and since it returns nearly all non-land permanents to the deck instead of to the owner's hand, even if you don't win in a turn, your opponent is likely to have serious difficulties getting back into play quickly enough.
That is, Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim is a robust Planeswalker that grants card advantage, means to protect himself or increase pressure on the board, and a finisher capable of saving your game or securing an easy win. It has all the qualities to see play in the competitive Magic scene, even if at a relatively higher cost than standard.
Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim in Standard
Teferi has the potential to shine in the Midrange and/or Tapout variants that manage to secure some relevant enough board that, when he comes into play, he can punish the opponent for being forced to deal with the other threats that came before and/ or punish them for having to deal with it and its token while the other creatures keeps the pressure on the opponent.
He's not a good finisher for Control if you play him on-curve, but he adds more value to the game if you can protect him on the turn he comes into play, both for the extra draws and the plethora of bodies he can create on his own.
The most obvious inclusion for the Planeswalker is probably in Esper Midrange, where he relies on a solid base of spells and creatures while offering extra draws and/or improving the board, not to mention the obvious interaction between Teferi and Raffine, Scheming Seer.
The base that would naturally benefit Teferi also benefits Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, one of the main staples of the format right now, making it an even more solid option for the maindeck of Black-Based Midranges that also resort to blue, and the fact it comes into play one turn after the Phyrexian praetor is a great way to snowball against the opponent's answers.
Speaking of Black-Based, another archetype where the new Planeswalker can find a home is in Grixis Midrange, where it can replace some other card of the same category or cost — which can be a challenge, as Jaya, Fiery Negotiator, Sorin the Mirthless and Invoke Despair are very powerful on their own.
Here, Teferi also interacts with a plethora of extra draws and hand filtering that the archetype has, such as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, which unfortunately doesn't interact as well with his tokens.
Of course, Izzet Control and Jeskai Midrange are also homes for Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim, but both archetypes are declining today and haven't been producing significant tournament results. Therefore, they aren't recommended options currently, since the new card alone won't do enough to make them better positioned in the Metagame.
Another debate on the new Teferi in Standard this weekend was whether it would have a home in the Tempo decks that have emerged in recent weeks, especially Izzet variants such as the list ran by Julien Wellman at the World Championship, which is a hybrid between Mono Blue Tempo and Izzet Control.
Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim on Pioneer
In eternal formats, the path to Teferi is a bit tough.
In Pioneer, it competes in Azorius Control with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, of which it tends to perform this role better for the same cost. On the other hand, it is just as strong or even more efficient than Ashiok, Nightmare Muse in the Dimir variants, as both offer immediate value with tokens. However, Ashiok deals with problematic permanents the moment it enters play, so it's possible that its slot on these lists is already consolidated.
On the other hand, Teferi looks excellent in the Izzet variants that resort to Narset, Parter of Veils along with Collective Defiance and/or Day's Undoing, since both he and the tokens can grow quickly in this variant.
Finally, the option to include it on the Izzet Phoenix's Sideboard for attrition matches is also attractive, given the interaction it has with a deck that is basically a cantrip tribal which runs Treasure Cruise as its main draw engine.
Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim is an important addition that The Brothers' War is bringing to the Magic: The Gathering universe. It might not have the same hype and immediate impact that other cards had when they were revealed in other spoiler seasons, but its stats are solid enough to make it a potential staple in Standard and a useful addition to Pioneer.
Thanks for reading!