Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, while not the best card in the entire set, is likely the very best mythic rare in the set. It's still a very good card today, and is a staple in Grixis versions of Super Friends (Red, Blue and Black) in EDH.
In the Magic 2013 Core Set, Nicol Bolas the Planeswalker returned to Standard for the first time since October of 2010. The game certainly changed a bit since that rotation, as that was the beginning of the Scars of Mirrodin block and Jace the Mind Sculptor's hey-day. How good would Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker be in that new environment?
First of all, he's an eight-drop. 4UBBR (4 Colorless, 1 Blue, 2 Black, 1 Red) is not exactly a pretty mana requirement to cast. It's not like you can cheat him into play somehow. But, when he does hit the board, you have a planeswalker with 5 loyalty and three very good abilities.
His +3 destroys any non-creature permanent on the board, a solid plus ability. His -2 is a Mind Control without the enchantment, which is very good. Finally, his ultimate ability, which costs 9 loyalty counters is absolutely devastating. It forces your opponent to discard 7 cards (which most often will mean their whole hand), sacrifice 7 permanents, and lose 7 life. Talk about card advantage!
If this planeswalker lives until the third turn it's on the board, you have the game essentially won against most decks. He's well worth the mana investment if he goes ultimate, but most of the time, you're going to just mind control something or destroy a pesky non-creature card that's in your way to push for game.
He's a great control card. Did he work in that Standard environment? Despite such a high mana cost, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker happened to share the format with an awesome Enchantment called Omniscience! With Omniscience in play, you don't pay the casting cost of any card that you card. Suddenly, Nicol Bolas is free to cast!
Unsurprisingly, a deck called Omniscience Control popped up! It fared pretty well in tournaments, too, often making the Top 8 cut! But Nicol Bolas didn't need Omniscience to see play. He still found his way into Grixis Control decks who were happy to hard-cast him for his full mana cost, albeit with the help of mana rocks like Rakdos Keyrune and Chromatic Lantern. While he costs 8 mana, he's such a game-changing card that he's worth playing a copy of anyway.
Since early 2013, though, he hasn't seen much competitive play outside of the odd Modern deck. But in EDH, where an eight-mana casting cost is hardly an impediment for playing a powerful card, he still sees tons of play. It also helps that he has two incarnations as a creature, who can be Commanders, that can play him in their decks. In any case, he's an awesome card to own!
Have you ever played Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker?
~ Phoenix <3