Reconstruct History — Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart
(Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart | Art by Dan Scott and Yeong Hao Han)
A Sad Robot and a Shiny Stag Walk Into a Bar...
...And make their way straight to the bartender. "Oil, neat," says the sad robot with an almost pouty complexion, as if the ecologically damaging liquid he just ordered would somehow cure the hole where his heart should be.
That dang tin cousin of his somehow managed to find a heart, not to mention good friends: a courageous lion, a brainy scarecrow, and a redheaded heroine with special slippers. The tale of this group defeating the Wicked Witch of Witherbloom with the help of a 'good' witch had spread all throughout the land, and the robot's tin cousin had finally found happiness with the help of such epic company.
For the sad robot, though, his only company was a shiny, silent, stag.
They arrived at the local bar, as they always did, from yet another shift at the Banal Mana Fixing and Production Co., which specialized in agricultural products for those living in harsher conditions away from fertile Forests. Those Forest-dwellers never much bothered with their kind at Banal Mana Fixing — they had their own Explosive Vegetation to handle, and their own Crop Rotations to Cultivate. In recent years, some who used to frequent Banal Mana Fixing had begun trending towards feudalistic tendencies of taxation, while others began following the cult of Prosper, Tome Bound, who promised riches in exchange for demonic dealings. Dwarves, Dragons, and even the dead's pockets seemed to promise mana where there once was little or none.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world was often stuck coaxing mana out of the rocky soil and what little arable land that the sad robot and the shiny stag could find.
The trick at Banal Mana Fixing and Production Co. was not to work too hard. Everyone had just seen what happened to that hyper-diligent worker that recently was canned for being too efficient and making everyone else look bad. No, the ideal was to settle in for the long haul and be a workhorse.
Which brings me to the point of this article, yet another installment of Reconstruct History, where we examine popularity trends of cards and archetypes over time.
Solemn Simulacrum, frequently called 'sad robot', and Burnished Hart are iconic Commander cards, providing lands and ramp for decks in need ever since the format's early origins. However, with all the options for Treasure, rituals, and efficient mana rocks floating around in the format nowadays, how well have this dour duo withstood the test of time?
Let’s start by outlining what we’re looking at:
- Metric: Adjusted Rank Score (out of possible non-land* colorless cards)
- Timeframe: Two years (May 2019 – May 2021)
- Breaks: By month
As is tradition, we’ll be focusing on rank rather than the number of decks (i.e., decklists), as it helps account for fluctuations in decklists scraped in any given timeframe and helps us compare it to other colorless cards. Remember that the lower the rank (closer to 1), the more popular a card is!
*As an additional note: just like when we looked at Scavenger Grounds and Temple of the False God, colorless cards are a bit wonky to scrape, as nonbasic lands are often included in the rank of all colorless cards. If you head on over to the page for Top Colorless Cards you’ll notice they are categorized by top cards, creatures, artifacts, lands, etc., but for ranking purposes of all colorless cards, lands get thrown into the mix, including color-fixing lands (e.g., Command Tower) that don’t technically sport any colored symbols in their text boxes.
As a result, I'll be presenting the data for Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart with an Adjusted Rank Score, where lands are removed so that we can see where the two square up compared to other colorless cards, rather than lands.
The results for both Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart can be seen below:
Adjusted rank score for Burnished Hart and Solemn Simulacrum over last two years (May 2019 - May 2021)
Both Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart appear to be somewhat steady staples, having never fallen below the Top 50 threshold. Consistently ranking in the top 50, and top 20 in the case of Solemn Simulacrum, is a testament to its continued inclusion over the years, despite minor peaks and troughs, which I think require more delving down below.
Time to Reflect
Without further ado, let's try and make sense of some of these trends.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention price as a factor in the continued popularity of these two cards. Price has often had an inverse relationship with the popularity of the cards we've looked at in this series (e.g., Insurrection), and that trend continues here, but in the opposite direction, like we saw with Three Visits. Both Burnished Hart and Solemn Simulacrum show high popularity for comparatively lower price barriers.
Burnished Hart seemed to enjoy a spike in popularity around Fall 2019, possibly coinciding with its reprinting in large volumes in the Commander Legends set (Oct. 2019). It's since seen another four reprints in the Kaldheim: Commander, Commander 2021, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms: Commander precons. Ten total printings is nothing to sneeze at, especially in larger sets like Theros and Commander Legends.
Solemn Simulacrum has similarly enjoyed numerous reprints, totaling 20 different printings since its original debut in Mirrodin, and unlike Burnished Hart, it has seen numerous art iterations and showcase variants. Still, the average copy will still only set you back around $1 at the time of writing.
Both of these are viable budget options for any deck, especially one in need of ramp in colors that might traditionally struggle with getting lands onto the battlefield.
Both Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart are renowned for their ability to get lands out of your deck directly onto the battlefield, particularly in decks that may struggle with doing so otherwise. There are certainly others in this ilk - Pilgrim's Eye or even the new Farfinder come to mind as alternatives, though them putting the land into your hand rather than directly onto the battlefield is certainly another hoop to jump through. While we don't have the requisite data/popularity for Farfinder, we can see just how far the kite has fallen:
Adjusted rank score of Pilgrim's Eye over last two years (May 2019 - May 2021)
In fact, if this trend continues, Pilgrim's Eye may well fall off the chart (400 threshold) within due time.
Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart, on the other hand, seem here to stay. They also have additional synergies with certain strategies, like blink decks (e.g., Brago, King Eternal) or recursion decks (e.g., Osgir, the Reconstructor) that can continue to reuse and recycle both of these as consistent pieces for incremental ramp, mana-fixing, or draw. Being attached to creatures also affords additional synergies, like being able to block early aggressors, being able to be pumped for a late game alpha strike, or just contributing to your overall artifact count in an artifact deck.
The Emerald City
It's not too difficult to envision why sad robot and shiny stag continue to enjoy popularity. They're affordable, effective workhorses for land-based ramp that can synergize with a number of other deck builds and archetypes. They're the salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar cards you can depend on, even if other options are continuously cropping up.
Yet despite all this, I can't help but wonder: is change on the horizon for this duo?
Green may continue to be the king of land-based ramp, but other colors have undoubtedly gotten access to new toys for generating mana, either through cheap mana rocks (e.g., Arcane Signet), Treasure production (e.g., Smothering Tithe, Prosper, Tome Bound, Grim Hireling), or slam-dunk ritual effects like Jeska's Will (or, you know, Culling Ritual, if we still want to include green in the discussion).
What's the future for these two? Will they continue to hold strong in the top 50, or will we see declines in their data as Treasure, rituals, and efficient mana rocks become prioritized? I think only time will tell, but I'm hopeful to revisit these two in a few years time. I've certainly considered the new Visions of Ruin as an alternative for Solemn Simulacrum in my mono-red deck, reminding me somewhat of Pir's Whim.
Back to Work...
What do you think? Where do you evaluate Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart? Any predictions on where they'll be in a few years time? Have you, too, joined the cult of Prosper, Tome Bound? Sound off in the comments below!
As a fun note, just last night I actually died to a Solemn Simulacrum that came out of a graveyard while Panharmonicon and Warstorm Surge were in play. It's not every day that you get to die at the hands of a the sad robot. So, as an additional curiosity, do you have any crazy stories involving Solemn Simulacrum that you would have never expected? If so, I'd love to hear them!