Superior Numbers – Flash in Fashion?

He’s for every one of us! Stand for every one of us!

Welcome to Superior Numbers, where I conduct numerical analysis on cards and deckbuilding trends using just a little bit of math and a little bit less snark.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Flash may well not be the savior of the universe, nor will he save everyone of us, and he’s most definitely not a miracle. In fact, by a lot of accounts, it’s quite the opposite. Now, I’m not going to get into the problems the card presents in cEDH when coupled with Protean Hulk and Thassa’s Oracle. For starters, that’s not what I really do here at EDHREC, but more importantly, I’m not remotely qualified to talk about it. The cEDH players who are qualified, however, have repeatedly said it is an issue, and how utterly that line of play dominates their particular power strata, and I’m inclined to believe them.

So what can we look at regarding Flash? Well, one of the arguments made in favor of the card’s banning is that such a move would really only effect cEDH while barely making an impact on Commander. The best way to see if that’s true seems to be to determine just how much it gets played in decks that are not cEDH lists. Let’s start with the numbers for Flash overall: 2,582 decks on EDHREC are running the card, which is 2% of the 155,657 decks legally capable of having it in their 99.

Is that a lot? A little? As Joey Tiberius Donatello Ulysses Schultz always says, let’s give those numbers a little bit of context. The best way to do that is to look at what other cards clock in with lower numbers and therefore see less play than Flash:

These aren’t perfect apples-to-apples comparisons after all. Berserk and Wound Reflection are both $15+ cards, all the planeswalkers are relatively new cards, Armadillo Cloak has a near-exact reprint in Unflinching Courage and is multicolored, etc. Still, I think it’s useful to see what company Flash keeps in terms of representation.


King of the impossible!

So that gives us a rough idea of how much play Flash sees overall. Now let’s look at where it sees play. There’re two specific ways we can break this down: by the total amount of decks running it, and by the percentage of decks running it. Neither is exactly what we want, so let’s look at the top five entries for both. These will be sequenced by the third column:

 

Top commanders by raw inclusion:

Commander Percent running Flash Total decks
Tymna the Weaver & Thrasios, Triton Hero 49.64% of 826 410
Kenrith, the Returned King 12.53% of 1452 182
Tasigur, the Golden Fang 8.74% of 1854 162
Prime Speaker Vannifar 23.48% of 575 135
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom 7.21% of 1789 129

 

Top commanders by percent inclusion:

Commander Total decks Percent running Flash
Tymna the Weaver & Thrasios, Triton Hero 410 49.64% of 826
Rayami, First of the Fallen 78 35.29% of 221
Tana, the Bloodsower & Thrasios, Triton Hero 5 26.32% of 19
Prime Speaker Vannifar 135 23.48% of 575
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept & Thrasios, Triton Hero 11 20.00% of 55

Every man, every woman, every child, it’s the mighty Flash!

Since none of those breakdowns are really ideal I’m just going to smush (that’s a technical term) them together moving forward and look at the eight decks represented by the commanders above.

Okay, so now that we’ve got eight to look at, why don’t we check and see what percentage of those decks running Flash are also running Protean Hulk?

 

Amount of top Flash commanders also using Protean Hulk

Commander With Flash With both Difference
Tymna the Weaver & Thrasios, Triton Hero 410 409 99.76
Rayami, First of the Fallen 78 11 14.10
Tana, the Bloodsower & Thrasios, Triton Hero 5 5 100%
Prime Speaker Vannifar 135 130 96.30
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept & Thrasios, Triton Hero 11 11 100%
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom 182 177 97.25
Tasigur, the Golden Fang 162 160 98.77
Kenrith, the Returned King 129 127 98.45

 

Now that’s interesting. Rayami, First of the Fallen is the only card running Flash that isn’t running Protean Hulk in a percentage below 96%. And it’s not just a little below – it’s 82% points below. That’s a massive difference. There’s some logic there, as Flash in a Rayami deck serves the purpose to put cards in the yard to power up your commander. Beyond that though, Rayami is the only commander on the list that doesn’t show up in the Lab Maniacs cEDH tier list as ranked Competitive, Maximum Power or Overpowered, aside from Silas Renn, Seeker Adept, a card that prior to the banning of Paradox Engine was (as far as I can tell) part of an Engine combo deck. So does this mean that of the eight decks we’re looking at, all but one are entirely cEDH lists?

There’s no way to be sure. After all, it’s possible to run Flash and Protean Hulk together and not do anything degenerate. Not only that, even if one is doing something powerful or game-ending with Flash/Hulk, it doesn’t necessarily mean the deck is a cEDH deck. The solution, then, seems to be to find out how many of those decks running Flash and Protean Hulk are running other cEDH cards that generally show up less outside cEDH as a marker.

I used this Oracle core list for cards to check. Why am I not checking how many are running Thassa’s Oracle? Well, I did, and only 105 of the Tymna the Weaver & Thrasios, Triton Hero decks with Flash and Protean Hulk are running it. I think that’s a little misleading, as the card is only about eight weeks old at this point, and the low numbers we’re seeing could almost entirely be due to people not updating their decks online just yet. So there’s the stat if you want it, but I’d like to try to figure out how many of those are cEDH decks without worrying about whether the list have been updated recently or not.

 

Tymna the Weaver & Thrasios, Triton Hero decks running Flash:

Card Decks Percentage
Chrome Mox 283 69.02
Cephalid Illusonist 279 68.05
Nomads en-Kor 276 67.32
Force of Will 244 59.51
Mana Crypt 236 57.56
Mox Diamond 210 51.22
Ad Nauseum 173 42.20
Imperial Seal 158 36.59
Demonic Consultation 142 34.63
Gemstone Caverns 136 33.17

 

That’s just for the Tymna the Weaver & Thrasios, Triton Hero deck. The numbers are almost universally worse for any other deck on the list, and they get worse when you add more than one card to the filter.

So, what does that all mean? Well, best guess, just based on the info at hand, it means that of the decks in our database running both Flash and Protean Hulk, about half are cEDH lists. Of course, no data is perfect. For example I’ve been told that cEDH players often use TappedOut.com for deckbuilding, presumably because they’re players who like broken things (their joke, not mine) and that’s a site not scraped by EDHREC.

Lastly, I was curious what the list of commanders that ran Flash but no Protean Hulk looked like, just to see what decks might want Flash as a piece outside casting Hulk. We saw earlier Rayami, First of the Fallen was a fan of the card, but where there any others?

Commanders running Flash but no Protean Hulk:

Commander Breakdown Percentage
Rayami, First of the Fallen 67 of 221 30.18
Ayesha Tanaka 1 of 7 14.29
Sun Quan, Lord of Wu 4 of 53 7.55
Ravos, Soul Tender & Silas Renn, Seeker Adept 2 of 30 6.66
Hakim, Loreweaver 1 of 19 5.26

 

Looks like… not really? I mean, there’s these, and another ten or so commanders with 2-5 percent of decks running Flash but no Hulk, but everything after that is essentially a rounding error. Mostly it’s just Rayami.


Just a man with a man’s courage

So what’s the answer? Well, I think it’s a little complicated. Flash is a genuine, logical part of a Rayami, First of the Fallen deck… but it’s not really a staple anywhere else. That’s not to see it doesn’t see play, but I’m not sure any deck aside from Rayami would really suffer were it gone.

That said, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say it doesn’t see play outside cEDH either. There’s plenty of people who seem to be running it for value, and plenty who seem to be running it and Hulk outside cEDH decks, and in that context it probably isn’t a warping card.

I’m genuinely curious to hear what you may think, though. Is it worth hitting the decks that run it to balance things in cEDH, or would doing so hurt too many Commander games who are otherwise using it in a way that’s equal to the environment’s power level? Sound off below, and as always, thanks for reading.

Dana is one of the hosts of the EDHRECast and the CMDR Central podcast. He lives in Eau Claire, WI with his wife and son. He has been playing Magic so long he once traded away an Underground Sea for a Nightmare, and was so pleased with the deal he declined a trade-back the following week. He also smells like cotton candy and sunsets.