The 600 - A Review of C18 Predictions

(Lord Windgrace | Art by Bram Sels)

Back to the Future Picks

Last year, I made some predictions. For the first article in The 600 series, I tried to guess which of the new commanders from Commander 2018 would and which ones wouldn't accumulate over 600 decks in the EDHREC database over the course of one year. August 10th, 2019 was the one-year anniversary of the set's release, which means it's time to check my work.

Before you read this, feel free to read my article from last year, I’ll be quoting it often. Additionally, please note that all numbers appearing in today's article were pulled on August 10th, 2019.

Okay, let’s start. Hopefully this isn’t too embarrassing!

The Easy Overs

Let's begin with my thoughts on Lord Windgrace:

"For the record, I don’t think this guy is all that good. His +2 asks you to work pretty hard just to come out ahead on cards. His -3 doesn’t always work on the turn you cast him. And his ultimate isn’t game winning. Nonetheless, people seem pretty excited about this card, so I’m willing to be optimistic."

Might want to check the sodium content on that paragraph: I'm tasting a lot of salt.

Yes, I was salty then and I’m salty now. I still don’t think this card is very good—I think he’s just the only option for a popular archetype. But hey, I do admire his commitment to chest day at the gym.

Windgrace earned 1,683 decks, making him by far the set's most popular commander.

Next, Varina, Lich Queen cleared the mark by about 100 decks. My abridged thoughts:

"...Let’s look back at last year’s Commander product. Edgar Markov currently stands well above our 600 mark, and I think he’s an excellent comparison for Varina. Both are commanders for historically popular tribes that add a third color to those tribes. Also, both commanders belong to tribes appearing in recent Standard-legal sets (Vampires in Ixalan and Zombies in Amonkhet). So if Edgar’s popularity is any indication, Varina should really take off."

That’s a solid comp, if I do say so myself. Varina isn’t quite as popular as Eddie (758 decks compared to 2,789 decks), but the reasoning was solid and ultimately correct.

Finally, here’s what I thought of Tuvasa the Sunlit (885 decks):

"Players have been asking for an Enchantress commander for a long time now. Tuvasa the Sunlit fits the bill. Plus, it has really wacky artwork."

My comment about the artwork has aged particularly well, I think.

The Easy Unders

Even a Fresh-Faced Recruit could’ve told you these poor saps weren’t destined for popularity. I was correct with my 'Under' calls on all of them. My review of Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor (who finished with 70 decks in the year, the fewest of any commander in the set):

"A nice flavor win, but not enough to get over 600 decks."

Of Gyrus, Waker of Corpses (148 decks):

"Several commanders already do what Gyrus does, only they do it better."

And Thantis, the Warweaver (279 decks):

"...I don’t believe Thantis will ever make a big impact on the format."

Also, RIP Tawnos, Urza’s Apprentice.

This scrub only earned 77 decks. My thoughts on why:

"I’m just not seeing it with Tawnos. Maybe people will see 'Urza' in his name and play him because of that?"

Boom, roasted. But again, these were the easy ones. There’s still time to laugh at my folly, I promise.

The Close Overs

Let's start with Saheeli, the Gifted, who finished her year just barely north of 600, at 680 decks.

"We’ve been awaiting an Izzet artifacts commander for a long time. Saheeli seems to be that commander. Hers is one of the better precons straight out of the box, plus many players will still have numerous Kaladesh artifacts to add to her arsenal."

At the time, I didn't know Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain's popularity would eclipse Saheeli's. Jhoira currently boasts 1,034 decks, so I'd guess many players chose her over Saheeli for their Izzet artifact decks. An unexpected monkey wrench in my pick, and one that almost cost me.

Finally, my boy Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer barely edged the target with its 651 decks. My analysis:

"[Brudiclad is] powerful, fun, and unique—three ingredients that are essential to making an over-600 commander."

Let's see where else I almost screwed up.

The Close Unders

Yennett was the first that came close to defying my 'Under' pick; I took the Under and it earned 421 decks. At the time, I lamented the "Odd CMC Tribal" strategy…

"I’ve heard many players say that they’re just going to stack their decks with odd converted mana cost cards, which seems like an odd strategy in and of itself."

If you check Yennett’s commander page, that does indeed appear to be the strategy most players employ. Fortunately for me, "Odd Tribal" doesn't seem to be a particularly popular strategy. Close, but I got it right.

Xantcha was tough to guess at; she ended up just 72 decks away from ruining my Under grade (528 decks total). In last year's article, I even qualified my final grade with an "I think?"

Here’s a window into my uncertainty:

"Xantcha, Sleeper Agent is incredibly tricky to evaluate... I could see players avoiding her as a commander because of her uniqueness. I could see players playing her extensively for the same reason. I’m going with an Under, but honestly, I have no idea."

I suspect most players were as baffled as I was, which is maybe why she didn't earn 600. Thanks for upholding my pick, EDH community!

Alright, enough of this patting-self-on-the-back stuff. Let’s see where I screwed up.

The Bold (And Ultimately False) Overs

I’m a sucker for sea monsters lurking just beneath the waves, so I’m bummed Arixmethes didn’t do better. Poor guy has a branding problem, as I noted in my first article:

"Hot take right here: Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle seems like exactly the kind of card players will build around (so long as they can figure out how to pronounce the name)."

As hot takes usually go, this one was off, in this case by over 100 decks (Arixmethes earned just 472 decks). At least I was somewhat correct in my guess for its most popular archetype: sea monster tribal! Check Arixmethes’s commander page and you’ll find pretty much every Leviathan, Kraken, Sea Serpent, and Octoprophet ever printed. Thing is, there aren’t that many of them, and they aren’t that popular. Here's where I elaborated on the versatility argument:

"Look at some of the format’s most popular [commanders]: Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, Queen Marchesa. These cards allow for some flexibility, and therefore allow for creative deck building. I see Arixmethes slotting nicely into this category. (Also, I now dub it "The Big Sleep.")"

At least the nickname works. I mean, people still watch Humphrey Bogart movies, right?

As for the Kestia, the Cultivator pick, I really have no excuse. Here's what I wrote:

"Now this is what I’m talking about. I see Kestia, the Cultivator as one of the more popular commanders from Commander 2018."

No no. Stop there, please!

"First off, many players have already recognized her ability to mitigate one of the main drawbacks of enchanted creatures... Notice too that she mentions 'enchantment creatures' in her text... we’ve never had a commander with Bestow before, and Bestow is quite popular... I think players will latch onto that and play Kestia often."

As of August 10th, 2019, Kestia helms this many decks: 200. If you listen closely, you'll hear Septa Unella shouting, "Shame! Shame!" at me. You said it, sister.

The Egregious Unders

If you think my Kestia pick was bad, just get a load of these. Let’s start with Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. A year ago, I gave her an Under pick, and wrote:

"This might come as a surprise to some, especially considering the constant calls for Ninja commanders we’ve had over the years. I agree—Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow is an exciting card. It’s just not going to take off the way some might think... In all, there are 10 Ninjas in Magic, not counting Yuriko and Changelings. Unless they print more Ninjas in the near future, I’m not seeing the critical mass needed to make this commander popular."

Funny you should say that, Former Self, because Modern Horizons featured several more Ninjas—eight, to be exact. Not that they were the ones to push Yuriko over the hump: she’s been one of the set’s most popular commanders pretty much since day one. In fact, she finished the year as the set's second most popular commander with 1,363 decks. Guess I should’ve heeded the "constant calls for Ninja commanders" comment after all…

But it gets worse for me. I also gave Estrid, the Masked an Under grade. My cutting-edge insight began thusly:

"For starters, [Estrid] just doesn’t seem all that good."

Look, I'm not known for my eloquence.

But really, for what it’s worth, I still stand by my evaluation. I’ve never been particularly impressed by Estrid. I know I’ll get angry comments from her fans in the comments but, to paraphrase The Dude, it’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Anyway, I proceeded to dig myself an even deeper hole:

"I think Estrid is cool, but just not good enough to reach 600... I see her ending up somewhere in the mid-to-high 500s."

As of August 10th, Estrid has earned 827 decks. Nailed it.

Finally, we come to perhaps my most misguided Under grade of all: Aminatou, the Fateshifter. This little kid is way more popular than I’d ever guessed. At the time, here’s what I thought of her:

"[Aminatou] only provides card selection—and poor card selection at that. The blinking ability is cute, but it’s a -1 ability on a three loyalty planeswalker... Then there’s her ultimate, which is… interesting? I’m not really sure what to make of it, other than that it won’t win the game on the spot."

I can personally attest to my failure, especially on that last point. I have won games with Aminatou’s ultimate. Several of them.

Yes, I’ll admit it. Aminatou leads 1,144 EDHREC decks (third highest from the set), and one of those decks is mine. Shortly after completing my article, I purchased the "Subjective Reality" theme deck with the intent of building a Yennett deck. Instead, it became an Aminatou deck.

I was wrong, dear reader. Aminatou is an excellent commander, which helps explain why she’s so popular. She enables all sorts of powerful interactions, and the age-old adage about three-mana planeswalkers proves true once again: they’re better than they look.

Summing It Up

We like stats here at EDHREC, so here are mine. I’ll get to work adding them to my rookie card.

Correct Picks (11):

Incorrect Picks (5):

My Commander 2018 Correct Prediction Percentage: 69%

My Overall Correct Prediction Percentage: 69%

Not bad for my first time, I suppose. I know this article was a little different, so let me know your thoughts in the comments. Hope you enjoyed it!

Kyle A. Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife, their daughter, and three wild animals. His current favorite card is Titania, Gaea Incarnate. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.