The 600 – A Review of Commander Legends Predictions

(Kamahl, Heart of Krosa | Art by Kekai Kotaki)

73 Freakin’ Commanders

It’s a big set, but somebody’s gotta write about it, even a year later.

Welcome once again to The 600the article series where we predict (then review) how popular new commanders will become after one year of play. Our line is the titular 600, so “Over” means I predicted the commander would have over 600 decks one year from release, while “Under” means I estimated under 600 decks. Last year, I wrote not one, but two prediction articles for Commander Legends. Feel free to skim Part 1 and Part 2, but no worries if you don’t; I’ll reference them throughout this article.

Usually for these reviews, I recap every commander. However, with so freakin’ many in this set (and many of them designed primarily for draft), I’ve opted to cover only the most interesting cards. Rest assured, that doesn’t mean I’ll skip my worst picks – quite the opposite, in fact. Let’s get to it!


The Correct Overs

I like to begin these articles with positives, both because I’m an optimist and because it makes it appear I know what I’m doing. Here’s my favorite commander of the set:

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 754

Though Akroma did go Over, she didn’t earn nearly as many decks as I thought she would. Here are last year’s thoughts:

“Akroma is particularly spicy with Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, since they pump each other for five (yes, Partner counts). She also works with Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, Kamahl, Heart of Krosa, and pretty much anything with an evergreen keyword.”

Despite the relatively low numbers, I’ll allow myself a pat on the back: the three commanders I mentioned are indeed Akroma’s top three Partners, with Rograkh taking the lion’s share of the pairings. Speaking of him…

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 2,905

Though I still can’t spell this guy’s name, Rograkh became the most popular Partner of the set, surpassing solid contenders like Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, Kodama of the East Tree, and Krark, the Thumbless. This is likely due to the sheer novelty of the card. I mean, who can resist playing Magic’s only free-to-cast commander? I said as much in last year’s article:

“It Partners well with Jeska, Thrice Reborn, Akroma, Vision of Ixidor, Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, and probably lots more. That, plus the novelty of a zero-mana commander, is just too tantalizing to pass up.”

In reviewing the decks, the coolest Rograkh build I found was a pairing with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept for a Storm build, of all things. Play cards like Alchemist’s Retrieval to bounce Rograkh and recast him for free, then recur zero-mana artifacts, like Lotus Petal, with Silas. Once your Storm count gets high enough, cast something like Grapeshot for the win (or keep casting spells until the table tires of it and scoops).

But Rograkh wasn’t the only sweet red commander from Commander Legends. 

Last year’s predictions: Overs for all three

Final deck counts: 1,526, 1,060, and 1,031 decks, respectively

After spoofing the coin toss scene from No Country for Old Men for several paragraphs, I got to the point with Krark:

“People are hyped about this guy for Storm, Chaos, Spellslinger, and general humor. Evidently, EDH is a Good Country for Thumbless Goblins.”

Indeed, players have built all those archetypes, usually in tandem with the aforementioned Sakashima of a Thousand Faces. Vial Smasher the Fierce is Krark’s second most popular Partner, due to a synergy I didn’t spot at first glance: Krark’s spells still count as being cast, even if you lose the flip and they return to your hand. Since Vial Smasher triggers on casting, you can potentially replay a big-mana spell several times for big damage. This trick also works for Cascade spells. No wonder Krark’s so popular!

I initially earmarked Toggo as a meme card:

“Apparently Toggo combined with Kodama of the East Tree and a Ravnica bounce land makes infinite Landfall triggers and infinite Rocks. Play your land, bounce it back to your hand, trigger Toggo, then create a Rock. Rock enters and triggers Kodama, which puts the land into play, which triggers Toggo, and the process repeats.”

However, this Rock god rocks many more cool synergies, including (but not limited to) the following:

Finally, Jeska, Thrice Reborn has a legit claim to the unofficial title of “Weirdest Commander.” She’s one of only two planeswalkers in the set, and she gets bigger the more times you’ve cast a commander. Her top Partner is Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker because she can triple Ishai’s commander damage. Now that’s pretty sweet.

I could go on with all the best Partner pairings in the set, but we also have plenty of sweet non-Partners to cover. Let’s begin with this one:

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 1,864

This card’s power was obvious, even last year:

“Imagine Araumi in tandem with Grave Titan, Ravenous Chupacabra, or pretty much any creature with a sick ETB, dies, and/or attacks trigger. Hard to believe it’s only an uncommon.”

New juicy additions, like Oriq Loremage from Strixhaven and Archon of Cruelty and from Modern Horizons 2, have only made Araumi better. I expect it to be a Dimir staple moving forward.

Next up, let’s talk about Sundial of the Infinite on a stick:

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 2,285

Last year I wrote that Obeka “could go down as one of the most popular commanders of all time.” It’s #65 as I write this article, so maybe that prediction was a bit overzealous. Still, the card is frequently played, due in large part to sweet synergies like these:

There are many more, but suffice it to say that Obeka is sweet.

Those were all the correct Over picks I’d like to cover. Now how about the correct Unders?


The Undeniable Unders

Let’s start with this one…

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 318

Yes, I did give this kitty an Under. In fact, here’s the entirety of last year’s evaluation:

“Meow.

Which roughly translates to: “Deathtouch and menace are nice to have, but they aren’t worth building a Commander deck around—even with a Partner.”

To reiterate: Meow.”

In hindsight, I’m kinda surprised I was correct. In addition to the aforementioned combo with Toggo, Falthis does the following cool stuff:

Ultimately, though, I suppose this is all a bit small potatoes when you’re playing the most powerful format around. A fun commander for Commander Legends draft, but not good enough outside that format. Next up…

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 471

Though I acknowledged Alena’s unique ability to provide legit ramp in red, here was my main criticism:

“…This effect feels a bit win-more to me. If you’re already casting a gigantic creature, is adding a ton of red mana really helping all that much? I’m skeptical.”

That more or less bore out, though with only 129 decks to spare. Halana, Kessig Ranger was of course her top Partner, though Kodama of the East Tree and Thrasios, Triton Hero provided solid support.

The last Partner I’d like to comment on is this one:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 9

This card was invented to save players who trainwrecked their Commander Legends drafts. Nonetheless, nine wonderful souls decided to troll their friends with this foolish commander. Someone even went so far as to pair it with Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, which is especially hilarious. One single Piper just isn’t enough.

With The Prismatic Piper down, that’s it for our Partners in this section, but what about the rest of the pack?

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 533

Of all 73 commanders in Commander Legends, Kangee, Sky Warden came closest to 600 without going Over. It’s a surprising feat, especially considering my flippant tone from last year:

“Certainly nice with a swarm of flyers at its back, but Kangee offers no immediate impact upon entry, and five mana feels too pricey for the effect. I’m warden this one off.”

Most decks are exactly what you’d expect: Azorius flying creatures with Favorable Winds and Reconnaissance Mission mixed in. Nothing revolutionary, but a good note to self for future predictions: Azorius flyers is like Hawaiian pizza: far more popular than I realized.

Last but not least in this section…

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 483

I mention this card only because it got late, unforeseen reinforcements from Innistrad: Crimson Vow. But first, an important statement from last year’s article:

“I expect to see Colfenor at the next Entmoot, but probably not in many Commander decks.”

FYI, this year’s Entmoot was held over Zoom due to the pandemic.

Really though, the help I mentioned comes from the Golgari ‘toughness matters’ deck (a.k.a. “butts deck”) seeded in Crimson Vow draft. It brought tools like Ancient Lumberknot and Dormant Grove to Colfenor decks, which really pop when your commander has seven toughness. Alas, it wasn’t quite enough to make 600.

Alright, I know you’ve had enough of my successes. Let’s take a look at some of my most embarrassing failures.


The Atrocious Unders

Let’s start with my worst Partner pick:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 1,993

In my defense, I was probably concussed when I wrote last year’s article. That is, in fact, a complete fabrication, but it would make sense if it was true. I was somehow of sound mind when I wrote these words:

“I feel like this card reads better than it plays. It cheats Equipment costs, sure, but you already had to pay mana to cast those Equipment (and Ardenn himself). Also, shuffling Auras from one creature to another is about as productive as running in circles, and I fail to see much upside in moving Curses around (though I’ll admit it sounds kinda fun).”

I’ve learned my lesson. EDH players have an irrational attachment to Curses, just like I have an irrational attachment to Taco Bell. What’s more, Ardenn’s top Partner is Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, who we’ve already established is the top Partner of the set. These two alone would’ve gone over 600!

Now for my next worst Partner pick…

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 1,929

The next in a long line of exalted Malcolms, including Malcolm X, Malcolm McDowell, Malcolm Gladwell, and Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator was criminally underrated by yours truly. Here was my reasoning:

“[Malcolm provides ramp] only if he gets a clear attack every turn, which isn’t always the case. Even assuming he could, one additional mana each turn isn’t going to be game-busting.”

I may or may not have missed the part about getting a Treasure for each opponent you hit. When you have 73 commanders, details are going to slip through the cracks. Plus, I never should’ve underestimated a Pirate commander.

The next one up is a pleasant surprise:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 846

I always love cards that trigger when stuff leaves the graveyard, so I’ve always admired Tormod. However, I never thought he’d actually succeed. I knew he’d Partner well with Ghost of Ramirez DePietro, but I didn’t anticipate his pairings with Ravos, Soultender (a guaranteed Zombie every upkeep), Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus (Grixis Zombie tribal), and Kamahl, Heart of Krosa (go-wide tokens). See, this is yet another reason Magic is the greatest game ever: there are hidden synergies with practically every card!

This next surprise was not so pleasant:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 614

I really wanted to give this card an Over. I even went so far as to admit that I’m a “Lorwyn apologist.” Yet I didn’t take a chance, and Nymris punished me by just 14 decks. Next time, I’ll follow my heart.

Although, following my heart is what I tried to do with this next commander—with little success.

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 2,693

This isn’t just the worst pick of the set—it’s one of the worst picks I’ve made in the four years I’ve been writing these articles. Liesa, Shroud of Dusk is the most popular commander in Commander Legends, and the 47th most popular overall. She’s also the second most popular Orzhov commander, surpassing mainstays like Athreos, God of Passage and Karlov of the Ghost Council.

This pick was the equivalent of NFL teams downgrading Mac Jones because he looks a little doughy. Can you tell I’m jealous of the Patriots? The Jones quarterback on my team is Daniel Jones, and he’s not nearly as good as Mac… but I digress.


The Egregious Overs

Our next card is an Under, but I’m still shocked it didn’t go Over:

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 480

Rebbec still seems powerful to me, despite her poor showing. Silas Renn, Seeker Adept, Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer, Glacian, Powerstone Engineer… all these commanders should Partner well with her, yet she still underachieves. Maybe most players already have their artifact-themed decks, or the effect is slightly too narrow to reach 600? Whatever the reasons, I’m still flabbergasted.

Speaking of flabbergasted, I still can’t wrap my head around this one.

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 291

Note my breezy, confident tone in last year’s prediction:

“…Two counters per death (of anything, not just your stuff) will add up rapidly.”

And if that statement doesn’t reek of overconfidence, this one certainly does:

“…The Baron’s going to be popular.”

Well, Former Self, he isn’t. I suppose the six-mana cost might have something to do with that, or the player-losing-the-game clause triggering so infrequently. Whatever the reason, I’m left with egg on my face.

Or goo, perhaps?

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 111

Despite having a name that resembles “the sound my stomach makes when it wants pizza,” Slurrk never caught on. Like Sengir, it’s expensive. Plus, I think I underestimated just how finicky its ability can be. Not only do you need sac outlets, you need a creature (or ideally several) with +1/+1 counters already on them, and with relatively few productive Partner pairings, this is one I probably shouldn’t have missed.

And now for our final disappointment of the set…

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 189

We’ve gotten spoiled with Boros commanders over the last few sets, with popular additions such as Osgir, the Reconstructor, Winota, Joiner of Forces, and Wyleth, Soul of Steel. I thought Bell Borca would be the next in line, as evidenced by my cocksure attitude in last year’s article:

“…Bell Borca treats the exile zone as a ghostly plane of power, which is really cool. He fuels himself with that last line of text (card advantage in Boros, woo!), and triggers from other cards being exiled, too. That makes white staples like Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares even better.”

Though both those cards appear in the majority of Borca decks, plus other solid contributors, such as Etali, Primal Storm, Laelia, the Blade Reforged, and Valakut Exploration, the numbers remain low. Maybe players didn’t want to note the mana value of every card going into exile? Your guess is as good as mine.


Recap

Note: The one-year deck counts are listed in parentheses for each commander. Prepare to do a lot of scrolling!

Correct Picks (51)

Incorrect Picks (22)

My Commander Legends Correct Prediction Percentage: 70%

My Overall Correct Prediction Percentage: 73%

A bit of a dip after our stellar 89% for Zendikar Risingbut we’ll take it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go build some Partner decks.

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 Akroma, Vision of Ixidor. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.