The 600 - A Review of Modern Horizons 2 Commanders

Titania, Protector of Argoth | Art by Iris Compiet

A Modernist Postmodern Review

Now that we're beyond the horizon, it's time to take a look back at the set that was. Let's review Modern Horizons 2!

This is The 600, the article series where we guess how popular new commanders will become one year after release. Each card gets an "Over" or "Under" grade. The former means I predicted more than 600 decks, and the latter, fewer. There's also one Can't-Miss Pick each set, which functions as a source of embarrassment if I pick wrong. I screen-captured these commanders on their one-year anniversaries, so that's where these numbers are coming from.

Feel free to read last year's article—or keep going, since I'll be quoting it throughout. Now let's get started!

The Easy Overs

We begin with the set's biggest celebs.

Last year’s prediction: Overs for all

Final deck counts: 6085, 5726, and 2664, respectively

Chatterfang, Squirrel General was just about the easiest Over of all time. I think I pretty much summed it up last year:

"Chatterfang is exciting, unique, whimsical, and pretty darn powerful, too—all the trappings of a popular commander."

I forgot to add "menacing" to that list of adjectives, but otherwise, I'm satisfied. Chatterfang decks rely heavily on Squirrel tribal payoffs, such as Squirrel Mob and Squirrel Sovereign, though token payoffs, like Bastion of Remembrance and Second Harvest, appear frequently as well.

I'm satisfied with my appraisal of Sythis, Harvest's Hand, too. Last year I wrote...

"Low cost, high upside, and an archetype players already enjoy. What more could you ask for?"

I don't know, maybe an extra point of toughness? Nah, just kidding, Sythis. You're perfect just the way you are.

Finally, I was hyped about Lonis, Cryptozoologist in more ways than one.

"Investigate is a popular mechanic with little support. Adding a flagship commander with some real pop is a great way to boost those numbers."

That's the gameplay reason, but the flavorful reason I love Lonis is its profession; cryptozoology has always been my secret obsession. Probably watched too much MonsterQuest in high school.

Still, gameplay matters too, and Lonis once again proves the value of Clue tokens. Though not as ubiquitous as Treasure, Clues are better in many situations, especially when Lonis cracks them. Judging by Lonis's commander page, most decks feature utility creatures, leaning on stolen bombs to deliver the finishing blows.

Now three more for ya:

Last year’s prediction: Overs for all

Final deck counts: 2263, 1682, and 1141, respectively

I never noticed until now, but we've got a "Garth" and a "Carth" in the same set. What are the odds of that?

Anyhoo, the odds of success were always high for Garth—Garth One-Eye, that is. Last year I wrote...

"I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but this is one of the coolest Magic cards I’ve ever seen."

I mean, that sounds a little hyperbolic, Former Self, but we'll let it slide. I went on to write...

"The metagame flavor here is also delectable. Garth casts six spells: one of each color, plus the colorless Black Lotus. All six come from Alpha, Magic’s first-ever set, and each offers a powerful situational effect. Disenchant and Terror answer specific threats, Regrowth and Braingeyser restock your hand, and Shivan Dragon provides additional board presence."

Admittedly, Garth doesn't push you in a particular direction, which might be a boon or a shortcoming, depending on the deckbuilder. There's a laundry list of Garth themes, ranging from Lands to Topdeck (whatever that is), so it seems players dig the versatility.

Speaking of versatility, Carth the Lion isn't versatile at all. Last year I wrote...

"Many Magic: the Gathering players ask the question: how many planeswalkers can I stuff into one deck? The answer, if Carth's your commander: every single one that’s green, black, Golgari, or colorless."

Shoutout to the Professor, and shoutout to the 1,682 players who built Carth decks. We knew he was a one-trick pony, but we went for a ride anyway.

I continue to dislike Yusri, Fortune's Flame, despite giving it an Over. After calculating probability and crunching the numbers on previous coin-flip commanders, I wrote...

"Though I don't love the card myself, I'm here to speak for the people."

The people have spoken in favor of Yusri. These decks contain the flipping you'd expect, plus extra chaos elements such as dice rolling (Wand of Wonder, Wyll's Reversal) and random spellcasting (Arcane Bombardment, Neera, Wild Mage). This kind of wheel-spinny, time-wastey nonsense appeals to me about as much as a colonoscopy, so let's move on.

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 1,086

Oh yeah, you forgot this weirdo existed, didn't you? This corrupted Top Chef contestant scored well throughout the year thanks to the existing Food and discard synergies in black and red.

The only surprising part? For some reason, only 99% of players play The Underworld Cookbook alongside this commander. If you're the person who forgot to add the Cookbook to your deck, please explain yourself in the comments.

The Easy Unders

We all knew these schmoes were destined for obscurity.

Last year’s prediction: Unders for all

Final deck counts: 285, 246, and 243, respectively

After outlining some of Captain Ripley Vance's pros in last year's article, I dug into the cons, as one does in these articles...

"...We’ve seen similar trigger conditions on Jori En, Ruin Diver and Firja, Judge of Valor, yet they only command 478 and 170 decks, respectively. CRV asks for more than either of those commanders, yet arguably does less. Not seeing it here."

(For the record, Firja did indeed go Under, and Jori En probably would have.)

Believe it or not, Ripley did get some help from subsequent sets throughout her year, such as Arcane Bombardment from Streets of New Capenna and Kessig Flamebreather from Innistrad: Crimson Vow. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to save her from being one of the least popular commanders in the set.

Speaking of which, Thrasta, Tempest's Roar was an obvious dud, despite appearing as an extra in Jurassic World: Dominion.

"...Compare Thrasta to... Aeve, Progenitor Ooze. You'd think a Dinosaur and an Ooze wouldn't have much in common, but these two do. Both want to be preceded by several spells and both are mono-green.

That leaves Thrasta as the odd dino out. It's a solid commander, to be sure, but I think Aeve is the more interesting of the two, and therefore more likely to get more decks."

That proved true, as we'll see in our next section. Interestingly, though, there's far less overlap between these two commanders than I anticipated. While Thrasta decks are skewed heavily toward one-mana cards, Aeve decks employ a more even curve, with a focus on—you guessed it—Ooze tribal. We'll come back to that.

Finally, earning the dubious distinction of least popular commander in the set, we have Tourach, Dread Cantor. I began with a personal anecdote:

"Tourach appears to be sporting a cape and boxers, which is an outfit I often rocked on Saturday mornings when I was eight (my cape was a blanket)."

Hmm. Perhaps that was a bit too personal. Fortunately, I ended on hard analysis:

"Lots of text, but it's leaving me unimpressed. The more I look at him, the more I think Tourach will be more popular in Modern than EDH."

I must confess, I've lost all touch with Modern. Judging by his current price tag, I'm guessing Tourach is a fringe playable at best.

The Close Overs

Just two for this category...

Last year’s prediction: Overs for both

Final deck counts: 828 and 746, respectively

We've mentioned Aeve, Progenitor Ooze already, but there's more to dig into (or ooze into?) in the tribal department. Last year I wrote...

"...Notice that Aeve benefits from any Ooze, making the tribal route totally viable. While Ooze decks rank very low (just 174), I suspect Aeve might be enough to boost those numbers."

Ooze decks have increased drastically, with 1,114 total decks as I write this. The majority still belong to fan favorite The Mimeoplasm, but Aeve comes in second with a respectable 305 decks.

We've got another tribal commander in Svyelun of Sea and Sky. Here's what I wrote last year (after I paraphrased Inglourious Basterds, that is)...

"Svyelun is currently priced as high as $54.99. That figure should decline, but maybe not by much, especially if a Merfolk deck surfaces in Modern.

"I really want to go Under, but I've been burned by tribal commanders before (Ayula, Queen Among Bears in the original Modern Horizons, for instance). I wish I wish I'll guess correctly about this fish."

"Surfaces"? See what I did there?

Wordplay aside, I'm relieved I didn't let the price influence me, since Svyelun currently costs less than a chalupa. (I guess the Modern Merfolk deck didn't pan out?) Also, I re-embarrassed myself with the mention of Ayula, who remains one of my most incorrect picks. If you'd like to see why, check out the Modern Horizons 600 review.

We didn't have any incorrect Overs, so let's jump straight into my underestimates.

The Irresponsible Unders

I predicted Unders for the following five commanders, yet they all earned more than 600 decks (in some cases, way more). Let's take a look.

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 2,030

I must admit, this comes as a surprise. Just see what I said last year:

"Grist is efficient and interesting, true enough. But efficiency matters more in Modern than EDH, and I believe interest in the card will quickly wane."

Once again, I underestimate an obscure tribe. Just look at Grist's commander page: Hornet Queen, Scute Mob, Caustic Caterpillar, Giant Adephage... there's no shortage of viable Insects in EDH. Plus, if you add library-stackers, like Gravepurge and Forever Young, this basically becomes a combo deck. Waning interest? As if.

This next one I don't feel too bad about:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 1,494

I think the appeal of General Ferrous Rokiric is its accessibility. It's always been cheap, and all you need are your favorite red and white cards to make it tick. You can add artifact, token, and even Golem synergies to power up those 4/4s as well.

So why didn't I see all this from the start? Let's review last year's evaluation...

"[Rokiric's] text reminds me of Rienne, Angel of Rebirth... In my Core Set 2020 article, I liked Rienne, Angel of Rebirth enough to make it my Can’t-Miss Pick. But the Angel rewarded my faith with a whopping... 290 decks. I won't make the same mistake here."

Ah, a classic case of associating past trauma with a present prediction. Can I vow not to make the mistake of vowing not to make a different mistake?

I'm actually happy I got this next one wrong:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 1,239

Are we in the midst of a Boros Renaissance? A Borosissance, if you will? Thus far in 2022 reviews, here's a list of Boros Overs:

That's pretty darn good, especially for the consensus worst color pair in our format. Not to hedge, but I almost predicted Zabaz joining this list.

"I actually like this card more than I thought I would. Plus, it’s a Boros commander that doesn’t mention the words 'attack,' 'extra combat,' or 'Equipment,' so you’d think that would be enough for an Over."

Yes, Former Self, I would think that. However, I undercut my point in the very next paragraph:

"Sorry Zabaz. Much as I’d like to give it to you, I’ve seen minimal online buzz about you. Plus, Modular is too obscure a mechanic—and not even that popular, as I remember."

You fool! It's not about the Modular, it's about the artifacts! Just check the synergy with Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, Scrap Welder, and Goblin Engineer, just to name a few. But hey, Modular appears a ton in this set as well. Perhaps the mechanic was always popular, and it just needed the right commander.

This next one still comes as a shock:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 1,203

Look, I know monkeys are funny, but this is an $80 monkey we're talking about, here! And that's modest compared to its highest price, which was $143. I feel like you could buy a real monkey for that kind of cash. Furthermore, there are some significant gameplay issues I addressed last year:

"...Once the game develops, Ragavan will struggle to find safe passage. There are ways to slip through (Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner, Access Tunnel, Whispersilk Cloak), though I'm unsure the payoff is worth the work."

All three of those cards appear in Ragavan decks, plus plenty more similar effects such as Goblin Tunneler and Goblin Smuggler, yet the real captains of the ship are the Treasure payoffs, which seem to have reached critical mass in EDH. Professional Face-Breaker, Xorn, Goldspan Dragon, Magda, Brazen Outlaw... there's no shortage of ways to make and/or spend your Treasure, especially in red. I guess the Treasure is worth the price tag.

And finally, our most perplexing Over of the set.

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 944

With a Westerosi IP returning to TV in HBO's House of the Dragon, I feel I can safely make dragon jokes again. Then again, maybe the joke was on me all along. I mean, how the heck did this thing go Over? I feel like my logic from last year was ironclad as the will of Stannis Baratheon.

"...That mana cost is wildly prohibitive. Also, the upkeep tax is super annoying (and your friends might call you out if you miss it too often). And another thing: Eight mana is a ton, especially in a non-green deck. If this gets killed once—which is likely, since it has neither hexproof, nor ward, nor indestructible—you may never cast it again.

"If all that criticism doesn’t convince you, just check out the performance of the original five Elder Dragons:"

I then noted their deck counts, which ranged from the measly 254 to the paltry 19. Yet still, Piru almost doubled the mark. How? How?

I'm not seeing many clear answers on Piru's commander page. Themes seem scattered amongst Treasure, lifegain, and Stuffy Doll effects. So the theme is Mardu versatility, I guess? This one remains a head-scratcher for me.


Correct Picks (12)

Incorrect Picks (5)

My Modern Horizons 2 Correct Prediction Percentage: 71%

My Overall Correct Prediction Percentage: 74%

Not bad, but after a career best with Kaldheim, I feel like I'm treading water with the last couple sets. Let's hope for bigger numbers when we review Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Until then, keep on prognosticating!

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 Ghired, Mirror of the Wilds. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.

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