The 600 - A Review of Modern Horizons

(Serra the Benevolent | Art by Magali Villeneuve)

Hindsight on the Horizons

One year ago, Wizards of the Coast gave us a set named Commander Horizons.

Nah, just kidding, it's called Modern Horizons. However, despite the name and target format, this proved to be a highly impactful set for EDH. Today, let's review it.

Welcome back to The 600, the article series where we guess how popular new commanders will become. About a year ago, I guessed whether each commander from Modern Horizons would earn over or under 600 decks. It's time to check my work.

Two things: you can find last year’s article here, though no worries if you haven’t read it—I’ll be drawing from my past evaluations throughout. Also, these numbers were pulled on Modern Horizons’s one-year birthday, which was June 16, 2020. Now, to the commanders!

The Easy Overs

We'll begin on a high note with this elephant-lobster-blob thing:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 2,031

What was my initial evaluation of Morophon? Well, after comparing my love of Lorwyn to being a fan of the New York Knickerbockers, here’s what I wrote:

“Morophon can literally be the commander of any tribe anyone wants: Kithkin tribal, Hound tribal, Elk tribal…whatever goofy tribal deck you want, it now has a commander. An excellent card with broad application, its potential is boundless indeed.”

That analysis proved correct, as Big Boundless finished the year with 2,031 decks. Not bad for a translucent Ditto with antlers.

Next up, the High Artificer himself:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 1,770

Urza’s kind of like an Apple product, in that the name alone guarantees popularity. That much was clear, even when the set first dropped. Last year I wrote...

“I don’t think there’s any question that Urza will top 600 decks. Heck, by next year he might be the most popular mono-blue commander in the history of EDHREC.”

Turns out I was right on both scores. Urza nearly tripled the 600 mark, and he currently leads mono-blue commanders by a sizeable margin.

To be clear, it's not just the name that earned the decks. Urza's just plain nasty. Two bodies, mana ramp, and card advantage, all for four mana? No wonder the dude's so popular.

I'd forgotten how many nods to the past were seeded into this set. Take our next commander, for instance.

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 1,644

WotC has printed numerous five-color commanders of late, so there was a chance that Sisay might’ve been overshadowed by the likes of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, Niv-Mizzet Reborn, or Kenrith, the Returned King.

Didn’t happen. Sisay helms over 1,600 decks, due in no small part due to her versatility. I noted historic and legendary themes in last year's article, but there's far more than just those. According to her commander page, Sisay supports themes from Pod to Snow, not to mention Human, Dragon, and God Tribal. Ikoria’s Jegantha, the Wellspring gave her a nice bump since it single-handedly activates her ability. And she's a fellow lefty! No wonder I gave Sisay an Over.

Our next commander: a guy who's totally not a Phyrexian mole:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 1,369

How did Yawgmoth ever get away with anything? He's got a Phyrexian-shaped Fidget Spinner on his hip, for crying out loud. If he was my physician, I’d ask for somebody else.

That said, it didn't stop me from giving him an easy Over, which he more than surpassed. How did he do it?

Like his contemporary, Urza, name recognition certainly helped, as I mentioned previously:

“Yawgmoth already gets bonus points for being Yawgmoth.”

Plus, like many of the other legends from this set, Yawgmoth has tons of useful text. I noted some of the most striking themes last year:

"Players can build an Aristocrats deck, a creature control deck, an Infect deck, a reanimator deck, or some combination of them all."

A fine start to the list, but players have also crafted artifacts, Snow, and Zombie tribal decks. Might I also suggest Lousy Undercover Agent Tribal as a new theme? The recently printed Conspicuous Snoop would fit nicely, if only it was black....

Finally, this set delivered a legendary Sliver:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 935

In the immortal words of Nascar legend Ricky Bobby, if you’re not first, you’re last. The First Sliver agrees, which is how it became so successful. It's either that or Magic players' love for Slivers, which I discussed in last year's article. After analyzing the previous four legendary five-color Slivers, I wrote...

"Sliver Overlord’s popularity indicates a high level of interest among EDH players for five-color Sliver commanders. Yes, I’ll admit the numbers for Sliver Hivelord, Sliver Queen, and Sliver Legion aren’t impressive, but I’d argue that’s due more to prohibitive cost than anything else."

I think The First Sliver's popularity proved those statements true, especially considering it received almost no additional support from subsequent sets. Sure, it got Ikoria's tri-lands and the aforementioned Jegantha, the Wellspring, but that's about it. Maybe it'll find a friend in Modern Horizons 2, when we'll presumably get The Second Sliver.

This set wasn't all Overs, though. Let's take a look at one of the two Unders.

The Easy Under

And now, the set's least popular commander:

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 86

As noted in last year’s article, Pash is similar to a commander with a more normal name:

“[Pashalik] Mons’s first ability is reminiscent of another recently-printed commander: Judith, the Scourge Diva.”

In my Ravnica Allegiance 600 article, I gave Judith a fervent Over, but alas, she topped out at 267 decks. I’m glad I didn’t make the same mistake with 'Lik.

Digging into the data, it’s pretty clear why Mons didn’t make it. Just look at his only two themes:

  • Goblin Tribal
  • Goblin Tokens

Being narrow isn’t necessarily bad, but being narrow in the same space as Krenko, Mob Boss certainly is. At best, PLM is a cheeky alternative to Krenko. He also lacks the big-name cachet of the aforementioned Urza and Yawgmoth, which is why I tried several catchy nicknames for him throughout the previous few paragraphs. Maybe one will stick.

The False Over

I did pretty well with these commanders, but there were a couple missteps. First up, the writhing mass of dead people:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 494

For some reason, I was fixated on card names with this set. For Hogaak, I wrote:

“This guy’s name sounds like the noise my cat makes when she’s puking up a hairball.”

Perhaps not the sole reason for the Under, but definitely (maybe) a contributing factor.

For real, I believe I erred by overrating Hoggak's effect on the battlefield. It does some fancy footwork to get there, but once it arrives it’s basically a bigger Colossal Dreadmaw. I even noted that in last year’s evaluation.

“...As a seven-mana 8/8 with trample, Hogaak would normally be underwhelming (I’d rather have another Colossal Dreadmaw.”

Yet I didn't heed my own warning. Listen, I know how much we all treasure Dreadmaw, but at the end of the day, raw stats and trample rarely make a commander popular.

Furthermore, you might remember Hogaak running roughshod over some format called “Modern” (I'm told it's fun). Though it never became prohibitively expensive (about $20 at its highest), Hogaak helmed a deck so oppressive it had to be banned from the format. Therefore, it was temporarily in high demand and might’ve left fewer copies for us EDH players.

All that said, it still came close to crossing the mark, which illustrates how powerful Modern Horizons ended up being. Good try, ‘Gaak.

The False Under

I saved my worst pick for last.

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 885

In my defense, the popularity of obscure tribal lords is difficult to predict. Here were my initial thoughts:

“...[Ayula] is ultimately still a two mana[sic] 2/2 in a tribe with minimal support. The game’s best Bears include the aforementioned Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, Werebear, Druid’s Familiar, and honorary Bear, Bearer of the Heavens.

"Ayula is the queen of a fun but shallow tribe. Not enough to reach 600.”

Sorry, former self. Turns out Ayula surpassed the mark by nearly 300. So, how did she bear it? (Sorry for that.)

Honestly, the answer still eludes me. I stand by last year's evaluation, and it's not like any new Bears arrived after the fact to boost numbers (unless you count Exuberant Wolfbear or Flaxen Intruder). "Bear" is also Magic-lingo for two-mana 2/2, which is not the sort of creature most EDH players dig, generally speaking.

My working theory is that 885 Chicago Bears fans quit watching football and took up Magic. Look, it's the only explanation I could come up with.


Correct Picks

Incorrect Picks

My Modern Horizons Correct Prediction Percentage: 75%

My Overall Correct Prediction Percentage: 68%

Coming back with more next month. Thanks for reading!

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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