The 600 - A Review of Theros Beyond Death Commanders

(Gallia of the Endless Dance | Art by Johannes Voss)

Back to Beyond

In the words of Imhotep, a.k.a. the Mummy from The Mummy"Death is only the beginning."

Words to live by. And now that we've gone beyond death, let's begin our review.

Welcome back to another edition of The 600the article series where I predict how popular new commanders will become after one year's time. My line is 600, so "Over" means I thought the commander would lead over 600 decks, while "Under" means the opposite. It's been over a year since I prognosticated Theros Beyond Death, so let's see how I did.

If you'd like to read last year's article on TBD, you can find it here. Also of note: the numbers provided in this article were screencaptured on January 24, 2021, the one-year birthday of the set.

Ready to take a trip down underworld lane? Then follow me. And don't mind the Cerberus.


The Easy Overs

I usually start these reviews with the picks I got right so as to make myself look like a more competent source. Therefore, I give you...

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 642

Uro made more appearances in 2020 than Dr. Fauci. I'm talking EDH, Legacy, Modern, Historic, Pioneer, and Standard. As a result, its value hovered between $50 and $60 (until it was banned in all but two of those formats, that is).

The price caused scarcity, but the cross-format appearances caused fatigue. Even if you don't play those other formats, you surely know someone who does. If so, I suspect they didn't have nice things to say about ol' Uro (unless they had a playset). That perception gave Uro a sour taste, no matter what format you play.

Next up, the new God on the block:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 609

After poking fun at Klothys's choice of eyewear, here's what I wrote in last year's evaluation:

"Since Klothys is so different, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I think deck builders will be intrigued by her quirks and try building decks around her."

Some redundant phrasing there, but the sentiment rang true in the end. Klothys was indeed unique enough to inspire myriad decks. Most feature damage amplification effects, like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, Cindervines, and Manabarbs. Land Destruction is also one of her top themes, which makes me thankful no one in my playgroup runs this commander.

That's it for my correct Over picks. Next up...


The Easy Unders

This spot is reserved for those commanders destined to be duds. Let's start with these three:

My prediction: Under for all three

Final deck counts: 32, 19, and 18 decks, respectively

Not much to say about this trio—other than that my chief criticism of Taranika has aged well:

"[Taranika is] mono-white, which is kinda like being the Cincinnati Bengals of EDH."

Sorry, Bengals fans. At least now you have Joe Burrow!

Our next three Easy Unders are...

A mono-white lifegain commander, a card that only triggers depending on opposing actions, and an effect which I described as "the clunkiest way to get 2/2 Zombies since Cellar Door." It's no wonder these went Under. But hey, fun fact: "The Cacophony" is my unofficial nickname at karaoke.

Next up, three more Unders.

My prediction: Under for all three

Final deck counts: 104, 100, and 96 decks, respectively

My friend does have a cool Callaphe deck. Other than that, I've never seen any of these commanders in the wild. Erebos at least fits nicely into mono-black Devotion and aristocrats shells—though not well enough to warrant 600 decks.

And now for three more Easy Unders. Sensing a pattern here?

My prediction: More Unders for all three

Final deck counts: 149, 112, and 109 decks, respectively

Some quick hits from last year's article:

"Being mono-blue means [Thryx] isn’t particularly flexible, and the cost reduction clause isn’t enough to push deck builders in any interesting directions."

That pretty much bore out, though I will admit Thryx got some fun new toys in the intervening 365 days, including Voracious Greatshark and Brinelin, the Moon Kraken. Not enough to save it from eternal mediocrity, but at least the guy tried.

Here's what I wrote about Anax:

"[Anax's] unimpressive stats are probably due to a post-breakup lack of confidence. He’s surrounded himself with some pretty bad influences: a bunch of Satyrs who won’t even block for him. And he’s devoted himself to red when he should’ve devoted himself to his relationship all along."

The joke here is that he broke up with Cymede (because they used to share a card). In hindsight, this was probably kicking a guy when he was down. But it's been a year and he now has 112 new friends to party with, so it looks like he's adjusting well enough.

Finally, my thoughts on Kunoros:

"Players seem unenthused by graveyard-hate commanders. It’s an important ability to have, but not particularly fun to have on your commander."

Seems like that's true, though the 109 players who built Kunoros certainly seem to enjoy denying others. In fact, the word "can't" appears on almost every card on the page. Again, glad this isn't in my playgroup.

And yes, some more Easy Unders.

My prediction: Yep: Unders for all three

Final deck counts: 250, 244, and 174 decks, respectively

Of these three underperformers, Haktos is the one that surprises me most. Though I expected an Under, I thought he'd go less Under than he did. After all, this is Magic's version of the legendary Achilles (though not modeled after Brad Pitt here). From last year's article:

"...Lower-cost cards in EDH tend to be ramp or draw spells, not random blockers. And though Haktos must attack each combat if able, you can choose to attack the opponents least able to block."

True statements, but not enough to push ol' Hak to 600... or even halfway there.

And now for our final trio of Easy Unders:

My prediction: You know it... Unders for them all

Final deck counts: 322, 295, and 289 decks, respectively

I mockingly referred to Dalakos as "Crafter of Unders" last year, and I stand by that statement. The fun of the Atris minigame wears off quickly, in my experience, so no surprise there. Which leaves Gallia.

EDH players love tribes, so anytime a new tribal commander comes along—even from an underrepresented tribe—we should take notice. For example, Ayula, Queen Among Bears took me completely by surprise in my Modern Horizons review, primarily because I didn't realize people liked Bears that much (I mean, even Chicago Bears fans don't like their Bears). Turns out I was wrong.

Even so, I'm glad I didn't go Over on Gallia. Here was my reasoning:

"My main issue is the Satyr thing. There are 20 Satyr creatures in red and green, plus a handful of Satyr token makers. And some of those include scrubs like Nyxborn Rollicker, Satyr Grovedancer, and Satyr Rambler.

"I think deck builders will quickly discover there aren’t enough satyrs to fill the dance floor. This one was getting a little too rowdy, anyway."

In my experience, sometimes you've just got to take a guess on these obscure tribes. Turns out I guessed right this time.


The Close Under

I've only got one for this category, and her name rhymes with "kielbasa."

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 555

I'll admit, this card has far more applications than I initially gave it credit for. You can temporarily steal an opponent's creature, then blink it to keep it permanently. You can blink Sakashima of a Thousand Faces and copy Thassa to get even more blinks. And, of course, there are tons more viable blink targets.

But ultimately, the card didn't get there. Here's last year's analysis of why:

"Four mana for a 6/5 is an excellent rate, but the Devotion clause is difficult to fulfill. Four more mana to tap creatures seems like a poor exchange. The blinking effect, though strong, appears on better cards with better color combinations. And when combined, none of these effects complement each other."

And now for the part we've all been waiting for... my blunders!


The Egregious Overs

These are the cards I said would go Over, but didn't. We'll start with one of my lousiest picks:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 175

In last year's article, I spent several sentences complimenting this guy's stats, then concluded my argument thusly:

"I won’t play Polukranos, but for some reason I have a good feeling about him."

In hindsight, that statement is somewhat contradictory. It's like saying, "I'm not touching those Taco Bell leftovers that have been congealing in the fridge for the past three weeks... but you should!"

Turns out most EDH players didn't heed my good feeling. Not even close to a 600!

That wasn't my only egregious Over. There was also this dude:

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 580

This pick was only egregious-ish, since Purphoros actually did nearly make the mark. Here's what I thought of him last year:

"...All creatures getting haste is nice. Reminds me a bit of Rhythm of the Wild, which appears in 9,811 decks. His activated ability is even better. This one reminds me of Sneak Attack, which appears in 1,916 decks (that lower figure is likely due more to scarcity than disinterest)...

That sacrifice clause is meant to be a drawback, but it might actually prove advantageous with cards such as the following: Wurmcoil Engine, Hoarding Dragon, and Bearer of the Heavens."

That analysis checked out. In fact, all three of the pro-sacrifice creatures I mentioned appear in Purphoros decks. However, it wasn't enough to close that final 20-deck gap.

I saved my most egregious Over for last...

My prediction: Over

Final deck count: 453

This was my Can't-Miss Pick of the set... and I missed it. Not the first time it's happened, and probably not the last, either. I'm not even sure why I introduced the segment in the first place, because all it ever does is make me look silly. So it goes.

But honestly, I'm flummoxed about why Athreos didn't get more decks. As stated in last year's article:

"[Athreos's coin counters] appear on your end step, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to tag one creature. Then when it dies, any enter-the-battlefield effects get re-triggered.

What’s more, Athreos even prevents creatures from being exiled. Seems super annoying with Hanged Executioner, Mangara of Corondor, and False Prophet.

Finally, notice that coins may be given to any creature, yet that creature returns to the battlefield under your control. That means we can give coins to our opponents’ best creatures, then kill them and steal them."

In other words, this card is incredibly versatile. I built a deck around it myself, and let me tell you, it's an absolute blast to cast Swords to Plowshares on your own Grave Titan to gain six life and get two extra Zombies. Or better yet, doing it on your opponent's Grave Titan so you can steal it.

Listen, I don't have any answers for this one. I'm almost 30, so maybe I'm out of touch with today's youth or something. All I can tell you is that I thought Athreos, Shroud-Veiled would be far more popular.


The Egregious Unders

Now for my incorrect Under predictions, starting with...

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 796

Here was my chief criticism of the card:

"Kroxa is efficient and unique, sure, but I don’t see many playgroups welcoming a commander who forces constant discarding."

Perhaps players are just more sadistic than I thought. Or maybe I underestimated the coolness factor in Kroxa's design. Uro might be the only other card like him, and I gave Uro an Over. Probably should've followed suit with Kroxa.

Next up, a rather embarrassing gaff.

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 862

I went a little hard on the anti mono-white sentiment here. Plus, I again questioned what EDH players are into.

"I think it would take something monumental to push mono-white over 600, and I’m actually not convinced that a mono-white combo deck is what people are after. A lot of players dislike combo; even Prime Speaker Vannifar, a well-known combo engine, did not become the most popular commander from her set."

A few problems with this evaluation: Heliod is a much stickier threat than Vannifar. Furthermore, Vannifar grabs combo pieces, while Heliod is a combo piece already. Add to that Heliod's affordable mana value and you get a commander with 862 decks... plus an embarrassed writer. I feel bad for not getting this one.

I don't feel so bad about this next one.

My prediction: Under

Final deck count: 865

Uncommon commanders are especially difficult to pick, in my experience. I predicted War of the Spark's Mowu, Loyal Companion would crack 600. Didn't happen. Then I gave the Under to Throne of Eldraine's Syr Konrad, the Grim, and he went Over. And now I botched the Siona pick, too. At least my reasoning was sound.

"[Siona] does go infinite with Shielded by Faith, it’s true… but one combo isn’t enough to carry an entire commander if the rest of the deck is low to the ground."

Though Shielded by Faith is indeed Siona's only infinite combo accessory, I totally underestimated how popular her enchantress support would be. Satyr Enchanter, Mesa Enchantress, Eidolon of Blossoms—they all frequently appear alongside her (or more likely behind her, since Siona appears to be an accomplished power-walker).


Recap

Correct Picks (21)

Incorrect Picks (6)

My Theros Beyond Death Correct Prediction Percentage: 78%

My Overall Correct Prediction Percentage: 71%

I feel I padded my stats a little, considering the surplus of easy Under picks in this set. But a win's a win, as they say. Until next time!

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 Aeve, Progenitor Ooze. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.