The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Baldur's Gate Commanders, Part 2

(Baldur's Gate | Art by Titus Lunter)

Who Left the Gate Open?

We're back with Part 2 of our Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate predictions, 600-style. In Part 1, we covered all the mono-colored commanders. This time, we're going for the gold... mostly.

See, in my haste to deliver my picks, I missed a handful of mono-colored commanders in Part 1. Therefore, I'll be covering them here.

Refresher: We're guessing how many decks each commander will earn one year from release. Our line is 600, so "Over" means over 600 decks, while "Under" means under 600. I did my Can't-Miss pick in the last article, but I'll do another here; it's sort of like a called shot. We'll check my work in 2023.

Enough housekeeping. Let's see the commanders!

Zellix, Sanity Flayer

There's a market for mill commanders, especially those that mill opponents or yourself. With its bonus token production, Zellix, Sanity Flayer offers several tantalizing Background pairings, such as Inspiring Leader, Scion of Halaster, or Cloakwood Hermit. Basically, I'm thinking of Zellix as an easier-to-cast, slightly worse version of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, only with more optionality. That's got to be enough for an Over, right?

My prediction: Over

Burakos, Party Leader

It's a party in Baldur's Gate, especially when Burakos, Party Leader adopts the Haunted One or Folk Hero Backgrounds. Add to that any other Party synergies and the sheer amount of Treasure you'll accumulate, and this pick seems easy.

My prediction: Over

Baeloth Barrityl, Entertainer

I don't think this is what Billy Joel had in mind when he wrote the 1974 hit The Entertainer, but I still like Baeloth. As we'll see throughout this article, goad is a keyword that's appearing more and more in Commander products, and for good reason. It's going to feel oppressive at times, especially with Raised by Giants or Clan Crafter as your Background.

My prediction: Over

Durnan of the Yawning Portal

The obvious Background for Durnan of the Yawning Portal is Passionate Archaeologist, but evasion-granters like Sword Coast Sailor can work too. Of course, his real background is Heavy Metal Music, since this is clearly Lemmy from Motörhead.

Unfortunately, Durnan requires a lot of setup for an effect that might be underwhelming, or worse, might whiff entirely. Not seeing it here.

My prediction: Under

Elminster

Elminster's doing a shameless Gandalf cosplay, but I’ll let it slide because he's so powerful. This wizard offers built-in scrying, and cards like Mystic Speculation and the newly printed Netherese Puzzle-Ward add even more. All that scrying makes the -3 ability a cinch to set up. I'll invite this dude to my Fellowship any day.

My prediction: Over

Oji, the Exquisite Blade

The whole casting-your-second-spell thing has a spotty history, what with Firja, Judge of Valor going Under and Jori En, Ruin Diver never being popular to begin with (just 504 decks as I write this). Also, Brago, King Eternal does almost the same thing at the same mana cost, with far less set-up. Oji is a fine card... but exquisite? I think not.

My prediction: Under

The Council of Four

This card is a dud in four ways:

  1. It’s a council of four, yet the number four appears nowhere on it.
  2. It could've easily cost four mana instead of five.
  3. Five mana is a lot to ask for a creature that never attacks.
  4. Its abilities are entirely contingent on your opponents' actions.

In conclusion, The Council of Four is an affront to the Fab Four, the Fantastic Four, the Four Horsemen, and any other quartet I forgot to mention.

My prediction: Under

Captain N'ghathrod

Are we certain this isn’t Universes Beyond with Pirates of the Caribbean? Because this guy looks a lot like Davy Jones.

Anyhoo, Captain N'ghathrod is going to be popular (assuming people figure out how to pronounce his name). He supports a popular yet underserved tribe and does so in spectacular fashion, providing offense, card advantage, and even an alternate win condition. Welcome to the crew, lad.

My prediction: Over

Jon Irenicus, Shattered One

I know Jon is a common name, but this guy really doesn’t look like a Jon to me. Frankenstein, sure, but not Jon.

Names aside, it's a sweet card. There’s something deliciously satisfying about gifting creatures to your opponents, especially when they thump your other opponents. You can pair Jon with big attackers, like Deep-Sea Kraken and Inkwell Leviathan. Better yet, donate terrible creatures such as Abyssal Persecutor and Desecration Elemental.

My prediction: Over

Rilsa Rael, Kingpin

Like Safana, Calimport Cutthroat in our last article, Rilsa Rael, Kingpin is insignificant unless you’ve completed a dungeon. Sure, you get free Initiative, but that does little to make up for a five-mana creature with lousy stats.

My prediction: Under

Tasha, the Witch Queen

I swear, between this and Errant, Street Artist, Magic has become a game of riddles lately. How exactly are we casting spells we don't own?

Ah, that's how. Tasha's +1 ability stockpiles opposing spells, allowing you to cast instants and sorceries from among them. However, those spells must already be in the graveyard, meaning you’ll want cards like Windfall and Dark Deal to enable her.

Nonetheless, Tasha is a famous D&D character, as I understand it, and planeswalker commanders are all but guaranteed to go Over.

My prediction: Over

Mahadi, Emporium Master

A Cat Devil, eh? Sometimes I think my cat Luna is a devil, especially when she tries to trip me while I’m walking down the stairs. At least I’ve never seen her kill anything (yet).

Mahadi here is all about killing. Imagine casting Hex and getting all your mana back. Or why not sacrifice creature tokens in exchange for Treasure? Despite his behavior problems, I like this feline.

My prediction: Over

Raphael, Fiendish Savior

Remember what I said about Davy Jones—I mean, Captain N'ghathrod? That same truism applies here. Raphael, Fiendish Savior bolsters not one, but four different tribes. Plus, lifelink is a legit ability, especially on Devil tokens and big flying Demons. Bonus points: he shares a name with one of my favorite characters from Soulcalibur II.

My prediction: Over

Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald

Prosper, Tome-Bound has proven just how easy this ability is to trigger. What’s more, Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald is one mana cheaper. A Treasure token is probably better than a 2/2 Wolf, but still, this is a strong one.

My prediction: Over

Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes

If this pair's previous incarnation is any indication, they’re going to do great. I would argue this version is even better than the original, what with its built-in card advantage. Is Hamster tribal a thing?

My prediction: Over

Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss

Though Raggadragga doesn't look like the sort to do laundry, it has a laundry list of upsides:

  • The name
  • The artwork
  • The type line (I’ve known some human bores in my day, such as my high school math teacher)
  • The uniqueness
  • The abilities

This card is incredible. You’ll want upwards of 20 creatures with mana abilities, but that’s trivial, since we get a new one every set.

My prediction: Over (Can't-Miss Pick!)

Thrakkus the Butcher

Doubling the power of your Dragons is sweet, but these stats are abysmal and unlikely to help Thrakkus the Butcher survive one combat, let alone several. Also, why is he a Peasant?

My prediction: Under

Cadira, Caller of the Small

Rhys the Redeemed does essentially the same thing in the same colors, only better. Unless there’s some rabble of rabbit fans out there, I'm not seeing it.

My prediction: Under

Gluntch, the Bestower

In life, “gluntch” is this sound a rock makes when you throw it into a pond. In Magic (and D&D, as it were) Gluntch is just a silly commander. I know people like group hug, but here we've gone too far.

Sure, one of the three players you select can be you. But the other two aren’t you, which means you're giving away either counters, cards, or Treasures for free. I’ll probably be wrong about Gluntch, but I'm giving it an Under on principle.

My prediction: A Principled Under

Astarion, the Decadent

This card should’ve been printed as Bruce from Finding Nemo so we could change the options to friend and food. Missed opportunity there.

Flavor quibbles aside, Astarion, the Decadent is solid. It provides nice optionality in an established archetype, with just enough nuance to earn some new fans. Six mana is expensive, yet still, I think it will find its fish—I mean, fans.

My prediction: Over

Minthara, Merciless Soul

Experience counters are hit and miss, as evidenced by the success of Meren of Clan Nel Toth and the obscurity of Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas. It’s all about the payoff, and I believe the payoff here is just enough to appeal. Even a permanent +2/+0 is intriguing, especially with lifelinkers and/or an army of tokens.

My prediction: Over

Nalia de'Arnise

'Party' didn't end up being the sort of party I thought it would be. However, Nalia de'Arnise is far more powerful than previous party commanders. Casting spells from atop the library is a plus, as we’ve seen with Falco Spara, Pactweaver and Galea, Kindler of Hope. Nalia is also a Rogue herself, so you only need three more types to assemble the full party.

My prediction: Over

Firkraag, Cunning Instigator

Dragon tribal, goad, and a new spin on Izzet, all in one commander. It should’ve been a 'gator, since "Insti-gator" would be a fun pun, but oh well.

My prediction: Over

Lozhan, Dragons' Legacy

A fairly expensive commander with no immediate value, plus it has poor stats? There are plenty of Dragon spells, sure, but there’s a dearth of playable Adventures in Izzet. Dragons deserve a better legacy.

My prediction: Under

Neera, Wild Mage

Neera, Wild Mage is almost like a Polymorph for spells. I can vouch for that card's entertainment value, since I once played a Standard deck featuring it alongside Squadron Hawk and Blightsteel Colossus. (Yes, I admit, I used to play Standard. For shame!) I had a blast with that deck, and though Neera isn’t exactly the same, it’s close enough that I think other players will have fun with it too.

My prediction: Over

Baba Lysaga, Night Witch

I prefer Baba O’Riley, but this Baba ain’t bad, either. With so many Clue, Treasure, and Food tokens these days, free artifacts are about as easy to come by as tortilla chips at Moe's. Creatures are a given, so your third permanent type will be the tricky one. Recurring enchantments, like Rancor, and land reclaimers, like Ramunap Excavator, should do the job.

My prediction: Over

Kagha, Shadow Archdruid

A fine card, but fine isn’t good enough in a format as powerful as EDH.

My prediction: Under

Commander Liara Portyr

Time was, card draw on a Boros commander was about as unlikely as an Oasis reunion. Now look how far we’ve come!

However, strange as it is to say, we have better card advantage options in Boros. If it's cards you want, you're far more likely to play the likes of Osgir, the Reconstructor, Feather, the Redeemed, or Winota, Joiner of Forces. The word "Commander" is in her name, but that won't make poor Liara a popular commander.

My prediction: Under

Duke Ulder Ravengard

There’s a reason Blade of Selves is so powerful. Slapping Myriad on creatures is incredibly cool, especially when they have ETB abilities, combat damage triggers, evasion, or some combination of the three. Have you ever Myriad-ed Inferno Titan or Sun Titan? It's delightful. Better yet, create a horde of Terror of the Peaks or Myr Battlespheres. This Duke is too powerful to pass up.

My prediction: Over

Alaundo the Seer

Suspend is criminally underrepresented, not to mention more powerful than it looks. Alaundo the Seer does exactly that, while also drawing cards. Players will most often use Alaundo to circumvent expensive costs, especially by repeatedly untapping him, but don't forget the synergy between Suspend and Storm. I'm looking at you, Chatterstorm.

My prediction: Over

Korlessa, Scale Singer

For once, a commander is penalized for being Simic. If Korlessa, Scale Singer was Gruul, for example, it would gain access to far better Dragons, such as Lathliss, Dragon Queen and Scourge of Valkas.

My prediction: Under

Bane, Lord of Darkness

This is a strange card, not least of all because it stole its name from Tom Hardy. Also, though its two abilities are powerful, they're not exactly cohesive. I get the flavor behind an unkillable God, and the mind game of ability two is fun, but does that make for a popular commander?

My guess is yes, despite my reservations. A three-colored legendary adaptation of a D&D god has to be popular, right?

My prediction: Over

Zevlor, Elturel Exile

This is almost the same effect as Glimmervoid Basin, one of my favorite cards from the underrated Planechase product. Essentially, Zevlor, Elturel Exile copies any single-target spell and sends the copies at each of your opponents. That’s a powerful ability for just two mana, especially when you're casting Jeska's Will or free Deadly Rollicks. And don't forget about its synergy with Magecraft creatures, like Archmage Emeritus and Storm-Kiln Artist.

My prediction: Over

Bhaal, Lord of Murder

Calling yourself "Lord of Murder" is no way to make friends. Nonetheless, I think Bhaal will find many supporters, solely because players seem to love goad.

My prediction: Over

Mazzy, Truesword Paladin

Mazzy has a snazzy name, and it’s made even snazzier by its abilities. It essentially turns your Auras into pseudo-Rancors, which is pretty darn cool, especially on big stat-boosters, like All That Glitters. Plus, when paired with Totem Armor Auras (i.e. Bear Umbra), Mazzy makes your creatures virtually unkillable.

My prediction: Over

Gorion, Wise Mentor

Unique, but with so few Adventure spells as it is, let alone playable ones, I’m skeptical of Gorion, Wise Mentor's applications. It’s rare that a three-color commander from a Commander set goes under these days, but I think this one will.

My prediction: Under

Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter

I can’t read Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter without thinking of Jan Levinson-Gould from The Office, and I can’t think of Jan Levinson Gould without thinking of the song Son of a Preacher Man. And hey, this Jan is no less memorable. It’s excellent with artifact sacrifice synergies, of which there are many. It converts your mana into creatures or creatures into mana, depending on which you need most, plus it packs plenty of infinite combo potential. This one is an absolute slam dunk—and it doesn’t even work for Dunder Mifflin.

My prediction: Over

Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm

At six mana, you get a big body with two relevant abilities, plus the potential to go off if you can untap with it. Whether you cast Utvara Hellkite, Lathliss, Dragon Queen, Dragonlord Atarka, or something worse, you're getting excellent value. Plus, you can then copy those tokens with Populate cards, such as Determined Iteration.

My prediction: Over

Myrkul, Lord of Bones

Lord of Bones? Really? But this guy doesn't look like Rattleshirt....

Nevertheless, Myrkul is a unique commander in a popular color trio. It's expensive, yes, and it provides no immediate value, sure, but even a wildling could tell you how this commander will fare.

My prediction: Over

Dynaheir, Invoker Adept

I have no idea what to make of this one. First off, is that a silent H? Second, how many relevant activated abilities costing four or more mana are there? Timestream Navigator, I guess, and the last ability on Lithoform Engine. Still, this just seems too narrow.

My prediction: Under

Nine-Fingers Keene

This is borderline copyright infringement on Joe Abercrombie's Logen Ninefingers, but I'll let it slide because Gates are fun. We used to only have four in Sultai, but this set has nearly quadrupled that number. Using the power of a hypergeometric calculator (and doing my best Frank Karsten impersonation), here is your likelihood of hitting a Gate when Nine-Fingers Keene activates: 67%.

Not great. However, when you add cards like Explore the Underdark and Ulvenwald Hydra to the mix, finding nine Gates becomes far easier.

My prediction: Over


Recap

Under (13)

Over (29)

Can't-Miss Pick

Well, we've finally come to the end of this set. I feel like I've written a novel, so, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take a nap.

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.