The 600 – Predicting the Popularity of C19 Commanders

(Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero | Art by Zack Stella)

Mo’ Commander, Mo’ Predictions

They say you should live in the present. Usually, I agree… but not today.

Today, I’d like to welcome you to The 600, the article series where we guess the popularity of new commanders. The line is, of course, 600. If we believe a commander will have over 600 EDHREC decks after a year of existence, we give it an “Over.” If we think it’ll end at under 600, we give it an “Under.” We also have one “Can’t-Miss Pick,” or the equivalent of a called shot in basketball. (Makes it all the funnier if it doesn’t go in.)

We only review new commanders, so reprints like Emmara Tandris need not be mentioned (we all know it would be an Under, anyway). And, finally, all these picks were made before EDHREC data began to populate. Get it? Populate?

Alright, those are the rules. Now let’s play.


K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth

“My dad used to work with computers, but now he’s retired. What does your dad do for a living, K’rrik?

“Well, funny you should ask. He just got promoted to Lord of Wastes at his new company in Phyrexia. He’s a bit of a perfectionist, so he said they’re looking to expand to a new office space soon.”

Aside from the awkward dad convos, I can see K’rrik growing quite popular. He’s certainly impressive. Cost reduction mechanics are almost always powerful, especially Phyrexian mana. And with so many cards that reward mono-black strategies, K’rrik is likely the best leader for such a shell. A few gems that pair especially well with him:

And pretty much anything with lots of black pips.

Very cool, very strong. Easy grade here.

My Prediction: Over


Anje Falkenrath

Random thought: Have the Falkenraths and the Voldarens ever gone on Family Feud? If not, we gotta make that happen. Sorry, getting off topic. Will the matriarch of the Falkenrath clan make a splash in EDH?

Honestly, I don’t see it. That’s not to say I think the card’s bad—I actually think it’s quite a potent engine. However, I question whether there’s much interest in a Madness commander to begin with. What’s more, the Rakdos color combination has the second-lowest popularity on EDHREC compared to the other color pairs.

Now, if I learned anything from my Commander 2018 re-review, it’s that I undervalue the importance of commanders that headline the set’s packaging. All four of last year’s face commanders hit the 600 mark, even the two that I predicted wouldn’t.

Nonetheless, I’m willing to mark Anje as an exception to the rule for the reasons stated above.

Survey Says: Under


Chainer, Nightmare Adept

Chainer, Nightmare Adept has a whip. Therefore, Devo must be his favorite band. Whip it good! Also, he seems both interesting and powerful—two keys to a hit single.

At a bare minimum, you can give any one creature in your hand free haste (discard it, then cast it from your graveyard). But that’s just the beginning. You can use the discard clause to trigger Madness or trade in late-game lands for impactful graveyard reinforcements; I recommend Grave Titan. Furthermore, Chainer’s second ability applies to more than just the creatures he brings back. So any creature revived with Reanimate, for instance, gets haste.

Chainer also gets nostalgia points from those who played during Odyssey-era Magic. His original incarnation, Chainer, Dementia Master, is a tad underpowered compared to modern commanders, yet still boasts 383 decks. To me, that suggests players dig the character (and Devo). They should dig adding a second color to his identity even more, along with some swell abilities.

My Prediction: Over


Greven, Predator Captain

This is what Lord Voldemort would look like if he was played by Sir Patrick Stewart. I can see why he has menace.

Commander damage from this dude adds up in a hurry. One might play cards such as Read the Bones, Bolas’s Citadel, or Treasonous Ogre to set up a surprise kill. Even our old pal K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth should play well in this deck. Also, sorry Brion Stoutarm. Greven’s sacrifice clause makes him the new king of Act of Treason sacrifice decks.

However, Brion only helms 367 decks. And Grevan’s original printing, Commander Greven il-Vec, commands a pitiful 12 decks. Greven is cool and somewhat unusual, but I don’t foresee players having much interest in him.

My Prediction: Under


Tahngarth, First Mate

And the Award for Most Convoluted Rules Text goes to…Tahngarth, First Mate! Come on up here, you ol’ Minotaur you.

[Tahngarth clomps onto the stage. Sara Bareilles’s “Brave” plays in the background.]

Tahngarth: “Wow, this is such an honor. Oh my gosh, wow, thank you so so much. I want to thank Wizards R&D for giving me a novella for rules text. I basically see people fighting and can’t resist joining in. You’ll notice that I must be tapped to make it happen, so I recommend playing some Vehicles. Other than that, I don’t do much as a commander. Also, I want to thank my hairdresser Yvonne for the green dreds…”

[Music starts playing over Tahngarth’s speech.]

Alright, enough of this bit. You get the point. Tahngarth’s a cool design, but he has no business being a commander.

My Prediction: Under


Atla Palani, Nest Tender

Ixalan.

If you just got a sour taste in your mouth, you probably drafted that setSo I’d understand if you aren’t that hyped about a commander hailing from that plane.

The thing is, Atla Palani, Nest Tender is actually really good.

Palani wants three Ps: Populate, pingers, and pretty big stuff. The precon comes equipped with most of those elements. Plus, she offers a unique strategy in a color combo that’s been dying for a viable commander. I love this card, and I’m sure other players will too.

My Prediction: Over


Ghired, Conclave Exile

This guy fills the stat sheet better than Jordan in ’89. You get 6/9 worth for just five mana, and four of that has trample. And that’s not even counting the additional 4/4 that might appear next turn, if not something better.

Now, the Populate trigger isn’t free. You do need to find a clear attack for Ghired. And you kind of need to do the same for the token; if it gets eaten the same turn it attacks, there’s no point in making it.

Still, those aren’t the most difficult conditions, and in red, white, and green, one can find easy ways to augment Ghired. Better yet, try populating a 4/4 Angel token or a 5/5 Dragon token. Or Helm of the Hosting him! And let’s not forget that he’s a face commander.

My Prediction: Over


Marisi, Breaker of the Coil

Not sure what coil this guy’s breaking, but whatevs. Let’s see if Naya can go three-for-three with this year’s decks.

We’ve seen that first line of text before. It’s on Basandra, Battle Seraph (granted, this time only affecting opponents). Bassandra only has 82 decks, so we’re not impressed so far.

Now that second line of text is interesting. Goad is good, as Gordon Gecko might say. And note that any creature dealing combat damage triggers the ability.

Here’s my issue: There are already several commanders that mandate attacks. None are popular. Fumiko the Lowblood, Grenzo, Havoc Raiser, Thantis, the Warweaver… they seem cool in the abstract but rarely make a splash. Therefore, I’m out.

My Prediction: Under


Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero

Wait, I thought Game of Thrones was over. What’s Jon Snow doing back? Seriously, this art looks a lot like Kit Harrington.

Anyway, for players of a certain age, Gerrard is a pivotal figure. For example, true story: I know a guy who named his dog Gerrard Capashen. Calls him Gerry for short.

But Gerrard’s original incarnation is terrible. Almost unbelievably so. That makes me think old-school players will jump all over anything that’s even remotely playable. 

Boros commander? Four mana for a… 3/3 first strike? Huh. Okay. Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero recovers somewhat with his second line of text. He turns your Wrath of God into a Plague Wind. Or, better yet, your Nevinyrral’s Disk becomes a repeatable destruction machine. That ability plus Gerrard’s cachet present a compelling case.

However, I’ll have to go with history on this one. With the exception of Feather the Redeemed, most EDH players avoid Boros like the Plague Engineer. You know nothing, Gerrard Capashen.

My Prediction: Under


Sevinne, the Chronoclasm

This card makes Cho-Manno, Revolutionary feel personally victimized. It’s got the same no-damage clause, only here it’s basically trinket text. Bummer, Cho.

The feature attraction is the second line of text, which should produce a fair amount of fireworks. It’s perhaps best with Flashback, but don’t forget its potency with Retrace and Jump-start, too. The deck even features several of Amonkhet’s weirdly designed split cards, the back ends of which get copied as well.

For similar commanders, look no further than Kess, Dissident Mage, who leads a hefty 1,923 decks. Here we’re adding a mana and trading black for white, which is likely an upgrade for the Spellslinger archetype. Think Soulfire Grand Master, Taigam, Ojutai Master, and Monastery Mentor.

I’m a big fan of Sevinne, the Chronoclasm. So much so, in fact, that Sevinne is my Can’t-Miss Pick of the set.

My Prediction: Over (Can’t-Miss Pick!)


Pramikon, Sky Rampart

For some, this card might look familiar—and not because it resembles that hallucinogenic vision you got from peyote whilst visiting your cousins in Texas. It’s because we’ve seen it before.

This card appears in 800 decks. That’s not very many, especially considering Mystic Barrier has existed for six years. So should I give it an Under? Hmm…

But wait. There’s still hope for Pramikon, simply due to novelty. As part of my unimpressive research for this article, I Googled the term “mtg legendary wall” and got several telling results, including the following:

Also, shortly after the card was previewed, Gavin Verhey tweeted, “[It’s] a new legend players have been asking me about for a long time: a legendary wall!”

Okay, so people seem interested in Wall creatures, especially legendary ones. I’m in!

My Prediction: Over


Elsha of the Infinite

Congratulations to Melek, Izzet Paragon and Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest on their first child! Looks like the youth karate lessons are paying off.

This kid’s pretty skilled in an MTG context, too. And, like Pramikon, it interacts favorably with all those planeswalkers we lost in War of the Spark.

I like this card. I don’t think it’ll be an all-timer, but it’s versatile, potent, and could probably kick my butt.

My Prediction: Over


Grismold, the Dreadsower

Is this a teaser for our next set, Throne of Eldraine? Help me out, flavor peeps.

Grismold, the Dreadsower reminds me of Dominaria’s Slimefoot, the Stowaway. Both cost 1GB, both create tiny creature tokens, and both reward callously slaughtering those tokens. Slimefoot is currently Golgari’s fourth most popular commander, with 805 decks. 

When two commanders occupy the same niche in the same colors, the decks often go to the better card. So which of these two is more powerful?

My pick is Grismold. He generates tokens for free and becomes quite large at little cost. Golgari offers numerous +1/+1 counter shenanigans as well (Corpsejack Menace, Winding Constrictor, and Hardened Scales, for example), which makes the second ability even nastier.

I now dub him Clark Grismold, and I like him.

My Prediction: Over


Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer

A face card that opens up a new archetype for one of EDH’s most popular color combinations (and adds some sassy flavor text, to boot). We’ve got no shortage of Morph cards to pair with her, either. The mechanic appeared in Onslaught block, Time Spiral block, and Khans of Tarkir block. There are even cool variations in the form of Manifest and the crappily-named Megamorph.

Even as a Sultai guy, I’m personally not wild about this card—but oh well. I don’t see it dipping below 600.

My Prediction: Over


Rayami, First of the Fallen

Sultai is a strange color combo for a Vampire, I must say. And my evaluation of this card doesn’t get much better.

Sure, its effect is cute and exiling creatures is useful. But my issue is the setup cost (thanks, Marshall and Luis). First off, you probably want to copy a creature with evasion (flying, protection from a relevant color) and a protective ability (hexproof, indestructible). Plus, haste helps. You can find those abilities in Sultai, but certainly not a critical mass of them. Then those creatures need to somehow die while Rayami is on the battlefield. Seems unlikely.

This card is cool enough to see some early action. However, I think players will soon discover it’s just not that good.

My Prediction: Under


Volrath, the Shapestealer

Another classic character who desperately needed a reprint. Just look at his former self:

A great card against opponents without chump blockers.

Volrath, the Shapestealer is obviously way better (and way more into Kali Ma). But does that mean he’ll crack 600 decks?

First off, he compares favorably to The Mimeoplasm, who’s been a perennially popular commander since its printing in the original Commander. I also like that he slots nicely into Proliferate decks, which got plenty of green and blue cards from the recently printed War of the Spark. Lastly, the set before that, Ravnica Allegiance, featured Adapt as one of its main mechanics. Volrath works well with that one too, either by copying an already adapted creature or adding his -1/-1 counter to the adapted creature, thereby negating the +1/+1 counter and enabling another activation.

A famous character in a popular color combo with versatile upside. The R&D makeover worked wonders.

My Prediction: Over


Recap

Under 600

Over 600

Can’t-Miss Pick

Happy Christmas, Commander players. Go out and enjoy it!

Kyle Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife and their two cats. His current favorite card is Nymris, Oona’s Trickster. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.