The 600 – Predicting the Popularity of Commander Legends, Part 1

(Radiant, Serra Archangel | Art by Chris Rallis)

Howdy, Partners

When I learned Commander Legends had 71 commanders, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. So I did a little of both, then began this monstrous article.

You’re reading The 600, the article series where I predict how popular new commanders will become after one year. The line is 600. If I think a commander will earn over 600 decks, I’ll give it an “Over.” If I think it’ll go under, it gets “Under.” My one sure-fire choice of the set gets the “Can’t-Miss Pick” designation. And remember—new commanders only, so no speculation about Zedruu, the Greathearted and the like.

For the sake of the sanity of our editor, this article will cover only the 40 mono-colored commanders. Next time, we’ll take a look at multicolored and colorless legends.

You ready? Let’s speculate!


(A Brief Note on the Partner Methodology)

The Partners of Commander 2020 were easier to evaluate since they only offer one pairing. These are harder. For a moment, I considered moving our line and temporarily renaming the series The 1,000.

However, with the help of Wayback Machine, I made some interesting discoveries. While reviewing the Commander 2016 Partners approximately one year after release, I found the 600 mark actually held up. If we take the Partners’ individual decks and add the sum of all their pairings divided by two (since it shares leadership with its Partner), eight of the 15 commanders went Over 600. That’s pretty close to a regular set, so we’ll leave our mark where it is. Onward!


White

Akroma, Vision of Ixidor

Keyword soup is a dish best served Partnered. Akroma is particularly spicy with Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, since they pump each other for five (yes, Partner counts). She also works with Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, Kamahl, Heart of Krosa, and pretty much anything with an evergreen keyword.

My prediction: Over

Alharu, Solemn Ritualist

Pros: Alharu has sweet tats and looks like they’re probably a frequent guest on Ghost Adventures. 

Cons: They’re overcosted, especially considering how little they affect the board. Sorry, friend.

My prediction: Under

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist

I feel like this card reads better than it plays. It cheats Equipment costs, sure, but you already had to pay mana to cast those Equipment (and Ardenn himself). Also, shuffling Auras from one creature to another is about as productive as running in circles, and I fail to see much upside in moving Curses around (though I’ll admit it sounds kinda fun).

My prediction: Under

Keleth, Sunmane Familiar

Bronies might appreciate this card, but I do not. The effect is disappointing, to the point that even a premium Partner like Akroma can’t make it playable. Shadowfax this is not.

My prediction: Under

Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel

People are a lot higher on this card than I am. It seems terribly inefficient to me, especially if you’re using it as board wipe protection. For three mana in the same colors, you can rescue any number of creatures with Teferi’s Protection. Blinking is cool, but something like Roon of the Hidden Realm is far more cost-efficient.

My prediction: Under

Prava of the Steel Legion

A cat with a six-pack, huh? You don’t see that every day. You also don’t often see a +1/+4 stat boost, but here we are. Probably best paired with Tana, the Bloodsower, but it’s kinda cute with Tormod, the Desecrator, Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, and Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer, too. Add a few toughness-matters effects, like Assault Formation, and Prava really gets to flex.

My prediction: Over

Radiant, Serra Archangel

I suspect this was designed more for Draft than for Constructed EDH—and even then, I’m not excited to play it. The stats and abilities just aren’t worth seven mana.

My prediction: Under

Rebbec, Architect of Ascension

The flavor text would have you believe this card pairs best with Glacian, Powerstone Engineer, but I like Silas Renn, Seeker Adept better. First, you get to be Esper, which is perhaps the best color combination for artifacts. Second, Rebbec allows Renn to swing in unblocked and recoup more artifacts. Finally, this card is broken with Mycosynth Lattice.

My prediction: Over


Blue

Brinelin, the Moon Kraken

As many in the Magic community know, Marshall Sutcliffe from Limited Resources loves Man-O-War. I think even he would be disappointed by an eight-mana version of it.

My prediction: Under

Eligeth, Crossroads Augur

Preordain = Ancestral Recall. Foresee = draw six. Ugin’s Insight = draw nine, minimum. You get the idea.

Okay, sure. But blue already specializes in card draw. A six-mana commander that draws a few more sounds kinda win-more to me. Plus, he looks like a grump.

My prediction: Under

Esior, Wardwing Familiar

Let’s see… this protects your Voltron commander, okay. Potter fans might use it as their Hedwig surrogate, sure. And… when you cast it, you can hoot at your opponents?

Who am I kidding? This card isn’t coming close to 600.

My prediction: Under

Ghost of Ramirez DePietro

Cue the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song. It’s a new Pirate commander!

…Wait, sorry, my bad. Cut the music. A card that’s “discarded or put there from a library this turn”? That seems terrible. Ramirez DePietro was lousy in life, and he didn’t get much better in death.

My prediction: Under

Glacian, Powerstone Engineer

This effect would be more appealing on a three-mana 1/3—and even then it wouldn’t be great. Plus, as a blue-based artifacts commander, Glacian is competing with bangers like Urza, Lord High Artificer and Emry, Lurker of the Loch. He’s not excelling in that company.

My prediction: Under

Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator

This guy does not look like a Malcolm, but whatevs. He’s an inexpensive, evasive body who adds ramp (albeit kinda lousy ramp) to blue.

However, that’s only if he gets a clear attack every turn, which isn’t always the case. Even assuming he could, one additional mana each turn isn’t going to be game-busting.

My prediction: Under

Sakashima of A Thousand Faces

Clone in the command zone might not sound exciting, but Sakashima is also Mirror Gallery on a stick. Gyruda, Doom of Depths and Lithoform Engine love that.

For Partners to clone, Akroma is probably best in that regard. But Vial Smasher the Fierce and Krark the Thumbless aren’t bad, either. Whatever face you choose, Jaqen H’ghar will be proud.

My prediction: Over

Siani, Eye of the Storm

I highly doubt many players will run Snapping Drake with minor upside as their commander, even if it Partners. Also, does this thing look like an extraterrestrial to anyone else?

My prediction: Under


Black

Armix, Filigree Thrasher

This guy looks like a Decepticon, which makes me think Michael Bay had a hand in its creation.

On second thought, if Bay designed this card, it would be a 20/20 with indestructible, rampage, and annihilator X, where X is the number of explosion sounds you can make in the next 10 seconds. Instead, we get a strange artifact payoff that requires excessive setup for a minimal effect. Not scoring well on the Tomatometer.

My prediction: Under

Falthis, Shadowcat Familiar

Meow.

Which roughly translates to: “Deathtouch and menace are nice to have, but they aren’t worth building a commander deck around—even with a Partner.”

To reiterate: Meow.

My prediction: Under

Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor

Three permanents are a lot to sacrifice, especially when you’re only getting two cards back. Keskit also looks like a skinnier, more metallic version of Henry J. Waternoose, III from Monsters, Inc., so I’m not sure that I can trust him.

My prediction: Under

Miara, Thorn of the Glade

It’s hard for me to be objective about cards hailing from Lorwyn, since it’s my all-time favorite set, but this one is not getting there. Its best on-tribe Partner options are Numa, Joraga Chieftain (seems underpowered) or Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel (mono-black Elves can’t possibly work). It’s hurts to write this, but…

My prediction: Under

Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel

Somewhat promising with Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, but six mana is too costly for a commander that actually wants to die a few times.

My prediction: Under

Sengir, the Dark Baron

In many EDH games, creatures die at the frequency of orcs in Lord of the Rings, so two counters per death (of anything, not just your stuff) will add up rapidly. The loses-the-game clause looks cool, but probably never happens.

Nonetheless, B-Seng makes a fine Partner with ballers like Ravos, Soultender, Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, Slurrk, All-Ingesting, and The Prismatic Piper.

Kidding about that last one. But really, the Baron’s going to be popular.

My prediction: Over

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

To quote a wise man: “The only pain I got time for is the pain I put on fools who don’t know what time it is.”

Mr. Szat didn’t say that, but since he’s so adept at dooming fools, I figure he’d appreciate it. Speaking of fools, you’d have to be one not to see this guy is gonna be popular. A mythic rare planeswalker with Partner that’s plenty powerful all on its own. Tevesh Szat truly takes the cake (or commanders, as it were).

My prediction: Over

Tormod, the Desecrator

A Desecrated Tomb on a stick, eh? I’d usually prefer Tomb’s 1/1 flyers to Tormod’s vanilla 2/2s, but Zombies are a potent tribe. Just ask The Scarab God, Diregraf Captain, and Wayward Servant.

Nonetheless, Zombie tribal has better commanders, namely Varina, Lich Queen. But don’t feel bad for Tormod—judging by his flavor text, he’ll have a fruitful career in motivational speaking.

My prediction: Under


Red

Alena, Kessig Trapper

Alena adds decent ramp to red, especially with free token-generators, like Growing Ranks, Thopter Spy Network, or Rampaging Baloths.

That said, this effect feels a bit win-more to me. If you’re already casting a gigantic creature, is adding a ton of red mana really helping all that much? I’m skeptical.

My prediction: Under

Breeches, Brazen Plunderer

It’s hard to argue with this guy’s fashion sense, but his shot at 600 is another matter.

We’ve seen similar effects from Etali, Primal Storm and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser, neither of which became particularly popular. Being a Goblin Pirate with Partner might help, but that sounds like a breech of plausibility.

My prediction: Under

Dargo, the Shipwrecker

Switch the A and the R in this guy’s name and you get “Drago,” as in Ivan Drago, as in the villain from Rocky IV. This is important for quoting purposes when taunting your friends during a game. (Drago only has like six lines, so use them wisely.)

In gameplay terms, folks seem excited about a theoretical combo deck featuring Dargo, Phyrexian Altar, and Jeska, Thrice Reborn (we’ll get to her next). You basically accumulate tons of raw material to sac for Dargo, then sac him to the Altar, then continue to cast him until Jeska can enter and wreck everyone with a single activation.

Seems cute, but I doubt this strange build will break 600.

My prediction: Under

Jeska, Thrice Reborn

I love the design here. Jeska incentivizes you to Partner a cheap, disposable commander to charge her loyalty; I’m thinking the aforementioned Dargo, or Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh. A blue or green Partner gives access to Proliferate, which mitigates Jeska’s lack of plus abilities. And she’s a threat to one-shot when paired with a seven-powered, evasive commander. Great card here.

My prediction: Over

Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar

It’s in every opponents’ interest to squash this Lizard, and since it’s a 1/1, that will happen often. Too often.

My prediction: Under

Krark, the Thumbless

Somewhere in the sandy plains of southern Mirrodin, a goblin walked into a gas station. The goblin glowered at the old man behind the register and asked, “What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss?”

The old man blinked. “Sir?”

“You’re a bit deaf, aren’t you?” The goblin flipped a coin (quite the feat considering he was thumbless), then slapped it on the counter. “Call it.”

The old man gulped. “Heads,” he whispered.

The goblin lifted his hand. “Damn it. Let me try again.” Another flip, another loss. “I still have four mana left. I’m trying again…”

Get ready for this scenario coming to a playgroup near you. People are hyped about this guy for Storm, Chaos, Spellslinger, and general humor. Evidently, EDH is a Good Country for Thumbless Goblins.

My prediction: Over

Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh

I can’t pronounce either name on this card, but I still want to play it—and so does everyone else. It Partners well with Jeska, Thrice Reborn, Akroma, Vision of Ixidor, Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, and probably lots more. That, plus the novelty of a zero-mana commander, is just too tantalizing to pass up. I’m so confident in this one, I’m making it my Can’t-Miss Pick.

My prediction: Over (Can’t-Miss Pick)

Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith

Apparently this guy combined with Kodama of the East Tree and a Ravnica bounce land makes infinite Landfall triggers and infinite Rocks. Play your land, bounce it back to your hand, trigger Toggo, then create a Rock. Rock enters and triggers Kodama, which puts the land into play, which triggers Toggo, and the process repeats. This guy also works in Pinger, Equipment, and Artifact shells, which puts him over the top.

My prediction: Over


Green

Anara, Wolvid Familiar

This is kinda neat in tandem with Pestilence or Pyrohemia, but it’s otherwise unremarkable.

My prediction: Under

Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood

This card Partners thematically with Brinelin, the Moon Kraken. The only problem: Brinelin stinks. It might make some 99s, but tapping for one and sometimes drawing a card isn’t good enough to become popular.

My prediction: Under

Halana, Kessig Ranger

This is kinda sweet with creatures that create deathtouch tokens. However, I don’t see any Partners that support that strategy.

My prediction: Under

Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer

Ich-Tekik is clearly an arm-wrestler, as evidenced by a super-buff right arm and a flaccid left. Outside of arm wrestling, he pairs pretty well with Armix, Filigree Thrasher, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator, and Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith. Unfortunately, Toggo is the only one of those three I’d like to play, and even then I’d prefer to play him alongside Kodama of the East Tree. Poor Ich just has nobody to wrestle with.

My prediction: Under

Kamahl, Heart of Krosa

Kamahl dispenses Overruns like they’re free froyo samples, and for three mana (two plus an untapped land to target), he gives you 4/4s with vigilance, indestructible, haste, and trample. The dude even has Partner, which works unbelievably well with anyone who goes wide (Tana, the Bloodsower, anyone?). Kamahl’s an easy Over (and also a thriving member of the EPA).

My prediction: Over

Kodama of the East Tree

The more I read this card, the more bonkers it seems. In addition to the aforementioned Toggo shenanigans, you can fairly easily play two lands per turn. In green, there’s no shortage of high-CMC goodies that bring free friends. And it has Partner.

My prediction: Over

Numa, Joraga Chieftain

Elves are a great tribe, but the double X cost here is super inefficient. Two mana for one counter, four for two, six for three, eight for four… you’re never getting a good deal.

Granted, Elves are known for generating obscene amounts of mana. But even so, there are better commanders out there to lead them.

My prediction: Under

Slurrk, All-Ingesting

“Slurrk” is the sound my stomach makes when it wants pizza. It also happens to be a solid commander, especially when paired with Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel, or Sengir, the Dark Baron. Plus, players dig Ooze tribal.

My prediction: Over


Recap

Over

Under

Can’t-Miss Pick

That’s all for now. We’ll be back soon with Part 2, featuring multicolor and colorless commanders. Until then, I’m going to take a very long nap. That article took a lot out of me.

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 Akroma, Vision of Ixidor. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.