The 600 – Predicting the Popularity of Commander Legends, Part 2

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools | Art by Chris Rallis

Partner & Parcel

Lennon and McCartney. Jordan and Pippen. Thelma and Louise. Commander and Draft. Some things are just better together.

Welcome back to The 600the article series where I guess how popular new commanders will become. The game is simple: I give an "Over" to any commander I think will lead over 600 decks by next year, and an "Under" to those that won't. Today, we'll examine the second part of the set that brought Commander and Draft together: Commander Legends. For the mono-colored commanders, read Part 1 here. For Part 2 (multicolor and colorless), keep reading.

Kangee, Sky Warden

Kangee debuted in Planeshift as Kangee, Aerie Keeper, and that version only sports 234 decks. This one doesn’t seem much better. Certainly nice with a swarm of flyers at its back, but Kangee offers no immediate impact upon entry, and five mana feels too pricey for the effect. I’m 'warden' this one off.

My prediction: Under

Kwain, Itinerant Meddler

There’s something deeply unsettling about rabbits with humanoid features (with the exception of Buster from Arthur, who’s a straight baller). Nonetheless, Kwain's a fine Group Hug commander; it's efficient, non-threatening, and beneficial for everyone. I don't personally enjoy Group Hug, but it seems many other players do (there are 915 such decks on EDHREC).

My prediction: Over

Araumi of the Dead Tide

I encountered this card in a Magic Online Draft, and I must say, it's powerful. My opponent Encored an Elvish Doomsayer, which I laughed haughtily at until I realized I'd be discarding three cards at turn's end. And that's just a common. Imagine Araumi in tandem with Grave Titan, Ravenous Chupacabra, or pretty much any creature with a sick ETB, dies, and/or attacks trigger. Hard to believe it's only an uncommon.

My prediction: Over

Nymris, Oona's Trickster

I'm a Lorwyn apologist, but even I am skeptical of this card's potential popularity. Faerie tribal is owned by Alela, Artful Provocateur (EDHREC’s 11th ranked commander) and I don't expect blue-black Flash to become a bigtime archetype. I won't fall for this trickster's trick.

My prediction: Under

Blim, Comedic Genius

Giving bad gifts feels more grifter than genius to me, but Blim has evidently made quite the comedy career via this strategy. I’ll admit, Rakdos offers some enticing gag gifts such as Demonic Pact, Treacherous Blessing, and Aggressive Mining. However, unlike its kinder cousin Zedruu the Greathearted, Blim is purely aggressive, which incentivizes opponents to kill it without remorse. Imagine being stuck with one of the cards I just mentioned. I don't foresee a Netflix comedy special coming for this genius.

My prediction: Under

Juri, Master of the Revue

The jury didn’t take long to declare Juri a rather disappointing commander. I suppose it can get pretty large, but this is a format where Swords to Plowshares, Cyclonic Rift, and Path to Exile are three of the top 15 removal spells. All three nullify the death clause and undo +1/+1 counter-stacking efforts. Also, if you want a sacrifice-based commander in these colors, let's be honest—you're playing Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.

My prediction: Under

Hans Eriksson

Fun fact: In high school German class, we picked German names for ourselves. I got Hans. Fortunately, I was never eaten by a Lhurgoyf.

Speaking of being eaten, isn't that what's going to happen to Hans, like, all the time? Unless he dons a Darksteel Plate or something similar, he’s almost assuredly dying to an opposing blocker or his own teammate. You could always manipulate your topdeck, but that seems like a lot of setup for minimal gain.

My prediction: Under

Tuya Bearclaw

Big stats, but Tuya does next to nothing by itself and doesn't even have evasion. I expected more from someone riding a bear.

My prediction: Under

Hamza, Guardian of Arashin

Hamza seems super snowbally, especially with Felidar Retreat, Cathars' Crusade, and Forgotten Ancient. I don't even want to think about how nasty it gets with Walking Ballista. This is one powerful pachyderm.

My prediction: Over

Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn

Normally I’m not a fan of lifegain stuff, but this feels like a legitimate payoff. Note that you get counters for each life gained on each end step, which means Lathiel pairs wonderfully with Essence Warden, Soul's Attendant, and Soul Warden. Add +1/+1 counter payoffs like Conclave Mentor and you've got one potent pony (or unicorn, as it were).

My prediction: Over

Liesa, Shroud of Dusk

If K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth and Kambal, Consul of Allocation had a kid, it might look something like this. K'rrik is popular and Kambal is not (Rank #38 and Rank #139, respectively), so what does that mean for Liesa?

Well, it means the apple has fallen too far from the tree. The poke-for-two-life clause is neat, but probably not enough to differentiate Liesa from peers like Karlov of the Ghost Council and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim. Sweet bident, though.

My prediction: Under

Thalisse, Reverent Medium

I suspect Thalisse, Reverent Medium is a fan of the show MediumAnd I, in turn, am a fan of Thalisse. Flocks of 1/1 flyers are surprisingly useful, both for swarming damage and chump blocking. She triggers on each end step, so imagine casting Szat's Will the turn before yours. She also triggers from any token, so Smothering Tithe and Revel in Riches work especially well.

The issue is Teysa Karlov. She's the de facto Orzhov tokens commander, and I don't see Thalisse stealing many decks from her, despite those synergies.

My prediction: Under

Captain Vargus Wrath

Vargus might be the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of. It scales with the game, sure, but until you cast it for the third or fourth time, it's probably not surviving combat. I think it plays better in the 99 of an Admiral Beckett Brass or Breeches, Brazen Plunderer + Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator deck, anyway. I suspect many players will come to the same conclusion.

My prediction: Under

Zara, Renegade Recruiter

Now this is a pirate. That ability might seem gimmicky, but if your opponent has some big beater in hand, you put them in a very awkward position: Either they take a ton of damage or they block their own creature (neither sounds fun). And by the way, you get any enter-the-battlefield triggers for free, plus time to sacrifice the creature before it returns to its owner. Consider me recruited.

My prediction: Over

Abomination of Llanowar

That picture is yucky. Not that it will stop people from playing this card—Abomination of Llanowar is fairly costed, relevant on offense and defense, and belongs to one of the format’s most popular tribes. It even remains large post-board wipe, which sures up a weakness of most other Elf tribal decks. The flavor text might send mixed messages, but I feel my message is clear.

My prediction: Over

Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Players seem tantalized by this card, probably because a single Night Market Lookout activation yields six colorless mana (assuming you have three opponents). And with Kaladesh Remastered out on Magic Arena, Night Market Lookout is so hot right now. Furthermore, Belbe's Alice Cooper eye makeup should appeal to fans of Shock Rock around the world.

My prediction: Over

Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant

As soon as I read this guy's name was Bell, he became "Taco" Bell to me. Live mas, baby.

Taco Bell Borca treats the exile zone as a ghostly plane of power, which is really cool. He fuels himself with that last line of text (card advantage in Boros, woo!), and triggers from other cards being exiled, too. That makes white staples like Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares even better.

Perhaps my undying love for Taco Bell is blinding me with this pick. I don't care. Think outside the Boros.

My prediction: Over

Reyav, Master Smith

I don't care what degree of mastery this guy has over his smithy—equipment commanders rarely make a ripple, let alone a splash. I can imagine big turns and huge damage, sure, but rare is the commander game won by pure aggression.

My prediction: Under

Wyleth, Soul of Steel

Remember Akiri, Fearless Voyager from Zendikar Rising? This is way better. Wyleth so good, in fact, I think it makes tripe like Bone Saw playable. This is an outstanding payoff for Boros and likely one of the best card-advantage sources the color pair has ever seen. Plus, he sports the John O’Hurley premature white hair thing quite well.

My prediction: Over

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait

Let's compare Aesi to Simic's most popular commander, Tatyova, Benthic Druid. Paying an extra mana upfront and losing the lifegain clause seems a fair trade for a bigger body and additional land drops. Aesi is yet another great reason to play Simic—and an even better reason never to rent an Airbnb on Gyre Straight.

My prediction: Over

Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist

I’d like to take you through my thought process while reading this card.

You and permanents you control have protection…

"I'm intrigued."

…From Salamanders. 

"I'm out."

I'll admit, this card is funny with Amoeboid Changeling. But aside from real-life amphinologists, nobody’s been asking for Salamander tribal.

My prediction: Under

Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty

This is the part where people get all salty about Simic getting yet another busted commander. But seriously, this commander is busted.

I had the misfortune of facing Imoti in a Magic Online Draft, where my opponent cast an eight drop, Cascaded into a Cascade spell, then Cascaded again because the Cascade spell was a seven drop, and by then my screen was filling with triggers and I feared my computer might crash.

TLDR: Simic is sick and players love Cascade. 'Nuff said.

My prediction: Over

Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant

It's refreshing to see a zombie take such pride in its personal appearance. Just look at those boss (and spiky) shoulder pads. Unfortunately, the rest of the card doesn't quite deliver.

First off, Hexproof from artifacts, creatures, and enchantments seems awfully narrow. Second, the zombie-generating ability is best post board wipe. Yet how often will one have six open mana left after casting Wrath of God? Finally, the last line of text is impressive, but clashes with the previous one.

Nevinyrral has many promising elements, but ultimately not enough cohesion. Kinda like an M. Night Shyamalan screenplay.

My prediction: Under

Obeka, Brute Chronologist

Cards like this are the reason Magic is the best game ever. At first glance, Obeka might appear to be unplayable jank. Yet with a little research and some creativity, one discovers how versatile the card really is. Some examples:

  • Activate an Encore ability, then end the turn before your end step. You keep all the tokens.
  • Cast any card that would make you lose the game on your next end step, then end the turn before it comes. You live to play another day.
  • If an opponent puts a devastating spell on the stack, you can end the turn in response. Their spell gets exiled, its owner cries, and you giggle.

A strange card, yes, but a powerful one. Could go down as one of the most popular commanders of all time.

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

Yurlok of Scorch Thrash

This set is full of weird cards, and Yurlok might be the weirdest. The gist: It reinstates mana burn, a game rule many readers might not even be familiar with. Allow me to don my old man voice...

Back in my day, we got punished for having too much mana. At the end of each phase, if we had any floating in our pool, we took a damage per. Kids these days don't understand what that felt like—unless they play against Yurlok. Then they'll understand the real danger of the phrase, "I tap out."

My prediction: Over

Jared Carthalion, True Heir

Outstanding flavor on this card. Once Jared claims his birthright, he becomes an invincible king, meaning you can go ham on cards like Blasphemous Act—or better yet, Pariah. This time next year, I expect I'll be able to say that over 600 players went to Jared.

My prediction: Over

Amareth, the Lustrous

Clearly a nice card, but Bant value corner is already occupied by Chulane, Teller of Tales. Landfall, Blink, and Enchantress strategies could work, but again, they've already got viable commanders. Amareth is good, but its placement in the format seems lackluster.

My prediction: Under

Colfenor, the Last Yew

Love the art by Filip Burburan. Too bad the card itself isn't so loveable.

As with Amareth, we already have numerous commanders in the same colors that do the same thing, only better. I expect to see Colfenor at the next Entmoot, but probably not in many commander decks.

My prediction: Under

Gnostro, Voice of the Crags

Look, I'm sure Gnostro and its three heads can sing a lovely a cappella rendition of "Barbara Ann." But I've played against this card, and I must say, it's an underwhelming commander.

The problem is the payoffs. Legit Storm cards like Grapeshot and Tendrils of Agony win the game on the spot. Gnostro doesn't. You could get cheeky with Freed from the Real, but that's doing a lot of work to make a mediocre commander better. Stick to the choir, pal.

My prediction: Under

Archelos, Lagoon Mystic

I've not run into Archelos yet, and for that, I'm thankful. It looks fun to play with and infuriating to play against.

Many have noted the Mystic's natural synergy with Vehicles—but let's be honest with ourselves. We're playing Archelos so we can go Reshape the Earth into Boundless Realms into Hydroid Krasis, or some similar siliness. The potential absurdities are too tantalizing to pass up.

My prediction: Over

Ghen, Arcanum Weaver

Think enchantments are only for Bant? Guess a-Ghen, pal!

Jokes aside, this card is actually kinda cool. It seems most players are leaning toward Curse decks here, which is one of those always-popular niche archetypes. You can even do a weird Enchantment/Reanimator hybrid deck, cheating out expensive haymakers like Eldrazi Conscription for just three mana. Ghen is too narrow for Commander Legends Draft, but perfect for EDH.

My prediction: Over

Averna, the Chaos Bloom

This is a cute design, but it's not particularly good. Since Cascade cards are almost always expensive, you probably don't need extra lands once you start casting them. For example, imagine getting a free Forest from your Maelstrom Colossus. It's nice, sure, but if you already have enough to cast the Colossus, lands aren't a pressing need. Plus, Averna's wandering into a wheelhouse firmly controlled by Maelstrom Wanderer (1,240 decks).

My prediction: Under

The Prismatic Piper

I can imagine The Prismatic Piper appearing on the cover of a Pink Floyd album. I can't imagine it appearing as the commander of even 100 decks, let alone 600. Artist Seb McKinnon once again shines—but even his deft hand can't save this goof.

My prediction: Under




Can't-Miss Pick

And now my predictions have ended. If you'll excuse me, I have another Commander Legends draft queued up on Magic Online....

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 Nahiri, Forged in Fury. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.