The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Core 2021 & Jumpstart Commanders

(Rin and Seri, Inseparable | Illustrated by Leesha Hannigan)

Jumping Into the Core Predictions

The best kind of speculation is baseless speculation. That's what we're up to today.

We're back with another edition of The 600the series where we guess how popular new commanders will become one year after release. An "Over" prediction means I think they'll command over 600 decks, while "Under" means I think they'll have fewer than 600. Also, the "Can't-Miss Pick" is my called shot. One year from now, we'll circle back to check my work.

Quick note: we only evaluate new commanders. Reprints like Azusa, Lost but Seeking, while sweet, won't be discussed. Ready? Let's start!

Mangara, the Diplomat

Mangara must be quite the negotiator, because he convinced Wizards R&D to give legitimate card draw to mono-white.

Seriously, I think Mangara's going to be sweet. You'll pick up a few cards from the first ability and tons from the second. Most EDH decks cast multiple spells each turn, especially in the later game. Plus, if Rhystic Study has taught us anything, it's that opponents won't slow their progress just to stop you drawing cards.

This is hands-down the best card drawing commander mono-white has ever gotten. Also, he’s got tons of upvotes on Reddit, which has to count for something.

My prediction: Over

Barrin, Tolarian Archmage

Do Archmages have TAs? Not sure, but if they do, they're probably planeswalkers. Look how well they work with each other!

You can activate an ability, bounce the planeswalker, then replay it and activate again. Or we can reset loyalties of War of the Spark ‘walkers like Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor or Narset, Parter of Veils, who don’t have plus abilities of their own.

Or you can welcome these cards into your classroom:

Each improves enter-the-battlefield triggers—especially those of Wizards.

This is all fine, but nothing remarkable. Barrin probably has tenure at Tolaria, but I’m still firing him.

My prediction: Under

Bruvac the Grandiloquent

Everyone in their lives, at one point or another, has made a mill deck. If they tell you they haven't, they're lying. Now that this guilty pleasure is keyworded and rewarded, I can totally see Bruvac taking off. Plus he's grandiloquent, and that's just fun to say.

My prediction: Over

Ormos, Archive Keeper

Imagine getting shushed by this guy at your local library. Traumatizing!

Speaking of Traumatize, Ormos is all about self-mill (and card draw). If you activate his ability with zero cards in your deck, for instance, he becomes a 30/30 flyer.

Impressive. But if Ormos dies, don't you die, too? And isn't it really hard to get to zero cards? And if you've drawn your deck, aren't you just going to win anyway?

I think prospective deck builders will ask themselves the same questions. Not good for Ormos's chances.

My prediction: Under

Kaervek, the Spiteful

This guy knows how to make a threat—just check that flavor text. Unfortunately, he doesn’t back it up very well.

Kaervek's most obvious comp is Night of Souls' Betrayal, a card which appears in just 622 decks (less than 1% of all decks). Not great. The 3/2 body isn't adding much. And is it just me, or did Kaervek go from being right-handed to left-handed?

Switch hitter, I guess.

There’s too much competition in mono-black these days, so I can’t imagine Kaervek earning 300 decks, let alone 600. Despite the spitefulness, I’ll pass.

My prediction: Under

Tinybones, Trinket Thief

Can a commander earn 600 decks on cuteness alone? Possibly. This is a direct quote from one Reddit user:

"[I’m] just gonna make a deck for this little fellow because he is adorable!"

But Tinybones isn’t just cute—it’s highly annoying, not to mention powerful. Discarding is one of black’s favorite effects, so now all our Mind Rots and such cantrip. And remember, T-Bones triggers each end step, meaning an opponents’ loot or cycling on their turn gives you a free card.

The most similar commander to Tinybones is probably Nath of the Gilt-Leaf.

Shoutout to Lorwyn, my favorite set!

Nath boasts just 740 decks, which doesn’t impress me. What’s more, I’d imagine this is a miserable deck to play against, making it unlikely that playgroups will welcome Tiny. Is that enough for an Under?

It'll be close, yes. But I think cuteness will win the day.

My prediction: Over

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Unfortunately for Don Vito Corleone of the Dusk Rose, lifegain is a crowded theme. EDHREC has 8,805 lifegain decks, commanded by the likes of Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, and Karlov of the Ghost Council.

Basically, the archetype's already well-explored, and narrowing it to mono-black shouldn't prove popular. For that reason, I'm gonna make a prediction you can't refuse.

My prediction: Under

Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge

Where are my dragons!?

Oh, there's one.

A three-mana 5/4 flyer is fantastic. Sure, there’s that attacking restriction, but between mana rocks and artifact lands like Darksteel Citadel and Great Furnace, Gadrak should attack in no time. And then there's that second ability.

Now that is sweet. It triggers on your end step and gives you treasure for any creature that died that turn, both yours and your opponents'. Since Gadrak is so cheap, you could conceivably cast a board wipe, then cast Gadrak and collect oodles of treasure (first time I've used the word "oodles" in this series). Seems powerful to me.

That said, it might be too tempting to include Gadrak in the 99 of other decks.

These popular commanders will likely draw attention away from Gadrak as a commander himself.

My prediction: Under

Muxus, Goblin Grandee

There's a clear king of mono-red goblins, and his name is...

Can Muxus lead a successful coup?

Muxus is arguably splashier than Krenko, though probably not better; he costs two more mana and doesn't dominate the board so nastily. Therefore, I doubt many current Krenko players will switch to Muxus. So the real question is, will the Grandee spawn enough new Goblin players to hit 600?

My guess is yes. Though he's worse than Krenko, I think Muxus's whimsical art and board-altering effects will appeal to many players. Goblins are also EDHREC's fifth most popular tribe (3,999 decks), meaning the market is by no means cornered. My love of Goblins might be clouding my vision, but I'll bend the knee to Muxus any day.

My prediction: Over

Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner

Subira’s first activated ability reminds me of Goblin Tunneler, so I checked related cards for potential friends.

Neat, but if you’re playing these cards, you should probably just play Krenko, Mob Boss, anyway. Next time I visit Tulzidi, I’ll totally hire Subira as my caravanner. Just not as my commander.

My prediction: Under

Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse

We've seen this "draw two" effect in blue and red, but never in mono-green. I was skeptical at first, but there are several options in green that work. Try these:

Solid, but Jolrael only triggers on the second draw, which puts a ceiling on how broken she can get. There's also another card in the set that might steal her mojo…

Azusa is a long-awaited reprint for mono-green. Though she only helmed 487 decks, that was due mostly to scarcity. Now that she's easier to procure, I think she’ll occupy the mono-green slot for many deck builders, taking away from Jolrael's potential.

My prediction: Under

Inniaz, the Gale Force

Like Zedruu the Greathearted, Inniaz is at its best (and funniest) when giving bad cards to opponents, such as Statecraft, Illusions of Grandeur, or the newly printed Nine Lives (with a bunch of counters on it, of course).

All this sounds fun, but you can already do it with Zedruu, and Zed offers red. Also, Inniaz's donate trigger is hard to fulfill. I suppose you could make a flyers deck instead, but I doubt that will appeal to many deck builders.

My prediction: Under

Niambi, Esteemed Speaker

Many have called Niambi a legendary Deputy of Acquittals, though I think she's more like a weird reanimator enabler. Imagine chucking an Avacyn, Angel of Hope on turn three, then returning it with Resurrection on turn four. If you find another way to discard the legend, you might just leave Niambi in your command zone and save your creatures at instant speed.

All cute, but likely not good enough to earn the esteem of many deck builders.

My prediction: Under

Kels, Fight Fixer

Fixing outcomes might appeal to the 1919 Chicago White Sox, but not EDH players. This is, after all, just a Dimir aristocrats commander, and I don't think blue adds much to the strategy. You get counterspells and card draw, sure, but the former doesn’t support the gameplan and Kels already provides the latter.

My prediction: Under

Zurzoth, Chaos Rider

This is an unusual commander, not least of all because it sounds like a Lovecraftian tentacle monster. I'm never a fan of giving opponents free cards, even if they're losing random ones in exchange. It could work as a wheel commander, sure, but we got three of those from Commander 2020 and Ikoria, so I doubt this will make a splash. H.P. would be disappointed.

My prediction: Under

Sethron, Hurloon General

I'm glad the word "hurl" is in this card's name, because that's exactly what I did when I saw it. Any card that encourages players to play the likes of Deathbellow Raider, Anaba Bodyguard, and Didgeridoo deserves an Under.

My prediction: Under

Neyith of the Dire Hunt

I’m a big fan of Magali Villeneuve's art, which often features people with fantastic hair. Neyith is no exception… but will hair alone be enough for 600 decks?

Well, she’s got stiff competition with this ginger-haired fellow:

Xenagos has been the de-facto Gruul aggro commander for years. I don’t see Neyith changing that. Xenagos is harder to remove, doubles a creature’s power and toughness for free, and provides a stickier threat for just one additional mana. Sure, Neyith draws cards, but getting a card a turn isn't enough to defeat the God of Revels.

My prediction: Under

Radha, Heart of Keld

Radha, Heir to Keld was unimpressive, aside from the whole beheading thing (just 123 decks). Grand Warlord Radha was better, though not groundbreaking (679 decks—and when did she move to Colorado?). I think Radha, Heart of Keld is the best of the three.

Which should point to Over 600 decks. However, land decks in her colors are plentiful.

Though Mina and Denn aren’t particularly popular (just 322 decks), they’re similar enough to Radha to be a distraction. Windgrace and Omnath are popular, with 3,063 and 1,467 decks, respectively.

Don't get me wrong—I think Radha's a powerful commander. I just think her archetype is already spoken for.

My prediction: Under

Emiel the Blessed

Bronies rejoice. Your savior is here!

...Well, technically it's a unicorn. But that's close enough, right?

Anywho, since I've started this series, Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is the only Selesnya commander to even approach the 600 mark (she's just 11 decks away). Could Emiel be the next to bless its colors?

It's certainly possible, because Emiel's versatility is remarkable. She supports blink, go-wide, and tribal synergies (though unicorns are a shallow tribe, I'll admit). She can even get infinite blinks from Brood Monitor or Workhorse (the latter has unsettling artwork, by the way), or infinite lifegain from Phyrexian Altar and Kitchen Finks.

That all adds up to an Over from me. Just keep Emiel away from Lord Voldemort.

My prediction: Over

Rin and Seri, Inseparable

My wife and I have two cats and just got a puppy, so this is the kind of feline/canine harmony we’re striving for. Hasn't worked so far, but we'll get there.

If you couldn't tell, my evaluation of this card has nothing to do with its text. If we assume all humans are either cat people or dog people, Rin and Seri should appeal to all humans. I suppose some people are, I don't know, wombat people, but even they can't deny how adorable this pair is. I don't care that it's the Buy-A-Box card. This one's too easy.

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




Can't-Miss Pick

Maybe not as splashy as previous sets, but we've still got a fine crop of commanders from Core 2021 and Jumpstart. Enjoy them!

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 Xolatoyac, the Smiling Flood. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.

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