The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Dominaria United Commanders, Part 1

(Jhoira, Ageless Innovator | Art by Lisa Heidhoff)

Flying United

Never mind the Phyrexians, here's Dominaria!

We're back with The 600the article series where we predict how popular new commanders will become one year after release. As the name implies, our line is 600. "Over" means I'm predicting the commander will lead more than 600 decks, while "Under" means I anticipate fewer. There's also one Can't-Miss Pick each set, reserved for the commander I'm most confident about. In a year, we'll review my results.

Without further ado, let's get into Dominaria United!

Danitha, Benalia's Hope

Great keywords and a fine ETB, but as we've seen so many times before, it's tough for combat-centric mono-white commanders to make an impression. Cool sword, though.

My prediction: Under

Braids, Arisen Nightmare

Braids is back and creepier than ever, especially on her showcase version, which looks a lot like Vecna.

Looks aside, Braids, Arisen Nightmare is a formidable commander. Giving options to opponents is rarely beneficial, but with such poor options to choose from, things will often work in your favor. Plus, being a fan favorite character means Braids should have no trouble surpassing 600.

My prediction: Over

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

Without the lifegain payoffs of white, the second line of text does little, and though damage for card draw is a tried-and-true EDH archetype (see Nekusar, the Mindrazer), it's far less potent without the wheel effects of blue and red. Sure, you still get access to Damnable Pact and Peer into the Abyss, but are those handful of cards really enough to earn 600?

My prediction: Under

The Raven Man

In my opinion, this card would've been more interesting as "The Raven Fan," and it's just a guy wearing a Joe Flacco jersey. As it is, converting discards to 1/1 flyers that can't block is medium at best. You need instant-speed discard to really go off, and that's hard to find. Plus, this guy can't seriously contend with Tinybones, Trinket Thief.

My prediction: Under

Squee, Dubious Monarch

Though players are tickled by Squee's antics, his cards have never been popular; Squee, Goblin Nabob leads just 43 decks, and Squee, the Immortal leads 211 (yes, I'm one of them). Like Jar-Jar on the Galactic Senate, you have to question the civilization that chose this guy as their king.

My prediction: Under

Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart

The idea here is converting Raise the Alarms into more Raise the Alarm-type effects. Seems fine, but also a little slow, not to mention clunky.

My prediction: Under

Stenn, Paranoid Partisan

Stenn's having trouble finding purpose. He might've been an interesting Storm commander, if there were more interesting Storm payoffs in Azorius. He could try leading an artifact shell, but there are far better options available. Based on his name, he might sing Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" at karaoke, but I'd rather hear Ozzy.

My prediction: Under

Tura Kennerüd, Skyknight

The first thing that jumps out about this card is the umlaut. Oh yeah, and the cast trigger. This card's neat, but there's a problem: Kykar, Wind's Fury does this schtick way better. I mean, Tura's tokens don't even fly.

My prediction: Under

Ertai Resurrected

Ertai seems super annoying, especially in tandem with bounce and instant-speed flicker effects. What's more, he's got classic name-brand recognition; though his first incarnation leads only 37 decks, his second boasts 398—not bad for a card designed two decades ago.

My prediction: Over

Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful

Fun fact: Rona's non-showcase artwork is a screenshot from the 2007 film Awake.

Anyhoo, it's interesting to see a spells-matter theme in Dimir, plus a way to circumvent commander tax. Problem is, Rona doesn't excel at either. I think red offers more to this archetype than black, and though one life per spell is pesky, it's rarely going to pop off in the way that, say, Niv-Mizzet, Parun does.

My prediction: Under

Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator

A nice commander with intriguing abilities and a type line in size seven font, but it's ultimately too dinky to rival the power level of other commanders in this set.

My prediction: Under

Garna, Bloodfist of Keld

Interesting modality here. You can attack and instant-speed sac to draw cards, or let combat run its course. Alternatively, you can sac creatures outside combat to ping your opponents. Also, as an uncommon, Garna should be easy to acquire. Like ABBA, I'm willing to take a chance on her.

My prediction: Over

Lagomos, Hand of Hatred

We all know what the real hand of hatred is: a one-lander with a bunch of seven-drops and no mana ramp. But Lagomos works too, I suppose. Free tokens are always interesting, and a complimentary Demonic Tutor sounds delightful.

However, as we've seen with Prime Speaker Vannifar, tutor commanders rarely achieve widespread success; even Vannifar only has about 700 decks to her name at present. They tend to replicate game states, which leads to players getting bored with the deck and taking it apart.

My prediction: Under

Rivaz of the Claw

Dragon tribal? Check. Ramp? Check. Reanimator synergies? Big check. The aliens from Toy Story would love this guy, and EDH players will, too.

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

Meria, Scholar of Antiquity

Gruul isn't always the most creative color combo, so it's nice to see them getting a new theme. Turn your Great Furnace and Tree of Tales into card draw, or convert your Spellbook into Mox Emerald. If you want to be really mean, you could even pack Winter Orb.

Meria offers plenty of options, and I expect players will enjoy exploring them.

My prediction: Over

Radha, Coalition Warlord

Radha returns for the fourth time, yet this is her worst version. As we'll see with our other Domain commanders, you're almost always capped at X = 2. Prismatic Omen, Nylea's Presence, and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove boost that number, but those effects are too scarce to provide consistent support.

My prediction: Under

Rulik Mons, Warren Chief

Rulik feels like a wannabe version of Radha, Heart of Keld, and not a very good one at that. I suppose he could lead Gruul Goblin tribal, but even then, Grumgully, the Generous and Wort, the Raidmother are better options.

My prediction: Under

King Darien XLVIII

I find this card's design about as original as royal names in the kingdom of Kjeldor. After all, haven't we seen these same effects on basically every Selesnya go-wide commander? Nonetheless, they always perform well, whether I anticipate it or not (pay no attention to my thoughts on Kyler, Sigardian Emissary). I don't like Darien, but I'm still giving him an Over.

My prediction: Over

Queen Allenal of Ruadach

Queen who from what? I know I just said players love go-wide commanders, but this is clearly designed for Limited, not EDH.

My prediction: Under

Zar Ojanen, Scion of Efrava

Zar excels as a Vehicle commander, and the new mechanic Enlist also works, yet the payoff isn't there, especially considering the hoop-jumping required to boost anything with greater than one toughness.

My prediction: Under

Aron, Benalia's Ruin

This guy shares a name with a classic Gen 3 Pokemon, and, like that Pokemon, he's not that powerful. Sacrificing a creature to pump creatures is counterproductive, and delaying the ability due to summoning sickness makes it too slow. I'm off it.

My prediction: Under

Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim

Since Elas is so similar to The Meathook Massacre, we can check the page of the latter to deduce some builds. This deck looks potentially awesome, with Black Market Connections, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, and Cruel Celebrant serving as standouts. Despite being an uncommon, Elas has plenty of support in a trusted archetype.

My prediction: Over

Ratadrabik of Urborg

Weird name, weird card. Vigilance is so-so on a 3/3 and even worse on 2/2 tokens, which will likely compose most of your forces. However, some legends are legends because they'd be too powerful in multiples. Ratadrabik lets you break that paradigm, especially with Populate cards. The Zombie text buries the lede; the rest is where you want to be.

My prediction: Over

Balmor, Battlemage Captain

Odd to see trample on an Izzet card, but this is still excellent. Reminds me of Adeliz, the Cinder Wind from our last visit to Dominaria, only Balmor isn't limited to Wizard tribal. A simple but effective commander.

My prediction: Over

Jhoira, Ageless Innovator

Izzet offers no shortage of artifacts and untap effects. Some cards, like Corridor Monitor and Magewright's Stone, check both boxes. Jhoira is an undeniable lightning for removal, but assuming you untap with her, you'll have a great time. Your opponents, not so much.

My prediction: Over

Najal, the Storm Runner

The first ability is rarely relevant, while the second pales in comparison to better options. This will likely become one of the set's least popular options.

My prediction: Under

Bortuk Bonerattle

Great name, great art, lousy card. Six mana to reanimate what will most often be a two-mana creature? Someone must be trolling us.

My prediction: Under

Nemata, Primeval Warden

For the low cost of four mana, we get a nice body with a relevant keyword, plus the ability to exile opposing creatures for free. That's already outstanding—and it gets better. Sacrifice your Saprolings to pump Nemata or draw more cards. What's not to like?

My prediction: Over

Uurg, Spawn of Turg

I don't know who Turg is, but I want to personally thank them for spawning this thing. I love everything about Uurg, from the name to the typing to the self-mill to the land synergies and beyond. Though it's strikingly similar to The Gitrog Monster, Uurg should find enough space in the metagame to earn not just some decks, but many.

My prediction: Over

Astor, Bearer of Blades

Somebody log into, because Astor looks like the son of Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Bruenor Battlehammer. That's some quality pedigree, since both those commanders are fairly popular (1,501 and 988 decks, respectively).

I think most decks will focus on either Equipment or Vehicles, with few dabbling in both. After all, these card types don't synergize particularly well. Nonetheless, they should combine to compose well over 600 decks.

My prediction: Over

Baird, Argivian Recruiter

If Baird is Argive's best recruiter, they must not have many soldiers. One token each turn is way too smallball for a format as powerful as EDH.

My prediction: Under

Tori D'Avenant, Fury Rider

Tori is so 2017. Didn't anybody tell her that Boros commanders draw tons of cards now?

My prediction: Under

Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief

A short list of interesting things you can do with Ivy:

  • Copy your opponents' beneficial targeted effects
  • Duplicate your Bestow creatures
  • Baffle the table by trying to figure out how this works with Mutate

I'd say that's enough for an Over.

My prediction: Over

Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut

Nael gets help from Realmwright, but even then, our Domain is most often going to be two. As such, this commander is about as appealing as the two-week old turkey in my fridge.

My prediction: Under

Tatyova, Steward of Tides

Yikes, that turkey was nasty. Had to throw it out. Where was I? Oh yeah, Magic.

The previous version of Tatyova was a hit, and this one lives up to its quality. For the modest cost of U and double G, you can add flying to your Lair of the Hydra, Hall of Storm Giants, Lumbering Falls, and more. Also, note that once you start animating land #7 and beyond, they remain 3/3s indefinitely. She won't be as popular as the original, but this Tatyova will still smash 600.

My prediction: Over

Zur, Eternal Schemer

Man, I wish I had an animated enchantment creature that could fly me places. That way I wouldn't have to deal with the airline industry.

Zur, Eternal Schemer is making the most of his personal transportation with an excellent collection of keywords. I've seen discussion of animating Theros Gods and blinking Sagas for value, among other things. Sounds like an Over to me.

My prediction: Over

Sol'Kanar the Tainted

Sol'Kanar is so sweet. He comes down as a versatile value engine, accelerating you on any three important axes of the game. Afterward, you can play politics and let an opponent borrow him, or you might employ Homeward Path to reclaim him. My only question is, where's the swampwalk?

My prediction: Over

Soul of Windgrace

I infamously bashed Lord Windgrace in my C18 review article, and I stand by it. Fortunately, Soul of Windgrace is far, far better. For one mana less, you get great stats and not one, not two, but three relevant activated abilities, plus an excellent ETB/attack trigger.

My prediction: Over

Rith, Liberated Primeval

I don't know which I like more: the text or the artwork. Dealing excess damage is easy with a tribe as beefy as Dragons, especially since their natural evasion makes planeswalkers easy prey. Oh, and that global ward doesn't hurt, either.

My prediction: Over

Shanna, Purifying Blade

Bant lifegain is a heretofore underexplored design space, so nice to see it here. Though Shanna fuels her own card draw ability, a 3/3 is unlikely to attack safely outside the first few turns. Therefore, additional lifegain will be essential, especially the sort that costs no mana. Fortunately, there's lots of that; Archangel of Thune and Venser's Journal, just to name a couple of my favorites.

My prediction: Over

Jodah, the Unifier

At this point, when I see a five-color legend, I don't even need to read the text to know it's going Over. However, I did in fact read Jodah, the Unifier, and my suspicions were confirmed. Five-color legends is already an established archetype, and Jodah will contend with Sisay, Weatherlight Captain for primacy. After all, Cascading for legends sounds too fun to pass up. This might just go down as the most popular commander in the entire set.

My prediction: Over

Over (20)

Under (20)

Can't-Miss Pick

What's that you say? I haven't covered all the legends? Well, you're in luck, dear reader. We'll evaluate the Dominaria Commander cards in our next article, coming soon. Until next time!

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 Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.

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