The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Forgotten Realms Commanders

(Volo, Guide to Monsters | Art by Zoltan Boros)

Assemble Your Par-tay

Welcome to Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, where many cards have weird, one-word titles. Let's venture into this new set, 600 style.

In this article series, I'll guess how popular new commanders will become one year after release. I’ll give each card either “Over” or “Under.” The former means I believe the card will earn more than 600 decks, while the latter means fewer than 600. I also give myself one Can’t-Miss Pick each set, which serves as my called shot. We’ll check my work in one year’s time.

A final note: I considered writing this entire article in the second person, e.g., "You scroll down and read my analysis. What do you type into the comments section?" However, that seems like a pain for both you and me (not to mention I have very little experience as a DM), so let’s proceed as usual.

Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant

We begin with a dud. Icingdeath reminds me of Halvar, God of Battle, since both cost four mana, both have 4 power, and both turn into Equipment that grant +2/+0. Yet Halvar leads only 81 decks. I see no reason Icingdeath will do any better.

My prediction: Under

Nadaar, Selfless Paladin

Like many EDH players, I’m usually unenthused by mono-white commanders. However, Nadaar has something his peers lack: venture.

This new mechanic is particularly intriguing in mono-white since it grants access to abilities white often lacks. In Dungeon of the Mad Mage, for example, the Goblin Bazaar room offers ramp, while the Runestone Caverns room offers card draw.

However, we're still dealing with a 3/3 that needs to attack or enter the battlefield if it wants to ventureSeems unlikely to happen frequently.

My prediction: Under

Oswald Fiddlebender

This is Magic’s first legendary Gnome. Probably won’t move the needle, but we must still note this seminal moment in history.

Oswald seems fun, but it reminds me too much of Prime Speaker Vannifar, a card I had high hopes for—until they were squashed like the Red Viper’s head. Vannifar was a Simic Birthing Pod on a stick and it fell short of the 600 mark by over 100 decks, so why would a narrower, mono-white narrower version of the same card fare any better in the command zone?

My prediction: Under

Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar

This dude’s name sounds like a store-brand laxative, but if you can get past that, you get an interesting card.

My concern here is how much agency your opponent gets. If you attack with a creature that you want them to block (perhaps it has a nice enters-the-battlefield effect), they don't have to block it. Even if they let several creatures through, you only get one card as a reward. Interesting design, but not quite powerful enough.

My prediction: Under

Iymrith, Desert Doom

Evasion, protection, card draw, and stats make for a tasty dish. However, Iymrith is strikingly similar to Dragonlord Ojutai, a commander who leads only 339 decks despite six years of existence. Alas, Iymrith is doomed to be an Under.

My prediction: Under

Minn, Wily Illusionist

We just had our first legendary Gnome. Here's our second—and this one's way better.

I'll admit, I'm skeptical of the whole drawing-your-second card thing, since Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse went way Under, and Firja, Judge of Valor is off to a slow start. However, Minn adds some interesting wrinkles, most notably pseudo-ramp. Whenever your Illusions die, you may put a permanent onto the battlefield. That could help drop more lands, or even cheat mana costs! That's pretty sweet, and it only gets sweeter the more Illusions she accumulates.

Overall, Minn is an exciting addition to the Forgotten Realms (though she looks more like leftover art from Strixhaven).

My prediction: Over

Acererak the Archlich

Pro tip: never trust a dude who invites you into a place called "Tomb of Annihilation." Yes, the design is inventive, but the payoff for completing this punishing dungeon isn't all that rewarding.

My prediction: Under

Asmodeus the Archfiend

Pseudo-Necropotence on a stick seems sweet, and a "Devil God" typeline is even sweeter, but a six-mana upfront cost plus four more to get your seven cards? Not so sweet. Also, note that Asmodeus demands payment for every card you draw, including those in your draw step. I've actually gotten to play with this card, so trust a guy who knows: that gets old quick.

Asmodeus may seem sweet at first glance, but I doubt many players will sign his contract.

My prediction: Under

Ebondeath, Dracolich

I’m getting strong Balrog vibes from this dude (probably the horns). And like the Balrog, Ebondeath shall not pass.

I mean, flash gets a lot less useful when you enter the battlefield tapped, and although a recursive five-power flyer is nice, it's difficult to build a deck around it. A fine card, but more likely to play a supporting role than the lead.

My prediction: Under

Lorcan, Warlock Collector

This card is interesting but prohibitively expensive, especially in a non-green mono-color. I can see it showing up in Kaalia of the Vast or Oona, Queen of the Fae decks. Otherwise, the mana cost is too darn high.

My prediction: Under

Delina, Wild Mage

Delina is super similar to Rionya, Fire Dancer, who only just came out in Commander 2021 and is doing fairly well with 314 decks. Rionya seems like the better option of the two, and the dice-rolling mechanic has been polarizing at best. Therefore, I'm not seeing a path to 600 for our Wild Mage here.

My prediction: Under

Inferno of the Star Mounts

Power creep being what it is, a six-mana 6/6 uncounterable hasty threat is somehow not good enough. Yet Inferno of the Star Mounts offers the additional possibility of 20 (20!) direct damage. Is that enough to entice 600 players?

I mean, I'm enticed, yet I've seen little online buzz about it, save some dismissive "meme card" labels. Perhaps it is a meme card, but I'm still in love with this thing. I'm giving it an Over just to show my solidarity.

My prediction: Over

Zalto, Fire Giant Duke

If you enjoy lousy stats, underwhelming payoffs, and trading down with three-power creatures, by all means, play Zalto. If you enjoy winning, please don't choose him as your commander.

My prediction: Under

Old Gnawbone

If we’re just talking names here, I’m slamming the Over on Old Gnawbone, yet, like Inferno of the Star Mounts, I seem to be a lot higher on this old fella than others. To be fair, most players like the card... they just like it in Scion of the Ur-Dragon decks better. For the sake of my prediction percentage, I can't do an irrational Over twice.

My prediction: Under

The Tarrasque

It’s not just any Tarrasque. It’s The Tarrasque.

Yet if this guy is so singular, why did we just get a similar card in the form of Thrasta, Tempest's Roar from Modern Horizons 2? Both are massive mono-green Dinosaurs with big stats, haste, and some form of protection. I know it’s still early for MH2, but Thrasta currently stands at 42 decks. Why would a nine-mana alternate version do any better?

The prediction: Under

Varis, Silverymoon Ranger

Varis has reach, but it’s a lousy blocker. It has ward, but only for one. You can venture, but only once per turn. You get free tokens for completing dungeons, but they’re only 2/2s. Varis is very underwhelming.

My prediction: Under

Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker

Now this is a payoff for dungeon crawling. Though Hama Pashar (H.P. Loveruin to her friends) doesn’t venture herself, she makes all your venture cards twice as good. It’s a headliner mechanic, so that's got to help boost those numbers. And yet....

It's hard to go Over on a card devoted to a mechanic that's so polarizing. In fact, since Hama is so entwined with dungeonsI feel like this is an Over/Under prediction on the mechanic itself. I'm going to play it safe—but hey, I've been wrong before (as longtime readers well know).

My prediction: Under

Krydle of Baldur’s Gate

If the best adjective to describe your commander is “pesky,” you're in trouble. That’s all Krydle is: pesky. Its stats are irrelevant, and paying two mana to deal two, mill one, gain one, and scry one is mediocre at best. I don’t know where Baldur's Gate is, but remind me never to visit.

My prediction: Under

Xanathar, Guild Kingpin

Beholders have always confused me, mostly due to the lack of hands. Like, if you’re a Beholder, how do you eat pizza? In Xanathar's case, you steal it from an opponent.

Based on the online and in-person discourse I've heard, people dig Xanathar. Playing other players' cards is a time-honored tradition ever since Sen Triplets. I expect this dude to carry on the legacy.

My prediction: Over

Kalain, Reclusive Painter

Clearly, Kalain has Bruno Mars's "Treasure" bumpin' in her art studio whenever she paints. Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, Revel in Riches, and the newly printed Xorn are outstanding Treasure enablers, while Mayhem Devil, Marionette Master, and Magda, Brazen Outlaw provide the payoffs. I might just have to build this deck myself.

My prediction: Over

Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant

I was skeptical of Marisi, Breaker of the Coil, though it went way Over. I've learned my lesson. Players love Goading their friends and/or opponents. Karazikar does the trick for one more mana and one less color than Marisi, plus it rewards you with a desirable (albeit symmetrical) result. Finally, note that the second ability triggers whenever one opponent attacks another, regardless of whether they were Goaded or not.

I know dentists must despise Beholders like Karazikar here, but I, for one, am a fan.

My prediction: Over

Orcus, Prince of Undeath

A four-mana 5/3 flampler is already a great deal, and adding the modality of the additional X cost is outstanding, yet Orcus isn't particularly flavorful or interesting to build around, nor does he look like the type of guy you'd want to party with, let alone invite to join your party. I'm out.

My prediction: Under

Prosper, Tome-Bound

Prosper seems awfully narrow... until one recalls the surplus of temporary exile effects in red, such as Commune with Lava, Light Up the Stage, and Laelia, the Blade Reforged. That means he consistently provides ramp and card draw, which is excellent. Finally, Prosper reminds me of a studious Hellboy, which means he should be prosperous indeed.

My prediction: Over

Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient

Boy, they are really testing us with these high-mana-value commanders. We had Lorcan at seven, The Tarrasque at nine, and now another seven-drop with Klauth.

However, being half green mitigates that high cost, and immediately offering back four of the seven mana helps, too. Plus, assuming you attack with several creatures each turn, you can generate some absurd amounts of mana. Expendable tokens will help, along with powerful anthems such as Beastmaster AscensionSome cards provide too much mana to ignore. 

My prediction: Over

Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll

To borrow from the parlance of podcaster Bill Simmons, Targ Nar feels like a good stats, bad team guy.

Yes, Targ Nar gets beefy with cards like Invigorate and Hero's Blade. However, as we’ve seen with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, big stats don’t necessarily lead to success (I would apologize to Timberwolves fans here, but I’m not sure there's a fanbase to apologize to).

My prediction: Under

Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients

Vrondiss has Enrage, a keyword of many Dinosaurs from Ixalan block. While it was a unique mechanic, it was also fairly narrow. I can see this being the case with Vrondiss. Also, the dice-rolling trigger doesn’t impress, since there are so few dice-rolling cards in general, let alone ones that would be viable in EDH.

My prediction: Under

Wulfgar of Icewind Dale

The last time Melee appeared on a commander was way back in 2016 with Adriana, Captain of the Guard. She didn’t fare particularly well, though that’s likely due to her color identity. Swapping out white for green certainly helps.

Wulfgar also doubles Melee triggers and many others (the aforementioned Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient, for one). This maximizes the ability with cards like Combat Celebrant and Port Razer, which offer additional combats when they attack.

This dude seems like a fine addition to any aggro player’s collection. He also reminds me of Destruction from Sandman, which should appeal to comic book nerds everywhere.

My prediction: Over

Catti-brie of Mithral Hall

We’ve seen Selesyna Equipment commanders before, perhaps most notably with Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith. Nazahn is, in my opinion, way cooler than Catti-brie, yet he only leads 218 decks. Doesn’t bode well for our archer friend here.

It’s not that this card isn’t good. In fact, I think she makes combat a nightmare for opponents. It’s just that she feels too fair to really get players excited.

My prediction: Under

(P.S.: Does Catti-brie have any connection to brie cheese? I need to know.)

Drizzt Do’Urden

I haven't had this much trouble pronouncing a name on a Magic card since Fblthp, the Lost. "Drizzt" is hard enough, and this "Guenhwyvar" thing is just ludicrous. My heart goes out to any Dungeon Master forced to tackle those ones.

Anyhoo, the card itself is certainly interesting. 7/4 worth of stats across two bodies for five mana is impressive, and both creatures carry relevant keywords. Drizzt boasts the added bonus of growing when anything bigger (yours or your opponents') dies. That has scary implications on a double strike commander.

This card is extraordinarily powerful on its own, plus it happens to be one of D&D’s most popular characters. This is an easy slam dunk.

My prediction: Over

Trelasarra Moon Dancer

This card would be much more appealing if it was Trelasarra, Moon Walker. I mean, it's nifty, but it's uncommon, and it certainly reads like it. One counter and one scry per life gain doesn't jive with a format as powerful as EDH.

My prediction: Under

Barrowin of Clan Undurr

Slightly better than the average uncommon commander fare, but still not good enough. If you want a similar effect in these colors, you’re probably playing Lurrus of the Dream Den, and Lurrus went Under. Also, I can't give an Over to a guy who belongs in Clan Undurr.

My prediction: Undurr

Farideh, Devil's Chosen

Players seem annoyed by the dice-rolling mechanic, which means they probably won't choose a dice-rolling commander. I’m not runnin’ with the devil on this one.

My prediction: Under

Shessra, Death's Whisper

It’s clear what Shessra wants to do. If only she could do it a little better. The first ability requires setup, and the second ability doesn’t impress, especially compared to cards like Deathreap Ritual.

My prediction: Under

Bruenor Battlehammer

I appreciate Bruenor's attempt to revitalize Hammer Time, but it's not gonna work. This is just another Boros Equipment commander, and an inferior one at that.

My prediction: Under

Gretchen Titchwillow

Gretchen is pretty much Thrasios, Triton Hero without Partner. I suppose players might run Gretchen as a budget alternative, but with Thrasios's reprint in Commander Legends supplementary products, he isn’t prohibitively expensive any longer.

My prediction: Under

Volo, Guide to Monsters

I love that Volo deviates from the ol’ ramp-and-draw antics of Simic. He also presents a unique deckbuilding challenge for players, which will lead to increased deck diversity; since all creature types must be different, no two Volo decks should look quite the same. Finally, he's sporting a neck ruffle, which deserves props.

My prediction: Over

Nihiloor

And the Award for Most Convoluted Rules Text goes to... this guy!

Once you decipher the thing, you’ll find it’s actually quite powerful. Stealing up to three creatures is no joke (though you’ll need to do some work to get there). However, it's often difficult for the alternate commanders in a Commander product to shine, and something tells me that will be the case here. At least Nihiloor has his award.

My prediction: Under

Sefris of the Hidden Ways

Players may or may not like venturing into the dungeon, but I have to imagine there are at least 600 D&D fans out there who will support the mechanic (plus some complimentary reanimation). Sefris is also the face commander of its Commander deck, which should boost those numbers.

My prediction: Over

Minsc, Beloved Ranger

If I was more familiar with D&D lore, I’d better understand this card. As it stands, we have Magic’s first legendary Hamster, which happens to share a name with my brother and sister-in-law’s cat. I don’t have the personal fortitude to play this card, but I’m almost certain other players will. It’s simply too whacky not to go Over.

My prediction: Over

Galea, Kindler of Hope

Unlike Catti-brie cheese, this Equipment commander also provides card advantage (plus free Equip costs). Galea even boasts a solid body at a great rate, and it's a face commander. I'm all-in on this one.

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

Storvald, Frost Giant Jarl

This artwork is sick. The rest of the card, not so much.

I mean, I’ll take ward 3, especially on a 7/7 that wards my other creatures, but that doesn't protect against board wipes, and though the combat trigger is nifty, it seems a little small-ball in the grand scheme of things.

My prediction: Under

Tiamat

The flavor text on the original edition sounds like something a deranged youth sports parent might say. I doubt this observation will affect Tiamat's popularity, but you never know.

Here’s what will: five colors. In all my time writing 600 articles, only one five-color commander ever went Under, and that’s because it was more often used as a Companion (FYI, I’m talking about Jegantha, the Wellspring). I expect the best from Tiamat, especially considering its typeline, stats, ETB ability, and importance in D&D lore.

My prediction: Over


Recap

Under (28)

Over (13)

Can't-Miss Pick

Enjoy your adventures in the Forgotten Realms! Just make sure not to tick off your DM. 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 Bennie Bracks, Zoologist. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.