The 600 – Predicting the Popularity of Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commanders

(Olivia, Crimson Bride | Art by Anna Steinbauer)

Mawwage is What Bwings Us Togethah Today

It's wedding season on Innistrad, and that means we're crashing it, 600 style.

In The 600 article series, we guess whether each new commander will lead more or fewer than 600 decks a year after printing. If we think it'll have more than 600, we mark it "Over," and if we think it'll have fewer than 600, we mark it "Under." There's also one "Can't-Miss Pick," which is my guaranteed Over of the set (and therefore the one I'm most likely to botch!). Since this is a set about a wedding, we'll be evaluating all the Partner couples as one, just like the IRS during tax season.

So find your seats, turn off your cell phones, and wait for "I'm Yours" to start playing in tasteful acoustic fashion. Let the wedding commence!

Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr // Katilda's Rising Dawn

Flying and lifelink is a pesky combo, especially on a three-mana creature that dies into an Aura with the same text. Try slapping that onto an indestructible creature, such as Heliod, Sun-Crowned or Zetalpa, Primal Dawn.

However, even good cards go Under. That's what I believe will happen with Katilda. Mono-white provides such poor support in the 99 that the color's commanders must be transcendent to go Over. The aforementioned Heliod was the last one to do it, and I don't see Katilda rising to that same occasion. But hey, I'm sure she'll contribute nicely to the honeymoon fund.

My prediction: Under

Donal, Herald of Wings

The internet could've been all atwitter over Donal, but even Twitter has been indifferent at best. (Thought I was going to make wedding jokes all article long, eh? Bam, there's your bird joke!) Plus, it's odd to see this card printed within two sets of such a similar commander: Volo, Guide to Monsters from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Here we've dropped green and the typing restriction in favor of a flying requirement and a slight stats dip. Worst of all, the ability is capped to once a turn.

All in all, if you like this effect, you're probably playing Volo, not Donal.

My prediction: Under

Geralf, Visionary Stitcher

You can't have a wedding without petty sibling squabbles, so Geralf kindly constructed an undead effigy of his sister. Only on Innistrad.

Anyhoo, this is probably my favorite version of Gerry so far. Stitcher Geralf is too mana-intensive, and Gisa and Geralf gets outclassed by better options, yet Geralf, Visionary Stitcher delivers an effect that's both unique and powerful. He plays perfectly with big-butted creatures, like Charix, the Raging Isle, and provides evasion to mono-blue Zombie beaters, like Skaab Goliath. Don't even get me started on this card with Undead Alchemist.

As if that wasn't enough, Gerry's already a popular character. Add him to the guest list.

My prediction: Over

Jacob Hauken, Inspector // Hauken's Insight

This card seems mystifyingly clunky, to the point I'm worried I'm missing something. The back half is powerful, but you only get there after a six-mana investment, and that's assuming your 0/2 survived a full turn cycle.

Look, I'm not saying the payoff isn't appealing. I like free spells at least as much as free cocktail weenies during the cocktail hour. I just think the setup cost is simply too steep to be widely played.

My prediction: Under

Henrika Domnathi // Henrika, Infernal Seer

So is Demon blood kind of like an Irish Car Bomb for Vampires? If so, Henrika's having a great time at this wedding.

The Demonic Pact-style choose-one-that-hasn't-been-chosen text is neat, especially since it allows immediate transformation. However, the flip side reveals only a glorified Vampire Nighthawk, which just barely cracks EDHREC's top 100 black cards. Another solid commander, but not one I foresee many players using in the command zone.

My prediction: Under

Timothar, Baron of Bats

There are some who call him... Tim?

Tim has a fun design, but six mana is too steep a price for the payoff. It's not even like you can build an Aristocrats-style deck, since there's no intrinsic benefit to creating the Bats (aside from ETB abilities, maybe). Tim's most likely path to popularity is a guest appearance on What We Do in the Shadows, not EDH.

My prediction: Under

Dorothea, Vengeful Victim // Dorothea's Retribution

I'm all for otherworldly retribution, but Dorothea's pushing it. I mean, she's a callback to Geist of Saint Traft, a card that leads only 461 decks and was always more popular in Standard and Cube than EDH. My advice: don't get personally victimized by Regina George—I mean, Dorothea, Vengeful Victim.

My prediction: Under

Millicent, Restless Revenant

There's no question Millicent, Restless Revenant is powerful. Cast it early with a decent curve-out, then build a Spirit army that even the army of the dead from LotR would be jelly of. My only hesitancy is this: Spirits.

Spirits are the 22nd most popular tribe on EDHREC, which does not exactly inspire confidence. However, here's my hot take: I believe Spirits will receive a fair bit of support in our upcoming set, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. This tribe was a huge part of the original block, after all, so I expect the same to be true here. For the sake of my correct prediction percentage, I hope I'm right.

My prediction: Over

Rhoda, Geist Avenger + Timin, Youthful Geist

How exactly does one become a youthful geist? By dying young, or perhaps having died recently? The meaning's murky, as is this pair's future.

Tapping creatures is a unique theme for an EDH deck, 'tis true, but it also seems decidedly small-ball, especially for a format as powerful as ours. Sure, I'll admit, Rhoda gets pumped whenever someone taps a mana dork, which happens frequently, but all in all, I doubt this tapping thing will appeal to enough players.

My prediction: Under

Runo Stromkirk // Krothuss, Lord of the Deep

Look, I'm a sucker for seemingly innocuous Clerics that flip into looming monsters (see Jerren, Corrupted Bishop // Ormendahl, the Corrupter from last set). It'll be difficult to set aside my bias, but I'll try.

...Nah, forget it. Let me gush about this guy!

Imagine tripling up on your Spawning Krakens, Hullbreaker Horrors, Deep-Sea Krakens, and my personal favorite, Stormtide Leviathans. Note also that those tokens don't exile at turn's end, which is sometimes the case for similar effects (I'm looking at you, red cards). Sure, it takes some work to flip this dude, but what do I care? I'm letting my bias take over, and you can't stop me.

My prediction: Over

Toxrill, the Corrosive

In the grand pantheon of gross Magic: the Gathering art, I'd rank Toxrill somewhere between Grotesque Mutation and Brain Maggot. Fortunately, it's worlds better than either of those cards.

Toxrill is expensive, yes, but like a chocolate fountain at a rehearsal dinner, the quality is worth the expense. You get the oppressive stat reduction of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite combined with the rampant token generation of Overseer of the Damned, plus the slime counters of Midnight Hunt's Sludge Monster. Toxrill even lets you cash in your Slugs for more cards (of note: the blue mana in that activated ability makes Toxrill a Dimir commander, not mono-black). Is there anything this Slug Horror can't do?

...Well, it should probably avoid eating salt, but otherwise, Toxrill does it all.

My prediction: Over

Umbris, Fear Manifest

Personally, my fear made manifest would be an overflowing litter box, but this one works, too. Umbris gets real big real fast, and stays that way (unless you utilize Battle for Zendikar's Processors, which you could still totally do). There's also the Nightmare and Horror tribal aspect, two underserved creature types that players would love to build around. It's especially potent with Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar, who presents opponents with a painful quandary: do they take the damage and give you a free card, or do they block and bounce your attacker, setting up additional exile triggers?

Any way you look at it, I'm in on this card, so much so that I'll give it my Can't-Miss Pick stamp of approval. Not exactly a marriage proposal, but close enough.

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

Anje, Maid of Dishonor

I enjoy Clue, Treasure, and even Food tokens, but for some reason, Blood tokens just don't get my goat. Anje lets you stockpile your Blood, then either turbo-rummage or turbo-drain.

Unfortunately, neither sounds particularly interesting. Anje seems like a solid card in the 99 of Edgar Markov, but not splashy enough to lead 600 decks. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

My prediction: Under

Kamber, the Plunderer + Laurine, the Diversion

Goad is always popular to EDH. Take Marisi, Breaker of the Coil as an example - he's thriving with 1,582 decks. Throw Partner into the mix and I see no reason why this pair won't become a beloved celebrity couple (I nominate "Kambine" as their tabloid name). Just look at their self-fueling cycle: Laurine forces an attack, and assuming the attacking creature dies, Kamber gives you the fodder to force another attack, and repeat. Definitely in on these two.

My prediction: Over

Olivia, Crimson Bride

My wife walked down the aisle to "Halo" by Beyonce, and I see no reason Olivia can't do the same (though I suppose she's technically floating down the aisle, not walking).

Beyonce or no, six mana is a little pricey. However, it's a bargain compared to the cost of a wedding on Innistrad. Plus, you get a decent attacker with a powerful and immediate reanimation effect. Note that the reanimated creature's existence is tied to any legendary Vampire you control, not just Olivia. With a few Blood counters, I expect your graveyard will be well-stocked with targets. Easy pick here.

My prediction: Over

Strefan, Maurer Progenitor

I'm unenthused by this dude. No, this isn't sour grapes over my envy of his facial hair. Rather, he just seems awfully similar to Olivia.

For two less mana, we get free Vampires from our hand rather than our graveyard. That's probably better, but it also requires Blood tokens, which aren't just sitting around (unless you happen to be at a blood drive, or perhaps a crime scene).

Still, this is a mythic from a new Commander product, which rarely ever go Under, no matter how redundant they might be.

My prediction: Over

Halana and Alena, Partners

It's funny that we get Partners in the same set as this card, which depicts two characters that originated as Partners on separate cards, but are now featured on the same card, only with the word "Partner" in their title. However, here's what's not so funny: Halana and Alena's shot at 600.

This is a strong card that fits too well into the 99 of existing archetypes. I've seen many players say they'll add Halana and Alena to their Xenagos, God of Revels, Wulfgar of Icewind Dale, and Minsc, Beloved Ranger decks, just to name a few. Love for these characters in the lore may prove me wrong, but for now, I expect to see these Partners wind up in the 300-400 range.

My prediction: Under

Torens, Fist of the Angels

Torens is handing out plus-ones to someone else's wedding, which seems tacky. I'm not even sure a 1/1 with Training is desirable on a battlefield, let alone at a nuptial ceremony. I'm also not sure this metaphor is really working.

What I'm trying to say is, I don't see Torens earning many fans. Getting a free token with every creature is decent, and Training being the inverse of Mentor is cute, but are you really going to stay in touch with this guy after the wedding? My guess is no.

My prediction: Under

Edgar, Charmed Groom

I hate to be the Caroline Collingwood of this ceremony, but how long do you think this marriage is going to last? I mean, I'm not up on my Vorthos, but isn't Edgar a few hundred years older than Olivia? And possibly a resurrected corpse? Plus, him lacking Partner with Olivia, Crimson Bride is a definite red flag.

Misgivings aside, this groom gives a Glorious Anthem to all your Vampires, then creates more when he dies, all the while building to his eventual return. Though not as oppressively powerful as his original incarnation, Edgar, Charmed Groom is still an excellent commander for Orzhov Vampires, and a famous character, to boot. I'll take 'under 600 years' for his wedding to Olivia, but 'over 600 decks' for his EDH outlook.

My prediction: Over

Eruth, Tormented Prophet

Eruth asks EDH players two simple questions: do you like drawing cards? Also: do you dream about gibbering devils, too? Hopefully you only answer "yes" to one of these questions.

This card's main drawback is its immediacy: you must play those extra cards the turn they're exiled, otherwise they stay there. Shouldn't be a problem in Izzet, thanks to Storm-enablers like Storm-Kiln Artist and Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty. With all of blue's cheap cantrips (and probably a Thassa's Oracle) you'll be tormenting your opponents with profit in no time.

My prediction: Over

Old Rutstein

In Magic tournament coverage parlance, you know how "interesting" basically means "dubious at best"? Like, when a player targets the wrong creature with a removal spell, the announcers say, "Interesting play there by Massa." Well, I'd have to describe Old Rutstein as "interesting."

Perhaps that's unfair. Sure, it's an innovative design that hearkens back to Druidic Satchel (a card that appears in less than one percent of EDHREC decks). The problem is, the payoffs aren't particularly intriguing. A Treasure token is decent, a Blood Token is fine, and a 1/1 Insect is basically irrelevant. Sure, some players may use Rutstein as a casual alternative to more powerful commanders. I just don't foresee 600 players doing so.

My prediction: Under

Odric, Blood-Cursed

In classic Magic story fashion, a hero from a previous set gets corrupted by the villainous side. To add insult to injury, Odric had the misfortune of becoming Boros, which is arguably worse than what happened to Bruna and Gisela.

I will admit this presents an interesting variation on Odric's usual keyword fixation, but it's a bit win-more, isn't it? I mean, this card is only great when you control several creatures with relevant keywords, which means you're already doing pretty well, which means you probably didn't need Odric badly, anyway. Plus you'll need to do some additional deckbuilding to make those Blood tokens worth anything.

All in all, I just don't think it's good enough to lift the curse of Boros.

My prediction: Under

Grolnok, the Omnivore

As a fellow omnivore, I'm a fan of this card. The Frog tribal stuff is a bit of a misnomer, since there are only 23 eligible amphibians for this deck (not counting Changelings), few of which are even playable. However, after a few mills with cards like Hedron Crab or the crazily powerful Hermit Druid, you'll essentially have a second hand from which to play lands and permanents. This omnivore seems destined for frogness—I mean, greatness.

My prediction: Over




Can't-Miss Pick

Well, folks, the after-party's over and now everybody's loitering in the hotel lobby. See you tomorrow morning at brunch! Check back next year to see how these picks fared, and to see whether Olivia and Edgar managed to keep their crimson vows.

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.