The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Jumpstart 2022 Commanders

(Isu the Abominable | Art by Victor Adame Minguez)

Another Set, Another 600

Let's get it Jumpstarted in here! We're back with another 600the article series where we predict how popular new commanders will become after one year of circulation. If I give a card an "Over," that means I believe it'll command over 600 decks by next year. "Under," of course, means the opposite. I also make one Can't-Miss Pick in each set, which is sort of like a lock on a betting show.

So, are we ready to jump around? Let's take a look at these new commanders!

Lita, Mechanical Engineer

Nice to see someone taking their studies in mechanical engineering so seriously. Evidently, Lita is top of her class, because she's got some talent. She's a pseudo-Unwinding Clock in the command zone and a factory for tokens eerily similar to Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. She can even Crew her own ships, which is fine upside.

However, I'm obliged to note that Lita does little to address the lack of card draw in mono-white. This might've been a problem if not for her natural synergy with artifacts, which fortunately helps mitigate her shortcomings. I'm talking utility artifacts, like Weatherlight, Mystic Forge, and Idol of Oblivion.

Overall, this is the sort of mechanical engineer I'd like to see handling public works. I'm in.

My prediction: Over

Preston, the Vanisher

Rabbits with people hands creep me out. Nonetheless, I still want to play this card. (I'm considering slapping a sticky note over the picture with a personal hand-drawn illustration of Buster from Arthur instead, but we'll see.)

Anyhoo, where was I? Oh, yeah. This card is sweet. As long as you're blinking, reanimating, or doing some other whacky non-casting shenanigan, you can double all your best ETB effects. I'm thinking Reveillark, Sun Titan, and Solitude, but I'm sure you can think of others. Though the Illusion copy is only an 0/1, it's still good for chump blocking, sacrificing, and Preston's other ability.

Speaking of which, Preston's exiling talent opens the door for a little more Illusion creature action. There are very few viable options in mono-white at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if more came in subsequent sets throughout the coming year and bolstered those numbers. Mono-white picks usually aren't this easy.

My prediction: Over

Alandra, Sky Dreamer

Yes, the dream is attainable here. Drawing two cards a turn in blue is easier than ordering stuff on Amazon. Plus, a 2/2 flying Drake is one of the best tokens you can get, especially in multiples. Just ask Talrand, Sky Summoner.

Speaking of which, I think now's a better time than any to bring up my chief concern: are these two commanders too similar? Talrand has been a staple of mono-blue since its first printing, which was a while ago now. He currently stands at 3,135 decks, which is good for third best in mono-blue and #157 overall. Perhaps not as popular as he once was, but still pretty darn good.

So my question is, will that many players leave behind their Talrand decks in favor of Alandra? And will enough players be interested in Alandra who haven't already built a Talrand deck?

My guess is no on both counts. The draw-two thing has never been very popular, as evidenced by Firja, Judge of Valor and Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, both of whom went Under. True, Alandra is in the optimal color for card draw, unlike Firja and Jolrael, but that's still not enough to prevent this dream from becoming a nightmare.

My prediction: Under

Ashcoat of the Shadow Swarm

Unlike the New York City subway system, there aren't that many Rats in Magic. However, with Ashcoat's help, that hardly matters. Pack Rat will love that first ability, while any dead Rats will love the second. Yes, that's a free two-for-one every turn.

In my mind, the only question is whether or not this will become the top Rat deck commander. That distinction has belonged to Marrow-Gnawer for nearly two decades (I still remember opening that guy in a booster pack). Will his reign continue?

My guess is not. Though Marrow-Gnawer is super snowball-y, Ashcoat is one mana cheaper and a hair more versatile. My only gripe: "Ashcoat" makes me think of Ashcoat Bear, not of Rats.

My prediction: Over (Can't-Miss Pick)

Ardoz, Cobbler of War

Ardoz's job title is a little too vague for my tastes. Is she cobbling wars together for some reason, or is she a cobbler exclusively during wartime? The world may never know.

Whatever you do, don't sleep on this ability, especially with a swarm of tokens. I doubt you'll generate them via Ardoz herself too often, but anything that creates multiples in a turn (Siege-Gang Commander, Hanweir Garrison, Krenko, Mob Boss) becomes very deadly very fast.

Still, this takes a while to set up, and even if you earn some big hits, you'll be left with a bunch of lousy tokens. Furthermore, EDH has no shortage of token-matters commanders, most of which offer support in the form of card advantage. That's tough to come by in mono-red. Also, if you're playing mono-red tokens, you're probably playing the aforementioned Krenko, anyway. Turns out Ardoz is the Cobbler of Under.

My prediction: Under

Auntie Blyte, Bad Influence

This is one of the strangest build-around conditions we've ever seen, and it really gets the mind ticking. Your cards must specifically use the phrasing "deal damage" to trigger Auntie. Therefore, paying life with Treasonous Ogre or Moltensteel Dragon won't work. Instead, you'll want cards like Zo-Zu the Punisher, Sulfuric Vortex, and Manabarbs. Sounds intriguing.

Wait a minute. Intriguing? What am I saying? I just listed three of the most annoying cards of all time. If that's what Auntie Blyte decks are going to look like, I think I'll be one of many players to say no to this bad influence.

My prediction: Under

Runadi, Behemoth Caller

I gave Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea an Under in my The Brother's War review, and this is basically the same card, only better. I think? Let's compare.

Same mana value, same toughness, one less power. Pretty much a wash so far. Gwenna adds an additional mana and comes with the untap clause, but Runadi suggests a higher upside, offering the potential of even bigger, even hastier 7+ drops.

So yes, I think Runadi is indeed better, but is it better by enough to earn an Over?

Doubt it. Gwenna's early performance has been unimpressive (just 67 decks as I write this), and I doubt Runadi will fare much better.

My prediction: Under

Kibo, Uktabi Prince

One of the first cards spoiled from this set, and still one of the coolest.

There's a lot going on here. For starters, we've got elements of Group Hug, what with the free resources given away. Longtime readers will know of my aversion to such strategies, but here I don't mind it at all due to the return on your end. Those free +1/+1 counters can scale incredibly well, especially if you're running big boppers like Kogla, the Titan Ape or the classic Gorilla Titan.

Now, you may wonder why I'm mentioning a fairly crappy card from all the way back in Odyssey. The reason is simple: I couldn't come up with anything better. Both Apes and Monkeys are fairly shallow creature types.

That's my only reservation with this card. Seriously, a quick preliminary search revealed nothing better than a Silverback Elder. They printed some support in the set, but not enough to move the needle (or banana, as it were).

But hey, honestly, I'm just trying to make things dramatic. In reality, this is an easy pick. A sweet commander in an underserved yet fun theme is all we can ask for from a Jumpstart expansion.

My prediction: Over

Rodolf Duskbringer

Lifegain is like the jeans of MTG: it'll never go out of style. Rodolf proves it with yet another variation on a classic, this time parlaying the strategy with reanimator.

Let's imagine an average turn in the life of Rodolf. On the upkeep, you gain some passive life with something like Ajani's Mantra, just to give your commander indestructible. Next, attack with said commander to gain four more life. If you play another lifegain effect, perhaps pitching a couple cards to Peace of Mind, you now have enough to reanimate an Eldrazi.

Seems sweet. Also seems like a lot of setup and build-around, all dependent on a six-mana commander that has no immediate effect when it enters the battlefield. Rodolf Duskbringer is intriguing, but he's not intriguing enough to unseat classics like Liesa, Shroud of Dusk and Teysa Karlov.

My prediction: Under

Mizzix, Replica Rider

Technically, anybody riding a carousel is a replica rider, but whatever, Mizzix is sweet. Now appearing for the second time, she's expanded her repertoire from instants and sorceries to anything not cast from the hand. Now that's a sweet build-around condition.

A few mechanics that fit the bill off the top of my head:

  • Aftermath
  • Flashback
  • Foretell
  • Retrace
  • Suspend

Plus, it synergizes nicely with any number of red cards that cast stuff from exile, including Outpost Siege, Light Up the Stage, and Etali, Primal Storm. There's so much support for this strategy that you'll have no trouble finding extra ways to make it tick.

Five mana is getting pricey, especially in non-green colors. Other than that, it's hard to find any knocks on Mizzix. Also, hey, did you notice who she's riding? That's my favorite commander of all time!

My prediction: Over

Zask, Skittering Swarmlord

Never thought I'd say this about a giant slug-centipede-insect-monarch, but I think I'm in love. Here's why.

Playing lands from the graveyard is surprisingly useful, especially when they're fetch lands or—if you're truly mean-spirited—Strip Mine and Wasteland. Casting Insects from the graveyard is obviously powerful, especially since you're milling more whenever another one bites the dust. Oh, and you get cheap deathtouch, meaning your lousiest Insects will trade up for your opponents' best attackers.

As with Kibo, my only hesitancy here is the relative shallowness of Insects as a creature type. Head to Grist, the Hunger Tide's commander page to see what I mean. Aside from the High-Synergy Cards up top, including Hornet Queen, Scute Mob, and Giant Adephage, things drop off quickly to filler, like Devouring Swarm. Will that be enough of a limiting factor?

Insectibly not! This card is too sweet to ignore. Only 599 decks to go, because I'm already building mine as I write this.

My prediction: Over

Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier

Agrus continues to do his job, even after death. I'm not sure if that's admirable or depressing, but here's what I am sure of: there's a market for this card.

Mass copying things is a time-honored tradition in white and red, going all the way back to the days of Zada, Hedron Grinder. Though Agrus limits you to only abilities, rather than spells, he stills provides plenty of options. The recently printed Steel Seraph comes to mind, as do Duke Ulder Ravengard, Selfless Savior, and the ever-annoying Mother of Runes. Spreading any of these abilities to your entire team could be game-breaking.

The only problem I see is a general flimsiness to this strategy. One can easily imagine a high ceiling scenario, but that's assuming a lot of things have gone right for you; Agrus has to be on the field, plus an enabler for his ability, plus two mana, plus enough creatures on your side to make this all relevant. Seems like too steep a cost to me, and I think other deckbuilders will agree.

My prediction: Under

Kenessos, Priest of Thassa

A two-mana 1/3 Merfolk with a four-mana activated ability that mentions scrying? This isn't Thrasios, Triton Hero in disguise, is it?

No. It definitely isn't. Thrasios is so ludicrous it might as well be named "Ludacris." Kenessos is still pretty darn sweet, though.

Scrying an additional card doesn't seem powerful on the outset, but it looks a lot better when you consider the aforementioned activated ability, which can be enacted at instant speed, by the way, allowing you to drop leviathans on unsuspecting attackers.

Sea monster decks are definitely popular, as evidenced by the success of Runo Stromkirk, who went way, way Over. I'm in for this.

My prediction: Over

Isu the Abominable

You had me at "Legendary Snow Creature—Yeti." The rest ain't half bad either, especially the part about playing stuff from the top of the library. That's always a powerful effect, and in many ways, it's even better than straight card draw, since you can potentially dump multiple cards in a single turn. When you do, Isu gets even bigger (and presumably more abominable).

Everything about this card is a grand slam, from the artwork to the flavor to the effects themselves. Wish I hadn't used my Can't-Miss Pick so soon!

My prediction: Over


Under (7)

Over (6)

Can't-Miss Pick

For once, we get a set with fewer than 30 commanders. Nice to have a bit more room for some depth on the topic. Thanks for reading!

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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