The 600 – Predicting the Popularity of Theros Beyond Death Commanders

(Theros Beyond Death Teaser | Art by Ryan Pancoast)

To Death, and Beyond!

Ah, Theros. We've finally returned to the plane where our friends say stuff like, "You know, this card is a reference to the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus." Welcome back!

Also, welcome back to The 600, the article series where we guess how popular the new commanders of each set will become on EDHREC. As the series title suggests, our line is 600. If we believe a commander will lead over 600 EDHREC decks after exactly one year of existence, we mark it "Over." If we believe it’ll go under, we mark it "Under."


Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

We begin with beautiful artwork for an unimpressive commander. Daxos is a minimum 2/2 thanks to his two white pips (and if I know EDH players, nothing gets them revved up quite like a 2/2 bear). Then he gains you some life. And... that's about all. Apparently, getting blessed by the sun isn't as great as it sounds. Happens to me every time I go on vacation and forget to put on sunblock.

My prediction: Under

Taranika, Akroan Veteran

Not much better than Daxos. Taranika offers a somewhat interesting effect, but her 3/3 body seems unlikely to sustain aggression for very long. Plus she's mono-white, which is kinda like being the Cincinnati Bengals of EDH.

My prediction: Under

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

I think Heliod might be God of Elmers. Just look at those horns.

Anywho, like our previous two commanders, I might easily disregard Heliod for being mono-white. However, there’s a lot going on with this dude, enough that I think he warrants a closer look.

I like a 5/5 for three mana, even if it is restricted by devotion (see Thassa, God of the Sea). And the lifegain-for-counters payoff suggests solid build-around potential. You can stack +1/+1 counters on noncreature enchantments. So you might stockpile them on your Ghostly Prison, then animate it later with something like Starfield of Nyx. Most notably, there's also the interaction with these artifact creatures:

Give 'em lifelink with Heliod, remove a counter, deal a damage, add a counter. Infinite damage!

All that considered, I think it would take something monumental to push mono-white over 600, and I'm actually not convinced that a mono-white combo deck is what people are after. A lot of players dislike combo; even Prime Speaker Vannifar, a well-known combo engine, did not become the most popular commander from her set. And if people aren't playing Heliod as combo, well, the mono-white deck would need to rewrite card advantage rules, in the same way that Feather, the Redeemed did for Boros (currently flying high with 1,732 decks).

Heliod is strong, yes, but I'm not sure it's strong enough to overcome our collective disdain for mono-white. 

My prediction: Under

Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea

Callaphe might be Beloved of the Sea, but she's not beloved by me.

…I apologize for that joke. But I refuse to apologize for giving this card an Under. It’s basically Syr Elenora, the Discerning for less mana, and that card has 17 decks. My cats have more commander decks than that (don't ask).

My prediction: Under

Thryx, the Sudden Storm

This dude reminds me of Mr. Hyde from the 2004 masterpiece Van Helsing, only with more hair. Spoiler alert: Hyde got hurled off Notre-Dame in the first 10 minutes. Not a good sign for our stormy friend here.

Sure, he does have some points in his favor. Five mana for a 4/5 flash-flyer is solid. The cost reduction clause is unique, especially on a mono-blue creature, and the can’t-be-countered thing is tasty gravy.

Despite all that, I don’t see this storm gaining strength. Being mono-blue means it isn’t particularly flexible, and the cost reduction clause isn’t enough to push deck builders in any interesting directions. Also, that can’t-be-countered text always looks useful but varies wildly in relevance based on your meta.

It's the under for you, Mr. Hyde—I mean, Thryx.

My prediction: Under

Alirios, Enraptured

There’s no way Narcissus—I mean Alirios—is ever going above 600. (Man, I can't get anybody's name right today.) It’s 5/5 worth of stats, half of which you can’t use, and the scariest thing you can do is blink it several times to create…more vanilla 3/2s. This card is never going over 600. Never. In fact, if Alirios, Enraptured goes Over, I will record myself cosplaying as a Therosian minotaur and singing karaoke to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.”

My prediction: Under

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling

Despite the 'stella' art by Zack Stella, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling feels pretty underwhelming. Four mana for a 6/5 is an excellent rate, but the Devotion clause is difficult to fulfill. Four more mana to tap creatures seems like a poor exchange. The blinking effect, though strong, appears on better cards with better color combinations. And when combined, none of these effects compliment each other.

Love the art. Unimpressed by the card.

My prediction: Under

Erebos, Bleak-Hearted

Clearly an Indiana Jones fanboy, Erebos is back and pretty much the same as ever. Ka-chh! (That was a whip noise, by the way.) Four mana for a 5/6 puts him almost exactly in line with his previous iteration (same mana cost and power, one less toughness). He also returns with his 'two life for one card' cost, though this time it’s triggered by creatures dying rather than mana. The biggest improvement: you can now pay two mana to sac a creature and trigger the draw ability, which also nets you a -2/-1 activation.

But even a marginal improvement over the previous printing doesn't mean much. Original Erebos has 316 decks after about seven years of existence.

I like Erebos, but I don’t see enough evidence to warrant an Over here.

My prediction: Under

Tymaret, Chosen from Death

Couldn't Death choose somebody cooler than this? I liked Tymaret better when he was the Murder King—and even then I didn’t like him that much. It's the Under for you, Tymmy.

My prediction: Under

Aphemia, the Cacophony

This card’s flavor text reminds me of the chorus for the Aerosmith song “Dream On.” But even if this harpy could sing like Steve Tyler, I wouldn’t pick it for 600 decks. It's got poor stats, a narrow color identity, and the clunkiest way to get 2/2 zombies since Cellar Door.

I’ve got another Aerosmith song for you. It’s called “Fly Away From Here,” and it’s exactly what Aphemia’s going to do after this set drops.

My prediction: Under

Anax, Hardened in the Forge

I think Anax and Cymede should’ve had a celebrity couple name while they were still together, like Anamede, or Cynax, or maybe Cynamedeax. Anyway, Anax is now single—and not adjusting very well. 

His unimpressive stats are probably due to a post-breakup lack of confidence. He's surrounded himself with some pretty bad influences: a bunch of Satyrs who won't even block for him. And he's devoted himself to red when he should've devoted himself to his relationship all along.

As Donkey once said, celebrity marriages never last. But keep your chin up, Anax. You'll find somebody else.

My prediction: Under

Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded

Let’s all just take a moment to analyze Purphoros’s new name. Bronze-Blooded. As in, he’s used so much bronzer that it’s now soaked into his bloodstream, right? Okay, got it.

First off, all creatures getting haste is nice. Reminds me a bit of Rhythm of the Wild, which appears in 9,811 decks. His activated ability is even better. This one reminds me of Sneak Attack, which appears in 1,916 decks (that lower figure is likely due more to scarcity than disinterest). Also, notice that you can elegantly curve a turn five Purphoros into two activations on turn six.

That sacrifice clause is meant to be a drawback, but it might actually prove advantageous with cards such as the following:

I actually like this guy quite a bit. And thankfully, he's our first Over of the day. Bronzer for the win!

My prediction: Over

Arasta of the Endless Web

Any card that creates 1/2 green Spider creature tokens with reach inspires nostalgia for Spider Spawning. But cards that rely on opponents doing something to fully maximize their potential aren’t often popular. What’s more, Arasta’s webs are “spun from her own hair,” which is just gross.

My prediction: Under

Renata, Called to the Hunt

Despite being uncommon, Renata isn't terrible. Her base 2/3 stats are admittedly poor, but they can only improve from there. Also, her second line of text is sneaky powerful, especially in decks with Proliferate or +1/+1 counters payoffs.

However, those payoffs are spread thin between several colors. And if you’re playing a mono-green commander from this set, you’re probably playing the next one, not this one.

My prediction: Under

Nylea, Keen-Eyed

Creature spells costing one less is a legit bonus, especially in a mono-green deck. That ability leads to some nasty curve outs, such as Nylea into a four-drop plus a three-drop on turn five. And, with so many creatures on the battlefield, you’re playing right into her Devotion clause.

The next ability is admittedly less impressive. It’s three mana card draw when it works, but three do-pretty-much-nothing when it fails. I suppose one might add some Delerium payoffs, a couple Delve cards, or perhaps a Flashback spell to make that clause worthwhile—but those options are limited in mono-green.

I don’t know about Nylea. She's got decent upside, but something tells me she won't inspire players quite like our next God.

My prediction: Under

Athreos, Shroud-Veiled

No shirt and a creepy veil is an odd fashion ensemble, but I still like Athreos quite a bit, mainly because of his coin counters. Not only are they in-jokes for the Greek mythology enthusiasts among us, they're also very cool. The coins appear on your end step, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to tag one creature. Then when it dies, any enter-the-battlefield effects get re-triggered.

What's more, Athreos even prevents creatures from being exiled. Seems super annoying with the following…

Finally, notice that coins may be given to any creature, yet that creature returns to the battlefield under your control. That means we can give coins to our opponents’ best creatures, then kill them and steal them.

I'd be remiss if I didn't note that this is the Buy-A-Box promo card for the set. I used to think that might impact its popularity, but I’m less sure of it since Kenrith, the Returned King cracked 600 decks within a couple months of release.

I think this card is very cool, and I think other players will feel the same way, despite it being a Buy-A-Box.

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

Kunoros, Hound of Athreos

Athreos rescued a three-headed Dobermann, eh? You don’t see that every day. You also don’t often see a commander who so blatantly hoses graveyard archetypes.

Anafenza, the Foremost feels like a good starting comp. Same CMC, almost the same colors, ruins reanimator decks. Still, she only leads 589 decks. Tomik, Distinguished Advokist is less similar but still close. Overlapping color, restricts what comes out of graveyards. And he's the leader of just 17 decks.

There’s probably another commander I’m forgetting, but you get the idea. Players seem unenthused by graveyard-hate commanders. It’s an important ability to have, but not particularly fun to have on your commander.

My prediction: Under

Haktos the Unscarred

Confession: I read this guy completely incorrectly at first glance. I thought he only got protection from the random converted mana cost, not from all the others.

Now that I know better, I like the flavor much more. Here we have Magic's Achilles, with the proverbial Hheel being CMC two, three, or four. Seems pretty powerful, especially considering lower-cost cards in EDH tend to be ramp or draw spells, not random blockers. And though Haktos must attack each combat if able, you can choose to attack the opponents least able to block.

It's a cool design, but I unfortunately don't see Haktos cracking 600. He’s still just an attacking Boros commander, which makes him about as popular as a Red Sox fan in the Bronx.

My prediction: Under

Siona, Captain of the Pyleas

Siona’s got more swag than MacArthur strolling into the Philippines in ‘44. Will that yield 600 decks?

Well, seven cards off the top is a lot. Usually effects like these search three to five, so clearly R&D pushed this one. And when you cast that Aura you just found, you get...a 1/1.

She does go infinite with Shielded by Faith, it's true... but one combo isn't enough to carry an entire commander if the rest of the deck is low to the ground. Siona looks like a card designed for Limited, or maybe for a Wonder Woman movie. Anyway, I don't think we'll be seeing much of her in EDH.

My prediction: Under

Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths

I use to work at a summer camp, so I’m familiar with oracles of half-truths. When kids get injured on the playground, you get a lot of half-truths from the other campers.

Anywho, aside from a mildly fun mini-game, this dude doesn’t offer much. Four mana for a 3/2 with menace? Meh. I’d rather go back to being a camp counselor than build a deck around this guy.

My prediction: Under

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Nature's Wrath, eh? This card does remind me a bit of The Lorax. Shout-out to Dr. Seuss.

Anyway, the first time you cast him, think of Uro like a sorcery that gains three life, draws a card, and sometimes offers free ramp. Plus you can replay it later. The best sequence for that is probably Commune with the Gods turn two, Uro turn three, and then Uro’s Escape cost turn four. The Commune gives you five cards in graveyard even if you find a creature or enchantment (four plus the Commune itself). One might also play blue looters like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to stack the graveyard. I like it.

If the other Gods locked Uro beneath the earth or whatever, he probably can’t be that popular. But for players like us, I think he’ll be super popular. Uro’s a unique creature with oversized stats and built-in card advantage, along with ample life gain, occasional ramp, and Truffula seeds (probably).

My prediction: Over

Eutropia the Twice-Favored

You’d think a person favored by two Gods would be a little more powerful. As it is, Eutropia is merely decent.

My main issue with Eutropia is that her abilities don't gel. She wants enchantments, creatures to place counters on, and counter shenanigans (if you really want to maximize her abilities). I don’t see many decks mixing all three elements to great effect.

My prediction: Under

Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders

It’s always cool to see new territory explored in classic color combinations. Blue-red has long been a color for artifacts, yes. But Equipment? That feels new.

Dalakos explores (or rather swims) this territory in an interesting manner. As a creature, I like that he only costs three mana. As an accelerant, I like that he ramps up to six mana on turn four. And as a Marvel Studios fan, I like that he kind of looks like Yondu.

But here’s my problem: Many Equipment cards already give equipped creatures haste plus some form of evasion. Plus, I see little evidence that yet another Equipment commander will take off just because it’s in blue and red. A lot of the best Equipment payoffs are white.

More like Crafter of Unders, am I right?

My prediction: Under

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger

This dude is booking it to the buffet. He’s also another Titan, like Uro. Kroxa costs one less than Uro for the same stats and the same Escape cost (albeit with different colors). The key difference here is the enter-the-battlefield/attack trigger, and that's probably his downfall.

Kroxa is efficient and unique, sure, but I don’t see many playgroups welcoming a commander who forces constant discarding. Plus, his stomach looks like it almost got punched out by The Chosen One from Kung Pow. Not a good sign.

My prediction: Under

Polukranos, Unchained

I'm guessing the guy at the bottom of the picture is a dog walker (or in this case, Hydra walker), and he just let go of the leash. Definitely not getting a tip.

A 6/6 for four is certainly nice. Escaping as a 12/12 is obviously better, though exiling six cards is no joke. And then three mana to devour pretty much any creature seems impressive indeed. Also, green/black counters is an existing archetype that benefits from this guy at the helm. Remember these cards?

I won't play Polukranos, but for some reason I have a good feeling about him. I'm guessing there are at least 600 Timmies and Tammies out there willing to take this doggy for a walk.

My prediction: Over

Klothys, God of Destiny

Klothys is confusing, both in her gameplay application and her choice of eyewear. If it's that sunny out, just wear some aviators!

Anyway, I'm just filibustering with stupid jokes. I honestly have no idea how to analyze this one. She's unique, especially for the Gruul combination because it rarely interacts with the graveyard. Truth be told, I can't even think of a reasonable comp. Perhaps Mogis, God of Slaughter, the Rakdos punisher?

Since Klothys is so different, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I think deck builders will be intrigued by her quirks and try building decks around her.

My prediction: Over

Gallia of the Endless Dance

I’ve had some endless dances in my day. For example, one time I went to a really awkward middle school dance and everyone kept asking, "When is this ever gonna end?" (Don’t worry. It ended at 9 p.m.) None of this has anything to do with Gallia, so let’s refocus.

To my knowledge, Gallia is the first Satyr commander we’ve ever had. (I read online speculation that she could helm non-Satyr decks, but I disagree with that assessment. That would be like buying Disney+ and never watching The Mandalorian. Maximize your purchase, please.) The last line of text is worth mentioning simply because it’s raw card advantage on a Gruul commander. That’s unusual in and of itself, even if you have to boogie through hoops to get it.

My main issue is the Satyr thing. There are 20 Satyr creatures in red and green, plus a handful of Satyr token makers. And some of those include scrubs like Nyxborn Rollicker, Satyr Grovedancer, and Satyr Rambler.

I think deck builders will quickly discover there aren’t enough satyrs to fill the dance floor. This one was getting a little too rowdy, anyway.

My prediction: Under




Can't-Miss Pick

Wow, 27 legends! Plenty of chances for me to screw up. What do you think of the picks? What's your favorite commander from the new set? Let me know!

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.