The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of War of the Spark Commanders

(Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves | Art by Ryan Pancoast)

The War Has Arrived

Planeswalkers. In every pack. I never thought I’d see the day. Thing is, none of those planeswakers can be your commander. So, of the cards from War of the Spark that can be your commanderlet’s discuss which are going to be most (and least) popular.

In The 600, we look at every new commander released in every new set, then guess whether they’ll have more or less than 600 decks on EDHREC after one year. Today, we’re going to do it for War of the Spark. 

A note before we begin: since War of the Spark has been out a while, we've already got EDHREC deck data for all these commanders. I began writing this article as each card appeared during spoiler season, so my predictions aren't tainted, though they may be outdated! I've managed to stay off the pages for these commanders, though, which I must say is quite a feat! Okay, disclaimer over. Let's get started!

Feather, the Redeemed

Boros EDH players are a lot like New York Knicks fans. Every year we say, "Hey, maybe this is our year. Maybe we'll get what we've been asking for. We've been patient, haven't we? We've endured years of mediocrity. Can't we just have one nice thing?" For Knicks fans, that's a Championship Title (or at least a halfway decent season). For Boros EDH players, it's a functional commander. Both groups hope. Both groups are always disappointed.

But wait. What's this? A Boros Angel that generates legitimate card advantage? Could this be the answer Boros players have been hoping for?

There's not a doubt in my mind. Feather, the Redeemed is exactly what Boros players have been looking for. She captures the feel of red and white yet finally does something besides just attack. In combination with cards like Crimson Wisps, Expedite, and Defiant Strike, she's a legitimate card draw engine.

I won't spend any more time on this card. We all know it's going to be a Boros staple for forever. Knicks fans are still waiting for that title, but Boros players finally have their commander.

My prediction: Over

(P.S. I would pick this for my Can't Miss Pick, but that's just too obvious. I've got another card in mind for that purpose. Read on!)

Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves

Maybe a bit on-the-nose, but Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves is indeed a promising card. Plus, I think he does a little more than meets the eye.

Cards like Feed the Pack, Kessig Cagebreakers, and Wolfbriar Elemental combo nicely with Tolsimir, as does his original incarnation, Tolsimir Wolfblood. Also, Wren's Run Packmaster is a wombo-combo. (Conveniently, Tolsimir fulfills the Champion an Elf clause.) All those tokens allow you to eat your opponents' creatures at a relatively low cost, and gain tons of life while doing it.

The closest analog I can find here is with Cat tribal. Same color combination, same underserved and slightly goofy tribe. The printing of Arahbo, Roar of the World was all it took to make the archetype viable.

Does the same go for Tolsimir? I'm a believer!

My Prediction: Over

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

If the first Neheb didn't impress you and the second did a tad better, will the third make it to 600?

I think not. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion will meet the same fate as its predecessors. Mono-color commanders very rarely make it to the 600 mark and I don’t see Neheb being good enough to get there. He's cool, but he's not offering anything new to his color.

My Prediction: Under

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

People are hyped about this little piggy and I can see why. It's a fascinating card.

The closest comparison I see for Ilharg, the Raze-Boar is Feldon of the Third Path. Both are mono-red and both cheat giant creatures into play. Feldon costs less, yet I’d argue his setup cost is steeper: one needs to both draw and discard impactful creatures, then find the perfect moment to activate Feldon. Ilharg, on the other hand, asks only that you draw the big creatures, then attack with the big baconater itself. Plus, Ilharg is far more resilient to removal. 

That all bodes will for this oinking deity. However, check out Feldon's commander page. For a card that came out about three years ago, 702 decks is pretty poor. If that's any indication, I don't think Ilharg will fare much better.

My Prediction: Under

Fblthp, the Lost

Imagine a Rube Goldberg Machine. You press the button and a marble rolls onto a track. It drops down several levels onto a lever that switches on and releases a plastic shoe. The shoe swings across a gap and kicks a kickball, the kickball ignites a string, the string burns down to a wick and pulls another lever, and finally, a Jolly Rancher drops out.

That's it. A Jolly Rancher. If I wanted a Jolly Rancher, I would've just bought a Jolly Rancher. The rest was completely necessary.

That's Fblthp. He makes you play cards like Polymorph and Proteus Staff, he makes you dig him out of your deck, and in return, you get a Divination.

I've got a better idea. Just play Divination.

My Prediction: Under

Mowu, Loyal Companion

Is Mowu, Loyal Companion diesel enough to earn 600 EDH decks in a year? Seriously, those delts...

Well, for starters, it’s only an uncommon. That means it’ll be easy to acquire, especially if this set is opened a ton (looks like it will be). Furthermore, +1/+1 counters have always been a popular archetype, as has Voltron. Mowu combines them both. We also have historic precedent of an uncommon commander entering the 600 club in the form of Dominaria’s Tatyova, Benthic Druid. Finally, let’s not forget that this set has Proliferate. Whenever you Proliferate on Mowu, you get two counters instead of just one.

I believe all these factors will make Mowu hit the mark. Look for him at your local Planet Fitness.

My Prediction: Over

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid

Stats. So many stats.

Players have compared Roalesk, Apex Hybrid to Verdurous Gearhulk. The comparison feels apt. Both have big five mana bodies that scatter +1/+1 counters all over the board. Both are green. Both have trample. Though Roalesk doesn’t provide as many counters as Gearhulk, he adds flying and a double Proliferate trigger. Plus he looks like Mothman. What does all that mean for his commander status?

Well, unless you actually let him die, you don’t get the double Proliferate trigger. The command zone redirection rule is a replacement effect, meaning the creature never touches the graveyard, so “dies” triggers don’t trigger. Therefore the real question is, do players want to play a hard-to-cast five drop that dumps a couple counters on its friends?

My Prediction: Under

God-Eternal Kefnet

God-Eternal Kefnet has an excellent body and useful abilities. Plus, mono-blue is one of the more popular mono-colored categories on EDHREC. A good start so far.

Sadly for Kefnet, things go downhill after that. With its instant and sorcery functionality, Kefnet competes with commanders like Talrand, Sky Summoner and Baral, Chief of Compliance (1427 and 894 decks, respectively). That’s already a lot of decks, and I think both those commanders do what Kefnet’s trying to do, only better.

My Prediction: Under

Massacre Girl

I’m always intrigued by powerful-effects-on-a-stick commanders. Massacre Girl is certainly one of them. (Side note: "Massacre Girl" is my cat's nickname when we crack a can of tuna.)

The ability here is unique, especially for a mono black commander. About the closest comparisons I can find are Hythonia the Cruel and Kagemaro, First to Suffer, which have a paltry sum total of 70 decks between them. Not great, but I believe Massacre Girl is both stronger and more interesting than either of those two.

For one thing, her ability demands careful deckbuilding. That’s because if you want consistent board wipes, you’ll need to build a chain reaction of dying creatures (at least one X/1 must die to initiate more deaths). This, I believe, will make for an unusual deck build and therefore more builders.

What’s more, there are a few ways one could build a Massacre Girl EDH deck. The most obvious is some sort of aristocrats deck, but why not a tokens deck, or a Morbid deck, or even a mono-black control deck?

I’m feeling good about Massacre Girl. I like her chances.

My Prediction: Over

God-Eternal Rhonas

Here we have the God of I Dunno, A Lot. You cast this guy and your friends say, "How much power is that?" Then you say, "I dunno. A lot." Then everybody scoops.

A very Timmy/Tammy card, but I think there are Timmier Tammy cards out there. Xenagos, God of Revels, for instance, or Surrak Dragonclaw. This feels more like a creature in the 99 than a standalone commander.

My Prediction: Under

Tomik, Distinguished Advokist

  1. Incredibly narrow ability.
  2. Poor stats for EDH.
  3. Nobody likes mono white.

Considering these points, I took the liberty of rewriting Tomik's flavor text:

"Some get 600 decks. I don't."

My Prediction: Under

God-Eternal Bontu

Have we ever had a commander quite like this? We’ve seen countless sacrifice variants, certainly, but none that sacrifice any kind of permanent on resolution—even lands! Certainly feels like there’s combo potential there.

In terms of two-card pairings, Psychosis Crawler into Bontu seems like it’ll always be hugely powerful. Or what about a Vindictive Vampire equipped with Phyresis, then we cast Bontu and sacrifice all our lands? One could also take advantage of sacrificing Treasure tokens, particularly with Pitiless Plunderer and Treasure MapNotice also that this ability triggers when Bontu enters the battlefield. That makes Conjurer's Closet a strong option as well.

Those are certainly interesting interactions, but ultimately, I think Bontu joins her fellow God-Eternals in the 99 of most decks. The two most likely spots would be Meren of Clan Nel Toth or Teysa Karlov, both of which are immensely popular. So, sadly, I’m going to have to say no to Bontu. 

My Prediction: Under

Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin

"You've changed, man," I said to Krenko. "You used to just tap to create Goblins. Now you have to like, attack. What happened to you?"

There's no answer because Krenko's dead. A 2/3 attacker gets eaten by almost any blocker.

My Prediction: Under

Storrev, Devkarin Lich

Hail Storrev, Devkarin Lich, the first Zombie Elf Wizard in the history of Magic. Unfortunately, I don’t see any way this Zombie Elf Wizard cracks 600 decks. She’s in a guild with tons of competition, her ability is difficult to set up (just like Krenko’s), and there’s already a popular commander in her colors that does what she does better.

My Prediction: Under

God-Eternal Oketra

This is another one I’m not seeing. A 4/4 token is bigger than it seems, yes, but mono-white can’t do all that much to take advantage of the Zombie subtype. Oh yeah, and being mono-white means you start at a -300 deck handicap, give or take. Not a bad card, but once again, the kind that will do better in the 99.

My Prediction: Under

Niv-Mizzet Reborn

Niv's back, this time in five colors.

First off, let’s inspect the type line. The Niv is no longer a Wizard, but he’s still a Dragon, which keeps the door open for five-color Dragon tribal. I doubt he’ll unseat The Ur-Dragon for the top spot in that category, but he’s a strong alternative. Maybe 20-30 decks right there.

I think the more likely landing spot for Niv-Mizzet Reborn is a five-color control deck. I suppose we’ll have to wait for the Frank Karsten article on our hit rates, but I’d guess if our deck is mostly spells with exactly two colors, we should expect to draw about two or three cards off Niv every time he enters the battlefield. Sometimes, if we get really lucky, we might restock our entire hand. Also, note that this ability triggers when Niv enters the battlefield, so Conjurer's Closet, Eerie Interlude, and Venser, the Sojourner all gain relevance.

Finally, let’s not forget that five-color goodstuff is an archetype (or semi-archetype) that players love. You know what I mean. The one where you’re playing the deck just for five colors, not for the commander itself. New Niv is the perfect fit there.

So, to recap, Niv-Mizzet Reborn can add to a couple existing archetypes, plus creates his own. He’s versatile, powerful, and is a pretty famous character to boot. I like the over so much that I'm picking this as my Can't Miss Pick.

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


Over: Feather, the Redeemed, Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves, Mowu, Loyal Companion, Massacre Girl

Under: Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion, Fblthp, the Lost, Roalesk, Apex Hybrid, God-Eternal Kefnet, God-Eternal Rhonas, Tomik, Distinguished Advokist, God-Eternal Bontu, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, Storrev, Devkarin Lich, God-Eternal Oketra

Can’t Miss Pick: Niv-Mizzet Reborn

Whoa, there were way more legends in this set than I realized! What do you think of my predictions for this set? Let me know in the comments below!

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 Titania, Gaea Incarnate. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.