The Over/Under - Predicting the Popularity of Lost Caverns of Ixalan and Jurassic Park Commanders

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(Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation | Art by Clint Lockwood)

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Even More Dinosaurs

Hello and welcome back to Ixalan, the plane where discerning the colors on the base set symbol is basically an eye test at the doctor. Speaking of tests, we'll be testing our skills in the Over/Under as well. As the name implies, this series is all about guessing whether each new commander will lead over or under 1,200 decks by this time next year. Reprints don't count, so cards like Gishath, Sun's Avatar are out. Also, there's one Can't-Miss Pick, which is my lock of the set. Okay, ready? Welcome to...[dramatic pause]...Jurassic Park. ...And Ixalan. ...And the caverns beneath Ixalan, too. You know what? Let's just get started.

Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation

If you're one of the 133,966 players who put Anointed Procession into your decks, you'll probably be slamming this commander. Unlike Procession, Ojer Taq is restricted to creature tokens. Yet still, tripling your Humans from Adeline, Resplendent Cathar or Angels from Entreat the Angels is simply absurd. Even without a backside, this card would be incredible. My prediction: Over

Akal Pakal, First Among Equals

Love the name, hate the card. Flashing in artifacts just to get a free and slightly better Sleight of Hand doesn't sound nearly exciting enough. My prediction: Under

Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel

Malcolm reminds me of Edric, Spymaster of Trest, a commander that was way more popular a decade ago (he's currently rank #400). A fragile saboteur seems unlikely to perform much better, especially when it needs four attacks (or some proliferating) to pop off. My prediction: Under

Ojer Pakpatiq, Deepest Epoch

The gods of Ixalan are impressive, and Ojer Pakpatiq is no exception. I don't really get how an epoch can be deep, but whatever—the text more than makes up for any grammar quibbles by including a single word: Rebound. Here's a short list of instants I'd love to cast for free:

Your opponents will scoop before the second Cyclonic Rift resolves, but it's the thought that counts. My prediction: Over

Aclazotz, Deepest Betrayal

This is the greatest bat in MTG history. ...Okay, I realize that's like calling Jay Cutler the greatest quarterback in Chicago Bears history, i.e. it's not that impressive. Yet still, Aclazotz is outstanding. Flying and lifelink are a potent combination, you get significant card advantage on every attack, and sometimes you'll even add board presence in the form of bat tokens. Oh, and if someone kills Aclazotz, you get free ramp, plus a chance to get your commander back. Absurd. My prediction: Over (Can't-Miss Pick!)

Francisco, Fowl Marauder

I was about to go hard Under on this card until I reached the final line. Partners are tough to bet against, since they offer combinations with not only the Partners that have come before, but any that might arrive in the coming year. I'll play it safe on this one. My prediction: Over

Breeches, Eager Pillager

Breeches is clearly a fan of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (though I have to wonder why, since that movie was a travesty). He's also a fan of value, since attacking with a fleet of two other Pirates yields ramp, card draw, and a pseudo-Falter effect. I'm just glad it wasn't snakes. My prediction: Over

Inti, Seneschal of the Sun

Beware the perfumed seneschal—or in this case, the Seneschal of the Sun. Inti is clearly a build-around for Madness cards, yet I don't see enough of those in mono-red to make much of an impression. My prediction: Under

Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might

There's a lot going on here, and it's all deepest awesomeness. The front-side text is hard to parse, but basically it means any red damage dealt outside combat gets upgraded to four. So your Leyline of Lightning pings for four, your Lightning Bolt becomes a kicked Burst Lightning, etc. That's just as nasty as it sounds—and the number only goes higher the more you can boost Ojer's power. Like our other gods, the backside is just gravy, Ojer Axonil might seriously rival Torbran, Thane of Red Fell for mono-red burn supremacy. My prediction: Over

Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant

Ghalta's back, and this time she brought friends. Timmys and Tammys rejoice. My prediction: Over

Ojer Kaslem, Deepest Growth

Can we make it five-for-five on this cycle? It's a strong possibility, considering we've got a high-powered trampler that draws up to two cards when it hits. Plus, Ojer Kaslem doesn't mind trading in combat, since the required 10 permanents to flip back are pretty manageable. We've got a perfect cycle here, folks. My prediction: Over

Abuelo, Ancestral Echo

Blink is an ever-popular archetype, though probably not for three mana per activation. My prediction: Under

The Ancient One

Like Death's Shadow, The Ancient One has big stats, a low cost, and a challenging build-around requirement. How many decks does Death's Shadow appear in? Less than one percent. Granted, the Shadow isn't a commander, and its build-around requirement is more stringent than The Ancient One's, especially in EDH. Yet still, I think its poor performance suggests the same for our commander here. My prediction: Under

Uchbenbak, the Great Mistake

You know how some parents let slip that their kids were "happy accidents"? This is the opposite. My prediction: Under

Zoyowa Lava-Tongue

Doing its best Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger impersonation, but not pulling it off. My prediction: Under

Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath

Dinosaurs are EDHREC's 10th most popular type, yes, but this effect is underwhelming. Also, this kid should be wearing a diaper. My prediction: Under

Kellan, Daring Traveler

Kellan reminds me of Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle without the graveyard synergy, though that's not exactly auspicious; Teshar only leads 1,654 decks as I write this, and he's been around for years. I don't see Kellan doing any better. My prediction: Under

Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar

Is it just me, or is this card sweet? The Grand Abolisher effect prevents Arachnogenesis and similar effects from blowing out your big attacks. Furthermore, a single anthem turns all your tokens into Ninja of the Deep Hours. I like the sound of that. My prediction: Over

Sovereign Okinec Ahau

Hope you brought your dice, friend, because this cat came to count. Let's imagine we've equipped Sovereign Okinec Ahau with Bonesplitter. When he attacks, he'll get two +1/+1 counters (base power of three, augmented power of five, difference of two). Next attack, he'll add four counters (three base, now seven augmented power, difference of four), making him an 11/12. And remember, this triggers for all your buffed creatures. All Ahau asks is some way to get the ball rolling. After that, your creatures become, to use a technical term, ginormous. My prediction: Over

Amalia Benavides Aguirre

Reading this card is like reading a thriller. You think you know where it's going, and then wham, plot twist! Wrath of God out of nowhere. Only problem is, I can't quite suspend my disbelief. Eighteen uninterrupted lifegain triggers is next to impossible, so players will need exotic solutions. I'm guessing most start with Colossus Hammer, but I'll let you do the exploring. My prediction: Over

Bartolomé del Presidio

Works well with Pitiless Plunderer, but honestly, what commander doesn't? Not seeing enough here. My prediction: Under

Carmen, Cruel Skymarcher

Someone fire up a paternity test, because Korvold, Fae-Cursed King and Sun Titan just had a baby. Fortunately, we won't need to go on Maury to get the results. Test results: Over

Clavileño, First of the Blessed

This guy's getting his types confused. He's also probably the weakest of our four typal face commanders, though earning that premium spot on the front of the box is likely all he needs to go Over. My only advice: Go a little lighter on the incense. My prediction: Over

Vito, Fanatic of Aclazotz

Not to be confused with the Vito at Jimmy John's, this Vito is a big fan of Aclazotz—and sacrificing, for that matter. Since he triggers from any permanent, not just creatures, it'll actually be more than possible to stack sacrifices every turn. After all, fetch lands, Treasure tokens, Clue tokens, and more all do the job. My prediction: Over

Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider

I was unimpressed by the trinkety pirate commanders of Commander Legends, yet the success of Breeches, Brazen Plunderer and Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator have me second-guessing this one. The obvious synergy here is with Treasure tokens, though Clues and Foods work just as well, not to mention Map tokens or even the artifact lands of Mirrodin. Pirates and artifacts always make for popular decks, so combining the two should prove popular indeed. My prediction: Over

lan Malcolm, Chaotician

Who among us hasn't wished for Jeff Goldblum to appear on a Magic card? Now that he's arrived, Jeff works best with wheel effects, since they force your opponents to draw. Paradoxically, your own draw effects only help your opponents—but if you're playing this card, logic has already gone out the window. Feels like the perfect commander for those late-night games when you just want a good chuckle. My prediction: Over

Saheeli, the Sun's Brilliance

We've seen Saheeli several times now, though this has to be one of her most disappointing appearances. It's basically a cheaper version of previous, better treatments of the same card. My prediction: Under

Akawalli, the Seething Tower

This guy is jacked. He really puts the "athlete" in "athlete's foot." Problem is, you're doing a lot of work just to get a 7/7 with sub-par evasion. Plus, I think black-green fungus enthusiasts will be more enthused by our next commander, anyway. My prediction: Under

The Mycotyrant

Confession: I'm a little obsessed with this card. Three mana is an absolute steal for this amount of value, especially when descending is so easy to trigger. Imagine sacrificing a huge Splinterfright to Altar of Dementia, for instance, then generating a fungus army on your end step. Are you obsessed now, too? My prediction: Over

Anim Pakal, Thousandth Moon

Gnomes belong in your front yard—not on your commander. And Anim is a commander, I might add, that takes quite a while to get going. My prediction: Under

Caparocti Sunborn

I know it's capped at mana value three, but discover is basically upgraded cascade, and cascade is hyper popular in EDH. Just ask Averna, the Chaos Bloom (2,914 decks), Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder (5,656 decks), and Maelstrom Wanderer (4,522 decks). My prediction: Over

Hakbal of the Surging Soul

I've never been a fan of explore, though it's hard not to be bullish on a commander who ramps, draws cards, leads a popular type, and appears on the face of a commander deck. My prediction: Over

Nicanzil, Current Conductor

Pro: It's an explore build-around. Con: Explore isn't that popular. My prediction: Under

Xolatoyac, the Smiling Flood

Your Draw-Go Control deck just became a Draw-Do-Stuff-Then-Untap-Go Control deck. (I'm still workshopping the title.) Note that permanents with any counters untap, meaning lands like Vivid Creek and Llanowar Reborn skyrocket in value. Plus, you can engineer some unusual synergies with cards like Carpet of Flowers and Thoughtleech. Overall, this is such a unique commander I have to imagine players will want to try it. I'll be joining them. My prediction: Over

Admiral Brass, Unsinkable

The Unsinkable Beckett Brass might rival her original printing, which would be a huge accomplishment (Admiral Beckett Brass ranks #106 all-time with 6,068 decks). Adding pirate reinforcements from the graveyard is a sweet ability, especially if you remove those finality counters with something like Hex Parasite. My prediction: Over

Don Andres, the Renegade

The payoffs are's the theft that's the challenge. Nihiloor, for example, not only rewards you for doing the thing—it actually does the thing itself. Plus, I already mentioned Admiral Beckett Brass, who's a hyper popular commander with the same colors, type, and general gameplan. I'm out on this Don. My prediction: Under

Indoraptor, the Perfect Hybrid

Was this the raptor Chris Pratt was besties with? Whoops, sorry, different raptor. This one's still pretty gnarly, particularly with pingers. You'll prefer those that target players and creatures (e.g. Cunning Sparkmage), since that'll contribute to both Bloodthirst and Enrage. A narrow build-around, but a rewarding one. My prediction: Over

Huatli, Poet of Unity

I know Dinosaurs are popular, but I'm seeing very little poetry here. A Civic Wayfinder in the command zone doesn't exactly get my blood pumping, and five mana for four slow, albeit strong, effects isn't inspiring, either. Plus, Huatli doesn't flip back into a creature when her Saga ends like the Praetors of March of the Machine. My prediction: Under

Pantlaza, Sun-Favored

Also known as "Pantaloons" to his friends, Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is an obvious Over. After all, he's a face commander, he gives your first Dinosaur each turn pseudo-Cascade, and he has some well-groomed plumage. My prediction: Over

Wayta, Trainer Prodigy

Though this looks like a fight commander at first blush, it's really meant to be more of an Enrage enabler. Though few such commanders have come before, I'm skeptical this one will get there, since it isn't the most desirable keyword. My prediction: Under

Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists

And here I thought the planar pairings were over with March of the Machine. You'll need to do a little work to get your free spells, but filling one's graveyard with creatures isn't the hardest, especially in Bant. My prediction: Over

Tetzin, Gnome Champion

Double-faced artifacts sound narrow, but there are actually several nice ones, including Azor's Gateway, Golden Guardian, and even Incubator tokens. My only reservation is that Tetzin's a Set Booster Exclusive, though I suspect enough copies will surface on the secondary market to surpass 1,200. My prediction: Over

Henry Wu, InGen Geneticist

This commander has excellent flavor, and it tastes even better with cards that make the classic 3/3 green Beast token, of which there are many. Players seem perplexed as to why you can't see this guy's face (as am I), but I doubt that'll preclude the card from becoming popular. My prediction: Over

Indominus Rex, Alpha

Keyword soup is fun to build around. Just check the success of Akroma, Vision of Ixidor (2,661 total decks, as I write this). That said, a closer comparison is probably Rayami, First of the Fallen, who only leads 783 decks, despite being around for years. Which commander will Indominus Rex resemble more? My guess is Akroma. Indominus offers far more control over its abilities than does Rayami, and it even replaces the cards you pitch. Furthermore, free discarding provides additional synergy in and of itself, especially with Madness and reanimator strategies. Sign me up for this experiment, please. My prediction: Over

Xavier Sal, Infested Captain

This looks like the worst case of scurvy on record. It's also giving me strong Ghave, Guru of Spores vibes, a commander who leads 5,328 decks. Xavier won't become that popular, but he should get pretty darn close. My prediction: Over

Owen Grady, Raptor Trainer + Blue, Loyal Raptor

I remember being dubious of this partnership when the movie premiered, but I have to admit, they've got some synergy. Cast Chris Pratt on turn three, then cast Blue's Clues on turn four and select the haste counter to attack immediately. From there, you'll continue to stack counters, even those not produced by Chris Pratt. I'm thinking +1/+1, indestructible, and flying, but the choice is yours. My prediction: Over


Over (28)

  1. Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation
  2. Ojer Pakpatiq, Deepest Epoch
  3. Francisco, Fowl Marauder
  4. Breeches, Eager Pillager
  5. Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might
  6. Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant
  7. Ojer Kaslem, Deepest Growth
  8. Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar
  9. Sovereign Okinec Ahau
  10. Amalia Benavides Aguirre
  11. Carmen, Cruel Skymarcher
  12. Clavileño, First of the Blessed
  13. Vito, Fanatic of Aclazotz
  14. Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider
  15. lan Malcolm, Chaotician
  16. Caparocti Sunborn
  17. Hakbal of the Surging Soul
  18. The Mycotyrant
  19. Xolatoyac, the Smiling Flood
  20. Admiral Brass, Unsinkable
  21. Indoraptor, the Perfect Hybrid
  22. Pantlaza, Sun-Favored
  23. Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists
  24. Tetzin, Gnome Champion
  25. Henry Wu, InGen Geneticist
  26. Indominus Rex, Alpha
  27. Xavier Sal, Infested Captain
  28. Owen Grady, Raptor Trainer + Blue, Loyal Raptor

Under (17)

  1. Akal Pakal, First Among Equals
  2. Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel
  3. Inti, Seneschal of the Sun
  4. Abuelo, Ancestral Echo
  5. The Ancient One
  6. Uchbenbak, the Great Mistake
  7. Zoyowa Lava-Tongue
  8. Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath
  9. Kellan, Daring Traveler
  10. Bartolomé del Presidio
  11. Saheeli, the Sun's Brilliance
  12. Akawalli, the Seething Tower
  13. Anim Pakal, Thousandth Moon
  14. Nicanzil, Current Conductor
  15. Don Andres, the Renegade
  16. Huatli, Poet of Unity
  17. Wayta, Trainer Prodigy

Can't-Miss Pick

Hope you brought your spelunking gear, because this set looks sweet. See you down in the caverns!

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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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