The Over/Under - Predicting the Popularity of Modern Horizons 3 Commanders

(Jyoti, Moag Ancient | Art by Brent Hollowell)

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A Modernist Movement

Modern Horizons returns to complete the trilogy. Let's hope it's a better conclusion than Godfather Part III.

You're reading The Over/Under, the article series where I wildly speculate how many decks new commanders will lead one year after their release. The line is 1,200, so "Over" means I'm predicting more than that many, and "Under" means fewer. I also do one Can't-Miss Pick per set, which is my surest selection. I'll check back in a year to see how I did.

With the housekeeping out of the way, let's see what's on the horizon.

Pearl-Ear, Imperial Advisor

Enchantress commanders often perform well, and this is probably the snowballiest version we’ve seen. Just imagine that turn when you build enough Auras to cast Eldrazi Conscription for free. Glorious.

My prediction: Over

Phelia, Exuberant Shepherd

This card is an Over.

To be clear, I don't think this card is all that good. Phelia's pretty much an inferior version of Brago, King Eternal. But unlike Brago, Phelia is adorable. Like, ridiculously so. Looks more like a Corgi than a shepherd to me, but whatever—never doubt a dog frolicking in leaves.

My prediction: Over

Ashling, Flame Dancer

Spellslinger commanders usually become popular, and though they most often appear in Izzet, mono-red can work as well. Seething Song fits nicely here, as do Faithless Looting, Reverberate, and a whole host of other cards.

My prediction: Over

Herigast, Erupting Nullkite

Fun fact: If you Emerge from a creature with higher mana value, you actually add the surplus to your mana pool.

...If you're calling a judge right now, well done, because I'm fibbing. However, it is notable to add a potentially colorless Emerge cost to your creatures. For example, if you have an Oxidda Golem on the battlefield and a Wurmcoil Engine in hand, you can sac the Golem to cast the Engine for free. I'm pretty sure the judge will agree with me on that one.

My prediction: Over

Skoa, Embermage

Aside from Chandler and Joven from everyone's favorite set, Homelands, Skoa here is one of the game's only common legends. That might go Over on novelty alone, yet Grandeur is an anti-synergy in a singleton format. We saw it before in Future Sight, and Korlash, Heir to Blackblade topped that cycle with only 684 cards.

My prediction: Under

Eladamri, Korvecdal

Eladamri is calling, and I must go. Go Over, that is. He basically draws free cards and casts free spells, so it's hard to imagine anything sub 1200–or 2200, for that matter.

My prediction: Over


Six is going solo after years in the duo of Wrenn and Six, and it's going great. As if retrace for your entire graveyard wasn't enough, Six even spots you lands to discard. Great card.

My prediction: Over

Genku, Future Shaper

This artwork is sweet, and the card itself is even sweeter. Works with blink, Kamigawa moonfolk, and a whole bunch of other stuff, plus it yields three heretofore unseen tokens. I like the shape of Genku's future.

My prediction: Over

Imskir Iron-Eater

I have to imagine Imskir here eats his fair share of cereal, since most are a great source of iron. He also enjoys other artifacts with Affinity, since you can cast them for cheap, then sac them for big damage. Yummy.

My prediction: Over

Rosheen, Roaring Prophet

The Horizons brand often celebrates the obscure, and it's hard to get more obscure than Rosheen Meanderer. She's a commander from the oft-forgotten Shadowmoor, after all, and despite existing for almost 20 years now, she's accumulated only 870 decks.

I think this version's going to perform much better. X-spell build-around is an underexplored theme, and Rosheen greatly rewards you for doing it. Just imagine how hard it's going to be to kill your Ochre Jelly.

My prediction: Over

Kudo, King Among Bears

Long ago, there was a Magic writer who doubted a certain Bear monarch. He called her the "queen of a fun but shallow tribe." Tragically, that Magic writer was wrong.

I'm talking about myself, of course. I dismissed Ayula, Queen Among Bears from the first installment of Modern Horizonsand she went Over by 225 decks. I'm not going to do the same with her hubby, especially since he turns everybody into a Bear, whether they like it or not.

My prediction: Over

Shilgengar, Sire of Famine

Shilgengar is one part Angel typal, one part Vampire typal, one part aristocrats, and another part reanimator. No matter which you choose, you'll be happy (though for my money, I'm guessing it'll be mostly Angels).

My prediction: Over

Sorin of House Markov

So is Sorin's Food token just a random Innistradian human wearing a tricorn hat? No matter the answer, this young man clearly wants to gain some life. Extort on both sides makes that easy, and after just two pluses, he'll already be able to ultimate.

My prediction: Over

Ral, Monsoon Mage

This is probably my least favorite of the cycle, simply because you can't control if or when Ral flips. To be fair, that is flavorful, as is the -2 pseudo-Electrolyze on the back. Oddly, you might actually want to lose a few flips so that when he does flip, he flips with more counters. A weird card, but Izzet is all about Weirds.

My prediction: Over

Grist, Voracious Larva

Grist is basically The Very Hungry Caterpillar as directed by John Carpenter. Load up on Persist and Undying creatures, then build to that -6 ability, which should prove even more nasty than this card's artwork.

My prediction: Over

Ajani, Nacatl Pariah

This is a sick cat commander, is it not? It's basically a two-mana planeswalker with very little setup, and once it's flipped, you can anthem your cats, create a cat fireball (hairball?), or cast Balance on each opponent. Not sure what that last option has to do with cats, but who cares? This card is broken.

My prediction: Over

Phlage, Titan of Fire's Fury

Not to be confused with Phage the Untouchable, Phlage is a clear callback to Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, two commanders that scored 1380 and 2200 decks, respectively. Those aren't huge numbers, especially for two mythics that have existed for several years, and I suspect it's because this design takes a while to get going. Casting free Lightning Helixs is cool, but probably not cool enough.

My prediction: Under

Jyoti, Moag Ancient

Well, one way to reprint high-profile cards in commander decks is to slap them on tokens (there's an even more drastic instance coming soon). I would’ve been skeptical of a blue-green lands commander, yet after seeing how well Jolrael, Voice of Zhalfir performed in my MOM: Aftermath Review, I'm a believer. I'm also a believer in Brent Hollowell, because this art is magnificent.

My prediction: Over

Nadu, Winged Wisdom

Shades of Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief, though the payoff is slightly worse in most situations. Still, like a good old fashioned Red Bull, I think that'll still be enough to give you wings.

My prediction: Over

Omo, Queen of Vesuva

If you were sick of Simic always being the draw+ramp guild, Wizards made a commander for you. Omo is so sweet.

Unlike Prismatic Omen, this isn't just basic land types—it's every land type. That means your basic Forest becomes an insta-Tron land, not to mention a Gate for Gatebreaker Ram, a Cave for Sinuous Benthisaur, and a Locus for Cloudpost. And that's not even factoring in the whole Changeling ability. Talk about unique.

My prediction: Over

Tamiyo, Inquisitive Student

Drawing three cards in a turn in Simic? That's trivial. Once flipped, Tamiyo's +2 hearkens back to Jace, Architect of Thought (appearing in 10,871 decks), her -3 looks like Call to Mind with Lotus Petal (6,573 and 260,221 decks, respectively), and her ultimate is ultimately quite powerful. If all that can't earn an Over, I don't know what will.

My prediction: Over

Arna Kennerüd, Skycaptain

Whether you like counters, Auras, Equipment, or both, Arna is your captain now. However, many players seem concerned about tracking all that extra stuff, to the point that I've become skeptical. Allowing oneself to be influenced by internet negativity never turns out bad, right?

My prediction: Under

Coram, the Undertaker

I’m sure there’s a wrestling joke to be made here, but I'm not the person to make it. Coram is basically Muldrotha, the Gravetide for everyone's graveyards, and I have a hard time believing 1200 deckbuilders won't find that appealing.

My prediction: Over

Disa the Restless

I've always been a massive fan of Delirium from Shadows Over Innistrad, yet I've never been able to find the right commander. That's just changed.

I guarantee this commander will go Over. How can I make such a claim? Because I'm going to personally purchase 1,200 copies of Disa's commander deck, just because I think she's so cool. Is this fiscally responsible? No. Is it ethical? Also no. But will I do it? You bet your Goyf.

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

The Necrobloom

This is basically Field of the Dead from the command zone, a card which already appears in 3% of decks. Plus, it spots you Plant tokens even when you don't have seven different lands, and it turns all your binned lands into Dakmor Salvage. As if that all wasn't enough, that seven toughness works great with Ancient Lumberknot and similar cards.

My prediction: Over

Cayth, Famed Mechanist

The only thing that could've made this card better is adding "Intimidate." Cayth still gets three other nice keywords, though, and he even shares the modal one with your entire team.

My prediction: Over

Satya, Aetherflux Genius

Creating token copies of creatures continues to be a popular effect, and adding energy seems like a nice bonus. Also, it never hurts to be the face commander of one of the set's commander decks.

My prediction: Over

Azlask, the Swelling Scourge

Reminder: Experience counters do not go away. The wild thing is, that might not even be Azlask's best trait, since granting annihilator to tokens seems downright nasty, even dinky ones like Scions and Spawn. A future scourge of many playgroups.

My prediction: Over

Ulalek, Fused Atrocity

A six-color commander? Check. A bonkers value-producing ability? Double check. Ulalek? Oh la la.

My prediction: Over

Emrakul, the World Anew

Every time they design a new Emrakul, they're just creating new reasons for your opponents to scoop when it's cast. This one's especially scoop-inducing, since it's nearly impossible to target, and it even takes all the creatures it steals with it, even if they're Indestructible. Twelve mana is a lot, yes. But this jellyfish is well worth the cost.

My prediction: Over

Kozilek, the Broken Reality

As one half of the comedy duo known as Ulalek, Kozilek still performs well on its own. For nine mana, you get 19 power and 17 toughness spread across four bodies, with the possibility of more if you manifested creatures. Broken indeed.

My Prediction: Over

Ulamog, the Defiler

Previously, a creature had never gone above annihilator 6. Ulamog shatters that ceiling with ease, especially if you happen to exile something big with its cast trigger. This card will shoot up the Salt Scale faster than a large order of fries from McDonald's—not that that will prevent it from going Over.

My prediction: Over


Over (29)

  1. Pearl-Ear, Imperial Advisor
  2. Phelia, Exuberant Shepherd
  3. Ashling, Flame Dancer
  4. Herigast, Erupting Nullkite
  5. Eladamri, Korvecdal
  6. Six
  7. Genku, Future Shaper
  8. Imskir Iron-Eater
  9. Rosheen, Roaring Prophet
  10. Kudo, King Among Bears
  11. Shilgengar, Sire of Famine
  12. Sorin of House Markov
  13. Ral, Monsoon Mage
  14. Grist, Voracious Larva
  15. Ajani, Nacatl Pariah
  16. Jyoti, Moag Ancient
  17. Nadu, Winged Wisdom
  18. Omo, Queen of Vesuva
  19. Tamiyo, Inquisitive Student
  20. Coram, the Undertaker
  21. Disa the Restless (Can't-Miss Pick)
  22. The Necrobloom
  23. Cayth, Famed Mechanist
  24. Satya, Aetherflux Genius
  25. Azlask, the Swelling Scourge
  26. Ulalek, Fused Atrocity
  27. Emrakul, the World Anew
  28. Kozilek, the Broken Reality
  29. Ulamog, the Defiler

Under (3)

  1. Skoa, Embermage
  2. Phlage, Titan of Fire's Fury
  3. Arna Kennerüd, Skycaptain

I know that's a lot of Overs, but these Horizons sets tend to be popular. Come back next year to see if we got it right!

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 Ghired, Mirror of the Wilds. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.

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