The 600 – Predicting the Popularity of Modern Horizons Commanders

(Answered Prayers | Art by Seb McKinnon)

A Blessed Horizon

In the above artwork, the Angel on the left is Wizards R&D. The Knight on the right is our format, Elder Dragon Highlander. We’re totally blessed.

Modern Horizons is perfect for us EDH players. In addition to all the bizarre goodies at common and uncommon, we’ve got eight new commanders to play with. In this article, we’ll guess whether these commanders earn greater than or fewer than 600 EDHREC decks after one year. If we guess over 600, the grade is an “Over.” If we guess under 600, it’s an “Under.” That’s why we call it The 600.

Now remember, in this series we only analyze new commanders. Reprints, though exciting, already have a leg up on new commanders and therefore don’t count. So even though it’s cool to see Kess, Dissident Mage reprinted, she won’t appear in this article. Onward!


Morophon, the Boundless

When your favorite set is Lorwyn, you get used to disappointment. You get excited by one-off dollar-bin printings like Flamekin Village, just because it proves your go-to plane still exists. You vote for Lorwyn on all of Mark Rosewater’s Twitter polls, knowing you’ll never get to return home. It’s kind of like being a Knicks fan—always hopeful, but inevitably disappointed.

And then, like Willis Reed during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Morophon, the Boundless emerges to reward our faith (Knicks fans know what I’m talking about). Changeling is Lorwyn’s signature mechanic, making Morophon the coolest Lorwyn card printed since Mulldrifter. It’s powerful, flavorful, and above all, versatile.

Morophon can literally be the commander of any tribe anyone wants: Kithkin tribal, Hound tribal, Elk tribal…whatever goofy tribal deck you want, it now has a commander. An excellent card with broad application, its potential is boundless indeed.

My Prediction: Over


The First Sliver

Is anyone disappointed Slivers don’t look like Predator anymore? Anyone? Cool, that’s what I thought.

To predict the potential popularity of The First Sliver, let’s start with its predecessors (or I guess, its descendants). There have been four—count ‘em, four—previous versions of five-color Sliver commanders in Magic. As of the writing of this article, here’s the breakdown of them all:

The Overlord’s popularity indicates a high level of interest among EDH players for five-color Sliver commanders. Yes, I’ll admit the numbers for Hivelord, Queen, and Legion aren’t impressive, but I’d argue that’s due more to prohibitive cost than anything else. Just check out these digits:

As you can see, Sliver Overlord and Sliver Hivelord are the only semi-affordable options on the list. The other two are downright ridiculous. Their cost definitely affects their playability.

The First Sliver is pre-ordering for around $40, so I’d expect that figure to trend downward once the set drops. That puts it somewhere on the lower end of this price list, which improves its chances at cracking 600.

Another detail that has me hyped about this card is Cascade. Known to be one of the most broken mechanics in the history of the game, it’s been a player favorite for years. Just ask these fine fellows:

Both these commanders have huge followings (1,482 decks and 834 decks, respectively). I think that’s strong evidence toward players loving Cascade.

So. We’ve got a powerful commander that combines a popular tribe with an arguably even more popular mechanic, all at the right price. Sounds like a good deal to me.

My Prediction: Over


Sisay, Weatherlight Captain

I’m pretty sure this is the first ever booster expansion with three five-color commanders. If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments section.

The newest version of Sisay definitely gets the brain working. I like mono-color commanders with five-color activations, and a precedent has been set by other players who liked them, too. A couple examples:

These two commanders have scored 948 decks and 953 decks, respectively. Furthermore, they’re both tribal-themed, and one could argue that Sisay is as well; though legendary isn’t a creature type, it’s certainly a supertype that makes her better in higher volumes.

Sisay’s abilities synergize in a pretty cool way. Assuming you haven’t augmented her power with another card, the first legend you summon with Sisay will have a converted mana cost of one or less. That leaves you with the following options:

(You can technically also fetch Mikaeus, the Lunarch, though he would die immediately upon entering the battlefield. RIP.)

All these legends increase Sisay’s power by at least one, which allows you to move up the chain to bigger and better cards. Plus, there are other ways to increase Sisay’s power. One might opt for Auras, Equipment, or even other creatures that provide power boosts. Dominaria’s Arvad the Cursed, for example, feels like a natural pairing; he provides Sisay with a +4/+4 bonus because of his static ability and his two colors.

Speaking of Dominaria, one might even build around the Historic mechanic using Sisay as commander. A few notable standouts:

Since Sisay searches for legendary permanents, she can search for legendary lands. A few of the better targets include the following:

Remember, lands are colorless no matter what color of mana they produce, so they don’t boost Sisay’s stats. Remember also that planeswalkers are now legendary, too, and super searchable with her ability.

All these possibilities make me think we have something very special with Sisay, Weatherlight Captain.

My Prediction: Over


Ayula, Queen Among Bears

There’s always an oddly high demand for commanders of obscure creature types. Ishkanah, Grafwidow, for example, fulfilled the allegedly hotly-desired role of Spider tribal commander. However, when Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma was printed, many were disappointed that it couldn’t properly lead a Bear tribal deck.

Ayula, Queen Among Bears can. So will she earn 600 decks?

She certainly has the correct stats, so that’s a point in her favor (Bears in Magic are traditionally 2/2s for two mana). She gets more points for her abilities, which directly reference Bears and function quite well with them. The optionality and flavor here are both on point. Furthermore, the set comes with some assistance in the form of Ayula’s Influence, a colorshifted Seismic Assault that creates Bears instead of dealing damage.

However, this is ultimately still a two mana 2/2 in a tribe with minimal support. The game’s best Bears include the aforementioned Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, Werebear, Druid’s Familiar, and honorary Bear Bearer of the Heavens. (My personal favorite Bear is Forest Bear because it looks like its flavor text should be, “Don’t shoot!”)

Ayula is the queen of a fun but shallow tribe. Not enough to reach 600.

My Prediction: Under


Urza, Lord High Artificer

People are flipping out over Urza and it’s easy to see why. The dude builds a board presence, ramps, and draws cards. Plus, he’s, you know, Urza.

I don’t think there’s any question that Urza will top 600 decks. Heck, by next year he might be the most popular mono-blue commander in the history of EDHREC—no small feat considering he’d need to eclipse the likes of Talrand, Sky Summoner, Baral, Chief of Compliance, and Azami, Lady of Scrolls. But he really is that good.

The only conceivable counter-argument I can imagine for Urza’s popularity is scarcity. Modern Horizons, like its predecessor Modern Masters, is not cheap. That means few packs will be opened and few singles will be available. As I write this, Urza, Lord High Artificer is going for $54.99. Will that affect his popularity?

Nope. Even that argument doesn’t convince me. Urza’s definitely getting 600. In fact, he’s this set’s Can’t Miss Pick.

My Prediction: Over (Can’t Miss Pick!)


Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Wow. I didn’t think we’d ever see a Yawgmoth card outside of a Commander product, but here we are. Is Yawgmoth, Thran Physician good enough to earn a spot among the 600? Let’s take it line by line.

The Protection from Humans clause feels like a flavorful nod, though it’s not without its uses. For example, checking under the EDHREC Tribes tab, there are currently 857 Human tribal decks. Getting protection from that many decks sounds nice to me.

Yawgmoth’s real bread and butter comes on the second line of text, which by the way, costs no mana. That’s subtly very powerful, especially paired with a card that cancels out the life loss like Zulaport Cutthroat. Multiple -1/-1 counters quickly become annoying. And don’t forget, you’re also drawing cards.

Finally, the last line of text puts those extra cards to use by Proliferating more counters onto whatever you poisoned. Speaking of poison, Proliferating some Infect sounds really nasty. Since Yawgmoth is black, one might even use this ability to employ a reanimator subtheme. (By the way, I wish this card had been previewed when I wrote my last article.)

This is all a lot of stuff for a four-mana creature. Is it enough to get to 600 decks?

Absolutely!

Yawgmoth already gets bonus points for being Yawgmoth. Furthermore, he’s both powerful and versatile. Players can build an Aristocrats deck, a creature control deck, an Infect deck, a reanimator deck, or some combination of them all. Add another Over to the books.

My Prediction: Over


Pashalik Mons

Pashalik Mons is the second consecutive mono-red Goblin commander from the past two sets. His predecessor, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, is not faring particularly well so far (just 53 decks). Will Mons fare any better?

Mons’s first ability is reminiscent of another recently-printed commander: Judith, the Scourge Diva. Unlike Judith, however, Mons offers a powerful way to activate his ability with an oblique callback to Goblin Warrens (or maybe Warren Weirding). Does that make him better than Judith?

My guess is yes. Triggering Mons’s damage ability and creating more sacrificial fodder seems quite powerful to me. Your deck is also likely built around sacrifice synergies, so you might get even more triggers. Just imagine Mons combined with a Basilisk Collar….

So there’s some powerful stuff we can do with this card. But does that powerful stuff translate to 600 decks?

Judith is likely our closest analog, but the previous two incarnations of Krenko can serve as comparison points, too. As mentioned, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin hasn’t gotten off to the best start. Krenko, Mob Boss, on the other hand, outpaces all mono-red commanders with 1,508 decks. Finally, Judith is off to a middling start with just 137 decks.

All those data points considered, I think Pashalik Mons will check in somewhere on the Under. Similar commanders haven’t fared particularly well, and it seems that most players who want to play mono-red Goblins are already using Krenko. That probably isn’t changing anytime soon.

My Prediction: Under


Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

This guy’s name sounds like the noise my cat makes when she’s puking up a hairball.

Anywho, as a seven-mana 8/8 with trample, Hogaak would normally be underwhelming (I’d rather have another Colossal Dreadmaw. However, we’ve combined two of the game’s premier cost-reduction keywords onto one creature: Convoke and Delve. What’s more, it’s also a persistent threat.

So the card by itself is powerful. But what kind of deck can we build around it? Clearly we need some combination of tokens and cards that dump cards into the graveyard. This should make Hogaak a fun build-around commander.

A few cards that should stand out in this shell:

Plus many others. Hogaak plays well with Cycling, DredgePopulate, and pretty much any mechanic that puts material into the graveyard or onto the battlefield. It’s versatile, powerful, and community-oriented. Just look at all those corpses working together!

My Prediction: Over


Recap

Over: Morophon, the Boundless, The First Sliver, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Under: Ayula, Queen Among Bears, Pashalik Mons

Can’t Miss Pick: Urza, Lord High Artificer

Wow. That’s a wild percentage of Over predictions. For context, our last set, War of the Sparkhad five Overs, and that was out of fifteen total commanders. This set has six out of eight. Only time will tell how wrong I am.

Alright, now for the part I know you’ve been waiting for. Come at me in the comments below! Which commanders do you think will helm the most decks? Thanks for reading!

Kyle Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife and their two cats. His current favorite card is Kethis, the Hidden Hand. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.