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Kaldheim Commander Set Review: Part 2

Kaldheim is almost here and Sheldon Menery dives in to find the set’s best cards for Commander!

Ascent of the Worthy, illustrated by James Arnold

Kaldheim isn’t just large in size, it’s large in scope.  There are so many cards that will have an impact in Commander, we had to break my set review into two parts.  In Part 1, I reviewed the monocolored cards, artifacts, and lands.  Now it’s time to take on the multicolored, modal DFCs, and the new cards that appear only in the Kaldheim Commander preconstructed decks.

Multicolored

Trample damage is excess damage, so you better believe that Aegar is going to draw you some cards (or maybe just have people not block, which is fine).  Of course, Blasphemous Act is usually excess damage as well.  That could get deadly with Toralf, God of Fury. 

It’s inexpensive, but you don’t want to play it too early, since you want to have some larger creatures for Chapters I and III.

Absolutely stunning card thematically.  Some Veteran Bodyguard action going on here in Chapters I and II, which is basically a Fog effect.  Chapter III gets you back the biggest creature in your graveyard and makes it fly.  Outstanding design.

Commanders like Rhys the Redeemed and Ghave, Guru of Spores will like the Battle for Bretagard.  So will any applicable deck that makes Treasures.

An epic name for an epic card.  Still thinking about squeezing some of the Izzet cards in this set into Temur builds. 

There are enough Shapeshifters to make a tribal theme out of, and The Bears of Littjara will have them piling onto some unfortunate creature in short order.

I have to be honest, I really love this card.  Chapter I is the strongest, and III is going to put an opponent into a no-win situations with your creatures.  It’s another Saga that you don’t just want to drop as soon as you can, instead timing it for maximum value.

The names of these Sagas are pure fire.  This probably is one you want to get down as soon as you can for that nice mana boost in Chapter III.

The big takeaway here is that in Chapter III, it’s the opponent that gets targeted, not the creature.  Hexproof, shroud, and protection will not save it.  Also, that means you pick the creature when the ability resolves, although generally there will be a clear choice.

I like the trend toward solid, uncommon legendary creatures.  Firja continues along that path. 

Firja looks like she’s all in on Orzhov Angel tribal, and I’m right there with her. It’s a strong contender for one of the post-Kaldheim decks I’ll build.

Definitely an early drop.  You can’t play this in a deck with Halvar, God of Battle as your commander, so there’s no need to remind you that you couldn’t fetch him out of the command zone.

Harald as a commander is going to lead you in a pretty obvious direction, but sometimes that’s fun too. 

Absolutely cast this at first opportunity to get the free Elf or Tyvar, which will help you build up to the eventual wiping out of some opponents’ creatures. 

It’s not so big as to be scary to start, but it’s going to get there in short order.  Very short order.  The fact that you can protect it by sacrificing a creature makes it even more frightening.

I feel like every Saga needs a theme song.  This one will ramp you into a nice Giant, which you’ve hopefully drawn from the earlier Chapter.

Whoa.  This Demon Berserker is going to drop other players’ life totals quickly.  Note that it’s not attacking creatures you control, it’s from any player.  A nice finishing move might be to attack with a swarm, then at end of combat sacrifice the surviving ones to get the trigger.

With this one, I’m all about Chapter III, bringing back some huge thing that can get right into the red zone. 

That Orzhov Angel deck is taking even more shape now, with this Kaya as an operative part.  There are enough legendary Angels in the colors to make the emblem worth it.  The +1 ability is already strong, giving you back a creature that has died.  The fact that the ability stays even if Kaya goes away is super-strong.

In Chapter I, remember that you can exile a creature from your own graveyard if you want to be able to cast it in Chapters II and III. 

The two abilities don’t seem to go together, but there they are, and if you squint hard enough, they actually kind of do.  I’d play the card just for the first ability alone.

Lovers of all things big and serpenty will love Koma.  I’m pretty sure that the only ones I’m sacrificing are the tokens.  The others are too big and spendy to cast.  Koma slots right into your Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle deck.

Flexible enough to lead its own deck or find a home in another one, Maja has me thinking about changing my Rith, the Awakener deck from Soldier tribal to Warrior.

Here’s your commander for Shapeshifter tribal and a home for The Bears of Littjara.

It’ll be pretty easy for me to swap in snow lands in my Gisa and Geralf deck to get some serious value out of adding Narfi. 

I’ve already mentioned Niko in an earlier piece.  The important part of the card for me right now is that representation matters. 

For Chapter III, I’ll remind you of Rule 11:  Abilities which bring other card(s) you own from outside the game into the game don’t function in Commander. 

One of the earliest cards previewed, nothing since has dampened my enthusiasm for Sarulf.  You have your choice of letting Sarulf just get huge or, on your upkeep, get a Pernicious Deed-like effect, only this time it’s better because it exiles stuff.  You know it’s coming, so you’ll have your sacrifice outlets ready to get your things into the graveyard—to be later reanimated.  A real build-around commander.

Perhaps the weakest of the Sagas, the only way you’re getting huge value out of Chapters II and III is to play a storm deck—but if your count is high enough, you’re probably winning in some other fashion already. 

           

Svella’s first ability makes it easier to play the second.  I guess that’s what the kids call synergy.  This is nice in an uncommon slot, making a commander you can either build around—kind of with a Mayael, the Anima vibe, or just slot into any Gruul or Grull-adjacent deck.

Simic is not known for its desire to mill things, so I suspect we’re more likely to see The Three Seasons in a Sultai dredge deck.  Chapter III also provides some defense against other graveyards.

This is my kind of card, in which tomfoolery abounds.  You know there will always be juicy targets in a Commander game, even on relatively early turns.  Don’t forget to include Puca’s Mischief in the deck this goes into.

If anyone said to you “hey, free card when you cast your commander!” you’d be all in.  Vega gives you that and maybe takes some of the sting out of having to cast said commander multiple times.

Targeted land destruction is somewhat underplayed in commander, but it’s reasonable self-protection.  Waking the Trolls takes it to a new level.  If you’re in a deck that likes to ramp and/or cast Boundless Realms, Chapter III is going to wake a whole Troll horde. 

Top 3:

  • Ascent of the Worthy
  • Kardur, Doomscourge
  • Kaya, the Inexorable

Grade: A+

Playability and density are all there in excess. 

Modal DFCs

The front face of Halvar is deadly.  Giving creatures double strike is one thing.  Being able to attach any of your Auras or Equipment for no mana onto a double-striker makes life totals go down fast.  Playing equipment that’s inexpensive to cast and costly to equip is the right call.  I’m thinking Colossus Hammer goes quite nicely here.  You can probably get some mileage out of Argentum Armor as well.  The back face is fine, I just can’t see myself wanting to play anything but the front.

Reidane is the good kind of STAX effect, in that it’s somewhat narrow.  It won’t keep opponents from playing their game, it’ll just slow down a few things.  It used to be that there was no downside to just jamming all Snow lands into your deck.  The calculus has changed, but the benefits still outweigh the risks.  The back face, Valkmira, Protector’s Shield, is reminiscent of one of my great Hidden Gems, Lashknife Barrier.  You can get away with all kinds of Pestilence or Thrashing Wumpus tricks. 

Alrund is likely to be frequently very large and only gets bigger on your end steps.  Nice that foretelling cards won’t make him smaller.  Modal DFCs make me think about playing bounce effects, and the back face, Hakka, Whispering Raven, has one built right in.  You can drop Hakka early, then get into Alrund once you have the mana.  Clever design.

The wall of text on the front face amounts to being able to landfall Cosima up to a pretty big number before bringing it back onto the battlefield at the time of your greatest need.  The back face, The Omenkeel, seems more playable as part of a Vehicles strategy.  Crew 1 for a 3/3 is already pretty good; the triggered ability makes it quite saucy.

I’m not a fan of exiling cards from my own graveyard, especially in black, where you’re likely to be bringing them back.  Still, Egon is a 6/6 for 3.  You might get some pretty good beats in.  The back face, Throne of Death, would force me to really rethink how I’d play a black strategy. 

Pretty simple stuff, going right into your Thraximundar-style decks.  You can’t get a commander with it, though.  The trigger will go on the stack, then when state-based actions are checked, the other player can move the card to the command zone.  Still, this is a very powerful ability which will be a wrecking ball with cards like Mindslicer or Myojin of Night’s Reach.  Unfortunately, you can’t play both the front face and back at the same time, because Tergrid’s Lantern would combo quite nicely. 

Inexpensive enough to play early and get the big, scary thing out of someone’s (or everyone’s!) hand right away, you can then wait until later to cast them.  One my my favorite parts of Valki is the little extra take from Matt Tabak on the official release notes:  If there are no creature cards exiled with Valki with converted mana cost equal to the value of X as Valki’s activated ability resolves, nothing happens. God of Lies, indeed.  Oh, Matt.  The back face might see some significant action, although it’s a little spendy.  The emblem applies to only cards exiled with that specific Tibalt, so if it leaves and comes back to the battlefield, you’ll get a new emblem which will only apply to subsequently-exiled cards.

Double boasting seems pretty saucy, especially when it’s with Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire.  Even better is adding mana when you cast spells, letting you get an extra boost to cast more spells.  The back face, Harnfel, Horn of Bounty is merely okayish; it seems more likely to have impact in a Limited game.

Pretty sure we’re going to hear “Blasphemous Act, kill you?” once or twice with Toralf.  Also, “copy it with Strionic Resonator.”  You might want to think about giving yourself hexproof or playing The Wanderer.  This is a card I’m definitely hoping for in our Kaldheim Boxing League.  Toralf’s Hammer, the back face, pales in comparison to what the front can do.   I can’t imagine too many scenarios in which I’d want to play it instead. 

Guaranteed mana acceleration is good, and having it be of any color is excellent in a five-color deck.  I’m not sure how much mana you’ll want to get out of your other legendary creatures, since they usually have other abilities to use—although a five color God tribal might be something.  The back face, The Prismatic Bridge, is all business:  each upkeep, a creature or a planeswalker for free.  Still thinking that God tribal is the way here.  Play Esida early, then when it gets killed, take a trip across the Bridge.

Jorn, and the back face, Kaldring, the Rimestaff, are both good enough to cause some anxiety over which face to play.  They’re both strong.  Whichever you choose to play at any moment, you’ll be happy.  This card proves that you don’t have to be complicated to be good.  The common curve will probably be cast Jorn the first time, then Kaldring after it gets killed—although that sweet untap with Jorn might be too much to pass up. 

Is green legendary tribal a reasonable thing?  Again, having guaranteed mana acceleration coming out of the command zone with the back face, The Ringheart Crest, is strong, but it’s not like green is missing out on ramp already.  I might play the card as 1 of 99 in a tribal deck that has green as one of its colors knowing that I’ll almost always play the back face.

Top 3:

  • Jorn, God of Winter
  • Tergid, God of Fright
  • Toralf, God of Fury

Grade: A

More than three picks were possible for the tops, even with the smaller number of cards.

Kaldheim Commander Decks

Ramp with a twist that’s viable in your Elf or Changeling decks seems okay.  I wouldn’t mind seeing variations on the card made for other tribes.

Holy Faith’s Reward!  You foretell this and then only need to keep up 1W in order to save all your stuff for a board sweeper on a later turn.  Tell me again how weak white it.  Note that each permanent creates its own triggered ability, meaning someone can’t wreck you with a single Stifle. 

Elf Enchantress?  Maybe.  Seems like having a pile of Elves is already good enough that Crown of Skemfar might end up as a win-more card.

Remember when I mentioned how deadly the Elf deck was in playtest?  Here’s more evidence.

This is a neat play on the foretell ability, giving to the repeatable opportunity to foretell any card from your hand as well as effectively reducing its cost to cast.  That you have to wait until a later turn is hardly a downside. 

Stylistically, this is a great variant on cards like Figure of Destiny.  Our little Hero won’t stay little for long, as you’ll be playing it in either your foretell or blink decks.  Love the design.

Seven mana for a 5/5 flyer is a little steep these days, but also drawing cards more than makes up for it.  It might be playable even without the activated ability that makes Thopters.

Lathril and the Golgari Elves are coming for you.  Buffed up with an Equipment or Aura, it’s going to start spitting out Elves in no time.  Then that activated ability comes on line and life totals are in trouble.  The card is pretty much the same as it was in design and in the playtest biodome it was really deadly.

A Pact without the “you lose” clause?  What’s this game coming to.  I can’t wait to play this against someone who’s played Storm Herd.

The Spirit Warrior to lead your foretell deck, getting one for free is decent.  Also getting Spirits when you do makes it pretty good. Also can go into a slot in your blink deck.

Another style of card I wouldn’t mind seeing ported over to other creature types, Ruthless Winnower is going to make you “love” Elves that much more.

Another 5/5 flyer for 7, Sage of the Beyond will make your commander cheaper to cast, as well as your other foretell cards.  Pricey, but will pay for itself in the long run.

I would have liked this card better if you got to choose a creature type.  Sure, it’s strong in Elf decks, but it’s narrowness limits the playability. 

This is an excellent card to foretell, keeping it safe from hand destruction and of significant use later in the game.  The cheap foretell cost means you can cast it and still have mana up to protect it (I mean, come on, you’re in blue).  Very, very strong.

I see people calling this a worse Kor Cartographer, and I’m not sure I agree.  First of, it’s bigger.  Second, the foretell cost lets you spread it out over two turns.  Third, you’re playing white; you’re probably behind on lands to someone anyway. 

A decent political card which should earn you a little credit with at least two of your opponents, I doubt I’d play it without the foretell ability.  I’m not a fan of giving other players cards, but in the right deck (like Nekusar, the Mind Razer), it’s a reasonable choice.

The hits keep coming for the Elves.  The downside is that the deck is pretty much already built for you.  The upside is that if you like Elves, it looks fun to play. 

Top 3: 

  • Cosmic Intervention
  • Hero of Bretagard
  • Spectral Deluge

Grade: N/A

It wouldn’t be fair to give this section a grade, since the cards were specifically made to go into the preconstructed decks. 

Even tempering a tendency towards recency bias, Kaldheim is going to go down as one of the most impactful sets we’ve seen up to this point in Commander.  What’s most exciting to me is that there are very few cards that are just slam-dunk auto-includes in every deck that they can fit into.  There are lots of cards that’ll find niche places that creative deck builders are likely to find.