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Kaldheim Commander Set Review: Artifact, Lands and Supplemental

With Kaldheim’s tabletop release now very much imminent, I’m ready to share my thoughts about how the set will impact Commander! Instead of using a numerical scale, I put the cards I review into categories that I think encapsulate their roles in Commander, as a numerical scale wouldn’t make much sense. Here are the categories I use.

 

Header - Categories

Commander: You want this card in the command zone at the start the game. Its best use is to lead the charge as the cornerstone of your deck, but it can probably fit into your 99 as well.

Build-Around: This card can be a huge player in the theme of your deck. It either enables the theme by itself or is something you’re looking to take advantage of over the course of your ideal game. It’s probably worth dedicating other slots in your deck to cards that work with a build-around.

Powerhouse: This card’s not really about synergy, but it’s good all by itself.

Role Player: This card might not be the cornerstone of a deck list, but it’s an important part of the engine or strong enough on its own to merit potential inclusion. This category also covers cards that look good enough to try out but don’t seem like obvious winners.

Tech Card: Counterplay is important, and if a card doesn’t fit into one of the above categories but is good enough at countering other strategies, it’ll be included here.

Niche Inclusion: This card might make your deck if you have a deckbuilding restriction, whether it’s self-imposed based on theme, a power level consideration or a card availability concern. 

 

As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. That means you’ll be hearing about cards largely from that more relaxed perspective. My goal when playing Commander is for everyone to have fun but also for me to have a good shot at winning the game, so if that’s your mindset as well, these ratings will probably resonate with you. I won’t be reviewing reprints, so you can just assume I feel the same way about Disdainful Stroke as I did before we found out it was in this set. When you inevitably disagree with a rating, please feel free to tweet at @RagingLevine with your thoughts!

I should also note that there are plenty of cards in this set that are unexceptional but are also snow. I won’t be talking about those cards, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoehorn them into your all-snow deck – it just means they’re probably not useful in any other context but will see play regardless because of the lack of a critical mass of snow cards. Perhaps in ten more years we’ll have enough snow cards to really get something done.

 

Header - Artifact

Bloodline Pretender

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

If you’re all in on a single creature type but want to go large by making a bunch of tokens of that type, Bloodline Pretender is here to help. Unfortunately, it lacks any evasion, so it’ll need help to make a real impact.


Cosmos Elixir

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Any deck that wants to live its life above 40 could be interested in a one-sided Howling Mine. This has the consistency that cards like Well of Lost Dreams lack while losing something in the way of throughput. That said, when cards like Staff of Nin crack the top 99 from time to time, discount versions are always welcome if you can jump through their hoops.


Maskwood Nexus

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

All of your creatures everywhere are every creature type? I don’t even need the token-making ability to know this is amazing. Pack your deck full of lords, changelings and payoffs, as discussed earlier when we spoke about Tribal Tribal, and you’re good to go. You won’t always have this in play, so don’t build your deck as though you will, but throwing in some artifact tutors might not hurt.


Pyre of Heroes

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

You need to be a tribal deck focused on ETB effects with a good Pod chain built in, but I think this describes more tribal decks than it doesn’t. Yes, this is a great card in Sliver decks, but Elves, Goblins and many, many more can reap the rewards of setting old creatures on fire to make new ones. Zombies seem particularly interesting, as they love going to the graveyard. Dragons might not be the best choice, but that’s fine.


Replicating Ring

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Aside from combos with cards like Mechanized Production, this is mostly a snowy Manalith. That said, snow decks want a snowy Manalith.


Weathered Runestone

Rating

Commentary

Tech Card

A small upgrade from Grafdigger’s Cage (the first ability adds more depth than just creatures) might be worth a mana in some decks, but I see this as more of a budget version of Grafdigger’s Cage. Given the lowish price of said Cage, I think most decks won’t be needing this.

 

Header - Lands

ETB Tapped Snow Lands

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

They’re snow duals with land types, which makes them easier to search up with fetchlands and other cards that care about specific typing in the same way. They enter tapped, so they’re not the snow lands of my dreams, but I don’t think those are coming any time soon. Maybe one day it’ll snow on Ravnica and we’ll get Slushy Grave and Skating Grounds. Perhaps Plowless Shrine?


The Four New Pathways

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

I love the Pathways – I think they’re solid lands that help mana bases that also feel really cool, and I’m glad to see the cycle completed. Now I’m off to buy a bunch of full art versions for all of my decks.


Axgard Armory

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

A land that tutors up two cards feels pretty amazing to me, and I don’t even like tutors that much. This feels a lot like the answer to “more Boros card draw, please” that was previously seen with War Room, and I’m quite glad to see that.


Faceless Haven

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Snow Mutavault is really cool, but it basically costs four mana if you want to attack with it and it’s really only for snow decks. 


Gates of Istfell

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

I love having this kind of effect on lands, but I’m worried about the high cost. Six mana and setting yourself back a land might just not be enough in this color combination, but I’m willing to give it a shot.


Littjara Mirrorlake

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

It’s too bad that this is sorcery speed only, but I understand why that decision was made; it would have been pretty crazy in Limited otherwise. That said, being able to turn one of your lands into a copy of your best creature with a +1/+1 counter feels like an ability many Simic decks will be excited about. I’m sure landfall decks featuring Titania will be extremely hyped to add this to their arsenal.


Port of Karfell

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Again, having a land that does the thing you most want – milling and reanimating – in a Dimir Reanimator deck just seems like the easiest call in the world. The cost of playing it is low, and the potential upside is so high. Sure, the creature enters tapped, but that’s a cost reanimator players are already familiar with.


Tyrite Sanctum

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

It’s pretty cool that you can use this to make your commander indestructible, but it’s even easier to do if your commander is already a God. Sure, most Gods are already indestructible, but Orvar’s not…


The World Tree

Rating

Commentary

Powerhouse

You can just throw this into your five color decks and enjoy the mana fixing while ignoring the God-finding, or you can be me, a ridiculous person, and add this to your Karona God Tribal deck as a finisher. Honestly, the first way is stronger, but I’m 100 percent sure my way is more fun. If decks that weren’t all five colors could play this, I’m quite sure they would – that’s how good the fixing is.

 

 

Header - Theme Booster Cards

Valkyrie Harbinger

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Angelic Accord on a stick is no slouch, especially when the stick is a 4/5 lifelinker that fulfills its own trigger condition. I expect this to show up alongside Griffin Aerie and the aforementioned Accord very frequently.


Surtland Elementalist

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

As long as you can cast this for the lower (?) price of five mana and give it haste, this card is absolutely ridiculous. The hoops you have to jump through to get that done are what keep this from earning the Powerhouse rating, but imagine casting a five mana draw spell for free when you attack. Given that most decks wanting this will be Izzet, I’m sure this will fuel some powerful Aegar turns – cast a wide-angle burn spell for free and blast enemy armies like you’re Emperor Palpatine.


Cleaving Reaper

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Orzhov Angels gets more tools, and while this may not look amazing on the surface, the recursion seems very strong. This kind of deck often Wraths away boards, and paying some life to have another threat during the recovery period doesn’t seem too onerous. 


Surtland Flinger

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

I’m going to throw Hamletback Goliath at someone for 40. It’s just going to happen. Other people will play cards, Hamletback Goliath will get to 20/20 status, and then I will throw it with Surtland Flinger. I will not rest until my task is done. Surtland Flinger is the card I dreamed of when I began my Commander journey years ago with Brion Stoutarm. Surtland Flinger is the best friend Bosh, Iron Golem never had. 


Canopy Tactician

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

It’s an Elf lord that adds mana. Sure, it’s not Elvish Archdruid, but I think we can all agree that Elvish Archdruid is a terrifying card anyway. Canopy Tactician will see play in plenty of go-wide Elf decks, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t.


Starnheim Aspirant

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

You have to be committed to the Angel tribal life to want this card. Urza’s Incubator does this better, and other cost reducers like Herald of War already exist, but if Dragonspeaker Shaman matters, so does Starnheim Aspirant.


Absorb Identity

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

Whoa! This is a great reason to pack your deck full of changelings. Never mind that these changelings seem to be performing the ritual from The Final Sacrifice. This evokes the same feelings as Fractured Identity, but with less Death by Dragons flavor and more one-turn burst kill potential. All of my cards are Inferno Titans, you say? 


Giant’s Grasp

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Control Magics are more compelling when the way out for an opponent is usually to destroy their own card. When you enchant your own creature instead, you end up losing so much more value. That said, this does grab a nonland permanent, but I don’t think the discount is worth the disappointment.


Bearded Axe

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

I feel like this card will be worn by Wyleth more than it’ll be decking out Dwarves, but I like any card that’s an Equipment and encourages you to play more Equipment. This is the card Helm of the Gods wishes it could be; instead of avoiding the synergies you’re trying to play into, it keys off of those cards majestically. 


Elven Ambush

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

You may recognize this card as Elvish Promenade and wonder why it’s here. Well, Elvish Promenade may have been a tribal card with the Elf subtype, but it was also a sorcery, which makes Elven Ambush feel so much stronger. Realistically, if you’re going for Elf tokens, you’ll play both.


Rampage of the Valkyries

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

As much as I loathe to get excited about a Grave Pact effect, at least this is on-theme for Angels and doesn’t encourage a constant, grinding sacrifice engine. It just makes combat harder – some good, clean, fair Grave Pact fun sounds fine to me. It even makes up for that difference by throwing a Serra Angel token in as a freebie.

 

Header - Commander Deck Cards

Lathril, Blade of the Elves

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I’m not sure if I’m more excited about Lathril as an Elves commander when compared to the partners from Commander Legends, but I’m happy to have the option open. Lathril’s Bolas’s Citadel-style ability also gives you something very powerful to do with all of your tokens and threatens non-combat victories, which allows decks to put pressure on from another angle. 


Ranar the Ever-Watchful

Rating

Commentary

Commander

It looks like this is a foretell theme deck, which means throwing cards into exile for free will be a big advantage. Cosmos Charger is an obvious sidekick for Ranar, but more interestingly, I like the idea of blinking things and getting Spirits in the bargain. That said, I’m not totally convinced this will be good enough with the small selection of good foretell cards.


Cosmic Intervention

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

A foretold anti-Wrath card seems interesting; foretelling it in response to your own Wrath is likely to be the play pattern most of the time. The great thing about foretelling cards like this is that you have to hold up less mana to cast them when the time comes, so I’m excited about surprising people with this one.


Hero of Bretagard

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

I expect this to end up in some counters-matter deck as well as its intended home in Vega or Ranar decks, but either way, I really like the flavor of this card. As the Hero’s exploits grow greater, so grows its power, until eventually it’s an unkillable God. I expect this to get killed or bounced early, but if my D&D campaigns are any indication, most heroes don’t live that long anyway.


Stoic Farmer

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

More catch-up ramp for white, which is fine, I suppose. This is no Keeper of the Accord, but it’s fine and you can just foretell it early and play it once someone actually ramps past you. Even if you don’t get to put the Plains into play, you can still ensure land drop consistency, which I find is underrated these days.


Sage of the Beyond

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

Just as I said about Vega, this isn’t all about foretell. This affects flashback, aftermath, jump-start and so much more, and since those cards often have high costs relative to their effects due to their recursive nature, a blanket two mana reduction brings them much closer in line with what their normal costs would be. That said, Vega is more interested in cards that are already cheap or free to recast, so I’d lean towards leaving this in Ranar.


Spectral Deluge

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

This is the exact kind of card I like to foretell – a card that shakes things up and scares people from its mysterious face-down position. It’s also an asymmetrical Engulf the Shore, which I think gives blue-based creature decks some additional goodies to work with. I’d probably play this in Izzet Giants alongside Cyclone Summoner, but there are plenty of places to put this one.


Tales of the Ancestors

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

“Each player” really puts me off this card… or at least it did until I thought about it in Xyris. That said, I don’t see it having a lot of other good homes.


Pact of the Serpent

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

This is a weird take on Minions’ Murmurs, but I like the idea of just nailing a Goblins player with it out of nowhere. Nice Krenko – now take a hundred. 


Ruthless Winnower

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Is this what Elves wants to do? I don’t think Anowon, the Ruin Sage really fits the game plan, but perhaps I’m mistaken from so many years of not playing Elf decks. I’ll try it, but I’m not expecting greatness.


Serpent’s Soul-Jar

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Golgari Elves wants to put cards in the graveyard, not risk being unable to use them as fuel for future plays or reanimate them en masse. Again, I’m cautious, but I’ll give this Pot of Greed a try and see if it sticks in my list. Yes, I’ve pretty much signed myself to build an Elf deck, which does not really seem like my thing, but given that I’ve started building Rakdos decks, maybe I’m having some sort of Commander mid-life crisis. Is that a thing? Has this ever happened to you?


Bounty of Skemfar

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Cards like this don’t really do anything when you cast them, so it’s nice to find the occasional one that does. It ramps you and draws you an Elf, which is a great deal for the cost. Assuming 42 Elves as we did earlier (counting Harald now) and 36 lands, there’s a 91.3 percent chance of hitting on both clauses and just a 0.18 percent chance of missing on both. That’s assuming I did my math right, but I’m 99.9 percent sure I did. 


Crown of Skemfar

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

That’s a lot of mana for no evasion and dependence on a critical mass of Elves. That said, the recursion makes me wonder if this card is better than it appears.


Wolverine Riders

Rating

Commentary

Powerhouse

Every upkeep! There’s that clause again! This time though, I think it’s being used for good. This card looks like a more playable Verdant Force with a more relevant creature type. The incidental life gain doesn’t hurt either.


Elderfang Venom

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Deathtouch makes Elf tokens a lot less blockable, as does the Blood Artist clause. This card packs enough value into itself that it’s probably good enough, but I’m a bit bearish on it, honestly. A lot of these Elf tribal cards have to be seen to be understood, at least if you’re me.


Ethereal Valkyrie

Rating

Commentary

Powerhouse

This card seems very powerful, and at one point I thought it was going to be in draft boosters before I looked closer. I’m very glad to see that it’s Commander-only, because there doesn’t need to be a Dream Trawler Jr. out there in Limited. This one’s very targetable, but you get the first trigger when it enters, meaning you’ll gain a card and a mana advantage. If you’re hellbent though, it gets weird, because you end up getting very delayed gratification. You can’t foretell something and then cast it from exile in the same turn, but at least most Azorius decks aren’t running out of cards often.


 

Okay! I’m done! I am now Juri, Master of the Set Review. I can’t wait to build more decks with these cards and get my hands on them in the physical realm – hopefully I’ll see you out there in the World of Webcam Commander soon!

Discussion

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