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Kaldheim Commander Set Review: Green and Gold

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 - Green

Battle Mammoth

Rating

Commentary

Powerhouse

Sure, this isn’t Elder Gargaroth, but I find people love to target my permanents. It’s not going to be Runic Armasaur, but a 6/5 trampler for 3GG does not need to draw me as many cards as Runic Armasaur. It just needs to draw me one while playing flagbearer for my other permanents.


Blessing of Frost

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

The snow stuff is honestly just a bonus here (though if you’re making a lot of 3/3s with various Garruks, this and some snow basics could be a way to upgrade them and draw), and while I’m excited about cards like Shamanic Revelation, the discount probably isn’t worth the loss of a draw off your Llanowar Elves and similar unless you’re already all-in on snow for other reasons.


Elvish Warmaster

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

If you have ways to make Elves off-turn, like Imperious Perfect, make sure to leverage them throughout the turn cycle to maximize the value of the Warmaster. It’ll pay you off immensely for doing this if you ever activate it, as the added deathtouch turns those 1/1s into something much more difficult to handle in combat. I’m definitely going to look into a Golgari Elves deck shortly, though I’m not sure if I’ll be going old-school Nath or letting Gavin Duggan keep his brand to himself. 


Esika, God of the Tree // The Prismatic Bridge

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I like the idea of an enchantment being my Commander, and one that lets me simply spin the wheel every turn is pretty exciting. Paradox Haze, Strionic Resonator and other similar amplifiers make this more interesting, and there’s a potential for cutting down your creature base to a couple of cards that combo with each other if you’re into that sort of thing. Double trigger into Kiki-Jiki and Pestermite, the only two creatures in my deck? Interesting… just make sure to bring some countermagic too. 


Esika’s Chariot

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Any deck already interested in populate effects will be happy to pick up Esika’s Chariot. It provides decent value by itself while also threatening to copy much larger tokens from cards like Advent of the Wurm, Rampaging Baloths or Desolation Twin. Embalm and encore also seem like exciting abilities to use in concert with this cat carrier. Looks like Trostani just adopted some new best friends.


Fynn, the Fangbearer

Rating

Commentary

Commander

This opens up an interesting Bogles-style strategy for Commander – get some deathtouchers, suit them up and go, or find some cheap hexproof creatures, give them deathtouch and so on. I think this is more interesting than the average infect strategy, as it requires some serious work, and putting it in a single color makes it that much tougher to build around. I don’t yet think I’d groan when sitting across from this, but ask me again in a month after I’ve been killed by a River Boa.


In Search of Greatness

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

In the worst case, you get to scry on your upkeep. That’s not amazing, but think about the upside: you could occasionally cheat a permanent onto the battlefield. It’s going to be hard to break this one wide open, but I think the range is really wide on this card – once in a while it’ll be absolutely insane. 


Jorn, God of Winter // Kaldring, the Rimestaff

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I wrote a newsletter about Jorn Snow an an article, and ever since then more and more snow cards have come out. While I still think the snow theme is a bit limiting, I really like the idea of storing the mana up using Upwelling effects and then casting massive X spells, and I’m hoping to iterate on that at some point with some of the new snow nonsense added in.


Kolvori, God of Kinship // The Ringhart Crest

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

If you’re going to play Mono Green Legends, I’d lean toward Reki before I so much as glanced at Kolvori, but I’d certainly want this card in my Reki deck. The Ringhart Crest is interesting – at first, you just see a bad mana rock, but when you consider the flexibility of Kolvori, you realize that you still just want to cast Kolvori unless your mana situation is really, really dire.


Masked Vandal

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

I wouldn’t talk about this card if it didn’t exile its target. Removal that exiles is so much stronger than removal that simply destroys things, and I’d be willing to send my Sakura-Tribe Elder to the shadow realm for the rest of the game if it means getting rid of a problem card forever. Throw in the flexibility of changeling and Masked Vandal becomes very appealing.


Old-Growth Troll

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

In mono green decks, I think a midrange threat that ramps you when it dies is interesting on some level. You really have to be fully committed to green mana to make this work though, and unless you’re looking for devotion to green in particular, I don’t know if this card is going to work quite hard enough. It does represent two 4/4s and a little ramp over the course of time, and that’s a deal that’s hard to say no to, but the early game threat this poses isn’t as potent in Commander as it is in Standard, which lessens the appeal a bit. 


Realmwalker

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

For just one mana less than Vizier of the Menagerie, you get a worse version of said Vizier. That said, redundancy is a thing, and if you’re already running Vizier in a tribal deck, consider using both or simply swapping over to this. These effects are always powerful – don’t sleep on being able to cast stuff from the top of your library. It’s crazy.


Sculptor of Winter

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

It’s not quite Boreal Druid, but for any snow deck, this is worth running. I don’t think its status as an Elf or Rogue will matter too much in Commander, but you can laugh at me when the D&D set turns out to be set in Icewind Dale or something and all of a sudden Snow Elf Party decks are all the rage. I don’t remember there being a lot of Elves up in the Ten Towns, but what do I know?


Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I like the idea of this as a commander for a Squirrel deck, as it seems like an obvious fit for a go-wide strategy, and that gives Squirrels something to do outside of silver-bordered world. This can also simply slot into an Elf or Saproling deck as a way to draw huge amounts of cards at once, so don’t forget to put it into your 99 from time to time as well!


Tyvar Kell

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

Tyvar had me at his first line of text. I can make a bunch of Elf tokens and they’ll all make mana? Great! Obviously the ultimate is insane, but the other abilities are pretty medium in Commander. That said, the static ability is powerful enough that I’m just not worried about anything else at all.


Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider

Rating

Commentary

Commander?

I know people will want to slot this into the 99 of existing counters-matter decks, but I want this as my Commander. Slam some mono green planeswalkers, ultimate them and laugh. Ugin and Karn can come hang out too if they want. Throw in a bunch of creatures that care about +1/+1 counters to back up the walkers and go to town. Vorinclex’s ability also suppresses opposing counters, which will occasionally be very powerful and mostly get forgotten until a turn cycle later when the Vorinclex player says “Hey, wait!”

 

 

Header - Gold

Aegar, the Freezing Flame

Rating

Commentary

Commander

Finally, a reason to play Izzet Giant Wizards! Seriously though, I love the idea of blasting something with Inferno Titan and then drawing a card because of it. I also love the idea of casting Blasphemous Act and drawing my deck, but I’m sure I can find some cards to fill in the happy medium here.


Ascent of the Worthy

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

I think I’m just in love with Stuffy Doll right now because all I can think of is playing this, choosing Stuffy Doll and then smashing with a bunch of vigilant stuff. I’m sure there’s a weird Mardu deck here with this, Blasphemous Act and Brash Taunter et al, but I also have like 100 more cards to talk about, so maybe I should chill out a little bit.


Battle for Bretagard

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

It may be a bit impractical in the webcam era, but this fits cleanly in Rhys the Redeemed decks. Rhys can usually be found commanding a complex army of Angels, Spirits, Insects, Saprolings, Beasts, Soldiers, Servos, Wurms and more, so different names is not too much to ask. While the Saga structure gives you time to ramp up, it also lets opponents know when to meddle in your affairs – keep your Rootborn Defenses at the ready!


The Bears of Littjara

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

This isn’t a reason by itself to play a deck of many changelings, but it’s a nice addition to any such deck you might already be playing. The second chapter is really what you’re here for, as the pile-on effect in chapter three doesn’t really sell the card to me all by itself.


Binding the Old Gods

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

A solid piece of removal that also provides some ramp? Sign me up. The third chapter is nice if you’re going wide with tokens, but it’s hard to care about that too much.


The Bloodsky Massacre

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

There are 89 Berserkers in the Rakdos world, and most of them are terrible. If you’re in the Tribal Tribal world, however, this will draw you a lot of cards and is worth a look. What’s Tribal Tribal? Well, I’m going to talk about it a few more times, so I might as well remind you – Tomer Abramovici played his version at CommandFest Online 2, and it’s basically a deck full of changelings that support a lot of powerful tribal payoffs. Your many changelings work as Sphinxes for Unesh, Scarecrows for Reaper King, party members for the newest Linvala and so on. I think there’s room to consider The Bloodsky Massacre in a similar list, but not really anywhere else.


Firja, Judge of Valor

Rating

Commentary

Commander?

I can barely see myself wanting to commit to a double-spell theme for this little payoff, but I’m sure someone out there has figured out how to string enough Orzhov cantrips and rituals together to then go off with Yawgmoth’s Will and Tendrils of Agony once the graveyard’s full. It’s important not to rule anything out in Commander – someone is trying this right now.


Firja’s Retribution

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

Odds are that you or someone you know already has an Angel deck, but if that’s not the case, this might be enough to change your mind. The second chapter is ridiculous, especially given how many Angels have vigilance, and the third chapter should end at least one player’s journey, if not the entire game, as long as you can protect your board.


Harald, King of Skemfar

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Harald may look a bit like a Llanowar Visionary, but if the Elf/Warrior/Tyvar density in your deck is high enough, you should be able to choose between multiple hits rather than simply drawing a card. With 41 other eligible cards in your deck, the probability of being able to choose between two or more options is 70 percent (well, 69.986 percent, but rounding is good). Since the odds of whiffing are so low (approximately 6 percent) and you’re drawing a higher quality card on average than you would with a regular draw effect, I think Harald has a place in Elf decks going forward.


Harald Unites the Elves

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

I thought chapter one was going to be the best part, but this is the rare Saga where I’m excited about all three parts! Reanimating an Elf (or Tyvar… I hope we get more Tyvars someday) is huge, especially since the Golgari Elves decks seem to have some self-mill built in after Commander Legends. Elves love to go wide, hence chapters two and three. I love the push Elves are getting – we’ll see how much I love it after I play against a million Elf decks, though.


Immersturm Predator

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

I like the combination of sacrifice outlet and graveyard removal. Tapping this to attack, crew Vehicles or just become indestructible is going to feel good enough that I imagine I’ll want ways to untap Falkenrath Aristocrat’s draconic bestie. Sword of the Paruns is an interesting thought, but maybe I’m working too hard there.


Kardur, Doomscourge

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I wrote about Kardur for my newsletter already, but I’ll say that there’s an amazing forced combat deck here with cards like Disrupt Decorum and Maddening Imp. Throw in an Erratic Portal and a Conjurer’s Closet to rebuy on the ETB and you’ve got the good kind of chaos happening at the table.


Kardur’s Vicious Return

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

This card does just enough that I’m looking for a place to slot it into my Juri deck, but not enough that I’m figuring out what to cut right now. If it pulled from any graveyard, I’d be much more excited about the chapter two and three synergy, but as of now, I’m not terribly impressed.


Kaya the Inexorable

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

The +1 seems like a great way to defend Kaya and rebuy ETB effects at the same time, and with a solid -3 removal ability to back that up, there’s a good reason to spend that time playing defense for her. The emblem doesn’t scream “I win” like others do though, so you’ll have to make sure you have a high enough density of legendary spells if you want to maximize her value.


King Narfi’s Betrayal

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

If you’re determined to cast other people’s cards, this is a fun way to do so, but I find that milling opponents gets pretty dicey. Perhaps Anowon, the Ruin Thief would like this one.


Koll, the Forgemaster

Rating

Commentary

Commander

This is a weird one because of the internal tension – do you want an anthem for tokens, or recursion for nontokens? I think the recursion is objectively more powerful, especially since you’re not usually going to have enough Equipment to go around for all of your tokens. That said, there’s a Bloodforged Battle-Axe to solve every problem, right? Any Equipment-synergy creatures that have ETB effects seem like easy inclusions for Koll.


Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Rating

Commentary

Commander

Does Simic really need an oppressive Commander every set? A 3/3 every upkeep – not just on your upkeep, but every upkeep – that protects Koma? That seems totally unnecessary. That said, if you love Simic, you love Koma, and it seems like everyone loves Simic. I respect the Jörmungandr energy here, but that doesn’t mean this card has to be this way. I guess it costs seven mana, though. 


Maja, Bretagard Protector

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I like the idea of a landfall Commander that plays “fair” while also enabling a go-wide strategy. Krosan Verge, Knight of the Reliquary and so on are great ways to use this, but there’s some combo potential here. Janky combo potential, at that, my favorite. Grab your Amulet of Vigor or Lotus Cobra, play a Perilous Forays and start sacrificing the tokens to grab more and more basics. If you have any other landfall effects available, you’ll reap the benefits of that while also expanding your real estate empire.


Moritte of the Frost

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

There are tons of options for a legendary snow changeling Clone, and while I think this will largely end up in snow decks as a space-filler, I’m optimistic that there are plenty of ways to create fun redundancies with this. Tribal decks that want to load up on lords can create copies of lords – just avoid the legends you’re playing. Moritte can also copy any permanent you control, not just creatures, which should not be forgotten.


Narfi, Betrayer King

Rating

Commentary

Commander

It’s a little harder to stay the course on a snow deck without green, but Narfi welcomes Zombies into his army as well. I’m interested in trying him out as a commander, but it’s possible that Grimgrin should be in charge of Narfi given the latter’s propensity for escaping the graveyard over and over again.


Sarulf, Realm Eater

Rating

Commentary

Powerhouse

Repeatable wide-ranging exile removal? What a card. Sure, it’s quite a bit slower than your average Pernicious Deed, but casting a Hex with this in play can really get things moving. Dregs of Sorrow also comes to mind as a fun way to help Sarulf eat as many realms as possible. If opponents are excited about sacrificing Treasures, Clues or any other permanents, Sarulf also benefits greatly from that transaction.


Svella, Ice Shaper

Rating

Commentary

Commander?

Don’t get me wrong, I think Icy Manaliths are hilarious. The second ability, however, is so much worse than many others in recent memory – this is neither Kinnan nor Golos, though that’s probably a good thing overall. I don’t imagine decks based on Svella will be predicated on the strength of this card, but this is Commander, and we’re here to have fun.


The Three Seasons

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

This is here to return snow permanents to your hand. It’s not here to do other things or be good at those things. Very straightforward, not exciting. The name is hilarious though, and has a very “There are four lights!” feel to it. From the art, it looks like the third season is going to be pretty rough and not very Simic.


The Trickster-God’s Heist

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Decks that want to get weird with swapping control of permanents may enjoy this, but since this fits into neither Zedruu nor Blim, I’m skeptical of its place in the format.


Vega, the Watcher

Rating

Commentary

Commander

This keys off not just foretell, but plenty of other set mechanics of old – rebound, flashback, suspend, jump-start, afterlife, adventure and even cipher. You can even draw from casting other players’ cards by using something like Chaos Wand. Can you tell I’m halfway through brewing a Vega deck? There are so many ways to trigger Vega that you’ll spend more time cutting cards from your build than you’ll be thinking of options!


Waking the Trolls

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

You don’t have to be a dedicated land destruction deck to take advantage of this. You just need to out-ramp someone by a significant margin, and green is fairly well equipped to make this happen already. Just pick a non-green opponent and blow past them in terms of mana – it’s much easier than it seems. Feel free to justify casting this card by blowing up the least popular nonbasic at the table, but don’t be surprised when it’s destroyed before you can steal that nonbasic from the graveyard.

 

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