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Kaldheim Commander Set Review: White and Blue

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 - White

Bound in Gold

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

If you’re running Arrest and looking to upgrade, consider the Goldfinger treatment shown here. Otherwise, steer clear and aim for less viscous waters.


Divine Gambit

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

There’s certainly a place for this card in Commander, albeit a strange, confusing place. If you’re getting weird in the Group Hug space, or if you’re trying to abuse this card by emptying enemy hands, you might like this. If you’ve got Telepathy on the battlefield, this can become less of a gambit and more of a gimmie.


Doomskar

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Off the top of your deck and later in the game, this will usually be a five mana Wrath. The foretell is unlikely to be a huge deal unless you’re so deeply focused on that keyword that you’re playing cards you would otherwise eschew. Vega, the Watcher will be happy about this, but many other decks will pass.


Giant Ox

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

I’m sure there’s some Vehicle-focused deck that couldn’t be more excited to put this Ox at the helm of a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and go to town, but do you really need to play a card this bad to do that? Anyone playing this card is doing so for fun, and I have lots of respect for that playstyle.


Glorious Protector

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Flash gives this card a dimension that cards like Lumbering Battlement lack. If you’re looking for an alternative to Eerie Interlude that can also be used in Fiend Hunter loops or slot into an Angel or Cleric-themed deck, Glorious Protector might be what you’re looking for. Glorious Protector can also be used to rebuy on ETB abilities, albeit in a slower, clunkier fashion than many other available options.


Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I already wrote a whole article about Halvar, but the more I look at the card, the more I’m interested in using Sword of the Realms to threaten repeated attacks with powerful creatures. Halvar is a bit of a secondary consideration at this point, especially since it’s redundant with so many existing cards in the format.


Rally the Ranks

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

I’m not convinced that a two mana anthem is going to be the reason someone builds a tribal deck, and indeed it seems that anthems have (somewhat rightly) fallen out of favor these days as players lean toward more actively-focused cards. That said, there’s some balance of anthems, creatures and draw effects that can create a consistent state of “check” at a Commander table, and Rally the Ranks might help you find it.


Reidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector’s Shield

Rating

Commentary

Tech Card

Reidane does a lot of different things, albeit ones that aren’t all necessarily related. On the front side, you have a card that pushes back against both snow-themed decks and decks that simply use snow basics to power a selfish Extraplanar Lens. On the back, you have some burn/storm hate that also pushes back against opponents looking to go wide with lots of small creatures. I wouldn’t recommend including this in a deck at random, but if you look at this through the lens of your playgroup and see an opportunity, take that opportunity.


Resplendent Marshal

Rating

Commentary

Powerhouse

When I said that anthems had fallen in value in favor of more actively-focused cards, Resplendent Marshal was on my mind. A serviceable creature at a reasonable rate, Resplendent Marshal is here to pump up your team as it moves through the revolving door that is a Commander battlefield. This card is potentially +2/+2 to your whole team in one convenient package, so I can’t be mad at it.


Righteous Valkyrie

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

If you’re looking for yet another reason to buy into the life gain theme, Righteous Valkyrie is here. Amazingly enough, it slots perfectly into Clerics shells, and given the revitalization that tribe got in Zendikar Rising, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of this. That’s two cards in a row that threaten to provide +2/+2 to your whole team, and it’s likely they’ll see play alongside one another.


Rune of Sustenance (and all the other Runes)

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Any low-cost enchantment that draws a card is going to end up in an Enchantress deck somewhere, and I think all of the Runes will be about the same. Runes have an extra dimension though, in that you can put one on a piece of Equipment and achieve a much more lasting effect. As noted in a recent episode of Limited Resources, you can also just toss a Rune on a land and draw a card if you really need to see the next card in your library. 


Search for Glory

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

The incidental life gain doesn’t really speak to me, but as tutors go, this one’s not terrible. Decks focused on snow or historic synergies are likely to be interested in Search for Glory unless they’ve already filled their slots with more efficient tutor options. Holding up a single Plains to cast Enlightened Tutor at the end of an opponent’s turn is likely to be more palatable overall, but if increased tutor density is what you want, this may indeed help you find glory (sadly, this will not help you find Glory).


Sigrid, God-Favored

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Tricky creatures with flash don’t usually make great Commanders, and Sigrid is no exception. That said, there are enough Gods in Commander that the protection may be more than just flavor text. A slightly constrained Banisher Priest with flash can help put a dangerous attacker away for a while, reuse an ETB effect or save a boastful yet blundering attacker as well. I fear though that Sigrid will often prove herself not worth the slot.


Starnheim Courser

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

I’ve cast enough cost reducers to know that one is never enough. The appetite for cheapening cards is never really sated, at least until you find yourself in full windmill mode, slamming the top card of your deck onto the battlefield over and over as you gleefully point to your Puresteel Paladin or Mesa Enchantress. At three mana, it compares fairly well to Jhoira’s Familiar (though it’s not an artifact, which can hurt its stock), which means it’s destined to see play in Teshar decks and similar.


Starnheim Unleashed

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

The comparison to Decree of Justice does this card few favors, as Decree’s cycling mode provides much more flexibility than Starnheim Unleashed’s split between a discount Serra Angel and a foretold Angelic assault. That said, I expect this to take over late games as effectively as the Decree does, with Angel decks being most excited about the prospect.

 

 

Header - Blue

Alrund, God of the Cosmos // Hakka, Whispering Raven

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

Is this supposed to be a Commander? With Hakka returning to hand so often, I’m not sure that’s the case. As the newest entrant in the wonderful world of Maro-type creatures, I think Alrund is more destined for formats where foretell is more relevant, which is to say, 40 and 60 card formats. That said, I’m sure cards like Soothsaying can be used to make Alrund’s second ability turn into a Divination turn after turn. I question whether or not that’s worth the hard work and mana investment.


Alrund’s Epiphany

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

If you’re looking for another extra turn effect, this card is available, but I think there’s already too many such effects in the format for this one to see much play.


Ascendant Spirit

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

Finally, a convincing reason to play a snow-themed deck! This snow Spirit clearly echoes Figure of Destiny, but what really excites me is the unlimited growth potential. The third ability allows you to add lots and lots of counters over time, but in news familiar to fans of Genju of the Fields, it also adds the triggered card draw ability in multiples, making Thieving Magpie blush at the audacity. 


Bind the Monster

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

It’s blue Swords to Plowshares! The damage is easier to stomach in Commander, as the starting life total of 40 provides a little leeway. This lives in the same arena as cards like Amphin Mutineer and Ravenform though and it’s likely to be outclassed by one or the other.


Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel

Rating

Commentary

Commander

I wrote a whole article about Cosima already, and there are plenty of other directions to sail if the course I set isn’t to your liking.


Cosmos Charger

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

If you’re going deep on foretell, this is your Horse, of course, of course. That said, I don’t expect that to happen often outside of Ranar decks, where this is amazing in concert with Ranar’s once per turn free foretelling. It’s not quite a Kadena/Vedalken Orrery situation, but it’s nice.


Cyclone Summoner

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

There’s already a precedent for Giant Wizards in Commander (see Galecaster Colossus), but Kaldheim makes this connection much more explicit. Cyclone Summoner harnesses just enough of everyone’s (least?) favorite Rift to give you an advantage. As long as your opponents aren’t on the big spellcaster plan, Cyclone Summoner should clear the way for your creatures to close the deal.


Frost Augur

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around

Scrying Sheets comes to life, and it’s even better than before! The average snow card won’t necessarily be able to hang with the best cards in Commander, but Frost Augur and its ilk look to make up the difference with synergy. With only 105 snow cards currently in print, it’ll be tough to make your whole deck snow without really sacrificing quality, but a Sultai deck can get pretty close.


Glimpse the Cosmos

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

A bad sorcery speed Impulse is only worth playing when you can flash it back for U, so you’ll need a critical mass of Giants.


Graven Lore

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

At instant speed, this is an upgrade over cards like Ugin’s Insight, and the scry sets it a level above Jace’s Ingenuity or Precognitive Perception. In a mono blue deck, it’s easy to see this as scry 5, draw three, but the more colors you play, the fewer snow lands you’ll be tapping. I’d still rather have Mystic Confluence in most cases for flexibility, but I could see upping the draw spell count to add this one alongside the modal monstrosity.


Icebind Pillar

Rating

Commentary

Niche Inclusion

I’m not one for playing lots of Icy Manipulators in Commander without a really good reason, but snow density may be reason enough.


Icebreaker Kraken

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Icebreaker Kraken keys off snow lands, so all you have to do to make it work is transform your mana base a little bit. The damage it does to a single opponent can be massive, stopping them from untapping artifacts and creatures, though that counts on those permanents being tapped in the first place. If that’s an effect you want to apply repeatedly, consider playing this, bouncing it, replaying it and then using extra land drops or cards like Walking Atlas to sort your mana situation out immediately.


Inga Rune-Eyes

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

Inga is interesting as a way to reload after Wrath effects or as a method for Grixis sacrifice decks to capitalize on a few deaths. If it doesn’t take you too much effort to turn this into a four mana scry 3, draw three, it’s worth setting your eyes on Inga.


Mystic Reflection

Rating

Commentary

Role Player

This is a weird one, but it has some powerful interactions. Any creature that makes tokens when it enters the battlefield is a great candidate for this one, and as many have pointed out already, Master of Waves is emblematic of this interaction’s strength. Let’s set up a scenario:

Master of Waves enters the battlefield. With its trigger on the stack, you have just five devotion to blue. You cast Mystic Reflection on your Master of Waves in response. When the Master’s trigger resolves, you’ll get not five Elemental tokens, but five token copies of Master of Waves – and each of those tokens will trigger. Since you have five more Masters, you have five more devotion, for a total of ten. That means you’ll receive a total of 50 Elemental tokens, and since you have six Masters total, each Elemental weighs in at a mammoth 7/6. Seems pretty good, right? I think that’s just scratching the surface of this card, and I expect it to be a “good story generator” as you find ways for it to interact with the opponents’ battlefields as well. Do remember that this card specifies a nonlegendary target, meaning you can’t simply invalidate a bunch of tokens entering the battlefield or worse, give someone a pile of Phages.


Orvar, the All-Form

Rating

Commentary

Commander

Orvar is my favorite Commander in this set, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. I want to point out that this set has a legendary Owl in it and I still like this weirdo better. Orvar may look like a boss from Path of Exile and mechanically, I find him similarly interesting. You only get a copy of one thing you target, so no Fleeting Distraction shenanigans today, but cards like Fleeting Distraction and Twisted Image go from low-end cantrip to high-end copy effect with Orvar around. Add in Naban and Naru Meha if you’re interested in a new take on mono blue Wizards!


Ravenform

Rating

Commentary

Tech Card

At sorcery speed, I don’t see this dethroning the likes of Reality Shift or Pongify outright. That said, hitting artifacts as well is enough to put this bird on my radar.


Reflections of Littjara

Rating

Commentary

Build-Around Powerhouse!?

Oh dear. Tribal decks did not need unfettered access to this effect, yet here we are. Using the Lithoform Engine templating, we’ve arrived at an enchantment that doubles creature spells and some tribal spells as well (yes, I mean the long-forgotten tribal type). If your favorite creature type can dip into blue even a little bit, give this a try – you don’t need me to tell you how good it is.

 

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