Kaldheim Set Review – Blue

(Depart the Realm | Art by Denman Rooke)

Winter is Coming

Gods, winter, Shapeshifters, Giants, and even more make their way to Commander with the release of Kaldheim. Honestly, blue has some of the strongest and strangest cards in the set, and I’m excited to hear what other people think about the set. Without waiting in the cold any longer, let’s get to the review!


Mythics

Alrund, God of the Cosmos

As one of the first gods of Kaldheim previewed, Alrund immediately set the tone for what I wanted to see from the set. Pulling from the Norse myths, Alrund is our Odin analog complete with Huginn & Munnin combined into the singular Hakka, Whispering Raven. On the front, Alrund joins the ranks of card-advantage engine commanders in mono-blue that passively draw. I love having sub-games in my decks, and building around scrying is both fun and effective.

Otherwise, Alrund is your standard Maro with no keywords. I adore Hakka as a way for Alrund “dodge” the commander tax; the additional costs exist, but Hakka’s low converted mana cost ensure that Alrund is never too far from battle. Hakka doesn’t offer much outside of a flying body as a game goes on, but being able to Scry 2 after dealing combat damage is useful for smoothing out your draws early. If you want to dive deep into the divination game, check out the Esper commander precon page for ideas on how to get value from manipulating your top-deck. Overall, Alrund is one of the most thematic legends in the set, and I’m sure people will flock to him for it.


Alrund’s Epiphany

Following the patterns of the past, Alrund’s Epiphany is our obligatory set-mechanic extra turn spell. If you want more ways to take turns, congratulations, you have another option! If not, there’s likely little reason to play this over other options that are available if you have the choice. While I’m a fan of Foretell overall, I start to push back at higher mana costs. Epiphany is priced fairly, which hurts it in the long run.


Orvar, the All-Form

While the focus of Kaldheim is pointed towards the modal double-faced Gods, Orvar, the All-Form might be one of the most powerful and intriguing legends in the set. Turning every targeted spell or targeted ability you own into an additional copy of any permanent you control is powerful.

However, the aspect of Orvar that intrigues me most is the amount of cards that are played nowhere: some immediate enablers that wind up in the brew pile include Moonlace, Sapphire Charm, and Retraction Helix. Will they make the final cut? Who knows, but Orvar encouraging the use of these cards is a win by itself. Not only that, but as a Changeling, Orvar can lean thematically into clones such as Clever Impersonator. Even if Orvar limits you to copying your own permanents, clones open up the entire field.

Additionally, apologies go out to Mistform Ultimus and the ‘tribal tribal’ decks it leads, but there’s a new commander in town. Unlike MTGMuddstah, I don’t have the emotional attachment to overlook Orvar now.


Rares


Ascendant Spirit

Warden of the First Tree and Figure of Destiny get a new sibling! However, if they are what to go off of, the Spirit’s chances are dreary as Warden and Figure are in a combined 600 decks. Snow by itself is it’s own hurdle, but it should be a low enough hurdle as snow is an all-or-nothing affair for mana. Typical of its brand, Ascendant’s first two abilities scale its size into a formidable 4/4 Angel. The last ability sets the spirit apart; Ascendant Spirit gets two +1/+1 counters and gains the ability to draw a card off of combat damage. However, you can continuously stack this ability to gain multiple instances of this trigger. Combined with the newly printed Lithoform Engine or the recently reprinted Rings of Brighthearth, this can accelerate quickly into a glacier of card advantage on a monstrous flyer.

Fellow writer Doug Young asked recently about its interaction with Lazav, the Multifarious, and I’m sure fellow Lazav players may be intrigued by being able to carry over this Ophidian Eye ability across multiple transformations.


Cosima, God of the Voyage

There are few legends that match Cosima’s blend of theme and mechanical identity. As Cosima voyages to distant lands, you have the choice to return home with rewards or to continue exploring. It’s so perfect.

However, how does this legend fare as a commander or in the 99? Cosima is slow; she requires surviving until your next upkeep to even use her ability. Afterwards it turns every Landfall into the ability to draw a card, and return Cosima hardened by her voyage. As a commander, this narrows your deckbuilding to mono-blue ramp which is an incredible challenge with solid and surprising inclusions such as Patron of the Moon and Dreamscape Artist.

Beyond the command zone, she can likely find a home within any Landfall deck with blue, such as Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper or Omnath, Locus of Creation. Even saying all that, we haven’t discussed the back!

Fire up your sea shanties: The Omenkeel is a boat as a commander! We don’t often see Vehicle tribal, but this is it. Turning our Smuggler’s Copter, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, or Weatherlight into card advantage is just fun. Vehicles don’t have too much support as a whole, so this strategy already has a turbulent start. However, I’m sure we can invoke Thassa, God of the Sea to guide our passage.

We’re going to see a healthy mix of decks that focus on either a single side or both, and I’m excited to see how people build her. My only wish is the ability to play both of these at the same time which is a sentiment I’ve seen expressed about many of the new Gods.


Cosmos Charger

If you’re playing a Foretell deck, this is a slam-dunk to include. Honestly, your deck would be incomplete without it. Reducing Foretell costs by one is great as it offsets the common costing pattern in Kaldheim; the combined cost of Foretell and the delayed casting cost is typically one more than the standard casting cost. You’re very likely to skip this without a Foretell focus with someone like Ranar the Ever-Watchful or Aminatou, the Fateshifter as this is only a flyer with flash otherwise.


Cyclone Summoner

We’ve seen this template of board wipe a few times before. Having to cast it from your hand continues to be both a balancing and limiting factor. Wakening Sun’s Avatar currently appears in 3200 decks, but that number is misleading. That popularity is driven by over 3,000 Dinosaur decks led by Gishath, Sun’s Avatar, Zacama, Primal Calamity, or Atla Palani, Nest Tender. Expect this card to only find a home in Wizard or Giant tribal decks, such as Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, but otherwise, it’s just a very large and expensive vanilla creature.


Graven Lore

It feels like we get a card similar to Graven Lore each set. Set-mechanic-payoff followed by ‘draw three cards’ (a la Precognitive Perception) and I’m always happy to see more of these variants. Scry X that scales with lands is nothing to scoff for decks that are two or fewer colors, but three-color decks will likely skip this. If that’s the case, you can always fall back on the reliable favorite, Mystic Confluence. Among it’s contemporaries that went through standard, Precognitive Perception and Reverse Engineer see the most play with just over 2,000 decks each. These don’t see much play, but Graven Lore has the highest upside if you’re willing to put your lands on ice. Eligeth, Crossroads Augur in particular will enjoy it.


Icebreaker Kraken

What’s a Norse plane without a Kraken? Icebreaker Kraken is the next iteration of huge blue creatures that can protect themselves for a substantial cost. However, this terror is more Pearl Lake Ancient than Nezahal, Primal Tide. Snow’s popularity as a subtheme might determine if Icebreaker Kraken can surpass the 1,000 decks that the Ancient makes its home. Otherwise, I think I’ll leave it at home because it lacks just a little. First, expensive effects that target a single opponent are usually dismissed for those that hit each opponent. Second, while the Kraken fittingly prevents artifacts and creatures from untapping (ie, it “freezes” them), it doesn’t actually tap down those permanents which leaves it to be more situational. It has a chance though. Most of the 600 decks under the Sea Creatures theme of EDHREC are one or two colors. Including this card while also choosing snow lands is a small cost to get a discounted 8/8.


Mystic Reflection

I’m usually more conflicted for how I rank cards within a given set, but I’m confidant that Mystic Reflection is an easy pick for my Kaldheim Top 5. The combination of versatility, power, and cost is, frankly, ridiculous. A powerful effect on an instant for one generic and a blue should already raise eyebrows by itself.

Mystic Reflection is both a reactive and proactive weapon for blue decks that you should be aware of. The Spike Feeders pointed out on Twitter that Reflection combined with the venerable Avenger of Zendikar results in a ludicrous amount of creatures. Let’s assume we have ten lands in play for simplicity. Once Avenger enters the battlefield, you target it with Reflection while its token creation ability is on the stack. If both Reflection and Avenger’s ability resolve, we have ten copies of Avenger enter the battlefield that each then create ten Plant tokens. Yes, that is a lot.

While that’s powerful enough to warrant play, the defensive applications of Mystic Reflection are no slouch either. Turning an opponent’s game-winning threat or commander into a Storm Crow or something else harmless is incredible. This effect is permanent, too! Unless your opponent has a way to sacrifice or bounce their commander, it’s stuck as a harmless bird.

Rules note: be mindful of how layers work! While it’s tempting to shut down an opponents Purphoros, God of the Forge with this, you’ll only reflect onto it if it’s entering as a creature.

You don’t need a specific reason to include this card, but if you’re seeking to maximize it, look to Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. Turning a single token into a massive threat means all of your tokens become that threat. The new Orvar, the All-Form can double up on whatever creature you’re about to get a copy of.

What a great card! Wait… it even has Foretell too? What!?


Reflections of Littjara

Oh… this is a powerful card. Zendikar Rising’s Lithoform Engine introduced the concept of copying permanent spells on the stack, and we quickly get a tribal variations. If you’re playing a tribal deck with blue, I can’t imagine not giving this card some consideration. I could see some players evaluating this as too win-more or expensive, but I think this will find more homes than not.

Additionally, the card doesn’t just care about copying creatures. For the few tribes that has access to worthwhile cards with the Tribal type, this pulls even more work. In my own decks, copying a Merrow Commerce or one of the many Merfolk lords is a powerful swing in tempo and advantage. Untapping every Merfolk twice in Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca is substantial.

Beyond Merfolk, I think the most common tribes that will use this are Kruphix-led Eldrazi, Faeries, and Rogues. Rogues in particular are probably the most intriguing home to me as Notorious Throng and Knowledge Exploitation are powerful effects to copy.


Surtland Elementalist

While this Giant is found only in the theme boosters of Kaldheim, they still count for this review! If you like huge spells and cheating mana costs, this Giant is for you. Just like it cheats mana costs, you’re going to want to cheat it into play. What popular archetype is known for cheating costs? Reanimator. Bringing this into play early and then casting the largest instant or sorcery in your hand is sure to swing games. Also, be wary of decks that run Sneak Attack as this could quickly come into play out of nowhere in a deck like Obeka, Brute Chronologist. While that potential is powerful, the Giant will often be left behind unless your deck balances cheating both huge creatures and huge spells like as Jodah, Archmage Eternal.


Uncommons and Commons

Absorb Identity

Removal and a win-condition in a single card? If you’re playing a Shapeshifter deck that doesn’t outright copy other creatures, I can’t think of a reason to not play this. At worst, this is protection from spot removal or temporary removal in those decks. If you can’t get the tribal advantage, you’re not going to play this over Unsummon, and most decks aren’t playing Unsummon anyways. Sakashima of a Thousand Faces copying a powerful creature or the newly released Orvar, the All-Form will likely get a lot of mileage out of this.


Avalanche Caller

Honestly, I missed this card until I was almost finished writing this review. You’re limited to targeting snow lands sadly, so leave your Darksteel Citadel at home. That is, unless you’re playing Arcum’s Weathervane. Otherwise, this is a great rate. Two mana for a hexproof 4/4 with haste? That’s a great way to close out a game out of nowhere on a cheap creature. For something like Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper this makes them even more potent as each instant and sorcery can make an army of 7/7s quickly.


Giant’s Amulet

While most of the new “Living Weapon” Equipment in the set are lackluster, I’m incredibly excited for Giant’s Amulet. Honestly, it’s fairly comparable to Swiftfoot Boots which is played in a staggering 118,000 decks. Amulet isn’t as good as boots by being colored, lacking haste, and having conditional hexproof, but these downsides are minuscule to me. Plenty of decks only want Boots for accessibility to hexproof on a commander that never intends to attack at all, and the Amulet will fit that purpose.

Not only is Giant’s Amulet a moderate comparison to Swiftboot Boots, but it also comes with the ability to make a 4/4 Giant creature token later in the game. That flexibility gives it additional utility in other decks like token and tribal Giant decks and only improves my opinion of it.


Giant’s Grasp

If you’re playing Giant or Changeling tribal this is actually an incredibly strong effect for the cost. For the same cost as Mind Control, you can snatch any nonland permanent vs. a creature, but this is much more fragile as its attached to your own creature. It’s more fun than good, since the grasping creature is a large target, but I love the flavor and cost-to-effect ratio.


Inga Rune-Eyes

Scrying 3 as an “enters the battlefield” effect is fairly strong. Scry’s effectiveness scales quickly with the number of cards seen. For Aminatou, the Fateshifter or even Alrund, God of the Cosmos, manipulating the top-deck can result in greater advantage than just the Scry. Aminatou can even blink Inga to make this repeatable.

While Inga Rune-Eyes can play well as an injection of manipulation, she arguably has a stronger role in Aristocrats strategies. Not only is having Inga being a third sacrifice easy, it’s almost routine. Once you reach this threshold, reviving and re-sacrificing Inga will bury opponents in card advantage.


Saw It Coming

Yet another Cancel variant! While the rare variants will often be better if you’re in this market, this version shouldn’t disappoint you if it’s available. 3U to Foretell¬†and cast a Counterspell is a hefty price, but being able to break it up the cost makes it more palatable. I’ll often pass and wheel back to my turn with unused mana in my own spellslinger deck. Getting to use mana more effectively while also protecting a counter spell is solid. For a deck like Ranar the Ever-Watchful, this is a much easier include. The most important part of this card, it turns out, isn’t even when you play it. Simply using any Foretell¬†card now means each opponent now must account for this card, hiding in plain sight, and forcing them to be on their guard even when you’re simply putting a Behold the Multiverse on layaway.


Ravenform

Yet another powerful “Polymorph” effect in blue. This card is strong, but it has stiff competition with existing options. Reality Shift and Pongify are both cheaper and instants. However, we can’t dismiss it solely for that. Exiling a creature or artifact? That’s very powerful, and, personal bias aside, this card will see a lot of play.

Oh, I didn’t mention the Bird token? I’m sure I’ll forget about it in practice too as a singular 1/1 flyer in exchange for a dangerous permanent is worth the trade.


Behold the Multiverse

We’ve seen several iterations of this draw spell since Kaladesh, and it stands out as one of the few Foretell cards that doesn’t charge you an extra mana. I’m fairly high on Foretell as a whole, so I’ll give this a look on principle. The amount of play this will see is solid, as one of it’s peers, Glimmer of Genius sees play in just over 1300 decks. Most decks outside of maybe Ranar the Ever-Watchful won’t actively play it, but I don’t think decks will regret it if forced to play it.


Out of the Cold

That’s it for the blue cards of the set! Honestly, blue’s offering from this set is quite impressive. Mystic Reflection and Orvar, the All-Form in particular are of my favorite cards in the entire set, and Cosima, God of the Voyage is an absolute flavor home run. Let me know in the comments below if you think I overlooked or underrated any cards that you’re excited about! Until next time!

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64