The 600 - A Review of Kaldheim Commanders

(Timbercrown Pathway | Art by Piotr Dura)

The Cold Re-Foretold

Suit up the sled, pack your woolly socks, and slip on some mittens! We're headed back to Kaldheim, and we're doing it The 600 style.

In this article series, we predict how popular commanders will become after one year of circulation. The line is 600, and I predict "Over" or "Under" for each commander. The former means I thought they'd lead over 600 decks by year's end, while the latter means I thought they'd lead fewer than 600. I snapped screenshots of all these commanders on their one-year birthdays, so that's where the following figures come from. Also, there's always one Can't-Miss Pick, which is like calling a shot in Horse.

You can find last year's article here or keep reading, since I'll quote the salient details. Let's begin!


The Easy Unders

I like to establish a sense of trust with my readers. That's why I always begin with my correct picks. Plus, it builds suspense for all the worst ones. Here are some clear stinkers.

Last year’s prediction: Unders for all

Final deck counts: 30, 18, and 18 respectively

It took no great talent to predict these would be Unders. I mean, Sigrid is mono-white, Inga has runes etched into her eyes, and Arni willingly admits that he headbutts trolls. Not exactly the stuff of legends, here.

The same can also be said for our next batch of Unders.

Last year’s prediction: Unders for all

Final deck counts: 71, 60, and 43 respectively

To be honest, I didn't remember any of these commanders existed. Never a good sign. What's more, Egon appears to have stolen his name from Egon Spengler of Ghostbusters fame, which seems tacky. These three have the same problem as the previous three: they serve awfully specific niches, none of which have much relevance to EDH.

Last year’s prediction: Unders for all

Final deck counts: 161, 144, and 121 respectively

Last year I compared Halvar to an ice cream sundae, Alrund to Anthony Hopkins, and Harald to Lathril, Blade of the Elves, none of which proved favorable. They all went Under, and it wasn't particularly close. I think these were more Standard plants, or perhaps Historic, which is why we didn't see much of them in EDH. Plus, this point on Harald from last year's article proved true:

"Lately, we’ve had a deluge of Golgari Elf commanders... Harald would bolster the 99 of all these decks, though I doubt it would do a better job of leading them."

Indeed, Harald currently leads 138 decks but appears in the 99 of over 4,0oo decks. More of a follower than a king, it seems.

Finally, our last easy Under picks:

Last year’s prediction: Unders for all

Final deck counts: 379, 346, and 308 respectively

I didn't find these cards interesting, and it seems most other players didn't, either. The best I can say about this trio is that Narfi's name sounds like water-type Pokemon.

Now let's talk about some more interesting commanders.


The Easy Overs

Here are the most predictable Overs, starting with our Commander product face cards.

Last year’s prediction: Overs for both

Final deck counts: 5,871, and 2,304 respectively

It's remarkable how consistently the commanders from preconstructed products land with audiences. If this was Vegas, I think they'd stop giving odds on it entirely. Take Lathril, for example: not only did she become the most popular commander in the set by a more than 1,000-deck margin, she's also the 7th most popular commander of all time. Here's last year's analysis:

"This card grants a huge payoff for going wide, and it even helps you get there. Though 10 might sound like a lot, remember that this is the tribe with Lys Alana Huntmaster, Elvish Promenade, and Imperious Perfect. You’ll get there."

All three of those cards appear in more than 70% of Lathril decks. Basically, if the card has the word "Elf" on it, it plays well with Lathril.

Ranar is less than half as popular, but still has over 2,000 decks, which should tell you just how huge Lathril is. Last year I wrote:

"Ranar supports what I believe will become a popular mechanic, Foretell. It’s also versatile enough to fit into blink and Spirit tribal decks. Finally, headliner commanders from precon decks pretty much always do well."

And indeed it did! Decks here are basically some mix of the three themes I listed above. Nothing unpredictable, but then, that's how I like it. What better way to pad my stats?

Speaking of padding my stats, here are some more easy picks:

Last year’s prediction: Overs for all

Final deck counts: 3,919, 2,705, and 2,278 respectively

Let's start with Esika. Being a five-color commander gave her a great shot at 600, as I mentioned last year:

"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: five-color commanders always go Over."

There you have it. Thus far, I haven't been proven wrong (but Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa is making me nervous).

Here's how I began my analysis of our next commander, Tergrid:

"If you’re the sort of person who enjoys stealing other players’ stars in Mario Party, you might enjoy Tergrid, and judging by the reactions to her, there are a lot of those people out there."

Turned out that was even a bit of an understatement. 2,705 players built Tergrid decks, which was the third most of any commander in the set (excluding the Commander product commanders, which are always popular). It's fairly easy to steal your opponents' stuff, since black is packed with discard and sacrifice effects. The funny part is, I don't think anyone's ever cast the Lantern, at least not without some infinite mana combo to make it immediately lethal.

Finally, let's talk about Magda, who was my Can't-Miss Pick of the set. Last year, I wrote...

"I haven’t been this fond of a Dwarf since Gimli... For those unafraid of contributing to inflation, why not create infinite Treasures by using Magda in tandem with Liquimetal Coating and Clock of Omens? This card is versatile, unique, and flat-out fun. Easiest pick of the set."

The inflation joke hasn't aged well, but you get the idea. Magda was only helped by the subsequent printing of Xorn in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Academy Manufactor in Modern Horizons 2, among others. Also, last year I totally blanked on Seven Dwarves, which couldn't be more perfect for this deck. I might even build this one myself someday.

Let's move onto a few more easy Overs.

Last year’s prediction: Overs for all

Final deck counts: 1,874, 1,539, and 1,535 respectively

Koma is one of those generically powerful Simic commanders that we EDH players complain about during preview season, then play tons of afterward. I won't even refer to last year's article. We all knew this would be an Over!

Jorn was another surefire Over, though at least he's a bit more unusual. We don't often see Snow commanders, and this commander is basically two Snow commanders in one! Again, no surprises in this deck; pretty much any green, blue, or black card that interacts with Snow fits into this guy's 99.

Finally, Fynn, the Fangbearer appears as a bit of a sleeper, earning big numbers despite being uncommon. It helps that green gets a common 1/1 with Deathtouch in every single set. Plus, the subsequent printing of Saryth, the Viper's Fang in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms couldn't have hurt, either.

Last year’s prediction: Overs for all

Final deck counts: 979, 904, and 886 decks respectively

Here's the entirety of last year's review of Vorinclex:

"This is Doubling Season from the command zone—with upside. ‘Nuff said."

I stand by that assessment. Six of the deck's 14 High-Synergy Cards are planeswalkers, while the rest have the word "counters" printed on them multiple times. It's a straightforward deck, but that doesn't mean it isn't powerful.

There's a fair bit of overlap between Vorinclex decks and our next commander, Toski. Here are my thoughts from last year:

"...Toski is the first legendary creature from one of Magic’s most beloved oddball tribes...[And it] happens to be pretty darn good, especially with a swarm of expendable Squirrel tokens."

We didn't get very many Squirrel tokens, but we did get tons of one-, two-, and three-drops, plus big finishers like End-Raze Forerunners and Kamahl, Heart of Krosa. Also, it's worth noting that Toski is the third mono-green commander to go Over from this set alone. You don't see that every day.

And then there's Vega. I couldn't resist making a Reservoir Dogs joke with this owl (two of them, actually), but here's the actual Magic analysis:

"Vega synergizes with a litany of popular mechanics, including the following:

  • Foretell
  • Adventure
  • Flashback
  • Retrace
  • Aftermath
  • Suspend"

We see all these mechanics appearing on Vega's commander page, in addition to numerous Disturb cards from our two most recent Innistrad sets. It did not quite achieve the popularity I was expecting (886 decks), but Vega still hit the mark we were looking for.

Now for our final round of Easy Overs.

Last year’s prediction: Overs for all

Final deck counts: 802, 799, 797 decks respectively

Like Vega, Birgi didn't reach quite as high as I thought she would. The card is flat out broken, after all, leading to the sorts of elongated turns that send opponents off to the bathroom or onto their phones, usually with an added, "Let me know when you're finished." Hmm. Actually, maybe that's why she didn't do better.

Next up is Aegar, a card I was very high on out of the gates. Just check out last year's thoughts:

"Aegar excels as a Giant tribal commander since Giants’ intrinsic bulk should often deal excess damage. Wizards are usually less hefty, though cards like Firefist Adept or Thundering Sparkmage could work. Aegar also works as a classic Izzet spellslinger commander, especially with cards like Immolating Gyre."

Of those three cards I mentioned, only Immolating Gyre appears on Aegar's page; it seems players leaned more into the Giants tribe than Wizards. As a New York Giants fan, I support that decision.

Valki is our last commander in this category, and perhaps the most surprising. Last year I wrote...

"This is an Over."

(There's more, but it would've been funny if that was the extent of my evaluation.)

"Unlike most of our other Gods, the back half will be the primary mode—though the front isn’t bad, either. Players liked Tibalt even when he was lousy. Now that he’s powerful, they’ll like him even more."

Well, not that much more. I do wonder if the card's appearance in Modern curtailed its popularity in EDH. It was the centerpiece of the hot new deck for a while there, reaching as high as $99 in early February '21. I know people will shell out for Magic cards (myself included) but a hundo bucks was probably too much for most.


The Close Unders

Kaldheim was a popular set. Even the Unders didn't sink very far beneath our 600 mark. Take these commanders, for example:

Last year’s prediction: Unders for all

Final deck counts: 535, 517, and 476 decks respectively

These are all uncommons, meaning they're designed to be signpost cards for Limited, so they're usually not that good in bigger formats, yet still they came within shouting distance of the 600 mark, especially Koll, who achieved fairly big numbers despite being a Boros Equipment commander, of which we already have many, and this is beginning to feel like a run-on sentence, so I'd better move on.


The Close Overs

These three commanders barely scraped by the target:

Last year’s prediction: Overs for all

Final deck counts: 756, 667, and 660 decks respectively

Of the three, Svella's relatively small numbers are perhaps the most surprising. It's definitely powerful, but I think I identified the problem last year:

"Though casting free spells is undeniably powerful, I’m a little disappointed to see this effect appear so frequently of late. After all, we’ve already had Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in back-to-back years."

We don't talk about Golos post-banning, but still, the point stands. Free spells are powerful, albeit kinda boring. Take note, R&D!


The Egregious Unders

There are two for this category. The first I don't feel so bad about:

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 1,131

The vast majority of uncommon commanders go Under, so the odds were ever in my favor. Plus, I believe I had some decent reasoning:

"This is Goad without actually saying Goad, which is a fine ability, but probably not good enough here. To get repeated forced attacks, you’d need to blink Kardur—a tall task in Rakdos."

Of course, there are in fact other Magic cards with the word Goad printed on them, many of which appear in Kardur decks. I'm a little embarrassed I didn't think of that last year, but I'm even more embarrassed about this next pick.

Last year’s prediction: Under

Final deck count: 3,109

I must be unimaginative, because I never envisioned this card doing much more than copying creatures. Here are last year's thoughts:

"We basically just got a better version of this card in Command Legends: Sakashima of a Thousand Faces. Sakashima can only copy creatures, true, but the fact that it can Partner makes me think it’ll always be the more popular option."

At least I was right about that part; Sakashima currently boasts 6,216 total Partner decks. However, this is clearly me trying to make myself feel better. Orvar is awesome, and I should've seen it long ago.

The coolest interaction is using one-mana instants and sorceries targeting your lands, which creates additional copies of them. Or you can target creatures with powerful enter-the-battlefield abilities like Peregrine Drake and Mulldrifter. It turns out Orvar can be optimized to find a bunch of infinite combos extremely easily, too. Basically, if you untap with Orvar, good things happen.


The Egregious Overs

Only one for this set, and it's another I should've foreseen (or Foretold):

Last year’s prediction: Over

Final deck count: 320

Moritte fell well short of the mark, despite my attempts to hype it up.

"[Moritte is] incredibly versatile. Note that it copies any permanent while still retaining Changeling and snow. Try copying a creature with Kinship, for example, or perhaps a land, artifact, enchantment, or even a planeswalker (just bring your Mirror Gallery). This card seems too versatile not to succeed."

Seeming and being are two different things. Mirror Gallery doesn't appear on Moritte's page, and there aren't any Kinship cards, either. Just tons of Changelings, which is a strategy dominated by Morophon, the Boundless. Overall, it seems I came in a bit too hot on this card, which is ironic, considering it's a snow permanent.


Recap

Correct Picks (32)

Incorrect Picks (3)

My Kaldheim Correct Prediction Percentage: 91% (Career High!)

My Overall Correct Prediction Percentage: 75%

Yes, 18 sets in and I've just achieved my best percentage yet! Brady hung it up after 22 years, at the top of his game - should I do the same? Not that I'm comparing myself to the GOAT - although maybe I am, since I'm the GOAT of The 600. I mean, I'm also the WOAT of The 600 (Worst of All Time), since I'm the only person who writes this series, but you get what I mean!

I guess you'll just have to wait until my next article to find out what I decide... if it ever comes out, that is! Make like Vega, and keep watching!

Kyle A. Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife, their daughter, and three wild animals. His current favorite card is Wilson, Refined Grizzly. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.