The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Kaldheim Commanders

(Tidechannel Pathway | Art by Grady Frederick)

You’re as Kald as Ice

Crack open your copy of Norse Mythology and queue up Thor: Ragnarok on Disney+, because we’re headed to Viking land, 600 style!

In this article series, we guess how many EDH decks new commanders will collect one year after release. The line is 600, so "Over" means we foresee they'll have over 600 decks after a year, and "Under" means under 600. The Can't-Miss Pick is my called shot of the set. Finally, note that all picks were made before looking at EDHREC's preliminary deck data. Let's dig in.

Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms

If Halvar was an ice cream sundae, he'd be two scoops Reyav, Master Smith and one scoop Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist. Those flavors lead 36 and 433 decks respectively, which indicates this dish could be a tasty dessert—or maybe it'll melt. Sword of the Realms is interesting simply for the novelty of casting an Equipment from the command zone. But realistically, none of this makes up for the fact that Halvar is mono-white.

My prediction: Under

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

A snow-hoser is good for Modern and Legacy, but hardly relevant in EDH. The other side feels equally underwhelming. Neither side is worthy of further discussion.

My prediction: Under

Sigrid, God-Favored

Unless the EDH metagame becomes overrun by Gods (unlikely), I don’t see Sigrid earning anybody's favor.

My prediction: Under

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

Magic's treatment of Odin is far more buff than Sir Anthony Hopkins in Thor, though I'm not sure what that means for its future popularity. And anyway, it's the backside that players seem to be most interested in...legendary Storm Crow!

Alrund reminds me most of Kefnet the Mindful (198 decks) and Soramaro, First to Dream (13 decks). Not great company there. Despite this dude being an omnipotent God and all, I’m not seeing enough reasons for 600 players to play him.

My prediction: Under

Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel

The only voyage I've ever been on was a cruise to Mexico, during which a guy bit through a drinking glass (that's a true story, swear to god). Let's hope this voyage turns out a little more tame.

You could conceivably build Cosima as a mono-blue Landfall commander or a Vehicle commander. To my knowledge, neither of those have existed before, so that's promising.

What's not so promising is the fact that mono-blue has virtually no ways to get additional land drops. One cannot simply build an entire deck out of just Burnished Hart and Dreamscape Artist. Also, outside of The Omenkeel, blue doesn't do much to incentivize playing Vehicles.

Cosima probably won't make 600, but at least she doesn't eat glass (well, I assume so).

My prediction: Under

Inga Rune-Eyes

This flavor text is gross. I don’t dig the idea of anything being “etched into her eyes.” Nor do I dig the rest of this card, either. A Hill Giant is meh, scry 3 is slightly less meh, and drawing three wouldn’t be meh if three creatures didn’t need to die to trigger it.

My prediction: Under

Orvar, the All-Form

Are the tentacles connected to this guy? If so, I'm officially disturbed.

Fortunately for Orvar, most players don't seem disturbed enough not to play it. Many have noted the power of copying permanents, especially creatures with enter-the-battlefield effects, beneficial enchantments, and utility lands.

However, 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. The infamous Mistform Ultimus is another anologue, too, wielded by awesome YouTubers like MTG Muddstah, but even the Mistform has barely 200 decks under its belt. Also, neither of those have tentacles coming out of their butts like Orvar does, so that's a plus.

My prediction: Under

Egon, God of Death // Throne of Death

Interesting design on both sides, but a vanilla 6/6 at a bargain rate isn’t that impactful in EDH, and the backside is merely good, not great. Love the Benjamin Button reference in the flavor text, though.

My prediction: Under

Tergrid, God of Fright // Tergrid's Lantern

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.

Black is built to do exactly what Tergrid wants you to do. Butcher of Malakir, Priest of Forgotten Gods, Court of Ambition, even Syphon Mind or Dark Deal. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever been tempted to run Thoughtseize in EDH.

Tergrid’s Lantern is fine, but certainly not the reason you’re playing the deck. It’s all about the front half for me—and I expect many players will feel the same way.

My prediction: Over

Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire

Varragoth’s only useful application is tutoring, which reminds me of Maralen of the Mornsong, a commander who leads only 327 decks. I’m sure there are some cEDH applications, but I doubt there will be enough overall interest to move the needle—or sword, as it were.

My prediction: Under

Arni Brokenbrow

If we judge this card on flavor text alone, Arni Brokenbrow would rank somewhere between Raging Goblin and Lhurgoyf. Alas, we must judge Arni on more than just his Troll-bashing skill—and his rules text isn't nearly as good.

If you already have a creature with huge power, I fail to see how adding one to that power makes much of a difference. There's commander damage, sure, but now you need to clear the way for Arni, and at that point, the setup cost feels too high.

My prediction: Under

Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

Let’s be honest: Birgi is the God of Storytelling because she inspires so many Bad Beats stories.

I have a bad feeling about this card. Nothing good can come of making one-mana spells effectively free. Also, the backside seems no less broken. The two of them in tandem is a troubling thought indeed—though, fortunately for us, that's going to be a rarity in EDH.

All this is not to say anything of the card's popularity, however, which I think will be quite high. Birgi does way too much not to go Over.

My prediction: Over

Magda, Brazen Outlaw

I haven’t been this fond of a Dwarf since Gimli. Magda is sweet.

Attacking is the prosaic way to earn Treasure, but there are far flashier means: for instance, crewing Vehicles. Or for those unafraid of contributing to inflation, why not create infinite Treasures by using Magda in tandem with Liquimetal Coating and Clock of Omens?

Best of all, Magda even gives you something useful to do with all that dough. Go ahead, search up one of those combo pieces I mentioned, or perhaps your favorite red Dragon. This card is versatile, unique, and flat-out fun. Easiest pick of the set.

My prediction: Over (Can't Miss Pick!)

Toralf, God of Fury // Toralf's Hammer

Toralf slings excess noncombat damage like it's unlimited breadsticks at Olive Garden. I'm honestly not entirely sure what happens when you cast Blasphemous Act with Toralf on the battlefield, but I'm pretty sure it's devastating.

Toralf reminds me of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell in that it makes red better at what it’s already good at. Occupying the same niche as an already popular commander would normally be cause for concern, but not here. He's so powerful and fun for any mono-red fan that I think he’ll get there regardless.

My prediction: Over

Fynn, the Fangbearer

Fynn is a modified Infect commander, which is pretty sweet (or sour... not sure what poison counters taste like). We last saw Infect a decade ago, and there’s a good reason for that: it's a polarizing mechanic.

Fynn, however, seems destined for unanimous popularity. I'm seeing lots of online interest for him, made possible by cards like this:

And plenty more. I like this card.

My prediction: Over

Kolvori, God of Kinship // The Ringhart Crest

Legendary-matters cards always seem popular, but not wildly so. Just take these three:

The first two went Over, and though Niambi hasn’t had a full year, she's unlikely to hit 600 (just 98 decks currently).

Ultimately, I believe Kolvori will fall in with Niambi. The card drawing potential is limited by its need for legendary creatures. And while the mana rock mode is cool, I doubt many players care to run Arcane Signet as their commander.

My prediction: Under

Toski, Bearer of Secrets

It's odd that Magic players love Squirrels so much, because nobody actually likes squirrels in real life (especially if you own a bird feeder). Nonetheless, Toski is the first legendary creature from one of Magic’s most beloved oddball tribes (Acornelia, Fashionable Filcher and Morophon, the Boundless don't count).

Toski happens to be pretty darn good, especially with a swarm of expendable Squirrel tokens. No secret here—this little rodent will be one of Kaldheim's most successful commanders.

My prediction: Over

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider

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

My prediction: Over

Ranar, the Ever-Watchful

One of two new commanders from the Kaldheim Commander preconstructed decks, Ranar clearly served time in the Army of the Dead from Lord of the Rings. Not sure how that relates to his popularity, if at all, but it should be noted.

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

My prediction: Over

Vega, the Watcher

This Vega doesn't appear to be as ear-choppy as Vic Vega from Reservoir Dogs, so that's a plus. Furthermore, Vega synergizes with a litany of popular mechanics, including the following:

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

Clearly, this card will find a home. Just be sure not to play "Stuck in the Middle with You" while Vega's around.

My prediction: Over

Narfi, Betrayer King

This seems fine, though if you’re playing snow with these colors, you're probably adding green for Jorn, God of Winter (we’ll get to him soon). And if you opt for Zombie tribal, there are far better options there, too.

My prediction: Under

Kardur, Doomscourge

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. Though I appreciate his Davy Jones beard, I'm otherwise unimpressed by this guy.

My prediction: Under

Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

I'm not the world's most Vorthosy guy, but I do have a bone to pick with this card: if I’m Tibalt and I’m going to impersonate someone, shouldn’t I pick the God of Truths instead of the God of Lies? I mean, if and when he finally reveals himself as Tibalt, everyone’s gonna be like, “Oh yeah, the God of Lies lied to us. Checks out.” Kinda kills the surprise.

Anyhoo, this is an Over. 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.

My prediction: Over

Svella, Ice Shaper

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.

Still, Svella feels different enough to carve out its own niche. It's snow, for one, and many players seem hyped to build their own Manaliths.

My prediction: Over

Maja, Bretagard Protector

Landfall and tokens are both popular archetypes, yet there are better options for both in these colors. I'm sure Maja's a hit at leadership conferences, but in EDH, I doubt she'll make make a splash.

My prediction: Under

Firja, Judge of Valor

It's odd seeing a cast-your-second-spell payoff from an Orzhov commander, but the clear synergy here is with Foretell. I appreciate the quirkiness, but I doubt you can really go off with this effect in these colors.

My prediction: Under

Aegar, the Freezing Flame

Aegar is remarkable chiefly because, to my knowledge, it’s exploring some totally uncharted design space. Will that yield commander decks?

I believe so. 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. I like this guy—and his beard.

My prediction: Over

Harald, King of Skemfar

Lately, we’ve had a deluge of Golgari Elf commanders. I'm talking Abomination of Llanowar and Miara, Thorn of the Glade + Numa, Joraga Chieftain from Commander Legends, not to mention our next commander. Harald would bolster the 99 of all these decks, though I doubt it would do a better job of leading them.

My prediction: Under

Lathril, Blade of the Elves

Now here's an Elf Tribal commander. 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.

And as if all that wasn't enough, Lathril is also the face commander of our other precon deck. Easy pick here.

My prediction: Over

Sarulf, Realm Eater

Woof. Calling this card powerful is like calling the sun bright.

Though I don't love cards that depend on your opponents to trigger, Sarulf covers so many bases it doesn't matter. Here are just a few ways an opposing permanent could hit the graveyard:

  • You destroy them.
  • An opponent plays an Aristocrats deck (11,939 of those in our database).
  • Opponent pops a fetch land.
  • Opponent pops Treasure and/or Clue tokens.

All of the above scenarios are not just possible—they’re ubiquitous. Therefore, the only questions I have about Sarulf are A) How often will it survive long enough to exile stuff? and B) Will playgroups hate it out?

I suppose both remain to be seen. But I doubt either will affect this pup’s popularity.

My prediction: Over

Koll, the Forgemaster

With Reyav, Master Smith, Wyleth, Soul of Steel, Akiri, Fearless Voyager, and now this guy, we suddenly have a surplus of Boros Equipment- and Aura-based commanders. Can Koll surpass his rivals?

Doubtful. Recouping a deceased Equipped/enchanted creature is interesting, but one can’t do anything truly broken with that ability (that I’m aware of). Even if you could, we must remember that Boros is consistently one of EDH’s least popular color combinations. Players need a reason to play red-white commanders, while combos like Simic usually demand a reason not to play them. Sorry, Koll.

My prediction: Under

Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Speaking of Simic. A seven-mana 6/6 that can’t be countered and that poops out 3/3s each upkeep (each, not just yours) would already be mucho playable. Add on a highly useful bullet list that promotes a unique tribe, and you've got a potential superstar. Slam-dunk pick here.

My prediction: Over

Moritte of the Frost

This fellow might be a White Walker, but I don't think that'll affect its popularity. For one, it's 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.

My prediction: Over

Jorn, God of Winter // Kaldring, the Rimestaff

Sultai snow is already kind of a thing with Muldrotha the Gravetide and Yarok, the Desecrated. Jorn does this theme even better. If you have instant-speed ways to spend tons of mana, you can go off: attack, tap all your snow lands with the trigger on the stack, then untap and tap them again, then spend all that mana on something like Pull from Tomorrow or Untamed Might.

And that’s just the front side. Unlike many other Gods, Jorn’s backside is just as sweet, if not more so. Kaldring, the Rimestaff is clearly an awesome value engine in a self-mill snow deck, allowing you to play snow permanents (including lands) from the graveyard. Huge fan of this card.

My prediction: Over

Esika, God of the Tree // The Prismatic Bridge

I've said this before and I’ll say it again: five-color commanders always go Over. In fact, since I started this series two years ago, no WUBRG commander has ever gone Under. I think Esika is no different.

I'm guessing most players will play her for The Prismatic Bridge half, and I can’t really blame them. Casting a free spell every turn is sweet, especially when you have all five colors to work with. The Esika, God of the Tree half of the card is just gravy.

My prediction: Over


Under (17):

Over (17):

Can't Miss Pick

Whew, that's a lot of commanders. We'll check back in a year to see how they did. In the meantime, enjoy Kaldheim!

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 Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.

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