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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Feb 15 2021 1:00pm
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A GUIDE TO BRAWL: KALDHEIM

 Winter update to the Brawl series! The legendaries from the icy world of Kaldheim add to the Brawl commander options from Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond DeathIkoria: Lair of BehemothsCore Set 2021, and Zendikar Rising.

 The 36 new commanders come in all combinations of one and two colors, plus single additions for Sultai and Pentacolor. Grixis is the only combination with no available commanders at the moment.

 The total number of available commanders is brought up to 146 – which is 150, minus the four that are currently banned: Oko, Thief of Crowns (banned in November 2019), Lutri, the Spellchaser (banned in April 2020), Winota, Joiner of Forces (banned in May 2020), and Omnath, Locus of Creation (banned in October 2020).

   

 The count by color becomes as follows (not including the planeswalkers from the starter decks).

  • Monowhite: 11 commanders (+3)
  • Monoblue: 15 commanders (+4)
  • Monoblack: 14 commanders (+3)
  • Monored: 14 commanders (+4)
  • Monogreen: 16 commanders (+4)
  • Azorius: 5 commanders (+2)
  • Dimir: 5 commanders (+1)
  • Rakdos: 5 commanders (+2)
  • Gruul: 7 commanders (+1)
  • Selesnya: 5 commanders (+1)
  • Orzhov: 7 commanders (+2)
  • Izzet: 6 commanders (+1) – 1 banned
  • Golgari: 9 commanders (+3)
  • Boros: 6 commanders (+1) – 1 banned
  • Simic: 7 commanders (+2) – 1 banned
  • Esper: 1 commander
  • Grixis: 0 commanders
  • Jund: 1 commander
  • Naya: 1 commander
  • Bant: 1 commander
  • Abzan: 1 commander
  • Jeskai: 2 commanders
  • Sultai: 2 commanders (+1)
  • Mardu: 2 commanders
  • Temur: 1 commander
  • Quadricolor: 1 commander (+1) – 1 banned
  • Pentacolor: 4 commanders (+1)
  • Colorless: 1 commander

 Aside from the four banned commanders, three extra cards cannot be included in Brawl decks: Sorcerous Spyglass, as it shuts down commanders that are planeswalkers; Drannith Magistrate, as it prevents the casting from the command zone; and Runed Halo, as it can be easily abused by naming the opposing commander. Meddling_Mage and Gideon's Intervention are added to the Historic Brawl ban list for similar reasons.

    

 Now let's see what Kaldheim brings!

 Jump to: Monowhite, Monoblue, Monoblack, Monored, Monogreen, Azorius, Dimir, Rakdos, Gruul, Selesnya, Orzhov, Izzet, Golgari, Boros, Simic, Sultai, Pentacolor.


 MONOWHITE BRAWL COMMANDERS

     

 Halvar, God of Battle: With its particular application of the modal double-faced card mechanic, Kaldheim introduces the novel concept of commanders that can be played as different permanent types other than creatures or planeswalkers. Halvar, Magic's take on the one-handed Norse god Týr (whom the Romans likened to Mars/Ares), could just drop as an Equipment that provides a small boost and recursion, which is nice enough. Halvar himself is a specialized commander for decks focused on Auras and Equipment – moving one of those around for free at the beginning of each combat (which includes the opponent's turn) is particularly juicy, but the monowhite identity is a concern, especially considering there are a few options in Boros, like Akiri, Nahiri, or Kaldheim's new entry Koll.

 Reidane, God of the Worthy: This Freyja (or Sól) stand-in is a commander for a Hatebear/Death & Taxes kind of lists. The problem with such approach in Brawl and Commander is that you never really know if you'll be hating on a relevant element. For instance, Reidane hoses snow lands. Will she face snow decks? Possibly. Will that happen every time you play her? Probably not. Noncreature spells with cost higher than three are more frequent, but most removal will be unaffected by the tax, anyway. The Shield on the back is actually more appealing than the goddess herself – the damage reduction does add up – but, once again, it doesn't guarantee every opposing list will equally care about its effects.

 Sigrid, God-Favored: Sigrid is a flash-speed Banisher Priest (or a Stasis Snare on legs, if you prefer), with the limitation of only targeting attacking or blocking creature, but with a couple of additional keywords. She's all right, although she doesn't strike as a very impactful commander. Sure, she's removal, but of the temporary variety, and each new visit to the command zone will bring back the exiled permanent. Granted, if you happen to be battling against a God commander, she'll make for a great line of defense. But that's about it.


 MONOBLUE BRAWL COMMANDERS

    

 Alrund, God of the Cosmos: Kaldheim's resident Odin emphasizes the wisdom-related side of its source. The triggered ability is quite strong: if you guess it right, it could draw you up to two cards per turn, as unlikely as that's going to be. Of course the intention here is digging for what you need the most at any given moment (land or anything but land being the primary dichotomy), so in this sense it can be seen as a form of super-scry. On the other hand, Alrund's body, while having the potential to be impressive, has very low base stats and will be underwhelming most often than not – but at least, by also counting the foretold cards, it doesn't punish us for using them. Is the whole package worth five mana? Doubtful, as Alrund's role on the battlefield is disappointingly narrow, and could amount to little more than a simple Search for Azcanta. The flip side doesn't help much either, since Hakka is just a decent, aggressively costed blocker that's mostly a way to scry 2 by paying two mana every turn, provided a larger flyer didn't show up on the other side of the battlefield in the meantime. As a plus, returning Hakka to hand allows you recast Alrund circumventing the commander tax, which is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the entire card.

 Cosima, God of the Voyage: This version of the sea goddess Rán is extremely flavorful, styled as a seafaring explorer on one side, her Viking ship on the other. The creature's mechanic is a bit convoluted, and plays not as neatly as one would like (having to wait for the upkeep before Cosima starts doing anything is kind of painful, and the fruits of her travels are reape even more down the line), but can be rewarding. And it's hard to imagine wanting a vehicle as your commander, but the crew requirement is small and ramping in blue is a real rarity. There's not any specific Brawl deck for Cosima to headline, but the allure exists, the flavor is rich, and one just has to find a way to duplicate one of the halves and have Cosima pilot her own drakkar.

  

 Inga Rune-Eyes: If you take Inga as a commander, you'll just want her to keep dying, so you keep scrying and hopefully drawing three cards per iteration. Being a four-mana card, this routine is probably not going to stay mana-efficient for long, I'm afraid. The push toward a creature-heavy blue list is somewhat interesting, although then Inga seems much more useful as part of the regular 59 in a Thassa build.

 Orvar, the All-Form: Changeling in Kaldheim appears on blue, green, and colorless cards, so Orvar is not going to be the Brawl commander of a changeling-based list, especially not when you can run Moritte of the Frost instead. It's still an attractive commander due to its cloning galore. It wants for you to find the perfect distribution between permanents to copy and instants or sorceries to trigger the ability, which could be challenging in monoblue, but gives a very unique identity to the deck. The last ability is sadly not going to ever work in Brawl, unless you somehow find a way to return Orvar to your hand and the opponent didn't read the text.


 MONOBLACK BRAWL COMMANDERS

     

 Egon, God of Death: The gender-flipped Hel is not exactly amazing in regular Constructed, since he basically comes with an upkeep cost that's bound to exhaust itself quickly, or at the very least will make it hard to fully exploit the advantageous cost/body ratio. In non-singleton formats, the one-drop self-milling artifact on Egon's back side helps paying for Egon's maintenance later, when we draw into additional copies of the card; in Brawl, on the other hand, it's going to be very difficult to get access to both sides. Still, a dedicated self-milling deck could find the Throne of Death desirable as a turn-one play that eventually provides some card drawing. All in all, not the most exciting commander out of Kaldheim, though. Jumping through all the hoops required to fuel Egon's continuous existence merely rewards us with a non-evasive 6/6 beater, too dull to really pique most players' interest.

 Tergrid, God of Fright: Inspired to the Nordic personification of night, easily recognizable from her Old Norse name of Nótt, Tergrid is definitely the most thrilling black build-around commander from Kaldheim. She's a bit expensive and fairly exposed to removal (she's tough enough to survive Storm's Wrath, Thundering Rebuke, Demon Bolt and Tundra Fumarole, at least), but her "insult to injury" ability is nothing short of awesome. Start making the opponent discard and/or sacrifice permanents in her presence, and the board state is going to rapidly degenerate. Her Lantern is also a valid option as a finisher in the late game, sort of a build-your-own Torment of Hailfire. You'll wish to be able to have both sides on the battlefield at the same time, but in Brawl, we'll have to do with just picking the one that better suits the situation at hand.

 Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire: This small Demon has a very straightforward pattern: attack, activate boast to Vampiric Tutor the card we need, hope deathtouch is deterrent enough to block Varragoth, so we can do it again. If he manages to dribble removal, worst case scenario will be he trades for something and we got to choose our next draw. In a singleton format where pulling the right spell out of the library can be key, Varragoth's neat little trick could represent sufficient credentials for a commander job, even considering the initial mana investment is not steep. If there's any monoblack combo you want to assemble in Brawl, Varragoth is your guy.


 MONORED BRAWL COMMANDERS

    

 Birgi, God of Storytelling: The counterpart to Sága or Bragi is a deceptive card to evaluate, because her two abilities and her back side seem to go in wildly different directions. Doubling boast is possibly the least interesting aspect – there are only six other cards with boast that are monored (plus Frenzied Raider as a payoff), and while some of them are worth activating twice per turn, the overall number isn't significant enough to define a deck helmed by Birgi. Instead, the mana boost can lead to an explosive mid-game, and later on it'll be pretty easy to get rid of your 3/3 God and run out the Horn, impulsive-drawing your way to card advantage. Not a spectacular commander, but a very solid and flexible one.

 Toralf, God of Fury: Magic's direct homage to Thor is slightly underwhelming, compare to the immense popularity and recognizability of the character, both within and outside Norse mythology. His stats are decent, but the ability encourages a build-around of just running a bunch of burn spells in monored, which is neither novel nor particularly engaging. Essentially, when Toralf is around, all your burn gets split between multiple targets. It's certainly powerful, but is it reason to switch from your four-mana monored commander of choice, Torbran? The Hammer (which I wish was given a proper name, like they did for the gear belonging to several other Gods) is going to be the discriminating factor here, but it's similarly not as strong as one might have expected. The power bonus to legendaries feels largely irrelevant – you can't equip Toralf himself in Brawl, so you'll probably end up with no more than three or four potential targets in your entire deck – and the repeatable Lighting Bolt, as flavorful as it is, requires six mana to get going. It's also a way to reset the card to the Toralf side, but it entails a sequence where you played the Hammer on turn two, then later spent four mana to deal three damage, ending up with no permanent left on the battlefield. It can be punishing in the late game, but it's clunky nonetheless.

  

 Arni, Brokenbrow: A three-drop 3/3 hasty commander that can become larger? It's not the most thrilling option – if you want to be fast and low to the ground, you can just go Gruul for Gallia – but not the most unattractive, either. A simple guy for simple smashing times.

 Magda, Brazen Outlaw: If you're eager to build a Dwarf tribal deck in Brawl (that includes a Dragon or two), Magda is clearly going to be your commander. The idea is not even too out-there, considering you get to play all seven copies of the Seven Dwarves, plus another six monored Dwarves, one of whom is named Torbran.


 MONOGREEN BRAWL COMMANDERS

     

 Fynn, the Fangbearer: The unexpected return of poison in Kaldheim lends itself to a dedicated deck, despite the fact that Fynn is the only card in Standard that produces poison counters. But since he weaponizes deathtouch creatures, and green still has a few of those (not too many, but almost all of them within the boundaries of playability, with Elvish Warmaster as mass provider of the keyword), the build is actually feasible, and made better by the fact that Fynn himself is very cheap to recast from the command zone, and a valuable early blocker that makes fight and bite spells more effective.

 Kolvori, God of Kinship: This very niche goddess, based on Thor's wife Sif, plainly asks to be surrounded by other legendaries. How would a deck like that look in monogreen? There are currently other 13 legendary creatures in the color, describing a curve that covers every spot from CMC 2 to CMC 6. Some of these are cards, like Questing Beast, Toski and Kogla, that you would be hard-pressed not to incorporate into any monogreen Brawl build, and most of the others make for robust inclusions in any case. Kolvori is made stronger by their presence, can dig for them, and, perhaps more importantly, provides a priceless two-drop mana rock for them, in the form of the Crest that's found on her back side. The only issue here is that running Arcane Signet as a commander is as dull as it is profitable.

 Toski, Bearer of Secrets: The first ever legendary Squirrel, fashioned after the mythological Ratatoskr, is set to instantly become a new staple of green in Brawl. Since the rotation of Guardian Project, the color is left with only The Great Henge as a major reliable source of repeated card drawing. Now Toski positions himself as an improvement over Keeper of Fables, being one mana cheaper, uncounterable and indestructible, as well as able to draw multiple cards per attack (only downside: he can't be exploited as a blocker, or at least not frequently). And since he can be your commander too, why not put such a crucial ability right there in the command zone, where it'll be continuously available?  

 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider: Here's something else nobody would have predicted we would meet on the Viking plane – Phyrexians! The first of his kind to be printed in black border with the new, proper subtype, Vorinclex makes his enigmatic apparition in Kaldheim, offering a Doubling Season on legs that's also able to take residence in the command zone. The green Praetor only affects counters, not tokens, but in that regard he's even more powerful than the iconic enchantment, because his doubling ability covers loyalty activations too. And in keeping with the same asymmetrically paired effects of the five original Praetors, he adds the halving of all opponents' counters as well, reducing every instance of a single counter to absolute zero, which has a wide range of applications, from Sagas to Heliod. Vorinclex is a deadly entertaining, The Ozolith-loving, over-the-top commander, expensive but capable of hitting hard out of nowhere, and easily proving himself a real game-changer on the battlefield. 


 AZORIUS BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Vega, the Watcher: This owl-shaped card-drawing engine has clearly more applications in Commander than in Brawl, but it was created to assist with foretell cards, and between those and adventures, there's enough fuel within the Azorius Standard pool to make it conceivable as a centerpiece.

 Niko Aris: One of the two debuting planeswalkers in Kaldheim (the other being Tyvar Kell), the genderfluid Niko uses a different approach to their card type in a white-blue context. Sure, they still supply ways to draw cards through their Shard tokens (sort of an improved Clue), but they also want to have creatures with good ETB effects around, to return in hand and retrigger with the plus ability. Niko's power level is not exactly off the chart, but they can be a worthwhile alternative to Yorion as generic "good stuff" Azorius commander.


 DIMIR BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Narfi, Betrayer King: Yet another tribal commander, at least at first sight, Narfi demands to be accompanied by Zombies and heralded by plenty of snow. His real strength is the self-recursion, though. It's always awkward for a commander to be better off not exploiting the command zone, but in the case of Narfi, the graveyard ability makes him less expensive than his regular casting cost as well. In fact, not being able to mill him from the library or discard him from the hand becomes a minor annoyance in Brawl.


 RAKDOS BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Kardur, Doomscourge: Obviously, this Demon's first ability is at its best in multiplayer, and in fact runs the risk of not doing much of anything in one-on-one. The draining trigger is serviceable, but not too easy to abuse. Overall, Kardur is not going to steal any other Rakdos commander's thunder.

 Valki, God of Lies: Could a set based on Norse mythology lack its own incarnation of Loki? It clearly couldn't, but the surprising element here is the way this card is pulling a trick on the trickster god himself, by having him abducted and replaced by none other than good old Tibalt, here depicted in a showy version that seems designed to vindicate the ridicule suffered by the original Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. The result is a very versatile commander that you can play as a two-drop hand disruptor, then recast from the command zone as the revealed Cosmic Impostor, exiling and appropriating cards left and right.


 GRUUL BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Svella, Ice Shaper: Ramp is important in Brawl as it is Commander. Svella's version of it isn't fast – in fact, it makes you give up on a significant portion of round 3, just to start – but it's entwined with snow synergies and provides its own big payoff. This ice-sculpting Troll lady might not be Gruul's primary commander choice (not with GalliaKlothys and Radha still in the pool), but it's a novel one, suggesting a wider curve.


 SELESNYA BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Maja, Bretagard Protector: Unlike Gruul, Selesnya doesn't have the most accomplished set of possible commanders. Those unwilling to go the enchantment or Aura specialized route are pretty much left with only Yasharn, which is more serviceable than inspiring, even as an efficient landfall enabler for our Felidar Retreat and our Scute Swarm shenanigans. Now Maja might just be an uncommon, but she's also an incredibly impactful landfall payoff, which seems bound to position her as the dominant leader of go-wide builds in Brawl.


 ORZHOV BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Firja, Judge of Valor: Despite her evocative back story (she's the only valkyrie that's both shepherd and reaper), Firja suffers her uncommonality more than most other members of that legendary cycle. Her body is underwhelming for five dual-colored mana, and her ability doesn't come up as often as one would like in Orzhov. She would have really shined as a 5/5 mythic with a less restrictive trigger. This said, if one wants an Angel as a commander of a Brawl tribal build devoted to the winged subtype, Firja is pretty much the only choice that lets us pick both the white ones and the black ones (no offense to Linvala). It'd be a flavor solution first and foremost, but so it goes.

 Kaya the Inexorable: Every planeswalker that's capable of exiling any threat from the get-go is bound to raise people's attention. Sporting a new haircut that makes her look like she's out of a blaxpoitation movie from the Seventies, Kaya is back in an incarnation that doesn't mess around, and naturally favors creatures with ETB triggers to ghostform and repeat – much in the same vein as Athreos, except in a completely non-janky way.


 IZZET BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Aegar, the Freezing Flame: You can pick your tribal build with Aegar – Giant, Wizard, or a combination thereof. In all cases, you'll get a decently costed creature with an extremely relevant ability that will make your deck flow like a river of card advantage. If there's one word that Aegar truly hates is "exacties"!


 GOLGARI BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Harald, King of Skemfar: Golgari Elves are going to be a real thing in the Standard meta that's shaping up, and they have two different Brawl commanders to choose from. Harald is the more workmanlike, impulsing an extra card for us without providing much more value once he's hit the battlefield. This means he's probably going to play second banana to the more substantial Tyvar, but any Elf deck will still happily include their king.

 Sarulf, Realm Eater: The biggest and baddest of Wolves is clearly a nod to the mythological Fenrir, one of the two monstrous offsprings of Loki (the other being the serpent Jörmungandr) that are going to do bad things to Odin and the universe. Specifically, Sarulf's body grows whenever opposing permanents die, and from that point on you'll get access to a repeatable Pernicious Deed activation. It's not as smooth as it sounds, because we need to wait for our upkeep in order to launch Sarulf's world-eating routine, so the opponent will get many chances to dispatch him before he can wreak some serious havoc; also, building our hungry puppy up to the amount of counters that takes care of what's threatening us may prove difficult without external help. But overall, having that possibility built into your commander sure is an electrifying proposition.

 Tyvar Kell: Kaldheim's local boy planeswalker does everything you need him to go in an Elf build: create more Elves, make them stronger, give mana dork capabilities to all of them. He was designed as a tribal commander like few other cards before him (he's basically a much better version of poor old Nissa Revane), and that's the role he'll merrily perform.


 BOROS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Koll, the Forgemaster: Boros already has two major commanders that specialize in Equipment, Akiri and Nahiri. Koll has a lower profile than both Kor ladies, but he's cheaper and brings a different angle to the enterprise, giving the equipped creatures recursion. And he also works with Auras, for what it's worth. The anthem that only cares for enchanted or equipped tokens is a bonus, if a bit weird – how many of those are you realistically going to have out on the battlefield at once?


 SIMIC BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Koma, Cosmos Serpent: Inspired to Jörmungandr, Koma is Sarulf's counterpart – the Wolf sweeps the board, the Serpent fills it with a quantity of tokens that represent its majestic spires. Koma's growth takes place in each player's upkeep, so it's gonna spiral out of control pretty fast, and after the first upkeep is cleared, and the indestructibility is on the table, getting rid of the sea monster is gonna become harder and harder, which certainly makes for a great finisher in ramp decks. Is all of this also commander's material, though? Well, mana ramping is still Simic's bread and butter; it all boils down to personal tastes: do we prefer a commander that helps with the plan, like Kinnan, or one that is the plan, like Koma?

 Moritte of the Frost: And what about a commander that is a clone? Believe it or not, this is the first time we're given this choice in Simic (if only Progenitor Mimic were legendary!), and only the third overall after original Sakashima and his Commander Legends return, and the first time the cloning affects any kind of permanent, not just creature – in a pinch, you can have Moritte enter as a land, even! Now, I'm gonna guess that's not going to happen too often, but the versatility is real. Downside is, your commander is not gonna do much while there isn't anything relevant to copy, and nothing at all on an empty board. But it's a cool one for sure, and combo shenanigans might just be around the corner, especially in Commander proper. On top of everything else, Moritte and Orvar are also the first changeling commanders to appear in the game since Morophon.


 SULTAI BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Jorn, God of Winter: Out of the 29 nonland snow cards currently in Standard (and I wouldn't expect to see any more in this rotation), 25 squarely falls under Jorn's jurisdiction, so this gender-flipped version of the mythical Norse goddess of winter is quite naturally the designated commander for snow synergy decks. Doubling all mana and tap activations in second main every turn, or at least for as long as we can find a way to safely attack with Jorn, is a decisive advantage to say the least, and the staff on the other side is just as good, essentially ensuring free recursion for all of our permanents. Do you want to build a snowdeck?


 PENTACOLOR BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Esika, God of the Tree: Current five-color options in Brawl include the all-purpose Kenrith, the mana fixer Jegantha, and the party payoff Tazri. Of these, only the former has any right to call himself impactful, and now Esika is coming to challenge that claim. A different version of Freyja (taking some aspects from Idunn as well), this spunky little goddess in her creature form helps fixing the mana for five-color endeavors. That's good and all, but it's the kaleidoscopic bridge on her back what really catches the eye and excites the imagination. In no small measure thanks to freshly completed Pathway cycle, Standard has now the mana technology necessary to cast Kaldheim's own Bifröst on curve most of the times; and even without resorting to mana dorks, so nothing will get in the way of The Prismatic Bridge pulling only the most high-profile creatures and planeswalkers out of our deck, chosen among any and all that are available in the pool, and slapping them directly onto the battlefield, every single turn. That's one dizzying payoff for putting together all five colors. Take some notes, Tazri.


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