View of Haarlem with Bleaching Fields by Jacob Van Ruisdael (1865-70). Pillage by Jesper Ejsing.
Today we'll look at an interesting aspect of some of the new Kaldheim commanders. For the first time we've been given modal double-faced cards (MDFCs) that have a legendary creature on the front side. That means these they can be played in the command zone!
I've already shared a silly Squirrels list built around Esika, God of the Tree, a slightly less silly snow-themed list built around Jorn, God of Winter, and a pretty nasty deck built around Tergrid, God of Fright. Today I'm going to look at the mono-White Reidane, God of the Worthy, but I'm going to also go on a bit of a tangent. Before I do that, let's look at today's commander.
Reidane will force your opponents' snow lands to enter tapped, which isn't a big deal. Noncreature spells your opponents cast with CMC four or greater will cost two more to cast, which could be a big deal against certain decks. The flip side of Reidane is Valkmira, Protector's Shield. That legendary artifact will prevent a damage from each source an opponent controls. It will also tax your opponents for targeting your stuff, costing then one mana for any ability or spell they control. Not bad, but how do we choose which one we want to cast?
To be clear, you can't cast both of this card's sides out of the command zone at the same time. You can't like... pay the total mana cost and then balance it on its end so both sides were active. I mean... in a casual game if I had an opponent who could somehow keep an un-bent Reidane, God of the Worthy standing up without any support and without using a stand I might actually consider letting them use both sides. I might also consider sneezing at just the right time so their magic trick stopped working. Long story short - you must pick a side.
I'm going to share a Reidane list with you before today's column is done, but first let's channel our inner Miguel and Tulio and look at a way we can keep from having to choose.
"Both is good"
Sure, you can't legally cast both sides of a MDFC commander at the same time, but we're playing Commander so there are plenty of ways to make a copy of a permanent. The legend rule will conveniently send the original card back to the command zone. If we've got the mana available we can pay however much tax has built up and cast it again - this time using the other side.
The new legendary creature Moritte of the Frost can become a copy of any permanent I control, except that it's legendary and snow. Lots of clones can copy creatures, but being able to copy an artifact, equipment or land makes Moritte particularly versatile. Phyrexian Metamorph can copy an artifact or a creature. Ideally, we'll want our copy to stick around, but it doesn't really matter if we're playing a Phantasmal Image or making a token with Cackling Counterpart.
Making copies is much easier if we're in Blue, but in any color we could run Mirage Mirror and make it a copy of one of our MDFC legendary permanents until end of turn. I lean away from things that only last until end of turn, but if we can find a strong enough synergy to take advantage of, it's good to know there are ways to let us try this little trick in any color.
Let's take a run through our new Kaldheim MDFC legendary creatures to see if there's any special synergy we can unlock by jumping through a few hoops to get both sides onto the field at the same time. It's worth noting that commander tax will make this a fairly mana-intensive gambit so this plan is unlikely to be playable in faster metas where your decks have to be leaner, faster and more efficient than the decks you see in casual play.
Will any of these cards give us so much synergy for putting both sides out at once that it's worth jumping through a few hoops?
Halvar, God of Battle helps you out with auras and equip costs and will give double strike to enchanted or equipped creatures you control. Sword of the Realms gives +2/+0 and vigilance and will bounce the equipped creature to your hand if it dies. I'm not sure +2/+0 qualifies as a sword that "cuts through the Cosmos itself" but there is definitely some synergy here. It's just not so powerful that I think Halvar / Sword of the Realms is worth getting too excited about. They should have dropped that flavor text and given the sword a little extra something. A bonus that would only apply if it was equipped to a God might have been nice.
Kaldheim's Odin stand-in, Alrund, God of the Cosmos, cares about the cards in your hand and likes when you use the shiny new foretell mechanic. He'll also let you try to guess what's on top of your library and if you're lucky you might draw another card or two. Hakka, Whispering Raven might let you scry 2 when it hits an opponent, but it also bounces to your hand so you'll likely only get to do that every other turn at best. It works thematically but having Hakka bounce to let you scry takes a mediocre ability and makes it even worse. I don't see building a Alrund / Hakka "both is good" gameplan with these two. The juice just isn't worth the squeeze.
Valki, God of Lies will exile creatures from your opponents' hands and you get to play them until Valki leaves the battlefield. A new instance of Valki won't have access to the creatures another instance of Valki exiled, so that's going to complicate any plans we have to use both sides of this card at the same time. Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor gives you an emblem and does basically the same thing but with loyalty abilities and in slightly different ways. They're both neat ways to steal and play creatures in Rakdos, but they don't really synergize with each other as much as they provide redundancy for your game plan. I think the "both is good" argument for Valki and Tibalt is that they'll be good together but there's no added value. If the rules allowed both sides of the card to give you access to the cards the other had exiled, I might be more excited about these two being on the field together but as I understand it they don't work that way.
With Toralf, God of Fury, we finally have the burn commander we've been looking for (apologies to Torbran, Thane of Red Fell). This God will let you rip a single huge X burn spell through an opponent's army or take a spell that normally only targets a creature, hit a 1/1 and push the excess damage through to its controller. Toralf's Hammer... it's well themed, but also underwhelming. You pay 2 mana, tap the equipped creature and do 3 damage to any target. You then have to re-cast and re-equip it to use it again. This is definitely NOT a case of "both is good" because Toralf is fine, but his hammer is really, really bad. I think he should have spent some time studying under Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, because Toralf clearly doesn't know what he's doing when it comes to making hammers.
Esika, God of the Tree wants you to build a deck full of legendary creatures and will reward you by giving them vigilance and letting them tap for any color. Easy access to all five colors will make it that much easier to cast The Prismatic Bridge, which will cheat a creature or planeswalker onto the battlefield on your upkeep. Having both cards on the field at the same time is really strong, but your results will depend on what kinds of creatures or planeswalkers you're running. This might be a strong pair of cards, but it isn't actually giving you a lot of synergy. Here it's undeniable that "both is good," but just good, not great. Neither side of this MDFC feeds into the other in a truly broken way - they're just both strong in their own unique ways.
Cosima, God of the Voyage might play well with The Omenkeel, but she won't be on the field as often as our other legendary creatures. We'll be exiling her on our upkeep and bringing her back when we play a land. We'll draw cards for our trouble, which is nice, and this party trick plays well with The Omenkeel. That legendary vehicle will allow our vehicles to grab lands off our opponent's libraries if they do damage to an opponent. It doesn't give us extra land drops, but it does let us play our opponents' lands, giving us a better chance at returning Cosima from his voyage each turn. I love this interaction and love the idea of a Cosima "both is good" deck. This synergy draws us cards and helps with our land drops. It's quite good, but it's also not broken.
This 6/6 deathtouching Egon, God of Death costs a paltry three mana to cast, but if we can't exile two cards from our graveyard on our upkeep, we'll have to sacrifice Egon. We'll draw a card when we do so and there may be times where that's helpful, but let's assume we want to keep Egon around. If we've also got Throne of Death on the field, we'll mill a card at the beginning of our upkeep. All we need to do is find another way to put a card in our graveyard and we'll be able to keep up with Egon's upkeep cost. We control both triggers so we can mill and then pay the cost of exiling two cards. Throne of Death also lets us draw a card at a small cost, but that's not a big deal. I think an Egon / Throne of Death plan will make it easier to keep Egon around, but there are easier ways to self-mill in Black without jumping through all those hoops.
Tergrid, God of Fright is a nasty piece of work. You'll get any nontoken permanents your opponents sacrifice or discard. When built right, this looks to be a powerful and challenging deck to face off against. Tergrid's Lantern might be an infinite mana outlet, but with Tergrid also on the field it probably just means you can tap it to hit target player for 3 life. They're unlikely to discard or sacrifice something useful so that you'll get it. A Tergrid "both is good" deck isn't really doing anything any more oppressive than Tergrid is already trying to do. While both Tergrid and Tergrid's Lantern are arguably among the most powerful cards in this set, I don't think you gain much by having both on the field at once.
This friendly God just wants to bring other legendary creatures together. Kolvori, God of Kinship will go from being a 2/4 to a 6/6 with vigilance, which is a significant upgrade if you're looking to go to combat. For two mana, Kolvori can tap and let you grab a legendary creature from the top six cards of your library. The Ringhart Crest forces you to pick a tribe and it can tap for a Green mana that you can only use to cast a creature of the chosen type or a legendary creature. Kolvori's love for her family may know no bounds, but The Ringhart Crest is really underwhelming. A mono-Green mana rock with restrictions built in and no real upside isn't nothing, but it's arguably worse than a Llanowar Elves. I don't think this is unplayable and but I also don't think you'd go for a Kolvori "both is good" game plan for any reason other than the memes. It can be fun to do silly things but it's probably not worth the trouble in this case.
Jorn, God of Winter is a quasi-Bear Umbra on a stick and that's an undeniably powerful effect to have in your command zone if you've gone all-in on snow permanents. Kaldring, the Rimestaff not only gives you access to Blue and Black, it will also tap to let you play target snow permanent from your graveyard this turn. That permanent might enter tapped, but Jorn is pretty good at untapping show permanents. I didn't even think about diving down this rabbit hole when I built my Jorn, God of Winter deck, but this is a genuinely strong bit of synergy that makes me want to revisit that build and set up ways to pull this off. I think Jorn / Kaldring "both is good" is a fantastic way to make the most out of this unique opportunity a MDFC commander presents and I expect it'll be a lot of fun to pull off in a game. I might need to go rework my Jorn deck now.
The Mono-Red Birgi, God of Storytelling will give you a Red mana every time you cast (not copy) a spell. That mana will last all turn long, so you can use mana you earned in your first main phase or in combat later in the turn without losing it. Birgi also lets your creatures boast twice, but you'll still have to pay for each of those boast activations. Birgi's mana boost is why she's a big deal, and Harnfel, Horn of Bounty plays quite nicely into that ability. Harnfel lets you discard a card to exile and have access to the top two cards of your library. You can do this multiple times each turn, so if you've got a way to draw cards you could set yourself up to build a decent storm count. I like the Birgi / Harnfel "both is good" synergy a lot, and I could see this interaction setting up a game-ending turn with just the right build. You've just got to find a way to keep drawing those cards. This is the kind of deck where an artifact that will copy your Harnfel, Horn of Abundance might make sense, though Red does also have ways to make token copies of creatures.
We've finally gotten to today's commander. Reidane, God of the Worthy will tax any opponent wanting to cast a noncreature spell with a CMC of four or more. Valkmira, Protector's Shield will help protect you from anyone trying to ping you to death or swing with an army of weenies. It will also tax anyone for targeting your stuff. While the two sides don't specifically synergize, they both represent parts of an overall stax/control strategy that play well together. I like the versatility of being able to choose the side you need for a given situation, but I also like the idea of getting both onto the battlefield at once. Is it synergy? Not really, but it's good stuff. Reidane / Valkmira "both is good" isn't the kind of plan that's going to overwhelm your opponents, but it will keep you just a little bit safer as you try to advance your deck's strategy.
I love when I stumble upon something cute and unexpected when building a Commander deck and the idea of getting both sides of your MDFC commander on the field at the same time is a great example of that. You don't expect someone to do that in Commander, but it looks like this isn't a universally powerful tactic for just any MDFC commander deck. Jorn, God of Winter and Birgi, God of Storytelling represent some of the best choices for this odd little trick. Jorn will want to have his Rimestaff out a lot, while Birgi will probably just wait for a big turn and will use Harnfel to try to push to victory with access to a few extra cards that will hopefully make the difference. Cosima, God of the Voyage and The Omenkeel look like they'll be wonderful together, and this "both is good" plan will be a lot easier for decks that are in Blue.
I wasn't sure going into this tangent whether I'd be uncovering anything truly broken, but it stands to reason that Wizards of the Coast built these cards with other formats in mind. They couldn't get away with producing a truly busted MDFC "both is good" scenario because most other formats allow you to run up to four of the same card in a deck. Running playsets of cards makes it much easier to get both sides onto the field at the same time. In Commander the fact that we're a singleton format makes that much harder, but strangely also more tempting to try.
Holy wall of text, Batman! I guess I underestimated how long it would take to go on our little side trip through the thought experiment of having both sides of a MDFC commander on the field at the same time. I think it was worth it, but let's not waste a second more and move on to take a closer look at Reidane, God of the Worthy.
We Are Not Worthy
Reidane is White, which is something of a limitation in today's Commander. Even if we're able to get Reidane and Valkmira, Protector's Shield on the field at the same time, that doesn't give me a clear plan for how to win the game. Since Reidane seems to naturally lean in a stax direction, I've decided to build this as something of a stax deck.
I've been led to believe that stax decks attempt to compete against stronger, faster decks by gumming up the works of the game. If everyone is stuck only drawing one card per turn, only playing one spell per turn, only attacking or blocking with one creature per turn, and so on, we should theoretically have a chance to be able to keep up with better decks.
I'm running healthy amounts of removal including more boardwipes than I usually put into my decks and an assortment of lands that can destroy my opponents' lands. I've even set up my deck to be able to use Mirrorworks to make a copy of Valkmira, Protector's Shield so I can try to get both sides out at the same time.
My main plan for winning is to load up Reidane and swing my opponents with commander damage. She's got vigilance so I can swing with her and not need to worry about untapping her if I've got a Static Orb on the field. Armored Ascension, Strata Scythe and Blackblade Reforged should each pump Reidane up to be at least a three-turn clock. All That Glitters and Ethereal Armor will pump her up nicely, and if I can get through with Celestial Mantle attached I'll get a nice bump to my life total.
If all that fails, I'll have two other backup plans. The better of the two is Approach of the Second Sun. The lesser of the two is to repeatedly wipe the board and keep my opponents miserable enough that they eventually concede the game so we can switch decks and actually have some fun. I'm not sure this is a strong enough stax deck to get an opponent to scoop, but I happen to play in a meta where we see all kinds of decks. We usually kill stax players first, but it does sometimes take a while before we're able to get that lethal damage through.
As an experienced deck-builder but a novice at building and playing the stax archetype, I'm actually fairly optimistic that this list will work. I'm running a lot of ways to keep lands coming out. I'm running a lot of wraths and removal and I've chosen to avoid pieces like the classic Smokestack because I'm not in the token-generating business and don't expect to be able to keep up with it better than my opponents. As I understand stax, the key is to understand how you're going to try to slow your opponents down and make sure you can deal with those headaches better than anyone else at the table.
We Are Not Worthy | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Reidane, God of the Worthy
- Creatures (19)
- 1 Alms Collector
- 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
- 1 Giver of Runes
- 1 Keeper of the Accord
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Kor Cartographer
- 1 Mother of Runes
- 1 Oreskos Explorer
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 1 Resolute Watchdog
- 1 Selfless Savior
- 1 Selfless Spirit
- 1 Serra Ascendant
- 1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
- 1 Silent Arbiter
- 1 Skittering Surveyor
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- Instants (10)
- 1 Dispatch
- 1 Fate Forgotten
- 1 Generous Gift
- 1 Invoke the Divine
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Settle the Wreckage
- 1 Silence
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Teferi's Protection
- Sorceries (8)
- 1 Approach of the Second Sun
- 1 Austere Command
- 1 Divine Reckoning
- 1 Doomskar
- 1 Fumigate
- 1 Open the Armory
- 1 Rout
- 1 Wrath of God
- Enchantments (11)
- 1 All That Glitters
- 1 Armored Ascension
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Authority of the Consuls
- 1 Blind Obedience
- 1 Celestial Mantle
- 1 Ethereal Armor
- 1 Ghostly Prison
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Smothering Tithe
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- Artifacts (16)
- 1 Blackblade Reforged
- 1 Crawlspace
- 1 Endless Atlas
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Meekstone
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Mirrorworks
- 1 Pearl Medallion
- 1 Shadowspear
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Static Orb
- 1 Strata Scythe
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Winter Orb
- 1 Worn Powerstone
- 1 The Immortal Sun
The only thing I've got real second thoughts about is the lack of Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves. I normally think of those as staples for a voltron deck and for some reason I'm thinking this is not that deck. Sure, I might be able to swing for some serious damage if all goes well, but the main plan isn't to get Reidane out as quickly as possible, but to slow my opponents down and force them to use their removal on my stax pieces.
I hadn't expected this column to be quite as long as it ended up being, but I hope you found my exploration of the idea of playing both sides of these MDFC commanders as interesting to read as it was for me to work through.
I do like the idea of playing Reidane, God of the Worthy and Valkmira, Protector's Shield onto the same board using Mirrorworks. Of course, the next logical step would be to add in Humility so my opponents 1/1 creatures wouldn't be able to damage me at all. That would inevitably lead to me playing Opalescence and then finding some level 1 judge and asking them to explain the interaction to me. While I'm fond of pestering my friends who are judges with random questions, I'm not quite ready to launch into the wonderful and confusing way that Humility and Opalescence interact.
I love having an excuse to run Armored Ascension in a deck and while my stax choices might need a little refining I think this is a pretty solid first step down that salty, salty road.
If I've piqued your interest in playing both sides of your MDFC commander onto the battlefield at once, or if you've ever done this or seen someone do this, please comment below. I'd love to hear how it played out!
If you've got your own ideas for how Reidane should be built, either in a stax direction or in some other way that I didn't explore I'd love to hear from you.
That's all I've got for you today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next time!