Orvar, the All-Form – Kaldheim
Date Reviewed: August 24, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Most of us first encountered Norse mythology as part of Thor comics or some kind of action-based video games; or at least a retelling that focused on fighting and battles, especially Ragnarok. It’s easy to forget that like other ancient belief systems, Norse mythology also emphasizes the universe’s mystery. Odin literally gave an eye for knowledge, and one of the realms of the time before time is Niflheim, the land of mists – occluding sight and inviting exploration. That makes changelings a surprisingly good fit for Magic’s Kaldheim setting: the modern game’s most frequently recurring shapeshifters have always existed at the liminal boundary of creature types, shifting between different typal decks as we need them to, thereby leading us to question the view of identity (most directly, mechanical wordings) as rigid and immutable.
Orvar has similarly confronting and confounding game text. The first triggered ability, for example, has wording that calls back to the Theros sets’ heroic abilities; yet it’s never been a major presence in blue, with even its powerful cards like Battlewise Hoplite not making enormous impacts. And we’re not used to seeing this style of discard protection in blue at all – it’s more characteristic of black’s enemy colors, not its allies.
But like a cosmic mystery in miniature, Orvar’s uses are not obvious but still significant. Copying permanents with incidental spells is actually not for the heroic-based aggro decks, but for synergies and combos that count tokens, triggers, and the like. The discard trigger punishes people in a way that calls back to Clone’s historic effectiveness against legendary creatures – it even works on Emrakul’s cards, since it’s not a spell. Both are situational enough that you might not want to rely on them as your sole source of either, even in casual settings; but they’re much more effective than they read, nonetheless.
Commander [EDH]: 4
Orvar, the All-Form was (and is) a fairly intriguing combo piece for their ability to massively expand and explode a board. Any time you target something with an instant or sorcery, you get a copy of it, and it even has a sort of soft discard protection if you get hit with a discard spell. Notably, the second ability works on anything on board, so Orvar might suddenly turn a game on its head if they’re too cavalier with their discard triggers. Changeling is also an interesting enough wrinkle that might sometimes pay off, though it’s rarely a massive boon.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news, as Orvar’s base body is underwhelming and they rely on specific deck-building parameters to work as a spell you cast. That said, they have a decent role as a tech card in Modern decks; in a format where Liliana of the Veil is quite ubiquitous, it can be nice to punish her +1, and there are other things they do here and there. Hardly a star, but an interesting build-around that can offer value even if not built around.
Limited: 4 (takes a bit to work, but can shine if built around)
Commander [EDH]: 4
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