Okay, so this is a bit of a weird article for me. I don’t tend to write about specific sets but Kaldheim has kind of caught my attention, for reasons both good and bad.
I went into this set mostly blind with only a few spoilers that had shown up on my Twitter feed. I sat down on release day and played an amazing draft, one of the most fun I’ve ever had. It was a Mardu deck chock full of removal and late-game Angels and Giants. Every play felt tight and powerful, every card had its time to shine! After totally crushing it there I thought “Wow, with cards this strong I can’t wait to see how it shakes up Standard!” But here we are, about a week later, and the metagame is pretty much the exact same. Some decks have slotted in one or two new additions from Kaldheim, but most haven’t needed to make any adjustments at all to keep up. So today I want to dive into Kaldheim, specifically its limited environment and impact on other formats, most specifically Standard.
Let’s start off with the good news, Kaldheim is an amazing limited experience. I’ve spent a lot of gold on Arena hopping into drafts for Kaldheim and they all feel really fun! The cards are strong enough to make every match feel kind of explosive and exciting. Oddly, the built-in archetypes have actually been the weakest for me. I didn’t drop a single game with the Mardu Midrange deck but in other drafts, I ended up losing out pretty badly while piloting Azorius Foretell and Golgari Elves. Still, even those losses felt more like bad rng and pilot skill. Kaldheim has a high power ceiling, but enough answers to make the limited format feel fair, fun, and clean to play.
The real meat here, though, is its impact on Standard. To me, Kaldheim fits into the same category as sets such as Kamigawa and Amonkhet. All three are objectively fun sets that entered Standard at a time when it was dominated by cards and archetypes from the previous sets. All three also did next to nothing in terms of answering the broken decks from those sets. The difference is Kaldheim’s sheer power level. On paper, Kaldheim should be kicking absolute ass right now. It’s a set that has cards that double damage output, search up any card in your deck on attack, enable wild new combos, and even double your Treasure mana. Sure some of those cards are seeing play, but mostly just to enable already existing decks. As of this writing, the metagame page for Standard on MTGGoldfish remains dominated by Eldraine strategies that have slotted in maybe a few Kaldheim cards at most.
Despite that, there is hope. On that same metagame page, we do see a few new contenders cropping up that seem to use Kaldheims power to their advantage. Azorius Snow, a variant of Dimir Control, and even some Vorinclex decks. All that’s nice, but unless we see a lot more shake-ups, I fear that Kaldheim will be left by the wayside of Standard.
Before we end, I do want to take a minute to talk about Commander and Brawl. Brawl is the main way I play Magic these days and Kaldheim has genuinely ruined it. All I see are Tergrid sacrifice and discard decks (which suck to play against), Esika/Prismatic Bridge decks that are just unbeatable unless you have enchantment removal, and Koma decks which are just a whole other breed of annoying. In my opinion, formats like Brawl shouldn’t have a meta, they’re more about fun and self-expression. The fact that it’s starting to feel like you either play one of these decks or you lose is exactly what I don’t like about other formats in Magic. And this worry extends to commander. I am a little less worried there, both because of the social contract and other factors, but still I have my concerns.
Well that about wraps up my feelings on Kaldheim. If you have the time and gold, I highly recommend hopping into some drafts, I hope to see you there. Let me know what you think about Kaldheim in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at East2westmtg@gmail.com.
As always I’ve been East2West, your resident Brawl defender and snow lover, and I’ll see you guys on the battlefield.