With a few weeks of the new Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim set behind us, we had time to properly acquaint ourselves with its subtle intricacies and new mechanics. So after our interview with Sarah Finnigan on the inspiration behind the art, it's now time to dive into Kaldheim, here are our thoughts on the set as a whole:
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim Returning Mechanic: Snow
Fitting with the Norse theme, snow plays a part in this set. There are activated abilities that require snow lands, a departure from previous sets. The snow can be your biggest ally so prep your deck carefully. The white 3-mana card, Search for Glory, allows you to search your library for a snow permanent, a legendary card, or a saga card. You then reveal it and put it into your hand. You then gain a life for each snow source you spent to cast it. While you likely won't build a deck around snow, it gives a nice little boost to most card choices and pays off, in the long run, to get those lands out early.
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim New Mechanic: Boast
This is a mechanic for someone who likes to swing a lot. Essentially, cards have an activated mana ability that can only be used if they have attacked this turn. This works upon declaring attack, not attacking. This means any creature that comes into the battlefield swinging won’t activate this ability. A good example of this is Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire. With his boast, you can choose to have a player search their library for a card, shuffle that library, and put it on the top. You could choose to grab a nice powerful card from your deck or you could play some interesting mill tactics on your opponent. It works as a reliable fetch card and his deathtouch ability helps even more. Your opponent could kill off a creature to kill them or take the hit and risk the boast. This is an interesting mechanic that could see some long-term play. There are plenty of cards with activated abilities but their specific use adds a certain tactically to the situation. MTG is all about revealing as little as you can and this trade-off is an interesting one.
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim New Mechanic: Foretell
You’ve activated my trap card. Foretell is a new mechanic where you can play a card face down in exile for two mana and cast it at a later time for some special ability or change. It essentially allows you almost bank mana to get a cheaper, and likely more efficient cast at a later date. As the card is exiled, it's a very useful card to keep around untouched. If you can bank a few different exile cards, you can keep an opponent on their toes. Foretell is played at instant speed and can only be played on your turn. An interesting card with the foretell mechanic is Alrund’s Epiphany. For 7 mana, you create 2 blue bird creature tokens with flying and then take an extra turn after the current one. This card is exiled after it is played. You can bank this foretell card for 2 mana and cast it for 6 whenever you like. This means that it costs 1 more overall but allows you to play it for 1 less on another turn. I think a good way of describing this is like a Megamorph without making a creature. You don't have the potential of losing that creature but have the downside of not having something concrete on the board. This is a nice mechanic I’d like to see explored more in the future. I think, for a lot of players, simply having the threat of a foretell card on the board adds a lot to the tensions. Even the worst foretell cards can make a player play much more conservatively. Occasionally, they’re even better face down. I love when Magic has these moments, when you play the person more than the game
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim White
White has always had its issues and one of its biggest is its inability to draw more cards. In contrast to most other decks, it gets outpaced. White seems to be more of a combo color than a mono one. This being said, there are still some good cards and some interesting ways of playing with mechanics. In tandem with other decks, the Starnheim Courser is interesting. It’s a flying 2/2 for 3 mana with the added ability to make artifacts and enchantments cost one less. You could tap down an opponent's creature with the blue Claustrophobia for a mere 2 mana and buff your own creatures for less. Moving from here, Doomskar is a pretty strong board wipe that is very handy to keep around. It is 5 mana to destroy all creatures. That’s okay by itself but its foretell cost means you can exile it face down for 3 and cast it for 2 later on. To get you out of a pinch and have enough mana to cast some creatures yourself, this is worth throwing in a deck. One final card worth mentioning in this combo is the Glorious Protector. This 3/ 4 flyer with flash cost 4 mana but can use foretell for 3. Its activated ability allows you to exile any number of non angel creatures until they leave the battle. This means you could deploy them, exile all your creatures and then board wipe everything including the protector to get them all back again. This is a really deadly combo.
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim Blue
If you like to play your opponent, this is the color for you. Blue is, once again, great for searching through your deck whilst controlling your opponents. A great card for filling out a nice magic-based deck is the Cosmos Charger. Not only is it a 3/3 flying flash creature for 4 mana but it makes all foretell cards cost 1 less and gives them the ability to play on anyone's turn. This ability makes the danger and head games of a blue player even more dangerous. With a few spells face down on the board and some untapped mana, your opponent will be afraid of every turn.
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim Black
Black plays into the theme of the set in interesting ways whilst putting out some really powerful effects. The Draugr Necromancer is a really cool snow creature that costs 4 mana. Every time a nontoken creature dies from an opponent, it’s exiled with ice counters. You can then play any creature with an ice counter on it and snow sources can be used as any type of mana. This does leave less in the graveyard to play with but it works well alongside some kill spells. One such kill spell is Poison the Cup. You can foretell it and then cast it for 2 mana to destroy a creature and scry 2. It's nice to have this loaded on the field for when it's needed and as creatures actually have to die, you likely won’t want to counter them anyway. As one might expect, black is filled with kill spells and powerful evil creatures.
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim Red
Haste and Boast make a really good combo. The legendary creature Arni Brokenbrow can be cast for 3 mana. He has haste and the boast ability to change his power to one plus the greatest power among your creatures. This means you can get an instant buff the second he comes into the field. If you have a couple of buff spells, you could throw them on one of your creatures, summon Arni and copy that toughness. Foretell also makes it mark on red in the form of Demon Bolt. For 3 mana, you can deal 4 damage to a creature or planeswalker but you can also foretell for 1, making the total cost 3. If you had 4 of these in a standard deck and were willing to show some patience (rare for a red set) you could do 16 damage to a creature or planeswalker in a single turn for 4 mana. Situational but rather cool. It wouldn't be a red deck without a cheeky turn 1 play so Frost Bite fills this gap well. For 1 mana, you can deal 2 damage to a creature or planeswalker. If you control 3 or more snow permanents, it becomes 3 damage. This is a nice quick ability that's powerful from the start. Red has its issues but quick damage isn't one of them
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim Green
Green also takes advantage of the snowy atmosphere in this set through its spells and creatures. Blizzard Brawl is an excellent card that only costs 1 mana. It allows one of your creatures to fight another creature. As well as this, if you have 3 or more snow permanents, your creature gains +1/+0 and indestructible. If you have a high power/ low toughness creature or deathtouch, you can take out most things on the board. Fynn, the Fangbearer is a ridiculously dangerous card this time around. He’s a 1/ 3 deathtouch for 2 mana with a very special ability. Whenever deathtouch creatures hurt a player, that player gains 2 poison counters. This could be devastating in Commander in a black-green deck with plenty of deathtouch. The thing about having lots of small deathtouchers is they’re often not worth blocking. This makes every little creature deadly, a very nice card.
Magic: The Gathering Kaldheim Verdict
From testing out different decks and going through tons of boosters, we've found that Kaldheim provides a solid base to elaborate on. The Foretell ability adds even more tactics to the board with the threat of any potential card being under your hand. Unfortunately, these mechanics are phased out regularly and put into rotations so we won't see them for long but I'd like to see this stick around a little more. The same is true of Boast. These battle abilities get rotated out very quickly and replaced with individual abilities on the odd card. There is room for boast in red and white and foretell in spell-heavy decks but I won't hold my breath for their future. The Kaldheim lore and theming is fantastic, adding lots of interesting creatures and some mechanics to go alongside them. The way that Black undead cards play into the cruelty of the snow and the White plays into its ideological purity make for some very interesting flavour text at the bottom. The Kaldheim set makes me excited for the future of MTG. Even if it doesn't follow this up, I’m happy to see them explore new themes and the metal marketing of the pack was nice to see. There’s a creativity that has come out in the art and mechanics that I’d like to see them explore even more. Kaldheim is a solid push in the right direction from WOTC and I hope they just keep pushing.
The Magic: the Gathering Kaldheim cards used to produce this article were provided by ICO Partners.