Kaldheim!

Following on from my catch-up with Magic a few weeks ago, today I thought I’d talk about the set that really caught my attention when I started to make some tentative steps at returning to the game. Kaldheim came out in February this year, and is a Norse-inspired set along the lines of Theros. The story heavily involves the planeswalker Kaya, who is one of my favourites as the only planeswalker in black/white, though as far as story goes, I’m not entirely sure what is supposed to happen on the plane. There are a lot of Vikings, clearly, and other cues from Norse mythology that link in quite well to the overall theme.

While the block structure is a thing of the past, WOTC has linked together the sets of a Magic “year” through a couple of themes, notably the tribal theme established in Zendikar Rising’s “Party” mechanic, and modal double-faced cards, where you choose which side of the card to cast as you play the card. In Kaldheim, all the nonland double-faced cards are Gods, which is quite fitting! The tribal organisation here is based around the ten realms of Kaldheim, which are analogous to the ten two-colour pairings. There is some development here of each realm, such as black and red (Immersturm) being a realm of fire and demons, though there isn’t really a great deal of development that you can do when you only have one set to showcase the entire plane.

The new mechanics of the set are Foretell and Boast. Foretell works in a similar way to Morph, where you cast the card face-down for 2 generic mana, and can later be turned face up for its Foretell cost. Morph cards were always creatures, even as face-down cards, but Foretell cards are exiled and so can’t be interacted with (except, I guess, by Eldrazi? I’m kinda new!), and you won’t know if it’s a creature or a spell that is about to be turned up. Boast is an activated ability that will only trigger if the creature attacked this combat. So it’s a slight drawback in that the creature has to survive that combat first!

Snow is back, first time in a main set since 2006 and Coldsnap, with more snow-covered lands as well as snow-covered dual lands, which is very nice! Snow creatures and other permanents (and non-permanents!) also feature, this time with a distinctive, frosty border! Nice!

I’ve been buying quite a few packs of Kaldheim, and a bundle. I’ve been investigating the different types of booster packs now available, and I really do feel out of my depth in this game right now. There are draft boosters and set boosters and collector boosters and some other types, with different cards that have different frames, that I don’t really follow all of the ins-and-outs, if I’m honest. Is there any need? Well the amount of content coming out seems to have had an effect on Standard becoming a bit cheaper, thanks to the number of packs being opened. But it feels a bit like the somewhat casual player – even the slightly-more-than-casual player like myself – might just be overwhelmed by the whole thing. I mean, it took me a weekend to work out everything, and I’m not sure I really get it, even now!

Anyway. Having bought up all these packs, I’ve been able to build a black and white deck that features the new Angels, or Valkyries as they’re called here. I opened three copies of Firja, Judge of Valor, a legendary angel cleric (party!) who triggers off the second spell, which is an intriguing mechanic. I haven’t built a Magic deck in a very long time, so this could be entirely awful, but I’m excited for new cards, so we shall see I suppose!

Creatures (20)
Firja, Judge of Valor (3)
Vengeful Reaper (4)
Hailstorm Valkyrie (4)
Cleaving Reaper
Doomskar Oracle
Starnheim Aspirant
Skemfar Shadowsage (2)
Elderfang Disciple (2)
Bloodsky Berserker (2)

Artifacts (2)
Valkyrie’s Sword (2)

Enchantments (11)
Valor of the Worthy (2)
Rampage of the Valkyries
Firja’s Retribution (2)
Ascent of the Worthy
Rune of Sustenance (3)
Rune of Mortality (2)

Land (27)
Snowfield Sinkhole (3)
Shimmerdrift Vale
Great Hall of Starnheim
Plains (7)
Snow-Covered Plains (3)
Swamp (8)
Snow-Covered Swamp (4)

The first thing you’ll probably notice here is that there are literally no spells. Well, no instants or sorceries, at least! This wasn’t by design, but purely accidental as I was building the deck and found nothing that I really wanted to include. This is very much a first-cut though, and could definitely do with refinement. I think it also speaks to the fact that I was doing it only with the cards that I had opened, without any real attempt to buy the singles that I wanted or needed. There’s also the element of sticking to just the Kaldheim set, of course, and the restrictions there. Strixhaven is an enemy-colour set, and there are a number of black and white cards in that set for the Silverquill college that I think might be a good fit, but I’ve not really investigated that set in great depth just yet. Of course, if we’re going to plumb the depths of my overall collection, I’m sure that the opportunities would be endless to get a really interesting deck ticking over! Might have to do that, at some point!

The basic plan for the deck is just to go wide with these angel creatures and smash into my opponent. There are some useful abilities and interesting things that might be possible, but I don’t think I’ll be making full use of any of them for the time being. Firja’s ability to draw cards when the second spell has been cast could be handy, paired with some graveyard recursion to get those others back from the discard side of the ability. There is some, for sure, but not a massive amount! Creating Angel tokens should be nice, though I do seem to run the risk of just having hundreds of creatures out with nothing really flashy – it could be a very blunt and obvious deck to play! I’m sure I’ll have a tinker with it though, and see what else I can come up with!

I do find it interesting to note how, in a recent video, the Professor was talking about the overwhelming quantity of new product coming at us this year, and made the comment regarding how can anyone be expected to remember the ten realms as a shorthand for the colour combo, as they do for the Guilds of Ravnica. While we’ve spent three entire blocks on the plane of Ravnica now, and so it can be reasonably expected that the guilds are quite well-known, I think he does have a point when Kaldheim only came out six months ago, but I had no idea the black/white realm was called Starnheim, and would forever refer to the deck as Orzhov.

I wonder if we’ll ever come back to Kaldheim? I suppose, if the story allows, why wouldn’t we, but we seem to have been dashing about so much lately, and we’re set to continue dashing into 2022, that it’ll be interesting to see whether there is ever the room to come back. Magic seems to be in an interesting place right now, where it is old enough that there is a nostalgia that can be banked on – returning to Zendikar, Ravnica and Innistrad, to say nothing of Dominaria, is always going to be a huge draw for people. Giving us new planes, such as Kaldheim and Strixhaven, Ikoria and the upcoming New Capenna, feels a bit like the design team trying to get away from the whole Gatewatch thing. But the constant new stuff seems to be just diluting the overall feel of the game, somehow. Added to that, the branching out into other IP does feel a little bit like the game is lost, maybe?  

At any rate, I am finding things interesting with Magic right now, almost as an outsider-looking-in. I haven’t played it for a very long time, of course, so even given my history with the game and my fairly substantial collection, I do feel a bit like I’m on the sidelines. Maybe that’ll change as life continues to get back to normal, though!

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