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Kaldheim First Impressions
It's once again that time when we recieve a sneak peak into a new Magic set, this time featuring the Norse themed world of Kaldheim. In this article I'll be taking a look at some of the cards we've been given so far, in addition to what I'm going to be expecting out of this set.
We'll start with the fun bit, spoilers. And the first card to mention is one of Kaldeim's very own gods; Halvar, God of Battle. This cycle of gods is shaping up to be a little different from the gods we've seen in the past, on the worlds of Theros and Amonkhet.
On those planes the gods were indestructible, signifying their immortalilty, however in Norse mythology the gods aren't seen as immortal beings as can been seen in the non-indestructible Halvar. The unique thing about Halvar is that he is showing off a new take on the modal double face (MDF) cards introduced in Zendikar Rising, but isntead of also being a land, he can istead be case as a Legendary Equipment; Sword of the Realms. The equipment side is notably much weaker than the god side, as you might expect, but it does seek to fix an aspect of the game that has been an issue for a long time.
This issue being drawing your second copy of a legendary card. Normally your second copy of Halvar would rot in your hand until your first is removed, but in this instance you're able to cast the Sword of the Realms and even suit up Halvar with his own sword, giving him the extra bonus of double stike while your at it. This is an extremely interesting design decision, and one I hope that extends to all of the Kalheim gods.
The second card i'll be mentioning is Kaya the Inexorable, one of four planeswalkers we'll be seeing on Kaldheim, first seen in Conspiracy, who is a ghost assassin, which is reflected in her -3 ability. This is a very powerful minus for a five mana planeswalker to have, and her high starting loyalty will mean that you will often be able to get the ability off multiple times before you're opponent is able to remove her from play. Her +1 makes reference to Kaya's Ghostform, and enchantment from War of the Spark, which acts as a way of protecting your valuable creatures from harm, while building up to her powerful -7. Most planeswalker emblems will have a massive effect on the game once they appear, and Kaya's is no different. Allowing you access to any legendary spell you've cast over the course of the game for free will often result in a overwhelming amount of card advantage for your opponents to contend with.
The third card to talk about is Realmwalker, a harmless looking 2/3 for 3 mana. The first thing to notice about Realmwalker is the changeling ability, first introduced during Lorwyn block as a way of enabling easier tribal synergies. It seems the development team have gone down similar paths with Kaldheim, introducing more changelings to bring the tirbal focus of the set into the forefront. The other abilities on Realmwalker are where the real power is though. For decks built around a specific tribe this will play a key part in keeping the flow of card going, also allowing the ability to rebuild a board after a board sweeper. This is likely to see play in older formats as well, as 3 mana isn't too high to rule out of being conpetitive. For example the elves decks in Historic, Pioneer and Modern all revolve around collected company as a key source of card advantage and the addition of Realmwalker will only add to that.
The final card features another returning mechanic, sagas! First seen in Dominaria and featured again on Theros, sagas are enchantments which are specifically designed to showcase a story or part of that planes history. In this case we get Shodwon of the Skalds, highlighting a historic battle in Kaldheim’s history. The first chapter of this saga highlights the red half, utilising the temporary draw which red is now heavily associated with. Giving a draw of four cards will ensure that you’ve got plenty of spells to play to make good use of the second and third chapers. I’m expecting this saga to see a significant amount of play, as even if it’s removed before your next turn, you get to keep the four cards to play during that turn. As we’ve seen with sagas such as Elepeth Conquers Death in Theros Beyond Death, having a powerful chapter one effect is usually good enough to carry the card on it’s own.
What am I expecting out of Kaldheim?
There are a few themes from Kaldheim that i'm expecting to see return. The first of these are a focus on the 4 key tribes from the partner mechanic, introduced in Zendikar Rising. We have yet to see a successful constructed deck that takes full advantage of some of the more powerful cards that require a 'full' party, and i'm hoping that with some extra support those decks can really make an impact going forwards.
In additon to party as a whole i'm expecting a specific focus on the warriors tribe. There was a lot of set up in Zendikar for a good aggressive warriors deck, however it never came together. With the right support from Kaldheim there could be the chance of a powerful aggressive warriors deck coming forward.
I've touched on it earlier but i'm expecting the completion of the gods cycle as modal double faced cards, each joined by their own legendary equipment. I'd also be interested to see if they choose to include other double faced cards, possibly some other notable creatures within the story, and of they'd also be equipment on the other side.
In a broader scope I'm expecting Kaldheim to continue balencing out the power level that has been raised over the last few sets, hopefully bringing it to a position where the cards are powerful without being overbearing. We saw a spike in power level last year from the release of War of the Spark through to Throne of Eldraine. These sets have resulted in the most standard bannings that we've ever seen within this time scale, with Throne holding the record for the most cards being banned from it. Zendikar Rising saw a slight descrease in power (with Omnath being an exception) which, if continued, should bring the overall power level of standard down, allowing for more enjoyable games to be had by all.
What am I looking forward to out of Kaldheim?
The things I'm most looking forward to are related to the three other planeswalkers being showcased in Kaldeim. The first being returing crowd favourite Tibalt, a devil planeswalker from Innistrad. Tibalt is widely renown for being unplayable, so I'm hoping that this itteration will be one that can be powerful enough to make a splash in this new standard format. The other two planeswalkers are a wood elf named Tyvar Kell, who's from Kalheim and Niko Aris, a professional athlete from Theros. Niko I'm especially interested in as we've been told that they are highlighting accuracy as an aspect of blue's colour identity, which will be paired with white in order to create their character. These three make an almost perfect storm for myself personally as they represent one of my favourite characters, my favourite tribe (elves) and one of my favourite colour combinations.
Lastly I'm looking forward to being able to play some Magic in person in the new year, theres a lot of 'Gathering' to catch up on and I personally can hardly wait.
Make sure you keep an eye on the Athena Facebook and website page for news of the pre-release weekend for Kaldheim, starting on the 29th of January, as well as the creators like Commanders Templar and many others keeping the community alive and well over the last months.