A First Look at Kaldheim Limited
- Jonatan Nahnfeldt
The advent of a new set is always the most exciting time for Limited players, and this time is no exception. Grab your coat and knitted gloves, as we take a look at the snowy realms of the long-anticipated Kaldheim. Here's all you need to know before jumping into your first draft or prerelease!
There are four main mechanics in Kaldheim, two of which are new and two that are returning. Here's a quick rundown of them, starting with a couple of familiar friends.
Sagas were first introduced in Dominaria and have been a highly appreciated type of card ever since. We saw them again in Theros Beyond Death, and now they are back in force. Previously, there were 24 Sagas in all of Magic, all of them monocolored; Kaldheim adds another twenty, and for the first time they're multicolored. The set features two ten-card cycles, one at rare and one at uncommon, each cycle representing all ten color pairs.
Sagas provide continual value, without mana investment from the second chapter onwards. They are excellent targets to return to your hand with cards like Depart the Realm and should, in general, be picked relatively highly.
If you have drafted Modern Horizons, you might shudder at the sound of snow falling into our Limited (and Constructed) sets once again. But fret not, snow doesn't seem to be quite as big a deal this time around. At least, there is no Iceberg Cancrix here. The strongest snow cards in the set are likely Ascendant Spirit or Blood on the Snow, both of which are rare. The best you can get at common is a looter or an admittedly scary regenerator. Snow is biggest in green and blue, closely followed by black.
Boast is the first of our two new mechanics, and it is a highly aggressive one. It's featured mainly in the Mardu colors, with one green card sneaking in as well. Boast is an activated ability, which you can only activate once each turn and only if the creature with the ability attacked this turn. As such, you want to make sure you can attack safely with your creature to have a shot at boasting multiple times. Cheap removal and pump spells rhyme very well with this, further pushing the aggressive theme of primarily red and white—who would have guessed?
A thing to note is that, unlike many mechanics, boast does not necessarily play well with boast. While a good mana sink, boasting will be hard to do early without sacrificing development, and the problem compounds in multiples. Therefore, I would advise against loading up on too many boasters, as you rarely will be able to take full advantage of them in the stages of the game that are so critical for aggressive decks. It's not linear but rather a case of diminishing returns.
Foretell is the second new mechanic, and the headliner ability of the set. It's featured in all colors but shows up most frequently in the Esper colors. Foretell lets you pay two generic mana and exile the card from your hand, and then you get to cast it on a later turn for an alternate cost, which in most cases is two mana cheaper than its printed mana cost. So you almost never get a discount on your spells, only the option to split your payment.
Foretell looks similar to the morph mechanic, both of them allowing you to put a card face down for a generic cost and flip them up for an alternate cost rather than pay their printed mana costs upfront. But while the first half of morph gave you a three-mana 2/2, the first half of foretell doesn't really do anything at all. This makes for some very interesting considerations in deck building and sequencing your plays when you have a deck with a lot of foretell cards. For one, you might want to skimp on two-drops. You will often want to foretell something on turn two, then play a three-drop, and then on turn four perhaps cast your foretold spell and foretell again. It's a very interesting mechanic, and I'm excited to explore it both in gameplay and deck building!
Each color pair in Kaldheim has both a signpost uncommon Saga as well as a legendary creature to point you in the direction in which you should want to go. In the sections below I will briefly outline what the archetypes are about and list what I think will be the most important commons to pick up for the respective decks.
White-Blue – Foretell
White-blue is focused on foretell and wants to create continuous value throughout the game with it. Among commons, Doomskar Oracle will be vital to this deck, as it gives you a way to mitigate your often lacking early game. Gaining some life back will allow you to stabilize and take over in the late game.
Blue-Black – Foretell/Snow Control
Blue-black seems to be less focused this time around compared to the hyperfocused Rogues archetype we saw in Zendikar Rising. There is no clear lane to go into, but rather a mixture of foretell, snow, and—to a lesser extent—Zombies in a controlling shell. It seems pretty dependent on uncommons, and I suspect most blue-black decks will want to splash either green or white to aid either the snow or foretell theme.
Black-Red – Berserker Aggro
Another not very focused archetype. On first glance the good old classic aggro-sacrifice archetype that is emblematic of black-red seems to be the overarching theme for the color pair. Cheap creatures and removal will be your friends here.
Red-Green – Snow Ramp
Like blue-black, red-green looks very dependent on uncommons to end up really strong. You will likely want to splash blue or white (or both) to make things really tick. Since the colors already want snow permanents, it's not unreasonable to splash more than one color and red-green seems to be a good base for the "multicolor goodstuff" style of decks.
Green-White – Go-Tall (and Wide) Aggro
As the two signpost uncommons indicate, green-white seems to have two avenues you can walk down, going tall or going wide. The go-wide theme seems to be more based in uncommon and rare Elf cards, but the go-tall Aura theme has some good support at common. I suspect a suited up Battlefield Raptor will end many games in Kaldheim Limited.
White-Black – Double-Spelling
White-black got quite a novel theme in this set, focusing on casting two spells per turn. This is, of course, most easily achieved with foretell, and white-black is very well suited to fulfill the requirement. White-black uses foretell in a more aggressive and value-centric way in contrast to white-blue's controlling approach and it will be interesting to see which of them will come out on top.
Blue-Red – Giant Control
Blue-red leans into control this time around, with an underlying theme of Giant tribal. The greatest draw into this color pair at common is Squash. If you control a Giant, this is a ridiculously efficient removal spell, and one you can freely load up on if you consistently have a Giant on the battlefield.
Black-Green – Elves
Black-green is big on tribal this time around, as home of the Elves, with a side of graveyard and snow value. The two supporting themes will likely allow you to veer away from the tribal aspect of the deck at times, but more often than not your creatures will be mostly Elves anyway, giving you this aspect "for free."
Red-White – Equipment
Red-white is, to the surprise of absolutely no one, an aggro deck. This time it's focused heavily on equipment with a subtheme of Dwarves (although there are no real payoffs for Dwarf tribal below rare). Tormentor's Helm is going to be one of the best equipment cards you can get from the common slots: a Short Sword with upside, which enables even more attacks with your boast creatures and pushes in damage even through blockers.
Green-Blue – Snow
Blue-green is, like red-green, focused on snow. This time, however, it's less focused on ramping and more on incremental value and splashing colors. I suspect that the red-green and green-blue decks will often meld together into one overarching three-color deck splashing liberally to get the most out of your draft picks.
The Big Picture
Compared to Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim is a set with less focused archetypes. This gives you more freedom in drafting, but also less direction. This can, for inexperienced drafters, lead to more "train wrecks" than normal. Keep this in mind, as your first drafts might be frustrating and the different color pairs might be hard to figure out and some picks might be very challenging. However, I hope the summaries above will help you with some of your picks and straighten out some question marks.
In another comparison to Zendikar Rising, the power level of the uncommons is very pushed in Kaldheim. The existence of the Sagas and the legendary creatures bumps up the general strength of cards you will encounter during the course of a draft.
My early picks for the top uncommons are, in no particular order, the following:
There are, of course, a ton of other really strong uncommons, but these are in my opinion the best of the bunch. The uncommon land cycle with multicolored activated abilities was a close contender to this list. They're very close in power level to the modal double-faced cards from Zendikar Rising, but miss out due to being a little slow and mana intensive.
The rares/mythics in the set are similarly pushed from a Limited perspective. The best rares were not straightforward to pick out, but these are the five that stand out to me:
With four white cards making the list, my pick for the top color in the set might shine through, at least at the rare and uncommon level. Particularly white-black looks very strong to me. It is able to utilize foretell, has the best common removal spell in the set in Feed the Serpent, and is one of the two color pairs able to use Weigh Down efficiently, the other being black-green.
These are my initial takes for the set, and I'm excited to see how it plays out. Happy drafting!
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