The Monsters of Kaldheim: Koma, Sarulf, Toski

Kaldheim is a picturesque place filled to the brim with references to Norse mythology and the Viking age. Its storytellers narrate timeless sagas of wondrous beings and mighty heroes fulfilling their foretold destinies across the World Tree. This time, it's the tale of three animals: a Serpent, a Wolf, and a Squirrel.


toski - koma - sarulf

If we take Kaldheim's 33 legendary creatures and remove all the humanoid characters representing the dominant races of each of the Ten Realms—Angels, Demons, Dwarves, Elves, Giants, Humans, Shapeshifters, Spirits, Trolls, Zombies, and of course Gods—we're left with three mythic "monsters" (and a Phyrexian, but we won't talk of the Phyrexians … yet). The design for these three non-humanoid creatures is based on traditional figures appearing in the Poetic Edda or in the Prose Edda, the essential texts that collect myths and stories from the time of the Vikings.

Specifically, Koma, Cosmos Serpent is a reference to the great sea serpent Jörmungandr, the offspring of the god Loki and the giantess Angrboða. The story says Odin threw Jörmungandr into the Earth's ocean, and the serpent kept growing, until it bit its own tail (in true uroboros fashion). When the World Serpent will let go of its tail, the Ragnarök will begin.


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Sarulf, Realm Eater takes inspiration from another of the three ominous children of Loki and Angrboða, the wolf Fenrir. (The third one is Hel, the ruler of the Norse underworld.) This monstrous canine, which also grows worryingly big, is prophesied to be the one that will kill Odin himself during the Ragnarök.


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Toski, Bearer of Secrets has a more peaceful counterpart in mythology. It's Magic's version of Ratatoskr, the mischievous squirrel that carries messages and gossip up and down the World Tree. As a result, he knows things he shouldn't, and is prone to bursts of verbal abuses—an element probably based on the screechy sounds squirrels make when alarmed.


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Now let's see how these three unruly green creatures are able to perform when appointed as centerpieces of dedicated builds.

The Many Shapes of Koma


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Koma perfectly captures Jörmungandr's endless growth. Its spires takes the form of separate tokens, appearing at the steady pace of one per each player's upkeep, which is reminiscent of the ability of beloved token makers from the past, like Tendershoot Dryad or the classic Verdant Force. Koma's tokens have additional functions, though, as the head of the Serpent can eat them to gain temporary indestructibility or to shut down opposing permanents. Once the Coils starts cluttering the battlefield, getting rid of Koma becomes harder and harder, and a Ragnarök-esque alpha strike is only a matter of time.

Problem: Koma has no impact whatsoever if the opponent has instant-speed removal for the 6/6 before the first token is created. Solution: more Serpents! Its abilities aren't restricted to the sacrifice of its own Coils—any Serpent is eligible as fodder. If we can build a curve so that Koma drops while a few fellow Serpents are already on the battlefield, the indestructibility shield will immediately be online. However, most of the Serpents in Standard right now seem unfit for the task. They're generally expensive, some are in the wrong colors (Lava Serpent, Lochmere Serpent), and others require to be built around (Yorion, Sky Nomad, Verazol, the Split Current). Fortunately, Kaldheim just introduced a quantity of cheap Serpents with useful abilities!


realmwalker masked vandal

Like many blue decks, we employ Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft as early interaction, but there's also a neat little combo that exploits our twelve monogreen "Serpents," turning them into 3/1 fliers with Absorb Identity (which also gives us another go at Petty Theft). Alternatively, the opponent could offer us some juicy target for the shapeshifting routine.

Aside from Koma, the one actual Serpent in the list is Serpent of Yawning Depths. It's a silly card, but if we find it after the proliferation of Koma's Coils has gone out of control, it allows us to swing for lethal unopposed.

Training Sarulf


sarulf

The great devourer Sarulf reads like a very powerful card. After all, its upkeep trigger is a repeatable Pernicious Deed, one of the most effective removal effects in black-green history. It seems like a natural fit for a control build. Problem: Sarulf exiles everything that's not a land. This means it's difficult to make the card synergize with permanents on our side of the battlefield. It traffics in counters, but The Ozolith won't help, because the moment Sarulf removes all the counters it's carrying, it will also exile the legendary artifact that could have salvaged them. Same goes for Equipment or Auras that we might have wished to use to improve Sarulf's post-apocalyptic damage output. Escape creatures and other recursive threats are similarly out of the question. On top of that, the best sweepers in the colors, Extinction Event and Shadows' Verdict are outright nombos with Sarulf. Our insatiable Wolf demands to see the opponent's permanents move from the battlefield to the graveyard, so hand disruption is also not a particularly good match.

Solution: wait, does it say nonland permanents?


ashaya

The combo here is straightforward. Ashaya doesn't just survive Sarulf's mini-Ragnaröks, free to swing in full might once the path is open. The card also preserves every other creature on our team, especially Wildwood Scourge, which benefits from Sarulf collecting counters. While The Great Henge is unlikely to be annihilated by Sarulf, by virtue of its high converted mana cost, Shadowspear is easily swept away, but it's there to help our large creatures connect at a time when we don't need to pull the trigger on our wolfmageddon.

And yeah, Vorinclex snuck into the deck, much like the character did into the plane of Kaldheim in the story, naturally bound to show up wherever there are counters to double.

Toski the Sentinel


toski

Toski is arguably the most competitive of our three "Cosmos monsters." A deck that exploits the mad card-drawing capabilities is already making the rounds in Standard. But we wanted to approach the card from a slightly different point of view.

Problem: By design, we can't exploit Toski's indestructibility defensively, as the wonder Squirrel is forced to attack every turn, and has no vigilance. Solution: well, let's give Toski vigilance, then.


sentinel's eyes

The list actually hinges on Toski's resilience against destruction, which makes the card an ideal carrier of mutations. Instead of going wide, like other Toski builds do, we're turning it into an indestructible, flying, trampling Squirrel, so that it'll more easily connect, drawing us cards, and then will remain available to block during the opponent's turn, thanks to Sentinel's Eyes.

A modicum of go-wide strategy is still present in the list in the form of Jolrael's tokens. The card's triggered ability directly capitalizes on Toski's card drawing, while the activation is a potential game-closing mana sink.

And so ends the saga of the ever-growing Serpent, the hungry Wolf, and the clever Squirrel—a marvelous tale of tokens, counters, and draws.


Sarulf's Packmate

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1 Comment

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mätschik(17.03.2021 08:22)

Thanks for another good read and inspiration!

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