Innovations In Kaldheim Standard From Not The SCG Tour Online (But We’ll Be Back Soon)

After Kaldheim League Weekend and the Arena Qualifier Weekend, Kaldheim Standard has changed once again. Bryan Gottlieb, as usual, has got you covered.

Edgewall Innkeeper, illustrated art by Matt Stewart

This week marked a break for the SCG Tour Online, but Kaldheim Standard was still chugging along at a breakneck speed. Decklists for the column this week come from two places. First, there’s MPL/Rivals league play which saw the absolute best in the world dip their toes into the format for the first time in earnest. Our second selection of decks comes from the Arena Qualifier Weekend.

MPL/Rivals league play seems to encourage risk adverse behavior in deck selection, since a middle of the road finish can be entirely acceptable while a poor performance can potentially start a chain of consequences that ends your Magic career. There’s no question that the decks are uniformly well-constructed, and you should be looking carefully at the choices of these players if you intend to play a stock archetype in the future.

But I know y’all come to this column for the spice. And while it’s not present in ample amounts, when the best of the best do choose to stray from the beaten path in a high-stakes scenario like league play, we better take notice.

Reid Duke’s take on Naya Adventures was picked up by a bunch of people this weekend. At a moment when it seemed like the midrange/combo stylings of Naya Fury were poised to become the de facto version of Naya (much like we saw with Emergent Ultimatum-based versions of Sultai Ramp (Yorion) a few weeks ago), Reid bucked the trend and decided to refocus the build around the holy trinity of card advantage engines — Edgewall Innkeeper, The Great Henge, and Showdown of the Skalds. The simple question for us to ask is “why”?

Edgewall Innkeeper The Great Henge Showdown of the Skalds

In my view, you’d want to return to card advantage over combo when you feel like you’ve identified the correct answers to the metagame pillars. And look at the unusual choices in Reid’s list. Yasharn, Implacable Earth to shut down Rakdos Sacrifice shenanigans. Scavenging Ooze to challenge graveyards against Dimir Rogues and pad life totals against Mono-Red Aggro❄. A Masked Vandal to clean up the bevy of good Sagas and Equipment in the format. The full set of Giant Killers to challenge any Goldspan Dragons that might be getting furious. And even adoption of the sideboard Archon of Absolutions that Naya players have been so hesitant to pick up for some reason.

My last look at Kaldheim Standard proposed that the metagame might finally be coming to a point of stability. That’s the point in time where an old school midrange master like Reid Duke is perfectly prepared to strike with their thoughtful deckbuilding. If this is the end state for Standard, don’t sleep on something close to Reid’s list becoming Naya’s final form.

I love to see Gabriel Nassif flexing his massive deckbuilding chops in league weekends. While a lot of this list is Standard Abzan Blink (Yorion) flair, there are some important changes here that I’d like to highlight. First, I think there’s a good argument to be made that, coming into this weekend, Faceless Haven was the most important card in Kaldheim Standard. There was a tremendous onus on these players to show the creature-land due respect, and based on win rates from league weekend, I’d say the best in the world were up to the task.

A card that seemed like it was due for a resurgence under those constraints was Lithoform Blight, and Nassif didn’t disappoint. An answer to Faceless Haven that also happily participates in Yorion shenanigans is exactly the type of reason I would need to return to an archetype that feels like it has been outscaled in recent weeks. The other thing that could sell me is a way of winning games that doesn’t require us to play 50 turns and completely deplete our opponent of resources. Again, almost no one runs out of resources in this metagame. To that effect, Archon of Sun’s Grace is another great call. Much like many decks have turned to Alrund’s Epiphany to just close games before they can be outscaled, Yorion plus Archon of Sun’s Grace can make huge lifelinking armies out of nowhere, and totally turn around the course of a game in a single expenditure of mana.

The addition of this alternate kill condition also paves the way for Doom Foretold to shift mostly to the sideboard, and you have to love this in a world where so many decks can become both deadly and wide in no time at all. This version of Abzan definitely feels closer to a metagame call than the next big thing, but there’s still a lot of smart decision making to be found in the list.

Shintaro Ishimura and I clearly agree on the point that Dimir Rogues needs something new. The good matchups have started to evaporate for this deck in the aftermath of the aggro explosion. Is the answer to all our problems as simple as adding the best card in Standard?

Lovestruck Beast

Lovestruck Beast can carry a heavy load, but I just don’t believe the play patterns hold up here. I’m of the opinion that you’re supposed to draw decks from your quiver that suit the situation. If Dimir Rogues can’t hold up as a flash style deck, there’s a good chance that warping it into a new form will only leave you with a worse version of something else. So much of what this deck does could be achieved more consistently (and with a higher power level) by Temur Adventures (Obosh).

If you want to talk rebuilt Dimir Rogues with a focus on Alrund’s Epiphany, I’m listening. But this list doesn’t seem to retain the important elements of Dimir Rogues identity.

The Citrus Assassin™, Greg Orange will always have a control deck for you. And he will almost always do well with it. But for us mere mortals, trying to pick up a Greg Orange list is a recipe for disaster. The same complaints about Dimir Control from last week ring true here but, if you love Azorius Control, you really can’t do better than cribbing a Greg Orange list. Personally, I wish this list got up to some Niko Aris plus Archon of Sun’s Grace shenanigans. I’m not saying that would actually be better, it would just do a better job of tricking me into thinking I could overcome my ineptitude and gets some wins with Azorius Control in 2021.

Now we move on to this weekend’s other banner event, the Arena Qualifier Weekend. Sourcing decks from this event is always a bit of a challenge in the immediate aftermath, but I was able to track down a couple of unique lists. The first comes from SocalsF1nest, who took every absurdly overpowered card in Kaldheim Standard and shuffled them together. This left them with over 60 cards, so obviously Yorion got in on the fun, and the rest is history.

I realize that intro reads as if I’m being dismissive of this deck, but I’m really not. There’s incredible value in figuring out the right glue to bring together the most powerful cards in a format. I love all of the parts of this deck individually, especially the Alrund’s Epiphany focus. A neat new player that gels well with that card is The First Iroan Games. I had this card pegged as one of the better inclusions in Theros Beyond Death, but uh… yeah. Missed that one.

The First Iroan Games

The problem with The First Iroan Games is that it just takes too long to get the full payout. By compressing the timeframe with Alrund’s Epiphany, you start to unlock some of the scary returns that this card delivers for its cost. Add in further promising synergies with The Great Henge and Yorion, and maybe it’s finally time to play The First Iroan Games.

The other interesting question to ask yourself before playing this deck is “How good is Omen of the Forge right now?” If the enchantment can function as reusable removal at all points of the game, I can buy that playing 80 and Yorion has the potential to outshine 60 card Temur Adventures (Obosh).

Our final list today comes from Thierry Ramboa. There were multiple people hyping up and finding success with similar looking Naya lists this weekend, but my main purpose in highlighting this deck list is so that nobody gets it twisted. Michael Majors tried to tell y’all this weeks ago and no one bothered to listen. Trust me, you should pay attention when that guy speaks. Toski, Bearer of Secrets is the real deal and while my current obsession is playing it alongside Alrund’s Epiphany, I can see the value in just playing the absurdly broken Adventures instead.

If last week’s theme was “stability”, I’d argue that this week was all about exploiting that stability. People adapted decks to be extremely tuned for a known metagame, and one of the best performing decks in Naya Adventures actually gained ground by going back in time a bit. These are the moves that are on the table now, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that there isn’t going to be a deck you can just run throughout the length of this format. Everyone is making moves, and if you’re standing still you’re falling behind. And if you’re asking me to pick next week’s big move… it’s squirrel time.