Innovations In Kaldheim Standard From SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier #10

Another week on the SCG Tour Online, another massive shift in the Kaldheim Standard metagame. Bryan Gottlieb has your guide to the new heavy hitters.

Maul of the Skyclaves, illustrated by Joseph Meehan

Sometimes, cobbling together the narrative of a metagame is an arduous process. Some metagames are truly stagnant, and I have to grasp at straws to find any potential paths forward. Other times, there’s so much noise that it’s difficult to understand what, if anything, is driving the format in a new direction, or if there really is any sizeable edge to be gained through deck selection.

And then some weeks, my job is easy.

You are looking at the first- and second-place lists from this week’s SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier, and yeah, there was a 57/60 card Mono-White Aggro mirror played for all the marbles. After last week, I had a lot of good things to say about a high-finishing Mono-White Aggro list from Timothy Thompson, but Gabriel and Abe really took this archetype to the next level.

It’s important to note that Sultai Ramp (Yorion) was, as expected, the most-played deck in this week’s Qualifier. The card choices here, as compared to Timothy’s deck from last week, are clearly aware of this target. Gone is Lurrus of the Dream Den, hyper-vulnerable to Shadows’ Verdict, and in place of Lurrus is the God of Mono-White Aggro that Heliod, Sun-Crowned wishes it could be.

Halvar, God of Battle Sword of the Realms

Both sides of Halvar, God of Battle are perfect against an opponent who is relying on an extremely conditional sweeper like Shadows’ Verdict. Either you generate more offense out of leaner battlefields by leveraging Sword of the Realms, or the four-mana Halvar skips the vulnerability to Shadows’ Verdict entirely.

Seasoned Hallowblade into Maul of the Skyclaves into Halvar has been a curve that I’ve been looking to leverage in my aggressive decks since Day 1 of Kaldheim Standard, but it feels like this Mono-White list has finally given that setup its perfect home. Gabriel Silva even took the double-strike shenanigans a step further by including a couple of copies of the extremely sticky Sentinel’s Eyes. Sultai Ramp (Yorion) just spends too much time doing nothing to fight back against this kind of aggression. Even if things get harder for Halvar in sideboarded games, I think a lot of players came to the table with very thin maindeck outs to the card.

Halvar is only the start of the anti-Sultai setup though. Reidane, God of the Worthy is finally stepping into the maindeck and shutting down all those haymaker spells that Sultai is relying on. It also doesn’t hurt that this week featured the greatest density of snow lands we’ve seen in the format thus far.

Reidane, God of the Worthy Legion Angel

Both players here picked up Legion Angel, and I have to say, I would never have the requisite discipline to avoid playing a copy maindeck like Abe did, but it’s an interesting move. After all, you play more sideboarded games than Game 1s, and if it’s only swinging a particular subset of matchups, did you really lose anything by keeping your maindeck a little leaner?

The decision is also extremely contemplative of the typical differences between Game 1s and sideboard games. Things always tend to slow down and get a bit grindier once both sides have access to their 75s. I have no idea which side of the approach will ultimately prove to be correct, but I thought it was still an exciting divergence to highlight.

The players again differed on the inclusion of Drannith Magistrate, but as I mentioned last week, I like the card. It’s targeting a lot of the best decks. With this week’s tournament in the books though, expect the metagame to keep churning. This was probably the final great week for Drannith Magistrate, so I’d likely go with something closer to Abe’s setup going forward.

I’ve saved the best card in Mono-White Aggro for last though, and this archetype wasn’t the only one smart enough to pick up a killer tool in the fight against Sultai Ramp (Yorion).

Of course, I’m talking about a fistful of snow lands, and my new favorite changeling (sorry Chameleon Colossus).

Faceless Haven

Faceless Haven punishes the heck out of the way Sultai Ramp (Yorion) approaches games, and hits for massive chunks of damage while asking very little of manabases. It’s an important part of the Mono-White Aggro deck to be sure, but I think it’s singlehandedly responsible for putting Mono-Red Aggro back on the map this week.

Buzz around this deck started to generate towards the end of last week when it began occupying some of the top spots on the Mythic ladder. I got my own reps in with the deck and walked away extremely impressed. People just didn’t have the right tools to account for Mono-Red, and the reach provided by Faceless Haven felt reminiscent of Ramunap Ruins. Your opponent invests absolutely everything to stay alive, and then this one last threat pops out of your manabase to wreck their world.

In fairness though, that’s probably about it for the similarities between this deck and Ramunap Red. The card quality is just so much lower in red these days and I think this deck is extremely reliant on catching a metagame unaware. Early in the day, Mono-Red was everywhere at the top tables. As we got deeper in the tournament, more and more of the field was appropriately prepared and found the tools to blunt red’s aggression.

Still, the deck posted a 56% win-rate and I’m not trying to disqualify it from contention going forward. I’m just warning perspective players that things are only going to get harder, and it might be in your best interest to explore some of the ways that red decks can play a slightly more powerful end-game.

Gerry Thompson has been talking about playing some Magda, Brazen Outlaw alongside a Gilded Assault Cart or two, maybe even with some Ugin, the Spirit Dragon hanging out in the sideboard. If raw aggression is accounted for in the coming weeks, I love the idea of getting big. This is the way Mono-Red Aggro has historically had to adapt, floating up and down the aggressive spectrum. Don’t get too wedded to the idea of eight one-drops.

Four-Color Cycling (Lurrus) hasn’t picked up much outside of a better manabase, but sometimes that’s all it takes for a deck to find its footing. Thinking more broadly there are a couple of reasons I can talk myself into Four-Color having a home in the format right now. First off, it’s oddly one of the better Shatter the Sky / Doomskar decks in sideboard games. If people are picking up Mono-Red and Mono-White Aggro again, those two cards are destined to have some place in the format. Why not Four-Color Cycling (Lurrus)?

Second, cycling in all forms has always been great at finding ways to punish midrange decks that refuse to actually close the game. If you’re not winning, eventually Zenith Flare will find a window to kill you. Improbable Alliance has only increased Four-Color’s late-game inevitability. While I think Sultai tightened up its windows for actually winning games, I’m less sure of its ability to keep up with a protected Improbable Alliance.

Finally, and most importantly, Four-Color represents the “quasi-aggro with disruption” archetype that I mentioned as a potential Sultai killer in last week’s column. Speaking of last week’s column…

There’s Noriyuki Mori again. Top 8ing back-to-back events. Minimal adjustments from last week’s 75. Still basically the only person playing this deck. Seriously, don’t make me do this again next week. Stop sleeping on this archetype, and definitely don’t sleep on Noriyuki Mori. This is a real way to do the disruption plus clock trick, and The Great Henge and Genesis Ultimatum also ensure you have plenty of late-game to go with it.

C’mon, you knew I wasn’t going to let Dance of the Manse go by without a mention. Esper Blink, and in fact all of the Doom Foretold lists, are in a strange spot where it feels like they are trapped playing a smaller midrange game than Emergent Ultimatum. Even if that’s true though, this format is way more diverse than the headlines might lead you to believe.

Looking at Leonardo Lima’s matchups, they split matches against Sultai Ramp (Yorion). I expect they’re still behind there, but I like Dance of the Manse to give you something that can potentially respond to Emergent Ultimatum. Plus, Lima has plenty of counterspells to hit that trump card.

However, Lima straight-up farmed some of the other decks in the format. Mono-Green Aggro, Gruul Adventures, Rakdos Sacrifice… Lima took them all down in decisive fashion. I would assume Mono-White Aggro is another acceptable matchup, and can probably be made even better after some targeting.

The churn in the format is going to be constant, and things are starting to point in the direction of Esper Blink again. Don’t be shocked if this is the big gainer come this weekend’s events. Of course, we’ll have to keep our eyes on the ladder for any more mid-week surprises akin to Mono-White and Mono-Red Aggro’s emergence this week.

After spending the first few weeks with a middling opinion of this format, this is the week where my evaluation shifted. Things look legitimately good for Standard for the first time in a while. Metagame adaptation is lightning-quick, there’s a huge pool of viable decks, and some decks that feel profoundly different from the Simic Soup we’ve endured the past few years have started to emerge as real contenders.

For the second week in a row, I chose not to highlight decks from the Friday and Saturday satellites because Sunday’s metagame evolutions invalidated virtually everything that preceded them. Let’s hope that Standard keeps this momentum going and that today’s announcements can also bring a similar rejuvenation to every other format as well.

Getting rid of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in as many places as possible is a huge step in the right direction.