Innovations In Kaldheim Standard From SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier #11

Kaldheim Standard continues to evolve on the SCG Tour Online. Bryan Gottlieb brings you the notable decks and tech choices from the weekend.

Pouncing Shoreshark, illustrated by Dan Scott


Finally, it feels like this is the weekend that the Kaldheim Standard metagame stopped and took a breath. The last two weeks, it felt like the three days of the SCG Tour Online rebuilt the metagame from the ground up. This week, players for the most part homed in on the archetypes that had proven themselves over large amounts of play and asked, “How can I alter this deck to take advantage of some known foes?” In some cases, this led to strong sideboard configurations and small maindeck alterations. In other cases, we’re looking at complete rebuilds of established contenders. Add in one or two new decks, and despite this being a more stable week than the ones preceding it, there’s still a lot of excitement to be found.

The finals of Sunday’s SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier came down to a showdown between Mono-Red Aggro❄ and Jeskai Cycling (Lurrus) — two decks that we highlighted heavily in previous incarnations of this column. I don’t want to spend a lot of time covering them but do want to give props to Christoffer Larsen and Simon Kamerow for their first- and second-place finishes, respectively.

Both players made small tweaks to successful lists and were the torchbearers for two strategies that managed to produce greater than 55% win rates on Sunday. I suspected that Mono-Red Aggro❄ was destined for a fall-off after players had the chance to prepare for it for a week, and early satellite results seemed to confirm these suspicions.

But by Sunday, the Mono-Red Aggro❄ decks had either adapted, fallen out of the crosshairs, or found their way into the hands of some really top-notch players like Christoffer Larsen and Brandon Burton, a.k.a. Sandydog. Either way, Mono-Red should retain the title of Public Enemy No. 1 as we head into this week’s Arena Qualifier.

After we move past these two decks, things start to get a little wild.

An extremely similar version of this take on Naya Adventures also finished in fourth place in the hands of Julian Wellman (liopoil), but I chose to highlight Richard Zhang’s (cftsoc’s) version because I believe that they are the creator of this truly inspired take on the archetype.

When I was working on Goldspan Dragon decks, I focused most of my attention on using free mana provided by targeting and attacking to protect the hasty flyer, but Richard Zhang chose to just get their opponent dead. This makes so much sense in a metagame where, despite poor performance, Sultai Ramp (Yorion) is still the most played deck. Of course, Sejiri Shelter is still here to let Goldspan Dragon take over the game in the old-fashioned way as well. Using Unleash Fury along side Goldspan Dragon is a stroke of brilliance, but you really don’t have to get that fancy. Double Lovestruck Beast’s power. Kazuul’s Fury it at your opponent’s face. GG.

I love when decks install these “I win” buttons into already robust strategies. You still have two of the most powerful card advantage engines in the format in Edgewall Innkeeper and Showdown of the Skalds, and you can still beatdown like any Gruul deck can. You just have an extra angle that much of the format can’t really account for.

You can tell Richard Zhang devoted a lot of attention to a Mono-White Aggro❄ matchup that didn’t really materialize this weekend with three copies of Archon of Absolution. After the deck reclaims that space and find some more solid hate against Mono-Red, I see no reason why this deck can’t be the next big thing in Standard.

The first time I saw someone really go hard on Toski, Bearer of Secrets, it was in a casual game I was playing against Michael Majors, and he beat me so badly that I then forced him to play his Selesnya-based beatdown deck against my Genesis Ultimatum / Ugin, the Spirit Dragon ramp list. He beat me again and I logged off and sat in darkness to contemplate retirement. Toski is messed up when you’re reliably getting wide and Lovestruck Beast makes that goal so easy.

Even if I love this idea, it’s kind of hard for this deck to justify its existence in a world where Naya Adventures can do many of the same gameplans but carries a brutal combo kill as well. It feels like, to cement its identity, this deck is really supposed to have a third color. When Majors was working with the idea, he was playing Showdown of the Skalds, but there’s so much card advantage here that it strikes me as a little unnecessary.

Blue for countermagic is probably solid for as long as people are playing the ramp decks. I also love the idea of doing these types of shenanigans alongside Alrund’s Epiphany. We’re probably talking about a somewhat different deck at this point, but maybe you can find a way to “combo” just as well as the Naya Adventures lists can.

Whoa, am I still allowed to intrude with my own decklists? This is certainly in the draft stages but there’s some cool stuff happening here. Just don’t get greedy and make sure you cast those Fae of Wishes as two-drops 99% of the time.

All right, back to our regularly scheduled program. Eliott Boussad (Eliott_dragon) went on an absolute tear with this deck over the weekend, 6-0’ing a Satellite and Top 12ing Sunday’s Championship Qualifier. And boy do I want to believe… but I’m sorry, I just don’t.

It’s clear Eliott Boussad has given this list a lot of thought, and it is built to have answers for absolutely anything an opponent might throw at it. There are so many individual card selections I love, from Midnight Clock to Graven Lore to Soul Shatter – it all screams to me, “This is a meticulously constructed control deck.”

But if you choose to play a deck like this in 2021, it’s playing Magic on hard mode. This hurts me to say, because almost every deck I played from 2000-2018 looked something like this. But you just don’t have to go this far to get your card advantage or your answers anymore. All of these things can be achieved with cards that also function as threats.

I don’t think this can be the “right” choice as long as Throne of Eldraine and the Adventure cards are legal in Standard, and Showdown of the Skalds might make it feel futile even after that point. It doesn’t mean that this isn’t great deckbuilding or that this wasn’t the best choice for exactly Eliott Boussad, who clearly understands the archetype inside and out. I’d just be incredibly surprised if this was the right choice for a big group of people in the coming weeks.

Players in the Satellite portion of the SCG Tour Online seem to be playing things pretty close to the vest these days, which I totally get. There are still a lot of power outliers in Kaldheim Standard and choosing the leave the safe confines of the format pillars takes a lot of moxie. So when someone like Erik Coomber brings the fire and rides it to a 5-1 record, you can be sure I’m going to call them out.

At its core, this Grixis Mutate deck is another member of the “little bit of aggression, little bit of disruption” club. However, it takes things a bit further by being able to deploy the vast majority of its expensive threats at instant speed. As more folks flocked to countermagic to control Sultai Ramp (Yorion), picking up the only deck in the world leveraging Cunning Nightbonder starts to make some sense.

I wish we went a little harder on the countermagic plan, and 23 total lands with five of them also being spells strikes me as way too few. But mutate is the forgotten mechanic from Ikoria, and it’s a shame because there is some inherent power, especially at instant speed. If Zagoth Mamba continues to find itself in a world with plenty of small creatures to pick off, this idea might have a future window to find a little success.

The SCG Tour Online is taking the next couple of weeks off before it returns in a yet-unspecified format on Friday, March 5th. For what it’s worth, put me down for a vote to return to Standard. The format is the healthiest it has been in ages, and the SCG Tour Online has been the last bastion of competitive play for Magic’s headline format during these trying times.

While Historic is a fine format and I certainly won’t be upset to return to it, it feels like the focus on the Standard format for the SCG Tour Online has helped bring back some of that commonality that has been missing from Magic in recent times. It’s nice that we’re all finding ways to focus on the same competitive scene again, and it couldn’t have happened without this consistent and exciting run of Standard events to prepare for.