Mutavault just had its bar mitzvah.
That’s right, it’s been exactly thirteen (!) years since Morningtide was printed and this exceptional land first saw the light of day, changing the baseline for powerful creature-lands forever. Prior to Mutavault, the best creature-lands were Treetop Village, which entered the battlefield tapped, and Mishra’s Factory, which isn’t legal in any format newer than Legacy. It’s appropriate, then, that as this legendary (though not supertype legendary!) land comes of age, a new riff on the same theme releases with appropriate fanfare and recognition.
Now, there are a lot of things to like about this homage to one of the greatest creature-lands ever. But there are some key differences, too. It’s important to not get carried away with a fantasy that this new card will be able to do everything Mutavault could do, but at the same time it incorporates a few key features that Mutavault can’t match. When evaluating cards, we can always look to the past to guide the future and this is no exception.
The biggest similarity between Mutavault and Faceless Haven (after the fact that they’re both creature-lands) is that they are both colorless lands that enter the battlefield untapped. What does that mean? It’s an indicator that they are best for one- or two-color decks, likely aggro or aggressively slanted midrange decks.
But even more so than Mutavault, Faceless Haven entices you to play a monocolored deck. Why? Snow mana isn’t colorless mana. Faceless Haven requires you to have a lot of snow lands (or other snow mana sources) in your deck. The best multicolor lands (Triomes, Pathways, and Temples) are not snow. Further. there aren’t that many high-quality two-color snow lands. Mutavault worked perfectly in decks like Faeries and Merfolk where it had tribal synergies and didn’t mind the presence of cards like Wanderwine Hub, Faerie Conclave, Underground River, or even River of Tears.
The best you’re going to get out of Faceless Haven in a two-color deck is a tapped two-color snow land along with Fabled Passage and a heaping pile of snow basics. You can still play with exactly four Pathways and probably still have a fine deck that can support Faceless Haven, but every non-snow mana source is a little bit of a drag on our creature-land’s utility. That’s not to say that we can’t make it work, just that the best two-color lands don’t work well with this card.
Additionally, some of the most popular decks make excellent use of cards like Shatterskull Smashing, Tangled Florahedron, and Kazandu Mammoth. These DFCs are also huge incentives not to be reliant on a manabase full of snow synergies. It will take a very careful balancing act in order to include the right number of these powerful cards while maintaining at least 80-90% snow mana sources.
Keep in mind, though, a Mono-Red Aggro deck could make excellent use out of Faceless Haven. There’s no Goblin Chainwhirler these days to demand that every single land in the deck produces red mana. You can simply turn all of your basic Mountains into basic Snow-Covered Mountains, add three or four Faceless Havens, maybe shave a single Castle Embereth, and come out with an excellent upgraded aggro deck that’s less vulnerable to sweepers than ever.
I’d love to see some aggressively costed snow creatures, like Icehide Golem or similar, in order to really get on board with this. Of course, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) could always decide to reprint Skred, and we’d be in serious business! So far, it seems like the card Frost Bite is their best similar new printing, but Mono-Red could really use a one-mana way to get rid of four- or five-toughness blockers in order to really become stellar.
Additionally, a very popular deck in Standard today is Mono-Green Food. It does make use of Food synergies, but it’s possible to incorporate snow as well. It’s already playing several colorless lands like Crawling Barrens and Bonders’ Enclave. Could it do better with a different mana sink in the form of a creature-land? The key, of course, is deciding whether or not there are enough snow payoffs to justify playing more snow permanents. So far, the best of the bunch seems to be Blessing of Frost, which would be a fairly strong card in a Mono-Green deck with as many oversized creatures as this one.
Should there be more powerful reasons to be a snow deck, like a reprint of Boreal Druid or perhaps even a snow planeswalker, this will become much more compelling and likely become a competitive Standard archetype. If snow is relegated to a Limited-only power level, it’ll be harder to justify losing the Food synergies in order to replace one creature-land with another.
There is also a Mono-White Aggro deck in Standard, and it might be the secret best candidate for Faceless Haven. Mono-White has always struggled with sweepers, and has really only been good when it has had access to cards like Legion’s Landing while opponents have had weak sweeper effects. However, good creature-lands are always huge incentives to play a swarm aggro deck, as it means there’s often another threat waiting in the back row in case the opponent does have a sweeper.
Mono-White Aggro also has very little incentive to play non-snow lands, with only a couple of Castle Ardenvales and a few Emeria’s Calls as normal lands. I see some lists of that archetype playing Crawling Barrens, which, though it has its advantages in some archetypes over Faceless Haven, seems almost assuredly worse in Mono-White Aggro. With just a few incentives to play snow (perhaps WotC will do the right thing and print a new amazing white removal spell called Swords to Ski Poles?) this would immediately become a stellar choice in the new Standard format.
As it currently stands, this is likely the easiest Faceless Haven deck to play with what we currently know about Kaldheim.
- 4 Giant Killer
- 4 Hushbringer
- 1 Heliod, Sun-Crowned
- 3 Alseid of Life's Bounty
- 3 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- 4 Seasoned Hallowblade
- 4 Selfless Savior
- 4 Speaker of the Heavens
- 4 Luminarch Aspirant
Depending on the number of strong Humans in Kaldheim, it’s also possible that a deck could develop that includes Rally the Ranks, but I won’t hold my breath. Some of the other white creatures are simply too strong to give up, and without near-complete fealty to the Human tribe, it probably isn’t worth playing that card.
If it were, though, Faceless Haven would be in there so quickly it would make your head spin!
Now, snow is one of the big differences between Mutavault and Faceless Haven, but the similarity between them is that they are both changelings. Well, not explicitly, as neither one actually has the word printed on it, but they both benefit from extra tribal synergies that no other creature-lands get to use.
While Mutavault loved being paired with either Lord of Atlantis or Scion of Oona back in the day, Faceless Haven will go nicely with either Calamity Bearer or Magda, Brazen Outlaw quite nicely. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a Mono-Red Dwarves or Mono-Red Giants deck become excellent with these new synergies. In fact, the beauty of Faceless Haven is that it gets benefits from both, so if there were ever an opportunity to make use of multiple different creature type synergies in the same deck, this would be the one.
Plus, you have to appreciate the absurdity of the fact that Faceless Haven is a Dwarf Giant. Isn’t that just a regular-sized person?
Keep in mind, Bonecrusher Giant is a Giant! And Rimrock Knight and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell are both Dwarves. When already-powerful cards synergize, it’s a great basis to start building a deck. I love the idea of curving a Stomp into a Bonecrusher Giant into a Calamity Bearer into activating Faceless Haven and swinging for an insane amount of damage. Big Red has always been a reasonable archetype in Magic when it’s found sufficiently powerful spells at all points on the curve, and it is definitely possible for Giants to bring it up to the point where it’s playable again. A card like Coldsteel Heart, if reprinted, would do wonders for that sort of archetype.
Of course, Faceless Haven costs three mana to activate, compared to Mutavault’s one. That is by far the most important difference between them. However, it has vigilance, so after it attacks, you’re really only spending three mana compared to Mutavault’s two in order to get in some damage. Additionally, four power is a healthy amount when it comes to taking down planeswalkers, which might be Faceless Haven’s most important job.
We all know that creature-lands are critical for continuing to push damage in the face of cards like Supreme Verdict or Storm’s Wrath. However, it’s also important to look at how much more important they’ve become in the age of planeswalkers as a defining aspect of many games of Standard. Having a way to immediately answer planeswalkers for no cards is critical.
Using a removal spell at the end of the opponent’s turn to clean the battlefield, untapping, and casting a big planeswalker creates a massive advantage. That advantage spells the end for a great many games. However, when one player is just sitting with a creature-land, especially one that has sufficient power to take down the planeswalker in a single hit, things suddenly look a lot different. It’s not as easy to safely plan a game around sticking a planeswalker and riding it to victory.
This is a major development for aggressive decks without planeswalkers to help them get better at beating this sequence. When you can essentially cast two creatures in the same turn, but one of them isn’t really a creature and only comes out if the opponent takes their guard down, it’s impossible for most opponents to keep up, turn the corner, and take a turn off to cast their massive game-winner.
That’s the joy of creature-lands, and it’s important to have one with a high power in Standard to mitigate the impact of planeswalkers as the single most important way for midrange and control decks to win games.
At this point in the preview cycle, we can’t be certain exactly where Faceless Haven will fit in, or which of its characteristics will spawn more synergies. It could wind up being critical in a snow deck if enough snow synergies see print. I would absolutely love to see a cycle of one-mana spells that are related to the number of snow permanents in order to really move that forward. Even a few creatures or a planeswalker with the snow mana symbol in their casting costs would be key here.
On the other hand, if the right synergies surrounding tribal archetypes pick up, Faceless Haven will be there. In theory there could even be a deck with a bit of both.
Even without any legitimate supporting cast for any of Faceless Haven’s synergies, it’s still going to have a place in Standard because it’s a bit better in monocolored aggro decks than Crawling Barrens most of the time.
Plus, you just know that in the older formats someone is going to build a colorless snow deck just to see if Scrying Sheets and Faceless Haven can make a dent! I’m excited to watch this card to find the best places to squeeze it in, regardless of context.