Kaldheim First Impressions: Historic

The Kaldheim First Impressions continue with Historic. Will a modal DFC land pull away from the pack? Will Valki, God of Lies continue its streak?

Blightstep Pathway, illustrated by Jenn Ravenna

Welcome back to Kaldheim First Impressions week!

All week long, various members of the SCG Staff will share their thoughts on the Top 5 Kaldheim cards in each format. Yesterday, we kicked things off with Standard. Today we’ll knock out Historic, Wednesday will be Pioneer, and Thursday will be Modern. To add a little fun to the mix, a scoring system has been put in place so that we can get an idea of what card ranked in what place in the aggregate to close out each article. The scoring system is as follows:

  • 1st — 5 points
  • 2nd — 4 points
  • 3rd — 3 points
  • 4th — 2 points
  • 5th — 1 point

Let’s start things off with your reigning and defending Magic: The Gathering World Champion, shall we?

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

  1. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway
  4. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  5. Faceless Haven

This list is a lot more speculative than yesterday’s when we covered Standard, as I don’t think Historic is going to change very much. Several cards in Kaldheim require a theme and, while these themes might be good enough for Standard (snow, Giants, Treasures, Elves, etc.), they probably fall a bit short in Historic, which means we’re left looking at cards that are individually powerful or that will help existing decks rather than cards that will create an archetype of their own.

Honestly, the biggest additions as a whole seem to be the Pathways, as they help equalize the mana in the format. Of them, I think the Rakdos one is by far the most important, as there are already several Rakdos-based decks whose mana will become much improved by its addition (such as Rakdos Arcanist, Rakdos Sacrifice, and potentially Jund Sacrifice or Goblins with a black splash). 

The Golgari Pathway also seems important to me because of Jund Sacrifice and potentially Sultai and Four-Color Midrange decks, as well as any Bolas’s Citadel decks that reappear. Finally, the Azorius Pathway also seems like it’s definitely going to see play in Azorius Auras, but I don’t think that deck is very good to begin with and having better mana is not going to make it so, so its influence is diminished.

In the end, though, players will have to carefully balance these lands with the lands that require basic land types, such as Castles and Glacial Fortress. It’s possible that an Azorius Control deck, for example, doesn’t even run all four copies of Hengegate Pathway, though an aggressive Azorius deck very likely will. 

As far as actual spells go, I think Valki, God of Lies is the best. It’s arguably better than in Standard, since the single best target for it is Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. If you steal an Uro, you can attack with it on Turn 3 already, which is very promising, and I’m certainly going to be trying it out in the Rakdos-based decks I have. 

My last card is the most speculative in Faceless Haven. Right now monocolored aggressive decks aren’t very popular, but if Mono-Green Aggro or Mono-Red Aggro make a comeback at some point, it’s likely they will want to include a snow subtheme to support Faceless Haven — it is a pretty powerful card. It’s also possible that Mono-Green Aggro never becomes good, though, and then this card might never see any play.

Ari Lax

  1. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  2. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. Doomskar
  5. In Search of Greatness

The gap between the allied-pair Pathways and enemy-pair ones is even bigger in Historic than Standard due to the Kaladesh fastlands. You already have Spirebluff Canal if you want to play Izzet, but Rakdos just has Blood Crypt and Dragonskull Summit. Again, the upgrade is a bigger deal for Rakdos than for Azorius because Rakdos is more into Turn 1 plays, but Rakdos Arcanist and Azorius Control are already contenders in Historic that really want access to these lands. The Thoughtseize splash in Goblins also becomes much closer to free.

Valki’s text is designed specifically to exploit Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. It’s a strong card even ignoring that lineup, handling Muxus, Goblin Grandee before it hits the stack and giving Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks a big end-game play, but beating up on Uro made me debate it against the Pathways for the top spots instead of sliding into the lower spots on this ranking. It probably deserves to be in second place, but pinning a card’s rating on whether Uro remains legal in a format seems like a bad idea these days.

If the Pathways point toward Azorius getting better, Doomskar is the other half of that. Redefining the curve of how Historic control has to interact with aggro is a huge deal, both with Turn 3 Doomskar and Turn 5 Doomskar with interaction up.

After these four cards, it drops off a lot. None of the raw-rate threats that are great for Standard line up to the best of Historic, so it’s “find your favorite weird card.” I think In Search of Greatness has the highest ceiling, especially since the Leylines are all legal in the format, but it could just be Showdown of the Skalds (a card that probably should have made my Standard list) or some narrower card like Blizzard Brawl in fifth place.

Autumn Burchett

  1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  2. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  3. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  4. Righteous Valkyrie
  5. Immersturm Predator

My Top 5 for Standard yesterday and Historic today have very little in common, except the same card happens to top both lists: Valki, God of Lies. I adore the flexibility of this card and consider both modes the card offers to be very appealing. That said, in the faster world of Historic, Valki is definitely the side you’ll be casting far more often, especially with Uro being such a cornerstone of the format; getting your Uro exiled by Valki on Turn 2, only to then be attacked by an Uro on Turn 3, is a play you’d better get used to rolling your eyes over. To make things even better, Valki has a perfect home to slot into in Rakdos Arcanist, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the card works its way into some of the Uro shells also.

Whilst we’re talking about Rakdos Arcanist, a big problem with both that deck and Rakdos Sacrifice has been the manabase, with both decks not wanting to play tapped lands but also needing to cast some fairly colour-intensive spells. Blightstep Pathway stands to see a decent amount of play with this in mind, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Immersturm Predator see some play in Rakdos Sacrifice specifically as a way to pressure planeswalkers in the air whilst gobbling up Uros and Woe Striders from opposing graveyards.

Birgi, God of Storytelling feels like the kind of card that could push the more busted mana engines in Historic to the breaking point and I’m excited to see how it fares in Temur Paradox Engine. It’s also possible Birgi fits into some sort of Underworld Breach deck, which is something to keep an eye on.

Finally, I’m going to really enjoy casting Righteous Valkyrie in Historic; it being a Collected Company hit makes it have real potential in the Selesnya Lifegain decks I’ve seen going around occasionally, and the double Anthem it offers is so powerful that perhaps it is what those decks need to become contenders.

Todd Anderson

  1. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  2. Faceless Haven
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. In Search of Greatness
  5. Niko Aris

I’ve chosen to omit the Pathways from my list because it should be clear to any competitive player how important they will be to deckbuilding as a whole. Completing the cycle gives us access to a host of aggressive two-color lands that have virtually no drawback.

Birgi, God of Storytelling is one of the coolest red cards I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve already built a few decks around this gem and it doesn’t disappoint. One of the litmus tests for new cards is how they feel when you first cast them. Some cards play worse than you thought; others are just mediocre in general or don’t live up to the hype. Birgi, God of Storytelling hit me in all the right spots and surpassed all my expectations.

Faceless Haven is Mutavault-adjacent, and will likely see a lot of play in mono- or two-color decks in Historic. Playing a bunch of Snow-Covered Mountains so you can get a staggeringly aggressive creature-land is nuts. Valki, God of Lies is a no-brainer in most attrition decks. Stealing your opponent’s best creature in the early turns is solid, but having it be a haymaker in later turns just feels right.

In Search of Greatness is one of those cards that might end up being actual broken but I don’t know if there’s a place to put it yet. It might take adding Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx before it starts to do degenerate stuff, but it looks an awful lot like a green Aether Vial to me. Niko Aris is more of a called shot than actually good in the format. I feel like Azorius Control decks could utilize this planeswalker in ways that we haven’t really thought of yet, but current builds might want it to act like Tireless Tracker or some other value engine that can interact with the opponent’s creatures. It’s another card that scales monstrously as the game progresses, which seems to be a common theme in these modal cards printed in the last few sets.

I can’t wait to play more with these cards in Historic to unlock their full potential!

Cedric Phillips

  1. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  4. Bind the Monster
  5. Crippling Fear

As my colleagues have mentioned already, Blightstep Pathway is a huge boon for Rakdos-based strategies in Historic and will likely be a four-of in all of them. The days of them having inadequate mana should be behind them and that should breathe more life into Rakdos Arcanist, Rakdos Sacrifice and Rakdos Goblins (even if I think splashing Thoughtseize into that deck is awful).

Speaking of Thoughtseize, living the dream with Valki taking and then becoming Uro is actually feasible because Thoughtseize has the ability to pave the way for such a turn cycle. But even if that’s Valki’s ceiling, its floor is nothing to frown upon. Getting information and being a threat that needs to be answered is a great floor, and splashing for Tibalt should be easy enough given the abundance of fantastic nonbasics available in Historic.

It seems like eons ago that Brad Barclay coasted through the Zendikar Rising Championship with Azorius Control but that is one of the many obscure things that took place in 2020. Does Azorius really need another nonbasic at its disposal? For aggressive strategies like Azorius Auras, sure I guess (maybe this land will take the deck from unplayable garbage to just garbage). For controlling ones like Azorius Control, I don’t think I would use the word need but it certainly doesn’t mind another option at its disposal.

Rounding things out are more speculative picks in Bind the Monster and Crippling Fear. Much like Autumn, I’ve had some fun playing Mono-Blue Aggro in Historic in 2020 and having a cheap way to deal with a problematic threat for good at the cost of a bit of life sounds appealing. As for Crippling Fear, we might be looking at a Languish replacement with a bit of upside. It’s unclear to me if this will be better or worse than any of the available sweepers in black but the ability to build a tribal deck that takes advantage of this effect is unique enough that we probably shouldn’t ignore it.

And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Kaldheim cards for Historic are…

5. Faceless Haven — 5 points

Faceless Haven

4. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty — 8 points

Birgi, God of Storytelling Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

3. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway — 9 points

Hengegate Pathway Mistgate Pathway

T-1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor — 19 points

Valki, God of Lies Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

T-1. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway — 19 points

Blightstep Pathway Searstep Pathway

Cya back here tomorrow for our thoughts on Kaldheim’s impact on Pioneer!