Kaldheim First Impressions: Modern

The Kaldheim First Impressions series concludes with Modern. Will any patterns emerge in our creators’ cascade of opinions?

Tibalt’s Trickery, illustrated by Anna Podedworna

Welcome back to Kaldheim First Impressions week!

All week long, various members of the SCG Staff have shared their thoughts on the Top 5 Kaldheim cards in each format. On Monday, we showed our love for Goldspan Dragon in Standard, on Tuesday we acknowledged the Pathways’ impact in Historic, and yesterday we shilled for Magic’s Loki wannabe in Pioneer. Today, we’ll close things out with an attempt to get Tibalt’s Trickery banned 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

Today we kick things off with the curmudgeon of VS Live! (tune in every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:00 PM ET on our Twitch page!) and Utah Jazz superfan, Ross Merriam.

Tell us how much you hate Tibalt’s Trickery in 3… 2… 1…

Ross Merriam

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Invasion of the Giants
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  5. Reidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector’s Shield

Any time a card creates an entirely new archetype, especially one that kills on Turn 2 and may get banned, you’re taking the #1 slot. Using Tibalt’s Trickery with cheap cascade cards and aggressive mulligans lets you find the card consistently, and since you target the initial cascade spell with the Trickery you hit from the trigger, you can fill the rest of your deck with powerful Eldrazi and Brilliant Ultimatums so you’re more than likely going to hit something game-ending with it.

The deck is powerful, but ultimately easy to disrupt since the deckbuilding constraints are massive, and it has a high fail rate that we expect from such explosive combo decks. So I doubt it’ll be more than a thorn in the side of Modern players over the next few weeks before occupying a similar place as Neobrand decks do now, but that makes it the most impactful card in the set.

In second place comes perhaps the most surprising card on the list, especially given how disappointed I’ve been with Invasion of the Giants in Standard testing. But all by itself it lets you cast Primeval Titan on Turn 4, and it doesn’t even cost you a card to do it. Temur Titan decks emerged last weekend solely on the back of this card letting you play fewer ramp elements and more interaction. The result is a deck that combines elements of Selesnya Titan and the various Mystic Sanctuary-Uro decks, and I’m convinced that it’s the best version of either archetype. In most cases that would make it a strong candidate for first, but Trickery being a completely new deck gave it the edge.

Next up is Valki, God of Lies, one of the most-talked-about cards for Modern in the set because of its interaction with Bloodbraid Elf. Normally I wouldn’t go in for that kind of gimmicky synergy but Valki also stands on its own because of how well it interacts against Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. The general mediocrity of Jund and the current ubiquity of Wrenn and Six have me a bit lower on Valki in Modern than I was initially, but it’s still a significant upgrade for one of Modern’s most iconic decks.

Fourth is a more speculative card, but I can’t help but imagine the potential. Birgi, God of Storytelling reads a lot like Goblin Electromancer, but because you get the one mana back after casting instead of before, it works much better with one-mana spells. You can go further and play it alongside cards like Lava Dart and Gut Shot so you can tap out for Birgi and still keep going. Throw in some Rituals and Manamorphoses to turn that red mana into something more useful and Birgi threatens to end the game immediately.

I’d be excited just for the obverse side, but on the reverse you get Harnfel, Horn of Bounty, a great play in long games when your opponents tear through your opening hand with discard spells or counter key payoff cards. Harnfel can absolutely take over a game like Experimental Frenzy or similar effects, and here it comes attached as a bonus. I don’t know if we’ll see Birgi in traditional Storm decks or something more red-centric with cheap burn and Light Up the Stage, but it’ll make its presence known at some point.

Rounding out the list I have Reidane, God of the Worthy. Death and Taxes experienced a resurgence in the fall with the addition of Skyclave Apparition. I don’t expect Reidane to have the same impact as the powerful Spirit, but there are plenty of snow lands to disrupt, as well as spells like Cryptic Command and Supreme Verdict that creature decks would rather not have to worry about. I think Reidane compares favorably to Archon of Emeria, which frequently finds its way into these decks, especially because Reidane comes with a second side that will come in extra handy against those pesky Lava Darts.

Ryan Overturf

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Bind the Monster
  4. Realmwalker
  5. Snakeskin Veil

I’d be pretty surprised to see much disagreement in the top two slots today, but I am curious about how everybody else rounded out the rest of their lists. Tibalt’s Trickery immediately spawned a new archetype capable of casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn way ahead of schedule, adding to the list of reasons I’m hesitant to register Lava Darts anymore. Valki shows up some in earnest as a reasonable two-mana threat, though largely for the ability to cascade into a Valki but cast it as a Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor. If you’re not cheating in Modern, you’re not trying, and these cards both check the right boxes. 

The rest of the cards in my Top 5 revolve around much more honest Magic. Realmwalker is on the inefficient side for Humans, but I’d expect it to show up in the hands of anybody still holding out on that deck in small numbers in the 75 for some extra punch in grindy matchups. Ultimately I’m more curious about the card as a potential upgrade for Elves, seeing as it has play patterns with Heritage Druid that aren’t dramatically different from Glimpse of Nature. It’s possible that this engine is too slow and vulnerable to be consistently competitive, but I wouldn’t be surprised to lose to this in a League. 

Snakeskin Veil is in some ways redundant with Blossoming Defense and Vines of Vastwood, but it’s my belief that the efficiency in offering some pump for one mana makes it more desirable than Vines a significant percent of the time. Modern gets more efficient all the time and kicking Vines has become much more difficult to pull off since Fatal Push and Lava Dart entered the format. I’d expect to see some amount of Infect with Snakeskin Veil in the metagame, and the +1/+1 counter could also be real for any Hardened Scales holdouts. 

Bind the Monster strikes me as a potentially big deal for Death’s Shadow decks, which also recently added Scourge of the Skyclaves to their arsenal. A cheap removal spell that enables the casting of your giant threats and also pitches to Force of Negation if you decide to skew in that direction to really beat up on the combo decks is easily worth a long look. It’s also not totally out of the question for other blue decks to pick up Bind the Monster just as a clean removal spell for creatures, though my bet here is almost exclusively on Grixis Death’s Shadow picking up the card. 

Autumn Burchett

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Invasion of the Giants
  3. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel
  4. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  5. Rimewood Falls

Tibalt’s Trickery is the clear #1 here. There’s already a deck built around the card that seeks to use cascade cards like Violent Outburst and Ardent Plea to cascade into a copy of Tibalt’s Trickery with the hope that the Trickery will then find you some game-ending haymaker like an Eldrazi, Omniscience, or Brilliant Ultimatum. There’s a lot of variance involved in all this, and I’m unconvinced the deck has much staying power (when was the last time you saw Neobrand?), but there certainly seems to be excitement around the card and a copy of this strategy did finish ninth in last weekend’s Modern Challenge.

Invasion of the Giants is seeing a smaller splash, being used to sneak down Primeval Titan ahead of schedule in some control decks. Scrying two and then drawing a card is also just a perfectly fine floor for the card, so whilst I don’t think it’s the most exciting inclusion it wouldn’t surprise me if it sticks around.

The rest of my list is much more speculative. Cosima, God of the Voyage synergises really well with fetchlands so could be a reasonable card in the control mirrors in Modern if you expect your opponent is trimming on removal during sideboarding. Valki could fit well into a Jund strategy, and whilst the Tibalt side is quite hard to cast in this format, Valki stealing an Uro will still be just as fun as it is anywhere else.

Rimewood Falls is a personal inclusion as I miss casting Ice-Fang Coatl, and if I were playing Modern right now I’d likely end up including a copy of this land in my Wilderness Reclamation decks as a fetchland target that perhaps enables me to play my favourite snow Snake.

Todd Anderson

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Invasion of the Giants
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. In Search of Greatness
  5. Alrund’s Epiphany

Tibalt’s Trickery has already caused some problems in Modern, acting as Hypergenesis Lite, allowing for an extremely early Eldrazi or similarly broken spell to be cast inside a one-card combo. The interaction of Tibalt’s Trickery and three-mana cascade spells like Violent Outburst allows for building and play patterns that baffle at first sight. Will it be able to overcome the raw brutality of Force of Negation? Time will tell.

Invasion of the Giants is seeing play in all forms of bastardized “Temur Giants” decks that are really just Primeval Titan decks that also happen to play Uro. It’s a solid burst of cards and interaction, and allows you to cast Primeval Titan much more easily and quickly than normal while digging and replacing itself. Revealing a Giant to pop an opposing Noble Hierarch or similar should easily seal the deal when you follow that up with a cheap Primeval Titan.

Valki is starting to make waves in a new variation of Jund. Centered around the same cascade mechanic, this build uses Violent Outburst and Demonic Dread to find Valki and instead cast it as Tibalt. I’ve heard that’s pretty good in a grindy Jund-style shell!

In Search of Greatness is like Aether Vial for Mono-Green Devotion, and could singlehandedly bring the archetype from “meme” to “dream.” Alrund’s Epiphany is pretty disgusting in various Yorion decks in Standard, but I expect it to absolutely shine in Taking Turns in Modern. Having more virtual copies of Part the Waterveil is wanted and extremely good. Cards like Alrund’s Epiphany just allow you to gain traction and actually end the game in weird spots where a Time Warp might not do much at all. There’s so much synergy built into these new cards and I’m loving all the micro-interactions I’m finding whenever I cast one of them!

Ari Lax

  1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  2. Tibalt’s Trickery
  3. Invasion of the Giants
  4. In Search of Greatness
  5. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

Valki is a clear first-place trophy holder here. Not only is it crushing Uro in yet another format, Modern has way more creature-based, disruption-light combo decks like Oops All Spells and Selesnya Company for it to cover and has cascade for cheap Tibalts. The only problem it has is dying to Wrenn and Six.

Tibalt’s Trickery in second place is another easy one. The goldfish success numbers on the Violent Outburst-Emrakul deck are too high to ignore. Similarly to Neobrand, I don’t expect it to be dominant, but it’s the kind of deck that forces respect and punishes people for forgetting it exists.

Invasion of the Giants in third place might see weird, but it’s an Omen of the Sea that naturally curves into Turn 4 Primeval Titan and that probably even undersells the card. It’s assured ramp into Primeval Titan that also makes sure you draw the right number of land drops to go with it and interaction. Turn 2 Invasion of the Giants is as close to locking in your best draw with a single card as you can get.

After these we drop into cards that have potential but aren’t certain to be great. In Search of Greatness plus Leyline of Abundance into Nissa, Who Shakes the World is an obviously powerful line of play, and Birgi, God of Storytelling going off with Lava Dart is a step up from the previous Runaway Steam-Kin versions of that deck and also fits into Obosh, the Preypiercer’s restriction.

Corey Baumeister

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Invasion of the Giants
  4. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel
  5. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

Tibalt’s Trickery has to jump to the top of the list and frankly I’m shocked this card was even printed. Frank Karsten ran the numbers and came up with a Turn 3 Emrakul 88.3% of the time with this as a 60-card deck. Imagine what a tuned list will look like in the coming weeks. Can you tell I’m not a fan of these types of decks?

I’m very excited to see what Valki can do to Uro in Modern. Uro is the most dominant card in the format by a wide margin and Valki is the perfect card to punish these Mystic Sanctuary-based Uro piles. I’m still slightly scared that those decks also play Wrenn and Six as a clean answer to the card but they have to have it the very next turn or they get punished. If you can pair a Thoughtseize with Valki, we might just be ready to dethrone the best deck in the format.

Invasion of the Giants is a card I would not have had on my list last week but over the weekend I saw a ton of people having positive experiences with it when it was paired with Primeval Titan. Being able to fix your draws, draw a card, and make the most powerful six-drop in Modern cheaper has to be a recipe for success.

The last two cards on my list are not stand-out cards to me but I do think they show some potential. Cosima, God of the Voyage has a ton of text but the only relevant text to me is the interaction with fetchlands. Being able to cast Cosima on Turn 3 followed by Uro and a few fetchlands nets you a 5/7 and you get to Ancestral Recall for free; doesn’t seem too bad to me in the right shell! Birgi, God of Storytelling also serves a very specific role in Izzet Storm. I’m not sure it’s good enough to replace any of the other storm cards in a Lightning Bolt-based format but it for sure has potential with the duality of the card.

Shaheen Soorani

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. In Search of Greatness
  3. Doomskar
  4. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  5. Behold the Multiverse

Kaldheim has provided a wealth of resources across all competitive formats.  It’s not a time of celebration in Modern, as some of the cards have already proven to be problematic.  At first glance, Tibalt’s Trickery is a fun Commander card, going in every red deck out there.  It turns out that it’s a broken combo card since it can target the spells that the controller casts.

Usually spells like this do not make it through, because the new wave of design has spells affecting the opponent only.  Tibalt’s Trickery breaks that rule and may end up damaging Modern in the meantime.  It probably will not remain legal for long, but it’s not the only card I am suspicious of. 

In Search of Greatness is another card that will may prove to be problematic, especially in an older format like Modern.  Luckily for the control team, the rest of my Top 5 are all wholesome fair cards that we will grow to love in each competitive format.

Hengegate Pathway is that perfect sub-in for the random Glacial Fortress (or two) that we end up playing in Azorius Control.  It’s a huge upgrade that many have not realized just yet and I am hoping that successful swap is replicated with Doomskar over Supreme Verdict.  I am a bit suspicious there, as I’m with Behold the Multiverse over the failed card draw of Modern control decks. 

Let us just say, Kaldheim is an Azorius goldmine and I plan on exploring it to the fullest!

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

T-5. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel — 4 points

Cosima, God of the Voyage The Omenkeel

T-5. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty — 4 points

Birgi, God of Storytelling Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

4. In Search of Greatness — 8 points

In Search of Greatness

3. Invasion of the Giants — 18 points

Invasion of the Giants

2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor — 21 points

Valki, God of Lies Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

1. Tibalt’s Trickery — 34 points

Tibalt's Trickery

We hope you enjoyed our first impressions on Kaldheim‘s impact on Standard, Historic, Pioneer, and Modern. Be sure to keep your eyes our for our Kaldheim Exit Interviews right before Strixhaven: School of Mages preview season so you can see how well (or not well!) the SCG Staff did with their initial thoughts on Magic’s newest set.

Until then, have fun raising your axe!