Moving From The First Macro To Optimizing Micro In Kaldheim Draft

Small adjustments can make big differences to your Draft outcomes. Ryan Saxe illustrates the principle with key picks from a trophy-winning deck.

Frostpyre Arcanist, illustrated by Sam Rowan

We are now over a week into Kaldheim Draft, and the format is beginning to settle into what I call “the first macro.” Limited formats evolve over time, but usually in the first few weeks, enough players become familiar with the cards such that a generic equilibrium strategy naturally arises. During the first week of a format, what cards wheel is a bit entropic and difficult to predict. However, now that we are reaching this equilibrium, cards that are deemed “bad,” such as Brinebarrow Intruder, wheel almost every time. This is a nice opportunity to gain an edge by understanding the variants of archetypes that enjoy these “bad cards.” This means you can leverage small deckbuilding advantages for optimal gameplay, otherwise known as “optimizing micro.”

I even recently wrote a thread about these commons on Twitter.

We have officially settled into “the first macro,” where the majority of players understand what the two pillars of the format are — red aggressive decks and green snow decks (as I outlined last week) — and hence the next edges to gain are in two places:

  1. The micro: small deckbuilding and draft edges within the existing macro.
  2. The second macro: discover a deviation from the current equilibrium that lines up well against it.

Right now, I’m unsure what “the second macro” is, but most formats do have deviations that are very rewarding. For now, I’m placing most of my energy discerning edges via the micro. This draft, for example, yields a pretty unconventional version of Izzet. The first few packs are classic exemplary decisions, but the third really requires focusing on micro-decisions for what is most optimal for the deck at hand. What would you take?

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

Volatile Fjord Frost Bite Frost Bite

The Pack:

Dread Rider Broken Wings Goldmaw Champion Open the Omenpaths Raven Wings Scorn Effigy Draugr Thought-Thief Village Rites Grizzled Outrider Starnheim Courser Kardur, Doomscourge Frostpyre Arcanist

The Pick:

Kardur, Doomscourge is a powerful gold card that overlaps colors with my two copies of Frost Bite. However, I’m not a fan of black in this format. In fact, Feed the Serpent isn’t even in my Top 10 commons anymore because of this. I think if you aren’t as against the color as I am, Kardur is a justifiable pick. But you won’t catch me dead trying to put a black card in my deck unless I’m forced into it via opening a broken mythic or it’s the only color flowing to my seat.

Goldmaw Champion is a good card, but it’s the worst version of Territorial Hammerskull we have seen. The two-mana requirement for boast is higher than it looks because the white decks all want to play Equipment. I think a lot of players, myself included, had this as a relatively high pick earlier in the format. I’m now much lower on it, and it doesn’t even make every single white deck I draft. That might sound crazy, but it’s where I am currently in the format.

I’m extremely happy to pick Frostpyre Arcanist here. I currently believe this card is quite underrated, as I’ve seen it wheel a few too many times. While it’s best in Izzet, it’s playable in basically any deck that has enough instant and/or sorcery duplicates. Furthermore, a 2/5 is an oddly impressive statline in this format. I’ve had games where this card singlehandedly bought me multiple turns so that I could turn a game around. While I would take Frostpyre Arcanist here even if I didn’t already have two copies of Frost Bite, that bonus cements this pick as not close for me.

Pack 1, Pick 5

The Picks So Far:

Volatile Fjord Frost Bite Frost Bite Frostpyre Arcanist

The Pack:

Grim Draugr Immersturm Raider Broken Wings Sculptor of Winter Koma's Faithful Axgard Cavalry Valor of the Worthy Run Amok Moritte of the Frost Invasion of the Giants Snow-Covered Swamp

The Pick:

Axgard Cavalry is one of the most underrated commons in the set right now. It’s not only the best common two-drop for red aggressive decks, but even the less aggressive decks are happy to play it to facilitate fantastic on-curve beats.

While Invasion of the Giants and Moritte of the Frost are great gold cards in their respective decks, I genuinely believe Axgard Cavalry is in the discussion. In fact, I can see reasonable argument for all three options in this pack.

I landed on Invasion of the Giants because I think my start is optimized for Izzet, it would be a good card in my deck, and I think passing the gold card increases the probability that somebody downstream moves into Izzet by enough of a margin that it’s correct to take the gold Saga to increase the probability of seeing good Izzet cards in Pack 2. With a stronger bias towards red aggro, I can see taking Cavalry, which still leaves the Izzet door open. And with a stronger bias towards Simic Snow❄, I can see taking Moritte with the goal of splashing these copies of Frost Bite. Overall, I believe this pick comes down to preference of how you like to draft as that lines up against your current priorities of archetypes.

Now, this next pick has more options, and is all about optimizing the micro. Take your time to look over the current pool of cards, as it greatly informs the decision I made. As a note, the ordering of the cards in the pool is the order in which I picked them (e.g. Giant Ox was Pack 2, Pick 15).

Pack 3, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

Volatile Fjord Frost Bite Frost Bite Frostpyre Arcanist Invasion of the Giants Svella, Ice Shaper Run Ashore Shimmerdrift Vale Axgard Armory Disdainful Stroke Seize the Spoils Scorn Effigy Broken Wings Raven Wings Warhorn Blast Cyclone Summoner Battle of Frost and Fire Mistwalker Highland Forest Depart the Realm Seize the Spoils Squash Shimmerdrift Vale Surtland Frostpyre Strategic Planning Niko Defies Destiny Brinebarrow Intruder Karfell Harbinger Brinebarrow Intruder Giant Ox Frost Bite Squash

The Pack:

Axgard Cavalry Masked Vandal Berg Strider Invoke the Divine Tuskeri Firewalker Horizon Seeker Grim Draugr Dogged Pursuit Demon Bolt Frostpyre Arcanist The Trickster-God's Heist Giant's Amulet Rimewood Falls

The Pick:

The correct thing to do here is take the pack and run. It has everything I need for the rest of this draft! Okay, given that that’s not an option, let’s break down the options into what they bring to the table.

  • Rimewood Falls: On-color fixing for Svella, Ice Shaper and a snow land if the Berg Strider in this pack wheels.
  • Demon Bolt: A better removal spell than any of the interaction currently in my pool.
  • Axgard Cavalry: A two-drop, which fills a very needed gap in my curve.
  • Giant’s Amulet: Top-end creature that is resilient to removal.
  • Frostpyre Arcanist: Value creature that’s a great blocker.
  • Berg Strider: Creature that is great at pressing an offensive advantage and holding down an opponent with the offensive advantage.

So, to break this down looking at the pool, fixing and removal are not what my deck is missing. My deck is missing threats. I have a variety of powerful cards and card advantage, but I’m genuinely concerned at my deck’s ability to close out a game. This eliminates Demon Bolt, Rimewood Falls, Axgard Cavalry, and Frostpyre Arcanist, as none of them help shore up this weakness. Furthermore, an advantage of passing Arcanist here is that it’s the card most likely to wheel, as many blue decks won’t be able to take advantage of it this late in the draft. This is further exacerbated by the fact that I got a Surtland Frostpyre on the wheel in Pack 2.

Hence, this pick is between Berg Strider and Giant’s Amulet. While I’m fairly certain that I would take Berg Strider over Giant’s Amulet Pack 1, Pick 1, I think the Amulet is the correct pick here for multiple reasons:

  1. I only have a few snow lands at the moment, and hence can’t fully capitalize on the upside of Berg Strider.
  2. Hexproof matters a lot in this deck thanks to the lack of threats. The ability to protect the few threats I have increases the value of Amulet significantly.
  3. I have a Depart the Realm I’m already planning to play, and Giant’s Amulet can be bounced to create an additional 4/4. This is not insignificant given the lack of threats in the pool.

And, just as I said, Frostpyre Arcanist wheeled from this pack and I was able to pilot this creature-light deck to a trophy!