Kaldheim can be a bit of an overwhelming set. There are so many words on the cards! It’s a huge hurdle to even parse the text on the cards properly, let alone start evaluating every single card. More than ever before, it feels like future Standard staples are being overlooked.
But I’m going to do my best solve that problem. Here are my top sleeper picks from Kaldheim.
Honorable Mentions: Too Hype to Sleep
It’s hard to be a sleeper if people are already hyping you up. Here’s a quick rundown of the cards receiving D-list hype when they should get leading roles in discussions.
But there hasn’t been enough hype about the card in the Mistbind Clique / Restoration Angel sense. If your opponent foretells a card with Doomskar, Glorious Protector, Saw It Coming, and Behold the Multiverse in their deck, how are you supposed to play around that? What about the midrange mirror where this lets you turn your own Doomskar into a one-sided sweeper? The base power level isn’t quite as high as those two classic flash all-stars but Glorious Protector gets into that range with a small amount of effort.
Shaheen is right about Burning-Rune Demon. It’s just too easy to build a deck where the choice isn’t really a choice for your opponent, especially when both cards you select end up in accessible zones. The graveyard is basically a second hand, right?
I lost the finals of an SCG Tour Online event to Ranger’s Guile in the last six months, and that was when they let me play Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in Standard. This card is a massive upgrade to that effect and I expect it to be at least a sideboard staple even if the Goldspan Dragon setup doesn’t pan out.
An obligatory disclaimer for Bryan’s list though:
Toski, Bearer of Secrets
Watching the preview season VS Live! sessions is a great way to pick up on promising cards, and even if the rest of the Elves deck looked terrible, Toski, Bearer of Secrets looked insane. People always love this effect, but this time it’s actually good and not just exciting.
It’s easy to write this off as conditional or win-more like Bident of Thassa, but Toski’s tiny Squirrel body is worth an extra free card a turn and the math is completely different. If they can’t handle the indestructible Toski, they’re under constant pressure that snowballs into a disaster if they fail to defend for one turn. Even if Kaldheim Standard doesn’t widely end up being about raw cards, Toski will be a crushing sideboard card for the matchups that are.
Now onto the cards you may not have seen or thought about.
5. Battle for Bretagard
Battle for Bretagard reads like a low-impact, non-competitive build-around, but if you just take a look at the rate, that first impression quickly turns around.
For just casting Battle for Bretagard and letting the Saga page through its chapters, you get four 1/1 tokens. It happens in a less aggressive fashion but that’s a lot of raw resources to work with from a single three-mana card. Any additional tokens generated are an absurd return on investment.
The thing that really stuck out to me is that Battle for Bretagard generates Human Warrior tokens. If they don’t have a specifically stated name, tokens names match their types, as in their full types, so a Human Warrior token doesn’t share a name with Human Soldier tokens or just plain Human tokens. Getting that extra value off the third chapter on Battle for Bretagard is easy.
This might make it sound like multiple Battle for Bretagards are worse than a single Battle mixed with other cards, but that’s not really true either. Multiple Battles make it really hard for your opponent to use interaction to mitigate the natural four token pattern of Battle for Bretagard, and if you wanted to trigger the last chapter of Battle for Bretagard once, you certainly would love a second helping of copying tokens.
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Giant Killer
- 4 Edgewall Innkeeper
- 4 Skyclave Apparition
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
Ross paired Battle with Starnheim Unleashed last week and I expect Battle to overperform in this deck. Battle lets you overwhelm other midrange decks in a way your other cards might not have while still just being a good standalone threat.
That said, the exact combo of Starnheim Unleashed and Battle is a bit on the win-more side except in midrange mirrors. While doubling up an Angel token is high-impact, leaning into play patterns that expose yourself to spot removal seems like the opposite of what tokens decks usually try to do.
Starnheim Unleashed is good enough by itself and with Esika’s Chariot that I wouldn’t turn the synergy down and cut the card, but I’m way more interested in my four-drop follow up to Battle making two Cats than one Angel. And it’s not just because I get to call it a Cat Car or Meow Mobile.
The Angel token generator I want to try in small numbers with Battle for Bretagard that Ross didn’t include is Angelic Ascenion. The fact you can cast it in response to the copy chapter trigger and give your opponent almost no window to break up your Angel doubling is really enticing, and with Chariot you have redundant plans for leveraging the token.
I do think the Selesnya builds of this deck are a bit vulnerable to sweepers, but a splash for Negate off Hengegate Pathway and Barkchannel Pathway is nearly free. Deeper in blue is Mythos of Illuna, but there aren’t great targets up the curve for it, and sadly you can’t copy enchantment tokens with Battle and really go off.
There’s a future role for Battle for Bretagard in a sacrifice deck if the right outlet shows up, but for now that doesn’t seem to exist in the format.
Battle for Bretagard isn’t the most flexible card. For now it is going to live and die on the back of this Selesnya shell being well-positioned and not running into Extinction Event or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but it does a lot to help this deck do the truly overwhelming things it needs to be a contender.
4. Dream Devourer
On basically the other side of the strategic spectrum, we have Dream Devourer. Credit due to my semi-regular podcast cohost Ahren (T1Thoughtseize on Twitter) for this. He was looking at it due to a long-running obsession with discard strategies (look at that name, obviously) and the weird “in your hand but can’t be Thoughtseize’d” dynamic foretell setup.
From there, I took a second look at the card from my “foretell is all about mana sequencing” viewpoint, and realized Dream Devourer is just unlimited Pentad Prisms. You pay two mana this turn, you get a two-mana payoff on a later turn.
What do you do with a lifetime supply of Pentad Prisms? That’s the tricky part. My first instinct was Dream Devourer in some clunky two-card combo deck in Pioneer or Historic equivalent to Modern’s Ad Nauseam plus Angel’s Grace, especially since an 0/3 creature doesn’t have to deal with Lightning Bolt in either format, but I don’t know if something to that effect exists.
For now, here’s a Standard option just using Dream Devourer as mana ramp in a color that doesn’t have it.
This is based off a list Charles Birdsong played in a SCG Tour Online Satellite back in early November when many people were trying the same Ugin thing in Mono-Red. Charles’s choice of “splash” was colorless for Radiant Fountain and Forsaken Monument, but we have a ton of additional options now.
I’m showcasing a single-Triome manabase, but with Fabled Passage, Binding the Old Gods, and Solemn Simulacrum, you could splash even more single-color commitments. Five-Color Mono-Black is right in the range of possible. My first lists of this were splashing red for exactly Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, but Rakdos doesn’t have have a Binding the Old Gods-level answer to noncreature permanents.
You could also trim back on colors a bit and load up on Snow-Covered Swamps to support Blood on the Snow as a powerful Burning-Rune Demon target. I’m not a big fan of the other splashable snow payoffs so my guess is this is worse than just playing normal good cards, but if you somehow found yourself at The Three Seasons milling Burning-Rune Demons, it might be what you want to resort to.
In all these variations, Dream Devourer lets you use some key early turns to accelerate your big late-game plays while also acting as a speed bump. The ramp it provides even persists through a sweeper; just lock in your foretold Ugin on Turn 3 and keep playing the game.
3. The Bears of Littjara
Another Saga that is being overlooked due to a weird theme is The Bears of Littjara.
It’s easy to shortcut this card to a three-mana 4/4 that dies to two damage in an Adventure-centric format, but yet again the key is the third chapter being more impactful than expected.
That’s each creature you control with four or more power that does damage. Not each Shapeshifter. Not “a” creature. Each. Even if your Shapeshifter token dies, you can just cast a Lovestruck Beast on your Chapter II turn and battle something down.
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 2 Questing Beast
- 4 Edgewall Innkeeper
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 1 Tangled Florahedron
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
- 2 Magda, Brazen Outlaw
- 2 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
- 4 Goldspan Dragon
In an example of high-level deckbuilding, the good synergy-agnostic card goes in the pile of powerful cards. The mythic rare haste threats from Kaldheim let you trim down on Embercleaves while still maintaining the finishing power of prior Gruul lists.
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider is also a massive upgrade on the high end for that deck, and honestly it might be the biggest issue for these Sagas. Lore counters aren’t added to Sagas when facing down Vorinclex, locking them without triggering any chapter abilities on main phase or entering the battlefield. I don’t think a three-drop Saga is a huge liability against a six-drop, but The Akroan War’s time in Standard might be over.
2. Spectral Steel
Spectral Steel itself is a reasonable card, but it’s not the highlight of the decks it will see play in. It’s just a solid Aura in a format that was looking for solid Auras.
As we have seen many times before, the real payoffs Spectral Steel enables are from the broken sets of Standard: Throne of Eldraine and Theros Beyond Death. The cheat code for new sets in current Standard is just looking at those sets repeatedly, keeping a list of all the broken cards from them without a home, and checking every preview card against that list. All That Glitters and Setessan Champion are some serious heavy hitters that just need quality, synergistic filler to make a deck.
In this deck, Spectral Steel lets you compete in games where your first threat gets broken up. It plus Sentinel’s Eyes makes it easy to reload on whatever random body you can produce as a follow-up, and the creatures are selected to maximize these Aura setups. Luminarch Aspirant and Setessan Champion spiral out of control, Alseid of Life’s Bounty leverages lifelink, and Gilded Goose flies over. I originally had The Bears of Littjara in this deck, but it just didn’t fit the same criteria.
The biggest problem facing this deck is figuring out the mana. Or really, figuring out your spells to make Pathway decisions the cleanest. I expect this to be a common issue with decks in Kaldheim Standard. Putting all the lands in your deck that fix your colors is easy, but like I said a couple of weeks ago, Pathways and Fabled Passage don’t cast all spells equally. This deck would love to attack on Turn 2 with a Staggering Insight’ed Gilded Goose, but that isn’t possible.
1. Blessing of Frost
Blessing of Frost is outrageous. I think everyone got wrapped up in seeing it as the first snow card previewed from Kaldheim and forgot to think about what it does.
First off, Blessing of Frost doesn’t target. It isn’t an Aura; the counters just get placed how you choose when it resolves. Your opponent can’t just Stomp something in response or you will load up the counters elsewhere.
Second, the raw rate on Blessing is good. If you max out your snow payments it is effectively four power of haste, but it’s really more than that against any blockers. You’re going to spread the counters out to make existing creatures into profitable attackers, so if you pile on a stalled-out 2/2, that’s the four power from casting Blessing of Frost plus the restored value of your other creature.
Third, it draws cards. Not “a” card, potentially plural cards. As in, if you control two 2/2 creatures, you can max out Blessing of Frost and draw two cards. As in, if you curve a random two-drop into Old-Growth Troll, you draw two cards.
Four-mana 4/4 haste Mulldrifter interest you these days?
Of course, you really need every land in your deck to produce snow mana for this to work. Blessing of Frost for three is already way less exciting than casting it at full power.
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Wildwood Tracker
- 2 Questing Beast
- 2 Stonecoil Serpent
- 3 Syr Faren, the Hengehammer
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
- 4 Old-Growth Troll
- 2 Sculptor of Winter
Clean and simple. For Blessing of Frost to work its magic, you want to be playing cheap creatures with power and sizeable three-drops, trying to close the game quickly, and only playing basic lands or Faceless Haven. In Standard that looks like just Mono-Green Aggro.
This might finally be Syr Faren, the Hengehammer’s time to shine. Blessing of Frost promotes playing more two-drops than previous Mono-Green Aggro decks, and doubling up the power boost from Blessing of Frost will end games immediately.
One of the secret best parts of Blessing of Frost might be that it comes with one of the other great Kaldheim cards for free. Blizzard Brawl is absurdly efficient and might be the single best snow payoff in the set. Calling it the green Swords to Plowshares is probably a little over the line, but just a little.
This kind of depth is one of the most exciting parts of Kaldheim. The set has dozens of high-tier Constructed playables to offer, from the flashy mythic rare Dragon to the typical Draft removal spells. Unlike the prior broken sets that did this, Kaldheim manages to land its mana-breaking cards at merely risky and not Fires of Invention-level, and its raw rate cards at merely efficient and not Lovestruck Beast-level. I have high hopes for it being able to shake up the Throne of Eldraine-driven Standard paradigm, and even higher hopes for its deep-cut playables looking into Standard’s future.