The Red Highlights Of Kaldheim For Standard And Beyond

Michael Majors is happy to see red in Kaldheim. See how he hopes to unlock the color’s potential in Kaldheim Standard and beyond.

Toralf, God of Fury, illustrated by Tyler Jacobson

While Toralf, God of Fury earns the rank of title-bearer this week, there are a lot of exciting red cards in Kaldheim that I want to discuss this week.

Toralf, God of Fury Toralf's Hammer Tundra Fumarole Magda, Brazen Outlaw Open the Omenpaths Goldspan Dragon Frost Bite Arni Brokenbrow Quakebringer

This is a sizable amount of Constructed-level content to brew and we still aren’t quite done with preview season!

First, let’s look at Toralf, as he is by far the most complicated of the bunch.

Toralf, God of Fury Toralf's Hammer

Toralf and his Hammer basically tell you two things: “I like playing with burn spells and legendary creatures.” High-damage burn spells can turn into Arc Lightnings and cards like Shatterskull Smashing can break their own text boxes as they are able to gun down far more than two creatures.

As for legendary creatures, Arni and Magda are happy to join the fray.

Arni Brokenbrow Magda, Brazen Outlaw

Toralf does not have the immediate impact that Torbran, Thane of Red Fell does, and he is undeniably competing for a similar spot in any kind of mono-red strategy, but he is unique and a clear breaker in small creature matchups.

Further, his Hammer presents flexibility and inevitability.  On stalled battlefields, the Hammer itself can pick off your opponent’s creatures and then turn back into the God of Fury himself after it’s returned to your hand.

There’s also a pair of snow-based removal cards.

Tundra Fumarole Frost Bite

Frost Bite is just excellent. It can’t go face, but we know how powerful Fiery Impulse is and this is basically stronger if you’re incurring the cost of being monocolored or near it.  The bigger your deck goes between beefy legendary creatures and Goldspan Dragon, the more you can rely on your threats to finish games backed up by burn spells, rather than the opposite.

Tundra Fumarole is trickier. Anything that’s “near-rate plus a refund”  should immediately have our attention, but the combination of needing to be essentially monocolored plus a reliable colorless sink is a tall ask.  

The most obvious is Faceless Haven.

Faceless Haven

Now you have three cards telling you to include snow mana.  Is there finally enough power and incentive to get off Gruul Adventures if you’re looking to play a bigger red deck?

We’re putting a lot of effort into maximizing Tundra Fumarole here, for better or worse.  Most of the time, you’ll be casting Tundra Fumarole off-curve and trying to pair with a Mountain for something — Bonecrusher Giant and The Akroan War being some of the highlights, or perhaps Goldspan Dragon on Turn 5 if things are going really well.  Faceless Haven and some patience do a great job of lowering the “fail rate” of burning your mana to near zero.  I’ve gone beyond that expectation though, to include some Crystalline Giants to “combo” with the Fumarole.  

Crystalline Giant is pretty undeniably not the “best-in-slot” option for Mono-Red between Arni and the already existing Anax, Hardened in the Forge, but any game where you can kill your opponent’s play and cast a Crystalline Giant should make you a massive favorite to win.

Tundra Fumarole also just does a large amount of damage, making it one of the better candidates to pair with Toralf.  Killing a Kazandu Mammoth or Bonecrusher Giant and Forking the leftover damage to an Edgewall Innkeeper or Brushfire Elemental sounds both reasonable to pull off and incredibly powerful.

Goldspan Dragon

Goldspan Dragon is one of the most exciting cards in Kaldheim to me, and I’ll jump at any excuse to play it.  Red decks have long needed some kind of way to circumvent Lovestruck Beast that isn’t just Embercleave.  Magda, while not the most exciting collection of stats, does do a great job of subsidizing five-drops in your deck, and there are plenty of extra mana sinks to go around to spend extra Treasures on.

What if we just wanted to beat down?

Not a lot has changed, but there are still some notable upgrades from the Kaldheim cards.

Magda is the most important here.  The extra mana is certainly appreciated on its face for double-spelling, utilizing your sinks, and just casting your four-mana cards, but getting your Treasure in combat also can shave a turn off casting Embercleave (critically important for this aggressive of a strategy).  The cherry on top is that Magda makes your Rimrock Knights considerably less embarrassing.  Throne of Eldraine’s presence is felt once again as Dwarf tribal is thrust into the spotlight.

Arni is just a great on-curve haste creature. He’s simple but effective, and any additional “from hand” damage at a reasonable rate is appreciated in the most aggressive expressions of Mono-Red.  In tandem with a Bonecrusher Giant or various trickiness involving Rimrock Knight, he’s also another attacker that can actually threaten to brawl with Lovestruck Beast, aka Mono-Red’s nemesis.

Getting a little bit more abstract, let’s revisit an old “favorite.”

Open the Omenpaths just works extremely well in Winota.  Jumping your curve by a turn, casting Winota, and getting a trigger immediately refunds your card and puts you way out in front to snowball.  Casting Haktos the Unscarred a turn ahead of schedule is also typically a very difficult venture that’s now trivial and gives you a huge leg up with any fortune regarding his heel.

Arni nicely fits into the Tajic-shaped hole that this deck was feeling — a cheaper yet high-impact additional Human to hit.  In tandem with Haktos, Arni can hit pretty damn hard.

Another option is to embrace Showdown of the Skalds and Basri’s Lieutenant.

This looks a little less powerful on the surface, but I like it more.  That’s probably my innate preference for casting a lot of spells speaking out instead of relying on a Haktos or Embercleave to carry the game for me (but I digress).  Regardless, Showdown of the Skalds is yet another payoff for Open the Omenpaths and presumably this iteration looks a little more equipped to play games straight-up with its generally lower curve and backup plan of “swarm the battlefield, put some counters on my stuff, and kill you.”   

Basri’s Lieutenant plays naturally well with Showdown of the Skalds in addition to Winota, and since our creatures are cheaper and can go wider, we have more natural ability to leverage the “rider” mode of Open the Omenpaths — the seemingly innocuous +1/+0 team pump. 

There’s a lot to like about these decks and another old archetype reentering the Standard metagame with a new twist would be welcome.

Rounding out today, let’s look at some less traditional Rakdos decks.

Gerry Thompson did a good job of outlining the more traditional graveyard Rakdos decks and their new toys the other day, so I wanted to take a different approach. Magda has been the glue holding together our decks today, so it would be a waste to not try to fully leverage all of its available creature types.  

The Bloodsky Massacre

The Bloodsky Massacre is a subtly powerful card.  On its face it’s close to a 2/3 menace creature that draws a card the first time it attacks.  That’s an acceptable rate, although you are bearing some risk that your creature won’t survive to attack.  

If you started the game with another Berserker on Turn 2, say Magda or Skemfar Avenger, suddenly your card is far above rate.

Finally, if one of your Berserkers survives, adding a mana can ensure that you’ll cast Goldspan Dragon on Turn 5 or feed into any number of combinations of a double-spell turn or fueling Shatterskull Smashing.

There’s a lot to like here, and we aren’t giving up anything to do it.

Immersturm Predator is the last “off-the-wall” inclusion here.  We aren’t really a Sacrifice deck despite piggybacking off Skemfar Avenger to pick up synergy, but the Predator is just such an effective resilient attacker that pairing it with Goldspan Dragon and putting a lot of flying pressure on your opponent is a natural conclusion.

Similarly to the graveyard-based Rakdos Midrange decks, this deck has plenty of options to go late: big mana sinks; card draw; Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor; and you could even play more copies of Kroxa if you were so inclined.  In addition, we’re just well-equipped to kill people between our aggressive creatures and big flyers.  Rounding all that out is a healthy amount of interaction.  

There are a lot of red standouts in Kaldheim.  It’s likely that we’re looking at a level of impact where it isn’t a question of “How do we properly upgrade the existing decks?” but instead are offered multiple new or returning archetypes to the Standard metagame. 

That’s worth being excited about.