I’ve said time and time again that red is the deepest color in Kaldheim Draft, and today is no exception. Green and blue are in the discussion, but they don’t provide the same kind of depth at common. Look at the top six red commons. They’re all quite great, to be honest.
While Demon Bolt is the only one of these cards that I’m very happy to first-pick, I have first-picked all of them before and haven’t been all that upset about it. I can’t remember the last time I could say that about any color in Limited.
I think the world has properly adjusted on Run Amok and Axgard Cavalry as premium pieces for any assertive red deck, which are most red decks if I’m being honest. However, I think the world is still underrating Squash.
I probably shouldn’t complain about this, because five-mana removal is often overrated. But here we are, with an underrated five-mana removal spell. Squash is basically a splashable five-mana Murder variant with an efficient upside alongside Giants and, importantly, changelings. And that upside comes up frequently.
I’m not telling you to never pass Squash, but you should probably take it higher than you currently do. For example, I think it’s a reasonable choice out of the following pack. I know a lot of people may detest that opinion, but I stand by it. Would you take it?
Pack 1, Pick 2
The Picks So Far:
At the beginning of the format I would have thought it extremely unlikely that Squash would be a better removal spell than Bind the Monster. Usually, I would rather guarantee the efficient removal spell and take a conditional damage penalty than default to an inefficient five-mana removal spell. However, that’s not where Kaldheim settled corresponding to these two commons. Bind the Monster is a card I don’t always play, and Squash is a card I’m happy to play in multiples.
Squash is best in Izzet, so shouldn’t Izzet gold card Invasion of the Giants be the pick anyway? I’m extremely low on Rakdos as an archetype, and Boros does not use Squash well. Generally, I would rather take a gold card that’s great in one archetype than a mono-colored card that’s just good in two archetypes. Unfortunately, Invasion of the Giants isn’t great in Izzet. In fact, I think Squash is better than it in Izzet by a large margin. It’s kind of sad that the gold uncommon is worse than a generic common in the deck they’re both designed for, but that’s the world we live in.
Harald Unites the Elves is a powerful card that I don’t mind first-picking. It is a bit overrated though. It’s not a bomb, or even a huge reason to be Golgari, but a Golgari deck will snap it up and be extremely happy. Hence it’s not a card I like to take so early, even though I’m willing to first pick it out of a weak pack.
Lastly, Elven Bow is a card I’d play an unlimited number of, and will first-pick out of a weak pack — it’s worst than the best commons — just like the Elf Saga. I do take it Pack 1, Pick 1 above Squash, but with a red Giant in my pool already, that gives Squash the nudge.
The next pack has Squash as well. Five-mana removal often has diminishing returns, but since Squash can be cheaper, does it?
Pack 1, Pick 3
The Picks So Far:
At the beginning of the format, I was extremely high on Crush the Weak. I tend to overrate Pyroclasm effects, as I lose to them a lot given my aggressive tendencies. I have now cooled off to Crush as mostly a sideboard card. I still like it in some variants of my multicolor snow decks, but as is I would much rather take this Squash.
Narfi, Betrayer King is another card that I started the format way too high on. A recursive 4/3 lord is an incredibly powerful card, but I’m never base-black, forcing this to be a splash, and three snow lands turns out to be a hefty cost. Now that the cat is out of the bag that snow lands are high picks, my multicolor decks have worse mana and fewer snow lands than they used to. I no longer take Narfi above the best commons in the format, and with this current pool, I would rather take Squash.
The real question here is, does Mistwalker, a great common Giant, compete with the second copy of Squash? It’s pretty close in my opinion and I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking Mistwalker here. That being said, I think I’d rather stay mono-red at this time and just take a second copy of a premium removal spell.
Pack 1, Pick 4
The Picks So Far:
Goldvein Pick is actually around the power level of the other options in this pack. Last week, I discussed how I believe Goldvein Pick is a better white card than Bound in Gold, so if you would consider Bound in Gold as an option if it were in this pack, you should consider Goldvein Pick. That being said, my current pool is much better on a path towards Izzet or Gruul than it is towards Boros, and so I’m not going to take Pick here.
Craven Hulk is a nice Giant to go with Squash and it keeps me most open to decide whether I’m Izzet or Gruul later down the line. But it’s a much worse card than both Arni Slays the Troll and Mistwalker. I like Craven Hulk, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I can justify taking a card that much behind the rest of the options solely for the flexibility of staying monocolored.
Arni Slays the Troll is a better card than Mistwalker, but it’s not by as much as you may think. Mistwalker is one of the most overperforming commons in the entire format. I honestly still can’t believe it’s a better card in Kaldheim Draft than Augury Raven, but it is. It really is.
If this were Pack 1, Pick 2, with just a Basalt Ravager in my pool, I would take Arni Slays the Troll here. If I only had one copy of Squash, I think I would still take Arni, but it’s closer. With two copies of Squash in my pool, I believe this is a close-but-clear Mistwalker. Ensuring a reasonable density of Giants to turn Squash into Doom Blade is important, and making small concessions in power level to meet Squash’s requisite Giant density is the proper Draft navigation strategy.