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Kaldheim Exit Interview: Historic

After six weeks of Kaldheim in Historic, how did our creators’ early predictions pan out? World Champion PVDDR and other SCG creators look back.

Binding the Old Gods, illustrated by Victor Adame Minguez

Welcome to Kaldheim Exit Interview week!

If you missed Kaldheim First Impressions week, various members of the SCG Staff shared their thoughts on their Top 5 Kaldheim cards in each format before having the opportunity to play with them. With the Strixhaven: School of Mages preview season beginning Thursday, we thought it would be fun to have those same folks update their lists now that they’ve had the opportunity to play with Kaldheim for the past six weeks and share what they got right, what they got wrong, what surprised them, etc.

Yesterday we kicked things off with Standard, today we’ll knock out Historic, Wednesday will be Pioneer, and Thursday will be Modern. The same scoring system we had in place for Kaldheim First Impression week will be in place here 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

Let’s once again start things off with your reigning and defending Magic: The Gathering World Champion, shall we?

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Previous List

  1. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway
  4. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  5. Faceless Haven

New List

  1. Binding the Old Gods
  2. Elvish Warmaster
  3. Righteous Valkyrie
  4. Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway
  5. Saw It Coming

Kaldheim ended up having a much bigger impact than I thought in Historic — when I did this list originally, I thought the most important cards would end up just being the Pathways. This is partially because of the Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath ban, which freed up a lot of other archetypes, but also partially because I underestimated the strength of the tribal decks. I assumed they all just lost badly to Jund Sacrifice and therefore were unplayable, but this isn’t actually true. Incidentally, the Uro ban also makes one of my previous Top 5 picks – Valki, God of Lies – much worse than expected, as its main purpose was to be good against Uro.

Binding the Old Gods was a surprise to me, but I think it has enough applications in this format to earn its spot. It’s a pernament way to deal with any permanent (which means you can grab it from Trail of Crumbs), which makes it a big draw towards playing Jund Food over Jund Sacrifice — previously these decks didn’t have a good way to answer Grafdigger’s Cage or Yasharn, Implacable Earth and now they do. It also sees random play in decks like Sultai Ramp (Yorion) or Five-Color Niv-Mizzet. 

As far as tribal decks go, Angels and Elves set themselves apart from the pack — I think both decks are quite real. Darkbore Pathway sees play mostly in Elves as well, since most versions are splashing black, but it also sees play in Jund and Sultai decks. 

Saw It Coming is a bit of a wildcard, but I expect it to be the default counterspell for people who cannot play Absorb and the default secondary counterspell for people who can. It works well with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Nissa, Who Shakes the World (since they untap two lands), and it dodges Thoughtseize, which is actually relevant in this format. It won’t be breaking the format anytime soon but I think it’s going to see some play, and there’s not much else to put on the list here anyway. 

Ari Lax

Previous List

  1. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  2. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. Doomskar
  5. In Search of Greatness

New List

  1. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  2. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  3. Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway
  4. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  5. Barkchannel Pathway // Tidechannel Pathway

Paulo got it basically all right the first time with maybe a shifted slot or two, but really this list is Pathways and whatever else floats your boat. And obviously the two Pathways that boosted prior top-tier strategies like Azorius Control and Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus) are at the top of the list. Valki gets an honorary mention for the weeks it was legal when Uro also was.

I think my big miss was not caring enough about Jund Sacrifice to put Darkbore Pathway on the list. Brad’s latest list isn’t even playing multiples, but if Bolas’s Citadel makes a future comeback you’re immediately maxing out on the card.

I have Barkchannel Pathway as my last card out of sheer disrespect for the rest of the options. The best non-Pathway, non-Valki card is probably Faceless Haven for once people get motivated to make relevant mono-color decks with it, but even if people are seemingly winning with Collected Company Angels decks, I refuse to put Righteous Valkyrie on my list.

Autumn Burchett

Previous List

  1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  2. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  3. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  4. Righteous Valkyrie
  5. Immersturm Predator

New List

  1. Binding the Old Gods
  2. Righteous Valkyrie
  3. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  4. Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway
  5. Behold the Multiverse

In stark contrast to my on-point Standard predictions, my read on what would impact Historic was a bit hit-and-miss. I’m ecstatic to see Righteous Valkyrie turning heads in the Angels shells that have emerged, especially considering my article about the card in preview season had a scrappy early iteration of this Historic Selesnya Angels deck in it. I also called Blightstep Pathway’s impact correctly; it has seen play not only in Rakdos strategies but also in Jund Food and Jund Sacrifice. As for Birgi, God of Storytelling and Immersturm Predator, perhaps I was a bit too optimistic there…

That all said, the card from Kaldheim with the biggest impact on Historic isn’t particularly close in my mind. Jund Food is the best deck in Historic now and a big part of that is that it gained access to Binding the Old Gods. We already know how important the versatility of this piece of removal is from Kaldheim Standard, and how much grabbing that extra land can matter especially in this deck that always has things to do with its mana. As it turns out, having a Saga lying around on the battlefield is great for Korvold, Fae-Cursed King to chomp on too!

But the real selling-point here is actually the third mode of Binding, which is unbelievable with Mayhem Devil. You haven’t lived until you’ve sacrificed your Binding to its third mode in your upkeep, triggering your now-deathtouching Devil in the process, firing a lethal point of damage at your opponent’s Yasharn, Implacable Earth. It’s a true delight.

Darkbore Pathway is the other standout Pathway since it also slots perfectly into these Jund decks that look primed to take over Historic, but in addition to this I’ve seen the land put in some decent work in Elves decks too. Hengegate Pathway surprisingly isn’t making much of a splash in Azorius Control since it doesn’t allow Castle Ardenvale and Castle Vantress to enter the battlefield untapped, but I’ve observed both Saw It Coming and Behold the Multiverse do good work in that deck due to how well two-mana investments work with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. You can even foretell these cards in your end step with the two mana you untap, which is fantastic.

Todd Anderson

Previous List

  1. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  2. Faceless Haven
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. In Search of Greatness
  5. Niko Aris

New List

  1. Righteous Valkyrie
  2. Doomskar
  3. Behold the Multiverse
  4. Faceless Haven
  5. Binding the Old Gods

Historic is kind of a weird format. It’s pretty new, full of powerful stuff, and they keep adding back-end sets. That makes it even harder for new cards to break into the format because the competition is so stiff. The most prevalent cards from Kaldheim are far and away the Pathways. Many of the cards I thought would end up seeing play have seen very little. I was wrong, and that’s okay! Everyone knows by now that the Pathways are excellent, so I feel listing them here would be superfluous. As for the cards in my first list, I might have had a miss or two. No big deal. Stop looking at me etc.

Autumn was the only person who thought Righteous Valkyrie had potential in Historic. That’s right, the format where Muxus, Goblin Grandee or Bolas’s Citadel can come down on the third turn and end the game. A 2/4 flyer with a few cool abilities that seem to revolve around Clerics and Angels? Big deal, we see it every format. But holy crap, it’s just great. Stout body, the abilities are easy to trigger, and it’s one of the scarier cards to find off a clutch Collected Company. You don’t need to lean too hard into the theme deck stuff.

I thought Birgi, God of Storytelling would have legs in multiple strategies, but Historic just doesn’t have the tools to make it work just yet. I’ve seen it do some sick stuff in Modern, but without Rituals or other degenerate elements, I don’t see it doing much. In the same vein, In Search of Greatness just didn’t fit the bill. I tried it in a number of green Devotion-style decks, but it just didn’t click. I liked the scry part though!

I had a feeling Azorius Control was going to be a hit. I pegged Niko Aris in having a hand in that. Unfortunately, the archetype moved more toward instant-speed interaction instead of an emphasis on planeswalkers. That actually made Behold the Multiverse pretty valuable. I have fond memories of Glimmer of Genius, and I think Behold the Multiverse might be better. It’s showing up in virtually every blue-ish control deck, which makes me very happy. Doomskar was just lights-out to begin with and I feel stupid for underestimating it.

Faceless Haven will be the format’s Mutavault. Every mono-colored aggressive deck will probably want four and a bunch of snow lands. Similarly, Binding the Old Gods will show up in most midrange decks that can cast it. It’s one of the more disgusting interactive spells to pair with Yorion, which is a clear all-star from now until the cows come home.

Overall, Kaldheim has helped add to what Historic is, but hasn’t fundamentally changed it much. It’s shifting quickly, and another set has already added Death’s Shadow and a number of other goodies. I expect Historic to be volatile for some time to come as they code old and new sets into Magic Arena.

Cedric Phillips

Previous List

  1. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  4. Bind the Monster
  5. Crippling Fear

New List

  1. Binding the Old Gods
  2. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  3. Righteous Valkyrie
  4. Barkchannel Pathway // Tidechannel Pathway
  5. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

Like many of my colleagues, choosing Blightstep Pathway as the key addition from Kaldheim for Historic was an easy box to check. It’s still seeing plenty of play in the format and I expect it to be a major player this weekend in the Historic portion of the Kaldheim Championship. What I didn’t see coming was just how powerful Binding the Old Gods was going to be for all the Jund-based strategies in Historic. The Saga’s versatility was something I think everyone realized, but four mana felt a touch too expensive to be impactful in Historic for me personally. It turns out I was dead wrong, as Binding the Old Gods is perfect at solving any problem the Jund-based decks have and Chapter III of the Saga combos beautifully alongside Yasharn (as Autumn expertly explained above).

The rest of the cards on my revised list are kinda whatever in my eyes. Righteous Valkyrie is a nice addition for the Angel decks that are running around Historic, but it’s hard for me to take them seriously when the best decks in the format contain Mayhem Devil. Barkchannel Pathway, much like its Blighstep counterpart, was destined to see play whether Uro left the format or not, and it appears to have settled in nicely in Sultai Ramp (Yorion). The same can be said about Valki, as it would have seen a ton more play if Uro were legal, but has instead become a tutor target for Emergent Ultimatum.

Bind the Monster and Crippling Fear were speculative picks that missed badly, but if you want to hit a home run, you’re gonna swing and miss sometimes, right?

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

5. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway — 5 points

4. Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway — 7 points

3. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway — 13 points

2. Righteous Valkyrie — 15 points

1. Binding the Old Gods — 16 points

Cya back here tomorrow to review Kaldheim’s impact on Pioneer!