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Kaldheim Exit Interview: Modern

One Kaldheim card got banned in Modern. Another forced a rules change. Did Tibalt or his Trickery come out on top after all the votes were counted?

Tibalt’s Trickery, illustrated by Anna Podedworna

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 today, 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.

On Monday we knocked out Standard, on Tuesday we blew through Historic, and yesterday we updated our thoughts on Pioneer. Today, we’ll close things out with Modern. The same scoring system we had in place for Kaldheim First Impressions 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

Today we kick things off with the curmudgeon of VS Live! (tune in every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:00 PM ET on our Twitch page!) and Utah Jazz superfan, Ross Merriam.

Let’s pour one out for Tibalt and his Trickery in 3… 2… 1…

Ross Merriam

Previous List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Invasion of the Giants
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  5. Reidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector’s Shield

New List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Invasion of the Giants
  4. Elvish Warmaster
  5. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

The top two here are easy. If a card gets banned or requires a rules change, it goes straight to the top of the list. Even if a rules change is rarer, I think getting banned outright is more indicative of raw power, so Tibalt’s Trickery edges out Valki, God of Lies for me even if the latter will continue to impact the format moving forward.

Past that it gets a lot trickier, since Modern has such a high barrier to entry. Invasion of the Giants drops down a spot from my initial list into third because of its role in the Temur Giants deck that demonstrated just how absurd Mystic Sanctuary; Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath; and Field of the Dead were. But those cards and Primeval Titan were the real stars of the show, and with the first three now banned, I don’t expect we’ll see much of it. That said, as soon as some other great land for Primeval Titan is printed, Invasion will be a great enabler for the powerful six-drop that’s much more stable than Amulet of Vigor.

The last two slots could go to a host of cards, and my selections may be a bit biased. I’ve played Elves in Modern before and the archetype has had a rough go since Wrenn and Six and Plague Engineer were printed. Elvish Warmaster, and to a lesser extent Realmwalker, have once again pushed it into the fringe category where you consistently see it in League results and aren’t taken aback when it makes a deep run in larger tournaments. Elvish Warmaster is great at letting you grind through removal while also leading to explosive starts with Heritage Druid and Elvish Archdruid, so it’s no surprise that it has quickly become a staple.

Birgi, God of Storytelling rounds out the list, leaving four of my initial picks. It hasn’t led to any new archetypes like I was hoping, but it is a solid role-player in Gifts Storm, supplementing Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer as an effective cost reducer, but with the option to cast Harnfel, Horn of Bounty in long games. I’ve seen other cards like Behold the Multiverse or Snakeskin Veil pop up in small numbers, but I still believe in Birgi’s potential to be more than a role player moving forward, so it takes the last spot.

Ryan Overturf

Previous List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Bind the Monster
  4. Realmwalker
  5. Snakeskin Veil

New List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Toski, Bearer of Secrets
  4. Realmwalker
  5. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

I sure nailed the card that was banned and the card that was significantly weakened by the cascade rules change — just like everyone else! I’m going to give myself a pat on the back here both for not falling for Invasion of the Giants and being the only contributor to pick Realmwalker, which has shown up in exactly the spots that I’ve expected it to.

I think I’d actually be pretty happy with my original list if I just put Realmwalker at number three and I had listed my Bind the Monster miss lower. The idea ended up being pretty half-baked and the sorcery-speed removal spell just leaves Bind the Monster as a worse option than Dismember in Death’s Shadow decks. Maybe it’ll show up someday, but my optimism has waned. Snakeskin Veil doesn’t fit the format at all because Selesnya Company is seemingly the only viable green creature deck as of now and it just doesn’t fit that style of deck. 

Toski, Bearer of Secrets wasn’t initially on my Constructed radar, but it has proven to work well with Ice-Fang Coatl and has already seen far more Modern play than I would have guessed. Birgi is also showing up some in Gifts Storm, though it’s not abundantly clear yet if it’s an upgrade or the flavor of the week. 

Kaldheim‘s Modern impact will mostly be remembered as a set that completely broke the format for a short while, though a handful of cards are seeing sustained play even after the Tibalt’s Trickery ban and cascade rules change. It’s pretty charming that Valki continues to be played and even exploited thanks to Bring to Light. All told, upending the format for a short while and contributing a couple playable cards for fair decks isn’t half bad as far as Modern shakeups go. 

Autumn Burchett

Previous List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Invasion of the Giants
  3. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel
  4. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  5. Rimewood Falls

New List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Realmwalker
  4. Toski, Bearer of Secrets
  5. Rimewood Falls

When one card gets banned from the format within a couple of weeks of its release, and another causes sufficient chaos that the rules of the game have to be changed as a result, there’s no doubt that those two cards had the biggest impact on Modern from Kaldheim. I dramatically overestimated the usefulness of Valki in fair decks though, and completely missed on the unfair interactions that led to Valki getting the rules changed, so I’m unsure if I’m allowed to count it being on my original list as a win.

The other cards I predicted were less successful. Invasion of the Giants joins the long tradition of Amulet Titan players trying out bizarre new tech for about a week before abandoning it, whilst Cosima, God of the Voyage went from niche sideboard card to utterly unplayable the moment Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was banned. I actually feel pretty good about my call on Rimewood Falls however as I saw a Wilderness Reclamation deck Top 8 a Modern Challenge soon after Kaldheim released that was playing that card; unfortunately, the banning of Mystic Sanctuary has since made Rimewood Falls less appealing. Despite this, I’ve still seen it show up a little bit in the last month to enable Ice-Fang Coatl, and Ice Tunnel to fuel Dead of Winter.

These small victories seem to be what Kaldheim is about in Modern now that Tibalt and his Trickery have both been excised from the metagame. Nothing groundbreaking or turning heads, but instead Realmwalker showing up as a solid role-player in tribal strategies; Toski, Bearer of Secrets breaking through counterspells in Bant Stoneblade mirrors; Birgi giving Gifts Storm players more options with how they want to construct their decks; Behold the Multiverse appearing in the ever-growing roster of Azorius Control players’ odd one-ofs; or Elvish Warmaster powering up the niche-but-fun Elves lists – it’s the little things.

Todd Anderson

Previous List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Invasion of the Giants
  3. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. In Search of Greatness
  5. Alrund’s Epiphany

New List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery   
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  4. Realmwalker
  5. Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Well folks, this one is pretty easy. Tibalt’s Trickery was banned because it was absolute trash-tier Magic when combined with any cascade spell. All you have to do is stuff your deck with unplayable nonsense, a few copies of Tibalt’s Trickery, and eight to twelve cascade spells. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

It took twelve days.

As for Valki, the same play patterns were emerging, but instead of being all-in on combo you could just play a normal deck that skipped the one- and two-mana spells. This was easily circumvented via pitch spells like Force of Negation or mana cheats like Dismember. Once everyone discovered just how easy it was to play cascade cards and these new broken spells, Modern went haywire. They were both changed or banned within two weeks of release, which is pretty incredible in both power level and speed of fix.

And now the duds:

While Invasion of the Giants was pretty interesting at first, the banning of Uro made it much worse. In Search of Greatness is somewhat decent but nothing to write home about. To my chagrin, Mono-Green Devotion continues to be unimpressive in Modern, but I’ll find the perfect build yet! Just you wait. Alrund’s Epiphany is still pretty cool, but doesn’t affect the format or more than one deck really.

The newcomers:

I’ve got a thing for Birgi. I don’t know why I didn’t have it on the list in the first place. I’ve seen it in some Gifts Storm decks, acting like a weird hybrid of Goblin Electromancer and Experimental Frenzy. When you need mana, it’s solid. When you’re out of juice, it’s a big permanent to cast and maybe win on the spot. I’ve seen it do some sick stuff with Lava Dart too, but those Mono-Red Storm decks just look like a bad hybrid of Gifts Storm and Mono-Red Prowess.

Realmwalker has looked great in a number of tribal strategies, offering some tribes the ability to rip a few extras off the top. When you have a ton of mana, getting those extra cards is incredible. I highly recommend trying a few in Humans, as I’ve found I run out of gas more frequently than I’d like to admit. While you can’t play the creatures from the top of the deck with Aether Vial, you can certainly use Aether Vial to cheat Realmwalker onto the battlefield and then cast whatever is sitting on top. Thanks to lands like Horizon Canopy, you also have some amount of control over what you see. It’s a good body with neat interactions, and can fit into most green-based tribal decks without much cost.

Lastly we have Toski. I’ve seen people pair this with all sorts of stuff, but it seems to have found a home in Bant. Creatures like Ice-Fang Coatl need something for their bodies to do in matchups where blocking is irrelevant. Toski is one of the strongest cards with this effect I’ve ever seen. Bident of Thassa was a dominant Standard card, but it’s just a little clunky and doesn’t offer much outside of the card draw aspect. Toski offers cards, a body that’s hard to deal with, and an easier casting cost. Being uncounterable and indestructible has its merits, turns out. All you need to do is staple a Standard powerhouse onto it and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Overall, Kaldheim shattered the format, but quick and decisive action has led to a mostly stable and healthy metagame. The rest of the set has had a fairly low impact on the format as a whole, but there are still plenty of role-players hanging around. I’m also waiting for a big theory shift away from fetchlands and toward Pathways. When people realize that your life total actually matters, we now have plenty of good ways to build an effective and painless two-color base.

Until then, I’m gonna keep casting Lava Spike.

Ari Lax

Previous List

  1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  2. Tibalt’s Trickery
  3. Invasion of the Giants
  4. In Search of Greatness
  5. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

New List

  1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Tibalt’s Trickery
  3. Realmwalker
  4. Birgi, God of Storytelling// Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
  5. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel

If you had Valki and Tibalt’s Trickery as your first and second picks, that’s the majority of any grade you deserve. I’ll give myself the big scoreboard checkmark for being the only person with Valki in the top spot to start, and because “they literally changed the rules” sounds a lot more game-breaking than just banning something.

The rest of this list consists of niche choices, but all solid niche choices. Cosima might be some value-memory from the card interacting with Uro, but it’s still close enough to acceptable with fetchlands and Force of Negation in the format. Elves with Realmwalker and Mono-Red Hollow One with Birgi are two very interesting decks I haven’t gotten around to playing, but both existing means Realmwalker and Birgi are two cards that clearly are at Modern power levels that also have existing homes. That’s more than you can say for anything else in the set.

After initially dismissing this style of high-impact three-drop when they started being pushed in Modern Horizons (Ranger-Captain of Eos, Seasoned Pyromancer), I’ve really come around to them in Modern. Some of it is the banning of Faithless Looting, Mox Opal, and Simian Spirit Guide slowing the format down, but there’s just a lot of room for interesting text on a medium-stats three-drop and a lot of ways to make those cards interact well with the cheaper powerful stuff in Modern.

While it doesn’t make this cut, anyone who said Invasion of the Giants gets partial credit. Had Modern not completely broken in half, I expect the Primeval Titan + Uro decks featuring this card to have put up good numbers. But everything got messed up instead, and here we are not getting to cast cool Izzet Sagas to enable our much less cool green Giants.

Corey Baumeister

Previous List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Invasion of the Giants
  4. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel
  5. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

New List

  1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  2. Tibalt’s Trickery
  3. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel
  4. Toski, Bearer of Secrets
  5. Invasion of the Giants

I actually liked my first list quite a lot and I only have a few minor changes to talk about. First off, let’s start with Valki and Tibalt’s Trickery. Who ever could have seen this coming? Both of these cards were so obviously broken in Modern that I’m still shocked they made it to print unless Wizards of the Coast (WotC) really had a plan to ban some cards and actually change the way cascade works. Valki completely broke Modern for a few weeks before WotC came in to prevent that abomination of a deck from existing. I actually stopped playing Modern for a bit because the metagame got so warped.

Tibalt’s Trickery wasn’t as bad but it did lead to a very unfun gaming experience where you could queue up for a match of Magic and not play more than two turns in the entirety of the match — something that’s not fun in any way to me. The combination of those two cards led to the ban of Simian Spirit Guide, which I’m completely fine with because that card has never been fun to play with or against. Good riddance!

The last three cards on my list have had a very minor impact on the format but they did see a bit of play. Cosima has a ton of text and works quite well with fetchlands, but the card advantage it brought was still a bit too slow for Modern. Toski, Bearer of Secrets has really started popping up as of late in sideboards of aggressive green decks to minimize the damage of sweepers (but once again a pretty minor role). The last card I have on my list is Invasion of the Giants. This card saw some play in a really cool Temur Giants list. Being able to have one card that digs for Prime Time, replaces itself, and then reduces the cost by two just has to be good.

The one card I left out was Birgi. The card seemed like a slam dunk in Storm decks but it just turns out that it’s not a good card. I was a bit wrong on that one but overall I’m pretty happy with my evaluations on Kaldheim as a whole. I’m looking forward to crushing it with Strixhaven!

Shaheen Soorani

Previous List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. In Search of Greatness
  3. Doomskar
  4. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  5. Behold the Multiverse

New List

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Invasion of the Giants
  4. Faceless Haven
  5. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway

My revised Kaldheim Top 5 list was very difficult to craft.  The first two cards on the list were knockouts when the format took off, and then things happened.  A rule change here, a banning there, leading both cards out of the deck and back into the binder.  Since they both had such detrimental effects on the format, they remain as predicted, on top of this list.

Tibalt’s Trickery had to be stopped, as it was breaking the format with expensive planeswalkers entering the battlefield on Turn 2.  Even with a rule change, Valki had a chance to be great until Uro was banned.  There will be more problematic creatures to handle; however, Valki loses most of its allure with the primary culprit apprehended.

Invasion of the Giants continues to see some play, having some sweet interactions with the Giants of the format.  Primeval Titan is best friends with this Saga, even though its primary location is in Amulet Titan.  The waters for this combination are still largely uncharted, making this remain as one of the best cards for Modern from Kaldheim.

The last two cards in the lists are lands, one that I love and one that I hate.  Hengegate Pathway continues to fix mana across the competitive formats, providing Azorius Control an option that does not deal damage and enters the battlefield untapped.  Faceless Haven has some creature-land competition in Modern but remains relevant in snow-based decks.  There are some brews with Ice-Fang Coatl that incentivize decks to play snow lands, but they remain on the fringe of the format.

Kaldheim had its biggest impact on Modern that directly led to rule changes, but the number of cards that influence the format is low.

Without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Kaldheim cards for Modern are now…

T-4. Invasion of the Giants — 7 points

T-4. Toski, Bearer of Secrets — 7 points

3. Realmwalker — 8 points

2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor — 26 points

1. Tibalt’s Trickery — 28 points

That’s all for Kaldheim! We’ll be back for our Strixhaven: School of Mages first impressions in a few weeks!