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Kaldheim Exit Interview: Standard

Eight SCG creators revisit their first impressions of Kaldheim for Standard, sharing their hits, misses, and surprise breakout cards.

Goldspan Dragon, illustrated by Andrew Mar

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.

Just like last time, today we’ll begin with Standard, Tuesday will be Historic, Wednesday will be Pioneer, and Thursday will be 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

Let’s start this party off with, once again, everyone’s favorite Esper Grandpa™ himself!

Shaheen Soorani

Previous List

  1. Doomskar
  2. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  3. Goldspan Dragon
  4. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  5. Behold the Multiverse

New List

  1. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  2. Alrund’s Epiphany
  3. Showdown of the Skalds
  4. Goldspan Dragon
  5. Faceless Haven

After experiencing the full Standard experience, my Top 5 Kaldheim hits changed quite a bit.  The list you saw in my initial overview may have led the reader to accuse me of a control bias, and they would be correct.  I love countering spells, drawing a bunch of cards, and removing all the permanents from the opposing side of the battlefield.  When Strixhaven comes out, you all will receive a complete breakdown of what’s going to benefit control, as well as what will make the lives of control players miserable.

In the control conversation, Doomskar and Behold the Multiverse have not panned out.  These two cards are significantly better than their tournament results show, and as someone who plans on a full return to paper Magic when able, I’m counting the days to get back in the competitive fold to give cards like these a chance.  Control decks have been the unpopular choice for the last few years and that lack of exposure resulted in the fall of these beautiful cards. This could just be another example of an old man yelling into the void, but I will continue to do so just in case it reaches someone!

Hengegate Pathway is an all-star.  I could have selected other modal DFCs, as they all have revolutionized manabases, but this one speaks to me on a personal level.  The drawback of only getting one side for the game is minuscule and it was easy to predict this winner.  Regardless of the deck in Kaldheim Standard, lands like this are an easy four-of that make manabase-building easy.

An equally easy pick, Goldspan Dragon, has been all over the red scene.  It works well in aggro and midrange decks, with a strong return on the mana investment.  It wasn’t hard to pick this as a Top 5 card and it remains solidly on the list.

There is one great blue card that I missed on my first list.  Alrund’s Epiphany gives the controller an extra turn, which is good enough on its own, but the extra creatures it produces, as well as the foretell discount, add to its allure.  It has also fully powered a Sultai Ramp deck to effectively end the game for seven mana, helping it bump Valki, God of Lies off the list.  Even though the same deck often places a Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor onto the battlefield, it’s the Time Warp that cranks the power level of the deck up.

My biggest miss was Showdown of the Skalds and this is an egregious error.  This enchantment effectively draws a bunch of cards and gives Boros-based aggro/midrange decks the card advantage they desperately needed and every time it resolves, I become slightly sickened.  It’s much worse than the last card on my new list, Faceless Haven, which has revolutionized aggro decks.  It hasn’t been so bad for me lately, since every deck I run has a pile of cheap spot removal, but I can see it being a nightmare when I lean more heavily on my sweepers in the future. 

All in all, Kaldheim has been enjoyable for me, but the control numbers are unacceptably low.

Brad Nelson

Previous List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Showdown of the Skalds
  3. Binding the Old Gods
  4. Alrund’s Epiphany
  5. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

Now that’s a good-looking list if you ask me! Sure I got some things wrong, but hey, at least I didn’t have Doomskar on my list. Valki, on the other hand, was for sure a mistake. Rakdos Midrange just couldn’t keep up with the format and that had a lot to do with Alrund’s Epiphany, a card only Corey and I had on our lists. Looking back, I really feel smart about saying what I did about that card!

Alrund’s Epiphany is the most ‘random’ card on my list, but something tells me that taking extra turns will be valuable in these midrange slugfests. I don’t exactly have a home for it, but it’s on my short list of things to work on.

Looking back on all my time in the format, I’d have to re-order things as such:

New List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Showdown of the Skalds
  3. Alrund’s Epiphany
  4. Faceless Haven
  5. Binding the Old Gods

Four out of five ain’t bad!

Goldspan Dragon still takes #1 for me as there’s never really been a time that a “Goldspan Dragon” deck wasn’t Tier 1. It’s also nice that the card I think is still #1 wasn’t banworthy (a nice change of pace). Showdown of the Skalds is pretty much in the same position as Goldspan Dragon — just good enough to create competitive archetypes on its own. Naya Spirits is the best Naya Adventures deck and that just couldn’t be the case without Showdown of the Skalds.

Faceless Haven was a complete miss for me, as this was probably the only reason Mono-White Aggro❄ and Mono-Red Aggro❄ could even compete in this format. I predict that it’ll become a serious problem after the Adventure package rotates.

I struggled with my fifth slot for this exit interview, as it felt like Reidane, God of the Worthy deserved some love. In the end though it just wasn’t worthy enough, as I believe Binding the Old Gods allows archetypes to exist and I can’t say the same for Reidane.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Previous List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Doomskar
  3. Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel
  4. Showdown of the Skalds
  5. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

New List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Faceless Haven
  3. Binding the Old Gods
  4. Showdown of the Skalds
  5. Alrund’s Epiphany

I think my Standard predictions were reasonable the first time around — I identified some of the key cards in the set but also had some misses. My biggest miss for sure was Cosima, God of the Voyage. I felt the card was so flexible that it had to find a home, and that it would at the very least slot in Dimir Rogues, but it ended up just not being what the format was about — people are just doing too many big things for a card that focuses on incremental advantage to see a lot of play, no matter how good it is at incremental advantage, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den proved to be too important to give up in Dimir Rogues. 

I also missed when I said Doomskar would be very important. I could say that this was because the deck for it just didn’t end up being good, but I think this would be the easy way out — the reality is that the card is just not as well-positioned as the black sweepers. There are Esper or Abzan decks that could be playing Doomskar and instead are playing Extinction Event or Shadows’ Verdict. This makes sense if we look at the creatures that are currently played — Selfless Savior; Seasoned Hallowblade; Toski, Bearer of Secrets; and Lurrus all dodge the white sweeper to some extent. Doomskar just isn’t very good right now, and this is a product of the format being hostile to it, not of white control decks not existing.

Finally, there’s Valki, which is still a good card, but not in the application I expected. Nowadays it’s mostly used as a combo piece with Emergent Ultimatum, and I genuinely expected Valki to show up with a fair use in just Rakdos-based decks. I guess I’m still a bit surprised it doesn’t, so I have hopes that this prediction will pan out in the future.

As far as cards I missed, Faceless Haven is the biggest one. I expected it to be good, but I didn’t fully understand how good. I thought “the best aggro deck is Gruul Adventures and it can’t realistically play this card,” but it turns out that Faceless Haven was good enough to spawn entire new aggro archetypes on its own (or, rather, revitalize them into playability). As it is, I believe it’s solely responsible for two of the biggest aggro decks in the format even existing (Mono-White Aggro❄ and Mono-Red Aggro❄). I don’t think these decks are viable without Faceless Haven — it’s just too important versus anyone playing sweepers. 

Then, there’s Alrund’s Epiphany. I struggled a bit with this last slot (I was tempted to put Saw It Coming in fifth place), but I think Epiphany is just a more important card, even if Saw It Coming might end up seeing more play in the future, because we’re not used to having the Epiphany’s effect. It’s a centerpiece of one of the most popular decks in Standard (Sultai Ramp) but it’s also used fairly in Temur Adventures. I really underestimated its ability to just kill people out of nowhere, but the card is responsible for the most “well, I can never lose this game now… oh wait” moments in the format. 

I knew the other three cards (Goldspan Dragon, Showdown of the Skalds, and Binding the Old Gods) would be good and they didn’t disappoint (though I did have Binding sixth, which was too low). Goldspan Dragon and Showdown both spawned entirely new archetypes (with or without each other) and Binding turned out to be strong enough that it’s worth splashing for in a previously three-colors deck, so I’m sure we’ll see more of all of them in the future. 

Bryan Gottlieb

Previous List

  1. Showdown of the Skalds
  2. Goldspan Dragon
  3. Binding the Old Gods
  4. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  5. Behold the Multiverse

New List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Showdown of the Skalds
  3. Binding the Old Gods
  4. Alrund’s Epiphany
  5. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

You know what, I’m just going to say it… I’m proud of how close this Top 5 is to the Top 5 I submitted back at the start of February. Even at that moment, I noted that I expected Showdown of the Skalds and Goldspan Dragon to swap the title of best card in Kaldheim Standard throughout their time in the format, and it seems fitting that I’d change their order in my final analysis. Both have been staples in multiple top-tier decks and that’s not going to change in the coming year.

As for Binding the Old Gods, it’s absolutely the midrange glue it looked to be during preview season. It’s hard to even imagine decks like Sultai Ramp (Yorion) even existing if they didn’t have Binding the Old Gods serving up the triple threat of ramp spell, removal spell, and premium Yorion blink target.

Alrund’s Epiphany is the only card here that did not make my initial Top 5, replacing Behold the Multiverse. Behold the Multiverse has proven to be a fine card but Alrund’s Epiphany has changed what so many decks are capable of. The lesson I will carry with me from Kaldheim is that the quality of a Time Warp effect has far more to do with the surrounding pieces than the numbers on the card itself. Given the way cards are designed these days and the prevalence of planeswalkers and Sagas, it’s almost impossible for any Time Warp to miss Constructed. Disrespect them at your own peril.

Finally, Valki rounds out my list this time. The card has played a crucial role in Rakdos Midrange and Sultai Ramp, and has made fringe appearances in plenty of other decks. Valki hasn’t approached the level of dominance in Kaldheim Standard that it has had in other formats, but it only takes one risky print that allows us to cheat on the mana cost of Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor to push this card into ban-worthy territory. A slip-up in the coming sets would not shock me in the least.

Gerry Thompson

Previous List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Showdown of the Skalds
  3. Binding the Old Gods
  4. Reidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector’s Shield
  5. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

New List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Alrund’s Epiphany
  3. Showdown of the Skalds
  4. Faceless Haven
  5. Binding the Old Gods

Honestly, my list wasn’t too bad. Goldspan Dragon was a slam dunk and Showdown of the Skalds did some good work as well. Even though it didn’t dominate, Binding the Old Gods likely contributed to the metagame shifting away from things like The Great Henge and Trail of Crumbs. 

Alrund’s Epiphany was the biggest outlier. I saw the power level but wasn’t convinced it would be able to fit into any successful Standard decks. Instead, it spawned two new archetypes and showed up in many others. There are many ways to get an edge in midrange mirrors and taking turns is among the most powerful. 

The other card I significantly underrated was Faceless Haven. Reidane was the card I thought would help white creature decks, and although I was correct, Faceless Haven did far more for the viability of mono-colored aggro decks than I anticipated. Never underestimate the impact of a good utility land. 

Overall, I’m happy with my evaluation for Kaldheim. This set wasn’t particularly difficult to evaluate but it’s always nice to book a solid win. 

Autumn Burchett

Previous List

  1. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  2. Binding the Old Gods
  3. Showdown of the Skalds
  4. Goldspan Dragon
  5. Faceless Haven

New List

  1. Faceless Haven
  2. Alrund’s Epiphany
  3. Binding the Old Gods
  4. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  5. Showdown of the Skalds

Without a doubt the most impactful card on Standard from Kaldheim was Faceless Haven. I predicted that Faceless Haven might be what was needed to make aggro decks put up a real fight in Standard, and both Mono-Red Aggro❄ and Mono-White Aggro❄ have had their moments in the spotlight as a result of this powerful land, with other fringe decks picking up the card on occasion too.

Alrund’s Epiphany was the huge surprise of the set for me. These expensive Time Warp-style effects always feel like they’ll just be fringe players at best in Standard unless they’re doing something silly like Nexus of Fate. It turns out I just completely misevaluated quite how impactful those two 1/1 flyers you get here are helping you turn the corner, or providing you with some key chump-blockers; it’s very rare that you’re just cantripping your Epiphany like you often do with other Time Warp effects.

Epiphany has worked magnificently alongside Goldspan Dragon in Temur Adventures killing your opponent from out of nowhere, whilst it also makes the Emergent Ultimatum piles that Sultai Ramp (Yorion) presents much more threatening. On this note, Binding the Old Gods has impressed too in these Sultai Ramp decks, or basically anywhere Yorion is present, often killing a permanent and then stopping your opponent deploying anything more to the battlefield due to fear of Binding being flickered.

With various Cycling decks taking over Standard for a couple of weeks at one point, they deserve a nod in their direction and the big card that deck gained was Hengegate Pathway. It’s a subtle addition, but this card allowing the Cycling decks to play Improbable Alliance and just generally have more consistent mana was undeniably very impactful.

I was unsure on whether to give the final slot on my list to Showdown of the Skalds or Goldspan Dragon, with both those cards being meaningful players in Standard since the moment Kaldheim released. Regardless, I’m very happy with my predictions from last time, and feel like the only card I really underestimated was Alrund’s Epiphany. I feel like I really tricked myself with Valki though; despite that card’s impact in older formats, it did almost nothing in Standard, only really showing up as a singleton in Sultai Ramp decks and even that’s just because he is an excellent Emergent Ultimatum target.

It turns out Goblin Pikers really don’t cut it in Standard. Go figure.

Corey Baumeister

Previous List

  1. Showdown of the Skalds
  2. Goldspan Dragon
  3. Binding the Old Gods
  4. Alrund’s Epiphany
  5. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt Cosmic Impostor

New List

  1. Binding the Old Gods 
  2. Goldspan Dragon 
  3. Esika’s Chariot 
  4. Showdown of the Skalds 
  5. Faceless Haven

Overall I’m pretty happy with my first list. The only cards that didn’t make it to my second list were Valki and Alrund’s Epiphany. That’s not because these cards are not powerful enough — because they are —but that they just ended up being one- or two-ofs in Sultai Ramp and that wasn’t enough for me to make it to my second list. 

One of the major shocks to me was how hard it was to make Showdown of the Skalds actually work effectively. I really thought it was going to be a card that you would want to bend over backwards to put in your deck, but it turns out that just wasn’t true. You really had to be playing a very specific deck to make the card playable. Even after we found that deck — Naya Fury and Naya Adventures — it wasn’t always a slam dunk and sometimes it was actually just too slow to compete with some of the hyper-aggressive decks or the over-the-top nature of Emergent Ultimatum decks. 

As far as my new additions, Esika’s Chariot was really close to making my list last time and in fact it was the sixth card for me. I had an advantage because Ross Meriam and I tried that card out a few times during preview season on VS Live! and we were always winning with it, regardless of how janky our decks were. It really proved itself in Sultai Ramp as a perfect middle ground to get you to the late-game, and it even did some cool things with Mythos of Illuna. 

Faceless Haven I was flat-out wrong about. I figured there wasn’t going to be a good enough mono-colored deck that could take advantage of this powerful land. Whoops!

Overall I’m pretty happy with my evaluations and I’m just glad I didn’t put horrible cards like Behold the Multiverse and Doomskar on my list. I’m looking at you Shaheen!  

Ari Lax

Previous List

  1. Goldspan Dragon
  2. Blightstep Pathway // Searstep Pathway
  3. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway
  4. Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
  5. Doomskar

New List

  1. Faceless Haven
  2. Barkchannel Pathway // Tidechannel Pathway
  3. Showdown of the Skalds
  4. Goldspan Dragon
  5. Alrund’s Epiphany

If I had to pick the winner of our Kaldheim First Impressions for Standard, it would probably be Autumn because no one else had the clear-cut number one card on their list: Faceless Haven. Always bet on Mutavault.

I probably get negative points for initially putting two of the four Pathways on my initial Top 5 and having neither one be the one that mattered most. I thought the allied Pathways would surpass the enemy-color ones due to enemy colors already having Triomes for easy fixing, but it turns out “Barkchannel Pathway casts Lovestruck Beast and Disdainful Stroke” is just the important part. Also Emergent Ultimatum, but I don’t think anyone was really thinking about that at the time.

On that note, props to the Bash Brothers Podcast hosts for identifying Alrund’s Epiphany as a unique, over-the-top effect for the format. Again, they probably didn’t see it as being the thing that turned Emergent Ultimatum into a 100% clean kill, but Temur Adventures’s use of Alrund’s Epiphany to clock the Sultai Ramp decks is right in line with Corey and Brad’s prediction.

Showdown of the Skalds and Goldspan Dragon feel like the cards basically everyone got at the start, as evidenced by them being first and second place in the initial group rankings, but I think the edge ended up in Showdown’s favor. Goldspan Dragon is just a big threat, and while the Unleashed Fury and Izzet decks felt like they abused it, few of the reliable decks did a ton with it. It kept ending up on the margins of Adventures lists and the margins of Mono-Red Aggro — it just isn’t Glorybringer.

Showdown of the Skalds on the other hand was basically the reason to play Boros. It’s a bit of Embercleave, a bit of The Great Henge, and none of their liabilities against Wilt. I can see Goldspan Dragon falling in and out of favor depending on the format’s speed and answers, but the limit on Showdown of the Skalds is really, “Can I cast proactive Boros spells in any mix?” It won’t be Showdown’s fault if it stops seeing play; it will literally be the rest of the red and white cards letting it down.

As for all the early votes for Doomskar, I think there are two things at play. We all saw 1WW and forgot to add the other two. The big lesson of foretell in Draft was you still pay the net cost over time, and that isn’t Draft-specific. Also, people stopped playing creatures that die to Wrath of God. That’ll be a problem for any sweeper that doesn’t exile.

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

5. Binding the Old Gods — 15 points

4. Alrund’s Epiphany — 16 points

T-2. Showdown of the Skalds — 18 points

T-2. Faceless Haven — 18 points

1. Goldspan Dragon — 23 points

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