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19, Mar, 21

Kaldheim Limited Guide: How to Draft Black Decks

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Find out what you need to know about drafting Black in Kaldheim, and get the edge if it's something you want to do.
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Hello, fellow Limited junkies! Kaldheim has been out for a month and half, but I still can’t get enough of this engaging, skill-testing Draft format. I’m almost 300 matches into drafting and playing Sealed, and I feel like I am constantly learning new things and experiencing card interactions for the first time. I’ve come to evaluate cards drastically differently at this stage of the format compared to my first ten or twenty drafts. Commons like Axgard Cavalry, Jaspera Sentinel, and Run Ashore have risen significantly in my personal pick order, to the point that I wouldn’t mind taking these cards fairly early on in a draft.

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Something I haven’t changed my mind about, however, is how poorly Black compares to other colors in Kaldheim Draft. Blue, Red, and Green are all powerful, deep, and versatile options in this set. Even White, a color that has suffered from being one-dimensional in previous formats, offers a good mix of early aggression and late game value. Black is the worst color by far for a few reasons, and whenever I sit down for a new draft I actively avoid taking Black cards early.

Having said that, I still think Black is playable and there are occasions when I’m happy to move in. Powerful Rares like Immersturm Predator and Draugr Necromancer always make my deck if I can accommodate them, and Feed the Serpent is the format’s cleanest answer to Koma, Cosmos Serpent. I also believe the cat is out of the bag about how bad Black is, so you can gain an edge by knowing when it’s being underdrafted.

In this guide, I’ll share my thoughts on how you can make the most of Black in Kaldheim Draft. I’ll first discuss why I think the color matches up so poorly, before talking about ways to draft that set you up best to win with Black cards. I won’t cover non-Black decks that splash Black bombs, because the fixing is good enough in the set that you should be able to judge when you can get away with it.

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Why is Black the worst color in Kaldheim Draft?

The simple answer to this question is that most of the Black cards in the set are underwhelming as standalone game pieces. More than the other four colors, Black in Kaldheim Draft relies on synergy and interactions between cards to power your deck up. When you compare these cards with similarly costed cards in other colors, the contrast is stark.

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A perfect example of this is Deathknell Berserker, the 2/2 Elf Berserker that creates a 2/2 Zombie Token when it dies if its power was 3 or greater. Without equipment, combat tricks, or +1/+1 counters, it’s nothing more than a Bear. Even having a cheap Elf won’t matter unless you draft a few tribal payoffs.

Compare this to Immersturm Raider, the Red two-drop. Without any synergies in your deck to help it, this 2/1 will help filter your draw early and trade a land in hand for a real card later in the game. I’d also much rather have a Masked Vandal. Sure, this 1/3 with Changeling does need a creature in the graveyard to truly reward you, but creatures die in a game of MTG without much work on your part. The payoff of a Zombie token is fine when it’s stapled to a two-mana 2/2, but you have to jump through hoops to get it.

If you need more evidence that Black takes work to make good, look no further than Priest of the Haunted Edge.

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I wouldn’t play this card unless I had around four or more Snow lands. Even then, there will be some games where this is an 0/4 that can’t kill anything. Meanwhile, Snow rewards in other colors like Frost Bite and Blizzard Brawl still function well without the bonus.

There are several Blue cards that are equally awful without Snow lands. Frost Augur, Avalanche Caller, and Icebind Pillar are all pretty much bricks without a few lands. The difference is twofold. First, you can draft great Blue decks like Giants without worrying about Snow. Second, Blue Snow decks have a critical mass of powerful rewards, so I am more than willing to spend important early picks on lands to make my deck hum.

If Black cards like the two I mentioned above are bad without synergies, then I believe the key to drafting Black in Kaldheim is to understand which clusters of Black cards go well together and to then identify when these clusters are available late in a draft.

Based on this strategy, I’ve identified two ways to incorporate Black into your draft decks. Both these archetypes actually build around Black and ask you to do a little work to make the color good.

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Snow Control with Black

My favorite decks to draft in Kaldheim are three color Snow piles that might be splashing the fourth or fifth color. Fortunately for me, Snow decks happen to be among the best decks in the format, alongside Blue-Red Giants and White or Red-based Aggro. These midrange or controlling decks are so powerful in large part because the commons and uncommons in Blue, Red, and Green are great on their own. The fixing is also awesome, thanks to the high chance that you get a Snow dual land in each pack and the fact that Green has cards like Sculptor of Winter and Glittering Frost.

Many of the cards in the Temur wedge also get better when you have a lot of Snow mana in your deck. All things considered, it isn’t too difficult to draft a Snow deck with a powerful value engine or two, and the reward for doing so can be massive. It can get challenging, however, when multiple drafters are trying to stake their claim on Snow decks playing Temur colors. You can avoid trainwrecking your draft by knowing when to veer into a controlling strategy utilizing Black cards effectively.

Earlier, I talked about how Priest of the Haunted Edge doesn’t do much for you when you aren’t heavily invested in picking up Snow lands. Well, when you actually do the work and draft a heavy Snow deck, Priest is going to be one of the best cards in your deck! If you can get to the point where this 0/4 can take down a three or four toughness creature, I’m happy to start taking them and optimizing for them.

They key to drafting Priest of the Haunted Edge decks, like with a lot of Black cards in this set, is that you shouldn’t be taking them early if you see them in pack 1. If I have what looks like a decent start to a Snow deck in Temur colors, I will be trying to take the most powerful card in each pack, including dual lands so I can cast my spells. Then, if the first Priest wheels, I’ll pick it up and take that as a signal that I can draft a Snow deck in Sultai or Grixis colors.

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There are a few cards in the “Black Snow Deck” cluster that I will draft the same way I do the Priest. All of these cards work very well together and in my experience will all tend to be available late if they are opened. The Black cards I like picking up on the wheel are Draugr Recruiter, Raise the Draugr, and Weigh Down. Between the Priest and these cards that recur it or use it as exile fodder, you can build a strong removal engine that complements whatever win conditions you have going in your other colors.

I recently did a draft on Magic: The Gathering Online where I used this strategy to good effect and ended up with a nice Sultai Snow deck.

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I first picked a Jorn, God of Winter, picked a Svella, Ice Shaper second, and quickly settled into the pattern of taking lands and Green cards highly. Then, I noticed that a Draugr Recruiter had wheeled and I took it over some Temur cards of similar power.

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In pack 2, I picked up more lands and rewards for being in a Snow deck. I also managed to pick up the Black cards I identified as being good in this archetype. Crucially, I took none of them higher than 6th pick. My deck ended up being a pretty good example of the Sultai Snow deck, and I took it to a 2-1 finish. I lost narrowly to another Sultai deck playing a lot of the same cards, including Jorn.

Kaldheim Draft Sultai Snow deck

This is my favorite way to draft Black cards for several reasons. First, if this strategy works out, you’re playing some of the better Black cards that combine in cool ways. Looping Priests every turn with Recruiter is a fun way to keep your opponent’s board in check. Even if you don’t end up playing the one Priest you managed to get, it’s still likely that you ended up with a decent Snow deck if you started the draft by taking cards in the Temur wedge.

If you take most of your Black cards when they table, you’re also gaining an advantage over your fellow drafters by taking good cards that are more likely to be fought over early, then using your late picks to gobble up this cluster of underrated Snow cards. You’ll also be in a great position to get rewarded when you open great Black rares that work well with your Priest engine, like Draugr Necromancer and Sarulf, Realm Eater.

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Tribal or Buff-Heavy Aggro

The other way I recommend drafting Black decks in this format is to build around the aggressive cluster of Deathknell Berserker, Demonic Gifts, and Equipment like Draugr’s Helm, Raven Wings, and Goldvein Pick. The main downside of drafting this way is that you’re often going to end up with more Black cards in your deck than a Snow deck will have. That means you’ll have to lean pretty hard into the synergies that make your cheap Black creatures decent. The upside is that a table full of savvy drafters will tend to leave you with all the Infernal Pets and Karfell Kennel-Masters your heart desires.

I’ll sometimes end up in a deck like this if I start a draft with good Black removal spells like Poison the Cup or Feed the Serpent. I’ll try very hard to take good cards in other colors, but if Black continues to flow through the first pack then I’ll change my priorities accordingly. This deck really wants you to end up with as many two drops in Black and your support color as possible.

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There is no better deck in the format for Demonic Gifts than a Black-Green or Black-Red pile with a ton of Deathknell Berserkers and Elderfang Disciples. If you attack your opponent with a two drop on turn three and keep your mana up, your opponent will have to respect this combat trick. It helps that Black can be so underdrafted that you can end up with multiples of all the Black commons that make this strategy tick.

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Karfell Kennel-Master is a great common that just hasn’t had the opportunity to shine because of how bad Black is. This 4/4 is the perfect curve-topper in a deck with the two-drops I mentioned above, and it’s especially good in Rakdos decks that play cards that grant haste like Axgard Cavalry.

Kaldheim Draft Black Aggressive deck

I managed to snag a 3-0 with this Golgari Elves deck, mostly thanks to having a ton of cards that key off each other and help you push damage through every turn. This deck also highlights the fact that a lot of Black gold cards are powered up in aggro decks and basically useless in controlling Snow decks. Sagas like Harald Unites the Elves and the Berserker tribal card The Bloodsky Massacre will tend to go late and will help you power through your opponent’s defensive cards.

Another advantage of drafting a “bad” deck like this is you’ll be able to find unwanted cards in other colors that fit will into your strategy. Guardian Gladwalker is a good two drop that loses out to Masked Vandal in Snow decks but slots right into a Deathknell Berserker deck.

I believe trying to draft heavy Black decks will usually be worse than either splashing Black cards or playing a Snow deck with Priest synergies. But knowing how to move in on an aggressive Black decks when you have litte recourse is an important skill in Kaldheim Draft.

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