I am an avid drafter and student of Limited Magic: the Gathering, and I am in love with Kaldheim. This latest expansion is packed with new and returning mechanics for players to wrap their heads around.
The set is pretty complicated; Kaldheim is the wordiest set of all time. I’ve drafted it 30 times between Magic: the Gathering Online and Arena, and I feel like I’m still learning important lessons about the format every time I crack open a fresh Draft pack.
Here are the fundamental lessons I’ve picked up drafting this amazing format.
White is finally good again!
Wizards of the Coast Play Design has been knocking it out of the park in recent years when it comes to Draft formats. Sets from the past two years or so have come packed with awesome build-around cards and synergies.
If there were one thing amiss with modern Limited, it would be that the color White has consistently gotten the short end of the stick. Outside of specific color pair archetypes like White-Black Clerics in Zendikar Rising and Red-White Cycling in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, White has tended to be an aggressive one-trick pony. It has often lacked the late-game tools and card advantage to hang with Blue and Green.
This is not the case in Kaldheim. Thanks to interesting and powerful cards like Starnheim Unleashed and Master Skald alongside the flexible Boast mechanic, White can play both sides of the court.
I’m still looking to draft a deck in Temur colors when I crack packs of Kaldheim, but I’m no longer disappointed to end up with a pile of White cards. White decks in this set will usually lean aggressive, but I’ll often have access to value engines like Master Skald, Spectral Steel, or gold cards like Vega, the Watcher to help me keep up in the late game.
Black is the worst color in Kaldheim
With White finally getting some Limited love in Kaldheim, another color must replace it as worst in class. While I think that it’s still draftable, I believe Black has taken White’s place.
It’s hard for me to put my finger on what exactly makes Black the least attractive option; it’s more down to a confluence of different factors. For starters, many of Black’s creatures are pretty bad on their own. Infernal Pet, Bloodsky Berserker, and Skemfar Shadowsage are pretty unimpressive unless you pop off with multiple cheap spells or a steady stream of Elves. This is in stark contrast to Red and White creatures, which tend to have Boast abilities that make them strong standalone options.
Meanwhile, the color lacks the late-game value engines that Blue and Green have an abundance of. Build-arounds like Dogged Pursuit and Village Rites look promising, but they just don’t play out well on paper.
Finally, with a ton of fixing in this set, I’m often looking to splash a third or fourth color for removal or bombs. Cards like Feed the Serpent and Draugr’s Helm are powerful, but they both need double Black pips to make the most of. An A-level exile spell just won’t get the job done alongside 2-mana 2/2s and bad Snow payoffs.
I have drafted decent White-Black decks with cheap spells and creatures that key off double-spell turns, but in general I’ve been much more successful sticking to Temur colors.
Snow decks exist in different color combos
Speaking of the Temur colors, I like drafting Blue, Red, and Green so much because they have some of the best enablers and payoffs for the powerful and flexible Snow decks in the format.
Most Snow decks will play Green as the base color thanks to common enablers like Sculptor of Winter and Glittering Frost. Green also has excellent and easy to find finishers like Grizzled Outcast and Ravenous Lindwurm.
But this doesn’t mean that all Snow decks end up being Green ramp piles. Blue has some great cards that key off Snow lands like Frost Augur and Icebind Pillar, while also offering cheap disruptive elements like Bind the Monster to prolong the game.
Meanwhile, Red is a pretty aggressive color in Kaldheim, but it also boasts efficient and splashable removal spells like Demon Bolt, Frost Bite, and Squash. Even Black can get in on the Snow fun with cards like Priest of the Haunted Edge and Narfi. These Black cards go from okay to great when you have 7 or more Snow lands.
I’ll usually end up in a Snow strategy when I open a bomb rare or when I take Snow Basics and dual lands early over worse cards. I might also try to stay open and see if payoffs like the 0/4 Priest or Icehide Troll come around the table.
Red Aggro is the go-to assertive strategy in the format
Red might be in the middle of the pack in terms of power level among colors in Kaldheim, but of the biggest questions I have when I fire up a Draft queue on Magic: the Gathering Arena is how Red looks from my seat at the table.
If I see efficient, aggressive Red cards like Axgard Cavalry, Craven Hulk, or Dwarven Hammer early, that might be enough to tempt me away from my pet Simic Snow deck.
On the other hand, if I get passed mid-pack Squashes and Frost Bites, then I may take that as a signal to play a slower deck splashing Red removal. Svella, Ice Shaper is another Red card that fits much better into Midrange or Control strategies than a traditional beatdown deck.
I’ve noticed that this format is heavily polarized between aggressive Boast/Weenie decks and durdly Snow decks. Red slots well into both strategies, so it pays off to know which type of Red cards you’re seeing.
Equipment and Auras are as good as they’ve ever been
Over the last two or three sets, I’ve noticed a trend of Auras and Equipment improving. In Zendikar Rising, we saw several playable Equipment cards, aided by the fact that they attached to a creature right away.
In Kaldheim, Equipment cards don’t have this ability, but they make up for it by granting powerful stat bonuses and/or entering the battlefield with a token to carry them.
One of the best examples of the Equipment’s glow-up is Goldvein Pick, a card that Limited specialists play even in grindy Snow decks.
Auras, too, have improved since Theros: Beyond Death, with many of them mitigating their inherent card disadvantage with abilities like those on Spectral Steel or Valor of the Worthy. The Runes also provide a lot of extra value than usual by being able to impart their stat boosts to Equipment or Vehicles.
These two card types get a bad rap in Draft, but in Kaldheim, many decks will want to play one or two of each to help punch damage through.
Cards like Disdainful Stroke and Broken Wings are fine maindeck cards in Kaldheim
This lesson mainly applies to Best-of-One Kaldheim Draft on Arena, where having access to powerful but narrow effects can carry an otherwise average deck to that sweet five-win threshold.
Disdainful Stroke is a personal favorite of mine that is at its best in this set, where players are casting four-drops on turn three thanks to Foretell. Stroke also counters several of the expensive finishers that removal spells have a hard time dealing with, like Ravenous Lindwurm, Maskwood Nexus, and Sagas.
Meanwhile, Broken Wings and to a lesser extent Invoke the Divine deal with problem permanents in Best-of-One like Icebind Pillar, Bound in Gold, and Dwarven Hammer.
In Best-of-Three, I would probably leave Artifact removal in the sideboard, but I would still play the first copy of Disdainful Stroke.
Find your place in the Kaldheim Aggro–Snow spectrum
Possibly my favorite thing about Kaldheim is that it’s pretty difficult to end up in a simple two-color archetype like Blue-Red Wizards or Black White Clerics in Zendikar Rising.
Sure, aggressive Red-White decks will lean into the Auras and Equipments theme present in the set, but drafting this set is more about taking advantage of the cool synergies between specific commons, then finding the best shell to make them shine.
Most drafters at the table will pick up bombs. But if you manage to read the draft and notice which cards are going late, you’ll be in a great position to overcome them.
Here are some of my other favorite synergy packages at Common and Uncommon. Seeing these pairs of cards will often signal me to go deeper into Aggro or Snow:
- Sculptor of Winter making a lot of mana/colors with Glittering Frost;
- Priest of the Haunted Edge and recursion like Raise the Draugr and Draugr Recruiter;
- Glimpse the Cosmos and Changelings like Mistwalker.
What strategies are you finding successful in Kaldheim draft? Leave us a comment below!