Showdown of the Skalds has proven to be one of the most impressive cards added to Standard from Kaldheim. The new saga grants a huge boost of card advantage to aggressive decks, as well as a power spike the following turn. Since Kaldheim’s release, players have been trying to figure out the best deck for Showdown; today, we’ll be covering some of the top decklists we’ve seen so far.
White-based aggressive decks were the first place where players started with Showdown. The plan is simple: beat down with cards like Usher of the Fallen, Seasoned Hallowblade, and Luminarch Aspirant, then refuel with Showdown. This allows you to aggressively trade off your cards without having to worry too much about the consequences. And since many of the spells in this deck are so cheap to cast, you can use Showdown’s second and third chapters to great effect.
This deck also had access to an engine of sorts at very little cost. If you play four copies of Shepherd of the Flock, you can use its adventure spell to pick up your Showdown of the Skalds and cast it again for even more value. For such an aggressive deck, it can be incredibly grindy.
What I like most about this deck is how resilient it is. Your deck has cards like Hallowblade, Selfless Savior and Lurrus which allow you to go longer, and your opponent needs the right type of answers. (This is one reason why you may see more control decks playing Shadows’ Verdict instead of Doomskar.) You also get to play a very low-to-the-ground game plan and really punish players who stumble in the early game.
My only criticism of this deck is that the creatures aren’t always strong enough to stand on their own. If you don’t draw Showdown, you may run into challenges against other creature decks or against any deck that is prepared for your game plan. You need a bit more of a punch if you’re going to break through some of the board stalls that this deck could end up in. This is where our next Showdown deck comes in…
After having trouble breaking through and needing a bit more aggression, players turned to a Mono-Red build that splashes white for Showdown. This deck has all the usual suspects you expect to see from a mono-red deck, but unlike the others that have a few mana-intensive cards like Torbran at the top end, you have Showdown to refuel. This gives the red deck something it was lacking before: real card advantage. Over the last year, Mono-Red has relied on speed as its sole form of advantage, typically leaning on Embercleave to close games quickly. Now, you still have access to those draws, but you can catch back up if you start to fall behind.
While this deck can have more explosive draws that the white version, it’s also occasionally prone to awkward ones. Embercleave and Showdown are the two most powerful cards in the deck, but you can’t cast either of them until you have at least four mana. That said, if you’re looking to play Mono-Red, I highly recommend this build of the deck; of all the red decks out there, this one is the most resilient to interaction.
After both these decks started getting some buzz, Rivals League member Grzegorz Kowalski combined them together. This build features all the best cards from the other two, and your average card power is much higher.
There is still some debate over which two-drop creatures are best in the deck. Some prefer Robber of the Rich, and some, like me, favor Luminarch Aspirant. While Robber can lead to more cards drawn in an average game, drawing cards isn’t usually an issue for this deck. Instead, the deck could use more cards that force your opponent to act, and Aspirant fits the bill. Aspirant will often add power to the board even if it’s killed, and things start to snowball if your opponent fails to answer it quickly. Lovestruck Beast is a stone wall for aggressive decks in Standard, and the combination of Aspirant and Showdown will allow your creatures to punch through.
You may have also seen some Naya versions of this deck that cut some of the more individually powerful cards in the list in favor of more adventure synergies and more copies of Showdown of the Skalds. While these changes might seem intuitive, raising the average card cost and stretching your mana base can cause the deck to stumble. Showdown decks need to cost several spells in a turn, and adding more color requirements or spells that cost more mana can be detrimental to your game plan.
This Boros deck has a lot going for it: it can quickly put pressure on opponents, stick around into the late game, and reasonably answer opposing creatures. If you’re looking for the best Showdown deck to play in Standard this week, look no further.
There’s one more Showdown deck I wanted to talk about today that’s a little off the beaten path. “Rune Storm,” as it’s known, is a combo deck that uses Showdown of the Skalds and the new runes from Kaldheim. Your goal is to land a Goldspan Dragon then start enchanting it with runes. Each time you target Goldspan Dragon, you get a treasure token that you can sacrifice for two mana, and you can eventually make your Dragon big enough to one-shot your opponent.
Showdown of the Skalds is great in this deck. It provides a burst of cards that will allow you to work through your deck and generate more and more mana. And more importantly, the second and third chapters allow you to start piling counters onto Goldspan Dragon every time you cast a rune. Most runes don’t increase the power of the creatures they enchant, so Showdown is critical if you want to make your creatures large enough to finish off your opponent.
Rune Storm may seem like a bit of a pipe dream, but it’s quite good at accomplishing its goal. You will have lots of turns where you can chain together a bunch of spells and win via a combination of combat and a Kazuul’s Fury. The deck may go the way of the dinosaurs as the format evolves, but as of right now, it seems to be a promising contender in the format.
No matter how you build around it, Showdown of the Skalds is looking to be a driving force in this Standard format. As time goes on, it will likely only rise in stock as players discover new applications for it and powerful new cards join the Standard format.
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.