Kaldheim spoilers have flooded social media, and everyone is eagerly brewing new decks to show off all their favorite cards. While I might not be a huge deck brewer myself, I love trying to picture where the new cards fit in for any given format. You might have read Mason Clark’s recent article addressing the best new cards for Standard, but I’m going to focus on a different format today — you guessed it, Historic!
It’s always interesting to me to evaluate new cards for Historic. Historic has a significantly larger card pool than Standard, which sometimes makes it challenging to brew completely new archetypes with new cards. While new sets will often create new archetypes in Standard, the new cards can still impact larger formats by enhancing already powerful decks or invigorating less successful strategies.
There are a lot of cards I’m excited about in Kaldheim, but I’ve narrowed down a list of five cards you should consider crafting for Historic when the set drops next Thursday.
Modal Double-Faced Cards have been one of my favorite design additions to Magic in a long time. When they debuted in Zendikar Rising, all the MDFC’s had a spell on the front side and a land on the back side. This challenged players to fundamentally change the way they built decks while simultaneously alleviating some of the worst consequences of variance in the game: mana flood and mana screw.
We’re seeing similar card design in Kaldheim with these cards, but with a twist: the MDFC’s in this set give you a choice of two spells, one on each side. Giving players a choice between two spells on one card decreases the variance in a similar way, and Valki, God of Lies is a great example. Most of the time, you wouldn’t want to pack your Historic deck full of seven-mana planeswalkers like Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter, but if you make it to the late game and have seven mana to spend, Tibalt might be a more powerful option than casting Valki when your opponent has no cards left in hand. The idea that one card can be powerful at almost any point of the game is extremely enticing to me because it reduces the amount of variance and non-games you’ll play. With cards like these, you’re less likely to draw non-impactful cards late in the game or to lose early with a seven-drop in your hand.
Okay, so Modal Double-Faced Cards are huge wins for Historic players. But how will this card play? Valki initially stood out to me as a way to combat Uro, which has been one of Historic’s most powerful cards for months. Not only does Valki exile Uro for the amount of time he’s on the battlefield — he can even turn into an Uro himself. On turn three, you can attack your opponent with a 6/6, draw a card, and gain three life, which is enough to sell me on this card.
Valki only costs two mana, and black is already a popular color in Historic. I envision many decks playing this card for the front side — Rakdos Sacrifice, Mono-Black Aggro, Jund Sacrifice, and even Sultai Midrange or Grixis Control may be happy to have it. I’m less excited about the Tibalt side of the card, but Sacrifice decks or a Grixis deck could easily cast it to turn the corner or run away with the game. Grixis decks try to clear the board and get rid of the opponent’s hand until they are in a top-deck situation, which is where Tibalt will likely shine the most.
Foretell is a new mechanic in Kaldheim that I am especially excited for in Historic. In a lot of reactive decks, like Azorius Control or Jeskai Lotus Field, there aren’t a lot of plays you want to make on turn two. With the new foretell cards, decks like these can have a turn-two play to save some powerful spells for later in the game.
My biggest issue with Azorius Control in Historic is that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is often not a good enough wincon in a lot of match-ups. Emeria’s Call // Emeria’s Sanctuary already does a good job of helping that problem in the deck, but I would like to test out Starnheim Unleashed in this archetype as an additional wincon. It’s reminiscent of Entreat the Angels — the kind of late-game card that has benefitted Azorius Control decks in other formats, and which the Historic version could use.
Where I really think these foretell cards will shine is in the Jeskai Lotus Field deck. It’s a relatively new archetype in Historic that gets to play Lotus Field without sacrificing any lands, either by negating the sacrifice ability with Blood Sun or by countering it with Tale’s End. This is another deck without a great turn-two play, so you can stand to spend your second turn putting your foretells away for later. Then, when you have a ton of extra mana because of Lotus Field, you can cast cards like Starnheim Unleashed quickly to create a ton of angels. This deck always felt like it was missing a few cards, and I think Starnheim Unleashed will push it to the top of the meta.
Along with MDFC’s and the foretell mechanic, Kaldheim also introduces Snow mana and permanents to Standard and Historic. I foresee Snow being important in the context of Standard, but less so in Historic due to the relative lack of Snow cards. However, the cool thing about Snow mana is that we can turn any Historic deck into a “Snow Deck” just by adding Snow lands to incorporate the most impactful Snow cards.
This might be the direction to take Bant Spirits in Historic. Spirits continuously gets more cards, and it’s getting closer and closer to the Modern version’s power level. But as it stands, the deck is missing some key cards like Spell Queller and Mausoleum Wanderer that provide the interaction it needs to succeed.
Ascendant Spirit doesn’t solve this problem per se, but it does have a lot going for it. It can fill the one-drop slot, it’s a good mana sink, and it can put pressure on the opponent quickly. The rest of the Spirits deck can theoretically remain untouched other than swapping basics for Snow lands, which should be enough to support Ascendant Spirit.
Another Kaldheim card I’m excited about is The World Tree. Historic is a format with an abundance of ramp cards such as Growth Spiral, Explore, Uro, and much more, so getting six mana into play quickly is a strong possibility. I could see a land-based ramp deck that features Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and various God cards to support ramping into activating The World Tree.
Golos has been in and out of the Historic metagame in various iterations. Unfortunately, card suspensions and bannings keep pushing Golos and other land strategies to the bottom of the Historic metagame. Over the past several months, the archetype has lost win conditions and value engines like Field of the Dead, Nexus of Fate, and Omnath, Locus of Creation. The World Tree might not be as powerful as any of these cards, but it has a lot of potential to push Golos decks into tier two of the Historic metagame — or, at the very least, creating a fun deck for the brewers of Historic.
Sagas are my favorite card type in Magic, so you can imagine my delight when I started seeing all the Kaldheim spoilers over the past few weeks. There are a handful of Sagas I am excited for, but the best one so far is Firja’s Retribution. The biggest reason to play this card in Historic? Yorion, Sky Nomad. Yorion/Doom Foretold decks are among my favorite deck archetypes in Standard and Historic, and Firja’s Retribution fits perfectly into these decks in both formats.
Yorion/Doom Foretold decks are predominantly reactive decks with a few wincons, and it hasn’t been quite proactive enough to compete with most of the tier-one decks in Historic. With cards like Firja’s Retribution, we can start playing a mix of both proactive and reactive cards. Firja’s Retribution creates threats which function as removal for a turn, and the Saga can be flickered with Yorion for additional angels and Saga triggers. I have a lot of new cards I want to try out for Esper Doom Foretold in Historic — check back next week, when I’ll be sharing some potential decklists!
Spoiler season is one of the most exciting parts of new sets for a lot of players, and there are many great new cards going to make an impact on Historic. I have a lot of things I want to try out, but these are all the places I want to start in the format. In the following weeks, I’ll have a bunch of new decklists to try out and recommend for the best format on Arena. Happy spoiler season!