Kaldheim Set Review — Artifacts and Lands

(The World Tree | Art by Anastasia Ovchinnikova)

With Rime or Reason

Welcome to the Kaldheim set review for artifacts and lands. With a major influx of lands, there’s a lot of ground to cover (heh), so we’ll be looking at a few of the artifacts in depth and making sure we try and do our due diligence to the vast snowy landscapes that await us on Kaldheim. Grab your snow shoes and rucksacks, as I be your Alpine Guide on this journey!


Artifacts


Cosmos Elixir

This thing has potential, but I think only in very specific builds. Lifegain is a long-standing archetype, coming in as the third most popular theme on EDHREC, comprising just north of 11,000 decks. Commanders like Heliod, Sun Crowned, Karlov, of the Ghost Council, and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim might want to give this a try, as they are often poised to increase their life totals well above the starting 40, and the incidental lifegain along the way will only help their other lifegain synergies.

Outside of a dedicated lifegain deck, though, I think this card can be a trap. You should ask yourself: is paying four mana to incidentally gain two life a turn worth it, assuming it sticks around? Even if it is the same rate as paying for two Ajani’s Mantras, I’m not sure it’s worth it unless you have a means of mobilizing that life in some fashion. Frankly, I’m surprised it doesn’t have a white casting cost to begin with.


Maskwood Nexus

I’m convinced this card is a skeleton key Skeleton Key. Turning all of your creatures into Mistform Ultimus already opens up lots of quirky doors, let alone having a cheaper Birthing Boughs activation tacked onto it.

Some are obvious: Morophon the Boundless ‘lord’ tribal decks will likely have a ball with it, as it can shore up the ‘other half’ problem. Reaper King decks often struggle to run efficient Scarecrows, and this allows them to just make any creature they want — not just Changelings — into a Vindicate. Silumgar, the Drifting Death will happily turn a board of Gudul Lurkers into pseudo-Nefashus, and General Tazri can start tutoring for non-Allies, since, well, they’re now also Allies. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist can double up any creature she plays, since they’d all be Wizards now.

But it goes much deeper.

Rooftop Storm suddenly makes all your creature spells free. Cards like Faces of the Past and Merrow Commerce allow you to untap all of your creatures. Stoneforge Masterwork, Alpha Status and Coat of Arms give sizeable boosts to your board. Patriarch’s Bidding brings back everything in your graveyard, no matter the phylogenic hodgepodge in their text boxes. Whelming Wave, Peer Pressure and Harsh Mercy can become blowouts.

Overall, I’m excited for this card, as it has the potential to help shore up under-supported tribes as well as expand into further possibilities for other weird tribal synergies.


Pyre of Heroes

Birthing Pod is a notorious card, being banned in Modern, and seeing play in almost 12,000 decks on EDHREC. This one has a very similar effect, but unlike the Build-a-Bionicle workshop, it can slot into any EDH deck thanks to it being colorless. The drawback: it’s tribal-restricted. Still, I think this card has potency. It will likely see play in tribal Aristocrat-ish decks, like Wort, Boggart Auntie Goblins, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant Clerics, or some tribal-leaning Marchesa, the Black Rose lists. I can also see it in toolbox-y, enter-the-battlefield-based tribal decks like Allies or Inalla, Archmage Ritualist Wizards. It also works really well with Changelings, though my money is seeing it in something wonky like Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient Golems or Constructs.


Weathered Runestone

Seasoned players will note the extreme similarities to the rare Grafdigger’s Cage. Both Weathered Runestone and Grafdigger’s Cage often pose a serious impediment to many graveyard-centric decks. Graveyards are frequently used as a conduit — an extension of one’s hand and options — and these cards do well to keep the dead nice and tucked in. Both also prevent people from casting from their libraries, shutting down cards like Elsha of the Infinite, Bolas’s Citadel, Mystic Forge, or Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign.

So where does Weathered Runestone differ from Grafdigger’s Cage? The Runestone’s lack of creature restriction means it hits cards like Primal Surge, Estrid, the Masked‘s ultimate, Replenish, Sharuum the Hegemon, Academy Rector, etc. Overall, the differences are relatively minor, and Grafdigger’s Cage will do most of what the runestone will do at one mana cheaper. However, the uncommon aspect of this card can’t be overlooked, and I for one am glad to see more graveyard hate being printed at lower rarities.


Colossal Plow

With an influx of new Vehicles, lead-foots can rejoice putting their pedal to the metal. While a Crew cost of 6 means you practically need an entire village’s worth of Squires to figure this thing out, at the end of the day it produces mana in white, which is great. My excitement for this card isn’t so much the card itself, but what it could possibly foreshadow. White as a color often evokes a sense of agropastoral connection, emphasizing the importance of tilling the land, elbow grease, and community, and I genuinely hope this humble plow sows the seeds for similar cards to come. Seeing as how we got Stoic Farmer (with plow in hand!) in the Phantom Premonition precon, hopes are high!


Replicating Ring

This card feels like a mini-game. I don’t envision it will turn up too much, but it may make an appearance in your Vorel of the Hull Clade kind of lists or in other decks that want to Proliferate counters like Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice. I can also see it being a bit of fun in Shrine-centric decks (e.g. Sanctum of All) since they tend to emphasize multiple upkeeps via Paradox Haze or Sphinx of the Second Sun. Being a snow artifact also doesn’t hurt it, incidentally synergizing with your snow synergies or building towards Marit Lage’s Slumber.


Lands


Pathways

There’s not much to say about these, other than it’s great to have the cycle finished so soon. The six pathways were introduced in Zendikar Rising, and it’s nice to see these being finished quickly, and with some art featuring a different plane. Two-color decks, rejoice!


Snow-Covered Basics


Turns out, if you espouse “Winter is Coming” long enough, someday you’ll be right. The Stark’s brooding premonition has come to fruition, as now-covered basics have returned to Standard – the first time since Coldsnap (2006). That’s despite Magic R&D lead designer Mark Rosewater saying as recently as 2017 “I’ll never say never, but I’m highly skeptical we’d reprint them in a Standard-legal set.” Never say never, indeed!

Whether EDH or another format, the issue is: there is little downside to not run snow-covered lands instead of just basic lands.

In fact, as of yet there are really only a handful of cards that punish players for playing snow, and they see abysmally little play:

These cards only work against snow-inclusive decks, so the opportunity cost can absolutely whiff, and some of them still have upkeep costs to maintain them. Reidane, God of the Worthy may help, but not by much, especially when Extraplanar Lens (8,418 decks), Dead of Winter (2,346 decks), or the new Jorn, God of Winter just give you such tremendous advantages for swapping your basics with snow-covered ones.

While I’m excited for new snowy synergies and the lands becoming more affordable and accessible, I don’t care for them outright displacing basic lands with minimal downside. Magic’s vast array of artistic renditions of basic lands is part of the game’s allure, and feeling pressure to lose out on your favorite 230+ Forest landscapes for one of the six Snow-covered ones can leave a sour taste.


Snow Dual Taplands

Dual lands are back! Well, sort of. I’ll admit, I was surprised to see two basic land typings at common rarity, with the snow super-type to boot. The drawback of course is that they come in tapped. So just how big of a splash will these make? Let’s start by comparing them to their snowy tapped counterparts — the allied lands of Coldsnap:

Okay, so they don’t see that much play, but I venture their limited color availability and single printing (and thus, price) might factor into this. Let’s compare this with your more typical tap-lands:

Overall, I see these snowy dual tap lands either supplementing budget mana bases or even replacing some other tap lands without the basic land typing, just so your Farseek can grab exactly what you need. I think these will shine brightest in metas where speed and tempo aren’t big concerns.


The World Tree

We arrive at The World Tree — the very tree at the heart of the Kaldheim Teaser Trailer where Loki Tibalt went from meme to dream, and where Koma, Cosmos Serpent made cozy. Alluding to the canonical Yggdrasil, it’s no wonder this thing is splashy. It may enter tapped (there’s no Miracle-Gro for World Trees, after all), but it becomes a Chromatic Lantern once you’ve hit six lands, and it has the capability to tutor for any number of God cards directly onto the battlefield for the cost of Progenitus.

Any five-color deck can run this, and may indeed be right to, given its five-color identity and ability to help with color-fixing, but I think we’ll see it crop up most in Golos, Tireless Pilgrim lists, since he can fetch it out to help fix the rest of the mana base in a pinch to start activating his WUBRG ability. While I don’t envision the second activated ability being emphasized as much, I could see it coming up in five-color God tribal lists, like Morophon, the Boundless or Ramos, Dragon Engine. Bonus points for using this in tandem with Maskwood Nexus to get every creature out of your deck, regardless of creature type!

As for why it’s not legendary, Mark Rosewater stated on Twitter that it was due to 1) play pattern and 2) mana bonds. I sympathize with play pattern issues in non-singleton formats, but I do think The World Tree evokes a sense of, well, legend.


Tyrite Sanctum

While this is sure to help your God-led commander deck (e.g. Heliod, Sun Crowned, Oketra, the True) or Changeling deck, I think we all know Skullbriar, the Walking Grave is the real winner here. Daring Fiendbonder followed by Tyrite Sanctum means the bipedal burial now has access to two indestructible counters.


Faceless Haven

It’s a snowman-land! Yes! I’ve been waiting so long to make that joke.

Mutavault sees play in over 4,000 decks, and it has some neat interactions by having all creature types, such as drawing you cards off of Distant Melody, pumping your team further with Shared Animosity, or making your Rat Colony even bigger. Faceless Haven has similar potential. The vigilance is neat here as well, since you might have the potential to swing in for some damage in combat, then keep it untapped for mana later.

The art is also incredible, with enough subtle shades of whites and grays that would put the Home Depot painting department to shame. It looks like the wintery season of the album cover for Blood Mountain, and the flavor text (non-showcase version) just completes it. The set for metal indeed.


Two-color Tap Utility Lands

These two-color tap lands come with some major utility offerings in a pinch. While these will always come in tapped (short of an Amulet of Vigor) and sacrifice themselves, they do have some notable payoffs among them. While some are scaled more to 1-on-1 formats (e.g. Immersturm Skullcairn), others seem particularly potent for EDH, such as reanimating a key creature with Port of Karfell or tutoring an Equipment and an Aura for your new Wyleth, Soul of Steel deck with Axgard Armory. They are notably focused more towards that guild’s preexisting mechanics or themes, so I think they’re better-suited to two-color decks.

I’ll lightning-round a super quick list of each and a commander or two that may take the most interest in each where applicable.


Shimmerdrift Vale

This is interesting, as it kind of functions similar to an Evolving Wilds in terms of tempo, but you lose out on the double Landfall trigger and deck shuffling. The snow typing is nothing to ignore, but I suppose an Evolving Wilds could just get your Snow-Covered Forest. You could use your Scrying Sheets to rip this off the top where you couldn’t with Evolving Wilds, but most of the time, I see it as a nice budget inclusion and may well see play in Pauper EDH.


Conclusion

Well, that concludes our tour of Kaldheim’s trinkets and landscapes! If you want to explore the scenery even more, check out the ten realms of Kaldheim or read up on the Travelers here!

And let us know what you think about the Avalanche of snow synergies coming into EDH with Kaldheim. Are you excited for the return of snow? Do you wish there were more snow-hosers (and no, not as in Bob and Doug McKenzie ‘hoser’)? Sound off in the comments below!

Trent has been playing Magic since the early 2000s, when instead of exercising in a summer sports camp, he was trying to resolve a Krosan Skyscraper on the sidewalk (it always ate a removal). He saved up his allowance to buy an Akroma Angel of Wrath on eBay, only to find out it was a fraudulent post, forever dashing his hopes of ever getting a big creature to stick. He’s since “grown up” and, when he’s not working on his dissertation in Archaeology, spends too much time thinking how to put Cipher in every one of his decks and digging for obscure cards (see photo).