Kaldheim Set Review - Red
(Tibalt's Trickery | Art by Anna Podedworna)
♪ Here's a Little Lesson in Trickery ♪
Hello, everyone! It's your friendly neighborhood Jesguy here, and welcome to the Kaldheim Red Set Review!
When Kaldheim was first announced, I wasn't sure what to expect. I only knew snippets of Norse mythology tangentially, and the only information I knew about the plane came from a throwaway Planechase card and a cameo in the Ixalan story, so I was going into this set blind.
Despite my lack of knowledge, it has been an absolute delight learning more about the plane, the inspirations for the cards, and the story of it all. This plane is incredibly fleshed out and feels full in ways that so many others in Magic don't. On top of that, there are so many great cards and solid designs packed into this set it hurts to think about! I don't know how WotC manage to squeeze all of these goodies into a single set of cards, but hats off to them! I am incredibly impressed!
Despite all of the cards I want to cover, today I'll simply be taking a peek at all the goodies that red has to offer us, so strap in, and let's get this show on the road!
Toralf, God of Fury
Ah! Toralf, God of Fury, a card that finally makes Blasphemous Act good in Commander! :^)
Toralf is one of the two legends playing in the new "excess damage" design space in Kaldheim, and of the two (the other being Aegar, the Freezing Flame), Toralf is (rightfully) the more aggressive of them.
Now, let's get the negatives out of the way first. Unlike some of the other Gods (namely Valki, God of Lies, Cosima, God of the Voyage, or Birgi, God of Storytelling) Toralf's backside, Toralf's Hammer, is not very impressive. Yes, the flavor of "worthy" (read: legendary) creatures getting +3/+0 is cute, but it will only give the bonus stats to legends, and no one else. On top of that, it will cost a total of six mana to play the Hammer, Equip it, and then send it back to your hand to Lightning Bolt a target, and that isn't even including the fact that the Equipped creature also has to tap for that ability! It's nice to have the flexibility between Toralf and his hammer, but for what amounts to an iconic Equipment from Norse mythology, I am pretty underwhelmed with Toralf's Hammer.
While his Hammer may come up short, Toralf, himself, is quite strong! Any excess damage dealt to creatures or planeswalkers that your opponents control can then be dealt to any other target! Ouch! This gets really nutty with damage-amplifying effects like Dictate of the Twin Gods or Fiery Emancipation, which can turn something as simple as an Abrade into a multi-target kill spell. That's to say nothing of cards like Star of Extinction, Storm's Wrath, or the aforementioned Blasphemous Act. These cards will very easily obliterate the board as well as your opponents, blasting through toughness and life totals with ease. As if that wasn't enough, Toralf, himself, is the one dealing the damage, so if he is given something like Basilisk Collar or Grafted Exoskeleton, he can replenish your life total and kill creatures and players that much easier.
Toralf, God of Fury is incredibly front-loaded, with nearly all of his power coming from his creature side. I would go as far to say he is probably in contention for one of the strongest Gods in the set, right up there with Tergrid, God of Fright. Much like Tergrid, though, powerful does not always equal fun. While at first it might seem neat to blow out all three of your opponents with an Earthquake once or twice, it has the potential to get old real fast, or for your play group to catch on quickly, leading to Toralf being killed on sight. Enjoy your time with Magic's homage to Thor, but be aware of what misfortunes may come your way due to his overwhelming strength.
It could be my inner Timmy, but I am always a sucker for each set's mythic Dragons, and Goldspan Dragon is no different!. I love this fuzzy friend! Just look at 'em!
Aside from being lovable, huggable, and squeezable, this little cutie is an absolute powerhouse. A 4/4 for five mana with flying and haste is a fantastic starting point, and then tack on the ability to creature Treasures and double the mana they produce?? Incredible! Treasure Decks want this, Artifact Decks can utilize this, Sacrifice Decks could happily slot this in, and that's saying nothing of Dragon Tribal decks, like The Ur-Dragon, Heroic decks, like Feather, the Redeemed and Zada, Hedron Grinder, who will gladly take a second look at this majestic beast. Don't even get me started on its synergy with Smothering Tithe and Dockside Extortionist! It's not as if they needed any help, but hey, here you go! Revel in your riches!
Despite listing off seven different strategies that Goldspan Dragon can slot into, I know I've missed a handful more. This Dragon is great, and a contender for my favorite red card in the set. It's strong, flashy, and totally open-ended, a combination that makes for an A+ card in our format.
Quakebringer is a lovely boon for Giant decks everywhere, thought I'm not sure that it's particularly groundbreaking otherwise.
Quakebringer is a passable creature on its own, thanks to having Foretell and a good ability, but despite those two upsides, I think the only way that this card will be worth it is if you can trigger its graveyard ability. When it's on the field, it's nice that it prevents opponents from gaining life and will ping them on your turn, but I would not pay 5 mana for that kind of creature unless it was really in my deck's wheelhouse. If you have a way to multiply damage, or if you have enough Giants to make sure that you are getting full use out of this friend, I am a bit higher on it.
I think Quakebringer could squeeze into Group Slug and Giant Tribal lists, or in a deck where you incidentally have a Giant as your commander, like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger or Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas, but I believe it will have trouble finding a home elsewhere.
For all the great things to say about other legends in this set, Arni Brokenbrow is... well....
I really don't have a whole lot to say about Arni. I'm sure there are a few niche things you can do with him, but overall he feels like a more color-restrictive Tuya Bearclaw, and she's a commander that I wasn't terribly high on during my Commander Legends review. It's really neat that the flavor of his ability is literally one-upping the strongest creature on your side of the field, but aside from that, Arni doesn't have a lot to boast about.
Arni Brokenbrow reminds me of a legendary Ball Lightning: he'll end up with high power, low toughness, and won't do a whole lot to justify his card slot.
I'm sure that there are a (small) number of fun things to do with Arni, but they all seem like a lot of work for minimal payoff. I struggle to think of solid ideas for him, whether he is at the head of decks or in the 99. I'd love to know if I am simply missing something.
Birgi, God of Storytelling
My, oh, my. Now Birgi, God of Storytelling is the kind of legend I like to talk about! Powerful and versatile, both Birgi, and her back half, Harnfel, Horn of Bounty, pull their weight no matter which you are trying to build around.
First, let's take a look at Birgi, herself. Each time we cast a spell, we get one red mana. Wow. That is very good. We know from legends like Kykar, Wind's Fury that abilities like this are powerful and can set up potential Storm-like combos. For example, if you were to combine Birgi with Sensei's Divining Top, Aetherflux Reservoir, and Experimental Frenzy, you can Storm off to kill the entire table. You can even cut out Sensei's Top and Experimental Frenzy and simply use Grinning Ignus to rack up your Storm count while Reservoir is out! Even outside of strict combos, Birgi is great just for refunding mana! This helps you play more spells in a turn to get ahead of the competition. She also has some text about activating Boast abilities, but let's be real, that text won't often be relevant whatsoever in most games.
Birgi's second half, Harnfel, Horn of Bounty is also an incredibly potent engine as well! Not only is Harnfel a free discard outlet, but it is also an incredible form of card advantage! Harnfel allows you to discard a card at no cost to then exile the top two cards of your library and let you play them this turn. This allows Harnfel to be a great enabler for Graveyard decks like Chainer, Nightmare Adept, Sevinne, the Chronoclasm, and Gyrus, Waker of Corpses, or for Discard decks helmed by Shabraz, the Skyshark + Brallin, Skyshark Rider, or Kess, Dissident Mage. To add to all these great strategies, Spellslinger decks and Wheels decks will have a field day with this card too, as both Birgi and Harnfel fit perfectly into each of them, giving them either refunds on mana or the ability to dig deep into their decks for synergy or combo pieces. That isn't even mentioning how great this card is in mono-red decks that need a bit of late game card advantage. This Horn does everything!
As I said at the top, Birgi, God of Storytelling[/el, and her artifact, [el]Harnfel, Horn of Bounty, are very powerful and versatile. There are a number of decks that will play Birgi for either half of her, as well as some decks who will include her for access to either side! I am a big fan of Birgi, and I think she is one of the Gods most balanced between both of her sides, with each one having clear homes in different styles of decks. This is an A+ God!
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
Magda, Brazen Outlaw is an interesting mix between both Dwarf and Dragon tribal, as well as potential Vehicle and artifact synergies, which, while a bit scattered, is really neat!
A Magda deck wants a majority of Dwarves in order to attack and Crew Vehicles, as well as a small smattering of powerful Dragons that you can cheat into play. While this is certainly doable, I honestly think that Magda is much better in the 99 of a Depala, Pilot Exemplar deck than at the head of her own. That's not to say that she can't helm her own list over Depala, but I think you miss out on two important things: access to white's Dwarves, and Depala, Pilot Exemplar's built-in card advantage.
Despite those downsides, it is important to note that Magda also provides ramp in a very powerful way that Depala can't, in the form of Treasure tokens. These can of course be sacrificed to tutor something like Bogardan Hellkite or Darksteel Forge from your deck, but don't overlook the fact that the Treasure can simply be used to help accelerate you ahead of your opponents!
I think the thing that will determine whether a player wants to build Magda over Depala, Pilot Exemplar is whether or not they want to also play with Dragons in their Dwarf and Vehicle deck. If you do, then Magda, Brazen Outlaw is your best choice despite her color restriction. If you want to play a more straightforward Dwarf deck with a bit more focus, Depala, Pilot Exemplar is the Dwarf for you.
Giants have gotten quite a bit of love this set, and some of that love comes in the form of Calamity Bearer, which, if left unchecked, will be a...Giant problem. (¬‿¬)
There isn't much to say about Calamity Bearer except that it is a home-run in Giant decks. Doubling damage is very powerful, and at such a solid body with such a low cost (for a Giant), I'm impressed. Bearer attacks and blocks as a 6/4, and supports your squad of already huge creatures admirably. Just imagine this card paired with cards like Ruhan, of the Fomori, Beanstalk Giant, or even Inferno Titan!
Calamity Bearer may be niche, but it is certainly strong. so if you plan on playing Giants, plan on picking up a copy of this card for yourself.
Thanks to Dragonkin Berserker, we can now add a second copy of Dragonmaster Outcast in our Dragon or Token decks!
Boasting a more aggressive body in the form of a 2/2 with first strike, Berserker fulfils the role of a more aggro version of Outcast quite handily. There is quite a bit of a difference, though. Outcast will create a Dragon for free every turn if you have six lands, where as Berserker forces you to pay mana each time, though the cost can be reduced depending on your number of Dragons.
I'm not sure if Dragon Tribal decks like The Ur-Dragon will want this, but I do think it a great for lists like Atarka, World Render, Ghired, Conclave Exile, or Akim, the Soaring Wind where Dragonmaster Outcast already sees play.
While Dragonkin Berserker isn't flashy, it does have a small number of homes in the format, which is a lot more than can be said for some of the other cards in this review. You go, dragon-man!
Reckless Crew is one of the neatest token-producers that I've seen in red, and is a shoo-in for Equipment and Vehicle decks alike.
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: yes, this card is perfect for Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Magda, Brazen Outlaw decks. It literally does everything each of these commanders want.
Reckless Crew seems great in any Vehicle Deck with red in it, since the Crew can easily... well... Crew any Vehicles you have lying around. That being said, Reckless Crew also fits into Equipment decks like Akiri, Line-Slinger + Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist, Akiri, Fearless Voyager, or any other Equipment Deck with red in it! Reckless Crew lets you fight against the typical downside of Voltron: sticking all of your Equipment to a single creature, and instead lets you go wide with a team of properly outfitted Dwarves!
There are certainly decks where Reckless Crew won't make the cut, but I would suggest trying it out if you have the option to. It isn't often that Vehicle of Equipment decks get toys like this, so I would take them for a spin if you can.
Ah yes... Surtland Flinger... one of the cards from Kaldheim that isn't in Kaldheim proper, but instead is in the Kaldheim Theme Booster... and can also be in the Kaldheim Collectors Boosters... but don't expect to pull one of these friends from a Kaldheim Set Booster... I think...?
Whenever Surtland Flinger attacks, you get to Fling one of you creatures at any target, which, while a little slow, is strong as a repeatable effect. Doubt me? Just ask our friend Brion Stoutarm! Funnily enough, if Flinger Flings another Giant, whatever damage it deals is doubled! Now, it won't always be the right choice to Fling one of your expensive Giants, but having additional ways to win games that aren't combat damage are always welcome.
Surtland Flinger isn't doing anything spectacular, but it is another piece for Giant tribal decks, as well as any deck interested in sacrificing creatures to aim at their opponents' faces. Feel free to add in Basilisk Collar or Grafted Exoskeleton for a bit more fun, too!
Tibalt's Trickery may seem like a difficult card to evaluate, but trust me when I tell you: this card is the real deal.
When talking about this card on Twitter, there were a number of people asking how to mitigate this card's potential downside, and the answer is simple: you don't. Trickery is not about trying to downplay the spell your opponent is getting to cast for free, its about not caring what that next spell is.
Think of Trickery as a Chaos Warp for any spell on the stack. It often doesn't matter what your opponent is going to get, you just need to nullify whatever it is they are doing right now. This much-coveted utility is even more important for mono-red or Rakdos decks that don't have the ability to interact with the stack or removal like white, blue, or green can. Trickery can disrupt combos, prevent your board from being wiped, and break up potential locks. On top of that, it has built-in Vampiric Tutor or Mystical Tutor abuse protection thanks to its mill 1, 2, or 3 clause. You can also use it on yourself to try and cheat out crazy permanents like people are trying to do in Modern, but that seems much harder for us to pull off than it does for them. I would stick to using Trickery as a Counterspell most of the time and leave it at that.
Overall, I think Tibalt's Trickery is an incredibly strong piece of interaction and (as much as I loathe saying these words) is a near staple for most red decks. If your list doesn't have access to counterspells, protection spells, or already runs Chaos Warp, I would consider Trickery an easy inclusion.
It could be my inner blue player, but this card seems too good to pass up.
As neat of a card as it is, I don’t think Tundra Fumarole is something to get fired up about. A three-mana sorcery that deals four damage just can’t keep up in our format, even if it does refund the mana. Yes, the mana produced by Fumarole will also be snow mana (if that’s relevant), but in most cases, getting a “free” four damage isn’t worth the card, especially since it doesn’t even have the option to hit opponents. I wouldn’t consider Fumarole an option, even in dedicated snow decks. There are just cheaper options if you want to throw four damage around. *cough * Flame Slash* cough*
Uncommons and Commons
- Axgard Cavalry is a cute Dwarf that will fit into any deck that cares about her creature types. I won't lie though, the art is 90% of the reason I wanted to note it. Just look at it!
- Basalt Ravager is worth mentioning because of its option to deal damage to any target. Ironically, I'm not sure if Giants would want this, but Goblins or Changelings could.
- Bearded Axe is reminiscent of Golem-Skin Gauntlets. It's a bit pricier to play, but also increases the Equipped creature's toughness as well as its power. Dwarf decks could want this, but I see Equipment decks making the most use out of it alongside Gauntlets despite being a bit of a heavier mana investment.
- Dual Strike is my favorite uncommon of the set. It's cheap, efficient, and when time is right, is only one mana! My plan for this is to copy cheap wheel effects in The Locust God or Xyris, the Writhing Storm decks for double the trouble. What is your favorite use for Dual Strike? Let me know down in the comments!
- Dwarven Hammer is a little pricey and a bit clunky, but I thought it was worth a shout regardless. This Hammer is a slightly powered down version of Loxodon Warhammer, but still gives a sizable boost of +3/+0 and trample. It can also come with a body too! If you are in the market for another hammer, the Dwarves have you covered!
- Fire Giant's Fury amounts to a two-mana draw spell in decks like Ruhan, of the Fomori, Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas, and Dargo, the Shipwrecker decks. It won't find a home outside of Giant Tribal lists or decks who have a Giant as a commander, but that doesn't mean you should overlook this card, considering how powerful of a card advantage tool it can be.
- Immersturm Raider seems like a card whose only use is to join Frenzied Raider as cheap Demons for player's Demonic Pact lists. The two-mana slot is pretty barren in those style of decks, so these two could make the cut for that alone.
- Rune of Speed is part of the Rune Cycle, which are all designs I adore. Being able to enchant a creature or an Equipment is not only flavorful, but powerful, and can get around Aura's natural weakness of dying with a creature. I mean, just think about enchanting a Shadowspear or Embercleave with this! Woof! I love the Runes, and I hope we will see more in the future.
- Seize the Spoils is a lovely little Tormenting Voice effect. Pirate's Pillage always felt a bit too slow for me, so I will gladly take a slightly cheaper and powered down version for my red decks!
- Squash should only see play in Giant Tribal decks, but I would almost always play it there. Six damage is a lot, especially for only two mana! It isn't Swords to Plowshares, but more often than not, it will kill whatever you need.
- Tormentor's Helm is fairly unremarkable, but there are certain decks, like Akiri, Line-Slinger or Wyleth, Soul of Steel, who care about the quantity of artifacts or Equipment as opposed to the quality, and Helm seems perfect for them.
Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away
And with that, another color is reviewed! A few cards missed the mark, but I think the number that hit far outweigh them. Red has an incredibly strong showing coming out of Kaldheim, and I have to say, I'm impressed.
Out of all the red cards from this set, I have to say that my top three favorite are Tibalt's Trickery, Goldspan Dragon, and Birgi, God of Storytelling. All of these cards are powerful and push the boundaries of what red is capable of, and I appreciate that.
What about you, though? Which out of these cards are your favorites? Do they line up with my own, of did something else catch your eye? Make sure to let me know in the comments down below!
Until next time, stay frosty!
You can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.