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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Feb 25 2021 1:00pm
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KALDHEIM

> summary <

 The fourth top-down design entirely based on a single real-life Earth cultural heritage (after Kamigawa's Japan, Theros's ancient Greece, and Amonkhet's ancient Egypt), Kaldheim is a peculiar set in many ways. By way of translating the Nine Worlds of the Norse mythological sources, the setting creates Ten Realms, each characterized by a different combination of two colors of mana and inhabited by a specific race: Spirit (white-blue), Zombie (blue-black), Demon (black-red), Troll (red-green), Human (green-white), Angel (white-black, styled as Valkyries), Giant (blue-red), Elf (black-green), Dwarf (red-white), and Shapeshifters (green-blue, marking the return of the changeling mechanic). And while not going as far as resurrecting the discontinued Tribal type, many of these tribes get strictly dedicated Sagas and other spells meant to be played alongside them.

  

 The strong tribal nature of most of the creatures, together with a renewed attention for the four party types from Zendikar Rising (Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard), results in a set with a very small number of otherwise heavily affected creature types (a record 15 tribes receive more than five new members each), as well as an almost unprecedented low amount of Humans (aside from the planes where they were completely absent, like Lorwyn/Shadowmoor). Kaldheim touches on 39 different tribes and includes 17 Humans. For comparison, Throne of Eldraine contains 51 tribes and 60 Humans; Theros Beyond Death, 59 tribes and 31 Humans; Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, 60 tribes and 32 Humans; Core Set 2021, 59 tribes and 29 Humans; and Zendikar Rising, 53 tribes and 29 Humans. In Kaldheim, Humans are only the fourth represented tribe, which is probably unique.

 The largest tribe in the set is actually neither one of those that define the Ten Realms nor one of the four party types, but it still comes directly from the source material: the concept of Berserker does indeed originate from Nordic traditions, so it's only fitting to find it prominent here, as it's the case for some of the most powerful Sagas since the subtype was introduced back in Dominaria.

 On the other hand, the pair of new tribes that debut in Kaldheim would have been much harder to predict: Coward (after being used only as an attribute assigned to others) and the long-awaited Phyrexian, resulting from the lone Vorinclex taking a vacation on the plane – or more likely, scouting it as part of the biomechanical race's latest machinations.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications (though Limited is occasionally touched upon), the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end. As a bonus, the 8 new creature cards from the Kaldheim Commander decks (only legal in Legacy, Vintage and Commander) are briefly analyzed in a separate section.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 305 (+5 duplicated snow-covered lands and including 20 Theme-Booster exclusives)
  • New cards: 287
  • New creatures: 141
  • Reprinted cards: 18
  • Reprinted creatures: 0
  • New Legendary creatures: 34
  • New Snow creatures: 19
  • New artifact creatures: 2
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creatures on the back side of a MDFC: 1 (Hakka, Whispering Raven)
  • Creature types affected: 39
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Berserker (+26), Warrior (+24), Cleric (+19), Human (+17), Elf (+16), Angel (+13), Giant (+13), Dwarf (+12), God (+12), Wizard (+12), Shapeshifter (+10), Zombie (+9), Rogue (+8), Spirit (+7), Demon (+6)

Angel: +13

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 187, online: 186

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Angels dwell at the top of the World Tree, inhabiting the luminous realm of Starnheim (which is the source of light of all the Ten Realms, since Kaldheim has no sun – a nice flavorful detail and an interesting twist on planar cosmology, which often makes the planes too similar to just planets). They have a big role to play on Kaldheim, because they are the stand-ins for the mythical Valkyries.

 Their one legendary representative, Firja, Judge of Valor (based on the goddess Freyja), is a bit of a disappointment, as just the uncommon signpost for the Orzhov draft archetype. It's creatively well-designed as the one multicolored Valkyrie, embodying both their contrasting aspects of shepherds of souls and reapers of souls. Unfortunately, five mana for a 2/4 are too many, and sure the free Impulse is nice, but tied to a mechanic that's not going to come up too often in the average game, especially on a five-drop.

 We do better with the two mythics. Particularly Eradicator Valkyrie, a solid 4-powered four-drop lifelinker with the unique, if not extremely relevant ability of being immune to planeswalker shenanigans (not too many planeswalkers target an opposing creature anyway, but it's a cool piece of bonus text to have). The crux of the card is the boast ability that essentially casts Innocent Blood for two mana at every attack. It needs some fodder to be exploited properly, but it also interacts winningly with one of the two Angel Sagas, the aptly named Rampage of the Valkyries, and it perfectly encapsulates the idea of the black Valkyries as choosers of the fallen on the battlefield.

 Resplendent Marshal is the first of two new three-drops for the tribe, the other being Righteous Valkyrie. And while the former is a fine card but plays much better in a lower to the ground White Weenie shell, the latter combines splendidly with lifegain strategies the Angels already feature aplenty – see for instance Resplendent Angel and her off-tribe enabler Bishop of Wings, but also Kaldheim's own high-profile payoff Valkyrie Harbinger, which is sort of Resplendent Angel's bigger sister; probably not as playable, due to being a six-drop, but able to enable her own trigger without external help, resulting for all intents and purposes on a veritable Angel factory (it's worth noting how all the Angel tokens in Kaldheim are 4/4 flyers with vigilance, akin to classic Serra Angel).

(This token with the additional Warrior type is actually only created by new Decree of Justice variant Starnheim Unleashed and pseudo-living weapon Valkyrie's Sword. They didn't make a separate token with only the Angel type, but both are vigilant.)

 Among the remaining rares, Glorious Protector is a valid, if probably too demanding way to save our team from a sweeper, but the ability can't affect fellow Angels. This is usually done to prevent shenanigans, same was as the freshly reprinted (in Kaldheim CommanderRestoration Angel can't flicker an Angel, or it would result in an infinite loop with herself. I don't know why they don't just have the text say "another target creature", instead, but the consequence here is that Glorious Protector is another Angel that can be a decent foretold monowhite Heroic Intervention, maybe even a combo enabler (unlike Intervention, it retriggers ETB effects after all) – just not in an Angel deck, unless your build can really use another flash beater.

 What's suitable in both Angel tribal and as a curve-topper in Berserker tribal is the recursive Cleaving Reaper. A 5/3 frampler for five is acceptable, if not the end of the world, but it's returning her to hand for free (well, for some life) every time a new tribesmember shows up that makes her worth of attention. She's not Bloodghast, but she also does a much better job at being a finisher, so different purposes altogether.

 And I mentioned a couple of new three-drop Angels, but even more noteworthy is that the Theme Boosters (from where Valkyrie Harbinger also comes) include the very first two-drop that can actually be played on turn two and doesn't suck. The baby Youthful Valkyrie doesn't even start too small as a 1/3 flyer (doesn't die to Shock!), then steadily grows to a unsuspectably large size if she survives long enough during a game – and there are usually more immediately threatening Angels for the opponent to worry about, so she might. Further contributions to a faster Angel deck come in the form of Stalwart Valkyrie (although it's difficult to naturally have a creature in the graveyard to exile for the alternate cost in the early turns) and the foretell application of Vengeful Reaper. They're not as universally appealing as Youthful Valkyrie, but they can found their place in specific builds, like a self-mill deck and a "foretell matters" deck, respectively.

 

 Finally, Kaldheim introduces a few non-tribal cards that are going to possibly, when not certainly, impact Angel tribal lists. From the Theme Boosters, Starnheim Aspirant is the tribe's own Dragonspeaker Shaman; useful when your curve ends on higher notes. The terrific Firja's Retribution easily beats many four-drop Angels the tribe can muster (for one thing, it give us a Serra Angel on turn four), and has tremendously impactful tribal effects on the second and third chapters. The Wagneresque Rampage of the Valkyries is a tribal Grave Pact that once again comes with a free Serra Angel. Speaking of which, Starnheim Unleashed offers the great opportunity of being foretold on the often uneventful turn two, so to later being able to cast two Serra Angels for the price of one – or three for the price of a single Archangel.

   


Bear: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 25, online: 19

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Spirit of the Aldegard feels like a legitimate player in a snow deck. It can search for any kind of snow land, which includes the Kaldheim duals and Faceless Haven, as well as stuff like Mouth of Ronom or Scrying Sheets – and even Dark Depths, for what it's worth. In fact, on turn four, it's probably more crucial to search for utility than fixing. And then our ghost Bear can have the function of a non-boltable threat. It's specialized, but at least it knows what it's doing.


Berserker: +26

   

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 104, online: 101

 Related Tribes: Angel, Demon, Dwarf, Elf, Giant, Human, Troll, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: The Berserker tribe's stock suddenly went up 33%. It's an effect of the proposed new Viking type being ultimately abandoned, with the Vikings of the set turning into either Warriors or, more flavorfully, Berserkers; a tribe that was around since Mirrodin (and retroactively, since Legends), but never even got close to the whopping 26-member boost it receives from Kaldheim, where it gets to be the most represented creature type, beating even Human of a considerable margin.

 Consequently, these new Berserkers, coming in black and red, are an extremely varied bunch that ends up attached to most of the main races of the set (all but Spirit, if we consider Shapeshifters have it as part of their changeling package) and necessarily involves a number of filler cards.

 Boast is their signature mechanic (apparently, the Berserkers aren't modest about their strengths), so they show several robust applications of the new keyword, like Dragonkin Berserker, Fearless Liberator and Eradicator Valkyrie, and even specific payoffs like Frenzied Raider. In all honesty, though, most of these new Berserkers seem more at home in Limited. The two legendaries are Arni Brokenbrow (he who slew the troll) and Kardur, Doomscourge. Arni is okay as a three-drop 3/3 with haste that could aspire to be temporarily larger, if paired with something that already is. Kardur is the Limited signpost for Rakdos, and is also just okay; the ETB could situationally lead to pseudo-removal, and the drain trigger has a chance of accelerating the clock a little bit, even if it's hard to properly exploit.

 More influential could be Skemfar Avenger, a Midnight Reaper kind of card for Berserkers and Elves, with the tribal specialization allowing a reduced casting cost of just two mana.

 Outside of the proper tribal component, a quantity of noncreature cards create Berserker tokens (mostly Dwarves or Zombies), and one Saga, The Bloodsky Massacre provides a ton of card advantage for their tribal decks on the second chapter, and ramp on the third.


Bird: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 274, online: 261

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Birds of Kaldheim are all inconsequential Limited fodder, except for the Azorius signpost Vega, the Watcher, which is perfectly functional in a foretell deck, and also retroactively works with past mechanics like adventure, flashback, suspend, and the likes. Such flexibility, and the clean, all-around advantageous payoff, make it worth of consideration beyond its otherwise unremarkable, yet not atrocious, base stats.

 Another legendary Bird in the set is hidden on the back of the Odin-like (Alrund, God of the Cosmos), as a nod to Odin's ravens, Huginn and Muninn. It's so far the only back of a modal double-face card to feature a creature.

 


Cat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 220, online: 213

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Playable foretell curve-topper in Limited. Completely irrelevant anwyhere else.


Cleric: +19

  

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 453, online: 428

 Related Tribes: Angel, Demon, Dwarf, Elf, Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Cleric is yet another tribe experiencing a vigorous influx of new members, partially due to the party mechanic from Zendikar Rising demanding further support, and partially because any set with Gods in it will necessarily feature their priests and priestesses, too.

 The Kaldheim Clerics are flavored as white and black, so a few of them, like Firja, Judge of Valor, Codespell Cleric and Doomskar Oracle, are linked to the Orzhov "cast two" mechanic, to various, but generally not amazing outcomes. A more striking specialized Cleric is Dream Devourer, which grants foretell to each of our spells, while also turning all this foretelling business into personal power. Plus, it's cheap and blocks reasonably well on turn two.

 A more direct tribal synergy comes with Righteous Valkyrie, doing double tribal duty even if she seems more at home among the tougher Angels than the meek Clerics; the latter still enjoy lifegain strategies, though. On the other hand, our sacerdotal types get their own Burglar Rat through Elderfang Disciple, and it's always useful to have such downright disruption available to exploit. Furthermore, Skemfar Shadowsage is a new take on notorious devotion payoff Gray Merchant of Asphodel. The Shadowsage is one mana cheaper than Gary, but has to choose between dealing damage or gaining life. It also looks at the number of creatures that share a sutype rather than the mana symbols on permanents, which in some cases can result in even larger amounts of X; and it's not tied to any particular tribe, so it can adapt to different gameplans, like the one-shot kill it produces in a non-tribal landfall deck centered around near-infinite copies of Scute Swarm. It also slots organically within an Elf deck, since it's the other tribe in its type line.

 Finally, Draugr Necromancer provides powerful card advantage in a control-oriented snow deck, letting us recast any creature owned by the opponent that died under their control (so, in short, we can't regain control of stolen stuff this way). As a 4/4 for four, it's neatly on the curve, although it suffers a bit from "does nothing when it drops" syndrome; but at least, in the eventuality of your Draugr Necromancer dying before being able to generate value, the ice counters it places still remain on the cards, to be exploited by future copies of Draugr Necromancer.


Coward: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 1

 Related Tribes: Giant

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme?

 Highlights: And so the future foretold by Future Sight actually happened. After being used, to some extent in a humorous manner, as a mechanical and flavor component of cards like Boldwyr Intimidator and Kargan Intimidator (plus the Modern Horizons homages of Pyrophobia and Reprobation), Coward has now become a printed creature type that properly appears in a creature line. I don't know how I feel about it, since this is arguably the first time a creature type doesn't define neither a species nor a job or a role, but a personality trait. Is someone born a Coward? Do they remain a Coward for their entire life? Apparently, that's true of this one Giant, at least. Its case is made even more confusing by the fact that Craven Hulk only has qualms with blocking. Is charging into enemy lines a safer activity? Also, that flavor text seems to tell the story of one particular individual. Is there a race of Giants that all get abandoned at birth and raised by goats, and this inescapably affects their personalities in a very specific way?

 Also, shouldn't Norin the Wary get an errata?


Demon: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 119, online: 116

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The home realm of the Demons of Kaldheim is the fiery Immersturm (a portion of which splintered into its own separate plane named Valla, in a particularly shameless instance of retcon to justify the existence of this Planechase card). They don't get as many new cards as most other realm populations do, but they still have one mythic, Burning-Rune Demon, a reference to Commander favorite Rune-Scarred Demon from Magic 2012. However, where its predecessor was casting a proper Demonic Tutor upon entering the battlefield, the Kaldheim variant, for one less mana, lets the opponent choose between two different cards to acquire, with the rejected one still being pulled from the library, but ending in the graveyard. This makes the tutoring less reliable, of course, but there are ways to exploit this design that go beyond trying and picking two equally useful cards. For instance, you can pick two cards that are both able to bring themselves back from the graveyard – say, Polukranos, Unchained and Demonic Embrace. Or cards that you actively want in the graveyard, like Unburial Rites.

 One of the two named Demons (the other being the decent uncommon signpost Kardur, Doomscourge) also traffics in tutoring effects, but this time more of the vampiric variety. With Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire, you don't even need to spend two life – you just have to attack and boast for two mana. Varragoth being a deathtoucher presents a chance the opponent won't be willing to trade for him right away, so the tutor could be repeated. Otherwise, a three-mana investment for one spell that's only going to be in your hand two turns later, and it doesn't even constitute card advantage, is probably not a very appealing deal. But it's easy to picture Varragoth becoming an instant staple in tutor-hungry formats like Commander, maybe even as a command zone resident.

 The rest of the Demons feature foretell enabler Dream Devourer, boast payoff Frenzied Raider, and not much else. The one Saga that should belong to them, The Bloodsky Massacre, is actually designed to help all kinds of Berserkers.


Dragon: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 210, online: 208

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Amazingly both new Dragons from Kaldheim are far from being the six-mana Obligatory Dragon that does something powerful when attacking. Or better, they also have powerful attack triggers, as Goldspan Dragon creates Treasure tokens and Immesturm Predator grows, but that's not their only trick. Goldspan Dragon is the latest in the glorious line of five-mana hasty Dragons, which gave us all-time greats like Thundermaw Hellkite, Stormbreath Dragon and Glorybringer. Its particular shtick is mana production via Treasure, as it doubles their effectiveness and generates one of them per attack or when targeted – the latter incidentally meaning we'll always have two free mana of any single color to cast a counterspell or a protective spell in response to an attempt at spot removal.

 Similarly, Immersturm Predator doesn't require mana to make itself indestructible, it just requires some expendable creature being around. This is more of a build-around constraint, but in Rakdos, it's not really a concern. And it's worth noting the Predator has to tap itself when sacrificing while untapped, and that will trigger the first ability as well, making it larger even when it was just trying to survive.


Dwarf: +12

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 82, online: 74

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Rogue, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Dwarves of Kaldheim live in Axgard, a realm of mountains, gold and industry. As a result, their rare legendary, Magda, Brazen Outlaw is all about Treasures, while the uncommon Boros signpost Koll, the Forgemaster cares about Equipment, as well as Auras, which in Kaldheim come in the form of Runes. Magda is also a power-based lord for her fellow Dwarves, and can tutor up and cheat a Dragon directly onto the battlefield by luring the greedy fiend in with five Treasures. Goldspan Dragon is probably her first potential target that comes to mind (more Treasures equals more Dragons), followed by Terror of the Peaks; but Brawl decks with Magda at the helm are also fond of summoning Terror of Mount Velus, for a devastating alpha strike, literally on the fly.

 On his part, Koll, who lost a seemingly obvious Artificer subtype to the necessities of the still ongoing party mechanic, provides a recursion that shouln't be underestimated, and makes Boros "Equipment and Auras matter" lists much more alluring. The anthem effect for creature tokens that are equipped or enchanted feels a bit random (it's probably the consequence of a balancing act, where giving the bonus to nontokens too would seem too much), but it can occasionally come up, especially with living weapon Equipment – both those with the actual mechanic, and those that mimic it.

 The association with Dwarves and Runes is ingrained in fantasy literature and pop culture since at least Tolkien, and it gets declined in Kaldheim through Runeforge Champion. The specialized tutoring also looking into the graveyard has become commonplace lately, but the cost reduction that also changes colored mana into generic is novel, and fits nicely (or was demanded outright by) the monocolored cycle of Auras with the Rune subtype that debuted in the set.

 Nothing else extremely relevant for the tribe (some Limited-friendly boast with Fearless Liberator and Axgard Braggart, some more Treasure shenanigans with Vault Robber), but the Dwarves are slowly yet steadily catching up to other classic fantasy races that Magic has been more keen on over the years.


Elephant: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 59, online: 58

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: It's not every set that Elephant gets a mythic. In fact, I'll rephrase that as: in Kaldheim, Elephant gets their first mythic ever! It's a very solid midrange beater, able to replace itself (board sweepers allowing) thanks to the built-in Shapers' Sanctuary, although with the issue that Sanctuary was harder to kill, whereas Battle Mammoth just requires any spot removal for creatures, and it's also a significant threat, so it's doubtful it'll be ever able to draw more than one card. On the bright side, and something that might just be enough to give it equal standing to contemporary monogreen five-drop sensation Elder Gargaroth, the Mammoth can foretold on two and cast on four. Now, Stompy decks might have other things to do on two, or they might be wishing to skip that step entirely and go from one to three thanks to a turn-one accelerant. But if not, ensuring a probably-cantripping 6/5 trampler on four is a pretty decent deal.


Elf: +16

   

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 435, online: 422

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Rogue, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Kaldheim Elves are gloomy, black-green flavored types who live in the musky shadows of the realm of Skemfar and are the remnants of the Einir gods, which were defeated by the current Skoti pantheon. They are one of the set's tribes with the largest support, with the potential to impact even formats other than Standard. For one, they've got a new tribal-based planeswalker, a definite improvement over poor old Nissa Revane (no wonder she was later repositioned as caring about Elementals, not Elves). Tyvar Kell creates Elves, weaponizes Elves, and, what's possibly even more important, continuously turns all of them into painless Elves of Deep Shadow – which keeps somewhat in check their ability to proliferate on the board, since black mana is less useful for them than green mana in most cases, but it's still a big fat ramp out of a well-rounded utility card.

 As for the Elves proper, their local sovereign, Harald, King of Skemfar is, in keeping with the Kaldheim pattern for heroes of the realms, a mere uncommon, but that doesn't stop him from doing a bang-up, honest-to-goodness job at digging for more of his kin, which includes Warriors and Tyvar. After that he remains on the board as a semi-expendable, but not entirely unimpactful 3/2 with menace.

 The role of the lord-like card you want to keep around as much as possible falls on Elvish Warmaster's shoulders. Where Elvish proliferation is concerned, the Warmaster does a similar job as Lys Alana Huntmaster, but for half the casting cost. The catch is, Warmaster's token production is limited to only one per turn (which however includes the opponent's turn, if we happen to have Elves with flash, like Wildborn Preserver or Yeva, Nature's Herald), but there's a bonus late-game Overrun-like payoff activation, even if deathtouch is less of an alpha strike keyword than trample.

 Of the remaining two rares, the valuable Skemfar Avenger is the tribe's Midnight Reaper, while the Theme Booster exclusive Canopy Tactician is a more traditional anthem lord, which also doubles as a triple mana dork a la Lllanowar Tribe, but more expensive, so probably not really worth the bother. Interestingly, there are no straightforward mana Elves in Kaldheim – Sculptor of Winter is a dedicated snow land untapper, while Jaspera Sentinel is a functional one-drop, but it works by essentially transfering Llanowar Elves' powers to someone else.

 The tribe features a second snow card in Boreal Outrider, a discounted Juniper Order Ranger (which indeed was originally from Coldsnap), as well as two cards that generate effects of variable magnitude according to the number of Elves in play (or, in one case, of members of any tribe, but we all know that Elves are among those that populate the board the fastest): Skemfar Shadowsage and Thornmantle Striker. There's also a meaningful number of noncreature cards that have something to do with Elves, most notably the Saga Harald Unites the Elves and the Theme Booster-only massive token-making spell Elven Ambush.

   


Giant: +13

  

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 182, online: 176

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Coward, Rogue, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: One of the most easily recognized tenets of Norse mythology, the Giants of the myths can be found in two separate Worlds: the ice giants (also known as "regular climate giants") inhabit Jötunheimr, while the fire giants reside on Muspelheim (whose Kaldheim counterpart Immersturm has instead been given to Demons). In Kaldheim, the two mythological Worlds were conceptually merged into one, aptly uniting the two elemental-based types of Giants under a sole Izzet-color banner, which was assigned the realm of Surtland.

 Roughly half of them has Berserker as a class type, but the other half, somewhat surprisingly, Wizard – although that might just be Shaman losing out to party mechanical needs. The Wizard subtype in particularly seems to be dominant one with these Giants, many of which reference it alongside their main tribe. It's the case of their own uncommon legendary signpost, the multicolored Aegar, the Freezing Flame (simultaneously ice giant and fire giant, I guess), who applies this unusual Giant/Wizard kinship to the novel concept of excess damage, first seen on Ikoria's Flame Spill and Ram Through, and also appearing in Kaldheim on Toralf, God of Fury. Additional instances of commonality between Giants and Wizards the cost reduction of Frostpyre Arcanist and the selective bouncing of Cyclone Summoner.

 The Giant tribe always had the issue of an untenable curve, and Kaldheim doesn't help much there. Sure, Aegar is a three-drop, and his ability can occasionally draw you some cards, but most of the remaining Giants only start showing up at CMC 5 and unwaveringly go up to CMC 7, where we find larger-than-life finishers like the mentioned Cyclone Summoner and the Theme Booster exclusive Surtland Elementalist, which could even set us back nine mana if we don't have another Giant to reveal from hand. And after that, we'd also need instants or sorceries to cast for free at each attack –and they better be expensive, because we spent at least seven mana the previous turn, so it's not like we need help casting Opt. The same kind of attack trigger is also used by the other Giant only found in Theme Boosters, the less expensive Surtland Flinger, which flavorfully pairs it to Fling.

 The other two Giants beside Aegar (and the Coward one) that drop relatively early on are also arguably two of the best candidates to become must-play in Giant tribal decks. Especially Calamity Bearer, given that it just doubles the entire tribe's damage output (and that includes Giant's Ire, for that matter). While Basalt Ravager is removal on legs, albeit not univocally linked to Giants, and in fact more likely to turn into its blueprint Flametongue Kavu when played alongside a tribe that's more at ease populating the battlefield.

 Last but absolutely not least, the mythic Quakebringer is also able to drop on four, due to foretell. And it's definitely a boon within a Giant build, where its constant flux of damage won't get stopped by such trivial issue as being dead. Shutting down lifegain at that point is just gravy, but a very juicy one. But beyond the new tribal additions themselves, of which a few are admittedly Eternal formats-relevant, Kaldheim is intent on making Giant tribal better through noncreature cards as well. The tribe gets a plethora of them. Two-drop Saga Invasion of the Giants improves our draws and then lets us cast a six-mana Giant on turn four. Battle of Frost and Fire is one-sided sweeper for Giant decks, a color alternative to Realm-Cloaked Giant with additional value to be accrued on the following chapters. Squash is "two mana, deal 6" in Giant decks. Glimpse of the Cosmos is an Impulse with flashback. And even the Theme Boosters have meaningful Giant-related spells, with Giant's Grasp being a permanent stealer for Control Magic mana, and Fire Giant's Fury a way to engineer a massive impulsive drawing through a Giant's attack.

   


God: +12

   

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 47

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: In keeping with what's easily the most popular aspect of Norse mythology (who doesn't know Odin and Thor?), Kaldheim debuts Magic's third pantheon of Gods, after the Greek one from Theros and the Egyptian one from Amonkhet. Similarly to the distinction between Æsir and Vanir in Norse mythology, Kaldheim's current Gods belong to the Skoti pantheon, which defeated the Einir and establishied themselves as the plane's deities in the last cycle of existence.

 What can be surmised at first glance by looking at these twelve new members of the divine tribe is that they are a colorful, somewhat chaotic bunch. They're all monocolored (at least on the surface; they don't all have monocolored identities), yet they don't describe any complete cycle. They lack a shared mechanic to represent some kind of godly resilience, because, even in the source material, they can die as mortals do. In fact, they lack any kind of shared trait or template or pattern. They appear to be just a collection of creatures with wildly different costs, abilities and designs. The one element that conveys their specialness is the fact that there's another side entirely to them, being all modal double-faced cards, the second occurrence of the mechanic that will define the 2020-2021 season, after its introduction last fall in Zendikar Rising.

 Specifically, the MDFCs that host the Gods of Kaldheim feature any kind of legendary permanent type on the back side, except for land (that one was a Zendikar prerogative). Their range of secondary modes includes six generic artifacts (one with the snow supertype), two Equipment, one Vehicle, one enchantment, one creature, and even one planeswalker. In most of these cases, it's the first time such a permanents is allowed to reside in, and be played from, the command zone.

    

 Detailing each of them, their design and inspiration can be a long endeavor, so it better lends itself to schematism. So meet, in color identity's order, the twelve new Gods; very not the same as the old Gods.

  • White mythic Halvar, God of Battle. Based on Týr. Specialized "Equipment and Auras" matter centerpiece. On the back, Sword of the Realms is a solid Equipment granting recursion to the creature that holds it.
  • White rare Reidane, God of the Worthy. Based on both Sól, the Norse personification of the sun, and Forseti, god of justice. Very situational hoser of snow decks and late-game noncreature plays, a sideboard card at best. On the back, Valkmira, Protector's Shield is also not particularly exciting.
  • Blue mythic Alrund, God of the Cosmos. Based on Odin. His basic stats can be underwhelming on occasion, or they can be conspicuous, especially after casting something like Sea Gate Restoration. The end-step trigger is curious, in that it could draw any number of cards in between zero and two. Of course blue has means to help with the prediction, including the back side of Alrund, i.e. Hakka, Whispering Raven (based on Huginn and Muninn), which can "scout" ahead and then turn into Alrund himself, although this is a very time-consuming process. The main advantage of Alrund's triggered ability is being able to dig for what's most needed at any given time, particularly land as opposed to anything else but land.
  • Blue rare Cosima, God of the Voyage. Based on Rán and Njörðr. An intriguing card advantage engine, if painfully slow to get going, despite the accessible casting cost (you need to wait for the next upkeep to exile Cosima, then drop some lands and have her come back). On the back, The Omenkeel (based on Skíðblaðnir, though it traditionally belongs to Freyr) is a nice, easily crewable Vehicle for two mana, a peculiar means to ramp in blue through connection.
  • Black rare Egon, God of Death. Based on Hel. A massive early threat if you find a way to support the upkeep cost. Somewhat reminescent of Coldsnap's Jotun Grunt. On the back, the Throne of Death is a legitimate one-drop for self-mill strategies.
  • Black rare Tergrid, God of Fright. Based on Nótt, the Norse personification of the night. An entertaining build-around card that punishes the opponent for... being punished by all the discard and edict effects we play! On the back, Tergrid's Lantern is sort of a build-your-own Torment of Hailfire paid in installments.
  • Red mythic Toralf, God of Fury. Based on Thor, but I'm sure you knew this one already. A bit of an underwhelming take on the celebrated god of thunder; he's just a slightly above-curve trampler that can redirect his excess damage to other targets. On the back, Toralf's Hammer (based on Mjölnir) does a revised impression of Razor Boomerang, but it's not without its residual clunkiness. The bonus being only granted to legendaries seems a reference to the "only the worthy can lift it" clause, which is only true of Thor's hammer in the Marvel Comics version of the character – possibly the only concession to pop culture they allowed themselves in these reimagining.
  • Red rare Birgi, God of Storytelling. Based on various Norse figures, including Bragi, Sága (possibly just another name of Frigg), Freyja, and the fylgjur. Pretty great enabler of storm-like strategies, thank to the mana generation upon casting. The boast doubling is a minor aspect, but it makes her certainly crucial in a list that employs the mechanic in a central way. On the back, Harnfel, Horn of Bounty is a valuable late-game card-advantage engine in red.
  • Green rare Kolvori, God of Kinship. Based on Sif. Not the best of these Gods. She needs to be part of a "legendary matters" deck just to be functional, but even there, she doesn't exactly feel essential. On the back, The Ringhart Crest is a two-drop mana rock (something that's not done anymore nowadays) for "legendary matters" decks and tribal decks; it could make sense in Brawl.
  • Rakdos mythic Valki, God of Lies. Based on Loki. A very playable hand disruptor, a more restricted but easier to cast Tidehollow Sculler that can turn into what's exiling. The real value of the card is in having a back, though. You see, the trickster god of Kaldheim was in turn, tricked! Good old Devil planeswalker Tibalt took his place, and can be revealed as the seven mana Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, a very powerful card that all but makes us forget his often mocked past as the wimpy Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Running four copies of Valki means you can cast the front early on, and then ramp into a point where we can drop onto the battlefield the mighty exiler cum-card-advantage.
  • Sultai rare Jorn, God of Winter. Based on Skaði. Strictly for snow builds, but irreplaceable in those. On the back, Kaldring, the Rimestaff provides powerful recursion for those same builds.
  • Five-color mythic Esika, God of the Tree. Based on Iðunn and (at least as far her cat-pulled chariot is concerned) Freyja. This excellent new five-color commander has a workmanlike front as a mana fixer, but it's her back that matters the most. The Prismatic Bridge (based on Bifröst, though in the myths it's guarded by Heimdallr, not Iðunn) is a rainbow centerpiece that can feel a bit meme-worthy in 60-card Constructed, but can be built around easily in Commander and Brawl: you just ramp & fix with noncreature spells, and your Bridge will find and cheat onto the battlefiel one different high-profile creature or planeswalker at every upkeep.

 Some notes about the creative elements of these cards. We can see how deep the creative team dug into the source material, finding inspirations that go much further than the easier pop culture references popularized by Marvel Comics characters. On the other hand, I detect some degree of unpolishedness in some of the epithets and in the names of the divine items, or lack thereof. For instance, Storytelling and Kinship are technical terms, they sound like an academic explanation of the god's domain, rather than a poetic description of it. And why do Reidane's shield, Birgi's horn and Jorn's staff all have proper names, yet Tergrid's lantern and Toralf's hammer don't? I mean, the latter is a stand-in for Mjölnir, which is given a name in every pop culture's depiction of Thor. It seems strange for it to only get a generic mention here.

 Moving to the non-God cards that have synergies with the tribe, Forging the Tyrite Sword can tutor up a God; Tyrite Sanctum can make one of them indestructible to assuage their Greek envy; and The World Tree (based on Yggdrasil) can summon them all at once, through a ridiculously costed, properly over-the-top WWUUBBRRGG activation.

  


Horse: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 36, online: 31

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: A foretell enhancer was certainly expected, as every new mechanic gets a few cards that enable it or pay it off. Such enhancer being a Horse is a surprise, though. Not that the equine tribe will be able to do much with it, since this is their only foretell representative. But hey, at least it's a rare. Do you know how many rares or mythics the Horses can count among their ranks? Well, twelve, actually, which is one third of their entire lineup. But most of them are stuff like Bronze Horse, Workhorse, or those (retconned as) Horses from Homelands, which must be seen to be believed.

 


Human: +17

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2496, online: 2313

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant, after all

 Highlights: Yup, there still are Humans in Kaldheim. They're all sad because they're not the most represented tribe for once. Nor the second one. Nor the third one!


Imp: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 38, online: 36

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I feel like "cast two" mechanic was a bit of an afterthought in the set. There aren't ways to consistent pull it off, which is maybe for the best. For instance, you drop this Infernal Pet on turn three, then you can double-spell on four, and suddenly it proves how it's better than Scathe Zombies. But after that, you probably need some card-drawing engine to keep growing and jumping your pet Imp. On second though, drawing cards is what wins you games to begin with, so a mechanical function that just piggybacks on that can't be too bad. Still, it's not exactly landfall, is it?


Knight: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 317, online: 304

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This dude is just Limited fodder, possibly providing a way to close the game without attacking. Interestingly, though, it's the only Knight in the set. I guess Vikings aren't famous for their horseback riding.


Kraken: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 19

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Oh, finally a Kraken is associated with the correct culture! This snow payoff is very flavorful, but not especially playable. On average, it'll be a six-drop in a dedicated snow deck. Which, on second thought, maybe it's not even that bad, the body is big, can escape removal, and causes a miniature Stasis every time it's replayed.


Ox: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 17, online: 14

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: This guy is actually part of a two-card team. What does a Giant Ox need? Why, a Colossal Plow, of course. The combo is somewhat silly, but surprisingly effective, particularly in Limited. And for a defensive two-drop, of the kind that would really like to have Assault Formation or High Alert around, getting an additional, easily exploitable ability is quite nice. Everyone knows Oxen make for the best pilots.


Pegasus: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 16

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Cost reduction for two major card types makes this little guy more flexible than previous instances where only one was affected, even if a cheaper and more specialized version, like Transcendent Envoy might benefit more a dedicated deck.

 By the way, Pegasi are from Greek mythology, not Norse mythology (so, the opposite of Krakens!), but there's an image of valkyries riding winged horses that took roots in pop culture (although it's false to some extent: in the myths, the valkyries ride regular-looking horses, and sometimes wolves, that are able to supernaturally fly).


Phyrexian: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 1

 Related Tribes: Praetor

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Nobody expects the Phyrexian invasion! Arguably the greatest surprise of the entire release of Kaldheim was the seemingly random presence of Vorinclex, last seen now ten years ago alongside his Phyrexian brothers and sisters in 2011's New Phyrexia. This is startling new development after all this time, showing that the Phyrexians have become able to travel through the Multiverse once again. Vorinclex arrived alone on Kaldheim, through a traveling process that ended up destroying all his organic matter (which he promptly reconstructed by repurposing some unfortunate local lifeforms), and apparently with the purpose of scouting and causing some havoc on the plane, then report back. It's fairly possible that we'll see one or more of the other Praetors popping up with similar goals in each of this year's premier sets, perhaps to set up a return to New Phyrexia in 2022. In the meantime, yup, the Phyrexian creature type is now finally a thing, after years of fans demanding it, and designers saying it was too late to implement after two decades of inertia. It turns out, it wasn't. We're still waiting for the Oracle update detailing how many of the past creatures associated with the race will get an errata that turns them into Phyrexians, but Mark Rosewater already announced that it's indeed going to happen.

 As for Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider himself, he's cheaper than his previous incarnation, but still retains a pair of static abilities that asymmetrically influence the board, this time as it pertains to the generation of counters. This makes him one half of a Doubling Season on legs (as he doesn't also double tokens), enriched by the hosing of the opposing counters. A battlefield engaged by Vorinclex sees his controller doubling the placement of all the counters on permanents and players, including those resulting from planeswalker activations, since the wording on Vorinclex is different from Doubling Season (he doesn't specify "an effect" as the cause of the placement, so the payment of a cost, as per the loyalty abilities, is also covered). Conversely, the opponent will have to halve their counters, and given that the operation is rounded down, in all the instance of single counters being place, they won't be able to place any counter at all. This causes, for instance, +1 activations of planeswalkers not adding any loyalty, and Sagas being unable to function, remaining frozen in place until Vorinclex is dealt with (on the weirder side, their Mazemind Tome becomes eternal, and they can combo off persist and undying without an enabler).

 On top of that, we get a 6/6 hasty trampler for Primeval Titan mana, which isn't too bad to begin with. Granted, the juicier abilities are somewhat situational, but not very hard to exploit even just incidentally. Definitely an instant Commander staple if there's ever been one.


Praetor: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 8

 Related Tribes: Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Of course Vorinclex is still a Praetor, so we get the eighth member of the tiny tribe (in addition to the full cycle from New Phyrexia, there are the retcons of Ebon Praetor and Sanguine Praetor, just because of their names). In retrospect, had the Phyrexian type existed back then, maybe the Praetor subtype would have felt unnecessary. After all, it's not like we have a subtype for each kind of ruling class any race could produce.


Rogue: +8

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 306, online: 291

 Related Tribes: Demon, Dwarf, Elf, Giant, Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Rogues are having a great season in Standard, with the deck centered around the new members from Zendikar Rising still ranked as a tier-1 list in the meta. For better or for worse, Kaldheim doesn't add anything to that lineup, as most of these Rogues feel inconsequential, with the possible exception of Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire, which however doesn't look like something Dimir Rogues are going to care too much about. The only new Rogue with flash, the lowly common Brinebarrow Intruder, is certainly not up to the task of earning a place on such a successful list.

 We're also seeing some debatable attribution of the subtype, probably cased by the party mechanic asking for reinforcements. The green ones in particular feel very questionable. What about Jaspera Sentinel makes it a Rogue? It's a sentinel, part of an organized militia charged to guard the Elvish realm. The same goes for Sculptor of Winter. Does creating ice sculptures while feeling nostalgic about the good old days qualify as roguish behavior? Maybe from the point of view of the Skoti, the new Gods that replaced the old Einir pantheon, of which the Elves of Skemfar are the descendants.


Scarecrow: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 36, online: 35

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Scorn Effigy is a free creature on turn 3, provided you essentially gave up on your turn 2 in order to foretell it. What all of this means is that it's not Memnite, or even Ornithopter, but on the other hand it's a 2/3. Could be worthy in the right deck.

 Flavorfully, I guess every culture can have Scarecrows. I wonder if it scares Alrund's nosy companion. Or do you specifically need a scareraven for that?


Serpent: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 39, online: 38

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: There's been an expectation lately for any big Simic-colored monster to be pretty scary (e.g. Hydroid Krasis, Verazol), and Koma doesn't change the narrative in the least. A reference to Jörmungandr, the World Serpent that kicks off the Ragnarök, Koma has the potential to quickly grow out of control, at least if it can manage to survive till the next upkeep – which is the opponent's upkeep, so their instant-speed removal needs to be at the ready. Otherwise, our endless marine reptile will start sprouting coil after coil, playing similarly to overpopulating threats like Verdant Force and Tendershoot Dryad, except in Koma's case, its tokens also protect it from destruction-based removal, and can occasionally be used to shut down an opposing permanent. All in all, one of the best finishers in its Standard cycle so far.


Shapeshifter: +10

   

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 109, online: 107

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: The masked Shapeshifters of Littjara (which, what's the point of wearing a mask if you can literally change your face?) give Kaldheim the excuse to bring back the changeling mechanic for the third time, after Modern Horizons reprised it from the original Lorwyn appearance. It's a boon for the party mechanic, and of course always wildly popular with tribal players. This time around, it's focused on only two colors, blue and green, marking the first time it's given a specific faction component.

 So what of these new changelings are worth considering? They're often use to fill the curve, in a tribal deck or otherwise, so the low-costed ones bear particular interest here. The two at CMC 2 appear both excellent in this regard. Guardian Gladewalker is strictly better than the old Woodland Changeling, and serves the rest of its "tribe" well. Even more exciting, Masked Vandal has a solidly defensive body and a capacity for hate even more effective than a three-drop like Reclamation Sage. Granted, it will hardly be online on turn two, since it requires a creature being already in the graveyard (which is unlikely, but not impossible). But filling your lower tribal ranks with something that lets you occasionally exile an artifact or enchantment has to be pretty good, arguably better than adding a +1/+1 counter somewhere – which is however also serviceable.

 Moving onto CMC 3, previously exclusive domain of white changelings, with Mirror Entity, or red ones, with Taurean Mauler. Now we have a legitimate colorless option in Bloodline Pretender, which grows like the Mauler, if only in a tribal-related fashion. But it's green that takes its revenge here. Realmwalker is what every tribal deck didn't know was missing: a three-mana Vizier of the Menagerie. With Shock-proof toughness and a single green mana in its cost, it's hard to picture a tribe that won't be tempted to include it. To a lesser degree, Theme Booster exclusive Gladewalker Ritualist is another valid option in non-Singleton formats, a perfectly on-curve 3/3 for three that will cantrip once we get to the second copy, and then will draw exponentially from there (something to consider pairing with Reflections of Littjara, perhaps). Blue gets the perfectly adequate flyer Mistwalker, arguably more useful than the non-dynamic Avian Changeling.

 Then at four and five we have a couple of legendary changelings, the first to see print since Morophon, the Boundless first paired the supertype with the changeling mechanic. Orvar, the All-Form has a powerful mechanic that requires a specific heroic-like build-around that might not exactly be blue's cup of tea in theory, but can be arranged. And Moritte of the Frost is an all-purpose clone, capable of hitting the battlefield as the copy of any kind of permanent, including lands – now, paying five mana for an extra land is usually not a good idea, but it could come up. And again, it's great in combination with Reflections of Littjara, definitely a Shapeshifter card in all but type.

Speaking of which, Kaldheim also offers a trio of noncreature helpers for its changelings – and the Shapeshifter in general. Absorb Identity from the Theme Boosters is a bounce spell that can potentially engineer a lethal alpha strike. Maskwood Nexus creates tokens with changeling, while also granting the mechanic to every creature in your hand and library and on the battlefield. Shenanigans ensue. Finally, The Bears of Littjara (which, I guess, weren't actually Bears) offers a range of helpful chapters for the tribe, passing through a Mirror Entity-like activation and culminating in pseudo-removal.

  


Spider: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 58, online: 57

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It's interesting to contemplate that, apparently, if you switch Giant Spider's power and toughness, the mana cost can be lowered. It does block a lot less efficiently, indeed. But it also trades with much larger flyers.


Spirit: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 486, online: 479

 Related Tribes: Bear, Bird, Horse, Knight, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The Spirits of Kaldheim, styled as the non-heroic ghosts of Istfell (the fallen heroes go to Starnheim), are a small but interesting group of new cards. Beyond the "foretell matters" pair of Vega, the Watcher and Cosmos Charger, the one that most catches the eye is Ascendant Spirit, a blue snow variant of classic Boros proto-leveler Figure of Destiny. The starting investment and stats are the same, but the Spirit takes two mana rather than one to get to two power, although it also collects one point of toughness in the process. In both cases, the second-level 4/4 form costs three mana, but here the Spirit gets the definite advantage of also becoming a flying Angel. The last stage is cheaper, costing only four mana instead of six. The body grows up to a 6/6, whereas the Figure would become a 8/8, but it's done through +1/+1 counters, so it can be enlarged through further activations. And first strike is replaced by a Curiosity trigger, which can also support multiple instances, so overall, Ascendant Spirit might just have Figure of Destiny beaten, also considering the activations can be paid with any color of mana, provided it came from a snow source (and the risks of running an all-snow mana base are still negligibile).

 Less impressive, but still praiseworthy, are the snow specialist Spirit of the Aldergard and the two-powered one-drop Usher of the Fallen, which can boast to create a token bearing two creature types, Human and Warrior, that are often relevant in white aggro builds. Last, Clarion Spirit might be the best payoff for the "cast two" mechanic, in the color best suited to properly exploit it, especially on turn three.


Squirrel: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 4

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Mark Rosewater's dream or bringing the Squirrels back in black border is slowly but surely becoming a reality. Norse mythology helps here, because this is Kaldheim's version of the World Tree messenger Ratatoskr, who is canonically a Squirrel, offering the perfect chance to give the tribe its very first legendary creature. Toski is more than just a statistic, though; he brings to its logical extreme an ability that green has been courting for a long time, but so far was either limited in scope, like with Keeper of Fables, or requiring other colors, like with Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Thanks to our nifty rodent, instead, every creature we control gets a Curiosity trigger, potentially resulting in a massive card advantage. Toski is also uncounterable and indestructible, although, for evident balacing reasons, he can't exploit his resilience to block, other than during his first turn on the battlefield; which means he just demands to be given flying or deathtouch, or at least vigilance. Clearly a new must-include in green Commander decks, and even more so in Brawl, where he makes up for the recent loss of same-costed card-advantage engine Guardian Project.


Treefolk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 74, online: 72

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: There are trees in the Norse countries too (well, except Iceland), so there might well be Treefolk in Kaldheim. This one has an interesting death trigger, but it feels like it's mostly going to be relevant in Commander, if ever.


Troll: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 40, online: 39

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Troll gets the smaller sample of all of Kaldheim's characteristic races (they inhabit the Gnottvold realm), but at least a good half ot their handful of new specimens are noteworthy. In fact, while Hagi Mob and Icehide Troll are just playable Limited filler, Old-Growth Troll is a good contender for the three-mana slot in Stompy decks, in that it has some precious, built-in resilience to removal. Dropping your Troll on three gives us a sizeable board presence in the form of an early threat that can't easily be chump-blocked; and if dealt with, it ramps your mana, while still providing triple green devotion where it matters (it might for Nylea or Nykthos), and can later return to the battlefield as a 4/4 trampler anew.

 A different ramp and gameplan come from the legendary signpost Svella, Ice Shaper, who slowly create Manalith tokens, with snow properties to boot, and then provides a mana sink for the late game. If it sounds like it's spelling out loud "card designed for Commander formats", it's because it definitely is.


Vampire: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 256, online: 252

 Related Tribes: Dragon

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Immersturm Predator is a Vampire for flavor reasons, thus representing the second overlap between its two tribes since the plainly named Vampiric Dragon from Odyssey. Truth be told, the Vampire tribe can make better use of that sacrifice ability, with recursive members like Bloodghast and Silversmote Ghoul.


Warrior: +24

   

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 801, online: 784

 Related Tribes: Angel, Dwarf, Elf, Human, Spirit, Troll

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: A lot of Norse mythology has to do with fierce battles, so it's not surprising Warrior is the second most represented tribe in the set, right after their more crazed variant, Berserker. The only mythic one is an Angel, Resplendent Marshal, but a few of the uncommon legendary "heroes" resolutely assert their value. One is Fynn, the Fangbearer, through whom the poison mechanic unexpectedly resurfaces in Standard, albeit not in conjunction with the infect keyword. Instead, Fynn sets himself up to command, in all sense of the word, a detachment of deathtouchers, enchancing them in a more effective way than other deathtouch lords like Vraska, Swarm's Eminence or Hooded Blightfang, since Fynn's presence doesn't horse around with bonuses, it just makes any deathtoucher lethal in five connections. It's a fun build-around that naturally incorporates bite spells and could take advantage of universal deathtouch providers like Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats.

 Another uncommon Warrior that feels more impactful than its commonality would suggest is Maja, Bretagard Protector. The landfall-by-any-other-name trigger can populate the board fast, and the static ability means all those tokens are 2/2. It's Selesnya doing what Selesnya does best.

 Elsewhere, the Dwarf Warriors specialize in Equipment and Auras/Runes, while Harald, King of Skemfar incidentally works in Warrior deck too, though he remains more suited for an Elf build. Usher of the Fallen is a valuable two-powered one-drop for White Weenie lists, and Stalwart Valkyrie could have a place there too, even if it feels less likely. And Sigrid, God-Favored has a flavorful anti-God ability, but she's also a 2/2 first striker that can O-Ring an attacker or blocker at flash speed.


Wizard: +12

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 785, online: 767

 Related Tribes: Angel, Giant, Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: For some reason, possibly because they're both Izzet-colored, Wizards in Kaldheim are strictly linked to Giants, which means some of these cards aren't really suitable for your typical Wizard list. Like, how many Wizards routinely deal excess damage to creatures, in order to exploit Aegar's ability?

 At the lower end of the curve, Frost Augur has instantly become an essential component of snow decks, providing vital card advantage for a minimal investment, and Avalanche Caller is also a good fit for those lists, as a mana sink that could represent a win condition on its own. The uncommon legendary Inga Rune-Eyes (doesn't it feel like a comma is missing in that name?) is a strictly better Octoprophet (which, granted, isn't saying much) with a safeguard against sweepers, but only if creature-heavy lists, an approach monoblue has been encouraged to pursue more and more in the past few years.


Wolf: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 57, online: 53

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Wolves have a rich history in Nordic folklore, and they deliver at different levels in Kaldheim. First of all, Sarulf, Realm Eater is the plane's version of Fenrir, the monstrous wolf that's foretold (yeah, that's another big thing in Norse mythology) to kill Odin during the Ragnarök. As a Magic creature, it's a 3/3 for three that grows a +1/+1 counter every time an opponent's permanent is sent to the graveyard, and then can turn those counters into Pernicious Deed, except it exiles rather than merely destroying. It's pretty slow to get going, and hard to properly tune the wolfapocalypse to the appropriate intensity, but the flavor is winsome and Sarulf survives its mini-Ragnaröks, so at least we'll have a 3/3 around when the dust settles.

 Completely different vibe for Sarulf's Packmate, which is one of the best common for Limited, foretelling on turn two to have a 3/3 on the board and an extra card in hand on turn three. As for Fearless Pup, it's also a strong common, but mostly, it's adorable.


Wurm: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 92, online: 87

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: This is just a Wurm for the sake of having a Wurm in the set. It was an Elephant when it was called Honey Mammoth in Ikoria. It remains a pretty playable curve-topper in Limited, though, and a vast improvement on historical Craw Wurm – but I know that we have moved past such antediluvian critter a long time ago, and poor Craw Wurm hasn't been reprinted in twelve years.


Yeti: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 12, online: 11

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: In a snow-filled environment, a new Yeti was expected and would have felt wrong not getting one (the last one was six years ago in Fate Reforged, just because Tarkir had the right Nepal-like setting among its inspirations). This said, it would have been nice for the tribe to get something good, for a change. Their last rare was Sylvan Yeti from Portal Second Age, and that was 1998!


Zombie: +9

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 472, online: 465

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The Zombies reside in the icy wasteland of Karfell, which kind of sounds like a certain place "north of the Wall". They're indeed ice Zombies, with several snow-based mechanics (but also some boast and foretell applications). The major one comes courtesy of Narfi, Betrayer King, which is able to reanimate himself from the graveyard for just three generic snow mana, so you can put out a 4/3 Zombie lord (and snow creatures lord for that matter) on turn three, by just having a snow mana base, not even of the right colors, and a way to pitch or mill our good King Narfi, which is certainly not unheard of among Zombies, even on turn one (Putrid Imp, Stitcher's Supplier) or turn two (Lotleth Troll, Mire Triton).

 Priest of the Haunted Edge is another playable snow creature, being a sizeable blocker early on, and then turning into removal. However, the other really powerful ice Zombie in the set is Draugr Necromancer, a four-drop 4/4 that can steal every dead creature from the opponent, and uses snow mana to cast them for a generic cost. It's the kind of card that's hard to exploit right away, as it needs the right condition of both hand and battlefield (removal and something to target, not to mention open mana in surplus of the Necromancer's cost), but has the advantage of putting counters on all the creatures it witnesses die, so that any subsequent copy of itself will be immediately able to pick up the reanimating work from where its predecessor left off.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
(click on any them to go to their review)

  

  

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THE CLAN LEADERS OF BRETAGARD
(click on any of them to go to their review)

  

 

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KALDHEIM COMMANDER EXCLUSIVES

   

   

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 Creature types affected: Elf (+3), Spirit (+3), Warrior (+3), Angel (+1), Dwarf (+1), Giant (+1), Human (+1), Noble (+1), Peasant (+1), Rogue (+1)

 Highlights: The two Commander decks released alongside Kaldheim share its setting and many of the cards. One is called "Elven Empire" and has a black-green Elf tribal theme, while the other is a white-blue "foretell matters" build called "Phantom Premonition". Each deck contains eight new cards, only legal in Eternal formats.

 Lathril, Blade of the Elves is the commander of the Elf list. She's an ancient queen (therefore a new addition to the Noble tribe as well) from the time when the Elves were gods themselves, before the new Gods' pantheon emerged and displaced them. She has a way to create 1/1 Elf tokens upon connection, and then an activation to turn this Elf population into a potentially game-ending life-drain. Menace helps connecting, but you definitely want to raise her power beyond the starting level of two. All the new cards in Lathril's deck are tribal in nature: token-maker Wolverine Riders; The Abyss-like Ruthless Winnower; the universal deathtouch provider Elderfang Venom; the digger Bounty of Skemfar; the recursive Aura Crown of Skemfar; the massive card-drawing spell Pact of the Serpent; and the recursion engine Serpent's Soul-Jar. All legitimate inclusions for Elf builds.

    

 The other deck seems to represent the Spirits of Starnheim (the fallen heroes), more than those from Istfell (the regular afterlife for not particularly outstanding people). However, Ranar the Ever-Watchful, despite showing great courage and valor in life, was assigned as the guardian of Istfell. He's a terrific commander for a foretell deck, since he lets us foretell one card for free each turn, and he generates 1/1 flyers every time we foretell or otherwise exile something. More expensive but in the same vein is Ethereal Valkyrie, who also foretells a card without paying any cost, both upon entering the battlefield and at every attack, regardless if the card had the foretell mechanic to begin with (though in this preconstructed list specifically, it probably had). Hero of Bretagard is a payoff for all this foretelling, growing at every instance of exiling to become a large flying Angel first, and a huge indestructible God eventually. Sage of the Beyond reduces the cost of the spells that get cast after being foretold, while the new Peasant Stoic Farmer is a revised Knight of the White Orchid. Lastly, there's a trio of exclusive foretell cards composed by rescuer Cosmic Intervention, bouncer Spectral Deluge, and card-drawing routine Tales of the Ancestors.

  


KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS