Strixhaven Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Snow Big Deal, Just Flurries in Kaldheim


Look, I don't think this will come as a galloping shock to anyone, but today I'm pleased to confirm that with the debut of Kaldheim snow will once again fall across the multiverse.

In the words of game show legend Jim Perry - may he rest in peace - let's get to the cards!

The first thing I noticed in these previews given to CoolStuffInc by Wizards of the Coast is the art. My word the art on both of these is absolutely gorgeous. If this is indicative of the quality of the art in the rest of Kaldheim we're in for one of the most visually appealing sets in quite some time.

Now let's dive into what the cards actually do - namely, bring the snow supertype back to Magic in a big way. We got a smattering of flurries in Modern Horizons, but aside from that we've not seen snow supported fully across a set since Cold Snap almost 15 years ago. It'll be fascinating to see how snow mana and permanents integrate into a Standard environment that includes cards like Nyxbloom Ancient... but that's Wizards's problem, not ours.

We've got SO MANY MORE snow toys to play with, including perhaps the most infamous of the snow toys that isn't technically a snow toy at all:

Extraplanar Lens

This thing.

Until now, Extraplanar Lens has been a low-effort method of doubling mana in any color identity. I've played plenty of Commander games over the past year that included snow-covered lands and an Extraplanar Lens. If I'm being honest, it makes me groan a bit; for all the complaints about fast mana in Commander, an Extraplanar Lens and some snow-covered lands get a lot sillier a lot faster than Sol Ring and Mana Crypt do.


Extraplanar Lens is already very much a thing in Commander and I expect it to explode once Kaldheim adds all kinds of new snow lands and permanents. And while I don't know whether Extraplanar Lens will get a reprint in Kaldheim, I... don't think it would be a good idea for Constructed formats. Maybe we'll get really lucky and it'll be reprinted in the Kaldheim Commander precons. It's already an expensive card in high demand and it's been begging for a reprint for a long, long time.

And with Extraplanar Lens and these two new Kaldheim cards, we can have an awful lot of fun. The Lens means our chosen snow lands - let's say Snow-Covered Swamps - tap for an additional mana, so right off the bat, one Snow-Covered Swamp is enough to activate the ability on Hailstorm Valkyrie. Sculptor of Winter allows us to untap a snow land, so there's another activation. Get enough Snow-Covered Swamps in play and we can pump that Valkyrie up to behemoth proportions - with flying and trample built right in, no less!

Because this is Commander, we have myriad additional ways to untap the Sculptor of Winter and keep flooding ourselves with snow mana to pump the Hailstorm Valkyrie:

Staff of Domination
Instill Energy
Cerulean Wisps

These are just a handful...but let's look at Cerulean Wisps, a card I'll admit I'd never heard of before I started doing research for this article. It costs a single Blue mana. That gives me another mean, mean idea...

Isochron Scepter

Oh yeah. That's the stuff.

Now, because Isochron Scepter costs 2 to activate, we'll essentially be overpaying by 1 mana. But we also draw a card, and we have access to it all the time - barring removal - rather than having to draw into it. 2 mana to draw a card and pump a trampling flyer every turn? Not bad. Not bad at all.

Of course, we also have tons of other ways to make our snow lands tap for extra snow mana we can dump into the Hailstorm Valkyrie:

Mana Reflection
Caged Sun
Gauntlet of Power
Nyxbloom Ancient

So, you see how absolutely silly this can all get. And Hailstorm Valkyrie certainly isn't alone in taking advantage of snow mana to get bigger and/or better:

Adarkar Windform
Ohran Yeti
Chilling Shade

And with all these snow permanents floating around, what say we wake up good ol' Marit Lage from its nap?

Marit Lage's Slumber

We got a snowy stew going here.

I'm excited. I love the two cards we're previewing here, and I love the chance for Commander players to move past simply using snow lands to profit from Extraplanar Lens. Our format is at its best when players have a wide range of themes to explore and win conditions to try. We're puzzle solvers. The return and expansion of snow in Commander means all kinds of new enigmas to decode for players of all stripes. I imagine we'll see more than our share of "Frozen" themed decks and that is delightful but please, oh please, do not sing the song.

I also want to make a bit of an assumption - that snow-covered basic lands will be included in each booster pack of Kaldheim. Assuming I'm right, that's a very good thing. Snow-Covered Islands have always been expensive by basic land standards, and even their inclusion in Modern Horizons didn't totally solve that. I'm hopeful that the market will now be flooded with them and no one will ever have to pay $1.50 - or more - for basic snow lands ever again.

I'm quite sure there will be many, many more snow permanents in Kaldheim, and hopefully some useful new snow lands. I'll be watching the rest of spoiler season right along with all of you. But for now, let's take these two very intriguing new creatures and have some fun.

So, this is a weird deck. It's got a mix of random cards I and maybe you have never heard of - Rime Transfusion, Jolt, Touch of Vitae - and some all-time Commander all-stars - Tooth and Nail, Vampiric Tutor, Protean Hulk. As I am apt to do, I paid no attention to any sort of conventional wisdom or "best practices" when I built this list. I have almost no removal, very little ramp, and not a ton of card draw. Don't care!

This deck is built for maximum synergy. The various tutors are there to grab the key pieces of this puzzle: Sculptor of Winter, Hailstorm Valkyrie, Extraplanar Lens and any one of the many cards that allow us to untap creatures. We've also got some bonus mana providers in Nyxbloom Ancient, Mana Reflection and Caged Sun, along with a slate of cards that untap lands in Rewind, Snap, Peregrine Drake and others.

Assemble the puzzle. Pump the Valkyrie. Swing. ??? Profit.

Happy snow day, friends!

Dave is a Commander player currently residing in Reno, NV. When he's not badly misplaying his decks, he works as a personal trainer. You can bother him on Twitter and check out his Twitch channel.

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