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Kaldheim's "Giant" Issues


Okay, to be fair, despite the title, Kaldheim doesn't have any giant issues. Well, they may. They may in fact have issues with some of the giants in the set; that's yet to be determined. But the issues the set has as a whole aren't giant in size; there are just some things I want to go over regarding some of the key aspects of the set. These aren't problems, per se, but they are things that cross my mind when the things that are present in Kaldheim pop up. That may have been a confusing sentence, so let's just take a look.

Snow Way Is There Enough Snow Support

I love snow mana. I really do. Mono-Red Snow was one of my favorite decks in Modern, in fact. I think, along with Wastes and the change to how "colorless" mana works, these two are the closest we'll likely come to a sixth Magic color. They're resources that work within our existing resources to add another layer of depth. But they both have the same drawback: they require a modification of a resource that is only available sparingly.

There have been numerous times I wanted to add cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher to my Cube, but there was no real way to effectively do it. Very few cards produce colorless mana outside of a specific few artifacts. The same is true for snow mana.

My biggest issue is that I want to play these cards in other formats, like Cube or Modern, but there are such sizable limitations on mana production. The new "snow duals" help, and being able to search them out is huge, but they enter the battlefield tapped, which is an immense drawback in competitive formats. Typically, you're playing a good number of basics in these decks just to fulfill your particular resource requirements, which is less than ideal.

Take Ascendant Spirit for example. This is obviously a nod to Figure of Destiny, but the decks that it's going to fit into are so extremely limited. Having four snow mana to activate the final form is equivalent to having four basic snow lands in play which, while entirely possible, seems a bit more difficult for competitive, multicolored decks. I can't really imagine many ug decks for example, that want to have Island, Island, Forest, Forest in play.

It's no secret that Cube is my favorite Magic format, and with every new set, I excitedly look for new possibilities to include. While I love the inclusion of requiring snow and colorless mana, I think something needs to be done to further address the difficulty in accessing these cards. And maybe we're heading in that direction! But with the frequency (or should I say infrequency) that snow sets come out, it seems unlikely to see any real change in any short amount of time.

One solution is to simply change all the basic lands in my Cube to snow basic lands. This is an easy fix, and gives anyone with access to snow cards an easy way to cast them. It's also worth noting that in formats like Standard and Modern you're able to add as many snow basics as you'd like. That's always been a given in the formats that snow lands are legal. But that only helps with the cards that require snow mana to cast, and not the permanents that interact favorably with or require other snow permanents.

All that being said, however, snow mana hasn't been legal in Standard for about 14 years, since Coldsnap in 2006, so this is kind of a new thing. The problem is more about the dual lands, which are necessities in most Constructed formats. Like I said, the "basic typed" snow duals that you can fetch out are a great start, but as you likely know, lands that always enter the battlefield tapped are rarely ever good enough.

Ultimately, I love tension in game design. I think it's necessary, but the problem with snow is the same problem you have when you add an entirely new color to the Game 30 years into its life: it's going to be extremely underrepresented. Cards like Jorn, God of Winter are super exciting, but the issue is that the only cards you can reasonably put in your Jorn deck are cards from Kaldheim and, after rotation, cards from Modern Horizons. That's basically it. It's because of these limitations in card quantity, not quality, that make designs like snow and colorless seem like preconstructed strategies when it comes to building decks around them. Like, "here's your 25 snow cards! They all have to be in the same deck!"

While it's very possible that numerous strategies can be formed from the amount of "snow matters" cards in Kaldheim, the more sets that are introduced into the Standard format, the more diluted and less powerful snow becomes, simply based on card quantity and variety.

I Foretold You

As I went over recently, I really love foretell as a mechanic. But once again, I have a concern. The problem with a new mechanic like foretell, just like snow, is the limited amount of cards that have the mechanic. There are currently 37 previewed cards with the foretell mechanic, which is a good amount. The problem arises when part of your strategy relies on the mystery of foretell!

Take an awesome card like Doomskar for example. A Wrath of God that you can conceal outside of the game, then cast for a reduced cost is great! But I'm pretty sure that once you have multiple White sources in play, everyone is going to know what the card is. No one is going to be taken by surprise.

The only exception is for, possibly, the uw Control deck that seems to have the most tools at its disposal when it comes to cards with foretell. Foretell is a mechanic that's at least partially meant to mask what secret card you have lying in wait. For example, the only Green card that looks like it will see any amount of play is Battle Mammoth. So, if the Green deck spends two mana to foretell something on turn two, odds are high that it's a Mammoth. A lot of the other foretell cards seem like great Limited options, but I can't really see a situation where someone is playing a card like Poison the Cup in Standard when cards like Heartless Act and Murderous Rider are still legal.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think this makes foretell a bad mechanic, and as far as the way it allows you to manage and distribute your mana usage, I actually really like it. But again, the problem with it, just as with snow mana, is that the limited quantity of cards with the mechanic really seems to take away a bit of the mystery; at least for me. If you remember when morph was first introduced in Onslaught block, there were a total of 96 cards that either had or referenced morph between the three sets. That's almost three times as many cards, spread out over an entire block.

One thing to consider, however, is that once the metagame is more static and established, you'll likely know the exact foretell cards that your opponent's deck is running anyway, so this becomes kind of a moot point. When you sit down across a rg Midrange deck or a uw Control deck, you already know what foretell cards the stock lists will be running

Basically, this article has been a story of, "I really like these things, so please make them more common, so that I may more easily integrate them and what they are trying to do (be an alternate resource and conceal information) into my regular Magic games." Maybe that isn't so much a problem with Kaldheim, but a problem with introducing a limited number of cards with new mechanics that seem to be at their best in the tiny microcosm of the single set they were released in. Maybe.

Am I the only one this bothers? Let me know in the comments below. Would you guys like to see things like snow be more evergreen? Does it feel like kind of a waste that snow begins and ends with this set, and won't see any further support in Standard? Do we hope it will? I really look forward to hearing what you guys think, so be sure to let me know.

Thanks so much for reading again, and I hope you're all (still) staying safe. I know it's an obnoxious time to be alive, but we're getting through it. I love you guys, use FRANK5 to get 5% off all your things, and I'll catch you next week!

Frank Lepore

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