Kaldheim has everyone's Norse and heavy metal juices flowing, and I know that I personally couldn't be more excited to play with this incredible set. It's everything I've ever wanted in a Magic set, being strongly into both Norse mythology and heavy metal aesthetic - to the point that I even curated a heavy metal playlist for those riding the set's metal hype. The commons of the set are no exception either and there's certainly a lot to talk about when it comes to Pauper.
Let's not waste any time and dive right on into all the goodness the ten realms have in store for us!!
Snow Dual Lands
Let's kick things right off with some of the best lands the Pauper format has ever seen! For most formats, these are a bit mediocre even with the actual land types and snow on them largely because they enter the battlefield tapped. That said, these have some interesting effects on Pauper by virtue of having these basic land types. We've never really seen this outside of basics and the Mono-color land cycle in Throne of Eldraine. It's actually more important than the snow factor, which in Pauper only really improves Skred while opening us up to more hate from stuff like Icequake and Thermokarst.
I'm personally most excited about the utility these cards are going to have in Green decks. Bogles notably has a tough time of it when it comes to playing Utopia Sprawl largely because of the lands used. After all, Blossoming Sands, Crumbling Vestige, and basic Plains can't have the aura attached to them. This helps smooth out your plays, and may even warrant an easier splash into an off-color land if you want to work with your sideboard cards. Outside of Bogles (and other decks looking to take advantage of Utopia Sprawl) the ramp decks get an extra boost thanks to Farseek and Into the North letting you pull actual dual lands from your deck now!
These lands, like Skred, also help fuel cards like Defile and Tendrils of Corruption. One of the big reasons to not play Defile in your Dimir and Orzhov control strategies was because your dual lands took away from the card's playability. Dimir didn't run much basic Swamps either, which didn't entirely help that deck, but pumping up the numbers a little bit is a huge boon. It might even help Grixis become more of a thing since you can more reliably run both Skred and Defile with duals.
Speaking of decks that probably get a big ol' boost from these, Domain Zoo probably gets a nice bump from these lands as well. The deck has had some minor success in the past but has always felt clunky and difficult to make work with cards like Nylea's Presence to make sure you got all the land types in place. Not having to rely on those so much could mean new life getting breathed into cards like Wild Nacatl, Kird Ape, Matca Rioters, and Tribal Flames.
A few other noteworthy cards that get slight bumps from these include:
- Iceberg Cancrix
- Land Grant (no, this doesn't mean play it in Elves, but it's a lot closer now)
- Ramosian Rally (possibly more playable in Bully now)
- Reverent Silence
Deathknell Berserker, Duskwielder, Elderfang Disciple, Koma's Faithful
I feel like I have a bit of an obligation to talk about these elves as a group before diving into individual cards. Why? Well, as you might guess, none of them are necessarily quite good enough for a dedicated Black splash Elves deck. That said, it feels like we're getting a bit more of them lately, as we also just saw Black elves in Commander Legends. While not good enough for their own archetype yet, there's still some decent play with cards like Duskwielder and Elderfang Disciple that we could be inching toward a new elvish brew.
Of these, Elderfang looks the most playable outside an Elves-style deck, but seeing as it's a pretty functional reprint of Burglar Rat, I don't see this making a big splash as 5-8 of that. It is worth noting, however, that even though the elf creature type probably doesn't matter much, the card is also a cleric. This can matter if you feel the desire to try something like a Profane Prayers sort of deck and work off the synergy therein.
Paying four mana for a 3/3 flier really isn't the kind of thing you want to be doing in Pauper. However, doing it over two turns makes it a little bit more enticing, allowing you to cast it on turn three with an additional one-mana spell as back up. When you look at it that way, it's not too terrible, and might find a home in the right deck eventually. Right now, though, it's tough to warrant playing this when there are so many faeries and bird tokens flying around to chump block this for days.
Boy, Suntail Hawk has really grown up, huh? This isn't the most impressive creature ever, but it's a rate we've never really seen before. As such, it seems like it's exactly the kind of thing White Weenies decks want: a cheap evasive attacker that can get a huge advantage over opposing creatures with a small buff. It won't show up too often, and certainly not now with the format's aforementioned fliers, but I'm sure this is a card you'll see across the table from time to time.
Behold the Multiverse
Glimmer of Genius saw Standard play and this is that without the energy bonus and can be paid over multiple turns thanks to foretell. Pauper has a very different power level from Standard - even the one then - and we do have better card selection generally with the likes of Ponder, Preordain, Brainstorm, and Impulse to name a few. Still, I think the rate on this card is great and in the right deck (perhaps Teachings?) it can be a big player. The flexibility to split the payment or pay it all in one and then set up your draws for success just seems too good to pass up in the right build.
Bind the Monster
In the past, we've seen Mono-Blue Delver decks run cards like Coral Net, Narcolepsy, and Curse of Chains as ways of permanent creature removal. These days, however, you're usually more likely to find your typical Blue deck is running either Black or Red alongside it, thus mitigating the usual need for these type of cards. Even after the banning of Fall from Favor, Mono-Blue Delver/Faeries is still putting up some amount of results so there's possibly a home for this card, but it feels a lot less likely in a format with such high class removal as Pauper has.
Another in the family of Faerie Duelist and Zulaport Duelist! This one generally feels more comparable to the latter of the two, largely due to costing one instead of two mana. Zulaport Duelist, which I largely wrote off during my Zendikar Rising Pauper review, has been making some appearances as a one-of in various Faeries and Delver lists. While this one doesn't mill, it does boast an extra toughness that can come in handy.
Playing this card on rate is kind of medium, but foretelling it for later and playing it as a cheap 3/2 with upside is a bit enticing. I don't feel like this is the sort of card that can make it in Eternal Pauper, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see it from time to time. I have to imagine this Chris Hemsworth look alike makes an appearance in Arena Pauper though.
Hill Giants aren't particularly spectacular in Pauper, but we don't generally see this kind of repeating recursion in the format either. Zombies is usually fairly low to the ground, but I could see something like this on the top end to get back cards like Gempalm Polluter to help wrap up the game.
Have you ever played against the card known as Jace, the Mind Sculptor and felt the stinging pain when your opponent pluses him, looks at your deck's top card, and puts it back? Welcome to the painful world of fatesealing. It's exactly what this card does, and even though it only happens once as it enters the battlefield, a little bird told me Pauper players love to flicker things. I could definitely see this as a way for control players to lock out their opponents from the game, much like the old days of Ratlock.
Two elves for the price of one is a pretty decent rate! The big problem with this card, unfortunately, is that it costs four mana. It's also not invulnerable to a Fiery Cannonade coming in and wiping both creatures out (and then some). Lys Alana Huntmaster this is not, so this should be a pretty easy pass.
I've definitely looked at simple one mana 1/1 first strikers and completely written them off before without a second thought only to have them show up later. As such, I'd be remiss if I didn't give this good pupper a mention. The boast cost is a little too pricey to be reliable - especially in aggressive Red decks - so I do think this will fall short compared to other cards. It does have some potential as a mana sink if you flood out a bit, though.
Feed the Serpent
Look, I don't care how medium it is, I've gotta give my preview card some love! We're the format of cards like Doom Blade, Disfigure, Defile, Chainer's Edict, Diabolic Edict, Cast Down, Ghastly Demise, and so much more. A four mana spell really just can't compete. That said, most of the unconditional exile effects cost five mana, so if a deck wanted something as a one-of, this is a possible card to fit that particular niche. It's unlikely, but hey, I've seen crazier. Never say never!
Weird flavor aside ("I attack with my corpse that also has vigilance!"), this card actually feels quite playable in a number of aggro decks. This feels most clearly at home with Stompy, where you can crew the longboat with either a Nettle Sentinel that can then untap itself afterwards or else use a creature with Quirion Ranger on the board. This lets you get more attacks in while also being able to hold up blockers that can crew the Longboat later. I could also see this in something like Goblins that's running Mogg War Marshals and the like to make some tokens that can crew this easily while going in for attacks. This card is a house and I definitely feel like it'll see some play at some point.
A three mana 3/2 is boring, but pouring two mana into it to give it a buff - including menace - isn't too bad at all for an aggressive deck like Zombies. Sure, that means running snow basics, but it's a small price to pay for a decent beater - something that archetype has been sorely lacking lately.
While this too is usually nothing more than a dull three mana 3/2, if you can get a deck to attack multiple times and use the ability here repeatedly, you can thin out your deck like nobody's business as well as always hit your land drops in the process. I think it's a little too cute to really make it, but it does feel like the potential is there for it to be useful.
I'm very torn on this card. On one hand, I feel like its stats are incredibly mediocre at a base level and it doesn't exactly pass the Bolt test. On the other hand, it's not hard to be able to keep this in play thanks to its indestructibility. I could see this show up in Stompy in certain metagames, but it's probably not good enough for your average deck.
This is basically a strictly better Loam Dryad between the creature type and reach. Given that that card's seen play before, I have to imagine the decks that have used that in the past now use this instead. Elves doesn't really want it, as Birchlore Rangers just does a lot of this better, but I could see it every once in a Blue moon to help block fliers while still providing mana.
Vodalian Arcanist got an upgrade! It's not something that shows up too often, but has made appearances before. With the additional ability to foretell cards, it's possible this gets a bit more reach, but it's unlikely that enough foretell cards will make the cut to warrant it. Still, I get the feeling foretell is the sort of mechanic that may show up later on, so I wouldn't be surprised to see this cards stock rise in the future.
King Harald's Revenge
Well, this sure is one heck of a power boost! Elves struggles sometimes to push damage through due to chump blockers, so this sort of thing can be helpful. The problem? Sorceries aren't really all that simple to dig up in a deck like Elves. You're better off just running Wildheart Invoker there. There are go-wide token strategies that include the likes of Sprout Swarm that occasionally show up and I think this could be right at home there to make sure your lethal attacks push through.
This is one of the most slam dunk cards in the set for Pauper. Elves and Slivers both play this well for the tribal synergies, but even Stompy can make some use out of this by keeping a body around after getting rid of an artifact or enchantment of your opponent's. While playing this does mean you get less blowout opportunities with the likes of Gleeful Sabotage, it's pretty worth it for the overall package this provides. Depending on how your expected meta looks, I wouldn't even put this too far out of maindeck range because of just how many targets exist in the format at any given time.
Open the Omenpaths
Look, this card is just strange. I don't know what it's trying to do or who it's for, and I really don't think it's going to see any play, but it's unique enough that I have to mention it.
Priest of the Haunted Edge
Now here's a creature I really like for Zombies. This isn't aggressive at all by any stretch, but a 0/4 sits on the field and can block until you're ready to use it as a clean removal spell. All the while you get to reap the tribal benefits of it as well. I definitely think this is an excellent addition for the Zombies archetype and wouldn't be surprised to see decks running a few copies in the future.
Unlike Funeral Longboat, this just seems like too much in both mana and crew costs. The effect is good, but if you're at three mana already in a deck running this, you're probably not looking for many more, because you're playing a weird variation of an aggro deck. This is a pretty solid pass from me.
Ravenform's been the talk of the Magic sphere lately because the way it exiles an artifact doesn't feel like a very Blue effect. This card is very powerful, though. Don't let the 3 mana fool you. This is hard removal in Blue that gets rid of your opponent's most threatening creature (because, let's be real, you're almost always hitting a creature here) and leaves them with a middling 1/1 flier. Not bad for three mana, but even better when you can split the cost over multiple turns.
Roots of Wisdom
Grapple with the Past doesn't see any play so I really don't see this making the cut either. Even if this has the guarantee on the off-chance you miss, this isn't exactly Lead the Stampede or Winding Way where your cards can just full-on whiff. You're likely playing Elves, after all, so your creatures are almost certainly dying in some capacity, meaning you should just have a target most of the time. It's possible that it has a use somewhere else at some point, but I'm not holding my breath.
Four-mana Green creatures that draw a card when they enter the battlefield are nothing new, but a 3/3 that can also be paid for over multiple turns is. I still think it's a little too expensive, especially when Llanowar Visionary isn't seen a terribly huge amount of play at the moment, so I'm gonna say this one probably isn't good enough either.
Foretelling a creature and then casting it later for zero mana is pretty sweet! It's arguable about whether or not a two-mana 2/3 is worth it, but in the right deck it might just have a home.
Seize the Spoils
It's hard to imagine a world where this sees play over the likes of Thrill of Possibility or Tormenting Voice, but there's some merit to be discussed in the fact that by casting this for three mana, you're banking a mana for later across turns. Still probably not good enough, but worth mentioning nonetheless, as some decks might want that kind of thing.
One of the reason Mind Rot style effects are usually bad is because once your opponent is hellbent, the card ends up sitting dead in your hand. Skull Raid turns that on its head in a very clever way. If you get to a later point in the game, you can instead use the card to make your opponent discard, refill your own hand, or a mix of the two. And with foretell, you can wait until the moment is just right to cast. This is such unusual design space that I'm actually having a hard time figuring out just how good this will actually be. Still, we've seen discard decks aplenty in the past, so this might fit in just fine. Either way, Wizards should be commended for this design. I'd love to see more like this going forward.
We've seen Ranger's Guile before and this is just straight up better. Not only does your creature get hexproof, but the +1/+1 boost it gets is permanent as well. I expect this to be a cool trick that gets people plenty of times in different decks.
Playing this on rate isn't ideal, but it's not hard to cast this for its alternate cost and at that point you're getting a pretty solid rate. The problem is once again that the format is somewhat overrun by fliers right now. Even Delver of Secrets, which generally flips faster than you'd be able to cast this, has largely fallen out of favor in the meta.
Foundry Inspector's downshift didn't make any waves, and it's rare for us to really see a mix of artifacts and enchantments in the same deck to get value off this card. Transcendent Envoy is generally just going to be better if you want the enchantment reduction as well. I'm not sure how good it'll actually be, but it could be more fuel for an eggs style combo deck if only because of its critical mass of cost reduction.
The numbers on this feel solid enough that I could see this being used in some aggro builds. Pumping your creature while also pinging them if the creature is blocked for next to nothing is pretty solid when you think about it. It's not particularly exciting, but I think it'll show up here and there.
It's rare to find mana ramp like this in Red, so it's worth mentioning on that fact alone. That said, it's very slow and requires you to repeatedly fill your graveyard with creatures in the process. It's not something that you can reliably keep up continuously, so I can't see this one really making it in Pauper.
Wings of the Cosmos
Wings of the Cosmos is largely just a neat trick, but sometimes a neat trick is all you need for a deck like Heroic. I do think that the deck's protection spells (Benevolent Blessing and Emerge Unscathed) are better to make sure attacks get through, but this can still help in certain situations. For example, with a mirror match, you don't necessarily want your auras to fall off with protection from White. Benevolent Blessing stops that, but doesn't let you use any further spells besides Mutagenic Growth. This could be a decent way to go over opposing creatures in this mirror, assuming your opponent doesn't have an Akroan Skyguard.
And that wraps it up for another sweet Pauper set review! Kaldheim is incredible and will hopefully do plenty in the format. If not now, then after bans likely come in the future. The format's already been shaking up a bit following the ban of Fall from Favor so time will tell how the format is affected in the process. What cards are you all most excited to play with in Kaldheim?!
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