Standard’s Top Decks With Kaldheim: The Winners and Losers of the New Meta
Hello everyone! When you’re approaching a new metagame, the best thing you can do is start with what’s familiar and branch out from there. Today I want to go over the decks that got the most from Kaldheim (the winners) and what got nothing or very little of relevance (losers). That being said, just because something is slated as a winner or loser doesn’t mean that it’ll be guaranteed good or bad in the meta, moreso just what decks gained the most from the release. If a lot of decks get a level up and some meta decks get nothing, generally their grasp on the meta slips at least a little bit as other decks can start to contend with their power level. Let’s dive right in to the winners and losers of Kaldheim Standard!
LOSER: Gruul Adventures
Look carefully and you’ll see what Gruul got from Kaldheim. Yeah, literally nothing. Gruul Adventures has such a tight list that anything that can be slotted into it has to either shore up a weakness of Gruul or synergize with the deck in general. With that, all the cards printed don’t work better in Gruul than anything it already has. No better 2 drop to replace Brushfire Elemental, The Great Henge and Embercleave are still the best top end for Gruul compared to something like Goldspan Dragon, no new sideboard cards.
The only real consideration is maybe we want to play Arni Slays the Troll which is a weirder Domri’s Ambush, but it’s hard to say without knowing the decks you’ll likely be facing. For what it’s worth, the second chapter of Arni Slays the Troll does functionally ramp you 3 mana for a potential The Great Henge which does make this more enticing, but that’s somewhat narrow. I think Gruul will still be a fine choice moving forward, but not getting even a single card it’s happy to play definitely hurts.
WINNER: White Based Aggro
I functionally wrote a whole article on this, but the point still stands. Usher of the Fallen and Halvar, God of Battle are huge improvements if you’re looking to play Monowhite giving it the power boost the deck so desperately needed. If you are looking to leverage Tribal synergies, Rally the Ranks is your Honor of the Pure replacement and Resplendent Marshal can function in a similar way, especially in Warriors. You can also start branching out into other colors with Showdown of the Skalds or Firja’s Retribution; both are excellent top end in Aggro and are easy on the color requirements.
Another way to go if you’re looking to splash in your White decks is Winota; she’s still one of the most inherently powerful cards in Standard that’s just waiting to be broken. WIth more cheap non-humans and better mana fixing, Winota has the potential to come through in a big way as well. White aggro was in a bad spot as the extremely powerful Adventure creatures shut it out and it didn’t have a high enough density of powerful cards, but Kaldheim is looking to give it the fighting chance it deserved.
LOSER: Esper Yorion
Many seem to disagree, but even right now in Standard I found Esper Yorion to be reasonable, but never the best choice for Standard. It has game against everything which is appealing, but you are also not really favored in any matchup either and you certainly can be unfavored in particular matchups like Dimir Yorion or Temur Adventures. Esper wasn’t desperately in need of anything in particular which did open it up to winning big this set if it got a few powerful cards, but unfortunately it didn’t pan out that way.
It’s a shame as Esper got 2 new Planeswalkers and a bunch of Sagas, but none of them are particularly exciting. Niko Aris is likely the best of all the options as it is a 3 drop that can scale reasonably well into the late game. The -3 on Kaya the Inexorable is nice, but the +1 on it doesn’t do terribly much for a deck with so few creatures. King Narfi’s Betrayal could see play as you can cast one creature on the second chapter then blink it or sacrifice it to Doom Foretold, but that effect also seems too clunky to warrant play. For Kaldheim, I don’t think Esper is going to be a terrible choice, but when the power level of the deck didn’t really increase and many other decks got substantial upgrades, it’s not a great spot to be in.
WINNER: Rakdos Midrange
Rakdos has already seen a reasonable amount of success throughout Zendikar Rising standard, and it’s looking to come back in a big way. It didn’t get a huge amount of cards, but what it did get is going to be pivotal. First of all, Blightstep Pathway makes it so Rakdos’s mana doesn’t suck so much, a big win for any deck. Similarly, with all the Pathways now in Standard, if you want to splash Green for Korvold you can easily do that as well. In testing, when Jund just had Cragcrown Pathway I had mana problems functionally every match I played with it. Despite that, Jund saw a lot of play even with horrendous mana, a testament to the deck’s strength.
The Pathway is huge, but all my hype is centered around Immersturm Predator. This card is gross, no two ways about it. Falkenrath Aristocrat was one of the scariest threats ever printed in Standard, and this is very similar. I won’t lie, this is worse as Aristocrat had Haste which is amazing on a Flier, but Aristocrat isn’t strictly better. Every time Predator taps, it gets a counter, indeterminate of why it tapped. Secondly, it’s incidental graveyard hate which can be very relevant against many decks in Standard. Lastly, it’s a free sac outlet that can protect itself and then grow from becoming tapped. With another free sac outlet, the extremely powerful Claim the Firstborn is now way better as all the sac outlets in the deck are either free or extremely cheap (Village Rites). Claim the Firstborn hasn’t seen widespread play since Cauldron Familiar got banned, but make no mistake, it’s one of the best cards in Standard if you have the support for it. I don’t want to be preemptive, but I think a Sacrifice deck whether it’s Rakdos, Jund, or both, is going to be a Tier 1 strategy.
LOSER: Temur Adventures
Temur Adventures was in an interesting spot for Zendikar Rising standard. It didn’t fare the best against Gruul or Rogues, but it absolutely smacked around a lot of the slower decks. Similar to Gruul, it’s a tight knit deck that really wanted something powerful to improve the deck, but nothing Kaldheim released really helps. The secondary issue is that neither of their problematic matchups, Gruul or Rogues, don’t look like they’re getting pushed out and even more aggro decks are looking to make an appearance as well. You do get Barkchannel Pathway which is obviously nice for the mana base, but the mana was already quite good.
You could also play Cosima, God of the Voyage in the deck as another way to grind, which is good but it’s not like the deck was hurting in late game power. Temur can also play Crush the Weak to help out against the smaller aggro decks, but that isn’t a killer like Crippling Fear would be. For what it’s worth, a lot of interesting midrange options have been opened up with Kaldheim and Temur could prey on those decks, but as long as Aggro is prevalent, it’ll be hard for Temur to ever be the best choice.
With a bevy of really strong green cards introduced into Kaldheim, Monogreen is any flavor looks like it’s going to be quite strong. Somewhere, I can hear Rumti laughing in the distance. Vorinclex, Monstrous Ravager is just an unbelievably powerful card that will serve as the top end in at least Stompy and potentially in Food. Old-Growth Troll will happily find it’s home in Stompy and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make its way into Food as well. Snakeskin Veil is one of the best Ranger’s Guile effects we’ve had in a long time and will, at a minimum, be a great board card for either deck.
Lastly, In Search of Greatness, although narrow, could find home in Monogreen Food as it’s largely a permanent based deck that can easily restock it’s hand with Trail of Crumbs. It’s hard to say which iteration of Monogreen is going to end up better, but it seems hard to go wrong with either version once Kaldheim releases.
DRAW: Dimir Rogues
Rogues is in an interesting spot post Kaldheim and it’s very hard to say if it’s better or worse off for it. The good side of Kaldheim for Rogues is Crippling Fear, a really powerful one sided Wrath against creature decks. This isn’t to be underestimated as the biggest issue with wrath effects in creature decks is that you need to hold back your creatures so you don’t get as blown out as your opponent. With that, if your opponent sees you holding back significantly, they can potentially play around the suspected wrath better. With Crippling Fear though, you can run your creatures out with reckless abandon then blow out your opponent with it. With that, there’s a lot of downsides with the release of Kaldheim as well.
Although Crippling Fear is excellent, Rogues generally doesn’t like facing aggro decks, something Kaldheim is going to bring more of. Secondly, Rakdos is a huge winner from Kaldheim and Rakdos can easily be built in such a way to massacre Rogues. I think it’s going to be extremely meta dependent on whether or not Rogues is going to flourish, but it should be an extremely safe pick for the beginning of the format.
This is an interesting time for Standard as most of the top decks didn’t receive much help from Kaldheim, but a lot of decks that were looking to break out did. I’m unbelievably excited to see how the Kaldheim meta will shake up with all the new cards! Let me know how you think the meta will pan out in the comments below. Thank you for reading and have a great day!