Hi everyone! Kaldeim preview season has been started a bit with some previews from metal bands Angra, Mastadon and Torche! That’s something different! I’m not really into metal myself, though friends of mine who are seem to be pretty excited by this.
Preview season is one of the most fun parts of Magic for a lot of Magic players. A big part of it for me, is that when I see a card, I immediately feel like I did when I first saw Magic cards and they were all new. Immediately I start thinking, “Wow, if I play this and this together, then I can kill all my opponent’s creatures,” or “If I play this, this, this and this, it creates an infinite combo that wins the game on the spot.” Yeah Huey, playing four eight mana cards will often win the game. Shrug. That being said, there were only a couple new cards previewed yesterday with no new mechanics to speak off, but the cards are pretty interesting so I took a look. Incidentally, there were also more double-faced lands previewed, completing the cycle originally started in Zendikar Rising. While I’m very happy about this, as I think the double-faced lands are among the best dual land cycles printed in a very long time, I didn’t include them in the more detailed discussion.
Showdown of the Skalds is an interesting card with a couple of forces at play. First of all, this card encourages us to play creatures. Of course, to get the full benefit of the card, we need to be getting value off of all the +1/+1 counters we’re putting on things. Naturally, creatures that synergize with +1/+1 counters are going to be at a premium.
Secondly, we are heavily incentivized to play cheap cards. Cheap creatures are going to be best because we also don’t want to play too many reactive cards. Hypothetically, imagine we played this card and flipped over four Negates. It’s unlikely our opponent is just going to throw four noncreature spells on the stack. Certain reactive cards are going to be much stronger, specifically direct damage; Shock, Lightning Strike, etc, those type of cards.
Another thing to consider is when to actually play Showdown of the Skalds; if we play it on turn four, we lose out on playing multiple lands. If we play it on turn five, we’re going to be able to play a land almost right away, and potentially be much better served if we chain multiple copies together at a time, since it won’t be such an enormous percentage of our mana to play a second copy on the next turn.
The natural comparison to this card is going to be to Birthing Pod. Birthing Pod had a similar effect, though it didn’t discriminate based on creature type. The deck would often have combos that were easy to search up by using creatures that could be sacrificed multiple times or by leaving something behind when they die, like Kitchen Finks or Voice of Resurgence. Pyre of Heroes can be played and used on the turn we get to four mana, though it’s more expensive on subsequent turns.
The creature type drawback is a very real one. I gave Standard a look over for cards that leave behind value when they die or when the leave the battlefield and the biggest standouts to me were Luminous Broodmoth, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant and Nightmare Shepherd. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to play an Insect or Demon tribal deck. That being said, maybe we can use a combination of Zombies or Knights (due to a couple of Zombie Knights), in the case of Nightmare Shepherd to get some utility from the card and also provide some value. We can get a little self mill from the Zombies, including even Polukranos, Unchained and potentially tutor up a few Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
I could also see a stronger deck leaning on Clerics as well. I think the synergy between Orah, Skyclave Hierophant and Pyre of Heroes looks really good on paper. Throw in the fact that there is further synergy between Orah and Archfiend’s Vessel to power it all up and I think this deck could really be on to something. Nullpriest of Oblivion can even return Orah to our hand in the mid and late game, giving us use for excess mana and making it harder to interact with what we have going on.
4 Cleric of Life's Bond 4 Orah, Skyclave Hierophant 1 Mangara, the Diplomat 4 Pyre of Heroes 1 Angel of Destiny 1 Luminarch Aspirant 1 Luminous Broodmoth 4 Archfiend's Vessel 4 Nullpriest of Oblivion 3 Taborax, Hope's Demise 1 Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose 4 Heartless Act 2 Skyclave Apparition 4 Skyclave Cleric 4 Agadeem's Awakening 18 Lands
At least for Standard, Pyre of Heroes is definitely not Birthing Pod, despite the comparison. That being said, it might be a good tool for enabling synergy-based tribal decks, which can sometimes have trouble finding their most important card.
Thanks for reading! Keep in mind that these are just some initial thoughts and ideas. Kaldheim has a lot more in store, and very likely there will be new tools for all of the sketches that I made here today. I’m looking forward to it. I’m curious – did I miss anything when it comes to Pyre of Heroes? Is there an engine or a deck that I didn’t pick up on, at least for standard? I’m sure there’s plenty to be done in older formats. Let me know in the comments!