Kaldheim is nearly here and with it comes a slate of incredibly powerful commons. There are quite a few cards from the latest set that should make an impact in Pauper. I’ve already covered the snow dual lands here and recommend you check that out for my take on the latest addition to Pauper mana bases.
Before diving into the spells, I want to talk about Shimmerdrift Vale. This land fills a similar role to Evolving Wilds in that it can help fix your mana at the cost of a land drop. The fact that this land produces snow mana is something but I’m not sure if it’s enough to warrant including this over the slow fetches. If any deck wants Shimmerdrift Vale, it’s a deck that wants to not only hit every land drop but one that has some pretty heavy color mana requirements in the early turns of the game. I’m not sure this deck exists currently but it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that one could come into vogue.
Foretell is one of the most interesting new mechanics for Pauper in quite some time since. The early turns of Pauper games are dense with action and foretell gives you the opportunity to use this time to invest in the mid or late game. One of the best practical applications of foretell is to play around Spellstutter Sprite and other counterspells. Foretelling a card can prevent your blue opponent from acting and then, on a later turn, you can attempt to unleash a flurry of spells in an attempt to tax their mana.
I also like foretell as an attempt to match Tron on spells. One of Tron’s many advantages over the rest of the format is how easily it can do multiple things each turn. Foretell provides other decks the opportunity to do this late at the cost of early board development. There are turns against Tron where it’s absolutely better to not commit anything else to the board for fear of counters or Weather the Storm.
Here, storing your cards for later can be helpful as you can then unleash a flurry later once you need to keep pace. That being said, only one of these cards – Behold the Multiverse – fits this mold. Conversely, Tron can benefit immensely from Foretell – especially instants – since it tends to have mana to spare. Tron is also well positioned to make use of Ravenform as a way to deal with problematic artifacts or creatures and leave the opponent with a token.
Depart the Realm could be an important card in the Kiln Fiend/Nivix Cyclops deck or other Prowess variants. These decks sometimes need to take a turn or two off to craft their kill and Depart the Realm fits neatly into this play pattern. Depart the Realm lets you exile it, then cast it at a discount on the next turn to help grow your threat to potentially lethal size, all while removing a troublesome blocker.
Stompy also looks to benefit from foretell cards. Mammoth Growth and Struggle for Skemfar are effects that Stompy already runs in one shape or another and the ability to have these at the end of a Burning-Tree Emissary chain is great. Burning-Tree Emissary also allows the deck to make up for the tempo lost by foretelling either of these cards as it can come down and leave the mana behind. These cards also make use of excess mana in Stompy’s midgame. Struggle for Skemfar is not as powerful as Savage Swipe but has the advantage of leaving a counter behind and being able to target a creature of any size. Mammoth Growth is no Hunger of the Howlpack but has the advantage of sitting in exile, waiting to be used to either win a combat (or the game) or hide as a way to save a creature from a removal spell. Even Sarulf’s Packmate could see some play as a sideboard option against Fiery Cannonade since it is large enough to survive and draws a card upon entering the battlefield.
The last Foretell card I’m excited about is Skull Raid. The problem with discard spells is that if you draw them late, you may not be able to extract the maximum amount of value, especially if you’ve been forcing your opponent to discard throughout the course of the game. Skull Raid mitigates that by making your previous efforts to empty your opponent’s hand matter by turning into a draw two. I really like the flexibility of this card in that you can set up Skull Raid so that you get the desired outcome. While a dedicated discard deck is a good Shrieking Affliction away from being viable, Skull Raid does help to make cards like Blightning more attractive.
As for the other foretell cards, it wouldn’t surprise me if these saw some fringe play. With that out of the way, let’s get on to the other cards.
White has one card that stands out in Stalwart Valkyrie. Delver of Secrets may not be the powerhouse of days gone by but it’s still a solid threat. Stalwart Valkyrie may not come down on the first turn but the ability to cast it for a discount will matter when you want to cast another spell in the same turn. The biggest thing holding this card back is the fact that Kor Skyfisher is prevalent. That being said, there are low-to-the-ground aggressive white decks that are running Daybreak Chimera and being able to Valkyrie and Chimera on the same turn could reverse the course of a game.
Outside of that, white gets some interesting potential roleplayers. Battlefield Raptor has just enough stats to pique the interest of Wescoe devotees everywhere, even if it doesn’t have a home. Beskir Shieldmate could power up any looming Orzhov Aristocrat strategies. Starnheim Courser is a powerful card but sadly lacks a place where both its discounts could be put to good use. Valor of the Worthy and Wings of the Cosmos both could see play in Heroic with Wings being the more likely of the two.
Blue is headlined by Bind the Monster. Andrea Mengucci already covered some Pauper applications of the card here. On top of what was mentioned, this card pairs very nicely with Heliod’s Pilgrim and other Aura-based strategies. While Bogles currently doesn’t want to run any natural blue sources, Rimewood Falls could make it easier for Bogles to cast this card without needing an Abundant Growth (while remaining a target for Utopia Sprawl). Bogles also can easily ignore the damage and it has the advantage of enhancing both Ancestral Mask and Ethereal Armor.
The only other blue card that may see play is Brinebarrow Intruder. Small creatures with flash and the ability to shrink a creature’s power for a turn have seen more play as of late in blue tempo decks. While this lacks Zulaport Duelist’s ability to mess with Brainstorm and Ponder, the extra point of toughness could matter in certain matchups.
The best black card in the set outside of Skull Raid may just be Duskwielder. There exists an abundance of aggressive black one drops but these decks tend to lose steam. Duskwielder allows these strategies to have a mana sink that works with their main game plan. These decks have a long way to go still before they become a real threat.
Dogged Pursuit may not make the cut but there are a few enchantment-based prison decks that could use another way to end the game, albeit slowly. Elderfang Disciple is a Burglar Rat with better tribal synergies. Koma’s Faithful has lifelink, which might be enough to make it a fringe playable in graveyard-based decks looking to stay alive. Raise the Draugr could be interesting in tribal decks that need this effect but can’t generate enough storm for Reaping the Graves. Weigh Down is an interesting removal spell that gets around Dispel but the exile requirement might hold this one back.
Red has no real standout cards this time around. Open the Omenpaths might get the nod if enough Hotheaded Giants and Goblin Freerunners make their way into the format. Seize the Spoils might be the best Tormenting Voice yet since it leaves behind a Treasure token for a mana boost. Tuskeri Firewalker is very interesting as one of the few ways to repeatedly “draw” in red, but you need to be able to attack with impunity (maybe Furor of the Bitten gets a chance to shine?). Finally, Tormentor’s Helm is cheap enough to potentially see sideboard play as a way to make your creatures slightly larger than those of your opponent, in case that matters.
The most interesting green card we have yet to discuss is Masked Vandal. The Vandal immediately becomes the format’s best Reclamation Sage, even with the drawback. In the decks most likely to run this card – Elves and Slivers – getting a creature into the graveyard is rather easy. The non-tribal decks that want the Vandal are Rock-style midrange builds that tend to have graveyard synergies. A sleeper home for this card may just be Zombies. Traditionally mono black, splashing green is easier these days and gives the deck a main deck answer to Journey to Nowhere and Bonder’s Ornament.
Roots of Wisdom looks interesting and powerful but I’m not sure what the best home for it will be. Jaspera Sentinel, Sculptor of Winter and Snakeskin Veil are similar to cards that currently exist and see some play, so you can expect these to show up occasionally.
Funeral Longboat is interesting. Vehicles have been on the fringe of Pauper since their introduction in Kaladesh and having a crew cost of one means this one warrants further investigation. Vehicles can give a top-decked creature haste at the cost of taking away the ability to block. A 3/3 vigilance creature is no joke but I don’t think it’s very good in Pauper right now. Vehicles are at their best when combat matters and you want to preserve creatures. At the time of writing, combat is usually a one-sided affair and blocking doesn’t really matter. Longboat gets some points for its ability to trade favorably with Guardian of the Guildpact and ignore Prismatic Strands but I’m not sure it’s enough.
So that’s Kaldheim. Like I said, there’s a lot of potential power tied up in these cards. Whether any of them break through remains to be seen. At the very least, there’s snow in the forecast.