We are now four challenges into the Kaldheim era and the new metagame is starting to take shape. Taking into account the February 6 and February 7 Challenges, here is every deck that has either a Top 8 appearance or has at least three appearances in the Top 32.
Saturday was won by Dimir Faeries with the following decks also making the Top 8: Boros Bully, Burn, Elves, Flicker Tron (2), Goblins, and Jund Ramp. Sunday saw Gruul Ramp win the day with Dimir Delver, Dimir Faeries, Elves, Flicker Tron, and Izzet Faeries (3) also making the Top 8. There’s a lot to unpack in the first two weeks but to me, at least, there has been a relatively large shift in the current top pillars.
Going into Commander Legends it would have been reasonable to label Tron, Palace Sentinels, and Spellstutter Sprite as the pillars of the format. These three represented focal points for many of the top strategies with other decks finding success by sneaking through the gaps that these three left open. This is not to say that the only good decks ran these cards – you could clearly make an argument that Lead the Stampede/Winding Way could lay claim to top pillar status as well – but if I had to pick a big three, it would be those.
Until Kaldheim. The impact of Commander Legends is still being felt thanks to the additional Monarch options and curve topping Cascade cards, but now with latest set added to the mix the recent changes are more fully realized.
Tron remains a focal point of the metagame. While the deck has adjusted over time and we are seeing the deck focus more on dictating the rules of battle on the stack as opposed to the battlefield. Tron can easily shift back if needed – it is an excellent control deck after all – but for now if you can play to the board quickly you have a shot against Tron.
Spellstutter Sprite decks have not gone anywhere, but these decks have also become the predominant Monarch strategy. Dimir Delver, Dimir Faeries, and Izzet Faeries have all been just fine without Fall from Favor and while Behold the Multiverse is doing a fine job, many of these builds have turned in some capacity to the Crown. Free card draw and counterspells is a winning combination.
The final pillar I want to talk about today is Arbor Elf ramp. These decks have taken the metagame by storm and if you combine the Gruul and Jund variety, they are the second most popular archetype behind Tron (that is, if you don’t also group Dimir Faeries and Izzet Faeries or Dimir Delver and Dimir Faeries, but you get the point). These decks are quite capable of playing to the board quickly and thanks to Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party they are able to put a ton of permanents on to the battlefield. The duo of Llanowar Emissary and Sarulf’s Packmage makes it trivially easy to keep the cards flowing and sometimes turn two Mwonvuli Acid-Moss just wins games.
There are other interesting developments – the power of the Arbor Elf/Cascade shell appears to have pushed WonderWalls to the side, opening up space for new builds of Elves to emerge. Decks that can function on fewer lands – like the recent build of Goblins popularize by Willy Edel – can also find success. This new metagame also might require some operational adjustment, such as relying more on Evolving Wilds rather than Ash Barrens to fix mana and feeling comfortable not acting on the first few turns against a potential Thermokarst.
So what can be done? It may be time to look at cards like Crack the Earth and Raze as ways punish players who lean on Utopia Sprawl. Boomerang and Eye of Nowhere saw play in Standard mana denial strategies when Tron was a force back in the Kamigawa-Ravnica days. Temporal Spring is a fan favorite that happens to play nicely with Coiling Oracle and Growth Spiral.
What does this mean for next week? I would expect the deck to beat to be Elves. Not only does it have a natural foil to ramp thanks to Quirion Ranger, it has solid game against both Tron and Faeries. If that isn’t your thing I would look to Goblins. No matter what, I would want a plan to beat the ramp decks.