The Best Red Cards From Kaldheim

Emily Carrick • January 27, 2021

Kaldheim releases on Arena this week and it’s not a new set release until I have given my opinions on the red cards. It feels like a crime to have a card like Embercleave legal in Standard and not have a Tier 1 Mono-Red deck. The last sets that gave aggressive red strategies a boost were Throne of Eldraine and Theros Beyond Death, although there have been a couple of good cards here and there in the sets following those. I am hoping that the red cards in Kaldheim bring new life to Standard and Historic.

Arni Brokenbrow

Arni Brokenbrow is first on my list of red cards I’m excited about. This card features the new Boast mechanic from Kaldheim, which is an ability that can only be activated after the creature with the ability has attacked and can only be activated at most once a turn. It’s important to remember that even though the ability can only be activated after the creature attacked, it can still be activated before blockers, before damage is dealt, end of combat after damage is dealt. It can also be activated in the phases following combat too but for Arni Brokenbrow, we’re looking to do combat tricks with this card’s boast ability.

For one mana, Arni Brokenbrow can end up doing some serious damage. In Mono-Red, Anax, Hardened in the Forge is usually the creature with the greatest power and the best Embercleave wielder. Although Anax is Legendary so it is often the only high power creature in the red zone but with Arni, there can now be two large potential Embercleave carriers the opponent has to deal with. Even without Embercleave this is a lot of damage coming through, but of course we always have the Cleave.

While this card is strong, I don’t think all four copies will be played in Mono-Red. The Red deck’s three mana slot is already filled with Anax, Hardened in the Forge, Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp , and Phoenix of Ash. Whether this card takes some of three drop slots depends on the other decks in the format.

It’s also worth looking at the other Embercleave deck in Standard, Gruul Adventures. Arni Brokenbrow definitely fits within a deck that plays Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire and Questing Beast. There are also the landfall creatures Brushfire Elemental and Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley that can get large. Arni would be a strong inclusion in this deck as well so it looks like no matter which Embercleave deck ends up becoming the strongest, expect to see this card.

With Gruul Aggro as a strong choice in Historic already, Arni Brokenbrow could possibly see play in that format as well for the same reasons why it’s good in Standard. This card is so good, I didn’t even need to point out that a 3/3 for three mana and haste is already solid on its own.

Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

Good news fellow red mages, Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty looks like it’s one of the strongest cards in the set. The first ability is very similar to the ability on Runaway Steam-Kin but with Birgi, the mana is available right away instead of having to cast three red spells for Steam-Kin. Having the mana carry over throughout the different phases of the turn allows a lot of flexibility. With similar cards, there’s pressure to use up all the mana before it empties the pool to maximize mana efficiency but not with Birgi.

Speaking of Runaway Steam-Kin, in Historic both Steam-Kin and Birgi can be played in the same deck. That’s a lot of mana getting produced and other players like MTG Arena Streamer, Crokeyz, have already identified Experimental Frenzy may be making a comeback soon. A Mono-Red burn deck in Historic is something I’m going to keep on the lookout for.

That’s just the first half of the card, there’s more text! Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty also lets players activate their boast abilities for a second time, getting around the drawback of only being able to activate them once per turn. The second half of this card might not get used as much as the first half, but I’m not one to turn down extra value attached to an already powerful card.

The best part about these double sided cards, is that there’s two cards for one slot in the deck. The backside of Birgi, `Harnfel, Horn of Bounty` is also strong. Having a good pseudo card draw engine in red is good to help support the deck against Midrange, Control, or even the mirror. Aggressive decks often run out of cards in hand by the late game so having a way to pitch dead cards or extra lands to dig deeper into the deck is good.  Birgi is also Legendary so if a second Birgi is drawn, it’s not a dead card. Exiling cards off the top also works well with Experimental Frenzy so even more of a reason to expect a Mono-Red strategy to gain popularity in Historic.

Tundra Fumarole

Red cards in Kaldheim seem to like making mana and Tundra Fumarole can be played in all kinds of strategies. This set brings back snow and adding snow to a deck is an easy requirement to meet. Especially Mono-Red, where most of the lands are basic lands. They can be switched to basic snow lands and it’ll be easy to get the maximum amount of mana back out of this card. The drawback is that this card only produces colorless mana, but free mana is free mana and in later turns of the game there will be plenty of spells to use it on. This card hits most of the creatures in Standard. It might not be the most broken card, but it’s very solid and definitely playable.

Frost Bite

Not many people get that excited over a common during spoiler season, but don’t sleep on Frost Bite. This card will be played for similar reasons Tundra Fumarole will be played. It’s easy to add snow lands to any deck and after having three snow basics in play, this card turns into a Lightning Bolt for creatures and planeswalkers. Don’t underestimate the power of an efficient removal spell.

Toralf, God of Fury//Toralf's Hammer

After looking at these two new damage spells, it’s time to consider Toralf, God of Fury // Toralf's Hammer. A four mana 5/4 with trample is a good rate on its own, but Toralf’s ability gives a deck’s damage spells more reach. Toralf gives burn spells a better version of trample. Spells that deal damage can now possibly take out multiple creatures and/or planeswalkers. The excess damage can also be sent directly to the opponent. This card is a good inclusion as a top end spell for burn decks for Historic.

The backside, Toralf's Hammer is worth noting as well. It’s a reusable burn spell that synergizes well with the front half. Any extra copies of this legendary spell gets turned into more damage. The drawback is that the equipment has to be unattached from a creature and this requires a creature to still be on the board, which may be difficult against removal heavy decks. But if a creature does stick around to be equipped, this could have major reach in the later parts of the game.

Tibalt's Trickery

Tibalt’s Trickery is my “I just think it’s neat” card for this set. There have been counterspells printed in red in the past but it’s not often new ones emerge. It’s fun to imagine someone creating a deck with this card and countering their own spell to sneak an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or any other big dumb creature. I love the randomness of this card, it captures Tibalt very well.

As I was looking through the set, I found that I actually like a lot of the red cards. Quakebringer and  Goldspan Dragon are my honorable mentions because these are also solid cards but there isn’t much to say about them besides just being solid five drops. I feel like the current aggressive decks are trying to be faster than playing five drops but these are cards that may sneak their way into a big red deck or another Midrange deck.

Something I was disappointed in was the absence of a good one or two drop for the Mono-Red Standard deck. Fearless Pup might replace some current one drop slots in the deck but the card itself is not strong enough. These new cards are powerful but I will keep looking out in future sets for some good lower curve aggressive cards.

The red cards in Kaldheim are some of the most interesting red cards that have been printed in a while and I’m looking forward to trying them out this weekend when the set is available on Arena. I hope all my fellow red mages are just as excited as I am.