Kaldheim is the collective name of ten 2-color planes (plus two) connected by a World Tree. It is MTG's take on Vikings and Norse Mythology, proudly displaying its mix of history/myth and Metal genre music. Likewise, the characters of the setting are basically all warriors and/or storytellers.
Inspiration (And Historian Grousing)
While Norse mythology contains Níu Heimar, more commonly known today as "The Nine Worlds" there isn't a full explicit canonical list leading to scholars offering different lists. Which makes Maro's claim that WotC did a 1:1 ratio and then made up their own 10th world to round it up to a multiple of five a bit strange. There are actually 10 main candidates for what realms are part of the nine realms (which leads to or supports claims that 2 on the list are the same place with different names, or that one is part of the other. For example Henry Bellows conflates Niflheimr and Helheimr, where as [norse-mythology.org] conflates Svartalfheim and Nidavellir).
As elsewhere in Magic, dwarves are Red/White (unlike Norse mythology where they are evil little bastards). More directly from Norse is a loose distinction between Elves and gods, and their ability to play the tertiary antagonist and heroic sidekick roles at the same time based on how clever and/or badass the human who last talked to them is. As such, Elves continue to be Green/Black.
The gods are mostly expies.
- Alrund is Odin
- Valki is Loki
- Toralf is Thor
In the beginning there was the Cosmos, an energy force which takes the form of the World Tree with ten branches. The first “fruits” to grow from it were monsters, mostly animals of unusual size that outclass gods in intelligence and power; intelligent beings know they can wrest the secrets of the universe from them, dumbasses see them as awesome monsters to slay and earn their legend. The first Cosmos monster was Koma, the World Serpent who splits himself into avatars and continually grows. Later came the ten Realms, which are separated to everything other than McGuffin objects, gods, beings who discover the rare and shifting paths between them, and the Cosmos monsters. Otherwise, even Planeswalkers can’t travel between them. The realms shift between the branches of the World Tree, and when they collide it is called a "Doomskar" when natural disaster events occur at once. The setting lacks any sun or moon, with the only light being stars and an aurora borealis entirely localized in the realm containing the positive afterlife and the setting angels, the Valkyries. The ten branches of the Cosmos Tree are also visible in every realm. Beneath the realms are tunnels made by Koma.
When the realms were young they were ruled by gods called the Einir, but upstart gods called the Skoti appeared. They were lead by a god named Alrund, who as a mortal man had attempted to commune with the World Tree so he could become all-knowing. He made contact with it using rune magic, but its only response was to spit out two baby gods, Esika and Tergrid, who became members of the Skoti. Esika turned the Skoti into gods by brewing them an elixer made from World Tree sap. Tergrid on the other hand contributes nothing, since her notable feature is that her shadow tried to kill her as a baby and ever since then does what she orders it to and otherwise amuses itself by killing things. The Einir are said to have created Littjara, and there isn't a mention of the creation of other realms so it may be an outlier.
The two pantheons squabbled for a time, with the ambitious Skoti family growing in power and numbers. Alrund focused his efforts on fighting the Cosmos monsters, beating each one so they would share their secrets which made him God Of The Cosmos, although his brother Jorn did the actual tracking and pathfinding while Alrund focused on beating the shit out of the natural world. During the travels Alrund found an orphan human being raised by eagles. He adopted the child, named him Halvar, but dropped him off to be raised by Dwarves instead because he had critters to ‘wrassle. During that time the Dwarves gave him an axe called Galdrimel that can cut anything including the Cosmos. Twenty years later, Alrund found that the Cosmos monsters didn't know everything and as a result couldn't teach him everything. Disappointed he came back to claim Halvar and bring him to the rest of the Skoti. A Cosmos monster, Cosima the dolphin, somehow charmed her way into the Skoti by taking human form and became Alrund's wife; apparently everyone knows she's a giant star dolphin, and Alrund beating the shit out of her until she told him everything she knew about everything is when their romance began. Esika is one of the beings that knows the secrets Alrund needs since despite Alrund being the god of the Cosmos she is the only being who actually understands the Cosmos, but given she can cut him off from godhood by simply refusing to brew and more godmaking sap booze he didn't fistfight her for a copy of "World Tree For Dummies".
Meanwhile, the greatest Einir, the queen and tactician Lathril, ascended to godhood by defeating the Cosmos serpent Eidermaw. The Skoti and Dwarves managed to trap the Cosmos
pupper wolf Sarulf with eight magical chains in Axgard, realm if Dwarves. But the constant howling of Sarulf caused the Dwarves to demand the Skoti remove him, agreeing to dump him on Littjara where the Shapeshifters dwell. Sarulf escaped during the trip, and went to check on his daughters Kit and Lukya. When he found Kit had been kidnapped he sent Lukya to recruit Lathril for a rescue; Kit later became the companion of a human child while Lukya became Lathril’s, and as thanks Sarulf granted the Einir the friendship of all forests and forest creatures.
At some point the Giants of Surtland had a united civilization, and do no longer. Its not clear when that happened.
In the frozen realm of Karfell the mortal human empires fell one by one. The High King swore an oath to the Einir to support each other, and was given a longboat capable of crossing realms at will. That king's son High King Narfi used it to raid the other realms instead, amassing immense wealth (this isn't likely very hard since Axgard Dwarves don't value gold as a currency, merely a decoration).
The Skoti fought and defeated then locked the most powerful Einir away in seven Jaspera trees in the Skemfar realm, forcing the rest of the Einir there as well. During the war the Einir had called in their favor from Narfi to send his armies, but as a coward he had delayed fulfilling the request until a stranger appeared to offer to lead Narfi's army against the Elves instead and also make him free from death; this stranger was Egon, the Skoti of death who rendered almost all of Karfell a realm of zombies with their minds intact all owing allegiance to Narfi as the liche king (who continues to raid the other realms and amass treasure). Halvar used his axe to somehow split the Einir race in half between the Black and Green magic factions, which also cut them off from their godhood; the resulting depowered race is the Elves. The Einir had sealed away the realm of Immersturm where the demons dwell to try and keep them out of the other realms, although the McGuffins they used to do so were lost in the conflict; the seals the Skoti placed are inferior with the Skoti slacking off on even maintaining them. The Skoti also forbade Koma from entering the realms anymore to keep him from continuing to grow or freeing the Einir. This further insulted the Elves that revered him (now they worship him), but also may eventually destroy the setting since Koma's agitation outside the tree is damaging it. The Elves continue to maintain the tunnels Koma left under Skemfar. Egon took up residence and rulership of Istfell, land of mundane dead, and since has spent his time trying to break into Starnheim where the glorious heroic dead dwell without being judged and as a result is an enemy of the Valkyries and heroes.
At some point the Beskir clan of Bretagard saved Alrund's life, so his daughter Reidane shows them deference despite being the supposedly objective god of justice and law. The Skoti Toralf, a thrillseeker, disregards his father Alrund's suggestions to do something useful and instead does shit like cause Doomskars, fight monsters (but not killing them which might actually help someone), and troll beings in the realms in between bouts of killing people who annoy him. His sister Birgi takes credit for a lot of his adventures. The god Valki tricked Toralf into transporting the home of the gods from the realm of the gods to Istfell, which due to laziness they just have learned to live with.
Kaldheim Set Events
While most beings were distracted by Tibalt, Vorinclex infiltrated Esika's sanctum and killed her before snagging Tyrite to bring back to New Phyrexia (while this in theory means the Skoti are cut off from divinity, gods who die also go to Starnheim so unless the Valkyries deem her unworthy and send her into the void she's still around in the realms).
Notably the setting made Tibalt actually relevant (a bit too relevant in crunch actually) and introduced a viking Legolas Planeswalker named Tyvar Kell who’s brother Harald is a lazy analogue to Harald Bluetooth that theme around “unite the Elves and get along” and “unite the Elves and PURGE THE IMPURE YOUNGER RACES (until Tyvar says to get along)” respectively.
Seven real life heavy metal bands promoted the expansion on their social media, with an accompanying Spotify playlist found here. Said bands are Mastodon, Angra, Torche, Smoulder, Rhapsody Of Fire, Oceans Of Slumber, and Amon Amarth. All of which sound like card names.
The setting lore follows the color mix mechanics, as each realm corresponds to a color-combo which makes color decks very easy to flavor theme.
- Istfell, the White/Blue land of the inglorious dead.
- Karfell, the Blue/Black land of the undead and raiders (and undead raiders).
- Immersturm, Black/Red land of demons, dragons, and vampires (oh my).
- Gnottvold, Green/Red land of trolls and giants.
- Bretagard, Green/White land of humans.
- Starnheim, White/Black land of Valkyries and undead heroes.
- Surtland, Blue/Red land of frost and fire giants.
- Skemfar, Green/Black land of Elves and undead Elves.
- Axgard, White/Red land of Dwarves.
- Littjara, Green/Blue land of Shapeshifters.
- The Gods’ Realm, the colorless/Artifact realm where the gods dwell (but nit where they live, because
LokiValki made a funny).
Foretell: A Morph-like ability that can also appear on instants and sorceries, players can put foretell cards into exile for two colorless where they can be cast for a reduced cost on a later turn. Later turn issue aside, casting a foretell card follows normal timing rules so no casting sorceries on your opponent's turn. While there are a limited number of foretell cards both in the main set and the Commander precon deck, nearly all of them are quite useful.
Snow: An old supertype from Ice Age that initially only went on lands, when a snow permanents or spell produces mana, that mana is snow mana which can be used like regular mana but interact with snow permanents (and in some cases, spells) in various ways. While in constructed there's nothing preventing you from replacing your entire land base with snow versions (for now, snow will eventually rotate out of standard), the new snow cards require much setup in this regard and may not be worth the effort for some players.
Double-faced cards: They're back! Well, kind of back, since only the gods of the set have a second side that's usually some kind of artifact or enchantment with Alrund and Valki being 2 exceptions. The second half for the double-sided two-color lands also gets completed here.
Boast: A creature-based keyword that can be activated once per turn after making an attack. Yet to be evaluated for effectiveness, but general impressions in casual use suggest Boast is too conditional and potentially too situational in control-heavy metas.
Unlike other MTG settings with gods, these gods aren't resistant to removal (as in no returning to your hand or having indestructible), which makes sense since in Norse Mythology most of the gods die during Ragnarok.
- Valki, god of lies: In Modern there was this thing where you would cascade into Valki to cast the 7 mana planeswalker on his other side. Due to a rules change, you can't do this any more (unless your cascade spell costs more than 7 mana, which defeats the point).
- Tibalt's Trickery: Part of a combo deck where you play something cheap (like stone coil serpent with x=0), and then counter it with Tibalt's Trickery, and hope you hit something expensive. Banned in Modern. If you want to play Tibalt's trickery fairly, you can put it in the sideboard of a red deck that doesn't have blue and bring it in against combo decks and hope casting it will mess up the opponent's combo (obviously this wouldn't work against some combo decks like Tibalt's Trickery combo), or bring it up against a control deck that has to cast a counterable finisher (and you have to hope they don't leave up a counter spell to counter tibalt's trickery).
- Elven Empire
- Phantom Premonition
|Settings of Magic: The Gathering|
|Pre-revisionist:||First Magic Sets - First Urza Block - Arabian Nights |
Legends - Homelands - Ice Age - Mirage
|Weatherlight Saga:||Portal Starter Sets - Second Urza Block |
Tempest Block - Masques Block - Invasion Block
|Post-Weatherlight:||Otaria Block - Mirrodin - Kamigawa - Ravnica - Time Spiral|
|After the Mending:||Lorwyn - Alara - Zendikar - New Phyrexia |
Innistrad - Return to Ravnica - Theros - Tarkir - Eldraine - Ikoria
|Two-Block Paradigm:||Kaladesh - Amonkhet - Ixalan|
|Post Two-Block Paradigm:||Eldraine - Ikoria - Kaldheim - Strixhaven|
|Never in a standard set:||Fiora (Where the Conspiracy sets take place) - Kylem (Battlebond)|