Tibalt, Niko Aris mythic planeswalkers show what Kaldheim has to offer

Tibalt returns to cause more chaos.

Image via WOTC

Magic’s upcoming Kaldheim set includes the return of a classic villain and the introduction of an acclaimed arena athlete hailing from Theros—and each card explores fresh design space for planeswalkers.

Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter and Niko Aris were introduced as two of the four planeswalkers in the set. Tibalt and Aris join Kaya and Tyvar Kell as the faces of Kaldheim.

Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter

Front:

  • CMC: 1B
  • Type: Legendary Creature God
  • Rarity: Mythic Rare
  • Stats: 2/1
  • First ability: When Valki enters the battlefield, each opponent reveals their hand. For each opponent, exile a creature card they revealed this way until Valki leaves the battlefield.
  • Second ability: Pay x: Choose a creature card exiled with Valki with converted mana cost x. Valki becomes a copy of that card.

Back:

  • CMC: 5BR
  • Type: Legendary Planeswalker Tibalt
  • Rarity: Mythic Rare
  • Stats: Five starting loyalty
  • First ability: As Tibalt enters the battlefield, you get an emblem with “You may play cards exiled with Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter, and you may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to cast those spells.”
  • Second ability: +2: Exile the top card of each player’s library
  • Third ability: -3: Exile target artifact or creature
  • Fourth ability: -8: Exile all cards from all graveyards. Add RRR

The Gods of Kaldheim are getting the modal double-faced treatment this time around. Tybalt is the first double-faced planeswalker in the set and focuses on exile synergies. The front side is a decent two-drop that has the potential to steal a creature from an opponent. This is similar to Agonizing Remorse with a different drawback. Instead of losing life, the card is only exiled until Valki leaves the battlefield. The fragile 2/1 body means it dies to any removal in Standard, including a Spikefield Hazard or Stomp.

If this card succeeds in Standard, it’ll be off the back of Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter. At seven mana, Tibalt is an investment, especially in Rakdos. A hefty five starting loyalty helps protect the investment and its core abilities can provide game-winning card advantage and removal. The -3 will be Tibalt’s best ability for the time being. The exile-based removal deals with recursive threats like Feasting Troll King and troublesome Throne of Eldraine mythic rare artifacts. Once the board is stabilized, the ability to exile cards off the top and play them fits right in with the grindy, value-based strategy that Rakdos thrives with.

The common play pattern appears to be to cast Tibalt, -3 to take out a threat, then start using the +2 for card draw. Since you gain an emblem, it’s possible to still cast the exiled cards if Tibalt gets removed from the battlefield. This ultimate is powerful due to the prevalence of graveyard strategies in Standard, but the -3 has so much utility that it’s hard to imagine going multiple turns without using it to get to eight loyalty.

Niko Aris

Image via WOTC
  • CMC: xWUU
  • Type: Legendary Planeswalker Niko
  • Rarity: Mythic Rare
  • Stats: Three starting loyalty
  • First ability: When Niko Aris enters the battlefield, create x Shard tokens. (They’re enchantments with “2, Sacrifice the enchantment: Scry one, then draw a card.”)
  • Second ability: +1: Up to one target creature you control can’t be blocked this turn. Whenever that creature deals damage this turn, return it to its owner’s hand.
  • Third ability: -1: Niko Aris deals two damage to target tapped creature for each card you’ve drawn this turn.
  • Fourth ability: -1: Create a Shard token.

Niko Aris is a planeswalker with an X cost, similar to Nissa, Steward of Elements from Amonkhet in 2017. Instead of X determining starting loyalty, Niko Aris creates Shard tokens equal to X. The immediate thought is that Niko Aris finds a home in Constellation decks in Standard. Since Shards are enchantments, Niko Aris can be used as a way to get enchantments on the battlefield in a quick burst. This could set off a cascade of Constellation triggers from cards like Archon of Sun’s Grace and Setessan Champion. Six mana could be the sweet spot for Niko Aris, providing three Shards in the process.

Three starting loyalty isn’t a lot, making the planeswalker fragile. The +1 is a decent way to get a creature in for damage. It could be useful in a blink deck, providing another avenue to get enter the battlefield triggers. The removal part of Niko Aris is fine. Two damage to a tapped creature isn’t excellent, but with a big card draw turn, it’ll be nice in a pinch. The final -1 ability will be the most used part of Niko Aris. Creating more Shard tokens allows for more late-game card advantage.

Kaldheim will be released in Magic Arena and Magic Online on Jan. 28, with the full release scheduled for Feb. 5.