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Kaladesh Limited Review

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Stjepan Sučić
Stjepan Sucic

About Stjepan Sučić

Stjepan started his Magic career in 2003, and had some decent finishes over the years, including a World Magic Cup top 8, Pro Tour and Worlds top 32 finishes, and a GP top 8, with 61 pro points total.

During the summer months he is also a Magic Online grinder who you can easily find in the draft queues. Stjepan boasts a 74% win rate in his real life Magic career. When he is not playing Magic, Stjepan enjoys watching Starcraft and playing MOBA games.

Kaladesh Limited Review

I often wonder is it just me, or are new Magic: The Gathering sets getting flashier each year? Just one look at the Kaladesh spoiler and we can see a ton of very interesting card designs and artwork. It seems that the design team that worked on this set had a lot of liberty and used that to create a set that really feels special. As if that wasn't enough, we got a new lottery in the packs! Zendikar expeditions haven't even collected a fine layer of dust yet and Kaladesh brings us the Masterpiece Series - some new and some old artifacts with new art and in very intricate, flashy frames. Wizards definitely decided that the Expeditions were a great success, so we might expect similar 'lottery' cards in future sets as well. Hard to blame them, really, it is undeniably improving the sales of a set and I understand why. Even though I am not really a collector, I really want to have some Masterpieces for my EDH decks and will probably crack a ton of boosters hoping to get lucky.

I must admit I wasn't overly hyped about Kaladesh before the Masterpieces were announced, mostly because the setting was somewhat disappointing. I don't want to belittle the Indian culture, quite the opposite - I was somewhat flustered by the fact that the Indian culture was just a makeup, and that there is no depth to it in Kaladesh. I know that it was a bit too much to expect Indian Kamigawa, but race cars and robots really feel somewhat disrespectful. There are so many other things that could have been implemented that are actually part of Indian culture that it just feels wrong to use this rich and deep setting in such a shallow way. On the other hand, I am not Indian and I can't really say that I am in any way emotionally invested in this, so I'll just let it slide this time without complaining too much.

It is worth mentioning that there is a thing Wizards have going on parallel to the new set release and that is the Planeswalker Decks - decks that have some non-set cards that will also be Standard legal. It might not be anything too interesting, but it is possible that some of the lands (or maybe even Flame Lash) see some Standard play. I must admit I fail to see why it is necessary to add more cards to Standard this way, but I guess the power level of the cards just makes them irrelevant.

But, enough with the pleasantries, we are here to discuss what is really important - Kaladesh Limited. Usually in my articles, I would mostly talk about each color or color pair separately and then try to dissect some of the more interesting cards in the set. This time, I will try to focus more on the set itself, and less on each color, since colors aren't really as prominent as they would be in a non-artifact set. I wouldn't say that colors aren't relevant, but I feel that the overlaying themes more or less envelop all the colors.

Aetherworks Marvel
Versions:
Kaladesh (Foil)

It is always hard to decide what to start with, but I feel like it is correct to talk about the most important things first, and in the case of Kaladesh, I would argue that is Energy. Those of you who already played (pre)release sealeds and/or drafts certainly noticed that many games revolve around Energy counters. Many creatures and artifacts are powered by those and many of those are ranging from very strong to completely useless depending on how many Energy counters you have available at the moment. Most of the cards that require Energy counters to be activated provide you with a set amount of those when they enter the battlefield, but that amount is finite and often quickly depleted. This means that you need to have other Energy generators that will feed your Energy consumers once the initial reserve is complete. There are very few cards that generate energy and do not use it themselves, and I feel those are pretty important in every deck that relies on Energy counters in any way. A good example of such a card is Sage of Shalia's Claim, which is a good on-curve creature that also grants a fair amount of Energy for future use while not using any energy for itself. The best Energy cards are those that are self-sustainable, like a perfect machine, providing the energy to work or to improve itself. There are even fewer examples of cards that are very good at sustaining themselves, but those that are there were certainly noticed by Limited players - for example Aetherstorm Roc or Longtusk Cub. Even these undeniably strong Limited cards are somewhat restricted - Roc needs creatures to enter the battlefield and Cub needs to deal damage to a player to gain counters, but in the right situations, their abilities will certainly win games, just because they are repeatable sources of Energy. These ideal situations where you have a ton of energy won't occur all that often and it is realistic to expect that your Energy reserve will be very limited. Games will often be decided by how you decide to spend your Energy - will you hoard it until you draw/play your best Energy spenders or are you just spending as much as you can on whatever you can? Answers are (as always) dependent on the situation, but if you have a general idea of what your deck wants to do, you will know when and where to spend your Energy. If your deck is very aggressive, you will try to turn every Energy counter into damage whenever you can, and if your deck is defensive and/or trying to go for some energy shenanigans, you will probably save your energy instead of spending it on pumping attackers. This is arguable, but my first impression is that the former type of energy decks is far more viable and popular. Usually red and/or green, these decks use Energy to pump creatures and gain tempo, making the format rather fast, even in sealed.

Even though Kaladesh is an artifact set, the artifact theme isn't nearly as prominent as it was on either of our visits to Mirrodin. There are no mechanics like Metalcraft or Affinity for Artifacts, but there are a number of cards that work better the more artifacts you control/enter your side of the battlefield. This is where the new 'Fabricate' keyword comes into play. Fabricate is a pretty straightforward mechanic, somewhat reminiscent of Tribute, only this time around you choose between counters on a creature versus some Servo tokens. Servo tokens are 1/1 artifacts with no abilities, but count as an artifact that entered the battlefield for various abilities as well as widen your board. It does seem that choosing the Servo tokens over counters is the default choice, since, well, they say it is not smart to put all the eggs in one basket, and depending on your cards you might reap all kinds of benefits from having artifact tokens. On the other hand, having a big creature is sometimes exactly what you need to break a board stalemate or to start pushing through your opponent's defensive creatures. The situation will dictate what the best choice is, but when in doubt, the token is probably a safer option.

Fleetwheel Cruiser
Versions:
Kaladesh (Foil)

Another reason why it is good to have your power (and toughness) well distributed is the other novelty of the set - vehicles. Vehicles are artifacts that can become creatures if you tap creatures with sufficient power to 'Crew' it. There are only eleven vehicles in the set, and only three of those are common, which means that they aren't something you can rely on in sealed and something you have to prioritize in draft if you want to build a deck that revolves around them.

Now, how good are vehicles really? I must admit that this is a very tricky question. My first impressions are very mixed, but can be summed up in one quote: "When I have vehicles they are 'meh', but my opponents keep crushing me with them!" I am sure most of you had this feeling about some card or the other, and it is usually just about finding the right deck for the card, or cards in this case. It wouldn't be right to say that there is a specific deck for vehicles (even though it is obvious that R/W has cards that synergize with them) but there are a few things that you probably want to keep in mind when deciding on playing/drafting a vehicle: First, you need to keep track of your creature count. You don't want to run any vehicles in a deck with a low number of creatures. Kaladesh isn't really loaded with removal, especially not efficient removal, but even keeping that in mind, you want a healthy number of creatures in your Limited decks. I would say that with fifteen creatures it is safe to run two or three vehicles. Now, I wouldn't single out any of the vehicles as very bad, since most of them have a certain type of deck that would accommodate them gladly, but the bigger they are the clunkier they get. Demolition Stomper and Aradara Express are both pretty heavy hitters but are expensive to cast and sometimes hard to crew. They are still playable if you need some top end on your curve, but I wouldn't really rate them very highly. On the other side of the spectrum, we have Smuggler's Copter which really shined whenever I saw it on the board. Cheap, evasive, easy to crew with the added benefit of looting, this is a vehicle every deck would want... or almost every deck. It is important to keep in mind that if your deck is very defensive, vehicles may be a liability. Even though they can block, vehicles are not really great at playing defense since they need creatures to tap to crew them, which can make you low on blockers and open for blowouts if your vehicles gets bounced or destroyed before blocks.

It feels like Kaladesh isn't really chock-full of removal, but it is important to know that even these (few) removal spells are often limited to various factors like number of Energy counters you have or some other criteria. There are only but a few cards that can kill any creature, and all but Unlicensed Disintegration and Tidy Conclusion are rare. This is actually adding another dimension to both Fabricate and vehicles since both of these get a bit better the worse removal spells are.  On top of this, there are a number of cheap tricks that effectively serve as counters to removal spells. White has Built to Last, green has a couple of them, most prominent is definitely Blossoming Defense and even Black has an uncharacteristic Rush of Vitality. All this taken into account, we can conclude that Kaladesh is about good creatures, a good curve and synergies, and not really about 11 removal 12 creatures decks that we often encounter in different kinds of sealed formats.

Sets with a low number of inefficient removal are usually the ones with board stalls in sealed, and even though the prerelease weekend had plenty of those, there are still quite a few ways to break them in the set, which tells us Wizards playtested the limited format well and knew exactly what they were doing.

I am aware that many players prefer sealed over draft, and while Wizards balanced the set well for sealed, I do believe that drafting Kaladesh will be a real treat. While sealed offers many interesting combinations, you are not in control of what you will open and will often be just a few pieces short of a super cool synergistic deck. In draft, I believe there will be a ton of unique archetypes built around all these amazing rares that are just screaming 'build around me!' as well as many more straightforward archetypes that will just work far better in draft than they did in sealed.

Colors

White looks very solid on first glance, with quite a few Fabricate creatures, a couple good (if a bit restricted) removal spells and fine rares to round it out. It is very well paired with red for the 'dwarf vehicle' tribal deck, as well as with green for the usual G/W 'going wide' creature deck topped off with pump spells. I would say that white is a very good support color since it doesn't have too many flashy commons or uncommons, but most of its cards are decent playables.

Blue is probably the weakest color in sealed. Even though it might even have the best rares, its commons and uncommons are mostly just pieces of the puzzle that synergize well with other pieces that you might not have in your sealed pool. This will look completely different in draft, where blue just might be the strongest color.

Black feels a bit naked with only one good common removal (Tidy Conclusion), and that one being five mana isn't helping either. The uncommons aren't much better, leaving black in a peculiar position where it is often better at generating card advantage and grinding than at removing creatures. Black has a decent set of creatures as well, and is well paired with every other color, both in a support and in a leading role.

Red is a real hit or miss in sealed since it has some very good aggressive cards and some more 'durdly' cards that want you to combine them with vehicles or other cards to be good. If you open a split between two, your red might end up unplayable, but if you open the right part of the pile, you might end up having a really really good deck. As with blue, I expect red to shine in draft far more than in sealed.

Green is the real beast of the sealed format, with a ton of good commons, great uncommons and great creatures in general it is easily the best color for sealed. It doesn't really ask for a lot of setup or synergy, so whatever you open you can mash together and it will most probably work. Green has quite few good removal spells in this set as well. All of them are limited in some way, but less so than we would expect. Appetite for the Unnatural is a very obvious maindeck card that is even better than you might think at first. Green is great, but I expect it to be a bit less dominant in draft, where a bit more intricate strategies might beat the brute force that green brings to the table.

Conclusion

Kaladesh is a set that is very well designed for Limited, especially draft. I am really looking forward to exploring all the options and interesting archetypes. Is it possible to draft the three Modules deck? How awesome will it be to win with Dynavolt Tower? And the best of all - how can I ever pass Metallurgic Summonings?

This set is full of wonders, free your imagination and become an inventor, this is the perfect moment, strike while the iron is hot!

Good luck and have fun!

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