Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh Previews Week 2

Wizards of the Coast kicked off their previews for the upcoming set Kaladesh in great style at the PAX West convention, bringing us some fantastic new planeswalkers, new mechanics, and some really fantastic new cards that are sure to shake up the Standard format, and beyond. Against the backdrop of the Magic World Championship 2016, which was won by seasoned grinder Brian Braun-Duin (congrats, Brian!), the previews presentations were amazingly well-choreographed and it was certainly a unique experience as far as I’m concerned.

The second week of previews didn’t disappoint either, I must say. Not only did we get one more Planeswalker, we also got the planeswalkers for the Planeswalker Intro Packs, which have replaced the regular Intro Packs of old, and we saw some great new powerful cards that reintroduced characters who have been missing for some time. The world of Kaladesh looks as vibrant as the first round of previews suggested, if not better, and I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on some of these cards. So let’s get to it then!

nissavitalforceThe last we saw of Nissa, in card form, was in Oath of the Gatewatch back in January. It wasn’t a card that I was particularly high on, but truth be told, I’m happy that the card has had a chance to prove itself. And not just in Standard, where it dominated as a part of the GW Tokens deck for several weeks, but also finding its way into Modern in a similar shell. Within the space of 15 months, Nissa, Vital Force is the third Nissa planeswalker card that we are getting, and it certainly looks very powerful, every bit as the other two have been.

Her +1 ability protects her very well since the creature doesn’t die to Grasp of Darkness, which is one of the most played removal spells in Standard right now, and with the loss of Languish, the “combo” with Liliana, the Last Hope doesn’t work either. The -3 ability is straight up card advantage and it does a great job at it too since it returns your best card from your graveyard. The ultimate provides card advantage and inevitability both, which is crucial in long, drawn-out games. Nissa, Vital Force seems like a perfect fit for a midrange/control deck and if you plus her the turn she comes down, she’ll give your opponents headaches since dealing with 6 loyalty planeswalkers isn’t exactly easy.

One thing to note, if you have an Oath of Gideon in play, then Nissa, Vital Force will enter the battlefield with six counters on her and can ultimate immediately. Now that’s powerful!

pianalaarThe last time we met with this amazing artificer was in Magic Origins where she debuted alongside her husband on Pia and Kiran Nalaar. She’s come a long way since. Her husband and daughter dead, her life a shambles. Now she’s a full-on rebel, fighting against the authority of the Consulate to ensure a safer and more equal life for everyone on Kaladesh. From a flavour point of view, this card is gets 10/10. The mana cost on Pia and Kiran Nalaar was 2RR whereas this one is 2R and that card created two 1/1 Thopter tokens whereas this one makes just the singleton. Losing Kiran hurt her more than could have been possible. And when I saw this card and took it all in, I felt a deep sadness. It isn’t always easy for story to come across in cards, but Pia Nalaar has that in spades.

From a playability perspective, I lie this card as it provides multiple bodies (one of them with evasion) and it has synergies with other artifacts that you might choose to play alongside this one. Some kind of a midrange artifact deck perhaps? She seems to be somewhat pushed towards an aggro role given the third ability, but I think it is safe to say that as long as you are playing a decent number of artifacts with her (vehicle aggro!), she’s going to be pretty damn good.

kambalconsulofallocationA character with an ominous sounding title and in the WB colours? Definitely sign me up. However, a character with a name that means (sleeping) blanket in Hindi? I’m a bit confused on that. But, all the same, I like the design of Kambal since he looks designed to be a card to fight control decks, and in WB Control mirror matches he should be quite powerful indeed. The life drain is a pretty big deal, as we saw from Siege Rhino in the days of Khans of Tarkir Standard. I look forward to brewing with this card. Also, the art is top-notch, hitting some interesting subtle touches that reflect the WB color identity of the character. In all the brightness of Kaladesh Kambal stands out, as it should be for legendary characters.

espergearhulksThe first week of spoilers introduced us to Verduruous Gearhulk, which seems like an absolute beast of a creature to be running in a green deck in Standard. Everybody expected something similar in terms of the power level from the rest of the gearhulk cycle, and these three do not disappoint in the least (as of writing, the red one has been revealed but will be covered in the Week 3 article). Cataclysmic Gearhulk acts as a massive board-wipse in the vein of Tragic Arrogance, a sideboard card that was near-everpresent in most decks for the last year, and which will be rotating by the end of the month. A similar effect attached to a big relevant body is definitely something that qualifies as a mythic, And I expect Cataclysmic Gearhulk will actually see some amount of mainboard play. It is simply is too good.

Having flash makes Torrential Gearhulk automatically better than it otherwise is, because being able to deploy threats on the board at instant speed is very valuable, as it gets around the opponent’s sorcery-speed removal and gives you the best odds at being able to react to your opponent’s plays better. The fact that this is a 5/6 is even more relevant as this creature will dominate most creature battles as a result, whether on offense or defense. And the ability tacked on can target any number and type of spells, whether it is something that draws you cards or kills something on the board. It is good value.

At 6 mana, the Noxious Gearhulk is slightly expensive, but the other stats and abilities more than make up for it. Just as with its Cataclysmic cousin, the Noxious will help stabilize the board by (often) killing the biggest creature and even gain you some life in the process, which is always good. Interestingly, this ability is the same as the minus ability on Sorin, Grim Nemesis. On top of that it also has evasion in the form of menace, and that can help get in the precious few points of damage in a drawn-out game.

planeswalkerintrosUp until Eldritch Moon, the intro packs for each set contained foil versions of a rare as the face card of the intro pack in question, and these rares could be found in the set as normal. There were also only five intro packs total. With Kaladesh however, that is being changed in a significant way and now we will only be getting two Planeswalker Packs, which will contain alternate versions of two of the planeswalkers from the set. For Kaladesh specifically, this duty has fallen on the shoulders of Chandra Nalaar and Nissa Revane.

These cards are meant for casual players, and as such they are costed and designed with that goal. They aren’t really game-breaking, complex or powerful cards in any way, but to be honest, I can see some decks running them nonetheless. And that for nothing else but the fact that these will be much cheaper than their regular set counterparts (Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Nissa, Vital Force), and the cost is certainly a big factor. And on their own, they are decent cards. They also get some support cards in the Planeswalker Packs (more on them in the Week 3 article), and that package will certainly make for some interesting games of Standard.

angelofinventionWhen I saw the art for this card during one of the PAX panels, I got very excited. I’m a big fan of the angels in Magic and this Kaladeshi version looked super badass. And the card certainly delivers in its rules text from the glimpse we got with the artwork. Most people will immediately compare this to one of the most solid playable angels to date, Baneslayer Angel, and this does come close, but I think it also stands on its own well enough. For one, it has three very abilities that make it powerful in the current format. Also, the Fabricate mechanic is a new mechanic that goes well with token strategies, and the final ability then pumps up those tokens, so you actually end up with 6 power across three bodies, which is very, very relevant. I love token strategies, and I think that Angel of Invention will be a good player in Standard as long as it is in the format.

metallurgicsummoningsOn the face of it, this looks like a very powerful card, and with the best anti-enchantment card in recent times, Dromoka’s Command, leaving us just as this makes its entry, this could indeed be good. But I’m a bit concerned nonetheless that you can still get blown-out by your opponent. This isn’t the kind of card that you want to play in your mainboard really, not from what I can see. From the sideboard however, it can be the kind of card to win you games with since it provides a repeatable win condition. The restriction on the second ability makes this restrictive though since having six artifacts on the board is tough. The easiest way to do that is with Clue tokens, but blue isn’t exactly the colour for that. We shall see if this makes any waves. I’m not high on this.

mastertrinketeerFirst this set gave us a dwarf and vehicle lord in Depala and now we have a lord for Servos and Thopters. Good heavens. After ignoring (unconditional) lords in Shadows Over Innistrad block, it seems that the design and development teams have gone all-out in Kaladesh. I love having lords, and would certainly appreciated getting proper lords for Vampires and Werewolves, but I’ll settle for the Master Trinketeer. And since he’s not a legendary creature, that means I can pile on multiples in a game to get the added benefits. And he’s quite a brawler himself, not to mention that he goes the additional mile by being able to create more tokens, and he’s a solid card all around.

paradoxicaloutcomeA mass-bounce spell that draws you cards as well? Surely that’s good! I wonder, if this card were to be legal in the Collected Company Standard format, then a ton of those mirrors would have been over much more quickly. This is the perfect style of card for those decks, huge on tempo and big on card-draw. Sure, not being able to bounce tokens means this isn’t as good as it could have been, but I think that’s fine, since getting tokens is a huge blowout, as those just cease to exist once they leave the battlefield. As a balance, this can bounce planeswalkers and enchantments as well, which is in itself pretty huge. For that alone, I think this card is going to be seeing a lot of play.

midnightoilAnother enchantment. And one that is completely unplayable. Your maximum hand size will never be greater than seven, and will decrease by two every turn, and whenever you discard, YOU lose a life. I fail to see any upside on this card. This is a complete dud. This might have some application when used with Harmless Offering, but that’s nowhere near as good a combo as with Demonic Pact. Though, there is something to be said for reducing your opponent’s hand-size to zero. Still, I wouldn’t put this in the playable category.

lostlegacyThere have been plenty of similar cards as Lost Legacy in the last few years. The closest we’ve had recently is Infinite Obliteration which dealt with creatures specifically. this one deals with a wide-range of threats and gets most of them out of the game before you are forced to deal with them. However, the opponent is then able to draw a corresponding amount of cards and that makes this not as good since at best (for you) it is a one-to-one trade whereas at worst (for you) you trade one of your cards for four cards for your opponent. That’s a really bad trade. So whatever threat it is that you exile, it better be worth that huge cost and you should have a backup plan as well.

madcapexperimentThere was a time when red didn’t really get any kind of (good) card draw. But in recent blocks it seems that the design philosophy has shifted and there have been a number of card draw spells for red that have seen top-tier play. Joining the line-up of such cards is Madcap Experiment. The obvious way to make this work is to fill your deck with tons of artifact cards so that you don’t do too much damage to yourself in the process. And you particularly want that such an artifact card have some kind of an ability that is immediately usable. So what you’re looking at are cards like Fleetwheel Cruiser and Hedron Crawler and Skysovereign and so on. The mana cost is obviously no restriction here, but all the same, this seems very situational and a clear build-around. A card that will occasionally do some good, but will mostly languish in obscurity.

lathnuhellionNow this is a solid card. Even if you are only able to get two hits in with this, that more than makes up for the fact that it will then die. A 3 mana 4/4 with haste is very powerful, and while I would like to see more early aggressive decks for red, this does a good enough job in the 3-drop slot, and is sure to see some play. And it matches well against most of the creatures in the format, especially ones such as Reflector Mage and Sylvan Advocate and others. It is particularly good against Reflector Mage, so that alone might push it. I like this. It gets even better if you have some steady energy generation!

dubiouschallengeThis is indeed a very dubious challenge, since you may just as well end up giving your best creature to your opponent and get stuck with the weaker one. There’s rarely ever going to be a situation where your opponent will refuse to take a card (I certainly can’t think of one right now), and so this is a very fine two-edge sword that you’ll be falling over a lot. You do get to see a lot of cards though, so that might be relevant somehow.

wildestdreamsThis is basically a one-time use Eternal Witness without a body that can scale up as the game goes on. I don’t mind that tradeoff personally, because in grindy games, top-decking is what you have to rely on and this can circumnavigate that by returning your best cards from your graveyard. Powerful, certainly, and sure to see at least some play.

bristlinghydraThis seems more like a card for games of Limited rather than Standard since the energy cost on the secondary ability is pretty high. That’s not to say that the payoff for the cost is bad though, because the counter is permanent and the temporary hexproof will suck up at least one removal spell from your opponent. As I’ve said elsewhere though, should there be a steady stream of energy counters available somehow, then payoff cards like these are just what you need since a 5/4 for 4 mana is a very decent rate.

smugglerscopterVehicle decks need some solid early drops, and Smuggler’s Copter is here to fulfill that requirement. A 2-mana 3/3 flier is an amazing rate, and this one goes one step further by providing a way for you to improve the quality of the cards in your hand. And this is also very easily crew-able as any random token or 1-drop can get in the cockpit. This card is clearly very heavily pushed, and there does seem to be enough support out there for a legit WR Vehicles deck for the new Standard. I would love to play the deck myself.

dynavolttowerI like the design here, for the most part. As a 3-drop it seems to hit the right spot in terms of being able to allow you to capitalize with a spells-heavy hand, and provides a ton of energy that you can use for a number of things. Such as for the Lathnu Hellion above, or any number of other spells and creatures that give you benefits with energy counters. The second ability however seems a bit iffy to me since the energy counters cost isn’t symmetrical to how much energy is being generated (2 to 5), but the payoff is good since you can either deal with the board or hit a player instead. Good potential here, but requires a bit too much work.

multiformwonderThis is another excellent payoff card for energy decks in the new Standard. It is somewhat expensive, and thus you are likely not going to be running too many of these, but it is a very threat as it basically reads as a 3/3 flier with vigilance lifelink for 5 mana. And the cost for additional abilities is the lowest possible so any amount of energy generation is going to make this a beast. Expect to see a lot of these in the next year or so.

animationmoduleThis is a card for Fabricate decks, and it certainly helps support the token theme that such decks will have. This combined with Verdurous Gearhulk, Angel of Invention, Collective Effort, Master Trinketeer is certainly looking to be a good strategy. The format will be wide-open in two weeks, and I expect to see a lot of Fabricate Tokens decks pop up running these cards. Another thing to note is that the second ability on Animation Module is a bit slow, but no less powerful since when it comes to +1/+1 counters, every extra little bit helps, especially on creatures that have trample and the like.

cultivatorsgardenA 3-mana ramp creature that can become a win-con when it is crewed? Sounds interesting, but I don’t think this is quite what will be needed. The Crew cost is just too high and ramp decks tend to have a few big, expensive creatures rather than a host of small weenies. There’s some synergy with creatures that have vigilance, but that only makes this good on defense and not offense, which is more what you need. Still, I wouldn’t count this out as yet, as it could still make a splash nonetheless. It is, after all, a bit better than Hedron Crawler.

keytothecityI don’t see this working out in aggressive strategies since it is too mana intensive for such decks, and such decks generally won’t have cards to discard to activate it. Some kind of a midrange deck perhaps? Not too sure about this. Interesting design but a complex card to evaluate, regardless.

wispweaverangelA bigger but also more expensive Restoration Angel? Eh, I’ll pass. This is good with creatures that have ETB effects, and there are certainly plenty of them in Kaladesh, many of which generate energy, and this can be of some use there. But I don’t see this working so well in a Standard deck. At 6 mana, it comes down too late to be as effective as it could have been at 4 mana.

shrewdnegotiationGive an opponent your worst card and take their best card? Sure. But 5 mana makes this restrictive, and it is already plenty conditional. One way to get around that is to give them a 1-drop vehicle and take their biggest creature, which works best when your opponent’s board is very inferior to your own. Again, Limited card only as best I can see.

morbidcuriosityA very interesting design for a black card-draw spell. We’ve seen plenty recently such as Read The Bones and Painful Truths and Succumb To Temptation and this continues the tradition of three-mana draw spells for the colour. It is also good that the payoff for sacrificing an artifact or creature is relevant in the card draw itself. You can sacrifice something like Filigree Familiar and thus net four cards for just three mana, which is an awesome rate and with the construct already having provided you with some value to boot! Should be interesting to see if this sees any play since it is one of the more interesting cards from the set, though I still think that something like Succumb is just flat better. But, this has some interesting synergies, and those are in its favour.

harnessedlightningOn a baseline, this is a Lightning Strike, which is sorely needed in the format, but this can’t hit players, so that’s a big downside, despite this being an instant. I imagine that likely has to do with the fact that development respects the power of energy decks and the obvious synergy there. But, in a pinch, this can take out some really big creatures, and that’s where most of the power of the card as it is is. Likely to see the most play in energy decks, as outside of those there are better options already.

incendiarysabotageIncendiary Sabotage is a wrath, plain and simply. Radiant Flames and Anger of the Gods are better for the same effect though, especially since they can come out a turn earlier. But, having an instant wrath is also a big deal, and that’s where Incendiary Sabotage can shine. And, again, you can sacrifice Clue tokens or other artifacts like Filigree Familiar, so the additional cost can be negated to degree.

arborbackstomperThis card is no Thragtusk or Siege Rhino, clearly. But it still fulfills a certain role against aggressive decks by providing you with a boat-load of life-gain and a big threatening body on top of that. It is also a creature that your opponent doesn’t want to be bouncing, since it can provide more value in that scenario. It should see some play in sideboards, but will be limited nonetheless since it is a touch too expensive.

armorcraftjudgeThis is a card that Fabricate decks will love in Limited, but is too slow for Standard since battlefields in Standard are much more fluid. Still, it isn’t an altogether bad card, and it does have some immediate effect so that even if it dies, you didn’t tap out for nothing.

longtuskcubPart of a cycle of cards such as Lathnu Hellion and others. Great limited fodder, but underpowered for Standard.

unlicenseddisintegrationI feel that this is going to be a card that is going to be ever-present in Standard for the entire time that Kaladesh is legal for the format. Cheap artifacts, free artifacts, are going to be plenty in two weeks, and this will act most of the time as a similar card to powerhouses such as Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, and Draconic Roar. BR decks are likely to get a big boost out of this. What matters most is that this is an instant-speed removal without drawbacks and with upsides. Premium removal.

voltaicbrawlerAs pushed as Smuggler’s Copter appears to be, Voltaic Brawler appears to be even more so. A 2 mana 4/3 with trample that becomes just a 3/2 after two attack cycles? Nothing to sneeze at, and the more energy you have, the better it gets. And if you can find some cheap and repeatable way to blink this, then there’s no real downside to this. This is going to be a 4-of in most energy decks. Honestly, there is tons of support for energy decks in Kaladesh and they will just get better in Aether Revolt next year when we get more cards that build on these archetypes and strategies. Even if you don’t have energy to spare, in Limited this is a great card for aggressive decks.

cloudblazerA Mulldrifter that is slightly worse to cast (negligibly so) but also gains you life that is also a Human for a deck that might care about that? The Cloudblazer is definitely going to have a big effect. A midrange type UW Humans deck, or even a midrange Bant Humans deck will love this for three reasons: it flies, it gains you life, and it draws you into more cards. Solid card all-around, whether we talk Standard or Limited.

bomatbazaarbargeA 4-drop vehicle that draws you a card on ETB but one that is also difficult to Crew isn’t what most Vehicle decks are going to want, especially not in Standard. So I doubt this is going to see any play outside of Draft and Sealed. It is powerful, sure, but not enough for the format that really counts.

demolitionstomperWhat applies to the Bomat Bazaar Barge applies to the Demolition Stomper as well. Crew 3 and Crew 5 are just too expensive costs and that means that even in Limited these aren’t cards you want to be running in your decks. They are bombs yes, but the restrictions are too big for you to get enough value out of them.

fabricationmoduleCards with internal synergy are always great. And the Fabrication Module certainly seems very powerful. Imagine playing this on turn 3 and then two Voltaic Brawlers on turn 4. That’s kind of insane. Or following this up with a Lathnu Hellion and then you play something like Slip Through Space. Those are the kinds of insane plays that make for great stories for Standard. This is a great card and should see lots of play in energy decks.

decoctionmoduleAgain, there is internal synergy here, but not one that is as powerful as what Fabrication Module provides. Both of these in conjunction though do make a formidable pair, and can turn even simply creatures like Longtusk Cub into powerhouses in Limited. Not sure how viable this will be in Standard, but I’m interested for sure.

aetherhubThere’s been a lot of talk about this card, especially how it is pretty much a reprint of a Modern staple Tendo Ice Bridge which is regularly played in the Affinity deck. That is certainly important since as of writing a Tendo costs about $10.50 whereas Aether Hub being from a Standard-legal set will mean that prices are significantly low, especially since this is just an uncommon. For energy decks, it is a powerful card since it provides mana fixing, but I don’t see it working outside of those. Even colorless decks such as the Eldrazi will have trouble making proper use of this since the Painlands from Magic Origins were just too good and this doesn’t compare to those. So let’s see where this ends up.

thrivingenergyA cycle of energy creatures at common, workhorses of the archetype, so to speak. Some of these are defensive, others aggressive, and the rest fall into the midrange category. Nothing too special about these, except that they will be the curve-fillers in your Limited decks, and get better with steady energy generation.

fragmentizeEarlier this year, Oath of the Gatewatch gave us Natural State which is a green card that is also a 1-drop and does the same as Fragmentize, except that it only deals with enchantments and artifacts that cost 3 mana or less, but it is an instant. How good Fragmentize ends up being for Standard depends a ton on how much the higher cost artifacts/enchantments like Skysovereign and Metallurgic Summonings etc end up being playable. Also, that flavor text is too good. Dovin Baan is sassy as hell.

fortuitiousfindA measly 3 mana to return your best artifact and creatures cards from the graveyard to your hand? That’s pretty good. There are any number of great targets for this, and Fortuitous Find should definitely be seeing some play in the months to come. Speedway Fanatic plus Skysovereign? Fleetwheel Cruiser plus Depala? Kambal plus Smuggler’s Copter perhaps? Exploration time!

weldingsparksWelding Sparks is going to be good in artifact decks. Or even in any red deck that can at least generate some clue tokens. And since the main colours of the Vehicle decks are going to be WR since their lord is Depala, well, this is going to be even better. This is going to be solid removal for these decks.

puzzleknotsPreviously we saw the Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot which seemed like a decent card and could even prove to be a combo with Aetherworks Marvel for a turn 4 Emrakul, the Promised End or another similarly huge creature. The rest of the cycle appears to be of a similar power level, though they don’t seem to provide the same kind of synergies as the green knot. They are all fairly good for Limited purposes and outside of that, I believe that Glassblower’s and Metalspinner’s are going to be the best candidates for Standard play. And any of these can be brought back with Fortuitous Find as well, so you can get more value out of these. They can also be relevant with Madcap Experiment as they all have decent ETB effects.

*****

That’s all I got for now. In a couple days or so I’ll do the week 3 previews. As of this writing, the entire rest of the set has been fully revealed, and there are some really juicy cards coming up! So stay tuned.

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