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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Nov 12 2020 12:00pm
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When Wizards announced Pioneer Masters was pushed back to 2021 and Kaladesh Remastered was pushed up, I felt it was a little strange, but that presumably it didn’t take much work to make a remastered set where the vast majority of the card pool was already confirmed on Arena. However, with Commander Legends being pushed back, the “spoiler” season for Kaladesh Remastered was essentially canceled and instead the entire card image gallery was plopped onto the mothership (and with strange errors on the first pass). In addition, the card selection itself was a mess—but that’s more big-picture related, so I’ll cover that later. Instead, I’ll start with the Limited archetypes, which have more interesting (but not necessarily bad) decisions. As a reminder, I’m starting from the basis of Kaladesh and Aether Revolt (and in part my previous Kaladesh Remastered article), and adjusting from there.

 

Archetypes:

White/Blue: Blink

It feels like Blink lost a lot of its payoffs in Kaladesh Remastered. Ninth Bridge Patrol may not have gotten there, but Dispersal Technician being replaced with a bunch of bounce spells is a noticable downgrade. The uncommon Illusionist's Stratagem making it instead of the common Acrobatic Maneuver also hurts a bit, even if it does help the best case of the deck. It feels like this deck is a little more Energy-focused here with cards like Eddytrail Hawk making it into the set instead of other payoffs, but overall it doesn’t seem too much of a downgrade.

 

Blue/Black: Artifact Control

The control aspects of the Dimir are a mixed bag. On one hand, you have a ton of removal, with both Malfunction and Ice Over in addition to all the good black removal. On the other, both the common counterspells are soft counters (and Revolutionary Rebuff isn’t that good), with Failed Inspection ending up on the sidelines. The card advantage also isn’t quite as good, as Reverse Engineer and Metalspinner's Puzzleknot ended up on the sidelines, with only Mind Rot to replace them. You do keep Aether Poisoner at least, which I had thought might be a bit too powerful.

 

Black/Red: Artifact Aggro/Sac

This deck feels like it got a lot of nerfs when it didn’t really need them, especially since the removal of Renegade Freighter is a nerf to aggro as a whole. Both Embraal Gear-Smasher and Dhund Operative are targeted cuts here, with the latter feeling especially strange as black is left with only Aether Poisoner as a common two-drop (as Thriving Rats was also cut in a more understandable move). Keeping Hijack instead of Wrangle keeps a lot of the power at least, so the “steal and sac” synergies might be where this deck now has to lean.

 

Red/Green: Energy Aggro

After talking about nerfs, it’s nice to talk about an archetype that’s essentially unchanged. Yeah, losing both Spontaneous Artist and Maulfist Doorbuster at the middle/top-end hurts slightly, but you still have all the good energy producers and the efficient creatures, and it’ll work well enough.

 

Green/White: Tokens/Go Wide

As easily the worst archetype in the base format, this deck needed upgrades relative to the field, and I’m not sure it got them. Obviously not getting Inspiring Roar hurts (especially since it’s in the other set launching this month), but the deck also lost a couple high-end Fabricate creatures like Elegant Edgecrafters and Iron League Steed. There’s no reason to jump back on the grenade unless you open a bomb like Ajani Unyielding or Angel of Invention.

 

White/Black: Artifact Attrition

Another deck that’s mostly unchanged, which is a bigger deal when it was one of the top decks in the format. Obviously losing Metalspinner's Puzzleknot and Treasure Keeper hurts, but that’s pretty much the only loss, and those are at the fringes. If you want the easiest path to continued success, especially since aggro has been cut down a notch, this might be the place to start.

 

Blue/Red: Improvise

Another mostly unchanged deck, though here the cut of Reverse Engineer means as much symbolically as it does for the archetype, even if the removal of Implement of Combustion is a bigger power level hit. I’m not sure if this deck really got there in the full block, but maybe it’ll do better in a slower format.

 

Black/Green: +1/+1 Counters

It appears there wasn’t as much to change with the enemy color decks, as we have yet another very similar deck, thanks to the large number of reprints. In particular, Subtle Strike was one of the sneakily best cards for the archetype once the block had wrapped, and now that it’s appeared in a similar role in Zendikar Rising it should continue to shine (though like there, it’ll likely be slightly worse in the Remastered set since it’s slower). The deck will probably be a bit better here since the format isn’t as fast, so look out for it.

 

Red/White: Vehicles

Well, we finally have to talk about it: Renegade Freighter is out, and that leaves the format much slower overall without its 5/4 Haste Trample for 3. However, Wizards didn’t skimp on the total number of vehicles: there are three at common and six at uncommon, including ones that aren’t really playable like Demolition Stomper (but strangely cutting neat combo piece Consulate Dreadnought). Most of the support other than Reckless Racer also returns, so hopefully the vehicles deck is in a better position when it’s having to rely on synergies instead of raw stats. I’m worried it’s fallen behind the other decks and even the other aggro decks, but it’s probably fine.

 

Green/Blue: Energy Value

Another deck where things are mostly unchanged other than the loss of a Puzzleknot (though it’s Glassblower's Puzzleknot this time). However, this deck is hurt by a lot of the random rares being cut like Aethertide Whale, Architect of the Untamed, and Deadlock Trap that saw no Constructed play, but served as a good top-end in Limited. Instead, you’re left with more iffy payoffs like Era of Innovation and Dynavolt Tower that aren’t focused on Energy as much, splashing for something like Whirler Virtuoso, or relying on lower-power cards like Riparian Tiger.

 

Design Review:

Where do I begin? As I said above, the problem isn’t the Limited environment; the Renegade Freighter/Mobile Garrison swap was a coin flip based on the decisions in Amonkhet Remastered, and everything else was relatively minor. I also am fine with not risking the banned cards; even if I feel Smuggler's Copter was safe in Historic and Heliod will eventually be swapped for Walking Ballista on the relevant formats’ ban lists, it’s presumably easy to “emergency” print them if necessary. Instead, I have three major complaints with this list.

 

First of all, it feels like there are a ton of cards missing. Kaladesh has only 64 rares: ten/eleven fewer than Amonkhet Remastered and twelve/thirteen fewer than my design (in both cases counting/not the “box topper”). Even ignoring the lack of bonus cards (which I’ll get to), that left a bunch of relevant cards on the cutting room floor. Madcap Experiment, Inspiring Statuary, and Ghirapur Orrery all have seen at least a little play in Constructed, so even if the obvious support isn’t here yet they’ll probably need to appear eventually. Even lower rarities are left out, as (Glassblower's Puzzleknot), Hidden Herbalists, Dramatic Reversal, and Ovalchase Daredevil are missing while at least sniffing Constructed. Again, like with the banned cards they shouldn’t be difficult to emergency print in an anthology, but that’s still wasted slots when only so many cards are “printed” each year.

 

Speaking of wasted slots, there are 22 reprints of cards already in Historic, four more than the 18 in Amonkhet Remastered. However the bigger problem is that three are rares, including the completely unnecessary reprint of Heroic Intervention. It makes me wonder if the Kaladesh Remastered team wasn’t paying attention to what’s in the surrounding sets, which speaks more to the last-minute nature of the set and how WotC really didn’t want to risk shaking things up with too many unique cards.

 

The final sign of the last-minute nature of the set is the lack of cards that weren’t in the original block. The more minor decision is the lack of Planeswalker deck cards, especially since the only selection was already on Arena (Pendulum of Patterns). However, the more surprising decision was that Sculpting Steel was the only addition, and it’s completely unoffensive. Did people not like the addition of the random Pioneer staples? Even so, why aren’t there more Masterpieces? Even if you rightly didn’t want to add all the broken mana rocks, I’m shocked Hangarback Walker and Pithing Needle weren’t added. Wizards said in this month’s State of the Game that Kaladesh was already too powerful, but considering that the only broken card that was left was Aetherworks Marvel (which doesn’t have a bit of energy support and top-end like Emrakul, the Promised End, but presumably the mythic MDFC’s are a major improvement), it rings a bit hollow, and doesn’t explain cards like Terrain Elemental or Pithing Needle being cut (or that the slots weren’t filled with the Johnny/Jenny rares that sniff Constructed).

 

The main thing I’m worried about is what this means for Pioneer on Arena, but I don’t have the full roadmap of upcoming sets. Are we getting Shadows over Innistrad Remastered (as datamining suggests it was planned for Arena at some point)? Is Wizards going to try to squeeze three Pioneer Masters sets out of the relatively tiny card pool? Or are the Historic Anthologies going to take a heavy slant towards Pioneer to catch up, possibly as soon as late 2021/early 2022? Even if SOI is already essentially coded in, that’s probably the last one (as Battle for Zendikar Remastered would need a lot of help even if it is mostly coded, especially since it gets basically nothing from the Expeditions).

 

Conclusion:

Overall it’s hard to truly screw up a Remaster by definition, but after Amonkhet Remastered set such a high bar it’s hard not to be disappointed by Kaladesh Remastered. It wasn’t even that I got it wrong (I got about 80% of it right, though part of that is that I predicted slightly more cards overall, even ignoring the non-block cards), but the changes didn’t make as much sense. Hopefully this is just a sign that Wizards made too many sets this year and had a knee-jerk reaction to the initial reaction to Amonkhet Remastered, and not a sign of problems ahead for future Arena-exclusive sets. Wizards has a gold mine ahead if Pioneer Masters is even close to the average Masters set, especially if it’s the same price as all the other sets on Arena (and the backlash when Wizards has tried to increase Historic prices means this might be the case).

 

As for me, I’m not sure what’s next. I could do Commander Legends now that the full set’s out, but I don’t think optimizing for wins is what you’re supposed to do in that format. Instead, I’ll wait for Kaldheim, but what’s more interesting is Time Spiral Remastered. Presumably that card file was being finished up around the time Amonkhet Remastered launched in the real world, but I’m assuming it won’t have new cards in the normal slots regardless. I’ll also wait for Pioneer Masters to get rescheduled, and see if I need an update to that design—I was expecting to make some changes with the new Pioneer cards in Kaladesh Remastered, but obviously that didn’t happen. Until then.

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter