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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Oct 05 2016 11:00am
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Welcome back to this special edition of the Modern Flashback Series! Moving into the world of Kaladesh is an interesting test for my evaluation skills, as while Eldritch Moon was just an extension of a world we already knew (both through Shadows over Innistrad and the original block), Kaladesh is almost completely new, with only the Magic Origins “preview” to work with. In addition, while the artifact theme is nothing new, both Energy and Vehicles are new concepts for Magic. Enough of the introduction, let’s get to the set itself!
 
Kaladesh is the land of invention, which translates into Magic as a world full of artifacts. In fact, while nothing will top the original Mirrodin in terms of “artifacts matter”, I’d argue Kaladesh has more of a direct tie to artifacts than Scars of Mirrodin, as while there aren’t nearly as many artifacts and artifact creatures in Kaladesh, mechanics like Infect and Battle Cry in Scars of Mirrodin block have nothing to do with artifacts, while only Energy in Kaladesh doesn’t have an artifact component. Speaking of mechanics, let’s get to them!
 

Energy:

Energy is the main innovation in Kaladesh: a mechanic Mark Rosewater had been trying since Mirrodin, one that introduces a new permanent resource. This seems like it should be really complicated, but it isn’t—just think of it as a variation of charge counters, except all your charge counter cards pull from the same pool. This feels like it could be very parasitic (Energy cards will almost certainly be limited to Kaladesh) and hard to put together (you need both your energy producers and your energy consumers at specific times), but it isn’t that bad due to two main rules:
  1. Anything that
  2. Anything
While Energy is in all five colors and artifacts (and appears on almost 20% of the cards in the set), the colors with the highest density are green and blue, especially at lower rarities. In general, I think you want base a card’s initial playability in isolation, while saving the cards that aren’t good on their own for the dedicated Energy decks.
 

Vehicles/Crew:

While Energy is the most unique mechanic in Kaladesh, Vehicles are probably the hardest to play. At the base level Vehicles are a variation of Equipment: you’re upgrading your creature(s) by Crewing them. The main differences are that you’re risking the augment rather than the creature and that you’re limited by board presence rather than mana (both the higher Crew numbers and that one creature can’t Crew multiple vehicles). However, the main difference is that Equipment has been severely weakened since its debut in Mirrodin, while Vehicles appear to have been severely pushed to meet their expectations (just compare Sky Skiff to Kitesail). There are also a lot more attempts to reduce the inherent card advantage, especially at higher rarities (though Bomat Bazaar Barge feels very pushed for an uncommon). Overall, don’t be afraid to play Vehicles if you have enough creatures, though don’t play too many, just like you wouldn’t play too many Equipment (even the overpowered Mirrodin ones).
 

Fabricate:

While the previous two mechanics are very flashy and exploring new design space, Fabricate is just expanding a slightly-weaker Sandsteppe Outcast trigger out onto a bunch of cards. However, there are a lot of interesting things done with it, particularly in terms of artifact density. Overall, Fabricate seems strong, as the flexibility is good and getting 1/1’s works well with Crew.
 
As we’re starting a new block, I’m going to go with the approach to evaluation I started in Rise of the Eldrazi: covering the archetypes in detail (even though they mostly align to the color pairs), then doing a round-up of the other generic cards. Also, don’t forget that some of the cards are exclusive to the Planeswalker decks and won’t appear in packs—don’t give red a higher grade because of Flame Lash.
 

White/Blue: Blink/Recur

While I’ve tried to put a similar Blink deck in many Masters sets (with Eternal Masters finally finding a place for it), it makes sense here in a format full of Fabricate, Puzzleknots, and lots of ETB effects giving Energy. However, it feels like the payoffs are missing, especially at common: White has almost no payoffs for all the energy you’re generating from blue (especially when you consider that blinking Thriving Ibex and friends often isn’t a combo) and blue has no Fabricate creatures (just Experimental Aviator at uncommon). Of course, uncommon has more payoffs (highlighted by Cloudblazer, the better Mulldrifter), but if I’m going into an archetype with a lot of moving parts, I want something I know I’ll see multiples of to make the combos reliable, and the only real payoff is Ninth Bridge Patrol (and that mainly functions as a better Unruly Mob). What does matter is that cards like Aviary Mechanic and Aether Tradewinds that give you self-bounce for “free” make removal Auras worse, and that actually hurts WU, since Revoke Privileges and Malfunction are some of your stronger removal spells.
 

 
Blue/Black: Artifact Control

This deck feels like it wants to be a control deck, where you get incremental effects like Underhanded Designs, or doing things like playing a cheap Gearseeker Serpent while holding up a counterspell. However, there are two main problems. First, like WU, the good payoffs like Contraband Kingpin, Era of Innovation, and Ovalchase Daredevil are all uncommon, while common is left with aggressive cards like Weldfast Wingsmith and other average cards like Tezzeret's Ambition and Tidy Conclusion. More troubling, most of the good artifacts in the set are Vehicles, and Vehicles aren’t at their best in a control shell. It’s not all bad though—Aether Theorist is a great control creature (especially when combined with the utility energy spells Live Fast, Die Young, and Glimmer of Genius), Shrewd Negotiation, is a card we don’t see at uncommon anymore, and this is a good place for black’s Fabricate creatures.
 

 
Black/Red: Artifact Aggro

While the control deck was hurt by a reliance on artifacts due to Vehicles, the aggro deck loves the Vehicles that make their random 2/2’s and 3/2’s relevant once the board clogs up (even before you get into specific synergies like Spireside Infiltrator). Also, there are better payoffs at common—Reckless Fireweaver, Dhund Operative, Foundry Screecher, and Salivating Gremlins are all common creatures I actively want in my BR deck that care about artifacts, and that’s not even counting cards at their best here like Maulfist Squad and Built to Smash. The specific synergy cards aren’t quite as good at uncommon (Quicksmith Genius is fine, while Inventor's Apprentice isn’t really for limited), but that’s replaced by a tidal wave of removal (Essence Extraction, Furious Reprisal, Unlicensed Disintegration) and generic efficient creatures (Brazen Scourge, Speedway Fanatic), and even some of those have artifact bonuses.
 

Red/Green: Energy Aggro

The RG Energy Aggro deck was one of the first decks we knew about, as Voltaic Brawler was spoiled early and is very strong (even for Constructed). However, what’s surprising is that red isn’t really an Energy color: just two commons and three uncommons use Energy. That’s not to say the red Energy cards are bad (Spontaneous Artist in particular seems like a powerful effect for a common), just that I think the Energy decks need a high density of Energy-granting cards to be great. The deck still could have enough good cards to be good—the Thriving creatures work best in an aggressive shell (and Thriving Grubs is the most aggressive of them), while Longtusk Cub acts like the king of this subset (the instant-speed counter generation helps a lot, even if you don’t get any Energy to start with).
 
 
Green/White: Tokens/Fabricate

Green and white are the token generation colors, so it would make sense that they get the most Fabricate and you can build an archetype around going wide. However, I feel like the deck is hurt by Fabricate being a good mechanic—the worst Fabricate card in these colors is probably Highspire Artisan, and even that is a fine card against fliers. Engineered Might being bad also hurts a lot, as the card’s power isn’t that much better than Borrowed Grace, but being a sorcery is awful—I’d honestly rather have Inspired Charge in most cases. Still, there has to be something here—all the Fabricate cards are good, and there has to be a reason why Servo Exhibition was moved to uncommon and Engineered Might is a sorcery.
 
 
White/Black: Artifact Recursion

Another artifact-based control deck, or at least that’s what Restoration Gearsmith is trying to tell us. The problem is that you can’t have too many recursive cards in a set, or it’ll lead to repetitive gameplay (see also: why Gravedigger can’t be common in Standard sets anymore). That means while Restoration Gearsmith, Ovalchase Daredevil, and Refurbish can generate card and/or mana advantage at uncommon, only Fortuitous Find gets to be high-quality recursion at common. In order to supplement the theme, both Dukhara Scavenger and Sequestered Stash put the returned permanent on the top of the deck instead of your hand—that’s still a good effect (especially late in the game, as it increases card quality), but it isn’t card advantage. There also isn’t any good self-mill other than Sequestered Stash (please don’t play Perpetual Timepiece unless you know you’ll be able to mill your entire deck and get value off the second ability), so your cards need to die naturally, which is another mark against the deck.
 
 
Blue/Red: Energy/Arifacts?

Yes, the question mark there is genuine confusion—I’m writing this early in Kaladesh’s lifecycle, and all I have is the visual spoiler and Whirler Virtuoso to guide me. Yes, the gold card works with both of the set’s main themes, and red and blue have a lot of both themes (as they’re left out of Fabricate), but do you have enough space in your deck to fully support both themes (as the only overlaps below rare are a couple of Modules and Puzzleknots)? This could be a spells-based Energy deck, as cards like Aether Meltdown, Glimmer of Genius, and Harnessed Lightning are all instant-speed Energy producers, but the only payoff for spells below rare is the boring Vedalken Blademaster. Maybe this is a combo-based Energy deck? Aethertorch Renegade and Era of Innovation are both good payoffs for building up Energy, but again, Energy outlets mostly exist at uncommon and higher. Honestly, if you want to maximize your draft wins, I’d wait for someone else to figure out this color pair (likely at the Pro Tour) before you start making it a priority.
 
 
Black/Green: +1/+1 Counters

This feels like a similar story to the green/white token deck: another archetype based on Fabricate, and the gold uncommon isn’t great (Hazardous Conditions would be fine if it was always a one-sided Infest, but not only are you not guaranteed to have counters on everything, your opponent will have Fabricate creatures too). However, there are two main differences: black’s Fabricate creatures aren’t as generally good (especially in the other black decks), and there is a lot more +1/+1 counter support than there was token support. First, there are a lot more sources of +1/+1 counters than Fabricate, from generic ones like the Thriving creatures and the surprisingly efficient Kujar Seedsculptor to more-tailored ones like the duo of removal spells Hunt the Weak and Subtle Strike and the repeatable counter source Fretwork Colony. Uncommon gives a lot of tailored support as well: Aetherborn Marauder is a better place for random counters, Durable Handicraft gives counters to everything, Fairgrounds Trumpeter grows very large (and you can trigger it on each turn), and Armorcraft Judge combines a decent floor with an insanely-high ceiling.
 

 

Red/White: Vehicle Aggro

While the red/black deck was a generic aggressive deck with artifact synergies, red/white is more-specifically tuned to Vehicles. However, the creatures that specifically deal with Vehicles (Gearshift Ace, Speedway Fanatic, and Veteran Motorist) are all great on their own and uncommon, while there isn’t much support at common for them (mainly generic artifact support, Spireside Infiltrator, and the combat tricks Built to Last and Built to Smash). I’m also worried about Vehicles being good in general causing problems for the archetype, but Vehicles being bad in multiples might help (even this deck might not want more than four or five Vehicles at most—and no, Start Your Engines is not the answer to playing too many Vehicles). Maybe this is the deck that wants the big Vehicles? Sky Skiff doesn’t get that much better when you’re focusing on Vehicles, but giving Haste to your Aradara Express or First Strike to Ballista Charger seems powerful. This deck is most dependent on how Vehicles play though, and that’s a new experience for everyone.
 
 
Green/Blue: 5-Color Energy?

Green and Blue clearly have the most Energy cards, but with that multitude of Energy there isn’t a clear direction for the color pair (and Empyreal Voyager isn’t even an Energy outlet, just a very efficient producer). Instead, based on the rest of the set I think this deck wants to go five-color and get all the good energy cards from the other colors. Attune with Aether, Servant of the Conduit, and Aether Hub are the fixers directly tied into Energy, but Wild Wanderer and Prophetic Prism are two other great common fixers. This is also the color combination that wants cards whose main purpose is to produce Energy like Hightide Hermit and Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot. The biggest problem I can see is that most of the Energy consumers are built for small incremental effects, and other than Longtusk Cub and Era of Innovation, all the big Energy outlets are either rare/mythic (Aethersquall Ancient, Bristling Hydra) and/or in other colors (Harnessed Lightning, Die Young). Unlike other archetypes, reliance on higher-rarity cards isn’t as big of a deal here, since the deck splashing a lot of colors is going to have a higher-density of rares anyway.
 
Other Standouts:

Let’s start with the artifacts, as they didn’t get featured in any of the archetype reviews. The two cycles of color-aligned artifacts tell different tales, as while the creatures with colored activated abilities are above-average for artifacts (generally turning into the equivalent colored creature with the activation, like Weldfast Monitor into Boggart Brute), the Puzzleknots seem very underwhelming—the obvious comparison is with Mirrodin’s Spellbombs, but these use a lot more mana for their small effects. Inventor’s Goggles is also interesting, as while Equipment isn’t in the best position in a format full of Vehicles, there are a lot of Artificers in the set, and +1/+2 is meaningful. Up at uncommon, Snare Thopter surprises me—I’ve talked about my dislike of efficient mid-range fliers in design before, but Snapping Drake is still supposed to be a standard, and this is colorless and better (albeit at a higher rarity). Whirlermaker also looks good (especially in comparison to The Hive), but it’s very slow and either needs specific synergies or a very slow matchup to work.
 
Moving to the colors, the first thing to touch on is the artifact removal: white gets the great Fragmentize, green gets the reasonable Appetite for the Unnatural (and Creeping Mold if necessary), but red gets stuck with the lackluster choice of either Demolish or Ruinous Gremlin—I think Ruinous Gremlin is better than it would be in a normal set (since Crew gives small utility creatures more value), but that’s still not great. Speaking of removal, Take Down is surprisingly efficient for a common, as it should kill most fliers while also giving you the option to kill a bunch of Thopters. Spark of Creativity also seems really good—if you play it such that you’ll either kill the creature or be able to cast the spell (turning it into a pseudo-Ground Assault), you should be fine as long as there aren’t many conditional spells in your deck (counter spells or combat tricks). Finally, there are Incendiary Sabotage and Make Obsolete, a duo of instant-speed uncommon sweepers you should be watching for.
 
That’s all for now—these new set reviews are much longer than the classic ones (especially since I’ve recently cut them down somewhat), as I have to talk about more to avoid missing things. Also, I’m not going to talk about Treasure Chests just yet—I posted my gut reaction in the comments of my last article, but I’m going to wait for some more information from Wizards (mostly odds, at least between Modern rare/mythic, Play Points, and curated card, if not the entire list of curated cards just yet). Instead, next week will be version one of my Modern Masters 2017 design, and then I’ll write a Treasure Chest/supplemental set article if there’s enough stuff to warrant an article—part of me wants to write an article on the curated card selections (as it’s technically a set with fundamentally the same constraints as a From the Vault set), but 635 cards scares me a lot, even before you have to consider I’d have to use the same awful set listing that Wizards previously used for the LCPPs.
 
Vincent

@CheaterHater1 on Twitter

10 Comments

Something happened to my by Cheater Hater at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 12:15
Cheater Hater's picture

Something happened to my "rules" for Energy, so here they are again:
1. Anything that spends Energy also makes Energy, even if it isn’t the most efficient or repeatable producer.
2. Anything that just makes Energy also does something else (the (Night’s Whisper:EMA) on (Live Fast:KLD), the body on (Sage of Shaila’s Claim:KLD)).

My pictures also didn't quite work, but that I can understand since I used the "(pic=Cardname:KLD)" template which might not be implemented yet for KLD--I would have done it manually if it was sent back, but I understand my editor prioritizing getting the information out on Kaladesh release day rather than making it pretty. Also, a technical issue: the link for Flame Lash works, but the hover does a foreign version of Aerial Responder for some reason--the script probably doesn't handle collector numbers higher than the set number, and would likely choke on an Magic Origins Serra Angel for the same reason.

As for the Treasure Chests, we got basically exactly what I asked for--still not sure what that means for me in terms of content though--I'll wait and see what happens once people start actually opening them.

To get Kaladesh cards to by xger at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 14:24
xger's picture

To get Kaladesh cards to hover before they were up on MTGO traders I used a trick with gatherer, but it could only handle the normal version of the set in boosters. I'll be sending Josh a new version soonish that'll work fine

I removed a lot of the by JXClaytor at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 16:42
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I removed a lot of the pictures, I wanted to focus more on what you had to say instead of pulling a lot of graphics and making tables. I thought what you had to say was much more important than the pictures.

Also I have no idea what happened to the energy section :(

I also knew about the Flame Slash, but I laughed so hard at it, that I decided to keep it as the Aerial Responder as a fun "easter egg".

Finally the (pic=cardname) may not actually work for a long time. As far as I know that command is site specific, and until Maria adds Kaladesh (and the other sets that we are missing) the pic command for the newest stuff will not work.

We are on it of course.

I guess that makes by Cheater Hater at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 17:04
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I guess that makes sense--having hovers removes a lot of the need for reference pictures, which is the main reason I started using them--that and breaking up the blocks of text in a 3k-word article. Is there a better way to make my articles look better than an essay with a couple of section titles? (other than making my articles shorter, which I've certainly tried to do, at least in the average Modern Flashback Series article--the MM17 article is another 3k words, though there I'm doing a lot of setup of reprint sets in general, as well as talking about all the archetypes and mythics--maybe it's worth splitting it into two articles now that I don't have a Conspiracy 2/Treasure Chest article in the pipeline?)

MY suggestions would be: vary by xger at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 17:14
xger's picture

My suggestions would be: vary the size of your headers, and try to split up big chunks into paragraphs. I know I'm not the best at following that myself, but those are things I generally do look out for. You could also do non-card pictures, as that is a common method to break up articles.

EDIT: I'd point out that I'm not a professional writer (unless you consider law school student as that), but those are some of the things I've picked up on and seen elsewhere.

For the headers, do you just by Cheater Hater at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 18:45
Cheater Hater's picture

For the headers, do you just mean font size? Most of the time I'm using headers they're equal in priority, though I suppose I could separate the basic info/mechanics/colors and/or archetypes better.

Part of the reason my chunks are so long is that I write long sentences (with lots of asides and dashes). The problem is that I put everything related together, and most of my sections are probably bigger than one reasonable paragraph but not big enough for two (and there isn't really a good breaking point between the two, though that might be just because I'm not looking--I'll admit I don't make major edits after the first draft, though I do normally look over a piece for typos and awkward wording before I put it into the PureMTGO system).

I'd definitely suggest by Procrastination at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 20:54
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I'd definitely suggest separating the large sections out in a more visual manner. Some different examples would be my SotP from last week, Kuma's weekly Tribal Apocalypse series, and Olaw's Modern Musings. Back during my regular Modern writing, originally the section headers were just [a different font + a larger size], but that was all it took to really stick out.

(I think this article of mine is a great example of many different styles as well:

http://puremtgo.com/articles/modern-perspective-nyk-puras-infinite-playlist )

Experiment a little and see what you like. If there's anything I used that you'd like to learn how to do, let me know. I don't have any "trade secrets": it's all from an html book I pulled from the library, Google searches, and a ton of experimenting.

Also, I can't stress how important it is to use the Preview feature AFTER you paste your text into the site's editor. It can do a lot of crazy things to your article, so it's important to check it. Reading it through will also give you an idea of areas that could use some adjustments. At the very least, it makes Josh's life a lot easier. :p

Much like formatting, when it comes to writing style/reducing words/article flow, the only real ways to get better are to experiment a bit and to ask for feedback from others. Long sentences could be "your style", or maybe you need some constructive feedback that helps you discover a way to break them up? It could go either way, but you won't find out the best fit until you try.

That was longer than I intended it to be, but I'm happy to see that a lot of the new writers, you included, have some decent enthusiasm and a willingness to improve their writing!

Yeah, obviously Previews are by Cheater Hater at Wed, 10/05/2016 - 21:51
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Yeah, obviously Previews are important, if nothing else to make sure all the card links work (at least for sets in the old database). Looking at your example article, it all looks interesting, though the annoying thing is that I'm worried about how much I'll be able to do in Writer (LibreOffice's Word equivalent) and how much I'll either have to code in HTML in Writer or do in the editor's WYSIWYG mode (or worse, in the editor's source mode, which I sometimes have to go into to fix some of the stupidities of the WYSIWYG editor). In particular (and what's most relevant for my upcoming MM3 article), what's the best way to get good tables, that hopefully lets me just copy from Calc (LibreOffice's Excel equivalent), as opposed to copying each cell manually?

(Also, am I really still new? My first article was in March 2015 on Tempest Remastered over 18 months ago, and I've been writing near-weekly all year :p )

Actually I recommend a plain by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/06/2016 - 01:21
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Actually I recommend a plain text editor like Notepad++ (Which will make your html stand out from the text) because that way you know nothing is being added without you knowing it.

As to being "new" some of us have been around for a while (2009 for me) but what matters is how you fit in and what you do. I'd not say you're new at all.)

Yeah, sorry, new isn't meant by Procrastination at Thu, 10/06/2016 - 07:47
Procrastination's picture

Yeah, sorry, new isn't meant as an insult, so please don't take it as such. Like Paul said, some of the writers have been doing this a while now. "New" is only in relation to me: before my time, around my time, after my "regular" time. Everybody in the last 1-2 years is my new wave. Hopefully in the near future you'll have your own batch of writers that you call new!

Denser tables, like pricing ones, I drop in from excel, then adjust with both the rich text and html editors. After finding table properties that I liked, I saved the html and then paste it into the new tables when needed. If you would like someone to bounce some formatting off of, hit me up in the fb group.