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By: gwyned, gwyned
Sep 26 2016 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

As of today, many people have experienced the Kaladesh prerelease in paper, ending the final chapter for Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins (at least for Standard). We now find ourselves on a new plane, energized by a renaissance of innovation culminating in the grand celebration of the Inventor's Fair, where inventors from across the world have congregated to take place in the event of a lifetime.  If you're looking for superb analysis of this set's impact on Limited and Standard, I'm afraid you've clicked the wrong link. Instead, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. Kaladesh brings us brand new artifacts in the form of Vehicles, a brand new resource called Energy, and the choice between counters and tokens with the Fabricate mechanic. It would probably be good to already understand how these new mechanics work before continuing with this review. Today, in Part One, I will be analyzing the White and Blue Commons as well as the first of three Common cycles.

If you've read my previous set reviews, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as falling into one of four categories: "hit," for those cards that define an entire archetype or will (almost) always be played in a particular color; "grounder," which are cards that should see play in at least one archetype but won't always make the cut; "bunt," which are cards that are only borderline playable; and "myth," which are cards that should almost never be played. As always, special thanks to ChannelFireball which inspired my original "hit or myth" rating system. So with that out of the way, let's jump right to the cards!

II. White Commons

1. Acrobatic Maneuver is definitely one of the better White tricks we've seen in a while, thanks to its ability to immediately cycle when it's cast. While generally this will be used to sidestep removal or other combat tricks from your opponent, it is equally good to simply cast it on one of your creatures with a decent 'enters the battlefield' type effect. However, keep in mind that this card will reset the creature it targets, removing any counters and Auras and preventing the creature from attacking or tapping when it returns from exile. Despite those minor inconveniences, it shouldn't be that hard to get a card's worth of value out of this, and since it always replaces itself when it resolves, this certainly deserves a spot in most White based decks.

Verdict: Grounder - It shouldn't take any tricky maneuvers for this to be good.


2. I've heard several people refer to Aviary Mechanic already as the new Kor Skyfisher, which is certainly high praise. It does share both its casting cost and its ability with that card, save that you actually have the choice whether or not to bounce one of your permanents. Obviously though, as a creature it's not nearly as good, since it lacks both Flying and the extra point of Toughness that made the Skyfisher such a powerful Common. Still, this is a 2/2 for 1W with a strong ability that can free your creatures from negative Auras, allow you to replay an Artifact or Land for value, or just get another activation out of a strong 'enters the battlefield' type effect. That's enough utility to make this good in a variety of White decks.

Verdict: Grounder - I suppose maybe it is fair to call this the "fixed" Kor Skyfisher.


3. Built to Last is a decent if unexciting combat trick. A one mana +2 / +2 Instant is about as mediocre an effect as would ever actually see play in the format, and even then it would have to be a pretty aggressive build. But when you combine this with gaining indestructible, that makes a huge difference in the usefulness of this trick. It not only pumps the creature's Power, but guarantees that the creature will survive combat. It also sidesteps most kinds of Instant speed removal, provided that the damage doesn't come from negative counters. Since you only get this secondary effect on Artifact Creatures, that's going to severely limit the type of decks where you will want to play this. But if you've got lots of such creatures, this might make the cut.

Verdict: Bunt - This really isn't built to have a major impact in the format.


4. Eddytrail Hawk is our first creature to make use of energy counters, and the payoff seems pretty good here. A 1/2 for 1W is a pretty mediocre creature, but in a typical White Weenie shell similar creatures have seen play in the past. Assuming you can attack with this twice, it does allow you to grant Flying to two of the best of your other creatures, and your opponent can't prevent that effect from taking place once you've already declared attackers. Even better, if you have multiple sources of energy counters, it's not out of the question that you could get even more activations out of this, particularly if you've got ways to protect this creature each turn. So while it's pretty fragile, the potential payoff is actually pretty high for a 1/2.

Verdict: Grounder - I think this card actually has some wings.


5. In a set clearly themed around 'Artifacts matter,' Fragmentize goes up quite a bit in value from where it would normally be evaluated. If this had been printed as an Instant, it might have been one of the most important cards in the format. As is, the ability to destroy almost any Artifact or Enchantment for only a single mana is still great value. White only rarely gets the same utility as Naturalize when it comes to this type of spells, so this certainly is a strong indication that Artifacts are going to play an important role in this set. Clearly this card will find a home in the Sideboard of any deck running White. And, depending on how the metagame evolves, this might even prove to be good enough for a slot in the main deck.

Verdict: Bunt - I'm not ready to go all to pieces about this card yet.


6. Glint-Sleeve Artisan is our first Fabricate creature. Its base stats are a 2/2 for 2W, which is pretty underwhelming. With Fabricate however, it's really either a 3/3 vanilla for 3 or both a 2/2 and a 1/1 Artifact creature, which certainly has the potential to help turn on other cards in the set. A typical White Weenie build would probably play just an efficiently costed card like a 3/3 for 3, and any build that's looking to utilize Artifacts or tokens would probably find this card pretty decent as well. It's certainly not exciting by any means, but I think there's just enough value here that most White based decks will probably end up running this as a solid three-drop that you can sometimes squeeze additional value out of.

Verdict: Bunt - It'll take some fancy tricks up your sleeve for this to be at its best.


7. Herald of the Fair is another efficiently costed creature, giving you an aggressive 3/2 for 2W that buffs another creature by +1 / +1 until end of turn. We've had plenty of creatures like this in the past, and in fact Guardian of the Pilgrims from Eldritch Moon is almost identical to it, save that it costs one mana less for one point less Power. Most decks probably won't want to play this, but in a very aggressive White Weenie or Boros tokens type build, this might be worth considering if you can realistically get enough value out of its 'enters the battlefield' ability. Outside of those archetypes though, there simply are better things you can be doing with your three mana than a mostly vanilla 3/2.

Verdict: Bunt - Like most fair cards, it's not actually all that good.


8. Impeccable Timing is unfortunately strictly worse than Gideon's Reproach from Battle for Zendikar (apparently Gideon is stronger than Ajani). Gideon's Reproach hasn't actually seen that much play, despite the fact that it is a very reasonable removal spell that deals four damage to either attacking or blocking creatures for only 1W. I don't know of any deck that's actually playing a full playset of Reproach, which means Impeccable Timing won't even see play as a potential fifth copy of Reproach. At least until Battle for Zendikar block rotates out, there doesn't seem to be any reason why you would want to play this card. The good news is that it rarely happens that a new card is actually strictly worse than an existing one, but here we are.

Verdict: Myth - This card's inclusion in the set is the very opposite of impeccable.


9. Inspired Charge continues to see print in most blocks now, stretching all the way back to its first appearance in Magic 2011. We already had access to this card from Battle for Zendikar, so its reprint in Kaladesh shouldn't make too much of a difference in the metagame. In an aggressive White Weenie or tokens build, this can function as a great finisher, allowing you to punch through your opponent's creatures for a ton of damage or reduce your opponent to zero Life seemingly out of nowhere. On the other hand, in games where you have few creatures or are way behind on the board, it is pretty bad, which explains why this card hasn't seen much play recently. It's fine, but won't make a big impact.

Verdict: Bunt - Not the most inspired of Magic cards.


10. Ninth Bridge Patrol is an interesting and ultimately more powerful variation on Unruly Mob. This card has the exact same cost and stat line, and gains a +1 / +1 counter whenever a creature you control dies. However, it also gains counters if a creature you control leaves the battlefield in any other manner, whether that be by exile, bounce effects, or spells that return a creature to your Library. And unlike Unruly Mob, it even works with token creatures, since they don't have to actually reach the Graveyard to trigger the effect. This seems like an excellent combination with token synergies or sacrifice outlets, and generally will have decent value in almost any White deck. And in some builds, it could even be quite strong if you can protect it long enough.

Verdict: Grounder - This card definitely bears watching.


11. We're increasingly seeing cantrips at Common as of late, and Pressure Point is a pretty typical example of such design. Originally printed in Fate Reforged, it's a simple tempo plays that taps a creature down for a turn at Instant speed and replaces itself with another card. Overall its effect is pretty marginal, which means you really only want to play it in a deck that's grants additional value when you cast a spell or a tempo-oriented Azorius build where you're just looking to keep your opponent's creatures locked down long enough to win. It's cheap, it's efficient, and it gets the job done, but unless your strategy is built around these type of effects, it's probably not a card you want to play.

Verdict: Bunt - Most of the time, there's little point to playing this card.


12. At first glance, Propeller Pioneer looks like an overcosted Eldrazi Skyspawner in White. If you choose the token option, it generates the exact same two creatures - a 2/1 Flier and a 1/1 token - as the Skyspawner, but not only costs you an additional mana to do so, but also the token it leaves behind isn't nearly as useful. However, this card does have the advantage of giving you the choice of combining its Power and Toughness into a single card, effectively giving you a Snapping Drake in White. Additionally, if you're playing a deck that has synergies with Artifacts, the Servo token might actually prove to be just as useful as the mana ability of an Eldrazi Scion. So while not quite as mana efficient, overall it's pretty similar in power level.

Verdict: Grounder - There's just enough value here to propel it past the playable threshold.


13. Revoke Privileges is our Pacifism variant for Kaladesh. For one additional mana, you're getting the minor upside of also preventing the creature from helping activate the Vehicle Artifacts in the set. But with the rotation of Standard, Pacifism won't actually be in the cardpool for the foreseeable future, meaning that this card is basically the next best thing (although Choking Restraints is probably better most of the time). Aura-based removal is actually quite good in the format right now with Ironclad Slayer, so it's not unreasonable to expect this to see some play, even if it is a bit more expensive than we're used to paying for this type of effect in White. And certainly in some matchups, keeping the creature from crewing Vehicles may be important.

Verdict: Grounder - Playing this card doesn't really feel like a privilege.


14. We don't see very many big "french vanilla" creatures that often, so Skyswirl Harrier is notable at least for that reason. It's also big enough that it can attack into and block most other flyers in the format, making it a decent late-game threat. But that said, even in a format like Standard Pauper, vanilla creatures are rarely good enough to make the cut, and those that are usually are particularly efficient, aggressive, or otherwise have some sort of synergies in the format. As a 3/4 for 4W, this is neither efficient nor aggressive, and it certainly doesn't seem to fit in with the themes in Kaladesh. For all those reasons, this is not a card I expect will see much if any play in the upcoming metagame.

Verdict: Bunt - You'd have to be pretty harried for options to choose to include this.


15. Speaking of vanilla creatures, our last White creature at Common (not including the Common cycles) is Tasseled Dromedary. Wizards continues to push the boundaries of what we can expect to see at Common for a single point of mana, and getting 4 points of stats is a pretty good deal, even if they all are in Toughness. This certainly isn't a card you'd ever want to main-deck in the format, but against hyper-aggressive archetypes, this isn't an unreasonable card to bring out of the Sideboard. Most aggressive decks have a hard time dealing with 4 points of Toughness, and this should be able to block long enough to allow you to stabilize against them. That said, White isn't typically a Control color, so its usefulness even in that role is uncertain.

Verdict: Bunt - This won't be winning any first place ribbons.


Overall the White Commons from Kaladesh look like they will be mostly take a supporting role in most decks. Acrobatic Maneuver, Fragmentize, and even Revoke Privileges all provide some strong utility for White based decks. Aviary Mechanic and, to a lesser extent, Eddytrail Hawk are solid creatures that have strong secondary abilities that deserve consideration as well. But Ninth Bridge Patrol is probably my favorite card in White, simply because of its potential to be quite good in the right build.

III. Blue Commons

1. Aether Theorist is very similar to Sigiled Starfish, a card that originally was Common but was moved to Uncommon when it was reprinted in Magic Origins. This card does have the advantage of actually being able to attack, but is limited in the number of times you can use it to Scry unless you have an additional source of energy counters. This card would have been fantastic if you didn't have to activate it to trigger the effect, but as is it's a bit lackluster. Granted, you do get the opportunity to Scry three times, and again, the ability to use it to attack into a (mostly) empty board is a nice touch. There may be a few Blue-based decks that want to play this, but I don't think it will see widespread use.

Verdict: Bunt - My theory is that this just isn't quite good enough.


2. Aether Tradewinds is a tricky card to evaluate. In scenarios where you can get a card worth of value out of bouncing both your creature and your opponent's creature, is an excellent payoff for your three mana investment. Interestingly enough, unlike most bounce spells, this can target any permanent, so worst case scenario is that you're forced to bounce a Land (eithers yours or your opponent's) in order to cast this at the opportune time. Even so, let's be clear that this isn't good in just any deck, nor is it good against just any deck either. In order to maindeck this, you need a reasonable expectation of being able to get value out of both effects. But when you can reliably pull this off, this card can be quite good indeed.

Verdict: Bunt - Whether you want to play this depends on which way the wind is blowing.


3. I understand why creatures like Curio Vender are included in the set, but that doesn't make me any happier to have to evaluate them in my set reviews. Even in Blue, virtual copies of this card are a dime a dozen, and in fact more often than not come with interesting secondary abilities. In Limited, these kind of cards look bad, but a 2/1 for 2 is always borderline playable. In any sort of Constructed format however, this is simply too marginal to ever see play. Bad cards need to exist, and in this case at least the card also helps convey the theme and look of the set. But there is absolutely no reason you would ever want to play this in your deck. Leave it in the virtual binder gathering dust where it belongs.

Verdict: Myth - It would be curious indeed if anyone found a good reason to include this.


4. Dramatic Reversal sounds like a pretty good deal. It's easy to imagine a scenario where this allows you to surprise your opponent in combat with a bunch of blockers, or squeeze out a bunch of extra activations from your utility creatures all at once. But as good as those situations sound, the fact is that most of the time this card does little to nothing when you cast it. In fact, back in Innistrad we had Village Bell-Ringer in White that had nearly this same effect but also gave you a 1/4 with Flash, and that card still saw little to no play. It's possible there might be some rogue combo either now or in the future that involves this card, but generally speaking this is just not a card you should be playing.

Verdict: Myth - It sounds dramatic, but it's actually a dud.


5. Failed Inspection may be one of the better examples of the 'counter plus an extra effect' cards we've seen in Common in quite some time. It only costs one more generic mana than Cancel, and you get about half a card worth of value back. Obviously this isn't as good as actually drawing a whole new card, but in many cases it will be pretty close, and the marginal difference between three and four mana isn't such a big premium as you normally see on cards like this. And with Cancel now rotating out of Standard, this is probably the best unconditional counter we'll have access to in the cardpool, at least for the time being. So while it's not amazing, it seems perfectly at home in any Blue-based Control deck.

Verdict: Grounder - On close inspection, I think this passes the test.


6. Gearseeker Serpent is our Sea Serpent variant for Kaladesh, but it actually reminds me a lot more of Gurmag Angler from Fate Reforged. It has the same base casting cost but one more point of Toughness, and like the angler it has a cost reduction mechanic. In this case, it costs one less for every artifact you control. Even better, you can invest another six mana to make it unblockable, giving you a powerful late game threat. In the right build, it's not unreasonable to expect to get a two mana discount on casting this, and that should allow you to immediately activate its secondary ability. While it's expensive, this is definitely one of the best finishers available in the new cardpool, and it will definitely see play.

Verdict: Hit - It's worth seeking out lots of gears to play to enable getting this down early.


7. I'm not very excited by Hightide Hermit. If this was a vanilla 4/4 for 4U, it would just be a big, dumb creature that would seem more at home in Green than in Blue, and still wouldn't see much play in the format. But this card is much worse than that, since you can't attack with it at all without spending energy counters, and even then normally you will only be able to attack with it twice. Typically creatures with Defender can be cast at a significant discount, but in this case you're paying exactly what you would expect for a creature of this size. Without such a mana discount, and with such a major drawback, there is very little reason you would want to play this card. You could do worse, but you can also do much, much better.

Verdict: Bunt - The best plan is just to leave this somewhere all by itself.


8. Malfunction is a near reprint of Sleep Paralysis. It has the exact same cost and effect, tapping the target down and preventing it from untapping during your opponent's upkeep. In this case though, it does have the advantage of also tapping down artifacts. Interestingly enough, this is the only Aura-based removal spell that actually works on Vehicles, since these are only creatures during the turn that they are activated by their crew. As such, should those cards end up having a major impact on the format, this card will be a very important answer to those in Blue, since otherwise that color will have no other real way to deal with them. I suspect this will end up being mainly a Sideboard option, but we will see.

Verdict: Bunt - It certainly has an important function, but most of the time you have better options.


9. Nimble Innovator seems right at home in a format where you've got multiple ways to bounce or 'blink' your creatures. You're only getting a mediocre 2/2 for your 4 mana investment, but it does immediately replace itself (unlike more recent cards like Exultant Cultist that have to die before you draw your card). This makes this card a much less appealing sacrifice target, but if your game plan includes cards like Acrobatic Maneuver or Aether Tradewinds, retriggering this card's 'enters the battlefield' effect is quite good. But even if that plan doesn't come to fruition, the fact that you always draw a card when you successfully cast this card means that the worst case scenario with this card is still pretty good.

Verdict: Grounder - A nimble player can get quite a bit of value out of this card.


10. First we had Spell Shrivel as a near reprint of Mana Leak, and now we get Revolutionary Rebuff, which has the same mana cost but only requires your opponent to have two additional mana, and is further limited to only non-artifact spells. The fact that this is so cheap is what makes it an attractive option, although it's probably more at home in a tempo or midrange Blue deck rather than a true Control archetype, since the latter wants to push the game to go as long as possible, where the value of this card gets increasingly worse. But particularly in a deck like Izzet Spells, this seems like a very strong counter, and one that I would expect to see play in a variety of other decks as well.

Verdict: Grounder - I wouldn't call it revolutionary, but it certainly is a very good counter.


11. Select for Inspection seems like a pretty good Unsummon variant. It has the same casting cost, but allows you to Scry 1 when you cast it, essentially give you half a card of value back when it resolves. You do have to wait until the creature you want to summon is tapped, which means that you can't use this to dodge removal (at least outside of combat) or prevent a creature from being targeted by an Aura, but it does still allow you to remove a creature from combat, which is probably the most typical use of this type of effect. It also does allow you target most utility creatures that tap to activate. So while you are giving up some potential plays by choosing this over similar cards, the small bonus combined with the cheap cost still makes this pretty good.

Verdict: Grounder - There's little reason not to select this for your bounce spell of choice.


12. Drawing three cards, even at Sorcery speed, typically is evaluated as being too good to see print at Common, expect in cases like Tezzeret's Ambition where the effect is somewhat conditional. This card reminds me somewhat of Compulsive Research, which also drew three cards but at best allowed you to keep two of them (unless you didn't have a land to discard, in which case you only keep one). This is almost twice as expensive, but the downside here is much less, since you always keep at least two cards, and even in that situation you can discard any card from your hand, not just one of the ones you drew. So while the cost is quite prohibitive, you are getting quite a bit of value out of that investment.

Verdict: Grounder - It's an ambitious card, but one that can prove quite the game changer.


13. With Prowess now an Evergreen ability, we can expect to see cards like Vedalken Blademaster in most sets. A 2/3 for 2U in Blue is borderline playable already, and the fact that you can pump it up multiple times by casting spells definitely makes this one of the better creatures in Blue. It's very risky for your opponent to ever block this (or even attack into it much of the time), simply because of how easy it is to pump its Power and Toughness up. With Elusive Spellfist rotating out, this card looks to be the next best thing for the Izzet Spells deck. That said, it's also the perfect fit for any other Blue-based archetype that expects to cast a lot of spells. I expect this will see plenty of play.

Verdict: Grounder - It doesn't take a master deck-builder to make this a potent threat in your deck.


14. Weldfast Wingsmith seems like a great design for a Blue creature in an 'Artifacts-matter' themed set like Kaladesh. A 3/3 with Flying for 3U would be very good at Common, and while this clearly isn't that card, in the right build you can expect this to be pushing close to that some of the time. You'll need a pretty steady supply of Artifacts in such a deck, which is certainly a significant setup cost to really get value out of this card. Additionally, most of the time you won't be able to give this Flying on your opponent's turn. However, it's worth remembering that there are ways to 'blink' an Artifact back into play at Instant speed, which makes for a nice surprise against your opponent. Overall this is solid but somewhat conditional.

Verdict: Bunt - I'm a bit skeptical on how often you can really give this wings.


15. Wind Drake has become the perennial example of a Common creature with Flying in Blue, appearing in dozens of sets since its first printing way back in Sixth Edition. It's hard to argue against a 2/2 with Flying for 2U. It doesn't do anything fancy, and doesn't usually hold up well against more expensive flyers, since those often end up with enough Toughness to tangle with this card and survive the experience. But in a midrange or tempo based Blue deck, this can often push through a surprising amount of damage before your opponent can deal with it. It's not really doing anything significant in this set, but at worst it's a solid if somewhat uninspiring creature that can play an important role in some decks.

Verdict: Bunt - Knowing wind to play this in your deck requires some skill.


Overall Blue looks pretty good. It's got some solid options that can support both midrange and Control pretty well. Gearseeker Serpent is easily the card with the greatest potential, but Failed Inspection, Nimble Innovator, Revolutionary Rebuff, Tezzeret's Ambition, and Vedalken Blademaster all look very solid. Blue has often been a favorite among many Magic players, and at least in Kaladesh, I think the power level is high enough to reinforce that preference once again.

IV. Common Cycle #1 - The Puzzleknots

 

 

 

 


Three of these are fairly straightforward to evaluate. First, Cogworker produces two 1/1 artifact creature tokens for 3W, but the second one can be made at Instant speed, which is a nice bonus. Second, Fireforger is similar in that you're getting 2 points of damage for a total of 4R. While you do get to pick two different targets, you're paying quite the premium, especially compared to cards like Twin Bolt. Third, Metalspinner immediately cycles (at the cost of one life), and draws a second card for 2B and another point of life, effectively giving you a Sign in Blood like effect, but again at a significant cost. Overall, while these are good effects, you are paying a significant premium for them, even if you do get to split up the costs over two turns.

Glassblower and Woodweaver are a bit more difficult to evaluate. Getting to Scry 2 for 2 with the Glassblower is probably the best deal in the cycle, since you're effectively getting a card's worth of value from each activation. As far as Woodweaver goes, generally Lifegain cards aren't that great, although it's surprising how effective an additional six points of Life can be in a close game. Both of these also generate energy counters, but these counters can only be used on a total of eleven cards at Common right now, and range in usefulness from allowing you to Scry 1, to giving a creature Flying or Haste, or placing a +1 / +1 counter on a specific creature. None of these effects are very strong, which means that you're not really getting a whole lot of extra utility out of the energy counters.

Verdict: Bunt - While these are a bit of a puzzle to evaluate, I'm knot sure they are quite good enough.

V. Conclusion

So that's my first look at the White and Blue Commons from Kaladesh as well as the first Common cycle. In closing, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.

See you again next week for the second part of my set review of Kaladesh for Standard Pauper!