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By: gwyned, gwyned
Oct 10 2016 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

After long weeks of waiting, Kaladesh has finally been released on Magic Online, bringing an end to Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins as they rotate out of 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. In Part One, I looked at the White and Blue Commons as well as the first of three Common cycles. Last time, in Part Two, I reviewed the Black and Red cards as well as the second Common cycle. And so today I will finish up the set review with the Green and Colorless cards as well as the third Common cycle.

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 get back to the review!

II. Green Cards

1. It's hard to improve on the simplicity of design in Naturalize, but inevitably each set gives it another try. In the case of Kaladesh, we get Appetite for the Unnatural, which costs one additional mana than its predecessor but gives you 2 Life in the bargain. There's a surprisingly big difference between holding up two and three mana, and given how important Artifact and Enchantment hate looks to be in Kaladesh, I would probably just prefer Naturalize. But with the rotation of Standard, it's no longer in the card pool, so by default this card (probably) becomes the Green spell of choice for this type of effect. This probably belongs in the Sideboard of every deck playing Green, and may even end up being strong enough for the main deck.

Verdict: Grounder - This card is a natural fit for an Artifact heavy set like Kaladesh.


2. Attune with Aether does a surprising amount of work for a card that only costs one green mana. While it can only be cast at Sorcery speed, it both fetches a basic Land from your deck and also provides two energy counters, which is typically enough to activate any relevant ability at least once. The problem here, though, is that neither of these effects is really worth a card, and even in combination, I still don't think it's worth a slot in your deck. As a secondary ability on a creature, this would be quite strong. But on its own, even in a deck with stringent mana requirements and plenty of outlets for energy counters, this is not a card that does enough to be worth playing.

Verdict: Myth - I hoped you're tuned in enough to card theory to understand why this is so bad.


3. Apparently Green is going to get a run of bad cards, as Commencement of Festivities is at least as bad as the previous card. Clearly this is a Fog variant that costs one additional mana and only prevents the combat damage that would be dealt to players, not to creatures. Now then, one could certainly come up with a board state where your opponent swings in with all his creatures for the win, you make a few advantageous blocks, and then cast this to secure the win. But such a scenario is highly unlikely to occur on a regular basis, and in any other board state this card does little or nothing to help you secure a win. Fog was already too conditional to see almost any play, and this card is worse most of the time.

Verdict: Myth - I would certainly celebrate if Wizards simply decided to stop printing this type of effect.


4. Compared to the last two cards, Cowl Prowler looks deceptively good. Its 4GG cost is very fair for a 6/6, and it's big enough that most of the time it will be the strongest creature on the virtual battlefield. But once you remember that we still have powerful Eldrazi creatures like Eldrazi Devastator, It of the Horrid Swarm, and Ruin Processor (just to name a few), it's clear that a vanilla 6/6 doesn't match up well against cards we already have in the format. And as is often the case with these big dumb Green fatties, it also lacks Trample or any other form of evasion, which means your opponent can simply chump-block it turn after turn. As such, this is not a card I expect to see any play in the new metagame.

Verdict: Bunt - Let's keep hunting for better cards.


5. Highspire Artisan is interesting. If you place the Fabricate counter on it, you've essentially got a slightly weaker Giant Spider for one less mana. Although it probably won't be able to actually kill most fliers, it should do a more than adequate job of holding the most powerful one off, and as a bonus it's beefy enough to also be very difficult for an aggressive deck to deal with. On the other hand, if you use Fabricate for the 1/1 token, you're not only turning on any Artifact synergies you might have, but also presenting a decent sacrifice target for any Emerge creatures. If this had cost only two mana, it would have definitely made the cut in some decks. As is, it might be too narrow for widespread play, but it does what it does well.

Verdict: Bunt - I hope this inspires someone to find the right fit for it.


6. Hunt the Weak ranks right up there with Prey Upon as the typical Fight card for Green at Common. While it's obviously much more expensive, the fact that it permanently boosts one of your creatures before trading damage with your opponent's creature is a big advantage, particularly in a format like Standard Pauper where there is much less variation in the size of your creatures. With Epic Confrontation rotating out of the card pool, this may become the primary Green removal spell. The disadvantage here is that it's pretty expensive for what it does, and as a general rule Fight cards are really at their best only when they can be cast at Instant speed. Overall this is fine, but not great.

Verdict: Bunt - I'm still on the hunt for a less weak version of this effect.


7. At first glance Kujar Seedsculptor seems pretty mediocre. A 1/2 for 1G, even one that gives another creature a permanent +1 / +1 counter, doesn't seem all that good. Interestingly enough though, this actually allows you to target itself, meaning that at worst this will be a 2/3 for 1G, which in an aggressive Stompy deck is probably quite playable. Generally speaking a card that places a permanent +1 / +1 counter already costs 1G, so in some sense the creature that comes attached to this effect is just a nice bonus. As a whole then, while the upside on this card isn't that high, the downside is also very low. As such, this should be a role-player in certain Green or Selesnya builds.

Verdict: Grounder - This card could certainly grow in popularity as times goes on.


8. Larger Than Life would be an amazing combat trick if only it had seen print as an Instant. Getting +4 / +4 and Trample is very strong, especially for only 1G. Obviously though this is much worse at Sorcery speed, since you can never really surprising your opponent with it or use it to sidestep removal. That said, it certainly will make it much harder for your opponent to deal with the targeted creature in combat, and the fact that it grants Trample means that your opponent can't simply chump-block it for a turn and escape unscathed. In an aggressive deck where you just need to push through the last few points of damage, this card is certainly worth consideration. Outside of that though, this doesn't make the cut.

Verdict: Bunt - It's certainly large, but there are too many ways for your opponent to ruin your life.


9. Ornamental Courage is very similar to Aim High from Shadows over Innistrad. But it's one mana cheaper, doesn't give Reach, and although it still gives a four point boost in stats, three of them are in Toughness (rather than the more balanced +2 / +2). Aim High didn't see much play as of yet, but it is a perfectly suitable combat trick in Green, especially as a means to get rid of flyers. Ornamental Courage is sadly worse in almost every way. Granted, the 3 point boost to Toughness is enough to dodge almost any damage-based removal. All in all though, if you want this type of effect, in the majority of board states you would actually prefer Aim High. As such, I don't think this will see play.

Verdict: Bunt - Apparently any courage this gives is purely ornamental.


10. For my money, Peema Outrider is easily the best of the Fabricate creatures at Common. It's almost strictly better than Stampeding Rhino (other than being more difficult to cast), since you can end up with a 4/4 with Trample for only 4 mana instead of 5. And for those situations where you desperately need an Artifact (or perhaps two creatures to crew a Vehicle), you instead still end up with a 3/3 with Trample, which is fine if not particularly exciting. It can't be overstated how important Trample is in Green based decks looking to play large creatures, and here it makes all the difference between this card being more or less replaceable and it making a significant impact in the format.

Verdict: Grounder - Any game where this isn't relevant should probably be considered an outlier.


11. While I covered the Thriving cycle of creatures last time, Riparian Tiger seems like it would be right at home in that cycle; in fact, at least in some ways, it easily outpaces all of them. For 3GG you get a 4/4 with Trample, which like the previous card is analogous to the very good Stampeding Rhino. In this case though, you have the option of cashing in two energy counters every time it attacks to pump it up by +2 / +2. Of course, these counters don't stick around past the end of the turn, but there are very few creatures that can actually attack as a 6/6 on turn 6. It would seem that Kaladesh is really pushing the value of big Green monsters in this set, and this card may just be the best of the bunch.

Verdict: Grounder - This will certainly rip through anything that gets in its way.


12. In evaluating Sage of Shaila's Claim, it's important to understand the value of energy counters at Common. All in all there are a total of 16 cards that interact with these counters, but only 11 of them actually give you a way to cashing them in for an effect (and half of those are in the Thriving creature cycle). So unless your deck is leaning heavily on one or more of those cards, the Sage is just a 2/1 for 1G, which is a card that would never see play in the format. And even in decks where you expect to have multiple ways of using these counters, you still need to be aggressive enough where a 2/1 body actually contributes something to your game plan. That's a very narrow margin separating this from being unplayable.

Verdict: Bunt - I make no claim to be a sage, but I can certainly recognize that this card is bad.


13. Take Down is an interesting new variation on Plummet. Unlike other cards with similar templating in the format, this card offers you a genuine choice between two very different abilities. The majority of the time, it will probably be correct just to use it to target a single flying creature, since in almost every case four damage will be enough to kill it. However, there are certainly times when your opponent could have multiple flying creatures with only a single point of Toughness, and in those cases Take Down offers Green something it hasn't had access to before. Remember though that this second mode targets all flying creatures, not just those your opponent controls.

Verdict: Grounder - This might become one of the best ways for Green to take out fliers.


14. Terrain Elemental is yet another vanilla creature at Common. However, unlike all the other vanilla creatures we've looked at, this has actually received a slight boost in strength, since a 3/2 for 1G is not only great value even in Green, but is easier to cast than any similar creature that has come before. Green is also one of the two colors (the other being White) that has a tried-and-true archetype of playing efficient, hyper-aggressive creatures and swarming over your opponent before he or she has time to establish board control with more relevant creatures. While such archetypes haven't been popular in the format as of late, this card would be a perfect candidate for inclusion in just such a deck. Otherwise though, it's not particularly noteworthy.

Verdict: Bunt - I'll need to see the lay of the land before making any final evaluations.


15. Could Wild Wanderer at last be the return of Civic Wayfinder to the format? In fact, it's actually better than that. While it does cost an additional mana (and gets a corresponding one point boost in Power), the real strength of this card is that not only does it allow you to search out any basic Land in your Library, but it actually puts that Land into play immediately, rather than simply bringing it into your hand. And if this Rampant Growth effect is worth 1G, that means you're getting the 3/2 body for only two more mana, which as we mentioned in the previous card is quite good. This card alone will enable three and four color decks to thrive in the format, which will have a dramatic effect in the metagame.

Verdict: Hit - I hope you're not wondering why I am wild about this card.


16. Wily Bandar is a very mediocre card with a strange ability. Normally, the fact that this is a 1/1 for a single mana would be enough to justify saying that this not something you should ever play in your deck. But then you consider that you can give it Indestructible for 2G, and that you can do so as often as you have the mana to pay, and it's only natural that you begin to try to think of ways to abuse that unusual ability. As far as I know, there aren't any cards in the format that you could combo with this to do anything useful, but perhaps something else will come along while this card remains in Standard. Until such a time comes though, even with the ability to block anything and survive, this still doesn't belong in your deck.

Verdict: Myth - I hope someone more wily than I can come up with a cool interaction for this card.

Green seems to have the largest variance among its Commons. On the one hand, you have terrible cards like Attune with Aether, Commencement of Festivities, and Wily Bandar. On the other hand, you have some very excellent cards like Peema Outrider, Riparian Tiger, and Wild Wanderer, the latter of which could prove to be one of the most defining cards in the format moving forward. And while not as powerful as those three, I expect that Appetite for the Unnatural, Kujar Seedsculptor, and Take Down to see play in particular decks. It will certainly be interesting to see which of these cards sees the most play.

III. Colorless Cards
A. Common Cycle #3: Activated Artifact Cycle

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike the other cycles I've covered, these cards don't have that much in common (pun intended). They have different casting costs, different stats, and a variety of activated abilities. But each one is an Artifact Creature with an ability that is activated by paying one colored mana, and each ability is tied thematically to the corresponding color. Interestingly enough, each one also has the Power and Toughness you would generally expect for the corresponding casting cost.

Of the five, Dukhara Peafowl is probably the best. A 2/4 for 4 with Flying is pretty good, and the fact that it's an Artifact has additional synergy in the format. You do have to keep paying the single Blue mana to give it Flying, but that's a reasonable price to pay. The Narnam Cobra is also decent, since it's a 2 drop that will be able to trade with any ground creature, and you only have to pay the Green mana when you're ready to make that trade. As far as Weldfast Monitor goes, Menace is a great ability, but it's pretty lackluster on a 3/2, since most of the time that won't be enough to allow it to kill both creatures that block it. Bastion Mastodon is just too expensive with a mediocre ability, while Prakhata Pillar-Bug might as well just give you 2 Life when it dies.

Verdict: Peafowl - Grounder; Mastodon, Pillar-Bug, Monitor, Cobra - Bunt
These are better than most of the Artifact creatures at Common in the set, but I'm unsure how active they will really be.

B. Other Artifact Creatures

1. Accomplished Automaton is certainly one of the largest Artifact creatures we've seen at Common. A 5/7 is certainly big enough to defeat just about anything else in the format, and since it has Fabricate, it can come down as an even larger 6/8. Most of the time though it's probably better to take the Servo token, since this automatically gives you two separate Artifacts, activating certain synergies with other cards and potentially providing two creatures that can immediately Crew a Vehicle. However, like most big fatties without any evasion, it's not too difficult for your opponent to simply chump block this for several turns until he or she can find an answer to it (and since it's an Artifact, there are that many more answers to find!).

Verdict: Bunt - I actually think its list of accomplishments will be quite small.


2. Consulate Skygate isn't exactly the most impressive of creatures. An 0/4 for 2 will be able to hold off a large number of creatures, and the fact that this can also block creatures with flying is a nice touch. It also does count as an Artifact, and unless your opponent is particularly aggressive, he or she won't typically want to waste a valuable removal spell on a creature that doesn't actually pose any threat. And right there is the problem. If a card in your deck is so mediocre that it's not worth it to your opponent to get rid of it, that raises the question of why you are playing it in the first place. This might be worth considering as a Sideboard option again aggressive decks, but otherwise this probably isn't worth playing.

Verdict: Bunt - You might consult your friends before you decide to include this in your deck.


3. Eager Construct is not a good card, and here's why. Cards that generate an equal effect for both you and your opponent are generally bad unless you've got some way to take advantage of that effect, either by building your deck to get greater value out of that effect than your opponent or punishing your opponent in some way for the effect. But I don't believe there is any method to gain such an advantage on either side by Scrying, since the effect isn't guaranteed to even help you and your opponent can simply choose not to change the top card. Besides, this only generates it the effect once when it enters the battlefield. So really, this is just a 2/2 Artifact creature for 2, and that's just not good enough.

Verdict: Bunt - Don't be eager to play this card.


4. Self-Assembler, on the other hand, looks to be a very good card. Paying 5 mana for a 4/4 is fine but not particularly powerful, since it lacks any other special abilities. However, the fact that each time you cast it you can go and get another copy of it out of your Library is quite good, essentially netting you three cards over multiple turns. And while on its own it may not be the most relevant creature on the virtual battlefield, by the time you've got two or three copies active, they will become increasingly difficult for your opponent to deal with. We've seen this same ability way back with (Squadron Hawks) and a similar ability more recently with Infectious Bloodlust, and in both cases they have been very good in the right decks. As such, this is the real deal.

Verdict: Hit - I certainly expect to assemble many a win with this card.


5. Workshop Assistant is a pretty mediocre 1/2 for 3, but it does have the very relevant ability to return any Artifact from the Graveyard into your hand when it dies. In some ways, it's almost closer to an Artifact-only Raise Dead, since most of the time the 1/2 body won't really matter. However, if you're playing with Emerge creatures or other sacrifice synergies, or if you are all in on Artifacts, this might be worth including simply for its ability to recur any Artifact. In fact, this is one of the few ways to get any of your Vehicles back. On the whole then, while this isn't generally the type of card that sees much play, in the right deck the ability to get back one of your Artifacts might be good enough to make this a consideration.

Verdict: Bunt - This can only provide a very specific kind of assistance.


C. Vehicles

 


 

 

 


While at first I thought I would review the Vehicles individually, it turns out that despite the difference in casting cost, abilities, and Crew, it makes far more sense to talk about them as a group. Originally I misread these as requiring a number of creatures equal to its Crew value to activate them, when in fact it only requires that you tap creatures whose Power is greater than or equal to the Crew number is in order to transform them into Artifact creatures. Anyway, in each case, you're getting a great value for your casting cost - an 8/6 for 5, a 4/3 that attacks as a 5/4 Trample for 3, and a 2/3 Flying for 2. Any creature, even tokens, can activate the Skiff, and on average it will also only take one to activate the Freighter. The Express is a bit more difficult, but most of the time you still will only need two creatures to get it online. The Sky Skiff is probably my favorite of the three, simply because it comes down so early and is so simple to crew. Keep in mind that you can activate these at Instant speed (although no later than the Beginning of Combat step), so they certainly are useful on defense as well. Additionally, turning them into Artifact creatures does expose them to creature-based removal spells (with the exception of Auras). Finally, it's worth pointing out that these aren't a great draw off the top in a tight race, simply because they do absolutely nothing on their own. Nonetheless, I expect all three of these to see widespread play going forward.

Verdict: Grounder - I'm trying not to jump on the hype train, but I think these are pretty good.

D. Other Artifacts and Equipment

1. Inventor's Goggles might be one of the first pieces of Equipment at Common that I've seen in a long time that actually looks decent. It only costs a single mana to cast, two to equip, and boosts the equipped creature's stats by 3. That already is fine, particularly in a set where you can take advantage of having Artifacts in your deck. But the most interesting part of this card is the ability to ignore the equip cost altogether, since you can immediately attach it to any Artificer that enters the battlefield. The current cardpool includes ten such creatures, including some pretty strong cards. You're definitely not hurting yourself by playing some of these creatures, which means your odds of getting great value out of the Goggles is actually pretty good.

Verdict: Grounder - Just Google these goggles and you'll see how good they are.
 

2. Prophetic Prism is back yet again. This premiere Common Artifact is one of the best ways to fix your mana we've had access to in the past. It only costs two mana, replaces itself when it enters the battlefield, and can convert one mana into any color each turn. It also works well with effects like Aether Tradewinds that allow you to bounce it back to hand and then replay it to draw another card while also getting some other secondary advantage out of that effect. Between this card, the two Dual Lands downgraded to Common, and Wild Wanderer, it will once again be quite easy to builds deck with enough mana fixing to reasonably expect to cast spells of three or even four colors.

Verdict: Grounder - It isn't hard to predict that this will see plenty of play.
 

3. Torch Gauntlet is more the type of Equipment I expect to see at Common. It costs 2 to cast and 2 to Equip, but only gives the equipped creature a meager 2 point Power boost. While this will often be enough to allow that creature to trade up with more expensive creatures, you're paying quite a bit to move this from creature to creature, and you're not really getting that much value for the mana you've spent. Compare this to Bone Saw, which costs only a quarter as much to cast and equip, and still gives you a single extra point of Power. That card hasn't seen much play either, and especially since Inventor's Goggles is almost strictly better, I don't see any reason why this would see play.

Verdict: Bunt - This is not a card I want to ever see in my hand.


E. Dual Lands

Thanks to the new Planeswalker decks in Kaladesh, both Stone Quarry and Woodland Stream have been reprinted from Shadows over Innistrad with their rarity shifted from Uncommon to Common. These are currently the only Dual Lands in the Standard Pauper format, but hopefully the rest of the cycle will see print in a similar product for Aether Revolt. In any case, this will definitely incentivize deck builders to look to these two color pairs first, as these go quite a long way in helping to support multiple colors in a deck. These are quite good, and will see plenty of play.

Verdict: Grounder - Whatever your quarry, this is a stream you should follow.


I always enjoy these sorts of sets that feature card types (such as Artifacts) that we don't get to see often at Common. For Kaladesh, it should be obvious that out of all the Colorless cards in the set, the Vehicles are probably going to see the most play. Inventor's Goggles and Prophetic Prism are also going to be quite strong in the right decks. But the biggest hit among these cards has got to be Self-Assembler, given its ability to completely take over the board state as they come into play.

IV. Final Thoughts

On the whole this looks like a very interesting and unique set. While I don't think the overall power and complexity level is as high as it was in Eldritch Moon, the Commons in Kaladesh are still much more interesting than has been typical in recent years. The fact that we get access to a whole new set of Colorless spells that can go in a variety of decks should open up plenty of new deck possibilities. At the same time, with both Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir rotating out, some of the strongest decks in the format have lost some of their foundational cards, which should also help diversify the upcoming metagame. I think this will prove to be a very good set.

So, to close, here are my final top Commons from Kaladesh:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V. Conclusion

So that concludes my Standard Pauper set review for Kaladesh. 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.

Hope to see on the other side of the virtual table soon!