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By: gwyned, gwyned
Oct 03 2016 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

As of this writing, Kaladesh has finally been released into Standard, ending the final chapter for Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins. 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. Last time, in Part One, I looked at the White and Blue Commons as well as the first of three Common cycles. Today, I will continue my review by looking at the Black and Green cards as well as the second 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. Black Cards

1. Ambitious Aetherborn is a relatively uninteresting 5/4 for 4B that sometimes will come into play with one less Power and Toughness and a 1/1 Servo artifact creature instead. Its lower Toughness means it's somewhat more vulnerable to Red-based removal than average, and in either form you're not really getting anything special for your five mana. And while Black does offer you some solid incentives for playing Artifacts in your deck, those synergies aren't really strong enough to warrant playing an otherwise mediocre card. On the whole then, most of the time this is just a fairly costed vanilla creature that is decent on the offensive but will often trade down with cheaper creatures. As such, I don't expect this will make the cut very often.

Verdict: Bunt - I wouldn't get too ambitious about playing this card.


2. Speaking of Artifact synergies, Dhund Operative is a good example of the small payoffs that Black does get in this set for playing them. A vanilla 2/2 for 2 isn't something you'd ever want to play in the format, and giving it an extra point of Power doesn't really change that much, since you don't typically see a lot of highly aggressive decks playing Black. On the other hand, Deathtouch is certainly a nice ability, effectively making this a more powerful Typhoid Rats as long as you've got an Artifact in play. That certainly incentivizes your opponent not to block it, meaning this will be good on both offense and defense much of the time. While not any deck will want to play this, I think it's solid enough to consider provided you expect to have Artifacts in play.

Verdict: Grounder - This is good if you have Artifacts - "if" being the operative word.


3. Die Young gives us one of the best payoffs for energy counters at Common in Kaladesh. Since you automatically get two such counters when you cast it, at its base level it's a 2 mana Sorcery speed Disfigure, which is fine but certainly not amazing. But if you already have other energy counters, you can spend as many of those as you want, allowing you to deal with any size creature provided you have enough counters for the low cost of only 2 mana. Interestingly enough, you can also use this card simply to gain two energy counters, although such a use would be pretty subpar. In any case, while it's a shame that this isn't Instant speed, it's still a decent removal spell that becomes much stronger in some decks.

Verdict: Grounder - I certainly expect to see many creatures die to this.


4. Dukhara Scavenger seems like another attempt at a "fixed" Gravedigger. You're paying six mana for a 4/6, which means that you really only want to play this in a strongly Control archetype. You also aren't really gaining card advantage, since the card you return from your Graveyard goes on top of your Library, delaying whatever card you would have otherwise drawn. As such, you really want the creature you're returning to be a much better than average draw for your deck. It's certainly nice that this can retrieve both creatures and Artifacts, especially given how strong some of the Vehicles look in Kaladesh. But it's also pretty expensive to cast and slow to deliver its value, which will certainly limit how often it sees play.

Verdict: Bunt - It will take some work to scavenge together the right deck for this card.


5. Fortuitous Find isn't really offering you an actual choice to make, since there is almost never a reason why you wouldn't want to return both an Artifact and a creature from your Graveyard into your hand. But at least the templating does allow you to still cast it when even if you can't make use of both effects. Nonetheless, to really make this worth a whole card, you should build your deck in such a way that you expect to reliably have both creatures and Artifacts in your Graveyard. It's worth noting that an Artifact creature fulfills either requirement, so in some decks this can function as a cheaper Dutiful Return. Overall then, there is some value to be had here, but it requires a pretty specific deck configuration to be worth including.

Verdict: Bunt - It will be interesting to see if this can find a good home.


6. Foundry Screecher gives us yet another reason to be playing Artifacts. A 2/1 for 2B is fine, but a 3/1 is quite a bit stronger, even if it does still die to just about any removal spell and dies to any creature that can block it. Once you have the Artifact, this is comparable to Snapping Drake for a single mana cheaper, and if you can use your removal spells to knock your opponent's flyers out of the skies, this can do quite a bit of damage in a hurry. Between this and Dhund Operative, perhaps there will actually be an aggressive Orzhov or Rakdos build utilizing Artifacts creatures, cheap removal, and these Artifact-enabled creatures to quickly overwhelm your opponent. If that deck comes to fruition, this seems like the perfect inclusion.

Verdict: Grounder - I think there's just enough value to be found here to make this solid.


7. Lawless Broker is a middling but aggressive creature that gives a minor boost to another creature when it dies. It also looks like a decent Sacrifice outlet, which should continue to matter post rotation with how powerful the Emerge creatures have proven to be. It also seems to combine quite well with Ninth Bridge Patrol, giving you double value when it dies. Of course, even with this card's extra point of Power, it still pales to something like Exultant Cultist, which gives you a whole card worth of value when it hits the Graveyard. In a deck where your strategy revolves around sacrificing creatures, this might find a home, but overall there are lots of cards competing for this slot, and some are arguably still better.

Verdict: Bunt - While not worthless, it's certainly a long way from broken.


8. Live Fast is our Sign in Blood variant for Kaladesh, and it offers some additional value in the form of two energy counters for the extra mana that you're having to pay. With Read the Bones rotating out, this will probably be the preferred card draw spell for Black going forward. While overall I'm not impressed with the payoff for collecting energy counters, at least in Black they do fuel Die Young, which certainly incentivizes you to play these two cards together. On the whole, this is a relatively cheap and efficient way to gain card advantage. Even when you don't have any outlet for the energy counters, the price you're paying for them in pretty small, and shouldn't therefore keep you from playing this in most Black decks.

Verdict: Grounder - This is a fast way to get more cards, even if it does cost you some life.


9. Maulfist Squad is our third Fabricate creature thus far, and probably the only one where it will almost always be better to take the +1 / +1 counter rather than the token creature. A 3/1 for 3B is pretty miserable, even with Menace, since 3 Power will rarely be enough to even trade with the two creatures that block it. But as a 4/2, your odds of being able to get a 2-for-1 out of this are much better, since the average Toughness at Common is 2. If this had cost a single mana less, it would be a card worth considering at least in some aggressive builds. But at 4 mana, I don't think you're really getting good value for your investment. As such, this is not a card I expect to see much play.

Verdict: Bunt - I wouldn't use this for any more than fisticuffs.


10. Mind Rot is another Common staple, having been printed in almost every block and Core set since 7th edition. With this reprinting, we are guaranteed to have access to it for at least another year. The utility of this card waxes and wanes with the rise of Control in the format, but typically even when it is good it starts out in the Sideboard and is brought in when you find yourself in a matchup favorable to it. In a prolonged match where you expect your opponent to hold on to a few key cards, this can do a lot of work, disrupting your opponent's plans quite effectively. But in other matches where your opponent quickly plays out their hand, it can just as easily become all but worthless. As such, this is not a card I have high expectations for.

Verdict: Bunt - You're out of your mind if you think this is a great card.


11. With the advent of the Crew mechanic for Vehicles, we see a couple cards like Night Market Lookout that produce a minor effect whenever they are tapped. As a 1/1 for 1, this is pretty mediocre, and it will be very rare that you can freely attack with this, so you really would only want to play this is a deck where you have some other method for getting this tapped. In addition to the aforementioned Vehicles, this also combines well with Loam Dryad and Holdout Settlement, giving you a little extra value for utilizing this creature for mana. Nonetheless, to pull that off you're putting a lot of situation cards in your deck to pull off a pretty mediocre effect. You're much better off just skipping this altogether.

Verdict: Bunt - While I'll be on the lookout for where this is good, I'm not optimistic about its chances.


12. Unfortunately Prakhata Club Security is yet another vanilla Common creature. Nowadays we generally see 2/4s for 4 with a relevant special ability, so at least a 3/4 for 3B is a little bit above the curve for a creature with nothing but flavor text. We don't have any particularly good tribal-based synergies (outside of Allies) in the new Standard, nor anything else that would make you want to play a creature of this size or color. Apparently 4-drops in Black are just universally bad, since despite the fact that there are seven other creatures at this slot in Common, none of them are really that much better. Black isn't really a creature-based color most of the time anyway, and with creatures like these, you can understand why.

Verdict: Myth - I think it's pretty safe to say you should never play this.


13. Both Rush of Vitality (from this set) and Grotesque Mutation (from Shadows over Innistrad) are just worse versions of Butcher's Glee, a card that saw a surprising amount of play. While this card is one mana cheaper, the Power boost is much smaller, which means the Life you gain from Lifelink is also much less significant. Most of the time there is little functional difference between Regeneration and Indestructibility, so this does at least do a good job of keeping the targeted creature alive. Given that this card is probably better than Grotesque Mutation and that Butcher's Glee has now rotated out of Standard, Rush of Vitality is probably the best card for this particular role, but it's not one you should be excited to play.

Verdict: Bunt - I wouldn't rush out to get your hands on this card right away.


14. Like Fortuitous Find, Subtle Strike isn't so much offering you an actual choice as it is allowing you to play it where there aren't valid targets for both effects. In a congested board state, you might actually be able to get two cards worth of value out of this in close combat, and the fact that the boost from the second effect is permanent is also a pretty nice touch. There are also a variety of 1 Toughness creatures in the format, particularly when you take into account tokens. Given all that, I think that you should be able to get value out of both sides of this card more often than not. Individually they probably won't add up to a whole card's worth of value, but in combination this is a reasonable trick in any deck expecting to see plenty of combat.

Verdict: Grounder - Its effects are subtle, but I think this gets there.


15. Black has a surprising number of cards that reward you for playing with Artifacts, but none of them have as high a potential payoff as Tidy Conclusion. In almost every set now we see an unconditional removal spell for 3BB, and often such cards come with some small bonus as well. This card is playable even if you don't have any Artifacts in your deck, but even if you only have a few of them in play, the slight Life bonus could prove to be the difference in a tight match. Given all the support for it, a Black deck built around Artifacts might just emerge in the metagame, and if so this card seems like it would fit right in to such a deck. It's not the most powerful card, but it fills a necessary role, and gives you a little extra for your effort.

Verdict: Grounder - Giving you extra life for your artifacts is certainly a tidy way to incentivize players.

On the whole Black looks fine but not particularly exciting. It has lots of decent to solid support cards, but nothing that really draws me into playing the color. Nonetheless, the incentives to play it alongside a bunch of Artifacts is definitely there, so there just might be a viable archetype to take advantage of those incentives. Outside of that, my favorite two cards are probably the combination of Live Fast and Die Young. Otherwise, there's not much here to excite me.

III. Red Cards

1. I didn't think we'd yet reached the point where Giant Growth would be outclassed at Common, but Built to Smash is only a single word away from being that card. For 1 mana at Instant speed, the targeted creature gets +3 / +3, which is already playable if only barely. But if the target is an Artifact Creature, it also gains Trample, a keyword which is quite unusual at Common, especially paired with a significant boost to Power and such a low cost. The only thing that keeps this from being quite good is the fact that it can only target attacking creatures, which does limit its utility somewhat. Nonetheless, this is definitely one of the better combat tricks Red has seen in a long time.

Verdict: Grounder - Maybe not a smash hit, but it's definitely built for value.


2. Cathartic Reunion is an interesting variation of Tormenting Voice. The two cards are identical, save that this one requires you to discard two cards when you cast it and then draws you a corresponding third card when it resolves. Late game, while holding two Lands plus this in your hand, this is quite strong. But what is even stronger is if you actually have the mana to discard and play two different Madness cards, generating an insane amount of value. As great as those situations are, however, there will also be scenarios where you can't afford the time to hold two cards in your hand to discard, or where the cards you draw end up being significantly worse than those you threw away. It's a pretty big risk, but also a potentially big reward.

Verdict: Grounder - This is one of those cards I'll just have to play with to get out of my system.


3. Chandra's Pyrohelix is functional reprint of Twin Bolt, giving you a mana efficient 2 damage for 2 mana as well as the option of dividing the damage up between two targets. With the possibility of Servo tokens on the virtual battlefield, not to mention the continued presence of various token strategies, this spell should still be pretty good in the upcoming metagame. While a lot of players have turned instead to Boiling Earth as a better card for this role, the fact that this card can also be used to remove a large percentage of the creatures in the format shouldn't be ignored. Unless your plan is to win in the long game, I would play this card maindeck and put Boiling Earth in the Sideboard for when you know it will be at its best.

Verdict: Grounder - I'm delighted to have the option to circle back around to this effect again post rotation.


4. Demolish has once again found its way into another set, which is unfortunate considering how bad it is. Back in Magic's infancy, Land destruction was a viable archetype even at Common, but the sheer agony of playing against such strategies forced Wizards of the Coast to severely nerf these sorts of cards. Even in a metagame that supports two and even three color decks, with a casting cost of four mana this card will be too late to be effective most of the time. And while Kaladesh certainly brings no shortage of Artifacts to target, this is hardly the most effective card to attempt to deal with them. Since both modes of this card are bad, there is no reason that you should want to play it.

Verdict: Myth - There is no way this will ever demolish your opponent's game plan.


5. Flame Lash is another virtual reprint, this time of a card called Lightning Blast which was reprinted in several Core sets prior to 10th edition. While you are paying full price for the effect, the ability in Red to deal with 4 Toughness creatures is very important, especially at Instant speed. Even better, this also can target players, which is an option that has been absent from several more recent iterations of this card (such as Alchemist's Greeting). Compare this to the classic Lava Axe, and you get a sense for just how good it is to have this option. This is about as good as removal gets at Common anymore, and as such this is a card that should see play in almost any Red deck.

Verdict: Hit - Please don't flame me for such a high rating.


6. There have been some very strong Auras at Common for 1R, but I'm uncertain whether Giant Spectacle will end up in the same category. Probably the most recent example is Infectious Bloodlust, which not only granted the same Power and Toughness boost but also drew you another copy of itself when the creature died. In this case, this is only granting the creature Menace, which isn't a particularly strong form of evasion. For while it does make it impossible for a single creature to block, granting only +2 / +1 will probably at best only allow your creature to trade with the two that block it, making this an effective two-for-two in all but the best case scenario. Given all the risks that Auras entail, that's not much of a payoff.

Verdict: Bunt - It's all too likely playing this will make you a laughing spectacle.


7. Hijack is the Kaladesh equivalent of Act of Treason. Its double Red casting cost means it's harder to cast, but for your effort you do get the additional ability to target your opponent's Artifacts. While in general the Artifacts in the cardpool at Common aren't worth stealing, Vehicles are an important exception. More often than not, those may easily be the most important card on the battlefield, and assuming you have sufficient creatures to crew them, this card might just win you the game on the spot. However, it's worth remembering that these types of effects aren't typically that great unless you also have the ability to sacrifice or get additional value out of the creature you steal.

Verdict: Bunt - I don't want the possibility of getting a Vehicle to hijack my typical rating for such cards.


8. Thermo-Alchemist ended up being one of the most important cards from Eldritch Moon, and Reckless Fireweaver is remarkably similar. Rather than needing to untap whenever you cast a particular spell, this card simply deals damage whenever an Artifact enters the battlefield. And unlike the Alchemist, this does have the ability to attack on its own in an otherwise empty board, which is a nice feature. Of course, even in a dedicated build, you can't expect to get nearly as many activations from this as you can with the Alchemist, so I don't think this will prove anywhere near as strong. Nonetheless, for the right kind of deck this will certainly warrant consideration.

Verdict: Bunt - It would seem reckless at this point to rate this any higher.


9. Renegade Tactics is not a good card. Yes, it only costs a single Red mana. Yes, it replaces itself when you cast it. But preventing a single creature from blocking for a turn is significantly less than a card's worth of value. Although it wouldn't really make a difference from a strategic level (and might even confuse newer players), at least if this has been an Instant you could hold it in your hand along with a trick or similar spell during your opponent's turn, and then cycle this if no better opportunity came along to use your unspent mana. In draft, this is at least better than a 24th Land in most decks. But in any Constructed format, you simply should never play this card.

Verdict: Myth - This is simply the worst imaginable tactics.


10. In the past, creatures like Ruinous Gremlin that you can later sacrifice to destroy an Artifact or Enchantment have been somewhere between decent and good in the format. Paying 2R and destroying this to get rid of your opponent's Artifact is a perfectly suitable ability for a creature. The problem here, though, is that a 1/1 for 1 is a really bad creature. For that reason, this card reads more like a Sorcery speed 2RR Shatter, and even in a format like Kaladesh you would never want to play such an overcosted card. If this had instead been a 2/2 for 1R (or especially a 2/3), this might have been an important card in the new metagame. But as is, even in an aggressive tokens build I don't think this would make the cut.

Verdict: Bunt - It won't ruin your deck to play this, but I still don't recommend it.


11. Salivating Gremlins is a reasonable 2/3 for three with a potentially powerful ability. If you're not playing an Artifacts in your deck, this definitely isn't a card you want to include. But if your plan is to stuff in as many Artifacts into your deck as possible, this can suddenly become quite the powerhouse, since its ability activates every time you play an Artifact, not just the first time one comes into play. Trample is also a key reason why this is potentially good, since that guarantees that your opponent can't just chump block it when you swing in with its enhanced Power. On the other hand, it still just trades with just about any creature in the format, so even in a dedicated build its average case isn't that strong.

Verdict: Bunt - You might be salivating over all the damage you could deal, but I think you can do better.


12. Spireside Infiltrator is our second creature with a special ability that activates whenever it gets tapped, which of course includes not only attacking but crewing vehicles as well. But unlike Night Market Lookout, this card is a perfectly reasonable attacker that can deal an extra point of damage on offense even if all it does is trade with one of your opponent's creatures. You're not getting quite as much a bonus as the aforementioned Lookout, but on average this will be a better card over the course of multiple games. Unfortunately, other than the Vehicles and the two cards that let you tap creatures for mana, there aren't any other abilities that synergize well with. As such, I don't think it's worth considering in most decks.

Verdict: Bunt - I'm definitely on the side of not playing this.


13. Spontaneous Artist looks like a virtual Hill Giant, but you're actually getting pretty good value from this card. A 3/3 with Haste for 3R is pretty strong in an aggressive midrange deck, and since you have the option of hanging on to the energy counter until later, you can instead choose to cash it in on a subsequent turn. Even better, if you have other sources of energy counters, there's no other limit to how many creatures you can grant Haste to, allowing you to potentially pull off some pretty broken combat rounds. As such, the upside from this card is pretty high, and even in the worst case scenario you're still getting a very reasonable creature with Haste. It's subtle, but I think this has some real potential.

Verdict: Hit - Deckbuilders wishing to maximize this card will need to be a skilled artist indeed.


14. If you want aggressive, Terror of the Fairgrounds certainly fits the bill. It's rare to see a 5 Power creature at Common, and almost unheard of to see one for only four mana. The downside, obviously, is that with only 2 Toughness, just about any other creature in the format will be able to block and trade with this card. But, if you could play this within the right Izzet shell, where you rely on permission spells to protect it and removal to get opposing creatures out of the way, this can certainly do a lot of damage in a hurry. Honestly though, that's a lot of conditions to make this good. The vast majority of the time, this will be a liability in your deck, and as such I don't think it will see much play.

Verdict: Bunt - There's no reason to expect this to terrorize the metagame.


15. Red is certainly seeing an increase in the number of creatures with Menace lately, and Wayward Giant at least seems designed to maximize its effectiveness. A 4/5 for 4R is a little below the power level, and what's worse is that Red rarely wants to play such an expensive creature, no matter how powerful it is. By the time you can cast this, your opponent will almost certainly have multiple creatures in play to block it. Its 4 Power is the bare minimum you would want to have any reasonable hope of trading this for two of the blocking creatures, which means that often this will still just be a 1-for-1. Obviously it gets better with combat tricks, but I think there are just too many things that have to go right for this to be good.

Verdict: Bunt - Maybe it's not a giant mistake, but it's still leading you the wrong way.


16. Welding Sparks is an expensive but reasonable three damage removal spell that can pack some extra punch under the right circumstances. Even ignoring the perennial favorite Lightning Bolt, you would still hope to only pay two mana for an Instant that deals 3 damage, especially if it can't also target your opponent. But even if you're only playing a handful of Artifacts, the potential additional damage makes this a pretty good deal. Once again though, the fact that it can't target players definitely limits how good this card can be even in the best case scenario. On the whole, while I don't think a simple 3 damage spell for 2R would make much of an impact, this is just enough better than that to make it worth consideration.

Verdict: Grounder - It doesn't take much spark of imagination to understand how this could be good.

Red definitely looks better than Black, particularly when it comes to removal. Chandra's Pyrohelix, Flame Lash, and Welding Sparks are all solid removal spells that should find their way into a variety of Red decks. Additionally, both Cathartic Reunion and Spontaneous Artist have enough potential to be worth building around, and I will certainly be interested to see what our best deckbuilders come up with. Built to Smash also deserves an honorable mention as well.

IV. Common Cycle #2 - Thriving Creature

 

 

 

 

 

In order to evaluate this cycle, it makes sense to think of them as vanilla creatures with Power and Toughness one point higher than their listed stats, but with the downside that they have to attack each round. Their base stats are pretty typical for their color and cost, which means their enhanced stats are above what you would expect for a vanilla creature. The Blue and Green ones are probably the strongest, simply because they are useful enough (the Turtle as a defender, the Rhino as an attacker) to be worth playing even for their base stats, which means you'll probably be able to attack with them right away. At the end of the day though, they are just vanilla creatures, which means that unless you're already playing a deck looking to take advantage of energy tokens, they probably won't see a whole lot of play. This is particularly true given just how vulnerable they are to removal.

Verdict: Turtle, Rhino - Grounder; Ibex, Rats, Grubs - Bunt
I like where these are going, but I wouldn't say they will thrive in the metagame.

V. Conclusion

So that takes care of the Black and Red Commons from Kaladesh as well as the second 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 final part of my set review of Kaladesh for Standard Pauper!