Insider: Kaladesh First Impressions

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Wanna take a ride? This isn’t just a quote from one of my favorite movies of all time (Contact), it’s almost the central theme of Kaladesh - We are visiting a world where magic fuels the day-totday life of the citizens. They drive in magical cars and create all of these wonderful inventions.

In game terms though, I’ve been rather critical of this new, flashy card format. What I’ve realized is that using these artifacts is almost like having equipment. But instead of buffing your creature it becomes its own creature. I think if we categorize the vehicles like we do with equipment then we can build our decks with the correct number of creatures and spells so that we make the best use of our attack trains and flying cars.

The first thing I’ve experienced and learned firsthand is that these vehicles are much better than I anticipated. This is largely due to my change in categorizing them as spells rather than creatures, but there are other aspects that shifted my perspective as well. Most creatures you play have to wait a turn to attack, but with a vehicle in play it’s almost like giving all of your creatures haste. Imagine if Loxodon Warhammer were a vehicle instead of equipment - you’d be attacking for three rather than buffing your creature - and you begin to appreciate vehicles more.

Another benefit to this new artifact cycle is that you cannot kill them with sorcery speed removal. That means cards like the new Fumigate or Radiant Flames won’t ever be able to deal with them. You need cards like Blessed Alliance or Unlicensed Disintegration in order to remove the possibility of your opponent speeding towards your life total every time they play a creature.

Of course, there are weaknesses with any card type, and vehicles have theirs as well. They are artifacts in addition to creatures so more removal spells will destroy them. Additionally, there will be times when your vehicle won’t be able to attack because you don’t have a creature to crew it. Originally, that was a risk that I was unwilling to take, but if we think of them more like equipment, then obviously there were times when we had Sword of Feast and Famine and no creature to equip it too. As long as that’s in our thought process, we can minimize that weakness.

With how much perspective I gained this weekend at the Prerelease, I wanted to revisit the vehicles as well as some of the other artifacts in the set and break them down. So, let’s fly right in!

Limited Power

First up, we have a boat, a mech, a train, and a couple cars. The cards in this group have higher mana costs but more importantly higher crew values. Bomat Bazaar Barge, Demolition Stomper, Aradara Express, Ballista Charger, and Ovalchase Dragster are all great Limited cards, but you’re never going to be able to play many of them because you can realistically only pilot a couple of them per deck.

These vehicles may not be breaking down the doors of Standard trying to make their mark, but it will feel that way in Limited some times. Even the common train, Aradara Express, is hard to beat once it gets rolling. I lost a couple games to my business partner who found his Key to the City and attacked with unblockable giant vehicles like this one.


Once we start getting into the rare ships like Fleetwheel Cruiser, Cultivator's Caravan, and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, we obviously find ourselves driving some more high quality machines.

Originally I liked Ovalchase Dragster and thought that card might see play in Standard, but I think Fleetwheel Cruiser is an upgraded version of the card design. I like being able to attack with a vehicle the turn it comes into play, especially if you don’t have a creature to crew it. The higher the crew the more difficult it will be to find a suitable creature to sit in the driver’s seat. In regards to the Dragster, Ball Lightning-style cards have always been playable and I think this new version will find a home in a Standard deck.

Cultivator's Caravan fills a very different role in any constructed format, that of mana fixing. Although it’s slow for a mana accelerant and color fixer, the Caravan does something unique right now in the format. With the available card pool, we don’t have many options for generating any color of mana. Being able to set yourself up to reliably cast your spells is always important, but its unclear if we need a three mana card that can turn into a late game threat in order to help us with our consistency.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship also does something unique by dealing damage to creatures and planeswalkers repeatedly. My main concern with this Flagship is that it requires a crew of three to operate. If it were only two, we could jam it into any control deck with other planeswalkers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and use the creature they make to pilot the ship. But because it requires a crew of three though and doesn’t hit players, we may not have a Flagship of Constructed, but of Limited.

Ready to Fly

There are a couple vehicles though that seem eagerly anticipating their time to soar through the ranks of the tournament scene. My short list is only Sky Skiff and Smuggler's Copter.

There will be no surprise that these are the two that should see the most play. They have the lowest mana cost and the lowest crew value and are combined with the best stats for their cost. Even though Sky Skiff is only a common, a 2/3 flyer for two is definitely a big deal. Right now we are seeing 2/1 flyers for two like Selfless Spirit and Rattlechains making us think about the way we build our decks. You may need another creature to pilot it, but with a 2/3 body, Sky Skiff is ready to take the fight to the skies.

Alright, I know I might be the last one on board with Smuggler’s Copter, but it’s definitely good and it was a mistake to leave it off my Top 10 list for Kaladesh. If Sky Skiff’s 2/3 body wasn’t good enough to entice you, Copter bumps it up the power by letting you fly a 3/3 for the same mana cost. Not only that, but you also get a Looter il-Kor ability as well. With a filtering ability like that within a presumably aggressive strategy, you will be able to find the right cards to take down any opponent.

When players are utilizing new cards in Modern, it’s time to stop and take notice. Even when I saw that Affinity players were trying to build new versions of their deck that included Smuggler's Copter, that wasn’t enough for me. I had to experience it for myself. I got beat down by not only this rare but many others I’ve discussed in this article. As I’ve said before, most of them I was able to beat with the same strategy: if you eliminate their creatures, they won’t have anyone to crew the vehicles. That said, they can just play another creature the next turn and it basically functions like it has haste. No matter which way you look at it, I think we will be seeing at least one vehicle flying through the skies of Standard.

Key to the City

Earlier I mentioned Key to the City, for a good reason. I think this artifact will be unlocking some playable strategies in the near future. We could use this as a discard outlet for the madness cards, a way to get our zombies in the graveyard or just to give our aggressive creatures a way to smash the opponent without being  blocked. You may have to discard a card, but you can always pay extra mana each turn to draw another card. Most likely you will just be discarding extra lands anyway, so this is a way for you to find more gas and keep speeding through any opponent’s life total.

This is a great financial pick up right now. You don’t get much better than bulk when it comes to a spec and I like this target a lot. I know I’ll be pricing it at $1.50 to start out after release this Friday and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go up a little past that as well. We do have the Inventions holding the card prices down, but there will be a little wiggle room for card growth on some cards.

Filigree Familiar

Someone asked me what my favorite card in the set was and I said I think it’s Filigree Familiar. It just does everything! For a mere three mana you get a respectable 2/2 body and gain two life. Then when he dies, you get to draw another card! With two power, I think he will trade with some creatures in Standard as well. Even if he doesn’t trade with another guy, you are still buying a lot of time for yourself to stabilize the board.

Most importantly, now we know what the fox says! He says gain two life, obviously.

Kidding aside though, I think Filigree Familiar will be great and the foils should look sweet. They should also be worth tracking down because they’ll be worth a couple bucks too. I don’t know if the current $5 foil price is accurate, but even if it drops down, it definitely won’t be a bulk foil.

What have your experiences been with the vehicles or any other cards from Kaladesh? Did you enjoy all the new mechanics at the prerelease? What cards do you think are still underrated? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force of Kaladesh!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

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