Insider: Kaladesh Full Set Review

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It's time for a Full Set Review by your friendly neighborhood Green Mage.

Kaladesh is the first of many sets that will need to be part of a case study going forward. I'm not going to go in length about the Masterpiece series being announced, if you want more specifics on that you should read some great articles by fellow QS writers Brian DeMars, David Schumann, or Sigmund Ausfresser. Don't want to read? Then here's an episode of QS Cast as well. It's something that has to be greatly considered when reviewing a full set from a financial lens. If we look back to my Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch reviews - many cards I talked about had to come with a caveat (Expeditions).

Now that each set has Masterpieces going forward, the financial outlook is going to drastically change. The same caveat has to be factored like those sets prior. Since I love providing numbers/graphs whenever possible, here's just a quick look at what a Masterpiece set price will look like (in case anyone forgot):

Battle for Zendikar (BFZ)

Like I stated, not going to go super deep - but the outlook isn't good when we look further into the price list and see a total of two cards maintaining a price over 10$. Are there several factors involved? Sure. The set just wasn't very good, large fall set, ect. But, just with a small sample size we determine the Masterpieces can soak up a staggering 25-30% of the value. The Expeditions had a very real impact on card prices, and will do so going forward. Even format defining cards like Sylvan Advocate, which under different circumstances would likely not be a perpetual $5 card. That being said, we will also need more sets with Masterpieces to release, to have a better set of data.

I digress, let's continue:

I went ahead and merged both lists again for everyone’s convenience. I also wanted to take a little extra time considering this set, and put in as much necessary testing as I could. Luckily this time around we can have this list before official release.  I have some inclinations as to what we can see early on in Kaladesh Standard, but like always the Pro Tour will really set the tone here. More so because this set brings a lot to the table; we bid farewell to Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir, and I have a feeling this will leave Standard really wide open and diverse. Before we dive into Kaladesh, let's briefly recap on Eldritch Moon:

  • I had a feeling Emrakul, the Promised End would be a good card to be casting in Standard. I just didn't think it would be the only card folks would want to be casting in Standard.
  • I'm happy on my evaluation of the rares. Most of the rankings held true, but many cards did inevitably decrease.
  • That being said, I do think Eldritch Moon is a good set to revisit to extract for more value. With this block being the odd-set out of Masterpieces - there's still incentive.
  • Delirium turned out to be extremely potent. Ryan Overturf and myself praised cards like Grim Flayer and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. We did have a caveat - but that seemed to be easily overcome.
  • I'm really glad I took the time to highlight Voldaren Pariah // Abolisher of Bloodlines.
  • Harmless Offering actually had its day in the spotlight. I will be truthful and say I did not think it would happen.
  • It turns out Spell Queller put a hard stop on Eldritch Evolution.

The Tier System

Breaking the cards down into a tiered list makes it easier to determine what will hold the majority of the set’s value. I will most likely use this methodology going forward in evaluating future sets. I also wanted to do it this way because I don’t like attaching a future value to any of these cards. I feel like that method is a tad inefficient, and doesn’t take into account future card printings that could potentially make these cards better. It’s really all based around what’s in the card pool. So instead, I like to display a snapshot baseline power for these.

So, in that regard I wouldn’t want to attach a low value to a card that’s inherently powerful, or attach a high price tag to a card that looks good on the surface, but just isn’t good in the pool around it. (Underworld Cerberus anyone?). That will happen when we look at a card without any context. The truth is that while a card may look terrible right now, we don’t know the future and how this card could interact with cards that are printed after them. Any one of these could suddenly become much better- or much worse.

As an avid player of fighting games, the tiered method makes the most sense to me, since it also allows for cards to move around, which undoubtedly will happen as time goes on. This happens all the time in many of the fighting games in their life cycles as well.

This is my explanation for each tier in the list:

  • Top Tier is reserved for the cards that will most likely hold the majority of the value in the set. More commonly known as the “chase cards.”
  • Mid Tier is reserved for the cards that aren’t necessarily bad but may be overshadowed at this current point. These could easily jump to top tier in the future, or vise versa.
  • Low Tier is reserved for the cards that will most likely be near bulk. Like Mid Tier these cards could easily jump up to higher tiers but the road traveled will be harder. Again, I don’t think these cards are necessarily bad but my analysis is that they will be the cheapest cards in the set.

These tiers are built primarily for Standard, however if a card has clear implications in Modern or beyond, it will also appear in a higher tier. Commander and casual appeal are not factored heavily into these ratings.

Top Tier Mythics

Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Nissa, Vital Force
Verdurous Gearhulk

Top Tier Rares

Blooming Marsh
Botanical Sanctum
Bomat Courier
Concealed Courtyard
Fleetwheel Cruiser
Inspiring Vantage
Pia Nalaar
Scrapheap Scrounger
Smuggler's Copter
Spirebluff Canal
Toolcraft Exemplar

Mid Tier Mythics

Aetherworks Marvel
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Combustible Gearhulk
Dovin Baan
Noxious Gearhulk
Saheeli Rai
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
Torrential Gearhulk

Mid Tier Rares

Aetherflux Reservoir
Architect of the Untamed
Authority of the Consuls
Bristling Hydra
Confiscation Coup
Cultivator's Caravan
Deadlock Trap
Depala, Pilot Exemplar
Dynavolt Tower
Ghirapur Orrery
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Insidious Will
Inventors' Fair
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Key to the City
Lathnu Hellion
Lost Legacy
Madcap Experiment
Midnight Oil
Master Trinketeer
Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter
Paradoxical Outcome
Skyship Stalker
Syndicate Trafficker

Bottom Tier Mythics

Angel of Invention
Demon of Dark Schemes
Metallurgic Summonings
Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Bottom Tier Rares

Aethersquall Ancient
Aetherstorm Roc
Animation Module
Captured by the Consulate
Cultivator of Blades
Dubious Challenge
Electrostatic Pummeler
Eliminate the Competition
Marionette Master
Metalwork Colossus
Multiform Wanderer
Padeem, Consul of Innovation
Saheeli's Artistry
Territorial Gorger
Wildest Dreams

Well, there's the list. This set was extremely challenging - I think each set will be going forward. I think Wizards is really hitting their stride with the design of these two-set blocks. It does not make this easy for folks like myself to evaluate, and it's even more difficult to do so from a financial lens. The truth is that there's a lot of viable cards, and it's at a point where not many cards are truly bad. While many cards do have their uses, that doesn't necessarily translate to financial upside. I also fully expect many of these cards to shift - there's just so many cards that have the potential to have a break-out performance.

Instead of trying to highlight specific cards from each Tier - I'm going to share my detailed notes from a little over 25+ hours of testing:

Testing Notes

  • All the Gearhulks are really good, I was impressed by how well they were all testing. Cataclysmic Gearhulk did not show up nearly as much as the others.
  • I understand there's debate on "which Gearhulk is the best." All I can say is that Verdurous Gearhulk was by far the most commonly played and it wasn't close. The raw flexibility of the card is likely what pushes it past the others. It seems fellow QS writers agree, as well as SCG writers.
  • Chandra's price tag will be debated - but the card is going to see play early on. I documented almost every deck playing Red was playing Chandra. Whether that's a trend that continues remains to be seen. I will say it is certainly the victim of overhype.
  • I know I have Metalwork Colossus rated low - but this card could be a part of something. I just need to tangibly see it in action. There has been attempts/rumors at trying to make an Ever After combo list that may revolve around this card.
  • Nissa, Vital Force seemed strong. All the early inclinations I had when I saw it spoiled seemed correct.
  • I don't know if many of these "combo" decks will end up being viable. But, I couldn't overlook cards like Aetherflux Reservoir, Dynavolt Tower and Panharmonicon. There seemed to be attempts and pairing Panharmonicon with Whirler Virtuoso to varying success.
  • Pia Nalaar has been an excellent role-player. There seemed to be a myriad of applications for this card, and it was played in multiple archetypes. I came across it in MonoR, to RG Aggro, to BR Control. An extremely versatile card. Kind of like Pia and Kiran Nalaar!
  • Smuggler's Copter is just as good as everyone says. R&D stated they pushed this card specifically for Constructed play, and they definitely succeeded. I think this card can have a high price tag early on in Kaladesh Standard while supply is initially constrained.
  • Key to the City has been performing surprisingly well. I was really impressed. This could be a great card to stash away - I don't think it will spike considerably. But, it could increase enough to be worthwhile.
  • Aetherworks Marvel seems like a viable strategy. It's scary how consistent it can be at casting Emrakul, the Promised End and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger way earlier than they should be. This card should be watched very closely, as I think it could have early success and generate a lot of hype. There's an issue with playing around Spell Queller that I have not been able to resolve in testing. It's a notable weakness. There's a few ways to build around Marvel, and it seems others are tuning the list even further. Here was the list I was using:

I hope everyone enjoyed yet another Full Set Review by yours truly. The additional testing time I was able to have was really beneficial, and I think it's great information for you all to know. It's awesome to have another set in the books, and I'm really excited about evaluating the sets going forward. They're a challenge, but I will continue to be up to the task and providing any and all information I can with you all!

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to comment below or message me via social media. Hopefully this list is helpful going forward to decide what’s worth trading for or buying

– @ChazVMTG

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