Welcome back, worthy inventors, to another edition of the Top 10! This time around we will be inspecting the gears that make Kaladesh tick and putting them all in their respective places. While the set seems like an absolute blast for Limited, it does initially seem lacking in terms of the power level we expect for our Standard cards.
There are some definite question marks on cards that give or require energy as well as the vehicles, and the two new mechanics are somewhat up in the air in terms of how powerful they are. If any prove to be functional for Standard they will be good quick flips, but I think most of them will stick to just being fun Limited cards.
As always, we will begin with the cards that almost made the Top 10 cut and discuss them in the Honorable Mention section.
The one energy-based card that we know will be good enough for Standard is Harnessed Lightning. This Searing Spear provides versatility to your removal spell arsenal. It may only be able to hit creatures, but we know this effect is good enough for Standard play.
Another energy-based card I like is Servant of the Conduit. Servant is fine just as a 2 mana 2/2, but if you need to ramp it can be used as an accelerant as well. There are some other great 2-drops in the set too like Voltaic Brawler and Veteran Motorist though so I’m not sure which of these creatures will see competitive play.
Over the past two weeks I spoke about how much I liked all the Gearhulks. Some of them made it onto the Top 10 but even though I love and will probably play both Noxious Gearhulk and Combustible Gearhulk, I don’t think they will have enough impact on any format to justify their inclusion in the Top 10. They both provide a great power level for their cost and they are both good enough to include in your Standard deck, but they don’t scream a need to be played.
There has already been talk about Inventor's Fair in Affinity as well as Lantern Control in Modern. I’m not sure how much impact, if any, this land will have on Standard, but Eternal implications are always important to pay attention to with any new card.
Aether Hub on the other hand, seems great for Standard and Modern as well as maybe even Legacy. Tendo Ice Bridge has been a playable card in specific archetypes for a long time now and we are basically getting the same card as an uncommon. I really like this land for Eldrazi decks in general and I think it will see tons of play in years to come in a variety of places. There may be a bigger foil multiplier here too so keep your eyes open for those as well.
Is there a Dwarven tribal deck lurking out there!? Depala, Pilot Exemplar is the most interesting tribal inclusion we’ve seen in a long time. My guess is that we will need the next set in order to try to build our new tribe into a playable constructed deck, but only time will tell.
Ok, enough with the "almost got there" category. Let’s jump into the Kaladesh Top 10!
Coming in at the 10th spot is the unusual Saheeli Rai. Previously we have seen many different planeswalker abilities, mostly Tezzeret related, paired with artifacts. This time around we have the slimmed-down version with Saheeli. Her three mana cost is intriguing but her abilities are hard to evaluate without considering all of the artifacts in the format.
Her +1 is decent but nothing special. Your opponent takes one damage and you get to scry 1. Both are good things but they don’t protect her. It’s the Izzet planeswalker’s -2 that pushes us to brew with her. Being able to create a copy of any creature or artifact not only means we need to dissect all the artifacts, but the creatures as well. Think about copying one of the Gearhulks or some other giant monster. There are a lot of possibilities and they are all relevant because you can utilize the -2 the first turn you play her.
There are a lot of unknowns with Saheeli Rai, but no matter what you copy or how many times you scry 1, she will always be a decent inclusion in your deck. Now the main question will be, is there a home for her?
When I saw Toolcraft Exemplar, my first thought was that this creature could fill the aggro hole in the theoretical post-rotation Standard environment. We are losing some key components from Mono White Humans, so much so that I don’t think the deck can survive rotation. Toolcraft Exemplar though provides us some great rewards for not only playing aggressively but also utilizing some artifact synergies.
There are plenty of cards that pair well with our new dwarven one-drop but Servo Exhibition jumps out right away. Red would pair well with white for this strategy thanks to cards like Inventor's Apprentice and Pia Nalaar. If the deck ends up with too many artifacts in play, we may even want to run some number of Welding Sparks too. Black is another option for cards like the seemingly great Scrapheap Scrounger, who I probably should have had as an honorable mention.
My main concern though is with how the +2/+1 is applied though. This isn’t a static effect like you might initially think. The pump is a trigger that goes on the stack at the beginning of combat and only lasts during your turn. Presumably Liliana, the Last Hope will be a big part of the new meta and if that’s the case the Toolcrafter won’t be as good as he would otherwise be. I think this strategy is definitely worth considering though because attacking for three on Turn 2 is no joke. That’s some real pressure your opponent has to deal with right away.
With all the narrow removal spells that have been printed in the past couple years, it’s nice to see a removal spell that kills any creature. Not only that, but as long as you have an artifact, it also deals three damage to the controller too. I think Unlicensed Disintigration is great and it should see tons of play. I don’t think it’s good enough for older formats but as far as Standard goes, I think it’s going to be good.
Many of you may not know of my deep, undying love for Solemn Simulacrum or Bottle Gnomes. Due to my immediate comparison of Filigree Familiar to a hybrid of those two cards, I may be overvaluing the importance and power of this new artifact.
What’s not to love though? Sure it’s only a 2/2 for three mana, but it also gains you 2 life and replaces itself when it dies! Not to mention, it’s adorable right?
Seriously though, I think this should see a lot of Standard play. It can go in any deck and with the way the card pool is shaping up, Familiar should be trading with many of the creatures in the format as well.
I’ve spoken about Cataclysmic Gearhulk at lot recently. The card is well suited to build a deck around so that you keep all your permanents and your opponent loses most of theirs. I think it would pair well with Filigree Familiar too. I like this Gearhulk a lot more than a more traditional card like Fumigate because I think there is a lot more room to gain advantage than just taking out a couple of your opponent’s creatures.
Blue-White Planeswalkers are always interesting. We’ve had Venser, the Sojourner and Narset Transcendent, who both have unique abilities. This time around, the Azorius Guild is adding a more typical planeswalker to their ranks. The way I see Dovin Baan is similar to Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. He has one ability that lowers the power of your opponent’s creature and one that gives you some card advantage. His ultimate is a bit more ultimate, which is great. Your opponent will have a hard time winning with only two permanents they can untap. For four mana you are getting a solid return on your investment. This isn’t going to break the format or anything but he’s a good dude that will be decent in Standard. With blue and white having a lot of solid cards already, I expect this walker to see some play on that fact alone.
There is a lot of strategy to Verdurous Gearhulk and I expect him to push green into prominence yet again. Although we may compare the green Gearhulk to Wolfir Silverheart, the two cards aren’t really that similar. Silverheart may provide bigger bonuses overall, but the Gearhulk is just as good on an empty board as one that’s flooded with permanents.
I’ve been thinking about all the great green creatures that we’ve seen in play frequently from Bant Company like the werewolves and Sylvan Advocate — what’s going to happen to them post rotation? I think that’s a huge question mark on the new format. Verdurous Gearhulk pairs seamlessly with them. Play a bunch of cheap aggressive creatures and then force them through your opponent’s defenses by adding some +1/+1 counters.
You know what else pumping guys pairs well with? Nissa, Voice of Zendikar makes an 0/1 army. That sounds great to include in a Verdurous Gearhulk deck. This creature is good with other creatures and I think we don’t know quite how good it really is yet.
Last week I spoke about how impactful I thought Torrential Gearhulk would be. After thinking on the set a lot, it made it all the way up the list to No. 3. Standard players are going to grow to fear this card and Commander players are going to grow to love it. You can flashback any instant in your graveyard, so there is a lot of potential versatility. Playing this titan in a control deck with counters and removal spells seems obviously powerful. While we may never see this guy as a four-of in decks, I think he will still be an important part of the meta.
Spirebluff Canal may be the best of the enemy colored Fast Lands, but they are all going to be great. Many of them will see play in Modern and all of them should be great in Standard as well. Before the Inventions were announced, I was preselling these above TCG Mid, which I never do. Now that we know we will have new “Expeditions” for everyone to crack packs for, the potential price ceiling of this cycle is much lower than it would have previously been.
Even though the prices may be lower, the playability is high. It’s strange that in terms of Eldrazi, the Pain Lands are better than the Fast Lands, but for the rest of the decks these new additions are clear upgrades. My philosophy is always to get a play set of all the rare lands so I have access to any mana base I need in Standard. It’s been my thought process for over a decade and I recommend it to everyone. Switching decks is easier this way as well as splashing colors in your deck.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance is not as good as you think she is. Don’t miss what I’m saying here. New Chandra defies the current mold for planeswalkers, just like Jace, the Mind Sculptor did. But even with her four ability set, that doesn’t mean she is free from weaknesses.
For instance, what will you do with Chandra if your opponent casts Verdurous Gearhulk and makes two 5/5’s? They can choose to put one counter on the Gearhulk itself and then the three other counters on a random 2/2. Then your -1 ability won’t kill either of their guys. This is yet another reason the green Gearhulk will be powerful, not to mention how well it pairs with Lambholt Pacifist.
Getting back to the Torch of Defiance, her +1 card advantage ability isn’t quite as good as we’ve seen previously either. With Chandra, Pyromaster, you could use any card you revealed with her ability. Unfortunately, with our newest iteration, you cannot, I repeat can not play lands. Her wording specifically says cast so that won’t include any lands.
Even though there will be times that the four damage won’t kill creatures, you will have other removal spells. Also, four damage does deal with the majority of creatures you’ll be facing in Standard.
One ability Chandra has that may be underrated at first is the two additional mana +1 mode. This is a lot of acceleration. It may be temporary, but if you untap with her in play your options will be plentiful. You should be able to cast one big spell or double up on spells for the turn. Either way, that’s a powerful line of play.
So, even though Chandra, Torch of Defiance may have some identifiable weaknesses, she is still the best card in the set by a long shot. She pushes the power level of planeswalkers as a whole more than we’ve seen in over five years.
Between the demand she will create as well as the demand from the Masterpiece Series, I don’t know how any other cards in the set will be worth much money at all. If you don’t need cards from this set immediately I would suggest holding off on acquiring them unless you get a great deal. Because of this likely outcome, I’d advise shipping your high end cards quickly before they start their downward spiral. The only exception to that is with Chandra. She will be difficult to get your hands on so if you open her, I would probably just hold onto her. You may be able to buy her for less later, but holding seems the safer play.
That's all the time I have today. As always, I look forward to your changes to this list. Would your Top 10 be different? Did I miss an important card from the spoiler? Let me know in the comments below and we'll get the conversation started.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force of Kaladesh!
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