Kaladesh Standard

September 17, 2016

Another set, another rotation. Another update to our standard environment. Soon, we will all be waving good bye (or in some cases, good riddance <Collected Company>) to the standard of the past 18 months, and hello to some new shiny and chrome toys.

Looking behind us, we will be leaving some significant pieces - so before we dive into what standard will look like, let’s find out what won’t be around anymore:

Top 5 Cards rotating out of Standard:

  1. Collected Company - Everyone’s favorite card to deal with in a format full of powerful 3 drops with enter the battlefield abilities (Reflector Mage, Spell Queller) has created streamlined decks that have been by far the best in the format. While there have been decks that have won other events, it’s impossible to argue with the sheer numbers and success rates of the decks carrying this 4 mana instant. For those that enjoy playing with the card, the good news is it is still very viable in modern, and will only get better with the printing of new creatures.
  2. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy - What started out as a $15 underappreciated merfolk looter became close to a $100 4-of staple in any deck playing blue. The versatility of the loot ability combined with the power of the planeswalker side to flash back some very powerful spells gave Jace quite the run in this standard. Filling the graveyard naturally has always been pretty simple to do, and getting to the magic number of 5 with Jace turned out to be fairly easy while “just playing magic.”
  3. Languish - While WOTC has claimed that they would like standard to no longer include unconditional 4 mana sweepers, Languish filled the role excellently during it’s time in standard. Because of the way the format shaped up (full of collected company and many other mass-creature strategies), the creatures in the format that would normally clutter the board were often X/4 or less. Because of this, Launguish often performed as Damnation does, sometimes even surpassing it by beating indestructability (Selfless Spirit).
  4. Painland Cycle - Painlands came with a great amount of versatility for this standard. Because of the new colorless mana, they allowed decks to be “3” or “4” colors. This allowed many decks to splash into powerful Eldrazi spells while keeping their mana consistent. While the new fast lands should be better than the painlands overall due to their speed and unconditional mana production (ie: no pain), there will be less splashing of Thought-Knot Seer, Eldrazi Displacer, and Reality Smasher.
  5. Den Protector - While not terribly relevant in the current standard, I thought I’d save a spot for what was once showing up in 80% of decks in its standard life. With it’s partner Deathmist Raptor, Den Protector gummed up many a board state. The card advantage generated and repeatability of whatever the most powerful card in the yard was proved to shape standard for a significant portion of it’s life.

While the above 5 cards are what I believe will be the most impactful losses to the format, there are plenty of other spells that an argument could be made for them to make this list. Here are what I would consider the “honorable mentions”: Dromoka’s Command / Nissa, Vastwood Seer / Tragic Arrogance / Clash of Wills / Ultimate Price / Fiery Impulse / Ojutai’s Command / Nissa’s Pilgrimage / Infinite Obliteration / Dark Petition / Dragonlord Cycle / Den Protector / Deathmist Raptor / Gather the Pack

 

Out with the old, and in with the new… robots. And sparkly stuff. And shiny chrome mechanical wonders. Man, if there’s one thing Kaladesh standard will be, it’s PRETTY! The art style and color approach to the cards has been nothing short of dazzling, and I imagine battlefields will be littered with aesthetically pleasing cards for the next 18 months.

Enough of that, let’s check out what the most powerful cards of Kaladesh will be. Here are my top 10 picks of cards that will find homes or spawn archetypes consistently for the new standard. They are in order of how impactful to the standard format I believe they will be.

Top 10 Projected Kaladesh Standard Staples:

  1. Smuggler’s Copter - While I’m cautious to include a new mechanic, especially one that requires a creature be on the battlefield, I think it would be silly to ignore a colorless card that only requires a creature with power 1 or greater on the field (and you can play that creature the turn you choose to attack as there is no T: symbol on the ability) and you are attacking for 3 in the air on turn 3 with a loot attached. That is still very relevant with madness in the format and all sorts of graveyard value. Smuggler’s copter could be the next Mutavault. It also appears to be the card to enable all of the “This card is good if you control an artifact” aggessive cards.”
  2. Voltaic Brawler - Don’t read any further into it, this card is a 4/3 trample for 2. Along with the support of burn spells and other above/on-curve creatures, the Brawler will enable an extremely aggressive strategy to once again take out the larger decks before they are able to stabilize. Brawler is aided by the fact that Languish is rotating, so the battlefield commitment will be justified (though the threat of Kozilek’s Return - in this case both sides of it - is still looming large).
  3. Aether Hub - I’ve seen enough energy abilities (that all trigger at instant speed for the most part) to know that getting a free energy off of a land will be extremely powerful and consistent for the decks that want it. We also know that we will have energy in Aether Revolt (unconfirmed, but duh). Couple that with the fact that Aether Hub can fix perfectly at no additional cost and enter the battlefield untapped, I expect to see 4 of these in more than half of the field.
  4. Fastlands - Though it probably doesn’t need to be said - the format is speeding up. Coupled with the same color manlands, these excellent lands will be accelerating their respective colors and improving their consistency for the length of their duration in standard.
  5. Aetherworks Marvel - After some brief brewing and playtesting, I can say with assurance that this spell will be able to be cast on turn 4 with 6 Energy ready to go. Considering you can blow it immediately, it will be a matter of someone figuring out the correct numbers of Kozilek, Ulamog, and Emrakul to fill your deck with in order to create an excellent combo deck. With the U and G Puzzleknots as well as our new energy-fueled Tendo Ice-Bridge, Aetherworks Marvel will be a powerful true combo deck in standard so long as there are extremely large fatties. Consider a few things:
    1. Energy is extremely easy to generate with just a few spells needing to be dedicated to that strategy
    2. The ability is repeatable and doesn’t require a sacrifice or exile as part of the cost.
    3. The fatties in this format WILL win the game when cast on turn 4 (Oh yes, the most important part is that Aetherworks Marvel casts the spell!)

    The only thing that I haven’t yet figured out is how best to ensure that there is at least one game-breaking spell in your top 6. It will be broken, and it will be broken quickly.

  6. Chandra, Torch of Defiance - If there is a red deck in the format, especially what appears to be WoTC pushing a mid-range red build with card advantage and the works, C-ToD will find her way into it. Four abilities that check a significant amount of boxes in the “is this Planeswalker good” game, Chandra will of course find her way to tables for a while. However, I do not think she is the second coming of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Looks like WoTC balanced Chandra pretty well, even if she is pushed a bit.

    I know what you’re thinking - “Balanced, you say?”

    Let’s break her down:

    CMC 4, Loyalty: 4 - Pretty standard for 4 CMC.

    First +1 - The red “card draw” effect familiar as in cards such as Outpost Siege and Abbot of Keral Keep is a bit different in that you can’t play lands, and she can still do something if you can’t cast what you flip. The 2 damage will be relevant in situations where you’re ahead, and solid when you are at parity or behind vs. planeswalkers.

    Second +1 - Ramp 2 mana. On Turn 5, you have access to 7 mana. I’m not 100% sure what you want to do with 7 mana in red, but it seems aggressive. That’s collective defiance kicked twice and Incendiary Flow. That’s Mirrorwing Dragon + removal spell. All kinds of options here. Not to mention if you have a 2 drop in your hand, you can immediately play it and possibly protect her while ticking up. Just keep in mind, if she is RR and her ability is RR, we're probably limited to powerful red cards or colorless cards only.

    -3: 4 Damage to target creature. A bit steep to remove a creature, but maybe it’s a flyer or the only thing on the board. Can also take care of things like Kalitas that may be problematic considering game states.

    -7: Wins the game. Eventually. If you’ve gotten to this point and haven’t won already, you should be able to close it out on the same turn you ultimate. Pretty powerful, but it takes a bit to get there.

    All in all, Chandra is a boss. I know I’m going to enjoy exploring what she can do in this format, and I think she’ll be extremely popular for her perception as the next JTMS in addition to her power level.

  7. The Gearhulks - It’s hard to argue with the value and power level associated with each one of these cards. While I believe that the White Cataclysmic Gearhulk is by far the most powerful effect, the Blue Torrential Gearhulk I believe will be relevant as a ⅚ in a world that still has Kozilek’s Return powered by Elder Deep Fiends - Especially if that ⅚ body is flashing back a removal spell to break parity.
  8. Nissa, Vital Force - I don’t like Nissa on this list. Nissa is boring. Nissa will lead to game states that are stale, similar to the megamorphing days of yore. While I don’t have to like what she brings to the table, it is something to be said for a planeswalker that protects itself, generates card advantage, and threatens to ultimate the turn after she drops in a color that is sure to have valid protection for her. The card advantage she will generate from her ultimate should be about 1 extra card per turn, so the question will be: is that too slow? The only thing I could see hurting Nissa, is that the game may be over before she gets to do her thing, as most of her advantage is relatively slow.
  9. Filigree Familiar - With Emerge still looming large for another 12 months, I foresee Filigree Familiar filling the role that was once occupied by Pilgrim’s Eye - Except on a superior body with superior abilities. Familiar has 3 major upsides to Pilgrim’s Eye - 1) It doesn’t die to Liliana. You can be safe on your turn 3 cast in that you won’t be giving away your emerge target the following turn without the opponent losing card advantage. 2) Gaining life will be relevant, and the 2/2 will trade with more targets from the aggressive creature decks - overall this is far better against aggro strategies. 3) While Pilgrim’s Eye did a great job at ensuring your land drop for a turn 4 Elder Deep Fiend, drawing a card is just better. Filigree Familiar will be all over the place for quite some time.
  10. Blossoming Defense - This spell will go under the radar to some, and then someone like Tom Ross or Mike Siegrist will blow whistle on the power level of the spell. Considering the number of relevant targets with trample, this card for 1 mana will protect some very aggressive creatures while winning combats and hitting for extra damage all at the same time. Again - 1 mana, instant speed, 3 relevant “modes” (damage, combat trading, removal counter) - this card will see play in what I envision as an aggressive green deck. With cards like Voltaic Brawler and Grim Flayer to protect and clear the way for, defenses will blossom for the foreseeable future. Personally, I’ll be playing into it a few times I’m sure.

Honorable Mentions:

Lost Legacy - If Emrakul decks are still a thing (and they will be as long as he’s around), this Infinite Obliteration replacement should find it’s way into most black sideboards.

Scrapheap Scrounger - Not being able to block is a big deal, but this is a great value card. Honestly, I’m not sure how good it will be - but I do recognize that it is above average on our curve, and there are solid ways to fill the graveyard these days.

Girapur Orrery - Similar to Aetherworks Marvel, this card could be a “build around me” 4 drop artifact. However, I think the Orrery is a little “do nothing”, meaning a deck built around it might just be filled with card draw and not have enough removal to do fun things once you get the engine going.

Inventor’s Fair - I believe this card will find it’s way into many decks that people are brewing with, though I don’t yet see a solid artifact-based deck. There does appear to be some good artifacts, but I don’t see any deck playing more than 8-12 without sacrificing too much power.

Revolutionary Rebuff - When I first saw this card, I immediately went “wow that’s getting played. A lot.” The more I thought about it, the more I imagined turn 3s and 4s when this should be strong not being strong enough. Early in the game it might shut something down and trade up on mana, but the reality is people can find an extra 2 mana very often in standard, sometimes just incidentally lying around. Combo that with this being a terrible top-deck mid to late game, and I think we might just have a dud here.

 

What did I miss? What card do you think will break out? What are you brewing?!

 

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