It’s only a few days before the prerelease of the new Kaladesh set starts. Amidst the excitement of opening Sealed Deck pools and trying wacky archetypes, I thought I’d get a jump on things and give you all my Kaladesh preview a little early.
I love artificers, trinkets, gadgets and wacky artifacts. On Kaladesh, it seems I won’t be disappointed. I’m also more than a little relieved to be leaving the Eldrazi-infested part of the Multiverse behind us and travel to less oppressive planes (if Aether Revolt turns out to be about Ulamog invading Kaladesh in a blacksmith apron, I’m personally going after MaRo). My play preferences are very Izzet aligned, and it seems that someone has gone out of their way to build me an entire world. Even white, green and black are loaded with Izzetty mechanics. So, to cut a long story short, I’m pretty excited about Kaladesh, both for Battle Box and for my other Magic activities. With that out of the way, I promise to be as neutral as I can in the review to come. As always, I will start with a short review of the core mechanics of the set and what they mean for the Battle Box format. I will finish the article with a Top 20 list of Kaladesh cards I think will shine in the Battle Box format.
There are a few new mechanics that have a high profile in the set, so it’s difficult to pin one of them down as the flagship mechanic. I’m not going to try and will just do these in random order. Vehicles are basically artifacts that can turn into artifact creatures when you tap a creature to drive it. The creature (or creatures) need to have a certain combined power for the vehicle to work. The crew manning the vehicle does not get killed should the vehicle get killed, so the risk to your tapped creatures is very little. I think the mechanic has some nice Battle Box potential. It doesn’t rely on any specific synergy (although it will work better in a Box with many cheap token producers). All you need are some small to medium creatures in your Box and you are good to go. Of course, whether individual cards will be playable will mainly come down to whether the extra effect you get is worth tapping down one or more creatures for the turn. That said, I really love the “Wacky Races meets Phantom Menace” vibe the vehicles have, so I will be looking for places to fit them in, sideways if need be.
I think fabricate is a textbook Battle Box mechanic. It offers you a choice with no downside, allowing for flexibility and creativity. It reminds me of the card Ornitharch, which was in my Battle Box for quite a while. Although the fabricated tokens do not have flying, they are artifact creatures, which opens the door to a whole new set of synergies. It will certainly make artifact-centric Battle Boxes more viable. And although the mechanic allows for synergies, it needs no synergies itself. Like I said, textbook Battle Box mechanic.
Energy is a bit of a strange one. It adds another type of counter linked directly to a player (after poison and experience), which incidentally means the counters can also be proliferated. In fact, I predict proliferate will return to Magic in Aether Revolt; it’s only a 2 on MaRo’s storm scale, and it’s a perfect fit with all the Kaladesh mechanics. Normally, a mechanic like energy would not be a good Battle Box fit because it relies on getting energy counters and then expending them on other effects. However, the way Wizards has designed the energy cards, all the cards that can use energy also have a built-in way to generate energy. Although that doesn’t completely eliminate the synergy concerns, it at least means you can include any energy cards you like in your Battle Box without raising eyebrows. Of course, the power level of the energy cards assumes you will have synergies with other energy cards, so you won’t get the full bang for your buck unless you fill your Battle Box with many energy cards. All in all, not perfect, but for a mechanic such as this we got way more than we could have hoped for.
The launch of Kaladesh also sees the introduction of completely new Magic product: Planeswalker Decks. Each deck contains a few unique (and standard legal!) cards that are not found in Kaladesh boosters. Most notably, each Planeswalker Deck contains two powered-down Planeswalkers. In case of the Kaladesh Planeswalker deck, these are Chandra, Pyrogenius and Nissa, Nature’s Artisan. For most players, these decks will be of limited interest but for Battle Box, these slightly less powerful planeswalkers are perfect. In fact, I think both planeswalkers are perfectly playable in Battle Box. My only concern is that the plus ability on each walker gives them a huge loyalty boost, meaning they will require a lot of effort to get rid of. Time will tell whether the Planeswalkers are fun and balanced.
The Kaladesh Top 20
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the list.
20. Visionary Augmenter
Not very flashy, but getting a 4/3 or a 2/1 plus two 1/1 artifacts seems just powerful enough to warrant inclusion. I imagine the 3-for-1 mode will be the most used but it’s nice to have options.
19. Ballista Charger
A 6/6 is a strong presence on the board, even if it can’t attack without help. The fact that it can take out a chump blocker gives it just enough gas to be worth the five mana price tag.
18. Disappearing Act
Three mana is usually the maximum price I would pay for a counterspell with no downside. However, if you have a Battle Box with many ETB effects, the additional cost on this might actually lead to some fun play patterns. If your Box doesn’t have many ETB effects, I would not include this.
17. Filigree Familiar
It gives you 2 life, provides you with an artifact on the board, and gives you a chump blocker that draws you a card when it dies. All in all, I think this is unassuming but fun for 3 mana.
16. Nature’s Way
Most of the time this will be a kill spell (albeit board state dependent) that also boosts your biggest creature. Of course, it can be countered by removing your creature, and I’m also a bit sad that it’s not an instant. Still, I like it as a conditional removal option.
15. Spark of Creativity
This is such a weird card, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’m not sure how effective this will be as a removal spell, and paying R to draw a card that you have to cast before the end of the turn also seems underwhelming. Still, because the first effect wants expensive spells and the second effect wants cheap spells it could be that the combined effect is actually quite powerful. We’ll have to wait and see.
14. Fleetwheel Cruiser
This is certainly a powerful card, perhaps a little too powerful. A 5/3 trampler for 4 mana is strong, and the fact that it has haste makes it even stronger. However, during subsequent turns, you will need to crew it to attack, which will hopefully make it acceptable.
13. Multiform Wonder
The first energy card on the list. It is a sort of morphling that uses energy instead of mana, but it does give you a starting balance of 3 energy. I wouldn’t play it if it was my only energy card, but if your Box contains multiple energy and/or proliferate cards, I think the Wonder will be great.
12. Dynavolt Tower
Every two-and-a-half instants or sorceries get you the possibility to bolt something, which is usually a very powerful effect in Battle Box. Of course, the Battle Box has a limited number of instants and sorceries, so I would probably only play this in an energy-focused Box.
11. Skyship Stalker
It’s a reasonably priced dragon with an interesting set of abilities. Enough said.
10. Scrapheap Scrounger
A 3/2 for 2 is not a bad deal, even if it can’t block. And being able to exile cards from your graveyard to recur it makes this a resilient threat. Most Battle Box games see a lot of creatures going to the graveyard anyway, so this can fit into most Battle Boxes.
9. Noxious Gearhulk
Obviously, all the new Gearhulks are strong. But except for the red one, I think none of the Gearhulks are out of the question for Battle Boxes. I included the black one on this list, because it has a simple effect that will sometimes stabilize the board and sometimes push the board towards a conclusion. If your Battle Box is full of bounce and blink effects, you might not want to include any Gearhulks because they may be too powerful.
8. Eliminate the Competition
Again, certainly a strong effect, but similar to the Gearhulk it will either help a player stabilize or it will push a player towards winning the game. Both are desirable effects from a Battle Box design standpoint.
7. Metalwork Colossus
A 10/10 without evasion usually provides a nice “oh my god” moment without pushing anything too far. I would only include this in Boxes with a reasonable number of artifacts, because it only really becomes a nice card if you have 1-2 other artifacts on the battlefield.
6. Smuggler’s Copter
A 3/3 flying vehicle that loots whenever you attack or block (note that you don’t have to connect like you do with most looters). Two mana seems very cheap but remember that crew 1 is a real cost as well. I love this card.
5. Aethersquall Ancient
Getting 3 energy every upkeep is great for any Battle Box that cares about energy, but even if you only plan to use it on the Ancient’s own ability it is still nice enough. You get to threaten to blow up the board in a few turns, which should at least cause some opponents to scratch their heads. Granted, seven mana is a bit steep but if you get to activate the Ancient you are in a good spot to win.
4. Saheeli’s Artistry
Two copies for six mana is a good deal, provided there are both an artifact and a creature worth copying on the table. If your box has a low artifact count, I would stay away from this card, but if you have a decent amount of artifacts, I think this card is great.
3. Chandra, Pyrogenius
I only included the new diluted Chandra on this list, because I think she has the most Battle Box-friendly abilities. Nissa grows very quickly while increasing your life total, and if your opponent isn’t in a position to attack Nissa straight away, you quickly get to play her Overrun ultimate, which will end the game on the spot most of the time. I think Chandra’s abilities are a bit more balanced, but as I said, I think both are OK for Battle Box play.
2. Insidious Will
Counterspell. Redirect. Twincast. Granted, each of the modes of Insidious Will should only cost 2-3 mana. But for 1-2 mana extra, you get a lot of flexibility. Flexibility is what makes Battle Box fun, so this should be a homerun. I’m curious to see how long players will hold on to this hoping they will find something even better to do with it.
1. Aetherstorm Roc
The final and funnest energy card on the list. Playing creatures happens all the time, so you should get quite a few activations out of the Roc. Both growing it and tapping down blockers are nice effects. I would play this if it was my only energy card, and I would certainly play this if my Box had an energy theme.
And so we come to the end of today’s article again. I think Kaladesh is looking really good, and I plan to go to the prerelease next weekend. Here’s hoping I open a foil Mana Crypt! I’ve also made a Kaladesh Mini Battle Box, be sure to check it out here. As always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What did I miss? Which cards are you excited about?