Chief of the Foundry | Daniel Ljunggren
It's that time again! Kaladesh pre-release was a blast, and I'm even more excited to head to FNM tonight for my first official draft with the new set. I'm sure you are too, but before you head out, I have a few cards that played a little (or a lot) better than they originally looked. You might want to keep an eye out for these during your own drafts!
I've been tentative about the ability to maindeck artifact hate, even in an artifact-heavy set like Kaladesh, but this turns out to be something I'm willing to play as my 23rd card from time to time. Fragmentize may be cheaper and enable you to play two spells in one turn, but Appetite for the Unknown gives you the opportunity to blow out your opponent mid-combat by eating Vehicles after they've been crewed, in addition to its ability to eat Vehicles that cost 5+ mana. Since maindecking artifact destruction also means you're going to be playing a card down in many situations, the lifegain is often relevant as well.
Crew 4 is just as rough as I was expecting, but the power you get for the cost is well worth the setup. Aradara Express may not be the hype train we were all hoping to board, but it'll get you to your destination, and it'll run over a few creatures along the way. This is still an, “I didn't get any big finishers, so I need one and this is still in the pack,” sort of card, but it's one that I'm more willing to play than I would have been before getting some hands-on time with it. By the time you need something big and beefy to punch through your opponent's board, you're likely to have a handful of creatures that are just sitting around unable to attack anyway, and this gives you a great outlet to make sure their bodies aren't going to waste.
I don't care what anybody else says, a 4/5 body with Vigilance is a beating. Getting to crack in for 4+ damage while completely stonewalling your opponent's smaller creatures is well worth the 1 extra mana every turn, and there are very few 5+ power creatures below 6 mana in the set. If you're paired up with green you're probably going to have access to better 5-drops, but Bastion Mastodon puts in a lot of work, making it a creature I'm never unhappy to play when I'm in white.
I originally underestimated just how ubiquitous Fabricate really is in this set, but I won't be doing that anymore. Between Fabricate being in white, black and green, and the cycle of common and uncommon artifact creatures, Chief of the Foundry jumps up from “good playable” to something I'm probably going to first pick quite a lot.
This is one of those weird cards that looks suspiciously like a do-nothing enchantment, but after playing with it, I think it's just good. Getting it in your opening hand means you can drop it on turn 2, then play every creature off-curve with a +1/+1 counter, essentially making up for the extra mana cost tacked on to each. This is especially nasty when you take into account creatures that are already undercosted like Kujar Seedsculptor, or have keyword abilities attached to them like Peema Outrider. It also means you can play your Fabricate creatures off-curve, take the Servo option, then pay extra mana to slap counters on each creature you have the mana for. Low curve decks get the most mileage out of the effect, but midrange works great as well (which is important, since green doesn't tend toward low curve aggro). I might side it out against an especially fast deck that I can't afford to take off turn 2 against, but in most cases Durable Handicraft will just completely take over the game, if left unchecked.
It's hard to get around the idea of a 1/2 flier being a threat, but the ability to take a beater evasive is the real deal. Eddytrail hawk provides a relevant enough effect that often times it just eats removal on its own. Once this is on the field, your 4-5 cost beaters are almost replaceable; killing one of them won't stop you from taking another to the skies on the very next turn. This plays best in WG where you're guaranteed a lot of big beaters on the top end, but I wouldn't turn it down in any deck where I needed an evasive threat to help end the game.
Only getting 1 extra power made it hard to take this seriously as equipment, but the 2 toughness is very relevant. Since most creatures don't have more than 4 power, slipping on these goggles can turn anything into a good blocker, or often force double blocks on an attack. It doesn't grant the same sort of massive damage boost that Vehicles do, but it also has a lower setup cost and directly increases the survivability of your creatures. In decks where you already have enough 3-drops and top end beaters to make Vehicles irrelevant, these can give you that little bit of extra punch your deck needs to put it over the top.
This seems to be the divisive card of the set, and for good reason. Having your hand size be zero is a scary thing, especially in a format where working 2-for-1s nets you more wins than straight tempo and aggression. But this well makes up for that drawback by doubling your card draw for the remainder of the game. If you're a deck that wants to hold up counterspells and do things on your opponent's turn you won't want to burn the Midnight Oil, but any aggro or midrange deck that's just looking to turn their creatures sideways will gladly take this early and use it to bury their opponents under card advantage.
This isn't a set where 2/1s for 2 are particularly good, especially with Servos being everywhere. But 3 Energy counters is huge, and any deck that has a lot of Energy sinks will be eyeballing these sages a little more closely during the draft. Any deck that has places they can just dump a bunch of Energy at once like Harnessed Lightning, Die Young, Longtusk Cub, Bristling Hydra or Dynavolt Tower are going to want all the Energy generators they can get their hands on. Even the recurring Energy users like the Thriving creatures would push me toward maindecking a couple of these, just so I have a steady stream of resources to keep growing my attackers.
Speaking of the Thriving cycle, I've been seriously impressed by how well this little rhino plays. I already thought it was good when I first saw the set spoilers, but I'm willing to come straight out and say that this might be the best common 3-drop in the set. It's a toss up between this and Glint-Sleeve Artisan, but I think Thriving Rhino just edges it out. Early drops that can completely take over the game are ridiculous, and though there's some setup cost involved, this is often enough just a 3/4 for 3 on the low end that I'm going to snap them up about as often as I did Brazen Wolves during Eldritch Moon.
I'm sure you noticed that most of the colored cards I listed are green, and that's definitely not a fluke. Green may be light on board interaction, but its creature suite is very deep in Kaladesh. With Thriving Rhino and Riparian Tiger as two of the best common beaters in the set, I fully expect green to be a popular color in Limited. But don't let that fool you, red, black and white are all very strong as well. Blue's the odd man out with a weak lineup of commons, unfortunately, but it can still do some work as a support color.
I enjoyed Shadows and Eldritch Moon for what they were, but I haven't been this eager to get my hands on a set and figure out its nuances since Battle for Zendikar. There looks like a lot of interesting synergies and buildaround interactions to play with and I want to try them all. I'll be back in a couple weeks to let you all know what I find!