Kaladesh is here! I know because I saw a man carrying an oversized Verdurous Gearhulk through the streets of Seattle. And I don’t mean that it’s an 8/8 for five mana, I mean the card was four feet tall. “Heh, nerd,” I said, tilting my head at the owner of the gigantic card. In truth, I was green with envy.
Kaladesh brings a new limited environment. What fun! There are three mechanics which concern the limited mage in this set: Energy Counters, Vehicles, and Fabricate. We’ve seen limited like Fabricate before – think back a year to the 1/1 Eldrazi Spawn tokens. It’s not hard to see that global buffs and de-buffs, cards that pick on one-toughness, and cards that care about the number of creatures will be stronger in this set. Vehicles are an interesting new mechanic, a sort of quasi-equipment that is useless without a creature in most cases. I’d like some more time under the hood before I write anything on that mechanic. I want to talk about energy counters in this piece. But first, I’ll try to establish baselines with what I feel are the strongest rares, uncommons, and commons.
I’ve ranked the top cards of each rarity into tiers. This is just a first guess. For example, the rare vehicles might be much better than I currently think. This is how strong, come prerelease, I think the cards are. The rares and uncommons are undoubtedly intermingled in power level, but I have chosen to keep them separate as I prefer to evaluate limited cards with their rarities in mind.
I have taken into account the costs of these cards. For example, Saheeli’s Artistry is undoubtedly powerful, but I am rating it lower because of the expensive mana cost and other setup, whereas a card like Aetherstorm Roc can take over a game early by itself, practically.
Outrageous, Cheap Flyers Tier
Rares that Make You Say “Oh, That’s Nice”
Now that’s An Uncommon
You’re Not Gonna Kick These Rares out of Bed
Powerful Multicolored Uncommons
Having viewed all the commons by color, black seems to have the most playable commons. Green has a number of strong creatures at common, but a few clunkers. Red has two good removal spells, and white looks decent as well. Blue doesn’t have a common that really stands out to me right now, and looks like the weakest color.
Energy Counters in Limited
I haven’t been this excited to put counters on myself since I had a Phyrexian Unlife in play. Since the first print runs of Kaladesh have shipped without Energy Counters, I’m planning on taping dice to my forehead to clearly display this to my opponent.
At first glance, every color has energy counters, even at common. The common “thriving” cycle has five creatures that each give two energy, and can convert two energy into a +1/+1 counter upon attacking. Having looked at all of the energy cards at common and uncommon, I’m here to tell you that black is not an energy color in limited. Black has no uncommon energy counter cards, and Die Young is good by itself. For this reason, Thriving Rats is worse than the rest of the Thriving cycle. There’s no reason to dip into black if you have energy hungry cards.
Green is the best energy color, and base-green draft decks should focus on energy cards. Thriving Rhino and Riparian Tiger are your common-slot foundation for using energy counters. Thriving Rhino is the real hero here, though. You can play a bunch of those, but you don’t want too many five-drops in your deck. Sage of Shalia’s Claim is a great two-drop to enable this strategy. Green also has two excellent uncommons, Longtusk Cub and Servant of the Conduit in the two-slot. Architect of the Untamed and Bristling Hydra are both excellent rares to pick up. With three packs of Kaladesh, a good green deck could probably fill a third of a deck with these cards above. With a good supply of energy counters, a green draft deck will attack with creatures above curve. Thriving Rhino (the best “thriving” creature for its color) is excellent when it has plenty to eat every turn, and green has a common and two uncommon creatures that provide energy on turn two. In addition, green shares two multicolored uncommons that use energy with red and blue in Voltaic Brawler and the excellent Empyreal Voyager.
Red is a natural pairing with green for an energy deck. Crucially, it has Thriving Grubs at common, which can fill in the two-slot if you miss out on Sage of Shalia’s Claim or the two green uncommons. Spontaneous Artist and Maulfist Doorbreaker elegantly fill in the four-drop slot between Thriving Rhino and Riparian Tiger. Even better, Harnessed Lightning and Aethertorch Renegade are premium uncommons with probably the highest payoff at uncommon for having a lot of energy. Lathnu Hellion and Territorial Gorger are rares that will probably go around later than the green rares and can be fine pickups in a dedicated deck. Red-Green energy will be a great draft archetype as it has lots of accessible creatures on curve, and some powerful uncommons to push it over the top. Green and red are deep enough that the drafter should be able to fill in the holes with red’s common removal spells and Peema Outrider.
Blue has some good energy options available to it. A blue energy deck would most likely be paired with green, or with red. A blue-red energy deck should undoubtedly contain Whirler Virtuoso. A blue-green energy deck will be less aggressive than the red-green version. Aether Theorist and Hightide Hermit are early blockers that can set up the long game, perhaps in which the drafter would crack some Glassblower’s Puzzleknots. Aether Meltdown looks excellent at uncommon, as does an energized Janjeet Sentry. Glimmer of Genius and Era of Innovation can provide the energy deck card draw. Blue-green energy will likely have to rely on green’s creatures to close the game out, and would benefit greatly from one of green’s energy rares, or blue’s Aethersquall Ancient or Confiscation Coup. Blue-green will have to rely on tempo removal or green’s fight spells to interact with the board. In blue-red, Thriving Turtle is five-drop of choice.
Finally, there is white energy. I would only pair white with green, as white-red and white-blue have fewer energy cards to create synergy, and look to have better artifact, vehicle, or flying strategies anyways. With green, white can add Eddytail Hawk, a fantastic card in this archetype as it can give a large Rhino or Tiger flying in the later game with leftover energy. Thriving Ibex does a great job of filling in the four-slot, much like red’s two cards. Consul’s Shieldmate is a fantastic uncommon, and Aetherstorm Roc is a bomb. White doesn’t have a lot to add in the average draft, but with a strong green base I think a good white-green energy deck exists.
There it is, a five minute energy shot. Have fun and good luck at your Kaladesh limited events. I can’t wait to dig in.
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