With PAX behind us and Kaladesh spoilers in full swing, we have many exciting spoilers revealed. Kaladesh is an exciting artifact-themed block with light Indian flavor trappings, and it brings two new mechanics that have been years in the making - Energy and Vehicles. Also in this digest, we'll look at the upcoming sets revealed at the recent Announcement Day.
Kaladesh introduces a mechanic that has been toyed with since Mirrodin. While it may seem similar to charge counters, like those seen on Serum Tank, the counters are on the player instead of the artifact, and are shared between all cards that can utilize energy. This creates a new "energy economy", wherein energy counters generated by one card can fuel another. Many of these cards, like Bristling Hydra, Die Young, and Aether Hub, provide energy upon entering the battlefield or resolving, while others, like Aetherworks Marvel, Demon of Dark Schemes, and Architect of the Untamed, generate energy periodically. The effects energy can be exchanged for range from minor bonuses, like that of Thriving Rhino and Aetherstorm Roc, to major bonuses like those of Architect of the Untamed and Aetherworks Marvel.
Vehicles are another mechanic that has been in the works for years. Much like equipment cards, vehicles serve as a way to enhance your creatures utilizing artifacts. However, unlike equipment, vehicles themselves turn into the enhanced creatures, which makes them a more balanced effect in limited, as they can be dealt with using normal creature removal effects, rather than solely artifact removal.
On the flip side of the coin, they can provide powerful effects, such as dodging sorcery-speed removal and utilizing creatures suffering from summoning sickness. Vehicles like Smuggler's Copter and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship provide additional benefits when crewed, while Bomat Bazaar Barge and Cultivator's Caravan provide a basic effect and can later be crewed for additional benefit.
The third new mechanic in Kaladesh is fabricate. While it is a relatively simple mechanic, offering a basic choice between +1/+1 counters and artifact 1/1 Servo creatures, at higher rarities, it provides interesting decisions. With Angel of Invention, the +1/+1 counters increase how much life is gained from lifelink, while the Servos benefit from the Glorious Anthem ability. Similarly, Cultivator of Blades is a Wild Beastmaster effect; increasing its power increases how much it pumps attacking creatures for, while the Servo mode gives more bodies to pump.
Kaladesh contains a cycle of powerful mythic rare creatures with enters the battlefield abilities, somewhat reminiscent of the Primeval Titan cycle.
Catacylsmic Gearhulk is the white offering, and it makes for a powerful replacement for the rotating Tragic Arrogance. While it does not allow you to pick what your opponents get to keep, it does provide a powerful body, and as an artifact, you may still keep another creature as well.
Torrential Gearhulk has flash and casts an instant from your graveyard for free with its ability. With a large body and the ability to flashback most removal, this mecha will frequently two-for-one your opponent upon hitting the battlefield, leaving behind a powerful beater.
Noxious Gearhulk skips the pretense of requiring another removal spell and just directly destroys any creature upon hitting the battlefield, gains life, and leaves a solid menace body behind. This makes a great curve-filler in the Derlium deck, especially as it is also an artifact to add to the number of card types in your graveyard.
Verdurous Gearhulk is the Green offering. It divides 4 +1/+1 counters among creatures upon entering the battlefield - which can include itself. This means it can be a simple 8/8 trample for a mere 5 mana or that it can immediately buff a creature to a huge threat. Either way, it's powerful and efficient.
What is particularly powerful about these Gearhulks is that their abilities can be repeatedly reused with flickering abilities, like that of Eldrazi Displacer.
Kaladesh also has its fair share of planeswalkers. Both Saheeli Rai and Chandra are native to the plane, as is the yet-to-be-revealed Dovin Baan. Nissa, however, is visiting to support her friend.
Saheeli Rai is three mana, which traditionally an indicator of playability. Her +1 filters cards and ticks down your opponent, while her -2 Heat Shimmers an artifact or creature. While neither of these directly provide card advantage, they can be used to generate a lot of incremental advantage. Additionally, her -2 can be utilized in combination with Liquimetal Coating to repeatedly create copies of Saheeli (note that the copies are themselves artifacts), which can infinitely trigger Altar of the Brood or similar.
Nissa, Vital Force has some similarities to the powerful Nissa, Worldwaker. Like Worldwaker, she animates lands on a positive and costs 5 mana. Unlike Worldwaker, the animated lands only last until your next turn, but they do untap, and it only takes one turn for Nissa to reach her ultimate - a permanent Horn of Greed effect. Additionally, her -3 ability provides Nature's Spiral, providing a powerful form of card recursion for the late game.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance is the most-discussed planeswalker in Kaladesh. As a four mana planeswalker with four abilities, she draws immediate comparisons to Jace, the Mind Sculptor. While she is obviously not quite as powerful as Jace, not being blue, lacking the ability to repeatedly remove threats, and lacking the ability to put away a game with Jace's +2 and ultimate, she is rather powerful. Her first positive ability provides an Act on Impulse draw that, if it isn't used, still provides a Shock to the opponent's face. Her second positive generates two red mana, which can allow you to protect her by immediately dropping a threat or removal spell, or be utilized in a later turn to ramp out a powerful threat. And while her minus ability isn't as cheap as Jace's Unsummon, it does provide a Flame Slash for three loyalty, which can clear out most threats.
Kaladesh is also full of many exciting artifacts and artifact-related cards.
Aetherflux Reservoir provides a scaling lifegain as you cast spells, and upon reaching 50 life, can convert that into 50 points of damage. This makes it a powerful win condition for lifegain-style decks, as well as a potential storm-style win condition for spellslinger type decks.
Metallurgic Summonings is another powerful spellslinger card - for every instant or sorcery cast, it makes a construct with converted mana cost equal to the cost of that spell. This has potentially application in Vintage, where cards like Gush, Force of Will, Dig Through Time, and Treasure Cruise frequently result in expensive spells being cast on the cheap or for free, resulting in huge bodies. Additionally, with enough artifacts in play, it can serve as a way to return all of your spells for another round.
Ghirapur Orrery is a rather interesting one. While it is symmetrical, it can be easy to break the symmetry with the right cards. It provides both players with an Exploration effect, and when hands are empty, it allows players to draw an extra three cards. With cards like Noose Constrictor or Olivia's Dragoon, cards that cannot be immediately utilized can simply be discarded, allowing the player to get a free Ancestral Recall every turn.
Panharmonicon is another interesting effect, doubling all enters the battlefield abilities triggered from creatures and artifacts. While this effect may not be strong enough for Standard at four mana, it will definitely see play in Commander as a way to double out powerful enters the battlefield abilities.
Back in Scars of Mirrodin, there was a cycle of lands, inlcuding Blackcleave Cliffs, that were later dubbed "Fastlands". These lands enter untapped as long as they are within your first three land drops. This is a powerful ability, as many games in older formats have the first three turns as the most pivotal. These lands have shown up frequently in Modern, and even occasionally in Legacy; decks like Dredge can run them as a way to play dual lands that notably do not have the basic land types, meaning they are not vulnerable to effects like Choke or Lord of Atlantis. Kaladesh finally completes this cycle, adding the pivotal , , and pairs, which are highly played in Modern.
Kaladesh also has a number of legends that are of interest to Commander players.
Depala, Pilot Exemplar heralds the return of Dwarves, providing a powerful Dwarf tribal effect that also works well with Vehicles. She provides an anthem to all Dwarves and all Vehicle creatures, but more interestingly, she gives a Goblin Ringleader-type effect on tapping that puts both Dwarves and Vehicles into your hand. This means that she synergizes well with both of the powerful former Dwarf tribal cards - Dwarven Bloodboiler lets you tap Depala at will, while Dwarven Recruiter stacks the deck with Dwarves for her to ringlead.
Rashmi, Eternities Crafter is a powerful general, turning the first spell cast every turn into a psuedo-cascade effect, revealing the top card of your library and casting it if it has a lower converted mana cost than the first spell, and drawing the card if it can't be cast. This works incredibly well when Rashmi can be followed up by instants with high converted mana costs, like Force of Will, Dig Through Time, and Gush. After untapping, a slew of spells can be launched over the upcoming turns, generating huge card advantage and putting away the game.
Kambal, Consul of Allocation is the legend with the most Eternal potential. Draining two life on every noncreature spell cast by the opponent, he can shut down opposing Storm decks in much the same way Eidolon of the Great Revel can. At three mana, he fits the curve well in decks like Stoneblade in Legacy or Soul Sisters in Modern.
With all of the excitement over Kaladesh, it's easy to overlook that Wizards just announced a number of other sets as well.
In March of 2017, the latest Modern Masters set, Modern Masters 2017 releasese. This collects powerful cards from Magic's past, including cards from Innistrad and Return to Ravnica blocks this time around. This means we can likely expect to see cards like Snapcaster Mage, Liliana of the Veil, Cavern of Souls, and Abrupt Decay.
In April of 2017, we'll see the first set of the block following Kaladesh: Amonkhet, an Egyptian-inspired block featuring the return of Nicol Bolas.
In May of 2017, we're seeing the latest set of Duel Decks, Duel Decks: Mind vs Might, pitting brawn against brains in a battle for survival.
In June of 2017, Wizards is releasing their next Anthology set, Commander Anthology. This set collects decks from the last four Commander Releases - Kaalia of the Vast's Heavenly Inferno from 2011, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician's Evasive Maneuvers from 2013, Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury's Guided by Nature from 2014, and Meren of Clan Nel Toth's Plunder the Graves from 2015.
Additionally in June, Wizards is releasing the sequel to the popular multiplayer expansion, Archenemy. In Archenemy: Nicol Bolas, the archenemy player gets to play as Nicol Bolas, aided by a deck of powerful Scheme cards, against three players playing decks featuring other planeswalkers.
Finally, in July of 2017, we get Hour of Devastation, the second set in the Amonkhet block.
Tune in to the Rumor Mill in the coming week to see the conclusion of spoilers for Kaladesh, including the red Gearhulk, Dovin Baan, and the complete spoiler on Friday!