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Welcome to my Kaladesh Constructed Set Review! I do things a little differently than in the Limited review:
I evaluate only the cards that have a shot at seeing play in Constructed. Sometimes I leave a card off that ends up seeing play, but I try and cast a wide net.
I try and talk about non-Standard formats if something seems applicable, but if I don’t mention a specific format, assume I’m talking about Standard.
The ratings scale is slightly different as well:
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
I like the combination of generating 4 energy and giving you a powerful sink if you can increase your energy count otherwise. Pinging is also nice, making this a card that has fills a few different roles for an energy deck.
Playing this on 3 and getting a hit in puts you ahead of the curve, making Brazen Scourge a respectable threat for an aggressive red deck. We haven’t seen that since the last rotation, though this one may soon become the scourge of Standard.
Built to Smash
The stats and cost are right, especially if you are targeting a giant artifact (like a Vehicle). I can believe that such a deck exists, even if Giant Growth plus trample doesn’t seem like it would normally see play.
Hugs for everyone! In Standard, this can help enable graveyard decks and decks that are looking to combine specific cards. Discarding two and drawing three is much better than Tormenting Voice in Constructed, and Tormenting Voice was a highly playable card. This goes nuts in Modern Dredge, and overall looks to be a very powerful card. It is painful getting it countered, so try to avoid that.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Chandra is an interesting one. There’s a lot going on here, and this is definitely one of the cards where the rating doesn’t tell the whole story.
As a card, Chandra is absurd. She has four good abilities, and ticks the important boxes of “protects herself” and “draws a card each turn.” It’s relevant that her first ability doesn’t let you play lands, but it’s still close to drawing a card. Ramping you by 2 mana isn’t a throwaway, either. Playing Chandra, torching their only creature, and ramping into a 6- or 7-drop is a great sequence, and doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility by any stretch.
What kinds of decks does Chandra encourage you to build? She pushes you to play early creatures and removal, and while she doesn’t require expensive spells, her R/R ability certainly combines well with them. On the flip side, her exile ability plays very well with cheap cards, and if you care about the 2 damage, that makes it quite a bit better. All that combined means that Chandra looks good in many different kinds of decks, with the only common factor being early interaction.
The real question, and what might ultimately stop Chandra from being a dominant force in Standard, is “what kinds of creatures will populate the format?” Don’t get me wrong—she will see play in both Standard and Modern, but there’s a difference between seeing play and being ubiquitous, and if I had to bet, Chandra won’t permeate the format like some other splashy cards have.
Vehicles, particularly Smuggler’s Copter, are immune to Chandra and pressure her mightily. Likewise, decks full of cheap creatures can go wide enough to defy Chandra, while X/5s offer another set of problems. I suspect Smuggler’s Copter and other Vehicles (like Skysovereign) will limit how much play Chandra sees.
The net of all this: Chandra is a great card, but the format is looking somewhat hostile toward her. That could change, but I believe she will be good rather than great.
I’m only mentioning this for completeness’ sake, since all the other Gearhulks are great. I don’t see this dealing enough damage to justify its cost, as a 6/6 for 6 is not Constructed playable by itself. Dealing 4-6 damage (unreliably) isn’t going to cut it in Constructed, and making a super high-curve deck to maximize Gearhulk damage sounds like a strategy that will not pan out.
Any card that can deal 10+ damage for 4 mana is worth looking at, and this comes with a Windfall to boot. Paradoxical Outcome is one way to return a bunch of cards to your hand, but the possibilities don’t end there. This also can be cast as a 4-mana deal-4 or 5 without shenanigans, which is a solid back-up plan.
Even being creature-only can’t stop this from being great, and lightning is going to strike way more than twice in this upcoming Standard format. In a non-energy deck, this deals 3 to a creature at instant speed, which is passable these days, and it goes absolutely nuts in an energy deck. Killing giant things, enabling your other energy cards, and doing so efficiently—that’s how Constructed staples are made.
Nerd Ape looks to be as good as the original (R.I.P. Kird Ape, you were taken too soon), and I expect to see a lot more beatdowns in our future. There are a bunch of high-powered artifacts that fit into aggressive strategies, and Inventor’s Apprentice is poised to take advantage of them.
I like the aggressive cost, and the support may be there for an aggressive red energy deck. Voltaic Brawler, Longtusk Cub, and Harnessed Lightning all play very nicely with Lathnu Hellion, and a 4/4 haste for 3 is no joke if you can get it to work. It already attacks twice by itself, which some decks would just play, and getting a third attack isn’t the most difficult thing in the world.
The card that single-handedly takes Madcap Experiment from strange oddity to potential combo piece is Platinum Emperion. If your only artifact is Emperion, you can Madcap into it and your life won’t change, at which point you’ve gotten a pretty good deal. Does Modern have a new contender? It’s worth an experiment at the very least.
Pia is the perfect example of card with a bunch of incremental abilities adding up nicely. She’s 3/3 worth of stats for 3 mana, 1/1 of which is flying, and can make any of your artifacts hit a little harder. She also ups your artifact count, and can throw artifacts at potential blockers. All that together makes for a card that will see a good amount of play in a wide range of decks.
I suppose if Thermo-Alchemist can be part of a great Standard deck, Reckless Fireweaver can too. It seems hard to play the 2-or-so artifacts a turn required to make this good, but there are a lot of trinket-y artifacts and token creators.
Skyship Stalker seems eminently fair while also being pretty good value at any point in the curve. Haste is really what makes this viable, and I like cards that are good on turn 4 or turn 8, which this is. It threatens planeswalkers, can deal a lot of damage to the face, and does a good job brawling. That’s a lot, even if it’s not busted.
Spark of Creativity
This card is really sweet. A cycling card that can sometimes kill something for just 1 mana is one to keep an eye on, and there are plenty of decks that will try and use it. I talked about the mechanics of using this in my Limited Set Review, which I’ll repeat here:
“You can mitigate the randomness here by only targeting creatures with toughness low enough that you can play any card that fails to kill them. For example, if you have 4 lands in play (and haven’t played a land yet), targeting a 4/4 will either kill it or reveal something that costs 3 or less.”
Overall, this fits best in synergy decks that mainly want to cycle cards, but don’t mind having a cycler that doubles as interaction. The drawing a card part is the more consistent one, so it makes sense that this would be best in a deck that prefers that mode.
I’m not as high on this as most people seem to be. I’ll admit that granting Skysovereign, Consul Flagship haste is big game, but Smuggler’s Copter doesn’t really need the help, and Fleetwheel Cruiser already gets there. That really makes it hard for Speedway Fanatic to be a driving force in deck construction, and I’m much more optimistic about some of the other pilots in the set. If this could crew Skysovereign by itself, my tune would change, but it’s probably good flavor that it can’t.
Red is flush with good removal in this format, and this doesn’t really spark my interest. I’m including it because it can be pretty close to Murder in an artifact-heavy deck, but those intersect enough with energy decks that I’d usually rather just run Harnessed Lightning.
Top 3 Red Cards
Funnily enough, Cathartic Reunion probably ends up having less of an impact in Standard than these other two (with Pia Nalaar not far behind), but it has the highest potential thanks to older formats. Harnessed Lightning seems like a truly excellent removal spell, and combines power and flexibility. Chandra is clearly a good card, but the format might not be right for her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up hitting higher than I’m saying, but I’m leaning toward her being good rather than great (though she will be a presence for a long time, and has a good shot at showing up in Modern).