September 15, 2016

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Going Rogue: Interaction – Brewing with Kaladesh Spoilers

Hello and welcome back to Going Rogue, where winning isn’t the goal but it often happens anyway.

Today I just want to take a quick peek inside the most tantalizing of what Kaladesh has to offer, and run down a short list of a few of the new broken things it allows us to do in our favourite “whatever goes” format, Modern.

First off is the most exciting of the bunch, Saheeli Rai.

Saheeli Rai

When I first saw Saheeli, I was extremely excited. Sure, her +1 isn’t overly great (sadly three CMC is too expensive to be the core of a counterburn deck, I think), and her ultimate is extremely hard to achieve, but her -2 is just screaming infinite potential.

What I was hoping for was some powered-down version of Flickerwisp that flickered back instantly. If that existed, we’d be right back into Splinter Twin territory all over again.

Sadly, that card doesn’t exist (yet), but there is another option (albeit much clunkier) that uses two copies of Saheeli and a Sun Titan to make infinite hasty 6/6s. You play the second Saheeli, the first dies due to the legend rule, and then the second Saheeli copies Sun Titan, recurring the first one, legend rule-sac-copy-legend rule-sac-copy, etc.

The neat thing about this combo is that you can assemble it relatively consistently with Gifts Ungiven, and Sun Titan is already played in some blue-white control lists.

The more obvious downside is that Jeskai Control in Modern is already a Tier 1 strategy, and already has a combination of planeswalker and finisher creature in the form of Nahiri, the Harbinger and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, so there isn’t much impetus to hop on the Saheeli train just yet.

But when they someday due print that instantaneous Flickerwisp

While we’re talking about Planeswalkers, it’s hard to finish a Kaladesh article without briefly mentioning Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

Chandra Torch of Defiance

There’s no combo potential that I can imagine here, but it appears that the card is just very powerful. The fact that you could remove either of her +1 abilities and still have a strong card is just scary.

The question is where will she be played? Her abilities are well-suited to an attrition strategy like Jund, but that deck already has some important things topping the curve at four, not to mention the beating Dark Confidant can lay on you if you’re not careful. She’s an option for Jund, and will likely see one or two copies in some variant’s 75, but I’m interested in identifying strong decks that feature it as more of a centrepiece.

Skred Red will certainly want her, but that’s a pretty fringe deck that hasn’t had a good day in the meta in a long time. The only other possibility that comes to mind is Through the BreachPrimeval Titan decks. Those decks badly lack an interactive element, and though many have splashed white for Nahiri, the stress that a third colour puts on the combo-aligned mana base can’t be understated. It’s possible that Chandra fits in here better as a flex piece that can come down on turn three to Flame Slash a Thought-Knot Seer, and then ramp up to six mana the next turn to resolve a Prime Time.

Moving on though, I want to quickly glance over Kaladesh’s exciting mythic cycle of Gearhulks.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Torrential Gearhulk
Noxious Gearhulk
Combustible Gearhulk
Verdurous Gearhulk

Each one of these Construct Titans offers a unique reason to be excited, although I have my suspicions that most of them aren’t going to be playable.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk‘s Tragic Arrogance-effect seems like an EDH high-five, but if you manage to resolve it in Modern, you’re likely going to be too late, or still be facing down a bigger body than yours. The cute thing of course is that it can choose itself as the artifact, so you get to keep two creatures versus a likely one, but I’m not optimistic about it nevertheless.

Torrential Gearhulk (aka Fatcaster Mage) definitely has some potential. A 5/6 is big, and when the worst it’s likely to come with is a Lightning Bolt, you’re in good shape. Yes it still costs six, but Flash mitigates this in a big way since you get to choose when to commit to it. This thing looks quite nice sitting alongside cards like Gifts Ungiven and Cryptic Command, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up in a Control list like Blue-White or Mono-Blue Tron.

Noxious Gearhulk is a value champion, making Shriekmaw look like a waste of time. But alas, six mana for a kill spell falls very short of the bar in Modern, even if you might get to gain a decent chunk of life off it. In limited, this is just about the best card you could hope for as an effective three-for-one, but Modern will not be kind to it.

Combustible Gearhulk has a lot of people talking. ‘Draw three cards’ has been shown to be one of the most dangerous phrases in Magic this side of “Untap target artifact”, but I fear that the opponent-choosing aspect of the card is being too quickly overlooked. A six drop is unlikely to fit in a high-pressure deck, so the number of times your opponent won’t be able to gamble on the discard-three-damage option is pretty low. On the other hand, you could build a deck around exploiting this choice, but it will be painfully obvious what you’re up to. Enjoy drawing Emrakul.

Finally, Verdurous Gearhulk is, in my opinion, where it’s at. It’s a strong fair play that can come down turn three or four off some Birds of Paradise, and then spread out the love to make your dorks into serious threats. It’s also a strong unfair play when you Eldritch Evolution a Kitchen Finks into it, and then Restoration Angel it to make a 7/8 beater. Don’t look now, but I think Kiki-Chord just found a very good new friend.

Those are the top-line cards to cover, but let’s now just take a quick rip through some of the jankier things that I’ll ask you to keep in your brewer’s back pocket over the coming months:

Sorry, I got a little carried away there. The prettiness of the art just makes the thought of doing dumb things that much more fabulous.

Anyways, if I had to put my money on any of these things working out, it would be split between Chandra and Verdurous Gearhulk. Both seem like high-impact cards that don’t need an overwhelming amount of innovation to make work. But the rest all have very high potential to do crazy things if the right list of supporting cards falls together.

There’s no list this week, just a bunch of crazy ideas. I hope you enjoyed them and I look forward to seeing the format’s developments as Kaladesh cards start to make their mark over the coming months.

Thanks for reading, and as always, have fun and may the force be with brew.