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October 2, 2016

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Pro Tips on Kaladesh Limited

With the release of Kaladesh and two limited Grands Prix (GP Atlanta & London) right around the corner, players from all around the world will be trying their hardest to quickly learn the ins and outs of the latest format. Of course, not all of its secrets will be divulged until Pro Tour Hawaii, after which the main circuit pros will be more likely to share their real insights. Since I will be attending GP Atlanta and the Pro Tour in a few weeks, I won’t be identifying the sleeper cards in this article but instead giving you some tips on how to identify the best cards in limited yourself.

The New Mechanics:
Kaladesh has introduced 3 new mechanics and as usual, new mechanics tend to be the most skill-testing nature of the format. Those new mechanics are Energy, Fabricate and Vehicles.

Energy:
Energy is a new type of resource that stays with the player until it is used up. There are both enablers and pay-off cards for energy and since this is a new type of resource, there are no guidelines on what constitutes a fair rate for energy versus cards. When we compare mana versus creatures, everyone knows that a 2 mana 1/2 is a horrible deal, a 2 mana 2/2 is a regular deal, and a 2 mana 3/3 is an amazing deal. Is it worth two energy for a +1/+1 counter, to ping a creature, or lose defender on a 4/4? This is very format specific and won’t be fully flushed out until the Pro Tour.

Cards that come with an energy boost on top of a playable effect such as Aethersquall Ancient, Aetherstorm Roc and Aether Meltdown are definitely playable on their own and will prove themselves to be good. The trap is when you start playing cards that are not good on their own, such as Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot. Now don’t get me wrong this card can be playable, but only when the payoff is worth it.

Fabricate:
Fabricate is a new mechanic where a creature with Fabricate X will enter the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters or create X Artifact 1/1 Servo tokens (basically Memnites). This mechanic is available on a many creatures (green, black and white) and effectively renders the majority of 1 toughness non-evasion creatures as unplayable. Another factor that has to be determined, is when should you consider the +1/+1 counter rather than making “Memnites”.

In the case of vanilla creatures, it is important to evaluate the texture of the board. If your opponent has 2 2/2s and you are casting a Glint-Sleeve Artisan, it’s probably better to make a 3/3 rather than making a 2/2 and a 1/1. However, if your opponent has an empty board and is playing a lot of removal, I would prefer making two creatures rather than one. This also gets better if you have Vehicles that require smaller creatures, so that you don’t get bricked by a removal spell.

If your opponent is at 9 life and you have a Propeller Pioneer, it is usually better to make it a 3/2 flyer that will close the game in three more turns. This is better than needing 5 turns of attacking along with a 1/1 chump-blocker. Also, if the Servo is not relevant to the board or the opponent has shown cards such as Make Obsolete, it is important to balance the number of 1/1s you have on the board.

Vehicles:
Vehicles are non-creature artifacts that become creatures once they are “Crewed”. Crewing occurs by tapping a creature or group of creatures that total X power. This will animate the Vehicle and make it a creature until end of turn. This is powerful as it can be done at instant speed, which allows Vehicles to attack or to block. Vehicles are very similar to Equipment as they require creatures to be good and are not great in multiples. However, unlike equipment, vehicles are destroyed by lethal damage. As such, they are not as abusable as some of the most ridiculous equipment that we have come to know, ie: Umezawa’s Jitte, Loxodon Warhammer. One of the largest initial challenges in deck building will be to balance the number of creatures with the number of non-creature spells (including Vehicles). Too many non-creature spells (typically a good thing), will make Vehicles worse and opponent’s removal even more crippling.

Instant Speed Tricks:
At the start of every format, instant speed tricks are at their most valuable. Players have not yet developed a gut instinct to see untapped mana and understand what could potentially be coming down the pipeline. Of course with enough reps and enough time, most players to get to that point. As a result, not only are instant speed tricks very important, but also memorizing the possibilities. This is the part of the limited format where the most edge can be gained.

Format Specifics:
Every limited format has a specific dynamic that is important to understand. What is the special toughness that allows creatures to be at their best? For example, a format with a lot of 2 toughness removal and 2 power creatures would improve the value of a 3 toughness creature. Understanding the prevalence of counter-magic and discard in the format is also important. For example, since Mind Rot is in the format, holding two cards in your hand is even worse than holding one. Where as in other formats it may have been correct to just hold one card at all times to buffer around the random discard 1 cards such as Rottenheart Ghoul.

I hope that you found this article to very helpful. Good luck in your FNMs, your release events and your Grands Prix. I’ll see you next week. Until then.
Sammy T