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October 14, 2016

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The True Nature of Kaladesh Limited

By the time you’re reading this, the first three rounds of limited have been completed at Pro Tour Kaladesh in Hawaii, which hopefully means that I’m 3-0 heading into the Standard rounds. GP Atlanta was last week and although I neglected to pick up any pro points, I would say that it was a very successful weekend. I know what you’re thinking, how does that make any sense Sam? Isn’t the whole point of going away to Grands Prix to “cash” or at the very minimum pick up a few pro points?

To answer that question, I’ll have to time travel to the past to give you a look into the various testing that I had done for limited. Unfortunately, this was one of the first prereleases that I was unable to attend since I was working in Montreal on the same weekend. I thought I was going to be able to attend at least one, but at the last minute Rob Anderson chose to cancel on me, so I had to settle myself with watching in-room movies for my free night. As anyone who has been to a Pro Tour before can attest, we hustled to get as many packs as possible to start drafting prior to the set’s release.

We set up nightly 8 man drafts around Mississauga consisting of myself and these regulars: old-school Mike Ferneyhough, Kris “with a K” Kavanagh, Matthew “the lady slayer” Dilks, Kris “the comedian” Birmingham, Joel “one-time” Repta, Edgar “3 Time GP Top 8er” Magalhaes, Mark “7th best drafter in the room” Dizon. These drafts started to become more frequent as the GP drew closer and closer, and eventually every day I would be leaving work at 5 pm and drafting until 3 am. In order to play enough drafts each day, we would draft like a regular 8 man, and then pick teams after the draft so that we could play a 4v4 and 2 rounds with an extra tie-breaker round if needed, where one player would be cut and the best of 3 matches would win it.

By the time that we all became familiar with the draft format, we humorously made Joel pick and reveal one of the 8 team cards that were thrown around first, and everyone prayed that they wouldn’t be on his team as he rarely put any wins on the scoreboard. I had one of the best records out of the group so I felt very hopeful for my chances at GP Atlanta and the Pro Tour. Through at least 30 drafts we quickly realized and corrected pick orders.

Now as I mentioned before, I didn’t do so well in Atlanta. I went 7-2 on day one with a mediocre deck “highlighted” by 2 Revoke Privileges and 2 Welding Sparks. I was happy with my ability to escape the sealed rounds with that record when considering the deck that I was piloting. Unfortunately, since I had 3 byes, my tiebreakers were inflated and I was placed in pod with all gold players, 4 of which were from Team East West Bowl. It felt like a team draft, and they mapped out my deck completely and forced me into a RBw aggressive deck. I played and beat one of the 3 unknowns in the pod first before losing a tight 3 game match versus Timothy Wu, who I consider one of the most genuine and humble person on the Pro Tour. I then had 2 non-games against Ari Lax, where he drew very well and I drew almost every land in my deck both games. In my last game against him, I plopped 7 lands onto the table from my hand when he attacked for lethal while already having 8 in play, and I only played 16!

My second draft was much better and I ended up with a BW deck with a lot of bomb cards and removal. Unfortunately, I had to mulligan to five in my first round against a UG energy deck and lost a very long game 1 against one of the slowest players I have ever played against. I won game 2 in 12 minutes, of which he took 11 minutes and then with 7 minutes left on the clock he started trying to stall during side-boarding. He even took 2.5 minutes to resolve an Attune with Aether when he “dropped” his deck on the floor while shuffling. He was dead on board if I got to play on turn 6 of time, so I asked him to concede since I would do the same if he was winning and a loss eliminated us from cashing and made no difference for pro points since that only depends on the number of match wins. He refused and said that he didn’t care. He would end up drawing the next round with Alex Majalton as well due to the same slow play. I would end up taking a mulligan to five and four in my next round and my tournament was effectively over.

However, the rest of the crew ended up doing okay and each of them walked away with some pro points. Edgar got two, while Dilks got one and even Joel got himself one. Our post tournament debrief confirmed everything that I had thought, we had really understood the format and this had given us a large advantage of most of the field.

Here are some of the key takeaways of this limited format:

Play a deck that is in the Abzan shard if you can, these decks are the grindiest and have a lot of use for their extra mana. These types of decks want 17 lands.

BW is the best deck that you can build in this format.

If you are not in the Abzan shard and lack multiple mana sinks, play 16 lands.

Focus on your two and three drop slot. The best cards are available in the 4 drop slot, so you want to make sure that you have a very good curve.

Removal spells aren’t necessary unless you need to remove a utility creature (ex. Oviya, Aetherspell Ancient, etc.)

Do not play too many reactive cards in your deck. Unlike previous formats, you want to ensure that you have 15+ creatures, 2 vehicles and then the rest as non-creature spells.

Synergy is a real thing in this format, if you are not synergistic you have to make sure that you are putting a fast clock on your opponent.

Revoke Privileges is not a good card. Remember that time you cast it and won? Neither do I. It interacts unfavourably (2 for 1) with a lot of highly played commons (Aviary Mechanic, Appetite for the Unnatural, Aether Tradewinds)

Inventor’s Goggles is great in an Abzan shard deck.

Durable Handicraft is an insane uncommon that is seeing little to no play.

Renegade Freighter is the best common (and can be played in any deck).

Blue is the worst colour, most drafts tend to be a game of chicken to see who is willing to commit to blue first.


Uncommon Pick Order (top 3): these of course change based on your colour pair / artifact density)

Black: Essence Extraction, Aetherborn Marauder, Underhanded Designs

Red: Harnessed Lightning, Furious Reprisal, Brazen Scourge

Green: Longtusk Cub, Nature’s Way, Arborback Stomper

Blue: Aether Meltdown, Long-Finned Skywhale, Experimental Aviator

White: Aerial Responder, Skywhaler’s Shot, Visionary Augmenter

Colourless: Chief of the Foundry, Snare Thopter, Ovalchase Dragster

Multicoloured: Don’t splash unless the payoff is really that high (ex. Cloudblazer, Dovin Baan, Rashmi, Eternities Crafter.

Common Pick Order (top 3): these of course change based on your color pair / artifact density)

Black: Die Young, Dhund Operative, Foundry Screecher

Red: Welding Sparks, Chandra’s Pyrohelix, Thriving Grubs

Green: Peema Outrider, Thriving Rhino, Kujar Seedsculptor

Blue: Aether Theorist, Wind Drake, Malfunction

White: Impeccable Timing, Glint-Sleeve Artisan, Aviary Mechanic

Colourless: Renegade Freighter, Prophetic Prism (if you have artifact matters cards, ways to pick it up as a cost (Aether Tradewinds, Aviary Mechanic, Disappearing Act etc.) or are splashing – if not do not play), various activated ability artifact creatures

That’s it for this week. Wish me luck this weekend!
Until then,
Sam