The day had finally come. After weeks of daydreaming of crewing vehicles, making energy, and casting Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the day had finally come – it was time to play with Kaladesh cards for the first time. Prerelease weekends are a favorite for me for many reasons. It’s nice to take a quick break from grinding PPTQs and larger events to sit down, crack some packs of a brand new set, and start to learn the new cards in a fun, casual environment. Having difficulty finding a Manhattan prerelease with available space, I decided to take the train down to Hoboken to play at Aether Game Cafe, a newer but cozy gaming location. Before I knew it, the prerelease boxes were handed out, I opened my packs and found myself face to face with this beauty.
Here’s the deck I forged from my pool:
1 Pia Nalaar
1 Thriving Rhino
1 Lathnu Hellion
1 Iron League Steed
1 Highspire Artisan
1 Cowl Prowler
1 Longtusk Cub
1 Voltaic Brawler
1 Wild Wanderer
1 Peema Outrider
1 Reckless Fireweaver
1 Elegant Edgecrafters
1 Wayward Giant
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Red seemed like an easy color for the shell of my deck since my red cards included Chandra, two other on-color rares in Pia Nalaar and Lathnu Hellion, and some nice tricks and removal. Although I was happy to open such a powerful planeswalker in my pool, I felt like my deck definitely lacked creatures. I wanted my deck to have an aggressive strategy but my lack of red and green creatures in my pool led me to play cards such as Cowl Prowler and Reckless Fireweaver; not terrible cards, but certainly not the best either.
Appetite for the Unnatural seemed like an easy card to keep in the sideboard at first glance, however, I found myself boarding it in consistently in my matches – although 3 mana is an expensive cost to be paying for this effect, it matches up nicely against opposing vehicles and usually seemed to have a target. I’d only recommend ever main decking this card in sealed, however.
From playing four rounds with my deck I learned some valuable tips in what could have made my deck better and some overall lessons on Kaladesh limited.
Even though my deck was playing just two vehicles, I wasn’t extremely impressed with either. My deck did have a low amount of creatures and while Renegade Freighter proved to be a nice addition to my aggressive strategy, Ballista Charger underperformed.
Throughout the day, the vehicles with crew costs of 2 or less shined while the vehicles with the more expensive crew costs rusted. Renegade Freighter is powerful for many reasons: it fits well into an aggressive curve, can be crewed fairly easily, and has great stats (5/4 with trample while attacking) for a mere 3 mana investment. However, when it comes to cards like Ballista Charger, the same cannot be said. The five mana initial investment along with having to use a 3 or more power creature to activate it for a 6/6 body is just fine on the surface, but in instances where you’re behind on board, or it’s difficult to break through a board stall, these cards can be underwhelming.
Overall, it’s important not to include too many vehicles into a given Limited deck. They have limited interaction with other cards since their only interaction with your opponent’s cards is through combat, and you have to account for investing one or more creatures whenever you’d like your vehicle to attack or block. It was definitely difficult to deal with opposing Sky Skiffs and Renegade Freighters on curve, but much easier to deal with cards such as Aradara Express and Ballista Charger.
My aggressive RG deck did have a small energy sub-theme revolving around cards such as Thriving Rhino, Lathnu Hellion, Longtusk Cub, and Voltaic Brawler. I found myself using energy very aggressively in this deck, pumping up my creatures or paying the end step cost of Lathnu Hellion right away.
Although I had Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot in my pool, I decided to replace it and instead play cards such as Built to Smash so to be more devoted to winning games through an aggressive strategy, rather than focusing on providing more energy for a few cards in my deck. I originally had put Dynavolt Tower in my deck for round one but was quickly disappointed. Tower, which has an initial investment of 3 mana, requires an additional 5 energy just to deal 3 damage to a target of your choice. The problem with this is that the cost of 3 mana with an additional 5 energy equates to about two cards, meaning that instead of using your energy for your other cards (in my case, my aggressive creatures) you have to channel it to Tower just to deal 3 damage. Although I wasn’t impressed with this card, I feel it will have a home in a more dedicated blue-red spells shell.
Although in my RG deck I used my energy almost immediately to buff up my creatures, I’m curious as to how energy should be tracked and conserved in strategies with cards with energy-sinks, such as Die Young and Aether Theorist.
The one important part of this new mechanic is figuring out if the card you’re playing with Fabricate benefits more with the number of +1/+1 counter placed on it or not. I definitely made mistakes during my prerelease where I played my Fabricate cards incorrectly. For example, I had a turn 3 where I cast Highspire Artisan as an 0/3 to make a Servo token. My opponent then plays a 3/2 creature. I cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance and use the -3 ability to kill that 3/2. After my opponent casted two more 3-power creatures I found myself on the back foot, unable to draw enough creatures to profitably block his, and having to trade my Servo and 0/3 creature to protect Chandra. If I had played Artisan as a 1/4 reach instead, I would have been able to provide another blocker to stabilize in that situation.
In general, this card should be played as a 1/4 creature with reach since it matches up well against Servo tokens, any other x-1 creatures of the format, and any 3-power creature. I feel for the most part, Fabricate creatures should be played with the additional +1/+1 counters mode, except when those creature match up poorly against multiple small creatures. For example, Maulfist Squad is only really powerful as a 4/2 creature when your opponent lacks creatures on their side of the board; you usually choose to have that creature enter the battlefield with a 1/1 Servo friend.
Overall I think my pool had powerful cards, but lacked creatures to fill my aggressive curve. I learned a lot about the format at this prerelease, and although my deck could’ve been better, there’ll always be another tournament. This week I’ll begin drafting the format and will get a better grasp at drafting Kaladesh, along with starting to prepare for upcoming Standard PPTQs. Kaladesh is now among us! What Limited cards impressed you at pre-release? Let me know below!
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