With any Limited format, it’s important to keep an open mind about card evaluation as the season progresses. Sometimes, the first opinion you have on a card or color can change drastically by the end of the season. Like Standard, Limited also has a changing metagame, one that shifts over the weeks as people begin to have a more deeper understanding of the archetypes of that format.

First Impressions

From the very start of the Limited season, I had pinpointed what I believed to be the strongest color: green. Looking at the sizable threats such as Longtusk Cub, Thriving Rhino, and Peema Outrider, green stuck out as an early contender for having the strongest cards at common. Following green, came white, red, then blue and black – the two colors I perceived to be the weakest of the format.

Now, many weeks later into the format, while my opinion about many cards has changed, I still believe green to be the strongest color on the surface. However, Kaladesh Limited is much more intricate than I first believed it to be. From my prerelease and the first couple of drafts, the format seemed very aggressive and dull. White and green seemed like the obvious colors to be in and decks seemed low to the ground and aggressive. The format was shaping up to be a 16-land format. While a lot of my first assumptions came to be true, my opinions of Kaladesh limited have changed greatly since its release.

Now let’s look at what has changed.

1. Renegade Freighter is still great, but not unpassable.

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Renegade Freighter is an incredibly powerful Magic card. A 5/4 attacker for only three mana that requires just the input of a 2-power creature? Sign me up! Renegade Freighter still tends to be the bane of my existence when playing against R/W draft decks, but my original opinion of the card has changed. In preparation for Team Drafts, teammate Ryan Saxe (read his articles on Spellsnare.com here) and I discussed what cards could be passed and what not to pass. We originally came to the conclusion that Renegade Freighter was a premium card, and shouldn’t be passed up for over any other common or uncommon in the set. Why?

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Because, unlike powerful commons and uncommons such as Welding Sparks or Revoke Privileges, the fact that Freighter was an artifact meant it could be included into any deck and was a solid early pickup in pack one. Passing it meant that the opposing teammate to your left could pick it up and include it in their deck, but that wasn’t always the case if they were passed a colored card instead. Although this school of thought seemed correct, our opinions changed. As the weeks went on we realized that not all the decks in the format were aggressive.

Ryan introduced me to the combo between Whirler Virtuoso and Era of Innovation, which bumped Virtuoso up to a high pick for us. While Renegade Freighter proves to be a powerful card, it’s a powerful aggressive card. It shines in the R/W or G/W aggressive decks, where it can be piloted with ease by Servo tokens, but in the more grindy blue or black decks, it’s possible to pass up on this card. We turned to Prophetic Prism as one of the more powerful artifacts at common since there aren’t many mana fixing cards in the set. That being said, we reserved picking up Freighter in pack three, if we were already set in an archetype that could use the card to its advantage.

2. The modules are all excellent.

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At the beginning of the format, I was not a fan of the three module cards. In a format that was shaping up to be linear and aggressive, what need was there for clunky artifacts that on the surface seemed to do nothing? In drafts, I would pass up on these artifacts for red removal or powerful green commons, but as the format began slowing down, my perspective on the modules changed. First off, there are a limited number of mana sinks in Kaladesh Limited, and even though all decks might not want them, the modules fit perfectly into that slot.

Animation Module stands out as the most powerful, since picking it up early allows you to build around it. Fabrication Module is also exceptionally powerful in the Green-Blue based energy decks, since the majority of your cards will produce energy buffing up your creatures with extra power and toughness to trump your opponent’s board. In an early set review, it’s easy to pass up on these cards as mediocre, given your first impression of the format is that it’s aggressive and linear. However, after seeing the modules in action and their synergies with energy, +1/1 counters, and enter the battlefield effects, they all proved to be exceptionally powerful.

3. Whirler Virtuoso is the best multicolored uncommon.

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Looking at the multicolored uncommons when the set was spoiled, Cloudblazer and Voltaic Brawler stood out as the most promising. A U/W Mulldrifter that also gains life seemed incredible with the white “flicker” effects at common, and an attacking 4/3 trampler on turn 3 seemed menacing as well. What I failed to see in my first take on the set was the intricate interactions between some cards, most notably Whirler Virtuoso and Era of Innovation.

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Paying one energy and one mana for a Thopter token is a steal, and adding Decoction Module or Fabrication Module to the mix makes things even sweeter. Although Whirler Virtuoso and Era of Innovation look lackluster as individual cards, their powerful synergy is enough to push both of them into the playables pile. In my first take on the format, I failed to look deeper into these card synergies. I think Kaladesh is a set where it’s difficult to give individual ratings to cards since many of them can either shine or prove to be poor depending on what other cards in your deck they have conjunction with.

4. Devoting early pays off, but so does keeping an open mind.

Since there are many archetypes and interesting synergies in Kaladesh Limited, it’s important to go in early in a draft and devote yourself to a strategy. In a team draft last week, my draft went off the rails since I was not devoted enough to a certain strategy. After picking up some white cards in pack one, I couldn’t make my mind up of what my second color should be. I picked up some copies of Malfunction and other mediocre blue cards, a Cloudblazer, then started taking some green cards here and there in pack two. In pack three I opened an Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter in pack three and snapped it up. By the end of the draft, my pool was a mess.

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My deck had no clear direction and I ended up being a U/W based deck throwing in the Oviya and a Blossoming Defense off of no fixing. I promptly 0-3’d. Had I devoted myself to a second color, I would’ve been able to have enough playable cards and would’ve had a stronger deck overall. There is always some flexibility in pack one. In another recent team draft I picked up a Whirler Virtuoso pick three of pack one, after first and second picking two powerful white cards. While I could’ve picked up an Impeccable Timing, I knew the combos that existed with Virtuoso were powerful, and if the cards came my way, I’d try to build around it. However, I saw no other cards to combo with Virtuoso and moved comfortably back into white and picked up a couple of black cards in the remainder of the pack. It’s important to be flexible and note when it’s the right time to move into a different color combination, but overall in this format where decks revolve around intricate synergies, it’s vital to devote yourself to a strategy early on.

Conclusion

As with any Magic format nothing is ever set in stone. While certain card evaluations hold true at the beginning of the season, your opinions can change drastically over the course of a few months. Kaladesh has been an exciting ride, an although at first the format seemed very straightforward and aggressive, many of my opinions on cards have changed. What’s important to keep in mind about this Limited format overall is the powerful synergies that exist between two ore more cards. Whirler Virtuoso and Era of Innovation, Salivating Gremlins and Whirlermaker, Animation Module and fabricate cards, the list goes on and on. While many cards individually appear mediocre, it’s important not to pass them off as poor just because on the surface they appear to be weak. A lot can be learned from Kaladesh Limited, and when evaluating future limited sets I’ll keep an open mind about cards that don’t strike me as powerful and I’ll strive to look for those synergies, those card combinations that make those individual cards shine.

Every competitive player wants to make the most of their testing. Read this article from Austin Mansell, which discusses how he maximizes learning from his testing sessions.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s article!

Cheers,

Roman

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