Previous Set Reviews
Ready, Set, Review?
I’m back after a one-set hiatus, and I’m glad to be able to take a look at Kaladesh. Reid Duke did a fantastic job with Eldritch Moon, and you can check out his thoughts on ChannelFireball’s Facebook page for card-by-card reviews of Kaladesh.
There’s a lot going on in this set, and the way the pieces interlock makes it complicated to review. Vehicles, energy, and more all rely on other cards in order to get full value, but I’ll try and factor that in as much as possible during the reviews.
I also want to mention, as usual, that the description of the card’s value is more important than the grade. The grade is a guideline, but the explanation will give you context, so use both when reading the review.
I’m going to start with artifacts this time, because the artifacts in this set inform all of the different colors (and there are so many, it’s like they are a color in and of themselves).
Let’s get to it!
Here’s the grading scale we will be using:
Despite my enduring love for Hexplate Golem, I can’t realistically claim that Accomplished Automaton is going to live up to its name. A 6/8 or a 5/7 + a 1/1 is a passable deal for 7 mana, but I’d hope that you can do better. Where this may fit is in control decks that need finishers and can’t pick anything else up, making it a card you can likely get almost automatically as a late pick.
Setting aside the second part of the card, this is a fairly powerful life gain engine. At one spell per turn, it does very little, but once you play two spells a turn you are gaining 3 life, and the third spell nets you another 3. An artifact that simply said “gain 2 life per turn” would be a solid control card, and this reads as slightly worse than that to me. It’s not outside the realm of playable, but requires enough spells that I’m skeptical of it actually delivering.
As for the 50 life part—that isn’t really a factor. You aren’t getting to 50 life in games you are losing anyway.
This is the classic build-around grade, where the card goes from unplayable to marvelous, depending on the rest of your deck. This doesn’t do a ton until you get to 6 energy, but once you do it draws you a card (with a lot of selection) and adds a bunch of mana, which is a sizable reward. It also combines well with tokens that die, and really gives you an edge if you prolong the game.
I think this card works. It needs to be activated twice to pay for itself, but in a tokens/energy deck, that seems doable. I wouldn’t move all-in on it over a solid removal spell, though I would take this if my deck was already heading in a direction to support it.
Animation Module also gets a build-around grade (there are a lot of cards like this in the set), but here the ceiling is a lot lower. You need to make 3 or 4 Servos to get value from this, and even though it fuels itself with the second ability, it still needs +1/+1 counters somewhere to get started. In the deck that wants this, it seems solid but not amazing, and most decks are not going to want it.
I guess the Vehicles train starts here. Let’s get to it.
Vehicles are more like a new take on equipment than they are creatures, though there are similarities to both. Because they require creatures to function, they fill noncreature nonremoval slots in your deck, meaning that having too many Vehicles is a big risk. The higher crew numbers also scale very rapidly—crew 4 is a much bigger cost than crew 2, because of how often you won’t be able to activate those higher numbers.
What Vehicles do well is give you an inflated set of stats to cost, meaning that if you successfully crew them, you get a good deal from your card. They also dodge sorcery-speed removal, and have a bunch of positive interactions with Pilots (creatures that give bonuses to the Vehicles they crew).
So, Aradara Express.
This isn’t one of the better vehicles, just because of how much you have to pay in terms of mana and crew cost. It’s adding 4 damage to the board, though menace and giant stats means that the Express may get through when the crew wouldn’t. This plays to my fears of paying a bunch of mana for a Vehicle and having my opponent bounce/kill it after activating, or killing off potential crew and leaving me with a brick.
The Express seems like a passable high-end card in a deck full of creatures, but is largely worse than other Vehicles that are competing for the same slots.
Even though I’m getting charged the same amount of mana for this as Aradara Express, I like this one a lot more. One less crew number is big, and pinging for 1 means that you will often be able to set up turns where you get to kill one of their creatures for free. That makes this easier to use and easier to reach card parity, meaning that even if there are turns where it doesn’t work, you aren’t down so much.
For this cycle of creatures with colored activations, I will often provide two ratings. Bastion Mastodon doesn’t warrant that, as it’s mediocre whether you have white mana or not. You may well end up playing this if you need a random artifact body, but it’s nothing exciting.
Bomat Bazaar Barge
It’d be bizarre for me to dislike a giant threat that draws a card, and this meets my requirements for a card I’d be willing to take early. You can still be stuck paying 4 mana for a card that just cycles, so make sure to have a decent number of creatures in your deck, though the risk is much lower with this than other Vehicles.
This has interesting implications in Constructed, but in Limited it’s often going to be a lot of work just to get a card or two (and you are probably discarding that many anyway). A 1/1 will die in combat often enough that you aren’t stacking a bunch of cards under this, so you are paying a card and discarding your hand to draw maybe two cards? I can appreciate sending a message, but this one comes at too high a setup cost.
Chief of the Foundry
It doesn’t take much before this justifies a slot in your deck, as a 3-mana 2/3 is only a little below what I like to pay for stats. Chief among your concerns should be picking up fabricate cards, but even Vehicles benefit nicely from this, and crewing them with it is a pretty sweet combo. This is low risk and high reward, making it a solid early pick.
This whole cycle is knot playable if you can’t activate the second ability, and in the case of this one, even if you can. Paying 4 mana for two 1/1s is just not a good deal, and the only way I can really envision playing this is if you are black-white and have a ton of artifact-matters cards.
In a land of Vehicles, a defender that just sits there and doesn’t punish the opponent for attacking is not what you're looking for. Vehicles mean that you will eventually be attacked by undercosted monsters, none of which get stopped by the Skygate, and even the go-wide fabricate decks won’t be deterred by this. I don’t mind having one of these to sideboard in against flier decks, but past that I’m not into it.
I really like Cultivator’s Caravan. It’s a real card even if you can’t crew it, as it accelerates you and fixes your mana, and then later it becomes a gigantic threat. That’s exactly the kind of split card I’m looking for, where flexibility plus power meet.
I feel like I’m saying this about a lot of the energy cards, but this doesn’t do enough on its own. There is a real reward for combining enough cards that make and use energy, so that deck is clearly going to exist, but cards like Deadlock Trap are just anemic without support. If you have reliable sources of energy, this locks down a creature a turn, which is great. If you don’t, it gets two shots, and that’s not worth a card.
Also, for those asking, this is not one of the 10 biggest traps in Limited. It only costs 3!
I’m underwhelmed by Decoction Module. First of all, it’s clearly an energy build-around that goes very deep. You can generate a lot from it, but need plenty of creatures and ways to spend energy before this pays you back for the card you invested. That is a possibility, but makes this closer to a late pick when you are drafting energy than an early pick to build around. The second ability is useful in the late game as well, though still not enough to warrant playing this without plenty of synergies.
This is exactly the kind of Vehicle that I predict will crash and burn. It just takes too many resources to get this going, and the payoff isn’t there. In some matchups it might work, but it’s way more of a sideboard card against board stalls. I just fear getting stomped by removal, or drawing this and not drawing 5 power worth of creatures.
If you aren’t playing blue, this is mediocre filler. If you are, this is a solid addition to the menagerie.
I’m not going to say that I’m completely unbiased here, but a spells-matter build-around is right up my alley. If you can combine this with a lot of energy-granting spells and some energy creatures, it can toast your opponent very quickly. This looks like enough of a payoff to take early, as it both produces energy and gives you a good outlet for it. It’s also clearly unplayable in most decks, hence the double rating.
If you need a 2/2 for 2, I won’t hound you for playing this. The ability is neutral to slightly negative (they technically get to make use of the scry first, because they draw their card before you do). This is also an artifact, making some decks slightly more interested than they other would be.
By itself, this is more of a punching bag than the reverse. A 1/1 that can make itself a 2/2 once is shockingly mediocre, so this really needs the right deck. In the heavy-energy deck, I still don’t see the ability being activated all that easily, so I’m a little more interested in playing this as an energy creator (at which point it’s still medium). This does play nicely with pump spells, but overall I’m going to say this is a decent addition to energy decks but not quite a build-around.
What kind of Fabrication Module doesn’t make Servos? Sounds like false advertising to me. What this does do is provide you a good payoff for energy, while also fueling itself. It doesn’t seem hard to get a +1/+1 counter from this each turn, possibly more, and it does that without requiring a ton of mana. Once you do get to the stage in the game where you can spend 4 on its activated ability, it gives you multiple resources, and all that together sounds like a card I’m willing to put some energy into.
You just can’t go wrong with this. It’s an Exultant Cultist that’s easier to cast and gains you 2 life, and Exultant Cultist was already a fine card. It’s possible that the various artifact synergies and ways to get this back warrant giving it a higher grade, but I’ll start at 3.0 and take it like it was a 3.5.
1 damage for 2 mana is medium at best, even if you have the option of paying 2R for another damage on top of that. I’d fire this off out of the sideboard against a deck with a lot of x/1s, but I wouldn’t look to start it.
This does a lot of damage very quickly, as the name implies. It’s got good stats, gets to attack once even if you don’t have any creatures, and the crew cost is not prohibitively high. The combination of good rate and value even if you don’t initially have a crew makes this one of the better Vehicles.
I’ve found cost reduction to be underrated in Limited (though appropriately rated in Constructed). If you reduce even one artifact in a relevant way, you’ve gotten a solid deal, and playing 2-4 over the course of the game doesn’t sound unrealistic. Foundry Inspector is a fine card to take early and has the potential to be one of the better cards in your deck.
This could be great... orr not. There’s just no reliable way to break the symmetry here, and paying 4 mana for that is not a good game plan. Maybe if your deck is insanely low curve and your opponent’s is high curve, but most Limited decks just don’t look like that.
If you are the blue deck that really cares about energy, you can pick these up, because they are wildly unplayable in every other deck. That’s not actually a bad place to be, since I like cards that only specific decks care about.
The cost-to-stats ratio here isn’t mind-goggling, but it’s passable. I wouldn’t worry too much about making an Artificer deck, and would just play this if I had a high creature count and a few slots to use on this type of card.
Iron League Steed
Both sides of this card are great, making this a real workhorse no matter what you decide. Most fabricate cards tend to land with a Servo, but because this gives haste to the +1/+1 counter, I suspect this will come out as a 3/3 more often.
Key to the City
This definitely would make a list of LSV’s Keys to Limited, as it’s a powerful engine in multiple ways. It gets damage through and lets you increase your card quality, all at relatively low cost. You do need a fair amount of creatures before this gets appealing, but the payoff is high enough that I would encourage you to take it and find those creatures.
Once again, Puzzleknots aren’t worth the total mana investment. Where this does have some merit is in a black deck that cares about artifacts, and if you are in that deck, I suspect it won’t be a puzzle to find these.
The greatest Pilot on Kaladesh is somehow Metalwork Colossus, as it plays so nicely with Vehicles. I’m not entirely sure how it fits into them, but they are the most common way to reduce the cost of this. If you can get that cost down to 7 or so, you’ve got a fine deal on your hands, and sacrificing Servos and whatnot to bring this back does make it an enduring threat. Not every deck can play this, much like half the cards in the set, so treat this is a reasonable payoff for an artifact deck that needs a finisher.
I would say that this card is wonderful, but that’s just too easy. I only note that to show you how much restraint I have. The card is legit great, as it can attack as a 5/1 flying lifelink with the energy it provides, while efficiently using any other sources of energy to your benefit. Multiform Wonder is a card I’d always be happy to play, and gets much, much better if you can provide it a constant source of fuel.
A 2-mana 2/1 is playable in some decks that need low drops, though that’s not very exciting. A 2/1 that can gain deathtouch is a great card, as it’s good both early and late. I’d be happy with Cobra if I were green, and medium unhappy otherwise.
At first I was pretty down on this card, given how fragile it is, but haste really helps. You can often set up a turn where you get to crack for 6, and then when the opponent leaves something back, you either wait until you can remove it or trade and get more damage through. Crew 1 makes the Vehicle drawback much less risky, and overall this is going to get more than 4 mana’s worth of value. It even blocks well, making it a fine card in slower decks (assuming they have enough creatures).
Limited: 0.0 (Except for that one time where it’s great)
This doubles up a lot of stuff in the set, but the number of those cards you’d need is so high that I doubt it’s realistic. If you get there, more power (and toughness) to you.
There’s not a lot going on here besides spinning of wheels, though the joke is that you mill your deck and then shuffle in all the good cards. While that is technically possible, I don’t see it happening often enough to comfortably advise that anyone play with this.
Much like the Mastodon, this is not really dependent on you having black mana. If you need a 3-mana 2/3, then I’m sorry for you, and you can play this.
Mana-fixing at extremely low opportunity cost is always nice to have, and Prophetic Prism is a card I’d look to play in most decks. It becomes even better if you need artifacts for some reason, and is really only bad in a 2-color deck that already has a lot of low drops. This doesn’t look like a 3-color format, but if you want to splash, this is one of the best ways.
The stats on this train are the kind of payoff I’m looking for. It has a low crew cost and is one of the easier-to-add Vehicles, making it a card most aggro or midrange decks will be happy to play.
Its inability to block makes this way less annoying than it would be otherwise while also restricting it mainly to aggressive decks. I’m fine with both, and would value this closer to a 3.5 once I know I’m in a black aggressive deck.
Limited: 1.5 (then 2.5, then 3.0, then back to 2.0)
The rating on Self-Assembler is a little odd. The first one isn’t worth much, and I’d look to pick it up later in the pack. Once you have one, the second and third are worth picking mid-pack, as a 4/4 that draws another 4/4 is a good deal. The fourth and fifth are likely unnecessary, so the rating once again dips downwards.
The cost is low (both in crew and mana), making this a spiffy card indeed. It’s a fine little beater, and one I’d look to include in most decks.
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
Welp. There’s a reason this is the flagship Vehicle of the set, as it provides a ton of power at a very reasonable cost. Even if you never crew it, it’s a 5-mana deal 3, which is passable, and if it ever takes flight you get to destroy your opponent. I’d slam Consul Flagship and make sure I had ample crew, then I would collect my profits.
This may be my pick for best Constructed card in the set, but it’s no slouch in Limited. It’s not as high-impact as some cards (see: Consul Flagship), though the low cost and ease of use go a long way. This just gets to attack so often and improve your card quality while doing so, all for just 2 mana and crew 1.
I’ve never been unhappy about a 4-mana 3/2 flier, and giving it haste plus an easier casting cost sweetens the deal nicely.
The combo here is to equip a small creature and crew a Vehicle, but now we are talking about equipment + Vehicles, which is a lot of noncreature space. Between that risk and the fact that you can equip and still be forced to trade down, I’m not thrilled about Torch Gauntlet. It can do some work in a Servo-heavy deck, you just will normally be able to do better.
If you need a cheap artifact creature and don’t mind playing a little fast and loose, this is a fine card to lean on. It improves a little bit with the addition of red mana, but not enough to move the needle in most cases.
I know, I just know, that I’m going to lose badly to this card. That still doesn’t stop me from giving it a low grade, because it just seems way too slow to be realistic. There are decks where it’s a plausible finisher, and matchups where I’d love to side it in, but you can’t just go about putting in cards that cost this much mana to use and succeed. 7 mana for a Thopter, 11 mana for two—that’s not acceptable unless the game is going to go VERY long.
The same caveats that apply to the blue Puzzleknot are true here—energy decks may want this, nobody else will. I’m usually pretty excited about cycles like this, but the Puzzleknots are living up to their name, and it’s hard to make use of them effectively.
In an artifact-heavy deck that has sacrifice effects and lots of ways to get this back, it can do some real work. Otherwise, it’s gonna sit on the sidelines. I also like that Mishra’s Workshop casts this—good naming.
Top 5 Common Artifacts
3. Narnam Cobra
1. Sky Skiff
Sky Skiff and Freighter are the artifact commons I like most, despite my reservations on Vehicles. Narnam Cobra and Peafowl are kind of cheating, given that they aren’t really that good unless you are green or blue, but most of the artifact commons aren’t that impressive (see: Inventor’s Goggles in 5th).
Artifacts will help fill out your decks, and there are plenty of uncommon build-arounds, plus random artifacts for the decks that care about quantity. This is no Mirrodin, but I’d expect to see artifacts in just about every deck.