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Welcome to my Kaladesh Constructed Set Review! I do things a little differently than in the Limited review:
I evaluate only the cards that have a shot at seeing play in Constructed. Sometimes I leave a card off that ends up seeing play, but I try and cast a wide net.
I try and talk about non-Standard formats if something seems applicable, but if I don’t mention a specific format, assume I’m talking about Standard.
The ratings scale is slightly different as well:
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Demon of Dark Schemes
How good Demon ends up being is context-dependent, as it thrives on massacring boards of X/2s. It gives you a ton of value when it does, and is one of the few energy cards that can fuel itself without much trouble. I suspect this will be more of a sideboard card initially, but some permutations of the format could make Demon a great main-deck option. The power level is there, so let’s see if the circumstances line up.
I’m more optimistic about the black artifact aggro deck than the all-in Gearseeker Serpent deck. The black cards mostly just need one artifact in play to be on, and that’s achievable. A 3/2 deathtouch for 2 isn’t necessarily good enough, but it might help this theoretical engine operate.
I’m willing to cut 2-mana removal some slack these days, and Die Young is flexible and has upside. By itself it’s an over-costed Dead Weight, but in an energy deck it can be either Doom Blade or an energy source. That’s good for just 2 mana, even if it requires some other pieces.
The same things I said about Dhund Operative apply here, with the main difference being that Embraal Bruiser pays for having a better keyword (evasion is great here) by having 1 less toughness. I like this one slightly more, though both are role-players at best.
“Sorry, we are out of stock of Lightning Helix. Can I offer you a model that costs 50% more and can’t target players?”
Yes, yes you can. Essence Extraction keeps aggro off your back, and from the control player’s perspective is still an appealing card. The double-black cost means that you will need to be a dedicated black control deck, but that seems doable. If the format is aggressive enough, this is a good way to extract value.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Gonti may have just enough going on to make the cut, though it’s going to depend on getting value from both sides of the card. You need to care about a 2/3 deathtouch body and have time to play a 4-mana cantrip, which takes very specific matchups (and leads me to think that Gonti is more of a sideboard card).
I really like the scry on this card. It makes this a solid advantage play if you hit, and there are plenty of decks this is live against. I prefer the option of sideboarding it in, though I wouldn’t ostracize you if you chose to maindeck it.
Read the Bones is an excellent card, and has seen tons of play. Most decks aren’t willing to trade scry 2 for 2 energy, so to make this great the burden is on you to make a deck where that exchange is favorable.
While you may be expecting a rant on this, I am capable of understanding and accepting this kind of card for Constructed play. I still don’t like the effect, as it tends to be vastly overrated and people play this type of card against decks they have no business playing it against. Where you want this is against linear combo decks that have huge problems winning if you take out the crucial piece. Getting rid of Emrakul in Turbo Emrakul, or taking Scapeshift from Scapeshift is a real game-changer (hint: if a deck is named after a card, it’s a higher chance Lost Legacy will be good).
Where this isn’t good is against random midrange or control decks—you can’t spend a card on this effect and expect it to gain an advantage. Lost Legacy even makes it impossible to be up cards, as it gives them a refund if you do manage to name something that was in their hand.
The new and exciting part about Lost Legacy is that it only costs 3 mana. That is less relevant for Standard because any deck you are casting Legacy against is likely slow, but it’s huge for Modern. Fighting fast combo with a 3-drop is powerful, and this looks like a real addition to black’s sideboard arsenal.
This will in fact be obsolete as long as there are -2/-2 effects and cards like Radiant Flames available, as dealing 2 or 3 is so much better than dealing 1. Where this might show up is in matchups full of 1/1 creatures where you also don’t want to wipe out your own side, making the other sweepers less appealing.
The most likely way this sees play is as a 4/6, where you combine it plus artifacts and a sacrifice outlet to make the opponent lose all the life right away. The backup plan of playing this as a 1/3 with a bunch of Servos is a good one to have, but the 4/6 version is what’s really pulling the weight (and the strings).
Despite the controversial F* grade Marshall and I gave this for Limited (the asterisk was probably too confusing, which was our fault), I see this as a good sideboard card in Constructed. I remember siding in Bottled Cloister against control decks back when Ravnica was in Standard, and this looks like it could fill a similar role. Constructed decks are also much easier to build with an insanely low curve, and a black aggro deck could even maindeck this as a high-end threat.
Any card that can draw 7+ cards at once deserves attention, and sacrificing emerge creatures lets you cheat on mana costs. I doubt you want to incinerate that much board presence, but I am curious if there are matchups where this could let you bury the opponent in card advantage.
Noxious Gearhulk certainly has the power to compete. A giant monster that eats their best threat and gains you a bunch of life is well worth 6 mana, and there are metagames where this can dominate. The biggest factor in its success will be the kinds of other threats that are running around. If it’s all Vehicles and small creatures, Gearhulk won’t be where you want to be (though could be a potent sideboard card). If it’s all 4+ mana creatures, this will be both obnoxious and excellent.
A slow but unkillable creature sounds like a good sideboard card for attrition matchups. When your opponent is on all kill spells and defensive cards, this can do a lot of work.
I like the look of Syndicate Trafficker. It’s got a lot of power (in both senses of the word), and can be pretty hard to kill. Leaving mana up is a bit of a cost, and the only thing holding this back from being an excellent threat.
Top 3 Black Cards
Black gets a pretty wide range of cards here—two 6-drops that kill creatures, which conveniently deal with either big or small threats, though neither are great against Vehicles. Gearhulk plus Demon is a nice suite of finishers, and could help fuel black control. Lost Legacy is a nice sideboard card, though if I see someone cast this and name a card like Chandra, I’m going to lose my mind.