It’s that time again, when I look at the 10 color combinations from the newest set. On my initial pass, I’ll cover the broad strokes and goals of the individual archetypes, though I won’t be able to discuss every nuance—Kaladesh is a novel set. What I will do is break down the core goals of each archetype and their key cards. Today I’ll dive into the Allied color pairs and next week I’ll be back with the enemy colors.
As usual, the gold card gives a good hint as to what a given archetype is trying to achieve. Cloudblazer might not look like it’s indicating a particular direction on first glance because it’s such a generically good card, but make no mistake, this card has some real synergy bonuses. Imagine curving Cloudblazer into Wispweaver Angel. Now that’s value! Blue and white both have a ton of flyers, but they also have a lot of enters-the-battlefield effects. There are various ways to blink or bounce those creatures to keep gaining incremental value, all the while poking in damage that your opponent will have trouble blocking.
It’s important to remember when piloting U/W that you need to prioritize ways to clog the ground. If you have a flying armada but no way to prevent your opponent attacking you, then you’ll simply lose the race. You’re paying a mana tax on each card that has flying while your opponent isn’t—for the cost, your creatures will simply be smaller than your opponent’s. The good news is that you’ll win any close race because you always have the option to chump block while your opponent won’t be quite as fortunate. This plan works even better when you have access to cards like Aether Tradewinds, which lets you block with a value creature, bounce a huge attacker along with your blocker, and then redeploy that creature for added value next turn. This looks to be a very fun archetype that lets you draft a basic and effective curve but also get fancier at times with blink shenanigans.
The overlapping theme of these cards is that they all just stand on their own. G/W’s gold card is a strong generic pump spell, but it’s not like this color combination gets paid off for pumping its creatures a lot. Instead, you’ll find yourself in G/W when it’s the most open color combination at the table and you’re simply drafting good cards in both colors. Green does naturally have a ton of big creatures in this set, and white has some ways to help augment that plan of crashing in on the ground. There are some pump spells and removal spells that can help that plan, in addition to various energy creatures across both colors. There’s also a reasonable amount of fabricate and here you might choose to make Servo tokens if you think you can win going wide with Inspired Charge or Engineered Might.
What I will say is that this color pair has a lot more going for it than it has in the last couple of blocks. At those times it looked like a random pile of cards that you had to back up with pump spells, and that is still present, but there’s more here than meets the eye. Thanks to the modal nature of fabricate, energy, and some of the tricks/removal, I think W/G will give you lots of options and ways to craft your game plans. It will have more replayability and flexibility within the archetype despite the lack of any true archetype goals.
This deck has some synergy, but attacking is always at the forefront. R/G has the potential to deal a ton of initial burst damage and finish games before they even really get going, but also has a lot of staying power thanks to large 5- and 6-mana threats. Artifacts help give color pairs access to effects they might not normally have such as Snare Thopter, which provides additional aggression that R/G is interested in but also gives a new evasive element to a color pair that would otherwise lack it. Vehicles play a similar role, though I want to caution against playing too many of them since it’s very easy to get Vehicle flooded, similar to playing too many equipment.
Ultimately, you’re looking at how big the creature you’re casting is compared to how much you’re paying. Sometimes that means working a bit in order to get a payoff. Salivating Gremlin is a perfect example. When you are able to curve artifacts after landing a Gremlins, it can pull off a nice Brazen Wolves impression (and even slightly better at that), which was a card I was continually impressed with in EMN. Sometimes you can even play a fabricate-2 creature to get additional pumps at once.
As for energy creatures like Voltaic Brawler, I recommend using the energy early and often as long as it lets you attack when you otherwise couldn’t. I like to think of energy as a self-contained package when I’m more aggressive since storing energy for later is much worse when you’re trying to end a game quickly. But you don’t want to be completely reckless with that resource and it could be correct to simply attack for 3 when unopposed on turn 3 because it will let you deal even more damage without waiting much longer. Another analogy for those who were playing back in Time Spiral is suspend. When something suspends for only a turn or two it can be very effective in even the most aggressive decks since you’ll get an immediate payoff, but you really don’t want high suspend counts even for great things in true aggro decks because they don’t fit your plan.
R/B: Artifact Aggro
There are a ton of artifacts-matter cards in R/B, which means you’ll want to prioritize strong artifacts more highly when drafting R/B than you would in other archetypes. This also counts fabricate cards of course, which let you have powerful curve-outs such as turn-2 Dhund Operative into Weaponcraft Enthusiast, bash for 3. You also gain access to premium removal, and Unlicensed Disintegration even hurts your opponent. Salivating Gremlin once again looks like an all-star and will be even better in R/B than it is in R/G, but is more replaceable here due to a critical mass of artifact matters cards.
One thing to keep in mind when drafting is that it only ever matters that you have an artifact in play, but not how many you have. This means you can often take another powerful artifacts-matter card over an artifact early because you know you’ll have more time to pick up artifacts. That isn’t to say it doesn’t matter how many artifacts you’ve drafted, since your deck will be much stronger if you have at least 8-10 artifacts. An additional benefit of having even more than 8-10 is that you gain protection for your creature bonuses even if your opponent kills one of your artifacts in combat. If you aren’t careful and attack your Dhund Operative and Foundry Screecher into a 3/3 flyer and a 6/6 when you only have 1 artifact, you might see it blown up at instant speed by Appetite for the Unnatural and get hit by a game losing 3-for-1. This makes drafting and playing R/B a bit tricky and nuanced even though the overarching principles here are simple.
U/B: Artifact Energy Midrange
You have access to some good early defense in U/B and can transition in the midgame to an attack plan through a mix of energy and artifacts-matter creatures. Because this color pair has access to a gold scry card, you’ll want to consider your curve when drafting. If you end up with a Contraband Kingpin and a pair of Aether Theorists, you’ll want to draft a lower curve since you’ll be incentivized to scry lands to the bottom after the first few turns. Of course, if you get a low enough curve, you could theoretically run 16 lands, in which case you won’t have to scry as much for action in the first place.
Your early creatures are good at blocking small creatures and deterring Servo tokens, but they won’t exactly ward off big attackers. That’s where your removal and good blockers like Ovalchase Daredevil come in. This card looks like a great attacker, but it’s actually much better on defense since it can trade for 4/4s but will often trade down for 2/xs when attacking. Since you’ll have many artifacts in your deck, you’ll have no problem bringing back the Daredevil again and again until it can take over the game. Meanwhile, you still have access to some good offensive creatures like Weldfast Wingsmith, which can provide a steady stream of damage while you’re sitting back. In addition, Vehicles can turn some of your early small creatures into a bigger creature thanks to crew, and also have the upside of holding back large attackers thanks to threat of activation. Balancing small value creatures with larger midrange threats all while getting enough artifacts seems like the trick to U/B, and it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.
See you next week for the enemy color pairs, and let me know what I missed in today’s archetypes in the comments!