Tag Archives: Kaladesh

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Kaladesh to Rivals of Ixalan

Note: This is part 4 of a 5 part series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


After revisiting Zendikar and Innistrad in the first four sets of the new block structure, WotC felt inspired to bring us to three new planes in the next 6. First, we went home with our favorite firebrand. Then, a dragon became a god in the desert. Finally, they must have given a 7 year old kid a 2 liter bottle of mountain dew and a set of sharpies before releasing him into the R&D office. Because Ixalan is a magical tapestry of pirates and dinosaurs woven together with vampires and merfolk.

Pirates and dinosaurs?! What more do you need?!

As with all of the Magic the Gathering sets, there are things that I like and things that I dislike about these six. Because I want to stay positive, I tend to focus on the things that I like. Overall, that was easy to do with this block of sets. There is a lot to like about the current state of Magic and I’m optimistic about the future of the game. Join me as I tell you why.

Kaladesh/Aether Revolt

As I mentioned above, this is the first new plane introduced for a couple of cycles. In addition, as I eluded earlier, this is the home plane for Chandra Nalaar. As a result, we finally got a great planeswalker card for her. When it was spoiled, some referred to it as Chandra, the Mind Sculptor. While I hesitate to agree with that sentiment, it is a good card and it has seen play as recently as this past weekend PT.

Plus, I pulled a foil from my first pack and sold it for 70 bucks on eBay a couple of days later. So, I’m not going to complain about the hype.

Kaladesh is also home to the mystical force known as aether. It is used for magical purposes, but also incorporated into constructs to simulate technology. This latter use of aether introduced a new type of card to the game in the form of vehicles. While their introduction excited me as all new mechanics and card types do, they weren’t the feature of the plane.

Kaladesh is also home to everyone’s favorite token, the thopters, but shockingly, they don’t represent the epitome of this marriage of magic and technology either. Sure, many (perhaps all) of the denizens of Kaladesh utilize thopters in every day life. And, I come here not to bury the thopters. I come to praise them. But, they don’t come close to the cool factor of the giant loveable magic fueled robots, the Gearhulks.

What happens when you fuse the soul of a Snapcaster Mage with a hunk of metal and zap it with some Aether? Oh, this isn’t a riddle. You get this guy.

Two final points before leaving Kaladesh for the deserts of Amonkhet. First, do you love infinite combos in standard? Because, thanks to Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, we got an infinite combo in standard! It was fun while it lasted before WotC banished Guardian to eternal formats. Finally, I mentioned in my previous article that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to see the Eldrazi coming. Granted, I might not have been paying attention here, either, but I was able to fortell the coming of Nicol Bolas.

Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation

This pair of sets had a similar feel to Theros. I’m not as much of a fan of Egyptian mythology as Greek. Still, I find anything based on ancient civilizations fascinating. I once made the joke, after buying a Dremel multi tool, that ancient civilizations were able to build such remarkable structures without such modern amenities. Clearly, they were better men than me. But, I digress.

How is this just like Theros then? Well, you have the return of gods to the game. Just like Theros, each of the gods has a like god from the actual pantheon of Egyptian gods. The big difference is that our favorite (possibly) immortal dragon, Nicol Bolas has taken up residence on the plane as the big boss man, er, god.

Where there’s Bolas, Ugin can’t be far behind and vice versa. Perhaps there will be a reckoning on Ravnica?

Three mechanics introduced in the sets are absolute flavor wins. The first two are embalm and eternalize. Both involve the afterlife of a creature. As we all know, that’s a major theme in Egyptian mythology. Those were neat to see included in the sets. The third gave both Chris and I “WTF” moments initially. I thought the cards were either a joke or misprinted.

We’ve had cards that flip upside down. They have “fused” and “melded” cards together. There have been double sided cards. That format has been the most resourceful for them. They’ve used it on creatures, planeswalkers, and even lands now. So, the concept of a card becoming another card is not new to the game. It’s just that the latest iteration of the concept initially looked…let’s say, odd. I know you’ve seen them, but look at them again with an innocent’s eyes.

I seriously thought the cards were misprinted. It’s just such a jarring design.

Ixalan/Rivals of Ixalan

I already made the joke about the development of the set earlier. Don’t misunderstand me. I actually loved the concept of dinosaurs and pirates. Can’t forget vampires and merfolk, but they’re not nearly as cool as the others. Funny enough, I also already referenced one of the other major developments of the set in the previous section, double faced lands. Certainly not as exciting as pirates or dinosaurs. Not even really as exciting as the less exciting vampires and merfolk. Still worth a mention.

Let’s talk about the dinosaurs for a minute. There are your normal run of the mill dinos. You know the ones, The velociraptor who bags your groceries at the super market, as long as it isn’t chicken. Then there’s the old lady T-Rex who hangs out on the park bench and eats the pigeons. And we can’t forget about the dilophosaur children who attack the bus driver every morning and never actually make it to school.


Then, you have your Elder dinosaurs. You might wonder why the old lady from the previous paragraph doesn’t get consideration for elder dinosaur. Well, quite simply, it’s because she isn’t epic enough. Elder dinosaurs don’t sit on a park bench! They have word vomit for keyword text, or increase your hand size to inifinity, or kill everything on the board, or exile cards from your opponent and give them to you, or…have trample? Okay, so that last one doesn’t seem quite so epic. But, I assure you, it is!

Or, they are uncastable and have little to no impact on the game if you do happen to get to 9 mana.

Lastly on the plane of Ixalan, and most important to a filthy casual player like me, is the hybrid board and card game that Wizards of the Coast released. I’ve gotten to play it a couple of times with the boys and it is a fun way to introduce people to the game of Magic the Gathering. Even as a more seasoned player, I liked the addition of the strategy of the board game element. I’m glad that they will be doing more of this.

The Verdict

All three of the new planes brought innovation into the game. As Chris and I discussed on the podcast yesterday, the two set structure tends to make the second set weaker. It isn’t as much of a problem in the 3 set blocks because you expect one of the sets of the three to not be as strong. But, in a 2 set structure, that means that half of the block is weak. It’s just simple math.

Nevertheless, as I said in the beginning, I like to focus on the positive. There’s plenty from each of these sets that I enjoyed. It may not sound like it on the podcast, but I’m mostly optimistic about where Magic the Gathering is right now and where it is going in the near future.

I have only Dominaria and the Return to Ravnica block to cover before I’m done with this retrospective. I wasn’t sure exactly how, or even if, I would pull this off and it’s a bit of a relief to be at the end. It’s been a fun look back at my time in the game. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it, too, and will come back in a couple of days for the final article.

I’m on a Boat!

(Editor’s Note: Every time I think I’m out, Chris pulls me right back in.)

(Editor’s Note 2: The first standard tournament on Star City Games after the release of this set was filled with these types of jokes. I’m not hip enough to actually know the source of the joke. I am just hip enough to understand that it is a joke and to chuckle when I hear it. We truly live in a wondrous time.)

I was out. Way out. Orbiting the planet with plans to travel to Mars out. In the past when I’ve been out, I’ve stayed connected through tournaments on Twitch. I wasn’t even doing that this time. Chris had a group that he played modern with, so I wasn’t even as inspired to keep connected for our monthly nerd nights. I honestly thought that I might be done with the hobby.

That all changed with Kaladesh spoilers. The set looked so much different from anything else they’ve released recently. While the story is just as depressing as recent sets, the art direction is much more bright and cheerful. Though, as I said to Chris, “The next set is called Aether Revolt”, so it is only a matter of time before the Eldrazi or Phyrexians or Phyrexdrazi return to bring the pain. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I did have too much fun playing with this card in the first duels game against the computer.
I did have too much fun playing with this card in the first duels game against the computer.

My actual return to the game started with a draft. Let me explain. Before you think that I’ve evolved from an awkward Caterpie to a Social Butterfree, it was only between me and Chris. Unlike him, I have little to no use for constructed Magic. It is always the same decks and strategies with almost no room for imaginations. Once decks are found that work, they are set. Vintage is Eldrazi or Shops (sometimes both) and Jace. Legacy is Miracles or bust (and, by extension Jace) and modern is all about comboing out by turn four. I don’t mind watching them, but I don’t know if I’ll ever play any of those formats. I used to say the same about Standard, but there are some interesting control decks that are evolving in the format. I might try some of hem if I can ever get the computer set up long enough to use xMage.

Draft doesn’t have that problem. Since you open fresh packs per person, everyone is on an even field with respect to availability of cards. Well, still to busy or nervous or both to make it out to an actual store with other people to play, I started researching ways that Chris and I might be able to draft. I admit that I didn’t have much hope for our prospects.

Magic is traditionally between two players, but the limited formats always seem to favor between 6 and 8. Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find several two player draft possibilities. I settled on Winchester and Chris went along with it after I explained to him how it worked. I made a date to play, grabbed the appropriate amount of packs, and got to it.

Once again, Shaun of the Dead offers the best advice.
Once again, Shaun of the Dead offers the best advice.

For those who are interested, we chose a Winchester draft according to these rules. (Edit: The page that I got the rules from seems to no longer be active. Guess that means that we can write our own. Look for that soon!) This removed much of the mystery and strategy of not knowing what cards were chosen. We further removed any of the unknown by keeping our choices face up. Honestly, though, most of the surprise was gone simply by having only two players.

Don’t interpret that to mean that we didn’t have fun or that there was no challenge. Quite the opposite. I still found it quite challenging to find the cards to build a deck from my half of the hodge podge of cards presented by the 6 packs. The games were fun, too I’m almost positive that Chris felt the same way because he agreed to redraft and then to get together after Kaladesh release to do it all again.

That draft got me back into the game, but Kaladesh cemented my interest and has kept me coming back for more. I watched the first SCG event after the release and even watched the top 8 of the GP. I’m glad that I did because control was on full display in those matches and I’m a huge control fan.

I love the games that go on for time and then need turns after to settle. Clog the board to stave off defeat and then crush your opponent’s will in the late game. Blue Magic is the only true Magic!

I mean, look at that board and this is a draft.
I mean, look at that board and this is a draft.

That’s what I did to Chris in our two Kaladesh head to head drafts. It is tough to do a pure control build in draft unless you get a bomb (we didn’t), but I put together a decent Esper-ish (mostly UB with a splash of W for Dovin Baan) deck that stabilized after a sizzling opener by Chris. Not overly impressed by the card, Dovin Baan actually helped greatly.

I don’t remember if we redrafted this time. I should really start keeping a record of these things if I’m going to report out on them. In any case, I had Dovin Baan in both games. The second game went much like the first game expect Chris got me much lower much fater in that one before I stabilized. Also, Dovin Baan wasn’t as integral in my plan. We was more of the “win more” card I expected him to be when I first saw him.

He does blue things and some white things, so I was pretty happy to durdle along with this chap.
He does blue things and some white things, so I was pretty happy to durdle along with this chap.

Kaladesh more than lived up to my expectations. That’s saying something because I had high hopes for the set. It did not disappoint and was fun to play as a draft set. More surprising, the set got me to watch Standard and even get excited about the format. As Chris agreed when I texted him that I wanted to watch Standard and was excited for it, “That never happens.” Heck, I even clicked on Wizard’s link for “Standard show down” when it popped up in my feed. I’m not going to enter, but I considered it briefly, so that’s something.

Finally, and least important to everyone but me, I have started collecting again. I took my spending money from the last few checks to buy boxes and fat packs of the sets that I missed during my break from the game. After the holidays, I plan to do some singles shopping to fill out my binders. I will also have to buy Aether Revolt.

As much as I’ve ever been, I am back into the Magic scene. I’m not going to be entering any tournaments (but, as always, I might to a draft or two), but I am watching them. I’m not building competitive decks (though I have proxied a Legacy/Modern dredge deck that I might try to construct), but I do have 3 fun Tiny Leaders decks and ideas for others plus a few Commander decks. Who knows? I may grow bored again or find some other expensive distraction. For now, though, I am completely and totally invested in Magic.

Rapid Fire: Random Thoughts Vol.6 Kaladesh Edition

-Tomorrow’s the day, folks. MTG’s Kaladesh will finally be released to the nerdy masses. I, for one, absolutely can’t wait. The power level of this set seems to be slightly above average and is already drawing comparisons to the Kamigawa block.

-The Masterpiece subset is amazing looking. I’m already having copper foil dreams of Masterpieces, although with my luck, a dream is as close as I’m going to get to one of these. The odds of pulling one of these babies? 1 in every 4 boxes. Zoinks.

-So if my luck is just so awful, then why am I excited about them? Well because it adds excitement to opening a box. Also, I’m cheap and with all the MTG financiers opening box after box hunting for the elusive Masterpieces, the value of the mythics and rares in Kaladesh will take a hit, making it easier for budget-minded people like myself to load up on the best cards in the set. Sucks for the people looking to turn a profit on their box(es) but great for the players.

-The general consensus is that Chandra (the red Mind Sculptor) is the best card in the set. I agree but still wanted to give you my other top picks. Fleetwood Cruiser is fantastic and one of my favorite vehicles. 4 colorless gives you a 5/3 runaway car with Trample and Haste and requires no Crew on the turn it enters the battlefield. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Smuggler’s Copter are my other two favorites. Both of which are extremely powerful. Verdurous Gearhulk and Cataclysmic Gearhulk are the two of the best creatures in the set. Verdurous can essentially become an 8/8 trampler for 5 mana if you use its ability on itself. Cataclysmic is a walking boardwipe and the best part of all is that it’s an artifact creature so it can be your artifact pick and you can save another one of your creature when it’s ability triggers. Finally, my favorite card in the set is….Kambal, Consul of Allocation. This guy is pure burn hate and I love it. Although he isn’t an Eidolon of the Great Revel, he doesn’t bite his owner like Eidolon does, and gives life while stinging your opponent. This guy will see a lot of play in Tiny Leaders and also other Commander decks. I expect him to see some play in Standard if Black-White control becomes a thing like I think it will.

Alright, that’s another Rapid Fire in the books..good luck with your Kaladesh boxes, I hope all of you get what you’re looking for. As always, thanks for reading!