Kaladesh Remastered Draft Guide
I know it is still early, but wow this format is looking great! Most of my impressions of the set I detailed in my recent Limited Overview article are holding up, so I would recommend checking that out first. This is especially true if you would like a bigger picture perspective on the set and some commentary on its mechanics. In this guide I will be primarily focusing on the best cards to draft for each color, and which deck strategies look to be the most successful in the current metagame. So, you could consider this to be a ‘Part 2’ rather than an all-encompassing guide. It would also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Instants/Tricks which could be cast in this format, as few of these are among the best cards in the set but they can still be highly impactful when players do not anticipate them. Before we get into the best cards, I do want to make some additional observations regarding the set.
KLR is playing quite a bit differently than Kaladesh/Aether Revolt, allowing slower and more synergy-based decks time to go off. Aggressive decks are still very good, but quality creatures and removal is in short supply so evasion (there are many flyers) and intelligent use of resources (Energy/Removal/Buffs/etc.) is needed to get there most games. Perhaps Aggro will take over the the metagame as familiarity with the format evolves, but I still see a stark contrast with the original sets, which encouraged attacking so much that many games would devolve into damage races. This still happens sometimes in KLR, but it feels more natural when it does. The combo pieces for Energy/Fabricate are still here though, and now that there is more time to put them together, many of these cards are going to make my top common/uncommon lists.
3-color is also extremely viable in this set, mostly due to cantrip commons that help fix by sacrificing tempo rather than card advantage:
As well as cards that replace basic lands and fix mana while playing into an Energy theme:
Since many of the best spells are Multicolor in this format, splashing a third color can become really tempting and I think it is often correct. Clearly being in Green is helpful, but if Prophetic Prism continues to go later on in drafts Green isn’t mandatory. You can often get away with spending turns setting up your mana for a couple reasons. For one thing, creatures are largely underpowered in this format. There are some exceptions (as you will see), but even ‘good’ creatures tend to have lower stats since they have abilities that either pay off over time or require you to play them at a specific time (Revolt). For the most part the abilities tend to generate/spend Energy or create creature tokens:
The abundance of enter the battlefield effects also plays into recursion/combo strategies:
These modules are pretty slow, but the value potential here is pretty great. Pair Decoction Module with Weaponcraft Enthusiast, for example, and you have an engine capable of spitting out two creature tokens and three Energy per turn. Durdly stuff like this is much more difficult to punish in KLR than more recent sets (or original Kaladesh), but it can still be done. Especially by decks comprised of the strongest cards in the format which I have outlined below to help you build the best decks possible:
There are noticeably fewer Bombs in the remastered version of Kaladesh, but these Rare/Mythic cards are still worth acknowledging before we get into the more important Uncommon and Common Spells (since you will be seeing them more often). I define a Bomb as a card you will always take (Pack 3 passes notwithstanding). This means they must be better than the best Uncommon, and in this set we have a doozy:
Untethered Express is tough to beat as it slots into any deck efficiently and many will consider it a bomb in its own right. But, there are still definitely some Rares/Mythics that outclass it:
For one thing you have the Gearhulk cycle. We could split hairs here and rank each one, but ultimately these are five Mythic Rares with excellent enter the battlefield abilities and you should happily windmill slam any of them into your deck.
Interestingly, there are no Multicolor spells here. Ajani Unyielding was a strong consideration, but he is pretty expensive and this is not a format where single target removal is likely to rescue you. Multicolor will have its time to shine in the Uncommon section below, however.
While these ten (15 including Gearhulks) are a great crop of cards, this is a rather small amount of Bombs. Sure, this is a smaller set and Untethered Express is a tough one to top, leaving quite a few borderline cards just missing the mark. But consider War of the Spark, an even smaller set with the likes of Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor and Eternal Skylord at uncommon which still managed 34 Bombs. Or even Core Set 2020 which had 23 Bombs despite featuring Risen Reef at uncommon. I really think this may be the secret sauce making KLR feel so fun to play. It is very refreshing to go matches at a time without running into cards that feel unfair to play against (or with quite frankly). More often than not matches will be decided by how cohesive decks are in terms of their common and uncommon spell choices.
White is below average overall at uncommon, but these three are excellent. Aerial Responder is an obnoxious creature that puts opponents ill-prepared for Flyers on a clock, while Vigilance is frequently relevant in KLR due to the abundance of 1/1 tokens and underpowered creatures. Fairgrounds Warden and Thopter Arrest in the same set does feel a bit redundant, but you are happy with either one in your deck.
Dawnfeather Eagle and Revoke Privileges are the best of the bunch here. The abundance of token creatures is a boon for the former, while the latter is very good but is a signpost that quality removal comes at a premium in this set. Impeccable Timing does well in KLR as a great option for shutting down stack-blocks and combat tricks. Audacious Infiltrator is deceptively good as an Aggro enabler, while the other two are fairly efficient Fabricate cards. Overall, I don’t consider White to be all that great in Kaladesh Remastered. As a whole there isn’t a ton of focus on one particularly theme, so you really need to cherry pick cards that suit the deck strategy you are going for. That said, White does play a nice supporting role for decks that want to attack through the air or flood the board with cheap creatures/Artifacts. White can supply the Artifact fodder, but you need to have payoffs in place to Combo, Go-wide, or Sacrifice in order to generate sufficient value from it.
Skyship Plunderer and Shrewd Negotiation are both excellent, and play a lot better than they might look. You need some cheap artifacts to negotiate with, but that is really easy in this set and more often than not you are trading a 1/1 for their best creature. In an Artifact-heavy set like this, Trophy Mage is pure value, although I wouldn’t get too excited unless I had at least three cheap Artifacts that would make my deck anyway. Glimmer of Genius is slow, but so far it seems good in this format. You might even be able to make a case for slower stuff like Shielded Aether Thief, Era of Innovation, or Wind-kin Raiders, but identifying too many value spells here seems greedy.
Aether Swooper is the stud here, but Gearseeker Serpent has been a bit of a sleeper so far from what I have seen. Unblockable is always great in Limited, but being at the receiving end of five damage you are powerless to stop feels really bad. In KLR it isn’t too difficult to field two Artifacts and play it for five and begin the pain the following turn. Cards like Malfunction and Ice Over do a good enough job slowing down your opponent while you set up evasive attacks through Unblockable or Flying. Tezzeret’s Ambition also benefits from clogging things up enough to tap out on something that doesn’t immediately affect the board.
Blue definitely feels slow in this format outside of snappy fliers like Skyship Plunderer and Aether Swooper. Although I find the color to look the worst on paper, I still think we will see a lot of players in it because of how well it pairs with every other color. Adding flyers/removal/card advantage to any deck tends to work well in Limited, and the UR Thopters/UG Energy themes are looking pretty sweet when they come together. No matter the pairing, Blue tends to benefit from incorporating Artifacts more than any other color as well.
I like Black over White and Blue in this set, but it is kind of unfocused. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great cards here, but of all the colors I am not sure the Black themes are easily accomplished. Generally you want stuff to die to trigger your Revolt cards, and there are a few ways (like Underhanded Designs) to benefit from playing Artifacts. Aetherborn Marauder even supports a minor +1/+1 counter theme (which has some support especially in Green but the creature is still decent enough without much of it). Maybe at common we will gain more insight:
Nah, here we have some quality removal and an efficient Aether-cycle 2-drop and a sea of filler. Black has plenty of playable spells, but there really isn’t anything overly great or thematic. If you find some copies of these key cards, Black is not a bad color to be in, but I haven’t noticed a tremendous amount of synergy with these cards outside of some Artifact sacrifice/bounce combos (remember, Revolt triggers from bounce as well).
Red is bringing the heat when it comes to removal, packing even more than Black in this set. It is almost as if they forgot to omit a couple spells and ended up cramming in two sets worth of Red removal into the remaster. On the creature front, Scrapper Champion is a house and you could easily make a case for Enraged Giant in many Red decks. Things get even better at common:
Here we have even more quality removal and a few solid creatures. Splitting damage a la Furious Reprisal and Chandra’s Pyrohelix is very effective in KLR since there are many soft targets to 2-for-1. I keep seeing Aether Chaser go late in drafts and it is mind boggling. A 2-mana 2/1 First strike is a playable card even in formats with higher creature quality, and Aether Chaser is a particularly great fit in GR Energy or any composition that capitalizes on extra Artifacts (UR has been particularly nice in this regard, but RB with a sacrifice Artifact theme can fit the bill as well). Salivating Gremlins is excellent in those kinds of decks too. RW can go really wide with all of the extra creature tokens, but playing into value mechanics has tended to look better. Still, dropping a Dawnfeather Eagle onto a curved out Boros board can be stupidly effective. Overall, I think Red is the best color. By quite a bit, actually. There are just so many efficient removal spells and creatures that Red needs to get really crowded before it feels like it isn’t open.
If Red was granted an excess of removal in this set, then Green definitely got an extra helping of quality creatures. Theme-wise Green enjoys Energy and +1/+1 counters. There are even a couple good removal spells sprinkled in for good measure. The primary effect of Nature’s Way is something we have been seeing at common lately, but don’t underestimate the Trample/Vigilance bonus in a set filled with small tokens and creatures that benefit from attacking. I think Monstrous Onslaught is another spell some players are sleeping on at this point. Green has some good options for making this spell do five damage (2 are on this list), dividing the damage is particularly effective in this set, and your opponent can’t even ‘counter’ it by removing your strongest creature.
Nothing at common is particularly outstanding for Green besides Thriving Rhino, but the color is solid. I like that it can Ramp and Fix as well as generate/utilize Energy and +1/+1 counters. These themes are well supported from numerous cards in the color, as well as being shared goals with other colors when pairing. Overall I like Green a lot and think it is second only to Red, and it even pairs really naturally with Red to form perhaps the strongest combination. More on the best archetypes soon, but first let’s take a look at the most important Multicolor and Artifact cards.
Multicolor doesn’t contain any commons, and the majority of its uncommons are playable to good, but here I want to focus just on the uncommon cards I would want to splash a third color for. I think recognizing and accumulating these cards is going to be really important not only for finding good splashes, but also identifying key signals during your drafts which can help you navigate into open colors/archetypes.
Both uncommon ‘signposts’ in UR, UG, as well as GR are great, and I happen to like all three of these color-pairings as well. So, finding any of these late in pack 1 or the middle of pack 2 tends to be a good reason for pivoting into those archetypes if possible. All ten cards are great picks, though. Some of these do require a degree of Energy or Artifact themes to be a worthwhile splash, but if it fits your deck you should go for it. Adding a third color tends to be easy in this format, especially if you are in Green.
About 20% of the set is comprised of Artifacts, and there are some really good ones here. I will limit to about six per rarity, focusing on the best ones which are more universally good. Just keep in mind the list could go further depending on which themes the Artifacts are supporting.
As I mentioned earlier, Untethered Express is an auto-pick unless you open a Bomb, while the rest of these are also fairly high picks. You can slot these into essentially any deck and they are a great value. Even though Chief of the Foundry may seem like a build around, you really don’t have to as pretty much every color generates Artifacts for you. Is Chief nuts in a deck capable of making 1/1 Flying Artifact Creatures (Thopters)? Definitely! But I think it can be an early pick regardless. The biggest sleeper here is probably Bomat Bazaar Barge, which is basically a free 5/5. It does require some investment and ties up 3 power worth of your creatures, but it is still one of the best Vehicles in the format.
The common Artifacts in KLR are kind of tough to rate in a meaningful way, as their value largely depends on how well they fit into your deck. Inventor’s Goggles, for example, is a really solid piece of equipment in decks that feature at least several Artificers, while it is below average if you are nearly always going to need to pay to equip. Sky Skiff looks more universal on the surface, but you really need to consider how many ways your deck has for crewing it without having to tap down another attacker or mana dork to use it. Cogworker’s Puzzleknot could slot into any White deck, but BW ones with Improvise/Revolt synergy for example are going to provide a much higher ceiling for it. Other color-specific
Artifacts like Narnam Cobra and Prakhata Pillar-Bug are more universally good, though. Self-Assembler is another one that I like as a 2-of in most decks though as long as the pace of the format doesn’t pick up too much. Getting two 4/4’s out of a single card is great in Limited even if there is some investment and risk of drawing both involved. Finally, the most important Artifacts are likely the fixing ones (Prophetic Prism and Renegade Map to a lesser extent). These enable 3-color decks in a big way and are not to be overlooked if your deck might need them. I would take Prophetic Prism over most filler cards in packs 1-2 because even if I don’t end up finding good splashes it can still be a decent playable in 2-color decks with Artifact synergy.
So we have arrived at the section where I am supposed to tell you what the best color combinations are. Honestly, this is a particularly brutal proposition in Kaladesh Remastered, where multiple colors are sharing interconnected themes such as Energy, Fabricate, Improvise, and Revolt. I think what makes this format so good is that it is going to be really hard to force particular archetypes. Reading signals and seeing which themes seem to be open is what will tend to lead you to the correct colors to play in this format. Hopefully between my Limited Overview and this guide you have a good idea of what each color is capable of and the key cards to look for.
Kaladesh Remastered is definitely not a thin/lopsided format like Guilds of Ravnica where you could simply force either Boros Mentor or Dimir Surveil and be successful. KLR requires you to build synergy and really reflect on how well your themes are supported. I found myself substituting packages of cards during deckbuilding rather than just cutting my way to 40 cards by eliminating the ‘worst’ ones. You will often end up with several cards that were equally ‘meh’ and spending some extra time considering each and how well it fits in to your overall build can definitely make or break your deck.
All this said, I still want to leave you with a few ‘archetypes’ that seem to be doing really well in the current metagame. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and if you don’t find enough key cards in these colors your deck will still be bad, but here they are anyway:
In my view these are the two strongest colors in the format, and you have a natural synergy here between Green creatures and Red removal. Additionally, there are some nice tools for generating Energy which seems to be the theme most often shared between Red and Green. With all of the durdly stuff going around, this combo feels really effective right now as a bread-and-butter creatures/removal sort of deck.
Another Energy-oriented deck, Green creatures can also be enhanced by Blue removal/card advantage. I would want to have some good Energy payoffs before fully committing to these colors, though.
This can be either Blue-Red or Blue-White, but decks that win with Flyers seem pretty good right now. It can be fairly easy to gum up the board and pick away with evasion. Blue-Red seems particularly good since it supports some nice Energy/Improvise/Thopter synergy, while Blue-White feels a little more one-dimensional unless you find a lot of good Artifact stuff.
Black can be very good if you find enough of the key cards, offering some great creatures and hard removal. This color seems to be scariest with Green or Red, being a more traditional midrange with Green and supporting more of an Artifact sacrifice theme with Red (along with having lots of removal).
Overall, Kaladesh Remastered has been an excellent Draft set so far and I am honestly excited to jump back in and play some more. I hope you find this guide useful, and would once again caution you on reading too far into the more speculative ‘Best Archetypes’ section, as the format is balanced enough to support strong decks featuring practically every mechanic and color. Looking ahead, I am thinking about taking a dive into Energy as a resource and try to quantify its value in a helpful way. Mechanics such as Energy (or Party from Zendikar Rising) can be challenging to optimize when it comes to drafting and deck composition, so I think an article series on that kind of thing could be helpful. I will also likely revisit KLR in a few weeks and provide a metagame update before Kaldheim is upon us! I don’t know about you all, but I am ready to leave 2020 in the past.