Kaladesh Remastered Limited Overview: A Primer for Sealed and Draft Events
For as much flak as I have been giving Wizards lately for their treatment of Standard and power creep, I have to give credit where credit is due. These remastered formats are a stroke of genius. Not only does it allow them to tweak older constructed formats, but we also (in theory) get a polished Limited experience out of the deal. For a game that historically has only gotten one shot at releasing a balanced and fun Limited environment with entirely new mechanics, being able to release a 2.0 version is huge. It really is amazing how well Wizards has been able to do on the first iteration with only internal testing. Sure, there have been some huge gaffes like Companions, but compared to other games with continuous patches/rebalancing it is still really impressive how well Limited formats tend to come together. Kaladesh/Aether Revolt is an example of a format on the rougher side of things, which in my view makes it a perfect candidate for the remastered treatment.
When I think of Kaladesh, what immediately comes to mind is Energy and Vehicles. We will dive more into these mechanics in a moment, but the former gives players a new resource that doesn’t expire at the end of phases or turns while the latter is a completely new type of permanent that acts as a hybrid between a Creature and a piece of Equipment. As you could imagine, these have quite an impact on the game and I think it was extremely ambitious to introduce both of these in the same set. While I wouldn’t even consider the set a failure (for Limited), it ended up feeling rough around the edges and there were quite a few cards that felt out of whack. So, this is where Kaladesh Remastered comes in. A significant number of cards have been cut, leaving just 303 out of the possible 448 that could have made it into the set. This should hopefully lead to a much more polished version of Kaladesh and I am excited to play it!
In this overview I will start with the mechanics to be aware of, give some overall impressions of the set, and then dive into all of the 2-color archetypes and types of cards that enable them. I will be primarily using common and uncommon cards as examples, since they are going to be seen more frequently. Of course for each archetype/mechanic there are Rare cards that tend to be similar in theme but have a higher power level.
Let us now examine the five underlying mechanics of Kaladesh Remastered.
Energy is a whole new resource, and unlike mana you can save it up from turn to turn. Some cards generate Energy, some cards spend it, and some cards can do both. Green and Blue are very high Energy, but every color as well as colorless have access to it with some cards. This is the type of mechanic where its value goes up somewhat exponentially as you add cards with it. Especially if you are able to find a Rare or Mythic with a huge Energy payoff, it is well worth it to have abundant ways of creating energy in your deck. In a deck that has very few Energy payoffs, cards that generate Energy will tend to be fairly underpowered.
Consider a creature like Longtusk Cub. When you first play it you effectively have a Grizzly Bear that you want to get through with. Your opponent will very likely have their own two-drop to block it, but if you are able to generate two Energy with another card and threaten to bring Longtusk Cub to a 3/3 it will likely get through and begin snowballing. It is possible to go too far though, as some decks can end up having an excess of Energy payoffs that are all spending from the same pool. So, while Energy does great as a primary theme it is still important to balance out your enablers/payoffs as with other mechanics. In sealed you are going to be at the mercy of your pool, so it will often be more of a sub theme.
The way this works is you tap a number of creatures with power that meets or exceeds the Crew cost to turn these into Artifact Creatures. I wasn’t a fan of the Vehicle mechanic prior to release of KLD, but I will admit it grew on me. These complicate Limited deckbuilding in a pretty interesting way. I think a lot of players would consider these Creatures, but treating them this way will get you in trouble. What they really do is tie up one or more creatures in order to use them, so in reality they operate more like Equipment. But, instead of augmenting your creatures it replaces them, so the major contrast is Vehicles provide the most value when you Crew them with creatures you can’t do anything else with.
So while Vehicles do cool things like dodge Sorcery-speed removal and force out Instant-speed removal at awkward times since you can Crew in response, they are dependent on you having enough creatures to actually activate them. So, I would consider them half a creature at most when thinking about deck composition. While cards like Bomat Bazaar Barge are still quite good, the Crew 3 may be a more significant impairment than you are anticipating if new to the format. Fortunately, Kaladesh Remastered also features a simple way to flood your board with vanilla token creatures.
Fabricate allows you to either add that many +1/+1 counters to the creature or create 1/1 Artifact Servo Tokens. White has the lions share of these cards and has some ways to go wide with Servos, while Black and Green have a little access to it as well. Blue and Red aren’t completely left out though, as they have a sub theme of cards which create 1/1 Flying Artifact Thopter Tokens. Both modes of Fabricate have their utility, but the token generation has more synergy. In addition to crewing your Vehicles, the tokens can also help power up another mechanic which is a call back to Affinity in the Mirrodin block.
Improvise is basically Convoke with Artifacts, allowing you to reduce the mana cost by 1 for each Artifact you tap. Red, Black, and Blue are the colors where you find Improvise offerings. Similar to the Energy payoffs, the value of these cards largely comes down to how often you can actually use the Improvise ability. Because there is so much Artifact token generation in this set, Improvise cards do tend to be quite good. In general these cards start overpriced but become reasonable when you can tap 1 Artifact and really good if you can tap 2+. It sure seems like there is plenty to do in this set with your Artifact tokens, but wait there’s more!
Revolt (unsurprisingly introduced in the Aether Revolt set) provides a payoff for your permanents leaving the battlefield. Quite a lot of Revolt spells have been cut from the remastered set, but White and Black still showcase the mechanic. Getting value out of losing your stuff tends to be great in Limited, but unless you have ways to ensure it happens Revolt cards can play awkwardly. It is definitely a red flag when opponents make seemingly bad attacks in a format with this sort of mechanic, as they are quite possibly setting up a big Revolt play. Black-White has some ways (like Hidden Stockpile) to trigger Revolt regardless of what the opponent does, whereas a card like Lifecraft Cavalry may need to be played as a 4/4 in some cases. Before we dive deeper into archetypes such as BW Revolt, I want to first make some broader observations about this new format.
- It is very Artifact heavy – Artifacts make up about 20% of the cards included in Kaladesh Remastered. I would expect to see a lot of them in your games and there are various payoffs and hate cards for playing Artifacts that will likely be more valuable than you are used to.
- Removal is less important – I am walking a fine line here, because removal is always good in Limited. But, with all of the token generation and recursion it is easy to get overwhelmed or not have any great targets for your single target removal spells. Ones that hit multiple creatures or wipe the board (even a global -1/-1) can be devastating in this environment, though.
- There are so many Flyers – Maybe in an attempt to stop 1/1 Flying Thopters from completely taking over games (which they can still do), there are more flying options than usual in Kaladesh. This can lead to some evasive and ‘dinky’ sort of games if one player doesn’t have a good plan for dealing with Flying.
- The creatures are value-oriented – Creatures in this tend to lack base stats and instead introduce value through taking advantage of various mechanics like Improvise, Energy, Revolt, etc.. This is part of the reason why…
- The format looks to be Slow – The remastered version appears to have cut a lot of filler creatures, which could quicken things somewhat, however there is good reason to expect this to be a slow format. Nearly all of the mechanics require setup, the most glaring of which being Vehicles. Playing a Vehicle represents negative tempo, where you are taking a setback up front with the hope that the investment will pay off over time. Although there are some high synergy plays that could snowball games relatively quickly when it comes to Energy, Improvise, Fabricate, and Revolt, these mechanics all tend to be downtempo if not negative like Vehicles are. As we will see from the archetypes, some of them are still set up to go-wide or start attacking evasively quickly, so it isn’t like Aggro decks won’t exist. But this is a format where the mechanics offer a ton of value if you can weather the storm of early aggression and grind out slower wins. Let’s now look at how some of the different approaches each color combinations will tend to take in Kaladesh Remastered.
This section is all about exploring each two color combinations and their themes in this set. Typically I also be highlight some key cards that enable each archetype in my overview articles. However, this set makes that kind of tricky. Since different colors can pull in different mechanic-based themes, there are actually quite a few directions each archetype can go. This is good for the format, but makes it tough to boil archetypes down and choose cards that will always be great in them. This time around I will be going over all of the best common and uncommon cards and provide more insight into each archetype in a future article after the set is released. For now I will leave it with a preview and some discussion about the types of decks each color combination will best support.
Azorius (UW) – Flyers, Artifacts
This archetype is in classic form, and looks to win by controlling the game and poking with flyers while deriving card advantage and other value from Artifact synergy. There are a lot of ways to build with these colors depending on which mechanic-based payoffs you find, but the common thread is going to be an aerial attack plan as both White and Blue are quite stacked with Flyers. There is also a lot of synergy to be had with Fabricate, Energy, and/or Artifact payoffs. All in all UW is looking really strong to me in Zendikar Remastered.
Orzhov (BW) – Revolt, Sacrifice/Recursion
This is the archetype that cares the most about Revolt, and has many ways to get extra value out of permanents leaving the battlefield. As a result, this color pair looks to play fairly ‘grindy’ as usual, and I will be looking to combo some of the Black sacrifice effects with Artifact creature tokens (efficiently generated by Fabricate Creatures). Revolt is an excellent mechanic to have access to in Limited, generating value turn after turn. Only triggering on your end step is kind of annoying though, since it forces you to make moves on your turn, potentially leaving you more susceptible on your opponent’s.
Boros (RW) – Go-wide, Vehicles
While Vehicles can be used by any archetype, RW contains the most tools for getting additional value out of them. Vehicles are kind of an interesting proposition for Aggro. On one hand, you can’t attack with them the turn you play them and they do tie up your creatures to crew them. But, you are able to crew Vehicles with creatures that have summoning sickness, so depending on how well you curve out, playing a Vehicle may not end up slowing you down. Plus, most Vehicles have efficient stats or evasion that could allow attacks you otherwise wouldn’t have. Mileage definitely varies depending on the Vehicle, but they can definitely be an asset to your Aggro decks. Like I mentioned earlier you just have to make sure you don’t skimp on creatures so your deck can still go wide enough to win.
Selesnya (GW) – Go Big or Go Wide
GW seems to struggle most with identity out of all of the archetypes in the set. As usual it is a Creature-centric archetype, and since White and Green both feature Fabricate, you will likely either go wide with many smaller creatures or power up a singular creature to get damage through. Engineered Might gets this idea across I suppose. You also have some access to Energy and Revolt in these colors, so there are a lot of possibilities in terms of sub-themes in GW.
Dimir (UB) – Artifacts
Of all of the color pairings, UB looks to benefit most from playing Artifacts. The payoffs aren’t that great overall, but there are so many Artifacts in the set that it will be quite easy to activate them. Running a bunch of Artifacts also powers up Improvise spells, something both Blue and Black have access to. The power of this archetype is going to be largely dependent on the quality of Artifacts you are able to find. Most of the payoffs aren’t good enough to justify stuffing your deck with random Artifacts for the sake of triggering them. But, if you can find enough good Artifacts and Improvise spells I think UB is looking really good. As usual, these colors feature fairly strong removal and support for Control strategies as well.
Izzet (UR) – Thopters/Improvise
These colors don’t have access to Fabricate, but that doesn’t stop Izzet from creating Artifact creatures of its own. A bigger flyer can shut down the Thopter line of attack, but UR has access to efficient removal and utility to support its little flyers. Artifacts on the board can also help cast Improvise spells which are readily available. I could see leaning into Blue Energy stuff if the payoffs are there, or even Vehicles to get some more mileage out of your weaker creatures and have more Artifacts on your board to Improvise with. I think this color combination is going to struggle most dealing with larger threats, but remember this is a Historic format where Creatures tend to be lower in power level, so it isn’t like your opponents are going to be running out 4 mana 4/4’s every game.
Simic (UG) – Energy
Simic is the pure Energy archetype of the set, as Blue and Green are the predominant colors which feature the mechanic. It is going to be really important to not just find Energy cards in these colors, but find a nice balance of enablers and payoffs. It can be really frustrating to accumulate tons of Energy and have nothing to spend it on (or vice versa). Having too many payoffs can be cumbersome as well, since they are using the same pool of Energy and you will generally just be activating the best one. Still, Energy can be a really powerful mechanic and if the cards are getting passed in Draft I could see UG being a dominant archetype when open. Forcing it could be risky though, since you may end up with a mid-range creature pile if the theme doesn’t come together.
Rakdos (BR) – Artifacts
Rakdos is fairly atypical in this set. Having access to mechanics like Fabricate, Improvise, and Revolt gives it tools to create an engine deck comprised of small Artifact creatures. This will likely make BR a bit slower in this format, but it still has great removal to help it turn creatures sideways. I think this archetype will occupy a similar space as Orzhov (BW), being fairly ‘grindy’ and generating value over time. Slower decks that generate actual card advantage may end up making this style of decks less viable, but time will tell. I will say removal is typically what will pull you into these colors and I don’t see removal being as crucial as usual in Kaladesh Remastered, so I guess I am a little down on Rakdos in this set.
Golgari (BG) – Fabricate
Golgari is the last Fabricate archetype, but rather than creating 1/1 Artifact Creatures with it there are payoffs for adding +1/+1 counters. I suspect this will be the primary theme for most BG decks, resulting in it having the largest creatures. Trample and Vigilance should be more relevant than usual with all of the 1/1’s running around, and these colors do have some board wipes to deal with those as well. The glaring issue with this archetype is its lack of options against flyers, which are extremely prevalent in this set. I would want to find a good amount of Black removal to deal with those in order to feel good about being in these colors.
Gruul (GR) – Midrange Aggro
Hey, I didn’t say there weren’t any four mana 4/4’s in the set. GR is in its usual form, complimenting efficient creatures with removal and pump spells. Energy can easily become a theme here as well. I actually think this is a solid format for archetypes like this, since there is bound to be a lot of durdly stuff going on. The Achilles heel to big dumb creature decks like BG or RG in this format is the lack of card advantage, so I can’t stress how important it is to run sufficient creatures and construct a good curve with these archetypes. Curving out against slower decks featuring grindy mechanics or underpowered flyers can be extremely effective. That’s it for the archetypes, but below you will find some commentary on the Sealed format as well as a guide for how to construct a good curve depending on your deck strategy in any Limited format.
Last but not least, let’s get into a little strategy on how to handle your Sealed pool. While it is important to identify the archetypes you are pulling from and put together cards that have strong synergy with one another, more important still is making sure you have a solid deck composition and mana curve. Below are some guidelines to help you form a decent curve and composition with your cards, but keep a couple things in mind. First, Sealed pools are often dictated by your bombs. I would first sort by color and then pull out the cards from each color you would be excited to play. This helps you see where all of your powerful stuff is. Second, 3-color is perfectly fine in Sealed, even if you don’t have color fixing. The reason is the format is much slower than in Draft, so even if you are color screwed here and there it often won’t be game ending. Finally, because the format is slower, some pools will do better if you play more higher curve stuff and run 18 Lands. On the other hand, if your pool hands you really good Aggro tools those decks can be extremely strong as they can catch those higher curve decks by surprise.
Generic Composition – 17 Creatures, 6 Non-Creatures, and 17 Lands
- 1-drops (0-2)
- 2-drops (5-8)
- 3-drops (5-7)
- 4-drops (2-6)
- 5+ mana (0-4)
- Cards that are cast off-curve (2-6)
Okay, so a couple things related to this outline. First, if you average them all you get about 23 spells, so that makes sense. Next, this illustrates the concept of mana curve. If you follow this outline the mana costs form a sort of curve, where most of your cards cost 2-3 mana and it tapers down from there. Most importantly, mana curve should be figured out based on cards you are actually going to play on that turn. So, combat tricks and counter-spells would usually be placed in the last category.
Aggro – These decks want to end the game quickly, and are happiest with a low mana curve and fewer lands than usual. This means you want to have plenty of 2 and 3 drops to maximize your chances of ‘curving out,’ which is more important to aggro decks than any other strategy. A sample deck might look something like this: 17 creatures, 7 noncreatures, 16 lands.
- 1-drops (1)
- 2-drops (8)
- 3-drops (7)
- 4-drops (2)
- 5+ (0)
- Off-curve spells (6)
Your off-curve spells should primarily be removal and combat tricks in this archetype. These kind of spells allow you to keep attacking even after your opponent has played creatures that are stronger than your two and three drop creatures. Aggro decks want to empty their hand quickly and end the game before their opponent can empty theirs. This is a subtle form of card advantage that aggro decks can generate. Another common tool of aggro decks is evasion. Flying or unblockable creatures for example can allow aggro decks to continue attacking even in the later stages of the game. Another win condition for aggro decks is spells that can deal damage directly to their opponent. Often, an aggro decks will need to combine these tools in order to deal early damage with creatures and be able to finish off their opponent with evasion or direct damage. Tools that provide reach, a way for aggro decks to win even after their opponent has initially stabilized are often highly coveted in Limited formats.
Control – The alter-ego of aggro, control decks want to prolong the game in order to capitalize on value-generating and/or powerful but expensive spells. Where aggro decks are strongest early and then taper off, control decks gain strength over time. Control decks will usually play fewer creatures and favor a higher mana-curve. A sample control deck might look like this: 13 creatures, 10 noncreatures, 17 lands.
- 1-drops (0)
- 2-drops (5)
- 3-drops (6)
- 4-drops (4)
- 5+ (3)
- Off-curve Spells (5)
Your off-curve spells should primarily be removal and counter-spells, as combat tricks are less relevant in an archetype that has fewer creatures. Notice there are still a decent number of creatures and enough two and three drops to consistently have early plays. This allows control to keep pace with aggro decks and eventually stabilize by playing powerful spells later in the game. Control decks usually win the game with powerful creatures, but can sometimes win the game by milling, or causing their opponent to run out of cards in their deck before them. These types of control decks can get away with running even fewer creatures. However, a mistake players new to control will often make is not running enough win conditions. It might seem reasonable to play many spells to disrupt your opponent/draw cards and rely on a couple bomb creatures to take down your opponent. But if your opponent has removal for those creatures you may find yourself in a situation where you cannot win. Regardless of deck type it is always important to consider how/when your deck wants to win the game and gear it to that end.
Midrange – This describes any deck that is a blend of aggro and control. Typically these decks have a medium mana-curve. Midrange wants to play creatures and spells that slightly outclass aggro decks, while still presenting sufficient threats to outpace control decks. Of all the strategies, more limited decks fall into this this one as it is difficult to find enough tools in most card sets to create a dedicated aggro or control deck. Creating an example midrange deck is sort of meaningless because there is so much variance.
I hope you have found this article to be a good primer for your upcoming release events. May your Sealed pools be fruitful and your number of lands drawn be appropriate! I am thinking about resurrecting my Twitch Stream for this set. I took some time off from streaming (and playing) recently but am excited to get back into it with this (sort of) new set. After I get a chance to play a bunch of events, be on the lookout for a Draft Guide where I will break down the metagame and the best archetypes and common/uncommon cards which support them.