I’m going to continue my reviews of the Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate cards as it’s going to be here before we know it! I already started with the card that set the Magic community ablaze, Viconia, Nightsinger’s Disciple, and am moving on to the card that I’ve seen functionally no hype about. Let’s break down Karlach, Raging Tiefling and why I think it’s being so disgustingly underrated.
So on its face it’s a 2 mana 2/2 with First Strike. Not an incredible base line, but much better than it looks. First Strike is one of the scariest key words on a cheap creature as it can be incredibly tough to attack into them or defend from them as you will need something bigger just to have a shot at beating it in combat. Throw some burn spells into the mix, and you have an annoying aggressive creature. I feel that cheap First Strike creatures are so underrated that I was adding Dragonkin Berserker into a lot of my Red decks pretty happily as, most of the time, it was just the base body and maybe I could boast it if I got lucky. All that said, while I wouldn’t play this if that’s all it did, we obviously have to analyze the Specialize ability here!
So to start off, we have a 6 mana Specialize ability which is rather expensive, but you can use it when Karlach is in the graveyard! This is a huge boon for the card’s power level as not being afraid to trade it off early in the game and then getting a better threat later on is a real concern for any opponent. However, it will only be a concern if the Specialized Karlach’s are good. Considering the title of this article, you likely know my stance on that issue.
For each Specialization, they are all 4/4s with First Strike, Haste, and are brought back from the graveyard to the battlefield unable to block. Now as I break down each of the specializations and rate them, let me remind you of how I rate cards.
- 0/5 – Unplayable in every sense.
- 1/5 – Extremely niche play or very unlikely to see play.
- 2/5 – Niche to no play, maybe playable in certain conditions.
- 3/5 – Reasonable playable. Not format breaking, but has the power level to see play in some strategy (or strategies).
- 4/5 – Very strong card, but not the best the format has to offer. Has the power level to see a lot of play.
- 5/5 – The very top of the format. This card will create a huge impact going forward on the format.
The White specialization makes a Knight token and then gives your board +1/+1 and haste which gives me serious Heroic Reinforcement vibes, which for those who never played with that in Standard, was busted. Six mana is a bit pricey for this ability, but a Heroic Reinforcements that you can cast from the graveyard and gives you a 4/4 and 2/2 versus two 1/1s is still very powerful.
The Blue specialization seeks a free, cheap spell and then lets you cast it for free! This is a solid ability, and if you’re playing only Burn and draw spells, should always net solid value. Definitely not back breaking for the opponent most of the time, but an effect you should always be happy with.
The Black specialization gives you the best halves of Fell Stinger on one card where you can sacrifice a creature for two cards, but the opponent loses two life! This is extremely powerful if you have excess creatures laying around, or in a pinch, you can just sacrifice Karlach to net a card and two damage. This is going to be a huge pain for anyone if you ever have a random body lying around as that converts into so much pressure.
The Red specialization makes it so a creature can’t block this turn. That’s it, nothing too exciting. While the same color Specializations seem to be the weakest on Specialize cards, the threat that you may be able to force through a lot of damage at once should scare opponents enough to leave a lot of creatures back and swinging races in your favor. Even if you don’t specialize Red often, the threat that you can is the important part.
The Green specialization gives another creature +4/+4 until end of turn on entry which seems very powerful, but may be worse than it looks. If you have a large board presence, then giving your smallest creature a big buff will make swing outs easy, but this is also the only Specialization that requires another creature to get the full value. Be it as it may, if you’re playing an aggro deck, you’ll likely have a creature to give this to, and better yet, one with Trample to really capitalize on the ability.
So how do I feel about Karlach overall?
Karlach, Raging Tiefling
Karlach is definitely a solid card all around and the ability to keep bringing it back on death is certainly powerful. However, something I have to consider while rating a card is how likely it is to see play in decks playing that color. Although none of the abilities are obscene, the versatility this card offers with the specializations and the powerful recursive threat (even if only once) it provides is likely to be enough that nearly any deck playing Red is going to want it. Whether it’s Rakdos Midrange, Gruul Aggro, or Boros Aggro, all of them should be happy to play at least a few copies of this card if not just the full play set.