Friday, September 23, 2016

Kaladesh EDH Set Review - Black & Red

And we’re back with another segment of our Kaladesh EDH set review. Last update covered White and Blue, so as you might guess, today’s update covers Black and Red. Lots to discuss, so let’s get going.


Demon of Dark Schemes
If you’re in black and you can’t make this generate lots of Energy, you’re probably playing black wrong. Snarky condescension aside, this should produce a LOT of Energy in the right decks. I’m thinking about basically any MBC style deck, and of course things like Meren or Savra – anything that either kills lots of opposing creatures or sacs lots of tokens could probably do some nasty things with this demon. Oh and he’s also got that Massacre Wurm thing going on; it does hit your guys too, but that just makes even more Energy! If he kills something important, well, he’s got a built-in reanimation ability ready for you to get it back. Big fan of this guy, and I expect to see him get a fair amount of play.

Noxious Gearhulk
This might seem like a boring utility creature at mythic rare, but I’m actually pretty pumped for this one. He’s a decent attacker, removal and life gain all in one package. Plus, being an Artifact makes him a bit more exploitable. Definitely foresee this guy getting a lot of EDH play.

Eliminate the Competition
This one is a bit tough to judge on theory alone. I can see a ton of potential here, as it looks like a very versatile removal spell, basically a customizable sweeper, really. Kill key threats, but leave inconsequential or useful things alone. You need fodder to sacrifice, but a lot of decks with black already have a Sac For Value thing going on. Savra, Meren, Prossh, Shattergang, Kresh, etc… That said, most of those decks already run Grave Pact and it’s kin, along with Barter in Blood and many more such effects. This might just be overkill, I don’t know. I really like the design of the card, and I feel like it should be solid, but at the same time, I worry that most decks that could put it to use already have so many good removal options already. I’ll definitely be trying it out.

Marionette Master
I think that mana cost really hinders this card’s likely playability. It’s just too expensive for a deck like Sharuum, and it’s not an artifact itself, so yeah. Stick with Disciple of the Vault, folks. That said, I admit I would be absolutely terrified to see this wearing a Cranial Plating with oh, say, 9 or 10 Artifacts out. Losing 10 life every time Sharuum chumps with a Thopter does not sound like good times. So maybe it’ll get a bit of play, and occasionally it will be devastating. Still, I wouldn’t expect to be consistently impressed by this.

Syndicate Trafficker
This, on the other hand, I’m pretty keen on. A sac outlet attached to a hard to kill threat that grows bigger? Cool! Like many cards in this set, it does depend on having an artifact-centric deck, but that’s just par for the course in these theme-heavy blocks.  If you have a deck that wants to sac artifacts, this is probably a great pick. If you don’t want to sac artifacts, then this ain’t for you. Dunno what else to say.

Fretwork Colony
No idea if this is good in anything, but it’s certainly a unique card. If it has a home anywhere, it’s probably not in EDH. Just thought I’d mention it for the weird factor alone.

Morbid Curiosity
Potentially undercosted card draw for Black? Sign me right the hell up! I’ve been enjoying Disciple of Bolas ever since she was printed. This might actually better, at least in some decks. I can’t wait to sac Solemn Simulacrum to this. Or even better, sac Solemn to Disciple of Bolas, then sac Disciple to this. ALL THE CARDS! Anyway, this is definitely a welcome departure from the typical “Draw some cards, lose some life” formula that most Black draw spells cling to. Especially like this for Meren decks.

Underhanded Designs
Give your artifacts Extort and occasionally just kill something? Not bad for two mana. I can definitely see this in Esper artifact decks of the non-competitive variety. May even be good enough for some of the more competitive ones, but I’m not at all sure about that. Where I really think I’d like this, though, is if that B/R Artifact deck hinted at by the new Daretti from Conspiracy 2 ever actually becomes a thing. I’d love to see a Rakdos deck built around playing and sacrificing artifacts for value, and I think this would shine in such a deck.
Basically, I pulled a Daretti from CS2 and I really wanna play him but none of my decks really warrant his inclusion. And Rakdos really needs some new deck space opened up anyway.


Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Well after years of mediocre versions, Chandra finally gets an actual, real good version. I have used other versions of Chandra to acceptable results before, and I’m pretty sure her BFZ incarnation is great, I just never opened one so I haven’t had the pleasure of finding out for myself…  but this one seems poised to be the definitive best-ever Chandra card. She might not be the best version for EDH specifically; guess it depends on the deck. But while I can’t think of any decks in my roster that are screaming out “Give me Chandra!”, I think I could just slot her into almost any of my decks with Red and she’d perform well. She’s a little like OG Garruk that way – doesn’t necessarily belong in any particular deck, but is generally good or even great in almost any deck. Definitely liking this one, but I hope I open like 4 of her, because I’m sure her price tag is going to be painful for a long time to come.

Combustible Gearhulk
I’m having a hard time evaluating this Gearhulk objectively, because as a Feldon player this is probably my favorite of the cycle. But I’m not sure if it’s any good outside of mono-Red artifact decks like Slobad, or Daretti. So I imagine if you’re playing any of those, you are almost certainly thrilled to see this. If you’re playing anything else, though, I have no idea. I’m having trouble envisioning myself playing this outside of Feldon, so maybe it’s super niche, or maybe I’m just so focused on that ideal use of it that I can’t see past that. I do know this, though. As a general rule, cards like Browbeat (called “punisher” cards, I believe) that make your opponent choose what effect your spell has are generally terrible, and even more so in multiplayer. Even Browbeat has its niche uses – burn your opponent down to a low life total, then reload with Browbeat is a classic. But in multiplayer games, there’s always someone who is perfectly willing to take 5 to stop you drawing 3 cards.
But this seems a bit different, at least in decks that don’t really mind dumping stuff in the graveyard. This is basically Browbeat on steroids – either they let you draw 3, or they take an unknown amount of damage, but is likely to often be more than 5. But in the right deck – like Daretti, for instance, you don’t really care which mode they choose. If they let you draw 3, great! If they dump stuff into your ‘yard for Feldon to reanimate, great! Then you get this guy into your ‘yard and keep Feldon-ing him back making your opponent make this choice over and over. I just don’t know how many decks will be equally happy drawing three or milling three and doing some damage.

Fateful Showdown
This is such an odd, interesting card! I can’t tell if it’s good or not, but it’s basically Tolarian Winds with some direct damage thrown in for an upcharge of two more mana.  I mean, that sounds good, right? Kill a threat, get a new hand. Yeah, I have to believe there are decks that can work with this. Actually I know one for sure: Arjun. There’s an Arjun deck in my group that I am pretty sure can just one-shot a player trivially easy with this, and can probably Fork it a couple times without much more difficulty. I also have to at least consider it for Feldon, as I’m already running all the Wheel of Fortunes I can get my hands on in that deck.

Madcap Experiment
I don’t think this is good. I seriously doubt I would even run this in Feldon, which is basically 50% artifacts. But I mention it here because it’s one of those cards that isn’t good but someone out there will find a way to make it look like a good card. I hear through the grapevine that Platinum Emperion is spiking because of this card. Clever, but not sure how that little trick might translate to 100-card singleton world.

Skyship Stalker
Small, cheap Dragon. Lots of abilities. Not terribly impressive, but probably a good curve-smoother for Dragon tribal decks. We need more playable Dragons that sit lower on the curve. This ain’t a great one, but it’ll do.

Quicksmith Genius
Again, if you’re in mono-Red or Red/x Artifacts, this is probably decent at worst. Seems really good for Feldon in particular. I will be trying him out there for sure.

Cathartic Reunion
It’s not often that my favorite card in a new set is a common, but this just might be the time. I am, perhaps, getting sentimental in my old age, but a huge reason why I like this card is the art and flavor of it. It’s one of the most touching and moving Magic illustrations ever. I love how Chandra is usually presented as this badass, pyro-maniacal chick with attitude to spare, but this one picture captures a whole different side of her; intimate, vulnerable, loving. Happy.
WotC is always telling us that Red is the color of passion and strong emotions, not just fire and anger. This is one of the very few examples where they actually show that. I love how WotC has typically shied away from putting this sort of thing on cards, but here they just lean into it as hard as they can. “You know what? Screw it. Magic isn’t ALL just wizards slinging fireballs at each other and sending random creatures to attack and maim their rivals. Sometimes a wizard just needs a hug from mommy.”
I just love it. I love that they printed this amazing artwork on a card, and I especially love that the card is actually playable!
I also really appreciate them not increasing the mana cost to three. While that would have been pleasing from a symmetry/pattern-recognition standpoint, keeping the CMC at two really makes it significantly more playable. Once again, I’m mainly thinking of Daretti and Feldon here. But I can see this being broadly playable in a variety of decks, especially those that are already running Alhammaret’s Archive.  
I love this card, but I hate that I’m sentimental about it. Ugh.

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