I'm talking about cards from Kaladesh today. Let's start with the biggest one spoiled yet.
The next coming of Jace, the Mind Sculptor?
Chandra is flat-out good on her own. The -3 protects herself the turn she enters the battlefield. If the battlefield is clear, then either of her +1s will be effective, depending on if you have a spell to cast for RR.
Her first +1 is basically two abilities mushed into one. If you reveal a nonland, you can chose to cast the spell, if able, or else to do two damage to a player or two damage to a planeswalker. Part card advantage, part reach, and part battlefield control? Pretty nice, considering she also has three other abilities.
The -7 is akin to the -12 of Jace, the Mind Sculptor because you'll use it after the game is pretty well locked up. It's nice that Chandra, Torch of Defiance is either drawing you cards or adding mana the whole time she's ticking up, meaning the game is likely getting farther and farther in your favor the whole time.
The presence of Chandra, Torch of Defiance will give a boost to red decks and will determine how they're built. It's tough to justify playing a low land-count deck when such a powerful planeswalker is available.
I believe the key to maximizing the potential of Chandra, Torch of Defiance is to have both threats and removal in your deck that can be cast with the two red mana from her +1. This can be anything from Thermo-Alchemist to Incendiary Flow. Another key is something to use the two red mana for once she's on the battlefield. Maybe you're accelerating into a six- or seven-drop. Maybe hardcasting a Wretched Gryff to trigger Kozilek's Return is the way to go. Maybe it's activating a Wandering Fumarole and attacking.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance is incredibly powerful, and the decks that use all her abilities will be rewarded very nicely.
I like Harnessed Lightning a lot and believe it will pair very well with Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Harnessed Lightning will play a lot like Galvanic Bombardment in that it kills creatures early and then can kill bigger creatures late. I can see the first Harnessed Lightning killing a 2/2 creature and then the next killing a 4/4. Or you could be playing a deck that generates Energy otherwise and Harnessed Lightning kills nearly anything.
The next coming of Thragtusk? Unlikely, but the stats on Arborback Stomper aren't too shabby. Clearly, not creating a 3/3 Beast token when it leaves the battlefield puts Arborback Stomper in a different category from Thragtusk, which has it leaning on its five life gained to determine if it's Constructed-playable. With Chandra, Torch of Defiance giving a large boost to red decks, we could see direct damage rising in popularity as a way to close out games.
As much attention as Chandra, Torch of Defiance is getting, we have to be careful not to overlook the new Nissa. I think the closest card to compare Nissa, Vital Force to is one of her older versions.
I think Nissa, Vital Force is better ,since you can block with the animated land the turn you cast her if you only have five mana. After that, it's basically smooth sailing. You can crunch for five damage a bunch of times or go ahead and ultimate her. Starting at five loyalty and moving straight to six is huge.
Like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the new Nissa has a secret ability to produce mana. Imagine casting Nissa, Vital Force and then casting a seven-drop the following turn. So much utility!
The -3 is there to ensure you can get value immediately if needed from your five-cost planeswalker. It's a very nice way to chain planeswalkers from no battlefield and feels akin in power to Bruna, the Fading Light.
I like how Magic has come full circle to start using the word “create” for tokens.
I can see Whirlermaker being on the cusp of Constructed-playable. It's like an expensive planeswalker that can't be attacked.
Red needs some haste to attack these overpowered planeswalkers. Even without Vehicles, I could see Speedway Fanatic filling a key role in red beatdown decks.
Facing a Chandra, Torch of Defiance? Cast your own Chandra. +1 it to add mana. Cast Speedway Fanatic. Attack their Chandra. Game.
Not too much to say about these “fast” lands. They're probably weaker than the painlands from Magic Origins that are rotating. True colorless mana will be harder to get.
I think they're fine. Not many decks in Standard will be able to operate on a low land count, so I expect these to enter the battlefield tapped very often turn 4 and onward. However, if a sub-twenty land count deck is playable in Standard, I'll be there playing it.
I think the key to breaking the symmetry of Ghirapur Orrery is to have ways to convert cards into something useful as well as some bounce spells. B/U Zombies springs to mind with Call the Bloodline, Haunted Dead, and Compelling Deterrence. A very gimmicky card that's potentially very powerful. I put Ghirapur Orrery in the same class of card as Alhammarret's Archive.
It's awesome how these circulate in effect to make an Energy and a 2/2 creature for each generic mana spent. It's unclear how big of an end-goal it will be, but it's rather close to what we saw with Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry. Each module can activate to start the engine and I'm sure there will be ways to make use of the modules outside of the set being together. In any case, they look like a lot of fun.
Multiform Wonder will either see absolutely no play or will go in a ton of decks. It's frighteningly close to being a colorless Morphling. When an artifact creature is very good, sometimes it shapes entire formats. Masticore and Hangarback Walker are two examples.
You probably want some other Energy source, but even that isn't mandatory. Something like also playing Harnessed Lightning ups the power of Multiform Wonder significantly.
I played with Thopter Engineer a lot and am happy that a similar replacement is here. Pia Nalaar messes up the opponent's blocks so hard that they'll be forced to either race or turtle up incredibly. I see Pia Nalaar quietly being one of the better cards to slot into red decks. She's also a perfect pair with Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.
A huge ship with a huge effect when it enters the battlefield or attacks. This ship will affect how decks are built in the future. Creatures with three power will want to Crew this ship. Lambholt Pacifist gets better, as does Sin Prodder. What you don't want to be doing is Crewing with two two-power creatures, as that seems awfully inefficient.
Lathnu Hellion reminds me of Blastoderm more than anything else. If your opponent can soak up eight damage, they will for your card. If they can't afford to, then you're probably up two energy for future use. I wouldn't recommend Lanthu Hellion in just any red deck. Lanthu Hellion feels like a curve-topper to finish off opponents after having a one- and two-drop.
This card feels very similar to Crush of Tentacles. Like Crush of Tentacles, you want to be reusing “enters the battlefield” effects on cards like Oath of Nissa. If there's suitable replacement for Den Protector to continue a loop, then I can see Paradoxical Outcome as something that G/U ramp / Part the Waterveil decks want.
One deck that's surely transitioning well into new Standard will be Temur Emerge. With Eldrazi and artifacts expected to appear in a variety of decks across the board, I wouldn't be surprised if Ceremonious Rejection appears in maindecks. At minimum it will be a powerful sideboard tool against Elder Deep-Fiend and Emrakul, the Promised End.
I'm going to hate playing against Demon of Dark Schemes for the next year. It's a sweeper for small creatures that sticks around to gain a ton of value while killing me with a 6/6 flyer. The number of tokens decks with Servos and Thopters will determine how potent Demon of Dark Schemes will be in Standard.
A three-drop planeswalker that isn't impressive just yet. The context here is huge. If there's a U/R “artifacts matter” deck, then Saheeli Rai will be good in it. She seems too narrow otherwise to fit in plain old U/R decks. Saheeli Rai loses a ton of points by not being able to defend herself.
A key player in the upcoming powerhouse Standard deck: Boss Dwarves.
Depala, Pilot Exemplar is a great payoff card for filling your deck with Dwarves and/or Vehicles. We'll just have to wait and see what commons and uncommons will fill the curve of the deck. I'm already a bit concerned that the deck will be heavy on three-drops with Master Tinkerer and Aerial Responder (aka Dwarven Lighthawk) looking like they want to make the deck.
A neat crafty and metallic card. I don't think Inventor's Fair goes in any decks except in whatever Mono-Red Eldrazi looks like after rotation. It's definitely not good enough for Modern Affinity. I'd rather have Tomb of the Spirit Dragon.
I have no idea what's a legendary land or not anymore. Barring Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and the other nonsense from Zendikar, new cards seem like they're legendary or not at random. Nephalia Academy is non-legendary but Tolarian Academy is legendary. Geier Reach Sanitarium? I could've sworn that one wasn't legendary.
And why can't I control two Krark's Thumbs? He had two thumbs, didn't he?!
Just make sure you don't have two Inventors' Fairs on the battlefield at once.
The red Gearhulk has yet to be spoiled, but I'm sure it will be as strong as the other four. I won't relate them to the cycles of Titans from M11 as they are not as strong. I will relate them to what I believe is the closest card to them.
Verdurous Gearhulk will play somewhere between Wolfir Silverheart and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Or it will be a huge creature like Spectral Force. The versatility is huge for sizing attackers or blockers depending on the game state.
Torrential Gearhulk is most like Goblin Dark-Dwellers and nothing like Snapcaster Mage. It's also very similar to Elder Deep-Fiend. I imagine Torrential Gearhulk will occupy the same design space as Elder Deep-Fiend and blue deck designers will have to choose which direction they want to build in. Attacking into UU will be as tough as attacking into Collected Company mana now.
Noxious Gearhulk is a little like Gilt-Leaf Winnower and a little like Sorin, Grim Nemesis. I believe that White-Black decks will still want Sorin in this slot. For other decks, the mana cost and effect on this one seem very fitting for a great Magic card.
And Cataclysmic Gearhulk?
Cataclysmic Gearhulk - 3WW
Artifact Creature - Construct
When Cataclysmic Gearhulk enters the battlefield, each player chooses from among the non-land permanents he or she controls an artifact, a creature, an enchantment, and a planeswalker, then sacrifices the rest.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk is our replacement for Tragic Arrogance. I think Cataclysmic Gearhulk is worse than Tragic Arrogance in most circumstances where you're losing and is better in more spots that you're already winning. It's important to note that Cataclysmic Gearhulk is an artifact, so you can choose it for your artifact and choose your best creature for the creature you save.
No. This card does not go into Soul Sisters.
You'll gain a life with each spell cast and more when you're “going off” with several spells in the same turn. Aetherflux Reservoir is notably potent with Ranger of Eos and Squadron Hawk. Still, a four-mana artifact isn't what Modern lifegain decks are in the market for.
If you want an alternate win condition for a non-Standard lifegain deck, I recommend Chalice of Life.
A solid creature. If there's a R/G beatdown deck, I'm sure Voltaic Brawler will be a major player. A bit better than Lambholt Pacifist on average, I'd say. If I could cast Voltaic Brawler from the two red mana from Chandra, Torch of Defiance, I'd totally be in.
Cards like this that require you to sacrifice a creature have rarely been playable. Morbid Curiosity looks to be quite the exception. Haunted Dead springs to mind for a creature you wouldn't mind drawing four cards from. Distended Mindbender for eight is nice as well. Really, any emerge creature will do.
Are you ready for Kaladesh? I know I am!