If you're at all like me, you kinda love Dwarves.
I mean, it's somewhat hard not to these days.
Hell, my favorite creature of all time is a Dwarf!
Dwarven Blastminer is a cruel, cruel card and is especially amazing when dropped onto the battlefield with a Mox on turn 1. Ouch!
So when Wizards of the Coast announced that they were going to be bringing back Dwarves, I was both excited and more than a little bit nervous. I mean, after all, how likely is it that the new Dwarves are going to be good enough to live up to Tyrion Lannister or Dwarven Blastminer?
Of course, that is an incredibly high bar.
Dwarves in General
One of the real issues we're going to have when it comes to making Dwarves be A Thing in Magic in Standard is that there are simply so very few of them. In the new set, there are twelve Dwarves.
This is not much to work with.
Surely, once Aether Revolt gets into the mix, we might be able to have a lot more excitement regarding the return of this classic Magic race, but until then, we're going to have to do a little bit of stretching to make them work. Luckily for us, it does feel as though, overall, Wizards of the Coast is pushing Dwarves in Kaladesh.
This makes sense in a lot of ways. Wizards of the Coast is interested in having the new cards actually end up seeing play, and you can't have that happen with something like Dwarves unless you actually push them a bit so that they definitely see play.
Now, this isn't to say that Dwarves are the next coming of the Eldrazi; first of all, there are many fewer Dwarves than there were Eldrazi, and second, they aren't pushed nearly as hard. But they are pushed.
Let's take a look at them, rarity by rarity.
This card is definitely one that feels like it might have a use. In a world where Energy is a real aspect of the game and numerous cards actually might want to be picked up, this card has, surprisingly, some real uses. It isn't a must, and so it doesn't suffer from what could have made this card much less likely to be of use. If you're going to make this card good, though, you'd better be doing a lot of work.
Then again, sometimes picking up a card to replay it is just fine.
Frankly, even if you're playing towards Dwarves with a payoff, this is just well below the bar for me. We can do better.
This kind of ability has occasionally seen some Constructed play, but it is exceedingly rare and requires an engine to really pull off. I don't see that engine here, unless you're going really, really deep.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that the commons are so weak for Constructed possibilities, but when has Wizards ever really wanted to make it easy for us?
This card has enough abilities that it ends up sitting right at the margins of being Standard-playable. I think it actually does make it over the hump, but only just barely.
While a lot of people have taken to comparing this card to Vampire Nighthawk, this comparison is just not really appropriate. Vampire Nighthawk's keyword that took the card over the top into being sideboard-playable in Modern (albeit on the deep fringe) was deathtouch. Yes, lifelink was incredibly important and entirely the reason why the card would be worth considering. However, deathtouch meant that you could trade against nearly anything and end up looking at the Vampire Nighthawk as much more reasonable.
While the vigilance from Aerial Responder is certainly good, I expect this card, even in Standard, to max out as a potential sideboard card and stop there.
Again, this card isn't up to the low bar necessary for Standard. Remember, we're talking about a format where we need to be competing against cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar! (I'd be happy to draft this Dwarf, though!)
This kind of ability has been good enough that it has seen play in Legacy. In Standard, this will see general play at the margins, but the card is more than reasonable in a deck that gets more out of the card, say, from interactions with other cards in your deck.
This card isn't incredible, but it is absolutely playable. It can Crew a great many Constructed-worthy Vehicles, and it seems positively silly behind the wheel of an Ovalchase Dragster or Fleetwheel Cruiser.
Just being a first-striking creature is also relevant. In my initial games of Standard, I've been surprised at just how effective that keyword has been, overperforming compared to Magic Origins Standard, perhaps because cards like Languish, Dromoka's Command, and Collective Company are gone.
Just to begin with, a 3/1 for two mana can be scary. When you add on the other two abilities, this card is more than reasonable. In many ways it reminds me of Magma Jet, tacking on a very, very reasonable effect to an otherwise reasonable card and becoming something all the more powerful for it. Any time this card trades for another card, remind yourself: "Magma Jet!"
Probably the card farthest below the bar for Standard that I've talked about in this article. While both this and Glint-Sleeve Artisan get a little better in the context of cards that pump up your Servos, that's asking for so much work to come out of the other cards you're playing – too much.
Here, we have three clear and obvious good cards. Let's get to each of them in turn.
Dwarves are basically a white-colored race in Kaladesh. Depala, Pilot Exemplar is the Dwarf lord for the set, and it is one of the two multi-colored Dwarves, both of which "go Boros" with a bit of red.
Depala, though demanding that extra color, really is fabulous. You can tell that they wanted Depala to get played because her abilities are just so powerful. The traditional "lord" power of pumping up all Dwarves is an expected ability, but the extra ability linking Vehicles to Dwarves doesn't just feel great flavorfully; it's simply just great to begin with.
If you've tried out the Vehicles, I'm sure you have your favorites, but suffice it to say, Vehicles are good enough that we'll be seeing them in the new Standard quite regularly. To buff up the good ones is actually quite impressive.
When you add to that the searching ability of Depala, it is really a quite impressive card. There is a natural tension between attempting to kill your opponent and getting the card advantage that Depala, Pilot Exemplar can offer, and while early on, you aren't likely to spend that X mana, later on, you're not likely to run out of gas when Depala is driving the Vehicle.
Depala is so strong that I expect it is likely there will be a Dwarf-centric deck that sees competitive play in Standard. I don't know if it will be a centerpiece in Standard, but I think it will likely be, at worst, an occasional player in the metagame.
This card is incredibly solid, but it does demand a lot more from a player than most Constructed cards I'd want to play. If you're already running a fair number of Servos and Thopters, this card is actually quite excellent, playing out as a kind of "Trinket lord."
However, there are some real weakness to this card. The activated ability isn't all that impressive until the very, very late-game. Nothing about this card helps you to be more resilient against mass removal of any kind. In a world of minor point removal, you're going to need to get seven mana to get a return from this card if it is killed. At that level of mana, even split out over two turns, there are better options.
Granted, if you are just wanting a solid body that immediately makes your Thopters get in for a hit, this card is great. But is that really what you're trying to be doing in a world that includes Kozilek's Return and plenty of absurd cards that aren't departing the metagame?
Here we have a card that is just extraordinary. Getting an artifact onto the battlefield is not all that difficult in Standard, whether it is Thraben Inspector (or any other Clue-maker), Bomat Courier, or any Vehicle. As such, this is reliably a 3/2 for only a single mana, and oftentimes, it ends up being a 3/2 with first strike.
Where Gearshift Ace was worth mentioning because the first strike on the card is relevant, this is even more the case when you're getting onto the table sooner, not to mention when you're coming across for more.
This card feels like it has one other important trait to note: it's the card most likely to see competitive Standard play. I expect some number of these to be in the top tables of the Pro Tour, even if I don't expect them to be joined by any other Dwarves.
It says something to me that they haven't printed a single Mythic Dwarf. It seems likely that they actually want the people who are most interested in Dwarves – likely the so-called "Vorthos"-style player – are also the most likely to not be willing to aggressively chase hard-to-find cards.
Spikes like me (and likely most of you) are very likely to drop the dough to get the cards we need to win. While I might be an extreme example of that, most people I know who read StarCityGames.com® are going to buy that incredible card for the incredible deck, regardless of its rarity. Cost can be a consideration, certainly, but if a card exists in the archetype that you want to play, you get the card.
For the Vorthos, this is much less the case.
I have to say, though, I'm a little sad to not see a mythic Dwarf planeswalker. Maybe next set!
While any creature could be a part of a Crew, the Dwarves seem particularly good at it. There are a few Vehicles that seem most likely to suit them.
While I don't think these are the only playable Vehicles, they feel like they are a lot more worth your while when you're packing Dwarves, especially Depala, Pilot Exemplar. Interestingly, I think it takes a Dwarf to make Ovalchase Dragster even worth considering, unless you're doing some kind of other work.
Opening Them Up
I don't know that I'll be crossing my fingers for Dwarves when I head to my regular Prerelease event at Misty Mountain Games, but I'm still excited to be seeing them, just in general. In Limited of any stripe, our needs are a lot less intensive than in Standard, and I know that each and every Dwarf card has a lot of potential value.
I'm sure Kaladesh is just the beginning! Perhaps with luck, we'll get that mythic Dwarf in Aether Revolt.
Have fun this weekend at your Prerelease! May you open many Toolcraft Exemplar!