Standard's impending journey to the land of Kaladesh means leaving behind Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins. Many of the cards that define Standard will no longer be legal upon the release of Kaladesh, but their void opens up the metagame to fresh cards and new contenders. Kaladesh is shaping up to be a deep and powerful set, and tons of the spoiled cards show competitive promise. New cards will occupy the vacated positions and fill old roles in new ways, which in turn will enable new synergies or demand a shift in focus or even colors.
The painlands in Magic Origins, along with enemy-colored creature lands and Shadows over Innistrad generic tapped lands like Forsaken Sanctuary, provided a stable manabase for enemy-colored decks as an alternative to the allied-color manabases of Shadows lands and Battle lands. On their own, painlands were among the most effective lands in Standard, so they were integral to the manabases of three-color decks like Bant Company and Jund Delirium. Painlands also produced colorless mana, so they performed the role of enabling Eldrazi creatures, which also had the side-effect of focusing Eldrazi into enemy-colored decks.
The painlands are replaced by enemy-colored fastlands, which completes the cycle started in Scars of Mirrodin with Seachrome Coast and the rest of the allied-colored lands. They trade the cost of life for the cost of coming into play tapped later in the game, a tradeoff that proves advantageous in various Modern decks, and like the last time the cycle was in Standard, it's a given these new offerings will see play.
The fastlands do have the impact of shifting decks towards lower curves, because more expensive cards become even slower when lands drawn later on enter the battlefield tapped. Fastlands are great in Modern because curves are low, but five- and six-mana cards are the norm in Standard, so it's a restraint that must be managed in deckbuilding. Saving a few life points over the course of the game makes things more difficult for aggressive opponents, so this change will help decks weather the incoming onslaught of red decks powered by Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
The loss of painlands is a major hit to the Eldrazi, which now has a restricted ability to generate multiple colors of mana and still have enough sources of colorless. Forced to rely on other colorless sources, Eldrazi decks are likely to shift towards single-color entities.
The Dragons of Tarkir Dragonlords enabled control and ramp decks that persisted throughout much of the set's lifetime in Standard. The dragon that had the widest and most lasting impact, staying relevant even until now, is Dragonlord Atarka. It flew above the rest because in addition to its massive size, it also had the most potent enter-the-battlefield ability, which wrecked havoc on the opponent's side of the board. Dragonlord Silumgar was also effective, particularly against planeswalkers, where its ability to steal them and expend loyalty made it an effective counter against them. On the other hand, options like Dragonlord Ojutai often found themselves on the wrong end of easy answers like Self-Inflicted Wound and Clip Wings.
Kaladesh offers a new cycle of powerful creatures for going over the top of opponents, the gearhulks. With powerful enter-the-battlefield abilities and a large size, these creatures are everything great about the dragonlords without the downsides. In a sense they are all Dragonlord Atarka: Cataclysmic Gearhulk and Noxious Gearhulk destroy things, and Torrential Gearhulk will often target creature removal or a Counterspell, but the point is that they all immediately generate value, whether it be Verdurous Gearhulk adding counters to another creature or Combustible Gearhulk drawing cards or dealing damage. Being in just one color makes the gearhulks accessible to a wide variety of decks, so they are going to take a featured role in the metagame.
The Dragons offered synergies with their creature type, but the gearhulks offer synergies with their artifact status. They will be used profitability with cards like Inventor's Fair, Refurbish, and Madcap Experiment, among others, which makes them even more useful and accessible. As with all artifacts, this upside is also a vulnerability, and will be exploited by opponents using disruption for artifacts.
Two-mana creatures have grown into the key creature in the game, with seemingly every constructed format defined by the best two-mana creatures. The defining creature over the past year has been Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, which was not only powerful on its own, but had synergy with other cards by enabling the graveyard and madness. Hangabrack Walker, which costs XX mana, was so widespread because it could be cast for two mana as an accessible, effective, and efficient threat.
Smuggler's Copter looks to be a shoo-in for Standard. It has already inspired deckbuilders across the internet, and it's clear this card is going to be used in various ways throughout its Standard lifetime. Like Hangarback Walker, it's accessible to all sorts of decks. It's also an artifact, which is great for delirium, but is going to be especially important in Kaladesh. Like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, it's a graveyard and madness enabler, so it works well with many of the cards in the Standard cardpool.
Smuggler's Copter is a bit different than most two-mana plays because it doesn't do anything on its own; it requires another creature to crew it and enable it to attack. Unlike equipment, the vehicle can be in play first and be crewed by a creature coming into play after, allowing it to attack immediately, so Smuggler's Copter doesn't necessarily need to follow a one-mana creature, but will instead typically be crewed by a turn-three creature. It therefore increases the value of other cheap creatures, including one-drops like Falkenrath Gorger and Thriving Turtle, and three-drops, especially those that generate two bodies, like Pia Nalaar and Glint-Sleeve Artisan, along with other efficient two-mana plays, like Speedway Fanatic.
Standard was kept honest by a hyper-aggressive Human deck centered around one-mana creatures, and the bulk of that deck leaves with the rotation. Red loses Zurgo Bellstriker, which has been a key player in red decks throughout its Standard lifetime. These aggressive decks also lose creatures that they used to generate card advantage to keep pace in wars of attrition, Knight of the White Orchid and Abbot of Keral Keep, so they will be forced to completely retool themselves in Kaladesh Standard.
Kaladesh provides white and red with aggressive one-mana creatures that have the potential to outshine what they replace, but their requirement of controlling an artifact to be powered up, like Court Homunculus, belies the focus of these colors in Standard going forward. These creatures will prove potent in the right decks, so any aggressively-slanted artifacts require a second look, including vehicles.
Cheap artifact creatures like Bomat Courier will be important to these decks. It might not look impressive, but anyone familiar with Affinity and the concept of synergy knows that decks are greater than the sum of their parts, and role-players like these are necessary to make the stars shine.
Pia and Kiran Nalaar saw frequent success throughout its Standard lifetime, and even earned a place for itself in Modern. The ability to generate multiple creature in one is very powerful, especially when two of them come with the evasion of flying. The upside of being able to convert these tokens or other artifacts into damage also made it a potent form of board control. It's a card without direct replacement,but Kaladesh provides some great new tools that will in some way fill the niche Pia and Kiran Nalaar previously held.
Purely looked at as a way to generate three creatures for one card, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, which filled the role once occupied by Hordeling Outburst, is replaced by Weaponcraft Enthusiast, which at three mana is more efficient than Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and at 2B more accessible than Hordeling Outburst, not to mention the potential upside of just coming into play as a 2/3. As its name implies, it's a great way to generate creatures to equip, but it's also an effective way to crew cards like Smuggler's Copter, and very efficient as a source of creatures to sacrifice.
Higher up the curve, Angel of Invention does a great job of imitating Pia and Kiran Nalaar by putting into play three creatures split between the land and sky. The extra mana comes with plenty of upside, like vigilance and lifelink, complete with a built-in anthem ability that means its tokens are 2/2 are long as it stays in play, and it's a benefit to any other creatures and Servo tokens in play. It can also simply add the counters to itself, making it potent as a large flier with lifelink. At times I have been underwhelmed by Pia and Kiran Nalaar as source of board presence and finisher because its ability Contradicts adding to the battlefield, but Angel of Invention functions more effectively in this role by generating a bigger advantage and more effectively and quickly snowballing this advantage into victory.
The loss of Magic Origins also means Thopter Engineer and Ghirapur Gearcrafter are leaving, but Kaladesh offers replacements that push the power level of three-mana token-generating creatures to the next level.
Pia Nalaar doesn't create a flying token, but like Thopter Engineer it does a lot for artifacts, pumping them in combat to make them very potent threats. It's a great tactical tool in combat, and strategically it's an amazing thing to have in your deck because it functions as a Brute Force mana sink that will quickly kill an opponent in the late game.
Whirler Virtuoso comes with the energy to immediately generate a flying Thopter Token, so it's very much a successor to Thopter Engineer, only with more power, which leads me to believe it's going to be one of the best creatures in Standard, especially when you consider its upside of being able to convert extra energy into extra tokens. It stands on its own and will be a fantastic finisher in any energy-focused deck. It also matches up well against Reflector Mage.
Glint-Sleeve Artisan is lower powered than other options, but it does provide a three-mana Servo-generator to white, a color with great tools to take advantage of it. It also comes with the option of being a 3/3.
Red loses some of it token capacity with Dragon Fodder, but Kaladesh looks to shift some of that focus to white with Cogworker's Puzzleknot.
It's not an efficient source of power and toughness, but Cogwork's Puzzleknot generates two artifacts for two mana, makes it just as efficient as Dragon Fodder or Raise the Alarm. It's clear that the cycle of Puzzleknots will be more than Limited staples and are intended to be Standard playable; Cogworker's Puzzleknot will shine in any deck that cares about artifacts.
Read the Bones has provided card selection and card advantage to control decks for the past year, and while Succumb to Temptation provides a watered-down replacement, Kaladesh provides a replacement that makes up for the loss of scry with another form of value.
Live Fast adds two energy to the cards drawn for two life, and depending on the context of the other energy cards it is paired with, it could prove valuable. It's a new roleplayer and something to consider alongside any energy cards.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer has been a great source of value all year, and it proved best of all recently as great emerge fodder. Their time together was short lived, but Kaladesh has a replacement that offers even more value.
Filigree Familiar not only draws a card, which is often better than searching for a Forest, it also gains two life. It's also an artifact, which makes it great as a way to power Delirium.
Despoiler of Souls never made it into competitive Standard play for many reasons: its double-black cost was very prohibitive and the cost to be returned from the graveyard was too steep. Kaladesh provides a new card that is more accessible and strictly better, at the cost of being an artifact.
Scrapheap Scrounger costs 2, not BB, so it is easy to cast, and it returns from the graveyard for the cost of just one creature, not two, and for 1B, not BB. It also comes with an extra point of toughness. If Despoiler of Souls was on the verge of playability, Scrapheap Scrounger is a slam dunk. I believe it's one of the best creatures in Kaladesh, a key player in black artifact decks, and a card with applications even in Eternal formats.
Gather the Pack is a powerful way to enable the graveyard, adding five cards to the graveyard while digging towards a threat. It's important for graveyard decks to have cheap enablers to power the rest of the deck, and Kaladesh offers a great new tool that I expect will see play in decks that previously used Gather the Pack.
It doesn't dig for a card, so it's card disadvantage, but over the course of a game Perpetual Timepiece will add far more cards to the graveyard than Gather the Pack. It also comes with the upside of being able to Recycle the best cards to fill the deck with action, and it prevents decking. It's also an artifact, so any milled copies help towards Delirium. If Shriekhorn is good enough for Modern, I believe Perpetual Timepiece is good enough for Standard.
Pyromancer's Goggles has inspired countless players over the last year, when it made even the lowliest red spell a threat, and superpowered the best among them. It will copy spells in Standard no longer, but a new five-mana card from Kaladesh offers even more potential and comes with no restriction to a specific color of spell.
Rather than copy spells, Metallurgic Summonings makes creature manifestations of them, which over time generates massive advantage, with the creatures functioning as great defensive tools and inevitably game-winning threats.Once the spells run out, it can be cashed in to rebuy all of them to be cast again, meaning it essentially extracts triple value from every spell. It's also great in multiples, not just because each one in play will produce a token, but because cashing in one will provide fuel for any other copies in play.
Narset, Transcendent has for a long time been the secret tool of the diehard control player. It's highly valued for its ability to generate card advantage, and while it doesn't protect itself, it has a high loyalty to survive aggression. It's time in Standard has passed, but Kaladesh provides something that might be even better.
Dovin Baan protects itself with its +1 ability by neutralizing a creature for a turn. It's not card advantage per se, but in practice it can be even better, not only effectively trading for an opponent's card, but creating a tempo advantage by impacting the battlefield. Once control is established, its -1 ability quickly converts not only into raw cards, but valuable life points. It's the perfect card to accrue incremental advantage and grind out the opponent.
Red always appreciates a large flying threat, typically a Dragon, that goes over blockers and finishes off the opponent quickly. Thunderbreak Regent has filled this role for a while, but Kaladesh has a replacement with a lot of upside.
Skyship Stalker gets better the more mana there is available, gaining haste to hit faster for more value, and Firebreathing to deal a ton of damage later in the game. First strike means it can tangle with anything, so it will be surprisingly effective as blocker. It has tough competition at four mana, but it might be just what some decks need. The fact that Chandra, Torch of Defiance rewards playing a more controlling, big-red style game means there is more room for a card like this to shine.
Emrakul, the Promised End, Elder Deep-Fiend, and Ishkanah, Grafwidow are still oppressive forces in Standard, and one of the premier tools against them, Infinite Obliteration, is leaving the format. Luckily, Kaladesh offers a replacement.
Lost Legacy functions similarly to Infinite Obliteration, but with the downside of the opponent sometimes drawing cards. This is a pretty steep downside, so ideally your plan against these cards is not relying on Lost Legacy, but beggars can't be choosers, and because often decks using these cards are so reliant on them that this effect will still be effective. There is significant upside, the ability to disrupt nonartifact spells as well, so it's great against decks using powerful instants, sorceries, and enchantments, making it more tactically flexible than Infinite Obliteration in-game and more strategically flexible as a sideboard card.
Lost Legacy can also be used on yourself in a pinch to cycle cards in your hand, which is an upside to keep in mind. It also opens up some fun interactions with a card like Eternal Scourge, which will provide a supply of creatures to cast from exile.
The vanilla 1G creature has entered a new era, with the age of Grizzly Bear ending and the age of the Terrain Elemental beginning, likely an evolutionary adaptation to the rising temperatures on Kaladesh.
Some cards are simply without replacement. For example, the cycle of commands were extremely important in shaping the Standard metagame, and their departure opens up the world to cards that weren't viable before, specifically the enchantments and burn spells pushed out by Dromoka's Command. The most format-defining card of Standard, Collected Company, also departs, and that opens up the metagame to a whole new world, specifically in four-mana options. Kaladesh is going to be exciting, that's for sure, and I have already been in the lab inventing. What important Standard cards that are leaving did I miss? What other replacements are arriving? What cards are you looking forward to using? Share your ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!