Kaladesh approaches, and with it, new mechanics, as well as another resource: energy. In many ways the idea of energy has roots in popular board games, as a friend started comparing energy to the resources in Settlers of Catan.
Change can be scary, and when first hearing about energy my first thought was "is this going to ruin the game I know and love?" Magic's never seen anything like energy before. Looking through the history of the game, what can energy be compared to? The idea that you can make energy with one card and then spend it with a different card is something special. There could very well be Kaladesh Standard decks based entirely around making and spending energy. It is hard to think about, say, 20 different ways to spend energy in a Standard deck — it requires knowing just what energy is worth and when it is better to spend energy as opposed to trying to accumulate energy to spend on a card that requires a ton of energy to use. As if it wasn't enough to have a variety of creatures and spells alike that create energy Wizards has gone one step further.
Aether Hub aligns perfectly with the idea of Kaladesh. I can see Aether Hub becoming one of the most-played lands in Standard. In base artifact decks, colored mana might not be all that important, but netting one energy can be super important. On the flipside, there is a world where being able to tap for a colorless mana is actually an upside to Aether Hub. Now that painlands are gone, Eldrazi will need lands that can tap for either colored or colorless mana, and Aether Hub fits the bill perfectly.
I have been desperately trying to grasp what one energy is worth and my starting point is relating energy to clues. We have become accustomed to clues and now realize exactly what they are worth. A clue is always going to be the same — it is a resource that can be sacrificed for two mana to draw a card. Would I rather have two energy or two clues? Let's compare Tireless Tracker the staple generator of clues, Architect of the Untamed, a strikingly similar card to Tireless Tracker. It seems that a clue has a pretty similar value to energy, but it is still hard to say just because it depends what various ways a deck has to use that energy.
Both Architect the Untamed and Tireless Tracker generate a resource when a land comes into play (this is good news for Evolving Wilds), and both cards have similar stats and a way to make them better by using the added resource they generate. I will say though that spending eight energy to make a 6/6 does seem like a lot of energy. Most of this is theory-crafting but it feels like eight energy could be spent to take a game-winning action. In general it seems that an energy does not have quite as much value as a clue, but energy is easier to a large amount of.
Taking a look at some of the most powerful cards that produce energy, the energy is more or less a bonus, as the card is already solid in its own right. For instance, Voltaic Brawler, a card that shows a lot of promise in a red/green aggressive energy strategy. A 3/2 for two mana is a pretty reasonable deal already — add the fact that Voltaic Brawler comes into play along with two energy and you have a pretty remarkable card. This card does not need to be in a dedicated energy theme deck as you can just simply use the two energy created from Voltaic Brawler to make it an even larger attacker. Expect Voltaic Brawler to be one of the most important ways to Revive red aggressive decks.
Until I see the cards in action it will be hard to figure out just how game warping energy will be, but there are cards like Voltaic Brawler that will see play no matter what. How good will Aetherworks Marvel be? I want to see if a combo deck that puts a lot of permanents into the graveyard can be built. Lately Standard has been pretty great so I am going to remain optimistic that the power level of the energy-producing cards is right where it should be.
While energy is a key part of Kaladesh, there is an unusual mechanic that will take some getting used to. I want to shift gears and move towards talking about vehicles, so let's go ahead and hit the gas, and gather our crew.
Vehicles seem to have better stats than a regular creature, and for good reason. A deck needs to play a combination of regular creatures and vehicles. If a deck were all vehicles there would be no regular creatures to turn the vehicles on! Not coming into play immediately as a creature is a drawback and thus means that for the amount of mana paid for a vehicle the card should be a bit above the power level of what a normal creature would be for the same mana cost.
Bomat Bazaar Barge is impressive. A four mana 5/5 that draws a card when it enters the battlefield? Sign me up! This card is great, and will be a first pick in Limited for sure; my questions are, how much of a cost is being a vehicle, and will this make an impact on Standard?
My intuition is that Bomat Bazaar Barge will see Standard play. Cheaply costed high-power, low-toughness creatures are better than ever; I really want my early drops to be able to crew my high casting cost vehicles immediately. This is going to mean that a 2/3 is going to be worse and a 3/2 is going to be better than usual.
Once one vehicle is turned into a creature then they all will tend to snowball and become creatures right away since vehicles can crew other vehicles. Another factor to keep in mind is that you may need to topdeck a creature in order to turn a vehicle on, but even a summoning sick creature can pay crew costs assuming their power is great enough.
Cultivator's Caravan is a real whammy. At its base, it is a three-mana artifact that can produce any color of mana. That's already a card that could see play in Constructed, and that doesn't take into account that it can also be a three mana 5/5! This seems pretty absurd and begs the question if Wizards has gone over the line here. Just how powerful can a vehicle get until it becomes completely broken? It is unclear what the exact deck Cultivator's Caravan will be played in since it could conceivably go into anything.
The stats on some of the rare vehicles are pretty silly, so it will be interesting to see how important artifact destruction will be in Kaladesh Standard. Also it will be weird to see decks with normal creatures alongside a couple vehicles at first. I can see an aggressive deck going, say, Thraben Inspector followed by Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Seems like a nice start. Anytime there is a creature already in play to pay crew costs, you know a deck is built correctly.
There are some vehicles out there right now which frankly, seem extremely good, but we will have to wait and see if that is actually true or not. What is exciting is there are a lot of new cards in Kaladesh with a lot of potential to break into Standard and have an immediate impact. Producing energy is a unique effect, and it seems like a lot of the cards in the set will follow the theme of creating energy. There don't seem to be quite as many vehicles as energy cards, but a lot of the previewed Vehicles do seem completely bonkers. For me it is time to get to work and start brewing decks based around some of this early inspiration — Pro Tour Kaladesh looms on the horizon.
Thanks for reading,