Next week, we're replacing this column with a end-of-year retrospective on what sold the best from each set. I'm tag-teaming the effort with Corbin Hosler, and I'll be shooting videos for each one with my coworker Ryan. Should be a good time.
I, uh... yeah. Shadowborn Apostle was our 11th-best seller. 'Tis the season, I guess. Attune with Aether also showed up in the near misses, along with... Island, Forest, and Mountain. I don't know what's happening anymore. Our world is not governed by reason. Seth Manfield still made a Constructed GP Top 8 with a deck focused on abusing Panharmonicon. I check our deck database every morning when I wake up to make sure it happened. It did.
"I think it's good. I think it could see play in Modern in a Zoo shell or alongside stuff like Experiment One and Champion of the Parish. So, like, Naya Humans or something like that.
-My coworker Antonio, on Voltaic Brawler
That's right, I'm crowdsourcing this piece again for two reasons: I'm not doing the column next week, and it's fun to do. Antonio loves to beat down, so his take on Voltaic Brawler doesn't surprise me at all. Voltaic Brawler's already a stalwart of Standard, and I'd love to see it make a splash in Modern.
"That's one of the thriving cards, right?"
-My coworker Anthony, on Longtusk Cub
Another energy card! Longtusk Cub is not part of the thriving cycle of zoo animals — it's neither a common nor has the word "thriving" in its name — but it's a solid card that has a home in Standard's energy decks.
"Come back to me when there's a card I actually like."
-My coworker Nick, on Electrostatic Pummeler
This run on energy cards feels like a spec based on the assumption that energy will be further supported by Aether Revolt. Not a bad assumption.
"I've gotten stomped by it a lot in Limited. It's got a high floor and a moderate ceiling... could be a decent finisher in a budget red-green energy deck."
-My coworker Grant, on Bristling Hydra
Couldn't have said it better myself.
"I don't like to play with energy, but I do like Harnessed Lightning."
-My coworker Christian, on Harnessed Lightning
That more or less tells the story of Harnessed Lightning in Standard: great in energy deck, but is more than playable in decks that aren't dedicated to generating energy. It's a pushed card, and it should see play in 100% of red decks for the entire time it's legal.
"Grizzly Bear meets Birds of Paradise."
-My coworker Dave, on Servant of the Conduit
He was so proud of himself when he told me that. To his credit, he's not wrong.
"Heh. Skylasher. Strong one-of in green decks within Legacy as a counter to Delver [of Secrets]."
-My coworker Derek, on Skylasher
I have never seen Skylasher in a Legacy deck, so I'm just going to take his word for it on that one. I'm more than a little bummed that he knew what the card was this time.
"I think it's great, especially as an Infect player."
-My coworker Tommy, on Blossoming Defense
THIS JUST IN: Infect players like Blossoming Defense. Is your mind BLOWN?
I couldn't find a suitable pullquote for Rally the Ancestors because no one remembers what this card does, but I can say with a high degree of certainty that Rally's spike in sales can only be a result of Frontier. The fact that Frontier continues to sell other cards as the marquee cards of the format that were selling well — Dig Through Time, Siege Rhino, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy — slip in sales mean that Frontier is, at worst, a short-term predictor of sales. The spike in Rally the Ancestors' sales is just a data point, but a lot of the logical conclusions its spike leads to are good news for Frontier players.
"What's that one do? Is that the one that makes energy?"
-My coworker Dennis, on Aether Hub
The best cards are either super efficient or super splashy — they're rarely both. The issue at large with Kaladesh Standard is that the splashy cards that see the most play — Aetherworks Marvel, Emrakul, the Promised End — effectively end the game immediately, while the efficient cards are imminently forgettable. "It makes energy?" has been a popular refrain this morning.
Just because a mechanic plays well doesn't make it good. Energy leads to a lot of novel situations, making Kaladesh Limited a really subtle and enriching environment, but the "familiar card ability with energy stapled onto it" ultimately hurts the game more than it helps, and doesn't inspire a lot of hope in future design.
In Sam Stoddard's Kaladesh Standard retrospective, he discusses developing Emrakul, the Promised End (emphasis mine):
[Emrakul] was created as a very flashy mythic rare, and there were a lot of pressures put on her to be strong in Standard and to live up to her original card (which was difficult because of how over-the-top that version was). We played with her a lot, and liked her as a top-end Standard finisher, but we were not going as hard as the real world in trying to turbo her out.
What?! Why not? A Mindslaver attached to a 13/13 Slayer Of The Wills Of Men not good enough for you? As much as I love getting a peek into how R&D works and what their goals are with cards, I would very much like to unlearn that R&D made little to no effort trying to break a card that's more or less become one of Kaladesh Standard's marquee experiences.
Stoddard goes on to mention that Kaladesh Standard went on to accomplish all of the goals R&D had for it, yet, a cursory look at this thread will tell you exactly what people think of the format. Players are largely dissatisfied. A Twitter poll of Sam Stoddard's twitter followers will shake out differently than a poll of any other sample, but this feedback feels like a particularly loud data point. If this format hit all the marks and players hate it this much, it's time to move the goalposts.