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Commander Review: Kaladesh Part 1 (White, Blue, Black)

Magic's newest expansion set, Kaladesh, has now been fully spoiled. You can check out the full card list here. It's time to look over each card and see which ones have the most potential to see play in Commander!

Before I dive into the individual cards, I want to talk a bit about the new mechanics in Kaladesh, which are explained in more detail here. How will they function in the Commander format? These are my general thoughts.


Energy counters are a new resource that some of the cards from Kaladesh generate. The energy can only be spent through new cards that tell you how to spend them. Example: Aethersquall Ancient. Unfortunately, the energy mechanics is parasitic, as there is minimal support or synergy for the mechanic outside of Kaladesh. The only one I can think of are proliferate cards like Tezzeret's Gambit.

Many of the better energy cards are only good if you're running a certain amount of energy generators to enable them; Aethersquall Ancient's activated ability is impressive if you have eight energy, but without any support it needs to wait four turns to build up enough energy to activate. Unfortunately, since Commander is a singleton format and we only have a single set/block of energy cards to work with, there's not enough cards to make an Energy deck that takes advantage of the mechanic. This shortage may change if the next set in Kaladesh block also includes the energy mechanic!

The energy cards that will be playable in Commander are ones that don't need any support to be good. There's not a lot of those, but cards like Demon of Dark Schemes has both a great way of generating a lot of energy and an efficient way of spending that energy, making it a worthy inclusion in Black decks even if it's the only card in the deck using the energy mechanic.

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Creatures with fabricate either enter the battlefield with additional +1/+1 counters or 1/1 servo artifact creatures. Unlike the energy mechanic, there are plenty of synergies to play around with here. You can build around the +1/+1 counters (e.g. Hardened Scales), or the servos being artifacts (e.g. Dispatch) and creatures (e.g. Purphoros, God of the Forge). There are a ton of options to explore.

That's not to say that all creatures with fabricate are fantastic in Commander, but rather the good cards with fabricate translate easier to being good in Commander.

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These new artifacts can temporarily become creatures if piloted by your creatures. It's an easy requirement to meet, since all it wants is for you to tap creatures. Vehicles fulfill a similar role to equipment by adding oomph to your creatures. Since it is a new subtype, however, vehicles do not have the same amount of support that equipment has. There are no equivalent vehicle support cards to the likes of Stoneforge Mystic and Puresteel Paladin.

This newness means that building around vehicles is similar, but worse than building around equipments. However, there may be some vehicle cards that are great standalone additions to decks.

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With the new mechanics covered, let's dive into the cards!




Aetherstorm Roc

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Aetherstorm Roc is going to be a key engine behind White Energy decks, assuming the energy mechanic returns in the next Kaladesh set and we have enough energy cards to build the deck. White has always excelled at flooding the board with creatures, from Hero of Bladehold to Elspeth, Sun's ChampionAetherstorm Roc synergizes perfectly with all those great cards. Having the option of spending some energy to get in for damage and tap down a blocker is a nice bonus too.


Angel of Invention

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Angel of Invention brings a ton of value (and synergies!) to the board at a very mana efficient cost. She fits in multiple White archetypes, including:

  • Artifacts: her artifact tokens help turn on metalcraft cards (e.g. Dispatch) and Kaladesh's "totally not metalcraft" stuff (e.g. Underhanded Designs). 
  • Tokens: she puts three creatures on the board, something Mentor of the Meek greatly appreciates! Then she buffs your entire army with her Glorious Anthem effect.
  • +1/+1 counters: play her as a 4/3 beater and use those counters with cards like Elite Scaleguard.
  • Angels: this tribe doesn't have much support, but it's always been a casual favorite and Angel of Invention is certainly one of the better ones you can play.

She also can be fetched with Recruiter of the Guard and has infinite potential with Nim Deathmantle and Ashnod's Altar. Good stuff!


Authority of the Consuls

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Forcing opposing creatures to enter the battlefield tapped is more annoying than I initially assumed. It has two main benefits on its own: the turn the creatures enter the battlefield, they 1) can't block 2) can't benefit from haste enablers (e.g. Anger). This card is a great boon both for aggro decks (gives you more opportunities to get in damage) and against aggro decks (stops hasty attackers from hitting you). If we go deeper into the tapping strategy, there are nasty synergies with forcing your opponent's stuff to enter tapped and then keeping them tapped with cards like Static Orb. Authority of the Consuls doesn't do as great a job tapping stuff down as old favorites like Kismet and Blind Obedience, but tapping just creatures is still a powerful effect.

While slowing down your opponents is great, it's Authority of the Consuls' lifegain trigger that excites me the most. Consistent, repeating, mana-free lifegain triggers are the lifeblood of Lifegain decks. Soul Warden and her sisters are the backbone of these decks, fueling payoff cards like Well of Lost Dreams and Karlov of the Ghost Council. Authority of the Consuls doesn't trigger off your own creatures, but being an enchantment means it's less vulnerable to removal, and it also comes with the tapdown effect. That's amazing value for just one mana.

Authority of the Consuls is an auto-include in Lifegain decks. It has cheap, plentiful lifegain triggers for only a one-mana investment. It might be worth checking out in Stax decks as well, but only if you need more tapdown cards after running the more inclusive ones such as KismetBlind Obedience, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar.


Cataclysmic Gearhulk

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A "nicer" version of Cataclysm (doesn't destroy lands) that comes with a 4/5 vigilance body has all the signs of a powerful and abusable Commander card. Cataclysmic Gearhulk has the benefit of being both a creature and an artifact, so you can count it as either when choosing which permanents to keep. Count it as your artifact if you have another creature that you want around, or a creature if you want to keep a different artifact. The board wipe is a great way to answer strategies that rely on gumming up the board with a specific type of permanent, like Artifact decks, Enchantress, Superfriends, or Token swarms.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk is also more abusable than its sorcery parent. Being an artifact means you can cheat it into play with Goblin Welder, and being a creature means you can Reanimate it or Momentary Blink it to re-use its board wipe.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk is a solid inclusion in most White decks because, like most board wipes, you can play around the card to make sure it hurts your opponents way more than it hurts you. The hulk will do the most work for decks that have an even spread of permanent types, or don't play many permanents at all.



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White has plenty of creature board wipes to choose from. You have the best, Wrath of God and Day of Judgment. At five converted mana cost (cmc), you start getting creature wipes with a little bonus, such as End Hostilities, Planar Outburst, and Rout

As another 5-cmc creature wipe, Fumigate's bonus is gaining you life. That's the perfect fit for Lifegain decks, and that's where you'll play it.


Master Trinketeer

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Kaladesh has given us enough ways to generate servos and thopters that you could make a deck out of them. It will certainly be a low-powered deck, but it will be functional. If you do make a Servo/Thopter deck, Master Trinketeer is going to be one of the most important cards in it. Spending four mana to make a servo token isn't a situation that I want to be in, but in long grindy games where you have tons of mana but nothing to do with it then the Dwarf is an alright mana sink.





Aethersquall Ancient

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On its own, Aethersquall Ancient isn't particularly exciting. There's simply more impressive cards to cast for 7-mana. The energy generation is nice, but ponderously slow, and it takes four turns before you can use the leviathan's bounce ability. Energy decks may use Aethersquall Ancient as a top-end beater.

Of course, the Ancient is a welcome addition to janky "Sea Creatures" theme decks that run Quest for Ula's Temple, since it is a leviathan—a flying leviathan, in fact!


Era of Innovation

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Era of Innovation is one of the better energy generators, if a bit slow and mana-intensive. For example, to get six energy counters out of it, you would've spent five mana and had two artifacts/artificers enter the battlefield under your control. Of course, the longer Era of Innovation sticks around and the more artifacts/artificers enter the battlefield, the more mana-efficient and worthwhile the enchantment becomes. And once you run out of artifacts/artificers to play, you can cash the enchantment in for three cards.

Era of Innovation is an auto-include in Energy decks. As a standalone card, however, you have much easier ways to draw 3 cards, like Concentrate or Treasure Cruise.


Metallurgic Summonings

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I love Spellslinger decks. Most of my favorite cards happen to be instants and sorceries, so an archetype devoted to running as many of them as possible has always been enjoyable for me. While instants and sorceries are amazing at so many things, the one weakness the strategy has in Commander is developing a board presence. If you're durdling with spells and have an empty board, you're inviting your opponents to swing in and kill you.

That's where Spellslinger support cards come in. Cards like Talrand, Sky Summoner add a 2/2 flyer to every instant and sorcery you cast, protecting you from attacks and eventually swarming into a win condition if left unchecked. Metallurgic Summonings fills a similar role, and does it exceedingly well. The creatures it poops out don't fly, but they'll often be larger than 2/2's, and they're artifacts which opens up more synergies. It's also an enchantment, which makes it less vulnerable to removal than Talrand.

Then we get to the activated ability, which is the perfect play once you've run out of gas. Get back all those sweet instants and sorceries! So much value!


Padeem, Consul of Innovation

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Leonin Abunas is solid board protection in Artifact decks. Padeem, Consul of Innovation is an even better version, keeping the mana cost but drawing you an extra card per turn (usually).

Padeem is an easy include in many Artifact decks. Straightforward and effective.


Paradoxical Outcome

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The best-case scenario for Paradoxical Outcome is to bounce your board in response to a board wipe, saving your stuff while drawing cards in the process. That's too situational to recommend running in any Blue deck, but if you can take advantage of bouncing your stuff to recast them, things get interesting.

Decks that run lots of permanents with enter the battlefield (ETB) triggers, most notably Brago, King Eternal and Roon of the Hidden Realm, may be interested in running Paradoxical Outcome as an additional way to protect their board while grinding out their opponents with value.


Seheeli's Artistry

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Saheeli's Artistry is a fine inclusion in just about any deck. A card that is both a Clone and a Copy Artifact, and will always be relevant whenever you cast it. You'll always be cloning the best creature on the table and, at the very least, copying a random Sol Ring.

Things get better if you're running Saheeli's Artistry in decks that have a good number of creatures that also happen to be artifacts. Getting two copies of Wurmcoil Engine, Torrential Gearhulk, Blightsteel Colossus is a ton of value and flexibility!


Torrential Gearhulk

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Mega-Snapcaster Mage is going to be a sweet top-end beater for Spellslinger decks. This 5/6 is big enough to reliably ambush most creatures that attack you, and immediately casting an instant for free is no joke either. The instant might be a clutch Counterspell, some card draw with Dig Through Time, or both with Mystic Confluence. That's a lot of value for one card. I'll happily run this Gearhulk in future Spellslinger decks.

The same artifact creature synergies that I mentioned for Cataclysmic Gearhulk also apply here.




Demon of Dark Schemes

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Demon of Dark Schemes is probably the best energy generator for Commander. Its ETB trigger is a great way to get rid of small utility creatures like Llanowar Elves and immediately start generating energy. Black is great at killing creatures, so it should be pretty easy to start amassing energy counters if no one has a quick response to the demon. And for the cherry on top you can reanimate creatures from any graveyard at instant speed for a very reasonable cost. Delicious! Plus, he's a 5/5 flyer for 6-cmc. Not bad at all!

Energy decks will take full advantage of Demon of Dark Schemes. Demon Tribal decks will obviously love him as well. For decks that don't care at all about energy or demons, you'll probably choose between him and Massacre Wurm. Go with the wurm if you're looking for a finisher that can potentially kill off opponents with its ETB trigger, or the demon if you're looking for more utility and flexibility.


Eliminate the Competition

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Mega-Bone Shards is an interesting option for Sacrifice decks. Eliminate the Competition is up there in mana cost with Dictate of Erebos, a staple for Sacrifice decks, and is a good comparison to evaluate the card. Eliminate is an immediate way to get rid of multiple creatures and is its own sacrifice outlet, while Dictate is a repeatable engine that needs a sacrifice outlet (e.g. Ashnod's Altar) to truly shine.

I think Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact are more important cards for Sacrifice decks, but if you have room for a somewhat similar effect, Eliminate the Competition is a great inclusion.


Gonti, Lord of Luxury

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I love cards that let me play my opponent's stuff: Daxos of Meletis, Grenzo, Havoc Raiser, and now Gonti, Lord of Luxury. I quickly get bored of linear strategies and decks that tutor for the same few cards each game. Augmenting my deck with my opponent's cards keeps decks fresh, different, and exciting. So I'm already biased towards loving Gonti from the get-go.

Thankfully, he's a solid card: you snatch a card with his ETB trigger. You get your choice out of four cards, instead of just the top one. Gonti also comes with deathtouch so he's a good blocker. Neato!

Gonti, Lord of Luxury can be a fun commander of his own Black deck, or part of the 99 of a Blink deck.


Marionette Master

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The big sister of Disciple of the Vault is worth the increased cmc. She's well-positioned to end games without too much work. She goes infinite with Ashnod's Altar + Nim Deathmantle, and unlike most variations of this classic combo, she kills your opponents without the need of a fourth card like Blood Artist. Combos aside, she's a great deterrent in Artifact decks, threatening to significantly lower the life total of whoever dares blow up your board with Creeping Corrosion or similar effects. Increase her power with equipment to make her even more painful.


Midnight Oil

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Midnight Oil is almost always a terrible Phyrexian Arena. Yet the fact that it's so janky and horrible is exactly what catches my interest in the card. How do we make this enchantment not terrible? Well, you can always Donate it to your opponent once the oil burns too low. Or you can turn its downside into an upside by adding to its counters with proliferate cards like Contagion Engine to increase your hand size rather than decrease it, or by running it in a Madness deck as a discard outlet for stuff like Asylum Visitor.

Do these strategies make Midnight Oil good? No, absolutely not. But it could be funny to try once!


Noxious Gearhulk

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Noxious Gearhulk is a solid card in a vacuum that becomes elevated to awesome if your deck can take advantage of the fact that it's an artifact creature.

It's fine as a top-end removal that leaves a 5/4 beater on the board. It does that job admirably. But since you're in Black you can get around paying 6 to cast it by Reanimate'ing it for 1 mana, or Animate Dead for 2. Add Red and you can get it back with Goblin Welder or Daretti, Scrap Savant. You can also bounce / blink Noxious Gearhulk to re-use it ETB trigger. The more of these synergies in your deck, the more obnoxious this gearhulk becomes.



Next Up: Part 2 (Red, Green, Colorless, Multicolored, Lands)

We've got a pretty good haul so far in terms of playable Commander cards. Lifegain decks got a new auto-include in Authority of the Consuls. Spellslinger has some beefy threats with Metallurgic Summonings and Torrential Gearhulk. There's all sorts of neat artifact synergies to tinker with cards like Saheeli's Artistry, Marionette Master, and Padeem, Consul of Innovation

We'll be covering the rest of the cards from Kaladesh in Part 2, along with my top 5 Favorite Commander cards from this set. Let me know what you think about the new cards either in the comments section below or on Twitter @BudgetCommander.

Thanks for reading!  

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