My Picks For The Best 10 Cards In Kaladesh

Mark Nestico can’t stop the called shots! Do you agree with his list for #SCGINDY weekend? What are your picks for the top 10?

#SCGINDY October 1-2!

Mark’s Sleep Schedule
Born 2016 – Died 2016
He played in all the Prereleases.

Danny Glover was right. I’m too old for this. Then he says a swear word, but this is PG content, so that’s not happening today.

I’m too old for this stuff.

But I soldiered onward and battled! I learned that I can win every match I play without opening two Gearhulks or the most busted pools imaginable. In fact, I did! I didn’t drop a match, much less a game, and in turn learned a great deal about Kaladesh Sealed. I hope your Prerelease was just as fun as mine was, although, bless my heart, with over 40 prize packs, there wasn’t a single planeswalker or Gearhulk opened.

We’re too good for you, Mark.

The Magic gods are fickle.

#SCGINDY is coming up this week and Team Nexus has been working hard to crack the format. We have some fairly insane decks, and I’m pretty excited to see them unleash our inventions on an unsuspecting player base.

I can’t talk about those decks right now, but after a ton of testing, I can tell you that what findings we’ve uncovered in list form. In fact, today I think we’ll go over my Top 10 best cards in Kaladesh for Standard, and discuss just what has made them stand out.

Please remember that my list may not match yours, and you might believe some of the cards I list don’t belong while others do. That’s okay! It doesn’t make you wrong and it doesn’t make me right. This is somewhat anecdotal, because it’s based on the team’s testing and not a massive sample size. Also, some cards on the list could fall or rise in spots based on preliminary findings, so if I put something at #6 that you think should be #10, don’t sweat it.

Eventually we’ll probably look back on this list and laugh, right?

#10: Toolcraft Exemplar

Kaladesh has offered us a tandem of very impressive one-drops that are contingent on having artifacts, and thus far with early R/W aggro decks, Toolcraft Exemplar has been exceptionally powerful (the other being Inventor’s Apprentice).

With cheap and efficient Equipment out there like Inventor’s Goggles, these little creatures can get out of hand very easily. Not only is the Equipment cheap, but other artifact creatures, like one you’ll see later on the list like Smuggler’s Copter, help meet the requirements to increase their size very quickly. Thraben Inspector happens to work very well with Exemplar, putting another body along with the artifact needed to pump it to a 3/2 during combat. This is a frightening level of efficiency along with a clock from the start of the game. Don’t sleep on this Dwarf.

#9: Prophetic Prism

You’re probably saying: “This card sometimes doesn’t even make my Sealed deck!” I think that’s a mistake most of the time, because card draw, mana fixing, synergy, and an artifact to use for many purposes in some decks has shown to be pretty important. When Prophetic Prism is legal, it usually ends up being in one deck or another, and with all of the benefits Kaladesh offers from having artifacts on the battlefield, I think you can expect to see Prophetic Prism around for the duration of its legality.

Cards don’t always need to be flashy to see Constructed play or achieve relevance. If a red-based control deck wants it, Incendiary Sabotage needs an artifact to sacrifice, and this one fits the bill while providing value along the way. This card has been excellent in at least two decks Nexus is working on. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw it at #SCGINDY.

#8: Combustible Gearhulk / Verdurous Gearhulk

Oh, you’re laughing now, but believe me when I say the kind of deck that this creature goes in is marvelous.

Combustible Gearhulk might sound like the same song and dance we’ve seen in the past with the punisher mechanic, but I assure you this card is the real deal. The kind of deck the red Gearhulk performs very well in is the type where an opponent can almost never safely mill three and just take the damage, lest they feel like taking upwards of twenty damage and dying. This isn’t a joke or a gimmick. Combustible Gearhulk has shown the ability to either draw you three cards or outright kill your opponent, or at least put them in range of being killed very, very quickly.

What started out as a gimmick turned into something extremely real, and Combustible Gearhulk is one of the most impressive cards I’ve seen out of the new set. My initial inclination was that it would be the worst-performing of the cycle of Hulks, but that was not the case.

This part may come as a shocker, but Verdurous Gearhulk is being shoehorned into this list because I finished this article and forgot that I didn’t put the green Gearhulk on it. Totally a mistake on my part.

Verdurous Gearhulk is one of the most ludicrous creatures to see print in many moons. It bolsters your army in a huge way, and teams up with Eldrazi Displacer like a pair of best friends since grade school. You can’t bounce it. Burn spells won’t kill it. This creature is huge, it tramples, and it might be the breakout card of Kaladesh. It ends games faster than almost anything on the list.

Except this particular anything…

#7: Lathnu Hellion

A three-mana 4/4 that can attack twice before getting sacrificed is an incredible amount of damage to have pushed through by turn 4, and in multiples the Hellion has closed out games. Currently, what makes this card so insane is that there simply aren’t enough things in Standard to deal with it. Most bodies don’t have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with Lathnu Hellion. Bouncing it with Reflector Mage isn’t exactly the best proposition, and other played three-drops like Tireless Tracker can’t block without some work being done.

In aggressive shells the Hellion does a wonderful job or pressuring opponents and planeswalkers. Energy is something that comes natural to these kinds of decks as well, since Harnessed Lightning is a cheap way to remove creatures and generate more Energy to feed to Lathnu Hellion. I believe this card will be a staple in red-based aggro decks for a long, long time. So far it’s been one of the single most impressive cards I’ve cast, but that might just be because the format isn’t entirely fleshed out and some decks are too rough to stand up to this kind of incredible efficiency. That’s why it doesn’t have a higher rating from me at the moment.

#6: Nissa, Vital Force

For right now, one of the best decks Team Nexus has put through the gauntlet isn’t the flashiest, but it’s the most consistent. Nissa is a huge reason for that.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance has sucked up every bit of hype for Kaladesh, but it is Nissa who may be the most powerful card in the set. Five mana buys you a lot when you’re casting this planeswalker, but pressure is the most important aspect of Nissa because she allows you to literally hurl 5/5s at your opponent or their planeswalkers like Donkey Kong chucking barrels. Jumping to six loyalty for a five-mana planeswalker also puts her out of the range of a lot of potential ways to dispose of her, and placing a gigantic creature in front means she’s almost certainly going to stick around for multiple turns.

Nissa, Vital Force isn’t flashy or finesse. She is a brutal planeswalker you will almost never ultimate (unless you have multiples), never minus to return a permanent (unless you want to chain Nissas), and will almost exclusively bludgeon whoever you’re playing with over and over again. If the format speeds up with red-based Lathnu Hellion decks, her stock my fall until things slow down, but rest assured she will be the cornerstone in many decks going forward.

#5: Filigree Familiar

Robopuppy is a very innocuous card that people are excited over, but it does exactly what you need it to and it does that very well. Emerge decks will play it because it exudes a ton of value, and midrange and control decks may maindeck or sideboard it because it acts like a damage sponge. Gaining two life and blocking while potentially trading with an on-battlefield threat, all while drawing a card, is packaged up in an easy-to-cast creature.

Filigree Familiar might not seem like the most exciting card, but it ranks highly on my list because it will see a ton of play across multiple archetypes. This is the hallmark of a powerful card that you need to always be expecting. Certain strategies may actually suffer because a playset of lifegain creatures that draw more cards, like potential removal, aren’t really a joke. It doesn’t feel good to have to waste removal spells on something so cheap that didn’t expend resources.

#4: Fastlands

Fastlands aren’t going to have the same impact that they did in Scars of Mirrodin Standard due in part to the curve looking like it won’t be as low to the ground. The lack of Elvish Mystic or Delver of Secrets means that those lands won’t be helping to power out extremely aggressive starts with whatever color of mana you need at the early stage of the game, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be any less played.

Fastlands will replace the painlands we’ve been used to for the last few years. I think their absence will help everyone understand why they were so good, especially players who loved dropping their Eldrazi threats on to the table on-curve.

This doesn’t discount fastlands, however, and if your deck falls in the color combinations, you’ll almost certainly be playing the full playset of them, as you’ll want them within those first few turns. Along with creature-lands, two-color decks will have really great mana to work with. They’ve been in all of our decks that run those colors, so I wouldn’t write them off. People grossly underestimate the awesomeness of never having mana problems when you play.

#3: Aetherworks Marvel

What appears to be a gimmick card is actually one of the most grossly powerful things you can do in Kaladesh.

The trick to getting the most bang for your buck with Aetherworks Marvel is going for large-scale Energy plays on turns 2 and 3, preferably a two-drop that adds three Energy and following it up with a three that can generate three or four Energy. From that point, you drop Marvel and activate it.

When your deck is topped off with things like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promised End, it’s pretty elementary to win a game if you hit them. Earlier I mentioned Combustible Gearhulk, who can go deeper and hit those cards, potentially ending the game on the spot.

The best part about Marvel decks is the use of Energy with your marquee artifact isn’t even the only way to win, as Marvel decks pack other cards like Whirler Virtuoso, Architect of the Untamed, or Aethertorch Renegade. Now, I know this might sound crazier than the idea that Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is responsible for the reports of chemtrails over Kaladesh, but these Aetherworks Marvel decks we’ve been creating and working on have proved to the most explosive in the arsenal.

#2: Chandra, Torch of Defiance

I’m assuming it’s not much of a surprise that Chandra is near the top, because she’s just an absolute juggernaut at winning games.

Like most teams, Nexus has done a lot of experimenting with Chandra and the results are that most of the hype surrounding her is sadly the truth. After putting our newest planeswalker through the paces, there are a few things you should understand about Chandra.

1. Any game where you are able to +1 her to generate two additional mana and follow that up with a removal spell is a game you are wildly favored to win.

2. The decks that will utilize her to her full potential will mostly implement her -3 Flametongue Kavu mode because they’ll have the ground wrapped up on turns 2 and 3. Hard removal like Ruinous Path won’t be enough because you’ll be taking a turn off to kill her but still facing down the creatures summoned to protect her.

3. If unchecked, Chandra only takes about two turns to completely take over the game. She isn’t a snowball that rolls downhill as much as she is a wrecking ball that only takes a minute to smash through a wall.

4. Your decks will need to be constructed in a way that invalidates her while also keeping you from giving up too much to the battlefield.

This might seem like a tall order, and that’s because it is. Chandra, Torch of Defiance requires specific answers to be spread out over multiple turns to not allow your opponent the opportunity to begin milking her for card advantage. The ramp aspect she brings to the table is also very dangerous, as casting turn 4 or 5 World Breakers has been extremely tough to beat.

While I don’t believe her $60 pricetag is remotely sustainable, from what we’ve seen, it’s probable that she’ll not drop too much in price and that most decks that play her will almost certainly want the full playset.

However, our number one card is much cheaper and will almost certainly be more prevalent.

#1: Smuggler’s Copter

Looter Scooter is absolutely ridiculous and one of the most powerful cards in all of Kaladesh. So far about five decks have had this card in it, and in all of them the consensus was the decks were okay but Smuggler’s Copter was busted.

A 3/3 flier for two mana that lets you Crew your smaller creatures like Thraben Inspector or Toolcraft Exemplar is every bit as great as it sounds, and it creatures a pressure vacuum very quickly by letting you filter your hand with card draw and begin sculpting a gameplan almost immediately. It plays very well with almost every aggressive creature in Standard and even with cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It fits any curve very well, can block and up trade with larger creatures if needed, and provides incredible board presence through removal or Wrath effects. With Always Watching, it turns your team into a mobile infantry unit that lets you attack with whatever didn’t Crew and then hold up your even larger blocker for defensive duties. Smuggler’s Copter complements aggressive strategies very well and supplements Burn decks by providing a hyper-powerful Madness outlet for Fiery Temper or Alms of the Vein.

Premier aggro decks in Standard over the first few weeks would be crazy to not run this card, as the damage output and consistency is provides are just too much to ignore. Crewing this vehicle will almost never be an issue, since the decks that would play it are battling with over twenty creatures to begin with. It has gone from a dollar, to three, to five, and now eight in only a couple of weeks. Every professional is talking about it, and with great reason. In testing it’s the probably the most consistent card, and it makes rough or bad decks good. When a shell eventually becomes streamlined, Smuggler’s Copter will probably be one of the best cards in Standard.

I can’t wait to see your lists, so please let me know what cards you think will make the largest impact on Standard when Kaladesh drops this week. We’ll say goodbye to old friends or bitter enemies (screw you, Collected Company! I cast you five times in Orlando and hit five creatures).

If you’re feeling frisky, feel free to share your new Standard brews, too!

This format has me very excited, and I think we’re looking at a very promising and healthy format on the horizon.

Because there’s no more Collected Company.

Seriously. I’m burning my copies.

#SCGINDY October 1-2!