Hello everyone! Kaladesh is upon us, and that means a brand new Standard format for us to explore! Building decks in new constructed formats is one of my greatest strengths as a player and today, I will be sharing a few thoughts on my process. However, if I were being entirely truthful, I'd say building in a new format is much more art than science. There are many variables that affect a deck's playability and success in a new format and it’s important to take all of them into consideration.
I like to start off by exploring the format in a very general scope and slowly narrow down my choices until I find what I believe to be the very best deck. Although this process is variable in execution, there are a few factors that I believe to be absolutely fundamental to understanding a format, and should be the first things you consider as you begin to dissect the format. The first of these factors is…
It’s no secret -- constructed formats revolve around mana. Specifically, mana fixing. This dictates how many colors we can play in a deck, what color combinations we can play, what powerful multicolored cards we can play, and the overall speed of the format. These are the most important things to learn about a format because of how drastically they directly impact the deck building process. Building decks is a matter of balancing power versus efficiency. It doesn’t matter how powerful a card is if we can’t cast it in a reasonable time frame, and it doesn’t matter how easily we can cast a spell if the card isn’t powerful enough to help you win.
In Kaladesh Standard, allied color combinations have access to the “Battle Land” and “Shadow Land” cycles while enemy color combinations have access to the “Creature Land” and “Fast Land” cycles. Other important lands to make note of include Aether Hub and Evolving Wilds. Based on this information, I have come to the conclusion that it is preferable to stick to two color decks to ensure smooth mana, but building three color decks is certainly viable. Three color decks that want untapped mana in the first few turns but don’t mind lands coming into play tapped late will want to lean toward “Khans” color combinations (like Jeskai or Abzan), while decks that don’t mind having lands come into play tapped the first few turns but want smooth mana later will want to lean toward “Shards” color combinations (like Grixis or Bant).
The next factor to consider is…
In new Standard formats, there are always one or more decks that can be ported over from the previous Standard format by replacing the cards that rotated with cards of similar functionality. It’s important to consider these decks before you set out to build new decks because they form the baseline for the new metagame. If your brew can’t compete with these existing decks, it probably isn’t a good choice for the first week, and more than likely just isn’t powerful enough relative to the rest of the format. However, it’s also important to be aware of what these existing decks lost and how that might negatively affect their playability in the new Standard format.
The previous Standard format consisted of Bant Company, Temur Emerge, G/B Delirium, and U/R Burn, all of which I believe can be ported into Kaladesh Standard in some form. While most/all of these decks lost critical pieces to their strategies, Kaladesh (as well as the other Standard-legal sets) is a powerful enough set that it’s not difficult to find viable replacements. While I do not believe all of these decks will remain centerpieces of the new Standard format, they form a solid initial gauntlet for testing new brews. When building new decks, it’s very important to test against what you actually expect to play against in tournaments rather than other brews.
Finally, the fun part…
More than ever before, Wizard of the Coast's card design philosophy is pushing new mechanics to be constructed playable. It’s easy to brush off certain new mechanics as gimmicky or “for limited play only”, but there tends to be very powerful constructed playable cards that are designed to fully utilize the new mechanics. These cards are the hardest to evaluate and the decks are the hardest to build, but by figuring them out before everyone else, you will have a huge edge over the field in Week One. The first step is simply identifying which mechanics are powerful enough for constructed to play and figuring out the best shells to utilize those mechanics.
It’s still early, but my front runners for constructed playable mechanics in Kaladesh are vehicles and energy. Vehicles have a fairly significant cost in having to tap a creature(s) before they do anything at all, but they also have a significant payoff in that they are costed well below what they would be costed if they were normal creatures. Furthermore, there are many support cards in Kaladesh that benefit the artifact/energy theme.
Energy is a bit trickier because it’s not clear how you’re supposed to approach building an energy deck, but the support and payoffs are there. I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised either way if dedicated energy decks become a mainstay of Kaladesh Standard, or if energy never sees the light of day in constructed.
Building decks in a new Standard format is always fun and exciting. However, if you want to be successful, you must be disciplined and never forget about the fundamentals. The metagame will be nearly impossible to predict the first week of a format, so it’s important to bring something powerful and proactive to the table. In particular, aggressive decks have been historically known to perform very well during the first week. I’m hoping to use the guidelines outlined to above to find a great deck for the Standard Open in Indianapolis this coming weekend. For all of Team Cardhoarder, thank you for reading and we hope to see you at an upcoming SCG Tour event!