Puzzle Not

Posted in Feature on September 7, 2016

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Even the earliest stages of preview season often leave us with more questions than answers. I've got a cycle of five common artifacts that will likely leave us in exactly that predicament, though we'll be happy about it since it gives us something to consider about Kaladesh and how things will play out.

Our five artifacts are called Puzzleknots, and they are all similar in design as they all cost two mana to cast, provide you with a small benefit, and then have the activated ability of paying more mana, sacrificing them, and getting that small benefit again.

Let's get right into the cards, as they are easier to understand once you see them.

As you can see, this Puzzleknot costs two mana and yields you a 1/1 colorless Servo artifact creature token. Nothing too crazy there, and when you pay 1W and sacrifice the Puzzleknot, you get to do it all over again by making another 1/1 colorless Servo artifact creature token.

All in all, you're getting two 1/1s for four mana; not a particularly good deal, is it?

The truth is that while not super mana-efficient, Cogworker's Puzzleknot (all of this cycle of Puzzleknots, actually) possess the advantage of what I like to call "the installment plan." The fact that you get to pay some mana up front, but then defer payment of the rest of it until you are good and ready can be quite powerful.

Flexibility with your mana and the ability to use it all up every turn will often translate to victory. The truth with Cogworker's Puzzleknot is that its overall impact on the game is relatively low, at least on the surface.

After all, 1/1 creatures are hardly the powerful spells we look for to win us games. What we need to keep our eye out for is how important having artifacts on the battlefield is — remember, this one card alone gives you two artifacts, even after you sacrifice it. Additionally, sometimes there are effects that really want you to just have as many bodies on the battlefield as possible. This card does give you two creatures for one card, in case that ends up being super important.

As you may have gathered, each color gets its own Puzzleknot. Here is the blue one:

The first thing that just jumps off the card at you are the strange looking energy symbols. Glassblower's Puzzleknot gives you two energy counters. Energy counters are a type of in-game currency that you can spend on various effects. If you have a deck that really wants some energy, this card delivers four total energy for five mana. I won't claim to know yet if that's a particularly good exchange, but I would assume that it's reasonable.

Oh, and you get to scry 2 as well. Just how good is scry 2, anyway? Is it as good as drawing a card? Not quite. It's good; it digs pretty deeply into your library in search of your best cards, but it doesn't put them in your hand. Late in the game, scrying useless lands to the bottom of your library can be very powerful, effectively drawing you action. In the early part of the game, the scry 2 ability can help you dig for land.

So scry 2 is pretty good, and scry 2 twice is nice. That leaves us with the energy. The key to determining how good this card will be relies on how badly your deck wants energy counters.

Next up we have the black Puzzleknot, Metalspinner's Puzzleknot:

And you thought it was going to make your opponent discard cards...

I think this is my favorite of the cycle. It replaces itself right away for your troubles (minus a life point, of course), and later in the game when you run out of action, you can sacrifice it and get another card out of the deal. This, of course, nets you a card, though it is at the cost of 2 life and five mana.

It's not a game-breaker, but it's a solid little card advantage card that keeps it simple.

I even appreciate that in the rare time that paying the 1 life to draw the extra card is going to really hurt your chances of winning, you can simply not activate the Puzzeknot's second ability. Look, that's not Plan A, but I do like having the option.

Next is the red Puzzleknot, and yes it actually does exactly what you think it will:

Where is the bar for this card? Obviously we wouldn't want to be greedy and assume that we get to kill two separate creatures with this one card, but the prospect of killing one reasonable threat and then having this stick around to mess with combat or just ding your opponent is promising.

Of course, there will be the times when your opponent has a bunch of 4/4s and your Fireforger's Puzzleknot doesn't do a lot. Paying attention to how many 1-toughness creatures there are at common will help us evaluate this card. Remember also that you can cast it and then sacrifice it in one turn, turning it into a rather clunky but sometimes necessary five-mana 2-damage spell.

Last is the green one, Woodweaver's Puzzleknot:

Woodweaver's Puzzleknot really pushes the boundaries with this whole energy thing. The reason I say that is because the "gain 3 life" part is pretty unimpressive. Gaining 6 life is a reasonable amount, but it's very rare that putting a full card and five mana in for 6 life is worth it.

Which of course leaves us with the energy again. This one provides up to six total energy. That sounds like a lot to me, but time will tell just how impactful that is.

My first take is that this card is all about the energy and the life gain is a nice little bonus (rather than the other way around).

Questions Indeed

Evaluating cards like these can be tricky. After the whole set is revealed and cards are in our hands, it will be much easier to sort out just how good this cycle actually is.

But for now, I have questions.

My biggest question about this cycle is this: how important is just controlling an artifact going to be? If there is significant benefit to just casting or controlling an artifact, then the relatively minor effects from these Puzzleknots are probably quite acceptable.

If, however, this world cares not for our petty trinkets, it feels like the overall impact of these cards is lessened dramatically.

My other big question is, of course, about energy. What can we spend it on? Will it produce lasting effects on the game or just temporary bonus-type stuff? Will I be happy to run cards that essentially are in my deck to provide energy, or is energy something best garnered from cards that are already doing a lot for me anyway?

Let's be honest—I have a million other questions about these cards and about Kaladesh, but part of the fun of preview season is letting the set reveal itself to you, one card at a time.

While speculating rampantly with your group of Magic friends, of course.

Until next time!

@Marshall_LR

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