I admit, I had gotten used to the darkness.
Tarkir, Zendikar, Innistrad...these are places where death is an everyday occurrence. Places where it makes sense to fear anything you don't understand. Places where it is important to know the plural of the word "apocalypse." If the Demons and Dragons don't get you, the Eldrazi menace always seems to be lurking just around the corner.
Kaladesh is different. While we don't know what awaits us in Aether Revolt, darkness has yet to descend on the shining city of Ghirapur. Kaladesh's residents come together in support of a shared vision—the belief that it is possible to build a better tomorrow. Humans, Dwarves, Vedalkens...heck, even the Elves of Kaladesh subscribe to this creative mantra. Fast cars and nightclubs are more important than siege weapons and cavalry. In fact, a great deal of the actual fighting happens in the safety of the arena at the Inventors' Fair.
If you're a flavor fan like me, it's understandable that you might feel a little lost when it comes to working with Kaladesh. Building a deck that shows how scary Innistrad's Werewolves are is relatively straightforward, but what are you supposed to do with Kaladesh's bright and shiny flavor?
I consider myself to be something of an inventor, so I decided to sequester myself in the lab all week and see what I could concoct. How can we best enjoy Kaladesh's world of tomorrow? Here are a few exciting possibilities for you to tinker around with.
A Trip to the Inventors' Fair
On Kaladesh, death takes a backseat to creation. Not only are inventions the lifeblood of the plane's society, they're the primary method of self-expression. "Our creations are more than mere things," Saheeli Rai says. "They have life in them, little bits of ourselves."
Kaladeshi inventors spend their lives seeking the perfect design, and this is a goal that you can use to direct your focus when deck building. What artifacts speak to you? Excite you? Thrill you? Find them, and use them as the spark that inspires your next deck. Don't worry if they push you in contradictory directions—the best inventors find strength in limitation.
Another fun option is to focus your deck less on what you are trying to create and more on the process of invention itself. Ask yourself: what sort of inventor might you be? How do you create?
Are you a voracious reader and student? Midnight Oil will help you study long into the night, and Aetherflux Reservoir is the perfect reward for long research sessions. Fill your deck with lots of cheap spells that gain you knowledge (books!), and use the power of those cram sessions to charge up your Reservoir.
Picture yourself as the lead designer in a large factory? Aetherworks Marvel is great at churning out a lot of impressive inventions in a short period of time, provided you can feed it enough energy. You might want to fill your factory floor with lots of other powerful machines—the Module cycle, say—which can help power up your Marvel.
Don't forget to give your factory a couple of large and impressive inventions to work toward—things that might be impossible for the home tinkerer to create. Dynavolt Tower and Metalwork Colossus are my personal favorites.
Are you more of a mad scientist? Do you lack the patience for exhaustive research? Check out Madcap Experiment, the perfect card for anyone who wants to build the greatest invention of all time right now. Sure, you don't know what you're going to get, and yeah, the process of experimentation might blow you to smithereens, but isn't that half the fun?
Of course, not every inventor on Kaladesh is looking to craft some grand and titanic masterwork. Many of Kaladesh's best simply want to build lots of little things and tinker with them over time. This is the choice that the fabricate mechanic gives you. Do you want to build a 1/1 Servo, or do you want to improve your creature?
Kaladesh isn't all inventions and tinkerers, though. The plane's bright flavor encompasses the attitude of its other citizens as well—like the adrenaline-seeking Pilots and short-lived Aetherborn.
One of the most fun flavor decisions you can make in Kaladesh is choosing who gets to crew your Vehicles. Those of you who prefer a strict approach to your flavorful deck building might stick to canonical Pilots like Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Speedway Fanatic—a position I understand and support. The opportunity for wackiness here is just too great for me to ignore, though. There are just so many funny potential crew leaders out there! Imagine a giant robot like Darksteel Colossus or a multi-plane terror like Emrakul, the Promised End climbing behind the wheel of a Smuggler's Copter. Give a 0/0 Germ Token a giant sword and put it in command of Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. This is Kaladesh, remember. It's okay to have a little fun and think outside the box.
We can get even wackier than that, though. Tap one of your creatures to crew a Vehicle and then find a way to untap that creature before combat. At that point, you can tap that creature again in order to crew another vehicle. How is this possible from a flavor perspective? Well, I like to imagine a person straddling the gap with one foot on each vehicle. Granted, it works best with a really large creature and something like Ovalchase Dragster.
Want to really mix things up? Play March of the Machines alongside as many Vehicles as you can. Then your cars and trains and airships can come to life and pilot themselves. The robot uprising is here!
Reinventing the Game
Since Kaladesh isn't engaged in a life or death struggle, now is the perfect time to rally your playgroup and try out some alternate win conditions. Beating up your opponent until they hit 0 life might be a necessity in the wilds of Tarkir or Innistrad, but I'd bet a resident of Ghirapur would take a look at that paradigm and say, "Interesting—what else can we try?"
Here are a few alternate gameplay ideas I crafted based on Kaladesh's bright flavor. While all of these formats require some prep time—your playgroup will have to build new decks with the alternate rules in mind—you should be able to play them all successfully using cards exclusively found in Kaladesh.
The Tinkerer Speed Run
Who can get the biggest artifact creature onto the battlefield by the end of a certain number of turns? What about the most artifact creatures? If you have a smaller playgroup, pick one of these goals and use it to determine the winner. If you have a bigger playgroup, award points for the winner of each objective and only declare a winner if one player manages to accomplish both goals at once.
Tinkerer Speed Run games scale well and go quick, which is part of the appeal. I find that they work best when you increase or decrease the number of turns required across multiple games, which helps create a lot of interesting variation. I like rolling two six-sided dice and using whatever number comes out for the turn cutoff. You'll find that the optimal deck-building strategy for a turn-three win is very different than one that will crush the competition on turn eleven. Which path will you take?
Stop the Mad Scientist
Infinite combos can be frustrating to play against. You're cooking along, building up your army, when suddenly...Bam! Your opponent wins the game out of nowhere. What's up with that?
In Stop the Mad Scientist, though, going infinite is the only way to win. Every player should try to fill their deck with as many combos and ways to disrupt them as possible. If your library is emptied without a player having gone infinite, you simply shuffle your graveyard and exiled cards back together, call it your new library, and keep playing.
This is not a format for everybody. Only the truly mad scientists among us are likely to embrace it, and finding Kaladesh's hidden combinations may take some work. But if you're truly dedicated to the art of building Kaladesh's ultimate invention, here's your ideal arena.
Race for the Prize
In Race for the Prize, players aren't dealt damage in the traditional sense. In fact, normal creatures cannot attack or block at all. Only Vehicles are allowed to enter combat, and a winner is determined by whichever Vehicle reaches the end of the race (20 kilometers) first.
Instead of dealing damage, each Vehicle you control gains "distance" equal to the amount of combat damage they would have dealt to a player. So if your Fleetwheel Cruiser attacks and isn't blocked, it gains five kilometers of distance.
Watch out, though—your opponent can still enter combat and block your attacks with their own Vehicles, much like how two cars can crash into each other in an attempt to control the outcome of a race. Since each of your Vehicles accrues distance separately, you'll have to work hard in order to make sure one of your cars goes the distance before getting knocked out of the race entirely.
Invent Your Tomorrow
In this format, you and your playgroup are a club of veteran inventors who are always trying to impress each other. Before the game, each of you will announce what your personal win condition will be.
How will you choose to demonstrate your proficiency? Build ten Thopters? Crew three Vehicles at once? Crack all five Puzzleknots? End a turn with 30 life and zero permanents in play? You can pick whatever you want as long as your opponents judge it to be sufficiently challenging—don't forget that your ultimate goal is to impress your fellow inventors.
This format is a little more holistic than the others, and it's probably better for playgroups that are less competitive. But if you and your friends love building funky decks—and especially if you're up for roleplaying as over-confident inventors—you absolutely must give it a try.
Kaladesh isn't as spooky as Innistrad, and it isn't facing down the Multiverse-spanning terror of the Eldrazi, but that doesn't mean your decks have to be any less flavorful. I love dark horror as much as anyone, but embracing Kaladesh's bright and shiny aesthetic has been one of the most joyful experiences I've had in my Magic-playing career.
My favorite part of Kaladesh's flavor is how openly it encourages self-expression. Who do you want to be? What do you want to create? How do you want to play? In Kaladesh, the future is wide open.