Welcome to the Aether Revolt Limited Set Review! As the second set in a block, we have more to build off of, so evaluating the cards won’t be as tricky. There are two returning mechanics: energy and Vehicles (of note, fabricate did not return), and I’m going to start by assuming that energy and Vehicles are about as well supported in AER as they were in KLD. That gives us a good base to work from, and leaves the wild speculation to the new mechanics, of which there are two as well:
Found on spells and permanents, revolt is an ability word that has an additional effect if a permanent you control left the battlefield this turn. Spells check on resolution, and permanents check upon entering the battlefield.
Revolt isn’t a complicated mechanic, and for the most part I will be evaluating revolt cards as if they only sometimes work, without you going to great lengths to enable them. There are enablers in the set, such as cheap artifacts or creatures that sacrifice, and when a revolt card has an enticing enough trigger, I will discuss it.
Cards with improvise let you pay for them by tapping artifacts, with each artifact you tap reducing the cost of the card by 1 colorless (sorry, “generic”) mana. It’s basically convoke with artifacts instead of creatures—with the slight difference that it can’t reduce colored mana symbols (so a 4U improvise card will always cost at least U).
Improvise is a build-around mechanic, though many of the cards are costed such that you only need to tap 1 or 2 artifacts to be happy with the deal. As such, I’ll evaluate them as if you are lightly building around them, instead of going all-in. I will call out cards that reward you for going deep, and improvise enablers will be given credit for powering such a deck.
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa's Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Archangel Avacyn. Sorin, Grim Nemesis.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Gitrog Monster. Descend Upon the Sinful. Jace, Unraveller of Secrets. Avacyn’s Judgment.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Burn from Within. Devil’s Playground. Elusive Tormentor.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Duskwatch Recruiter. Breakneck Rider. Fiery Temper.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Graf Mole. Dauntless Cathar. Niblis of Dusk.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Nephalia Moondrakes. Stormrider Spirit. Reduce to Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Expose Evil. Inspiring Captain. Lamplighter of Selhoff.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Fork in the Road. Convicted Killer. Militant Inquisitor.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Moldgraf Scavenger. Vampire Noble. Seagraf Skaab.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Invasive Surgery. Ethereal Guidance. Open the Armory.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Harness the Storm. Vessel of Volatility.)
(I’m reviewing artifacts with colored activated abilities in their respective colors, as these aren’t really colorless cards)
I really like that this card exists. It’s not an absurdly powerful card, but I love having access to late-game mana sinks like this. If you are playing a defensive deck, an 0/3 has value early and this ability has a lot of value late. I’m pretty happy running one of these in my control decks, though I won’t take it early because most decks won’t be interested in it.
As risky as Auras tend to be, those with a high payoff are still worth it. Aerial Modification promises a sizable amount of damage, and it shouldn’t be too hard to get one hit in with this, even if it gets answered afterward. Animating your Vehicles is a relevant bonus as well, because the kinds of decks that would use this will often have 2-4 Vehicles, and having them count as Aura targets is critical.
The biggest downside here is that it costs 5 mana, so you are committing a full turn and a card, making it a finisher for aggressive white decks and a card many decks won’t be interested in.
A 3/1 flyer for 4 is admirable without much else going on, especially in aggressive decks, and sending Vehicles to the sky is a real bonus. I’d always play this in a beatdown deck, but given the 1 toughness, I wouldn’t drastically change my pick order even if I had a couple Vehicles. You still don’t want to have 7 Vehicles in your deck, so treat this as an aggressive flyer with upside rather than a build-around.
A 4-mana 2/3 hits exactly the spot on the curve where it comes out late enough that it’s often going to be just too small to safely attack, which makes the attack trigger much harder to use than other members of this cycle. It’s still a powerful card if you can get it going, but it’s not really worth making much of an effort to get there.
An aggressive 2-drop with more than minor upside is a great deal, and Aethergeode Miner will deliver in any kind of deck. It justifies itself based on rate even if you have no other energy synergies, and once you put it in a deck that cares about energy, it becomes very annoying. It can block and blink if you need to, and can always attack for free to force the opponent to block, at which point you can save it with the 2 energy you gained.
This is the kind of revolt card that I like. It’s a solid flyer without revolt and a great deal once you enable it, which is the best of both worlds. You don’t have to go out of your way to make this work, though the 5 life is worth doing a little if the situation presents itself. Also, at 5 mana, the situations where you can force a trade are more likely to be present, unlike a 2- or 3-mana revolt card.
(A card named “Evasion” not granting any evasion loses you points)
Cheap and flexible tricks are right up my alley, and this delivers a lot for just 1 mana. It will win a ton of combats (for those who didn’t have the luck to play with Thrill of the Hunt back in Time Spiral, +1/+2 are the perfect numbers to win combats with creatures that are a little bigger), and saving your creatures from removal is a fine backup mode.
It can trigger revolt if you are desperate for that, and bouncing and replaying a revolt creature is a cute little interaction.
“Audacious” is a little strong here. I mean, this is just a 3/1 for 2, which is fine, but not remarkable. Maybe “Run-of-the-Mill Infiltrator” or “Pretty Average Infiltrator”?
If you want a 2-drop to fill out your curve, he’s your man. If you are aggressive, go for it. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to see here, as the artifact evasion text is cute but not much more than that.
Hey, sometimes you gotta go on the warpath. If you need a creature, you need a creature, and this delivers (a very unexciting example of such).
Call for Unity
Limited: 2.0 - 4.0
This is a tough call. The upside here is high—if you get 1 counter on this, it’s solid, and 2 counters make it almost unbeatable in a longer game. On the other hand, this runs the very real risk of being a 5-mana play that doesn’t affect the board at all. If nothing leaves the battlefield on your turn, Call for Unity doesn’t do anything.
The most common way to set this up will be to make an attack that involves a creature dying, then play this as a +1/+1 to your team. If anything else dies or leaves, it gets better, but 5 mana to give your team +1/+1 with potential upside is still strong.
You do need a lot of creatures to make this good, and sacrifice effects become exceedingly powerful once this is in play. In a deck full of Servos, sacrifice outlets, and with a high creature count, this seems like a bomb. In a deck with 12-14 creatures and no particular synergies, it seems hard to get enough value from it.
Caught in the Brights
The flavor on this is out of control good. Roadkill, the card is just insanely funny, and a strong one to boot. It’s an Arrest that can eventually exile the creature, and that’s just good, clean, Magic. Take this and run over your opponent, and be happy while you're doing it.
The exile clause gets around many of the risks of Auras by preventing cards like Aviary Mechanic from saving the opponent’s creature, and can also make this a way to deal with creatures with static abilities that a simple Arrest wouldn’t handle.
There are some decks that will be absolutely destroyed by this card. Most improvise decks will get wrecked, especially if their payoff cards happen to be artifacts, and you don’t need to get a 5-for-1 to make this good. If it kills 2 artifacts, it’s solid, and even killing one that costs 4+ mana is worth spending 5 on. Don’t feel like you have to get insane value from this, and just sideboard it out if you run into a deck lacking in artifacts.
Even though you can pull this back if your creature is going to die, I’m still not a big fan of Conviction. It does provide a revolt enabler, which is nice, but as a straight-up card it doesn’t give you enough power/toughness to be worth a full card slot.
Countless Gears Renegade
The classic test of a 2-drop is that if it’s good early and good late, it’s just good. Countless Gears Renegade passes that test, as it provides a serviceable body on turn 2 and enough value later, so you can toss this in any white deck and be happy. Don’t go out of your way to enable this—just take the bonus when it comes up.
A 5-mana 3/3 flyer is solid, and adding a mini-Overrun ability to that makes for an appealing card. You will want to be on the aggressive side to play this, but even midrange decks will be happy including a couple Eagles.
I’m happy enough running this because the upside is so high, but don’t be tricked—this isn’t going to be all that reliable unless you are building around it. It has multiple requirements before it goes off, so in a normal deck, expect the failure rate to be pretty high. In a deck full of sacrifice effects, this becomes better, and the trigger is worth going the extra mile.
Much like Appetite for the Unnatural, I’ll usually run one of these types of effects in my main deck. Revolt is also fairly easy to trigger on an instant, so you will end up getting the 3 life a little more often than you may expect.
I ended up being underwhelmed by Impeccable Timing, and this doesn’t offer that much more for the 2 extra mana it demands. Yes, it can kill multiple Thopters (as the card’s art and flavor text not-so-deftly-implies), but it’s still paying 4 mana for an effect that is situational and not all that advantageous even when it works.
I often say that 7-mana cards need to prevent you from losing the game when cast, and this literally does that. If they kill or bounce the Archangel, things don’t work out quite so well, but if this stays in play you have a reliable second chance at winning even the most hopeless game. Gaining 20 life buys you a lot of time, and a 7-mana 5/5 flyer is big enough to brawl until it gets to that point.
Saheeli Twin combo decks aside, this is a strong card for Limited. A 1/4 for 4 that re-triggers an ETB effect is going to be good to great in any deck, and at the very least it can save one of your creatures from a negative Aura, or untap something you attacked with. In a deck built to optimize it, Felidar Guardian will be awesome, and all of that together makes for a card that’s safe to take early and always play.
Wind Drake is as Wind Drake does. This is actually a fair bit better than Wind Drake (at least compared to Wind Drake in triple-Kaladesh), because white is much more aggressive than blue. There’s no shame in running these in your beatdown deck, as they do attack well at a cheap cost.
Implement of Improvement
There are a couple reasons to play the Implements, and outside of those reasons, they don’t justify themselves as cards. The first is revolt, as this offers a 1-mana way to trigger revolt (plus a 1-mana down payment). The second is improvise, though that’s a little worse because you want to get the card back from this, which you don’t until you sacrifice it. Lastly, Gearseeker Serpent and various artifacts-matter cards could incentivize this, though with one pack of Kaladesh, that’s less likely.
Implement of Improvement specifically has a pretty anemic trigger, and I would avoid it unless I had multiple good revolt cards or was very deep on improvise.
Without the activated ability, this isn’t a very strong card. A crew 4 Vehicle is unwieldy, and won’t often give you a ton of value. If your deck has a couple other Vehicles and Vehicle synergies, this becomes more appealing, which means that it will usually make the cut in R/W Vehicles, and usually not outside of that.
Don’t get too hung up on getting both an artifact and an enchantment back with this—it’s a fine card even as a 2-drop that you can cash in for an artifact in the late game. If you ever do get back 2 cards you really did it, but it’s a great card even without that coming up.
Even as a 3-mana 2/2 double strike, this is a solid beater, and it’s not that hard for it to start as a 3/3. It can even grow while in play, making it a threatening card at any point in the game. When your aggressive 3-drop doubles as a late-game finisher, you have a great card on your hands.
Sram, Senior Edificer
I’m not entirely sure what an edificer is, but Sram is a great card regardless. He’s a fine card to just cast on turn 2 and attack with, and the average W/X deck will likely have a few ways to draw cards off him. If you take him early, you can really go ham, as there are a good amount of ways to fill your deck with all the card types that trigger him. I’d even go as far as to play Conviction if I had Sram, as that is a combo worth writing home about.
Getting 3 Servos for 4 mana is already a good deal, and getting to run out a 3-drop alongside that makes for some pretty busted openings. The high end of this is really high, and the low end is still a very playable card. That is what I’m looking for when it comes to early picks.
I dunno, there’s a Thopter hanging out?
This does actually do a better job than the card Arrest, as it removes the possibility of crewing Vehicles or any other such nonsense, and it gets a nod above Caught in the Brights or Revoke Privileges because it targets artifacts and doesn’t let effects like Aviary Mechanic free the creature. Still, adding “Thopter” to the front of Arrest strikes me as funny, and I won’t let anyone convince me otherwise.
Top 3 White Commons
A few things struck me as I reviewed white—first, there’s only one premium common (which isn’t that surprising in a smaller set). Besides Caught in the Brights, there’s nothing here I’m happy first-picking, and where the rest of the white commons land will highly depend on your deck. The other thing is that white doesn’t have the ridiculous bombs I’m used to, which is a nice change of pace. Normally, white seems to get a couple absurd first-pick rares or mythics, and this time around it didn’t. No complaints here.