Kaladesh does not disappoint when it comes to interesting “build-around-me” cards. One of them doubles as the worst creature removal spell in years.
All right, this card is silly. Except for Platinum Angel, you’re never going to target a creature. But I love the design, and the brewer inside me is happy to accept the challenge.
First, let’s run the numbers.
The life total progression is as follows: 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36, 45, etc. Generally, if you start the turn with Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield and cast N spells, then you’ll gain N(N+1)/2 life.
Crucially, casting 8 spells in 1 turn yields 36 life, which may be enough to win the game if your opponent hasn’t pressured your life total much. Five spells grant 15 life, so if you do that twice in a row or have 2 Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield, then that may also be sufficient.
Speaking of multiple Aetherflux Reservoirs, Ross Merriam requested a formula for that, so here you go.
Aetherflux Reservoir reminds me of Tendrils of Agony or Grapeshot, as both require a flurry of spells for maximum effectiveness. The difference is that you can’t play Aetherflux Reservoir at the very end of a Storm combo, but on the other hand it can gain life passively on the turns beforehand. Since Storm spells have spawned pretty powerful combo decks over the years, you should at least try to find a similar shell for Aetherflux Reservoir.
Before you do that, let me argue why Aetherflux Reservoir is not an ideal fit for dedicated life gain decks. If, for example, you slot Aetherflux Reservoir into a Standard deck with Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Kalastria Healer, and Felidar Sovereign, then it will be hard to abuse the Storm-esque mechanic. Indeed, such a deck would have trouble playing multiple spells per turn, and thus it would still have trouble getting up to 50 life. A Soul Sisters deck in Modern would have similar problems. Sure, when your deck contains Squadron Hawk and Ranger of Eos, you can realistically cast 3 spells per turn, but that’s only 6 life. Aetherflux Reservoir might offer an alternative win condition for these decks, but I don’t think it would excel as an engine by itself.
So storm it is.
In Modern, I don’t think Aetherflux Reservoir will supplant Grapeshot because the Storm deck in that format relies so heavily on instants, sorceries, and the graveyard. But in Standard, new combo horizons arise.
If you take cheap card draw spells, add a few 0-cost artifacts, and return everything with Paradoxical Outcome, then you may have a game plan.
Aetherflux Reservoir Storm
Turns 1-3: Durdle around, play card selection spells, and use Reflector Mage to buy time.
Turn 4: Aetherflux Reservoir.
Turn 5: 3 Bone Saw, Paradoxical Outcome, 3 Bone Saw, Oath of Nissa. Gain 36 life and deal 50 damage to your opponent. Easy.
This is just a first, untested draft, and there are still many questions surrounding the build. What’s the correct number of Cathar’s Shield? Should there be Torrential Gearhulk for Traverse the Ulvenwald? Is it worth it to have Sigarda’s Aid so you can gain more life by flashing in equipment in response to life gain triggers? Should you add Weirding Wood or Hedron Crawler and rely more on Crush of Tentacles?
I don’t have all the answers yet, and I give no guarantees on how competitive this deck will be, but it looks absolutely hilarious to play.