1) Aether Revolt Limited is fast, but slower and less snowball-prone than Kaladesh.
Kaladesh Limited was one of the fastest and most aggressive formats ever. With Aether Revolt, there was a chance the aggression would continue, since revolt tends to incentivize racing over trading, but in my experience this hasn’t happened. Aether Revolt is not a format where you can durdle for a long time and expect to win, but it’s also not a format where you must play ten 2-drops to compete.
There are two big differences between Kaladesh and Aether Revolt that make it slower and more forgiving. The first is that there aren’t as many Renegade Freighters and (to a lesser extent) Sky Skiffs. Renegade Freighter was an oppressive card that would trounce you if you weren’t ready to stop it on turn 3. Two great common Vehicles had synergy with a lot of red and white cards (such as Spireside Infiltrator and Gearshift Ace), and meant your deck could go over the top of most other players in the midgame.
The second difference is that the aggressive creatures are smaller and the defensive creatures bigger, and there’s less snowballing on offense. The Thriving cycle in particular was responsible for a lot of lopsided games—if your opponent had a trick or removal for your first block, then your creature would rapidly grow bigger than whatever you could play the following turn. With Aether Revolt, creatures will stay around the same size and increase steadily with higher mana costs, which means you can actually compete by just playing blockers. You also have some cheaper removal in Aether Revolt, with Shock and Prey Upon helping you catch up if you fall behind.
In practical terms, this means that a curve of random 2-drop into random 3-drop into random 4-drop is less likely to win the game, and more likely to be brickwalled by their 4-drop. I’m now looking for a little more power from my creatures, instead of just casting cost and ignoring everything else. In Kaladesh, I felt that if I didn’t have a 2-drop the game was basically over, and I do not feel the same way with Aether Revolt (though I’d still rather have a 2-drop, of course).
2) White is the worst color in Aether Revolt, but not by as much as people would have you believe.
Lately, we’ve had such an imbalance in color power that it has become accepted for a color to be deemed unplayable—green in Battle for Zendikar and blue in Kaladesh are examples of colors that a lot of the pros would rather not touch. White in Aether Revolt is bad, but it’s not an example of a color that is so much worse than the others that you’d avoid it at all costs.
Drafting is a zero-sum game, meaning you will get whatever other people don’t get, and vice-versa. Because of this, it’s self-correcting. If red is the best color, more people will be taking red cards, and if white is the worst color, fewer people will be taking white cards. I’d rather be one of two white drafters in a pod than one of five red drafters, because even though red is better, it’s not that much better, and the white cards are playable.
At GP Prague and PT Aether Revolt, white was severely underdrafted, even if you account for the fact that it’s worse. In my second Draft, I opened a pack with 3 white commons, one of them being Dawnfeather Eagle, and they all came back! Dawnfeather Eagle is one of the best commons in the set. It should never table unless the pack is exceptionally good.
Another factor that makes people underestimate white is the perception that Caught in the Brights is bad. Caught in the Brights is the worst Pacifism ever (since there’s blinking, bouncing, crewing, improvising, enchantment removal, etc.) but it’s still a Pacifism! You’ll always play it, and it will be good the majority of the time. You should not be passing 8th-pick Caught in the Brights.
3) All of the color combinations are good.
There are formats where certain color combinations just don’t make any sense, but Aether Revolt is not one of them. My least favorite combination is R/G, but I will happily draft it if it’s open, and I think there’s little difference between the top combinations and the bottom ones. To give you an idea, I drafted G/W, G/W, and B/R at the GP, and then U/G and R/W at the Pro Tour.
There is an identity to each color combination, though, and that’s something you have to pay attention to, because green cards that are good in U/G aren’t necessarily good in G/W or G/B. Luckily for us, Wizards made some very powerful uncommons in each color combination that basically dictate what each of them is doing. Even if you do not have any copies of the gold uncommon, it’s still a good guide for what your deck is trying to achieve. B/G is a counters-based deck, U/R is artifact-improvise based, U/W is flyers, B/W grinds value, and R/W is mindless aggro with a Vehicles focus. You can figure each of these out just by looking at the gold card for each combination and trying to understand what it represents.
4) Pick enablers before payoffs.
As a general rule, I like the enablers in Aether Revolt more than the payoffs. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to take Herald of Anguish pack 1 because it’s a payoff, but it means that I’m more comfortable picking cards like Implement of Ferocity and the new Aether cycle (Aether Swooper, Aether Poisoner, and so on) before I pick cards like Fen Hauler and Bastion Inventor.
I consider flexible enablers very high picks. Renegade Map, for example, can pay for improvise, trigger revolt, and fix your mana. It’s therefore one of the best commons in the set. Implement of Ferocity is one of the best green commons, and could be picked first depending on what you already have. Aether Swooper, Aether Poisoner, and Aether Chaser are all in the top 10 commons, and all 3 of them are cards I wouldn’t mind first picking.
5) Cheap artifacts from Kaladesh are now much better.
You usually don’t want to play a card with very small impact even if it costs 1 or 2, but when said card acts as a mana accelerant on top of doing whatever else it does, then the bar to play it becomes much lower. A lot of people wouldn’t touch Inventor’s Goggles, and now it’s actively great in some decks. Metalspinner Puzzleknot, Eager Construct, and Cogworker’s Puzzleknot are also examples of cards that got better.
Another card that got significantly better is Decoction Module. Not only is it a cheap artifact, but it also combos very well with the Aether cycle, giving you an energy back every time you make a Servo.
6) Aether Revolt is a 16/17-land, play-first format.
In Kaladesh, I liked to play almost exclusively 16 lands. In Aether Revolt, I play a mix between 16 and 17—decks are a little more expensive and there are more activated abilities that rely on mana rather than energy. For all intents and purposes, Renegade Map counts as a land (which means that if you were going to play 16, you can play 15 and a Map, or even 14 and 2 Maps).
The format is still aggressive enough that you want to play first, unless you have a critical mass of Shocks (like 3) and your deck is not aggressive. I think this is true for most Sealed decks as well.
7) 1-damage effects are much better than before.
In Kaladesh, almost everything that had 1 toughness was a Servo. As a result, it was hard to get good value from things like Chandra’s Pyrohelix and Fireforger’s Puzzleknot—even if you got 2-for-1s, you were rarely killing meaningful creatures.
With Aether Revolt, things changed. There are now many 2/1s and 3/1s worth killing: Aether Chaser, Aether Poisoner, Restoration Specialist, Aeronaut Admiral, Audacious Infiltrator, and Welder Automaton are examples of commons and uncommons that you’re very happy to kill as a “freebie.”
On top of there being more targets, Servos are now better, so you’re more incentivized to kill them. In Kaladesh, killing a 1/1 was just that—killing a 1/1. In Aether Revolt, it also has the potential to stifle your opponent’s development by robbing them of an accelerant. If I Chandra’s Pyrohelix two of your Servos, that delays your Barricade Breaker by two full turns, which is huge.
8) Ridgescale Tusker and Untethered Express are mythic uncommons.
We’ve had uncommons in the past that were better than many rares, but Tusker and Express bring the concept of a "Mythic Uncommon" to a whole new level. Those cards are absurdly powerful for uncommons, and they’re better than the vast majority of cards in the set. The only 4 rares/mythics that I think you can present an argument for picking over Tusker and Express are Herald of Anguish, Aethersphere Harvester, and perhaps Walking Ballista and Heart of Kiran.
9) Consulate Dreadnought is underrated.
When I cast a Consulate Dreadnought in a feature match at GP Prague, the commentators laughed and said it was the first time they had ever seen it. Many other pros also thought the card was quite bad. We thought it was great!
I really like the improvise decks, but they tend to play out in a way where you use all your early cards for acceleration and then they become useless later. Consulate Dreadnought is an improvise enabler that can be very relevant in the late game, and as such it has the potential to be very powerful.
In the end, a 7/11 is enormous and will dominate board stalls, and it’s relatively easy to attack with it on turn 4. That’s not even mentioning the wombo combo with Siege Modification and Aerial Modification. The combination of colorless + early game enabler + random free wins + powerful late-game card makes me rate this card quite highly.
10) Druid of the Cowl is overrated.
Normally, 2-mana Elves are the best green common in any set in which they appear. For Aether Revolt, this is not the case. There just isn’t much to do with mana—there aren’t many abilities, and curves top out at 5. 3-drops are quite strong and you are usually flooded with them, so you don’t gain much by skipping turn 3, and many of the more expensive cards have improvise anyway, which means any random artifact would do what Druid of the Cowl is doing.
This is not to say that Druid of the Cowl is unplayable or anything, but I would not pick it highly. As far as green commons go, I consider it worse than Scrounging Bandar, Lifecraft Cavalry, and Implement of Ferocity—it’s probably somewhere in tier 2 with Unbridled Growth, Prey Upon, and Aetherstream Leopard. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was worse than all of those in the majority of decks.
Bonus: Top 10 commons in the set, in p1p1 order
I think Demolition and Revolution are better than anything else, but after that it’s close and very interchangeable. Most of my team likes Aether Chaser more than Aether Swooper, but I think Swooper is just way more important for blue decks, so I like taking it earlier, even if red is a better color. I wouldn’t fault you for taking any of these cards out of my order though —again, I think they’re quite close in power level and it wouldn’t surprise me if, after a week or two of drafting the format more, my evaluations were to change. I am confident, however, that I like every common on this list more than every common off it.