Last week, I discussed the Allied colors for Aether Revolt Draft. Today we look at the enemy colors!
Previously: +1/+1 counters
Now: Same + revolt
I want to start with G/B because it was the sweetest deck I got to draft on release weekend:
The archetype still focuses on counters like it did in triple-Kaladesh, but is much more synergy driven than it was. This has to do with a big shift between the formats—now the Draft environment is slower. Before, you didn’t really have time to set up Fairgrounds Trumpeter thanks to under-costed cheap aggression from pushed creatures, 1-drop pump spells, and the most notorious enemy, Renegade Freighter. Those things all still exist, but they’re kept down to a single pack of Kaladesh and you have some time to focus more on synergies.
One nice thing about G/B is it just goes off when it has an unchecked Winding Constrictor. Even the simple combo of Winding Constrictor into turn-3 Scrounging Bandar is fairly absurd. You have a 2/3 and a 3/3 that then turns into a 4/5 and 2/2 next turn while still leaving the Bandar in play to buff your next creature! The ability to permanently pump your creatures is especially potent because while green has some large creatures, there are fewer of them than there were in triple-KLD.
One other element that was added to G/B was the introduction of revolt. Implement of Ferocity is already a card you’re interested in because of the counters aspect, but when it also turns on your revolt cards it gets that much better. On turn 6 it can combo with Lifecraft Cavalry for all the counters. Good luck to your opponent if you happen to have your Winding Constrictor in play!
What’s neat about revolt here is that it shows room for sub-themes in AER archetypes. For example, I don’t think G/B will usually be very energy focused, but the example Draft I did included a good number of energy payoffs. This lets you place more or less importance on certain cards and keeps the format fresh for longer. Highspire Infusion was particularly good in this deck, but in other G/B decks that are even more focused on counters and less on energy it might be a relatively easy cut. Be aware of what you already have while drafting, and try to prioritize maximizing whatever synergies you have. Variable pick orders are going to be very important in AER, especially because improvise and revolt are heavy build-arounds at times.
Now: Good stuff
U/G’s gold card Rogue Refiner would have you convinced that U/G is an energy-centered color pair, but the supporting commons and uncommons don’t back that case very strongly. Granted, energy is more of a backdrop in all the color combinations now that you’re incentivized to build around the newer mechanics, and U/G does play into energy more than the other color pairs. The main problem is that Aether Swooper and Aetherstream Leopard are your payoff cards and there’s not much happening beyond that. The times U/G will produce a successful energy deck are when it has some producers from the first 2 packs and then picks up all the freely available energy sinks in pack 3 no one else is interested in. Time will tell whether that strategy will be a successful one.
The rest of the time, U/G will be focused on playing good cards. AER is more synergy focused now, but there aren’t a ton of synergies here other than helping your big creatures get through in combat. Leave in the Dust does combine well with giant creatures, and also helps deal extra surprise damage thanks to trample for end-of-game alpha strikes. Ridgescale Tusker is still absurd and if you get it along with solid blue cards, that’s reason enough to lean U/G. I will say that Skyship Plunderer is a nice bridge card. There’s a smattering of energy and +1/+1 cards in the archetype and it plays well with whatever cards you happen to draw while also delivering a decent beatdown.
Before: Energy/artifacts matter
U/R was always a bit confused in Kaladesh and while the most commonly successful decks erred on the side of energy, there were also U/R decks that cared about artifacts and were more often bad Gearseeker Serpent shells. The main problem was the lack of fabricate and the lack of fantastic artifacts you wanted to go out of your way for, but AER rectifies this problem. Now you know you want to push hard on improvise with U/R and cast spells on the cheap before your opponent can do much of anything. To help that, you can prioritize cheap artifacts like Renegade Map and Implement of Combustion or either of the Aether creatures. Those two specifically are hard to block on turn 3, and any one of these cards will enable a turn-3 Sweatworks Brawler, which can really turn up the pressure.
Did I happen to mention that all these representative cards are Artificers? Heelllloooo Inventor’s Goggles (sorry Owen)! Not only do you have more free equips but the Goggles is now essentially a mana rock for a good chunk of your spells. The nice news for pack 3 cards like Goggles is you’ll know how highly to pick them since your payoffs are already locked in from packs 1 and 2. I do think a good U/R deck will feature an abundance of improvise cards but again, evaluate how highly you want to take enablers based on the actual cards you’ve drafted since you might want to first-pick a Goggles out of a bad pack or disregard the card entirely if that isn’t the direction your deck wants to go.
Improvise, what’s that? Revolt, who cares? Battalion: When this creature attacks, do something sweet. Now that sounds more like it! AER isn’t Gatecrash, but with W/R, it’s trying to be. The game plan here is to play a good curve and then win combats with triggers from your creatures. Mobile Garrison might as well be a W/R gold card because of how much better it plays here than in any other color combination. If you curve the Garrison into a Renegade Wheelsmith you can crew right away, prevent a creature from, then crew again if you’re so inclined and keep a second creature from blocking. If you’re interested in attacking, then this is a pretty powerful sequence. The card is also absurd with any tap triggers and gets absolutely enormous when paired with Veteran Motorist.
As a whole, your Vehicle plan has gotten a bit worse because the Garrison and Irontread Crusher are pretty bad replacements for Sky Skiff and Renegade Freighter, but your opponent will also be slower in their development, so in the end it evens out with W/R slightly behind where it was pre-AER. Remember that the new mechanics are ones you have to set up, which means that W/R has a real advantage in that it can simply disregard them, though it also lacks late-game synergies and will be trumped by most other color combinations eventually. That’s why you want to build your deck in very much the same way you’d build it in a KLD Draft. Focus on 2-drops, pump spells, and Vehicles to help break through a board stall. Inspired Charge and Dawnfeather Eagle are also decent finishers and having a way to win when things go wrong is important for this style of deck when the board stalls. I still like the beatdown look W/R has going for it and am excited to Draft it soon.
This was the other deck I got to draft last weekend:
5/10 deck. 3/10 picture. I’ll do better next time!
Regardless of the mediocre picture, I really enjoyed the way W/B played. I had a lot of ways to trigger revolt and was able to make favorable trades with my pair of Fatal Pushes. My favorite moment was when I passed with 2 mana up and my opponent Revoke Existenced my Dawnfeather Eagle. End of turn I Alley Evasioned it back to my hand, killed a 4-drop with Fatal Push, and recast the Eagle on my turn. Wha-Bam!
The weird thing about W/B was that it felt like it played a bunch of sub-games all centered around maximizing value. This is reminiscent of the way it played in triple-KLD, but there it was much more about getting an artifact into play and turning on all your Dhund Operatives and Foundry Screechers. Now you are often trying to set up a good revolt turn while also trying to stay ahead on the board since your creatures are usually much smaller than your opponent’s. This means you’ll be aiming to chip in damage a lot and back up your swarm of small creatures with efficient removal.
One thing that can be problematic for this deck is that it has ways to break up your opponent’s board but then doesn’t have enough ways to press that advantage. You’ll often have to use your spells as a means of survival when you want to put your opponent on the back foot. Then as the game drags on, you’ll topdeck weak 2/2s while your opponent draws 4/4s. To combat this, it’s very important to have some sources of card advantage and mana sinks in your W/B decks. Hidden Stockpile does a good job of this, but even Aegis Automaton can do good work and turns all your revolt cards into repeated effects.
If there’s an award for flexibility on the aggro to control scale, I think W/B wins it. Sometimes you can focus on stopping your opponent’s early game and win via big flyers like Skyswirl Harrier. Other times you’ll have a Night Market Lookout backed up with efficient removal and kill your opponent rather quickly. This means card evaluations will be very different in W/B draft to draft, though they will generally be centered around revolt because the color pair gains so much value when those cards are turned on.
I hope you’re as excited for AER draft as I am. If you see me this weekend at GP San Jose, be sure to say hi!