Previous AER Set Reviews
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.)
Ajani will mostly play as a 6-mana removal spell, but that removal spell comes with significant upside. If you can protect Ajani, he can kill another creature or start drawing extra cards, both of which are quite good abilities. Worst comes to worst, Ajani plows an enemy and then gains you a couple life as he gets attacked.
The power level of this card is closer to a 4, but given how hard it is to cast, it gets a downgrade. I don’t usually put that much stock into mana symbols, but being 3 colors is a big jump from 2. If you can splash this, it will often be worth it, as it is a 4-for-1.
This card is hard to get max value from, given that it only triggers on your turn, but it’s got some good things going for it. It’s a permanent revolt enabler, and one that does so at low cost. It can also perpetually scry 1, which gives you a good long-game edge, and it can even turn random creatures into Servos if they have negative Auras on them or the like. Add all that together and you have a decent card, even if it isn’t insane.
Getting 4/4 worth of stats, 2/2 of which flies, is very much worth 5 mana. Often this will cost less, at which point it’s incredibly good. Don’t sleep on Maverick Thopterist—like Whirler Virtuoso, it’s a card you will be happy first-picking.
Oath of Ajani
A +1/+1 counter for everyone is well worth 2 mana, even if the rest of the text will basically never come up. You will (obviously) want a creature-heavy deck to make this great, but once you are there you have a very good card on your hands (paws).
The stats on this aren’t outlandish, but it is ahead of the curve. A 4/4 for 4 with upside is not a card I’ll ever turn down.
It’s hard to make this reliable, as it requires a 2-drop in your graveyard and revolt to be on, but it’s also a 3/2 for 3, which isn’t a bad fail case. I’m happy enough playing Renegade Rallier, and will put in a little work to make sure it has targets and is on more often.
I really wish the art made this look like Will Smith, as that would line up with the name perfectly, but I’ll take a very aggressive beater instead. Blanking a blocker is a powerful ability, and this works even when it crews Vehicles, meaning it doesn’t have to get in harm’s way to add value.
In a shocking twist, I like this card. I didn’t have to mull it over much either—it draws you a card and some energy at a reasonable cost, with no work required.
Spire Patrol is a solid addition to any deck, beatdown or control. Locking down a creature for a turn either keeps them off your back while you stabilize or helps you win the race if you are beating down. Either way, the numbers check out here, and Spire Patrol is one I’d snap off.
Tezzeret the Schemer
Tezzeret is a build-around planeswalker, which we don’t see all that often. He does have some internal synergy, given that he can make Etherium Cells and then use his -2, but he will be much more effective if the -2 is on as soon as he hits the board. That isn’t a huge ask, and at 4 mana and 5 loyalty, Tezzeret offers a lot of power. Cells also trigger revolt, if you’re into that, and the ultimate comes up sooner than you might think.
You clearly need to have sufficient artifacts in order to make this work, but if you do, Tezzeret’s Touch is a beating. It gives you a 5/5 at low cost, and when the creature dies, you get it back, making this less risky than a normal Aura. Note that putting it on a token won’t work out quite as well, so avoid that if possible.
The gold uncommons really deliver here, as Weldfast Engineer will rapidly increase the pressure on your opponent. This lets your crappy artifact creatures trade up, and your good ones punch for a bit more damage. Getting that alongside a 3/3 for 3 is a good deal, and not one I’d turn down.
A 2/3 for 2 is already a great rate. Add a couple of interesting abilities and I can easily see this slithering its way into my deck. Even with just a few +1/+1 counters and energy cards in your deck this is a very good card. In the right deck it can be a legit bomb.
Credit to SonofOnett from reddit for the clutch Winding Constrictor review, written in my voice – LSV
This is pretty close to just a 3/5 lifelink flyer for 3 mana, which I can guarantee you is a fantastic deal. It’s slightly worse than that, but crew 1 is not hard to make work, and 2 energy means it gets lifelink at least twice. That works for me, and I’ll happily take this and reap the rewards.
I like most of the improvise cards, and this is one of the more appealing ones. It comes out for 5 mana often enough to really put the beatdown on the opponent, and it’s got a size that means it’s relevant at any point in the game. Having to attack each turn is much less of a drawback on a monster of this size, so I don’t even mind that text a whole lot.
I’m a fan of mana sinks, and try to have at least one in most of my decks. It’s nice that there are a bunch in AER, and Cogwork Assembler is a solid example of such. It’s a mediocre body with a powerful activated ability, albeit an expensive one, and the combination of early-game presence plus late-game value makes this a card I’m usually going to play. If you have this, be on the lookout for cards with value ETB abilities, as you can get some sweet things going that way.
More like Dread-NOT, am I right?
I wouldn’t play this, and the reason is that the crew cost is so prohibitive that you are giving up any value you may have gotten from the cheap mana cost. Having this cost 1 mana just doesn’t matter much when you rarely if ever crew it, and not until at least the midgame. Dreams of Siege Modifications aside (these are not good dreams either), this shouldn’t make it into your deck.
Energy decks want more than 1 energy a turn, and don’t particularly care about dealing 2 to the opponent. Aggressive decks rarely make enough energy to fuel this, and the overall package isn’t enticing.
Even given that crewing Vehicles triggers this, I’m still not looking to get cracking. It’s just too small for the cost, and getting random +1/+1s here and there doesn’t make up for that.
This card is an interesting mix of aggression and card draw, two things that aren’t often combined. It’s got decent stats and a low crew cost, so it’s playable in most normal decks, and after whacking the opponent twice you get to cash it in for 2 new cards. It’s interesting because you won’t always want to trade your beater for cards, but it’s still card advantage and overall an upside.
Even if this barely crawls into playability, it’s certainly there. 3/3 of stats isn’t too impressive, but 1/1 of it having flying salvages the card. I’d run it if I needed artifacts or had sacrifice outlets, and be sure to side it in against a deck full of x/2 ground creatures.
Decks that want this will want as many copies as they can assemble, as this improvise card really pushes you to build around it. Unlike many of the other improvise cards, it’s not great with a 1-mana discount, so you need to go deeper. If you can reliably turbo these out for 2-3 mana, you have something real, and I’m excited to try this deck.
Gonti’s Aether Heart
Maybe I don’t have a heart myself, but this is just too expensive to be worth the hassle. It comes out too late to be a real energy engine, and paying 8 energy for an extra turn isn’t worth it. Extra turns are neat and all, but they only really give you value when you’re attacking, and decks that can enable this can’t possibly be all that interested in attacking.
Heart of Kiran
If you can include enough 3-power creatures in your deck, Heart of Kiran is very good. It attacks for tons of damage starting on turn 3, and does so evasively to boot. There are some extra words on this, like “vigilance,” and nonsense about planeswalkers, but whatever. I believe in the heart of the card, and here that is the 4/4 flying part.
Hope of Ghirapur
If you want a 1/1 flyer for 1, you can play this, but I’d hope you do better. The ability isn’t very useful, and besides being improvise/revolt fodder, this doesn’t do a ton.
By itself, this taps for a mana, making it somewhat plausible at least. Past that, you are trying to put together a deck full of cheap artifacts and expensive non-artifacts, which seems a little thin. It’s hard to imagine this really going off, and if you build this deck and don’t draw Statuary, it could lead to some really awkward combinations.
While this certainly doesn’t fit into every deck, it crushes in the right one. An aggressive deck with a lot of creatures that enable this right away is the dream, and getting a 6/6 as a result is a good payoff.
Metallic Mimic is quite good. Even if you just name the type of the next creature you are going to play, it’s a good amount of stats, and it isn’t hard to imagine getting 2-3 counters from this. Paying 2 mana for that is well worth it, and given the multiple creature types so many creatures have these days, you don’t need to jump through hoops to get value.
The stats and crew cost just don’t line up well here. It also doesn’t have that useful of an ability, because decks crewing Vehicles don’t care a ton about blocking. I’ll pass on the Mobile Garrison.
Night Market Guard
Mediocre stats and a somewhat odd ability combine to make this the fillerest filler that ever did fill. It’s playable, but not exciting.
Please do not play this. Please. Unless you have 18 improvise cards, this is not good enough. I say this because everyone loves an Ornithopter, much like every developing artificer makes them.
As little as I like spending mana turn after turn to negate an attacker, Pacification Array isn’t that expensive and becomes quite effective later in the game. Being able to constantly switch to their best creature is great, and in an improvise deck this will pull its weight.
Ah, weird mythic artifacts. That’s where most of the zeros hang out, and Paradox Engine is no exception. This effect just doesn’t do anything, as giving your whole team vigilance is nowhere near worth 5 mana or a card.
I give this a low rating, but I am well aware that I’m playing this any chance I get. It is the finisher to end all finishers, and I can’t help but try and build around it. I just don’t recommend doing so, hence the grade.
This has too much of a glass jaw to really be a playable card. It’s good at crewing Vehicles, but past that it’s way too vulnerable to really be involved in combat.
Because of revolt and improvise implications, Renegade Map has lot more going on than it would otherwise. It’s a fine card by itself too, if your deck has strict mana requirements, and plenty of decks at the table are going to want this.
You are just paying too much for too little here—keep on walking.
I have a soft spot for scrappy little card advantage cards, and Scrap Trawler fits the bill. If you have a lot of cheap artifacts, all of a sudden all your artifacts draw you a card, and that’s great. Even by itself it provides value, and that’s a lot for a 3-mana investment.
Enabling sacrifice effects and improvise is what this is made for, and the decks that want this will be happy picking it up late. It’s not good enough to play by itself, as it’s just a much worse version of Cogworker’s Puzzleknot at that point.
Bloodbraid Mech is a great card. This trades 2-for-1, gives you free mana, and never hits land off the card you draw. You aren’t even paying for it, as 4-mana 3/3s are just about on curve to begin with. Treasure Keeper is excellent, and should be taken early and always played.
If you are improvising, this card does some work. If you aren’t, it’s a bit too expensive to really utilize. I wouldn’t mind sideboarding it in for slow matchups with specific problematic permanents, but don’t just look at this and think it’s a removal spell.
Despite the distinct lack of tethering, I’m a big fan of this card. It runs over the opponent with ease, growing larger and larger as it keeps trucking in. I’ve got nothing bad to say about this, though the flavor text maybe could have been “where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
Why are X/Xs always walking? First Hangarback Walker, now this? Either way, Walking Ballista is awesome, as it lets you ping many times at instant speed, and at a very reasonable cost. Playing this as a 2/2 for 4 is great, and you get to dump mana in later and get a ton of value.
Spire of Industry
I’d play this in a 3-color deck as long as I had a good amount of artifacts, and expect it to be pretty solid. I’d avoid in a 2-color deck, as it’s not really worth the drawbacks.