Previous AER Set Reviews
White | Blue | Black | Red | Artifacts and Gold
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 a fan of a 3/3 for 4 that comes with a little Servo friend. A 3/3 is big enough that this should be able to attack in most games, and that gives you a solid bit of value for a low cost.
Getting one hit in as a 4/3 trample is enough to sell me on this, and it isn’t difficult to get a few spare energy and power it up again. If your deck is defensive it’s not as appealing, but it’s still enough stats that I wouldn’t mind running one.
Not only is this like a 10/10 (or more), it gives you more energy than you know what to do with. Despite in some respects being just a big dumb monster, the fact that it fuels all sorts of shenanigans makes me give it a high grade. You also are going to kill your opponent in one attack so often with this, thanks to trample, that it’s more of a threat than your average bear.
Aid from the Cowl
In a deck with basically all permanents, this draws you a card and possibly some mana each time it triggers, which shouldn’t be that hard to pull off. It does run the risk of doing nothing, which is a steep price when talking about a 5-drop, but at least it fuels itself. When you lose creatures, it finds new ones, as long as you are making sure it happens during your turn.
Druid of the Cowl
I’m always on the prowl for good mana accelerators, and this even has stats that make it a real body in combat. There’s nothing wrong with Druid of the Cowl, and I’d be happy picking up multiple copies.
Even with no other energy cards, this is GGG for a 3/4, and you can split the payment up over multiple turns. That’s a solid bit of stats, and it can serve as an energy-generating mechanism if you have other cards to fuel. Note that this isn’t optional, so it will eat your energy if you have two when you play it.
A 2/1 for 2 that pinch hits as a 4/3 is a pretty sweet deal. You have a ton of incentive to make this a 4/3, so it strikes me as a midgame play rather than an early one, but having the option is great.
Even though this doesn’t increase stats at all, this can save multiple creatures in a big combat, and that’s a lot of power for 2 mana. It doubles as a way to protect your stuff from spells, and even saves your artifacts and enchantments (and lands, I suppose).
If you are in the market for a 2-mana 2/2, this is perfectly acceptable. The ability is a bonus rather than a reason to play it or build around it, and I wouldn’t expect to play this outside of aggressive decks or decks that are lacking 2s.
There’s nothing spectacular about this combat trick, but it does the job. Not that many decks want energy and combat tricks at the same time, but the ones that do will be pretty happy with this.
Implement of Ferocity
A +1/+1 counter is useful, so this card is fine filler if you need it, and a good revolt/improvise enabler if you are looking for that.
I like Lifecraft Awakening. You will often trade it for a creature mid-combat, which leaves you with a now-buffed creature once the smoke clears. That’s pretty great value, and it can animate a random Implement or Puzzleknot if you have one lying around. You do need a fair amount of artifacts to make this playable, but in an artifact-heavy deck it becomes quite a good card.
They are not shy about pushing green creatures these days. A 4/4 trample for 5 is playable, and coming in as a 6/6 is worth crafting a board position that enables it. The usual caveat about 5-drops not stacking applies, as you don’t need many.
This card is awesome. Scry 1 isn’t worth it alone, but it’s a powerful addition to a card-drawing machine, and helps find the creatures you need to fuel this. I wouldn’t play this outside of a green deck, but in a green deck it is a legit bomb.
By itself, this is a small gift, like one you buy at a gas station because you forgot it was someone’s birthday. Add a couple other +1/+1 counters to the mix and you have a real present—one you can proudly put under a Christmas tree. Once you are getting 3-4 counters out of the deal, this is well worth it, and the fail case of 2 counters isn’t that bad.
An aggressive 3-drop that has a value trigger on entering and leaving? And it has trample to boot? I’m maul over this, and every green deck will be too.
The green Pyrotechnics is a card that is going to overperform. It has a fail case, to be sure, as you need a creature in play before it does anything, but it won’t be hard to make this an awesome removal spell. Vehicles and pushed green creatures are all over the place, making this deal 4+ damage enough of the time that it’s a premium removal spell.
Good early, good late, and often a 2/3, Narnam Renegade is one of the better revolt cards. It’s so cheap that you are fine waiting until revolt is on without losing much mana efficiency, and deathtouch means that it does a good job trading even without the +1/+1 counter.
Strictly sideboard material. Not hitting enchantments makes this too much of a liability in too many matchups.
This has a decent body and a reasonable activated ability, which add up to a playable but not exciting card. It’s hard to use the force-block profitably, as you need a bigger creature and for them to have no good double-blocks, but it’s still going to give you value now and then.
It’s very possible that this moves up to a 3.5 after we see how the format plays out, but I’ll start it at “always play” and see how it goes. Prey Upon is efficient, if somewhat risky, and a great addition to any deck with a good number of large creatures. That will be most, but not every green deck, so don’t assume Prey Upon is always a premium removal spell.
I keep looking at this and trying to figure out the trick, but there really isn’t one. A 5/5 for 5 with a very powerful ETB ability is what you are getting, and that’s a great deal.
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
4/4 worth of stats for 3 mana is great, and remember that Rishkar can target himself if you only have 1 other creature. The mana ability is powerful too, and you can easily end up powering out a 6-drop the turn after Rishkar, which is a fantastic line of play.
What really sells this for me is the second part, as playing a 5-drop for free is exactly what you want when you are drawing a bunch of cards. Even drawing 3 cards with this is great, as it almost pays for itself, and when you draw 4+ cards you have a really good shot of finding something sweet to drop into play.
I like this little guy, and not just because it’s a Cat Monkey. Scrounging Bandar operates as a 2/2 for 2 when you just need a body, and can toss out +1/+1 counters willy-nilly later when the Bandar becomes irrelevant on the board. That’s a solid deal for just 2 mana.
Unless you are doing a very good job of triggering revolt, this Elite is nothing of the sort. It’s a dorky 2/2 that doesn’t block all that well, and reach helps just a little. In a heavy-revolt deck, if such a thing exists, this will be good, and nobody else is really looking to pick them up.
The opportunity cost here is very low, so I’ll take just about any excuse to play this. Revolt and splashing are the main two, so any hint of either and this should make your deck.
None of the numbers on this card impress me. They are all close, but I’m not looking to play a 1/2, or to pay 4 mana to slowly grow it.
Top 3 Green Commons
The top 2 commons could be in either order, and both are clearly above Cavalry. Green gets a good mix here with acceleration, the classic fight spell, and a good amount of beef at common. Nothing quite as good as Kaladesh, but still a solid offering.