Previous AER Set Reviews
White | Blue | Black | Green | 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.)
This is an aggressive common. A 2/1 first striker is a solid attacker early and a good defender even late, so adding a beneficial attack trigger on top of that makes this one of red’s better commons. It won’t be hard to get in there with this, which means it packs a lot of punch for just 2 mana.
Killing a creature and disrupting your opponent’s mana for a turn is a strange combination, but it plays. Chandra’s Revolution is priced to move, and a card I’ll gladly keep taking. It can’t quite kill the largest game, but it kills enough of what you’ll face to make it worth 4 mana.
I like modal cards like this, especially since both of the modes are useful in vastly different situations. Getting Shatter + Magmatic Chasm together combines two somewhat narrow abilities, but makes it that much less likely that you end up with a dead card in hand. I still wouldn’t want multiples, but it’s a nice addition to any aggressive deck.
An average set of stats with a situational ability makes this card firmly medium. It’s nice that it’s a finisher and that it enables revolt, so I’m not going to be unhappy including it. Still, I’m not gearing up to play 3 or pick them early.
I don’t know who pissed this guy off, but give him enough artifacts and he will be breathing down your opponent’s neck very quickly. Given that this would be playable at 5 mana, it’s not hard to imagine it being a giant beating in any aggressive deck that has artifacts, which includes things like R/W Vehicles.
It does not seem unlikely to jam this on turn 4, at which point your opponent is under a ton of pressure. It’s a huge Dragon that can hit for tons of damage, and it's a 1-2 turn clock in the late game. Add that to the ability to cast it for as little as 2 mana (though even at 3 or 4 it’s a great deal) and you have a great card on your hands.
I’m for it in aggressive decks, and pretty much out otherwise. It’s efficient, but you need to want unbridled aggression before you put must-attackers in your deck.
This card is bizarre, but I like it. It punishes the opponent with 2 unblockable damage every turn, and if they do manage to sacrifice their drawback artifact, you get a 2/2. That sounds like a good deal to me, and I’m happy including this in any deck that is looking to pressure the opponent’s life total.
At 3 mana and instant speed, this gets the nod above most removal. The additional 2 damage to the opponent isn’t irrelevant either, and I’m happy gobbling up as many of these as possible.
Implement of Combustion
Same deal as most of the other Implements—passable if you need to enable your improvise or revolt engines, but doesn't do enough outside of that.
For this to be good, you want to be targeting your own cards and replacing them with better ones. That has some merit if you can generate a lot of tokens/artifacts at low cost, at which point you are spending 6+ mana and whatever the fodder cost you for 3-4 random artifacts/creatures from the top of your deck. It can also target the opponent’s above-average cards, though that’s less exciting. That sounds like a lot of work and a lot of mana for a somewhat dubious payout, so I’m going to start low. I will fully admit that this could be awesome in the right deck, but especially given the triple-red cost, that doesn’t seem like it will be a normal occurrence.
This is kind of a modal spell, but not really. It does the same thing two different ways, but the situations where you want this effect tend to be pretty similar. It’s a way to push damage through, so aggressive decks will be happy with it. It shouldn’t be too hard to get 6+ damage out of this, and maybe more if your deck has some large creatures.
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Kari Zev is a weird card, and I’m not just saying that because of the legendary Monkey token. A 1/3 with first strike and menace is a unique combination, and making a 2/1 each attack does make Kari Zev a lot more threatening. She also enables revolt automatically, and is pretty easy to poke in with until the opponent really builds up their board. She’s a fine card, but nothing insane.
Kari Zev’s Expertise
Threatens are not where the extra mana text really shines. You generally won’t want to play this until late enough in the game that playing a 2-drop isn’t a huge upside, and unless you have sacrifice outlets, this is purely a way to push damage through. Bear in mind that the Vehicle you steal still needs crewing, so don’t nab a giant train and have no way to get it going.
After seeing how well Bastion Mastodon and Wayward Giant played, I’m a little more amenable to the idea of running creatures like this. Granted, the Sailback is full vanilla, so it’s still not awesome, but if you need a 5-drop, this will suffice.
Lightning apparently can strike many more times than twice, as this threatens to deal 4x damage (or more) given enough energy. The joke here is to have 6 energy saved up, then drop this and smash for multiple attacks right away. Even if you can’t do that, a 2/2 double strike with haste is a solid attacker, and this does rack up energy for anything you might want to use it on. I like this in an energy deck more than an aggressive deck, though if you can combine the two you get the best of both worlds.
I’m not a huge fan of this. Pia may have good intentions, or at least aggressive ones, but the "nontoken" stipulation means that it’s going to be hard to really make it work. If you play this in a random deck with artifact creatures, you need two of them to die to break even, and three or more before the opponent really starts feeling it. You also have to be aggressive or the trigger loses a lot of power, and that’s a lot of moving pieces for a medium payoff.
This is a solid combat trick that will make the cut if you need tricks. There’s not a whole lot more to it than that, besides the obvious benefit of combining high-power creatures and first strike.
Granted, this has 2 toughness, so it can die somewhat easily. Still, if the opponent doesn’t kill it right away, you are going to bury them in a flurry of Shocks, as you pick off their creatures and then start going to the face. This being so cheap and easy to use, plus the overwhelming card advantage potential, makes this one of the better cards in the set.
Atog Rating: 0.0, is not an Atog
I get why this couldn’t be Atog, but I still mourn for the classic Magic monster. As for how good this is, well, it’s ready to take a bite out of your artifacts and then a bite out of the opponent. There aren’t that many decks that will want this, though it does play nicely with effects that grant trample or evasion, particularly in Servo-heavy builds. This looks like a narrow build-around to me, and not a card I’d play unless I had a lot of fodder and/or revolt cards.
Between 2/3 menace, 2/3 first strike, and 1/3 first strike + menace, we have some toughness-heavy creatures with keywords in this set. That does play, as a 2/3 first striker is relatively hard to take down in combat, meaning you will get to rummage a few times when you play this early. That’s a good deal for 3 mana, and I’m happy playing this in any deck.
Release the Gremlins
A 3-mana 2/2 that destroys an artifact would already be a good card in this format, and this is much, much, more than that. If you blow up 2 artifacts, you are way ahead of the game, and 3 or more just starts getting absurd. The only reason I hesitate to give this a 4.0 is that against some decks it will miss, as you do need the artifacts around in order to play the card.
Now this is a beater. Scrapper Champion attacks as a 3/3 double striker, which is an absurd deal for just 4 mana. Even without a single other energy card in your deck, this is still awesome, and an early pick.
You don’t strictly need Vehicles to make this card playable, as +3/+0 and first strike does make a creature into a good offensive threat, but you do get extra value if you can plop this on a train or boat of some kind. It has all the risks that Auras have against bounce/removal, but at least it does handily win combat. Combine this with trample for the best results.
A menacing Hill Giant sounds like a good deal to me, and sometimes this will cost even less. Though, now that I think about, all Hill Giants seem like they would be menacing...
This ticks enough boxes that you’ll end up playing it more often than not. It’s a cheap artifact for various synergies, it’s a 2-drop with decent stats, and it has an activated ability that is relevant in the late game. None of those things are exciting, but combined they aren’t bad.
Unless you have a deck full of sacrifice effects, I’m not thrilled with this card. Threatens don’t need to be cheap, because they are late-game plays, and stealing big creatures is kind of the whole idea.
Top 3 Red Commons
It’s hard to beat the efficiency of Shock, but Aether Chaser offers the potential for card advantage while also giving you a 2/1 first striker at a discount. Red gets a solid group of commons here, and even has some beef in Sweatworks Brawler and Lathnu Sailback. That looks like a good start to both aggressive and midrange decks.