We had a huge shakeup in Standard. Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage were all shown the door, turning Standard into an entirely new format. I’m actually a huge fan of the banning of both Emrakul, the Promised End, and Smuggler’s Copter, as they were obviously dominating Standard. Reflector Mage is a bit of an enigma to me, as I don’t think it was oppressive, but I don’t have a clear picture of how Standard would be without Emrakul and Smuggler’s Copter. For that reason, I’ll trust Wizards on the ban.
After a full look at Aether Revolt, my initial opinion is that the mythic rares are a bit underpowered, but the rares and uncommons make for some interesting deck building decisions. I’ve compiled a list of what I believe the Top 10 cards will be to come out of Aether Revolt. Most of the weight is put on Standard.
#10: Spire of Industry
Spire of Industry provides an additional 5-color land in Standard alongside Aether Hub. You're already strongly incentivized to play artifacts in Standard, and Spire of Industry seems like a huge boost to these decks. Spire of Industry additionally provides another land for Modern decks like Lantern or Affinity as an alternative to Glimmervoid. We may see a split of Spire of Industry and Glimmervoid in these decks, because you both don’t want to take too much damage and don’t want to be forced to mulligan hands with multiple Glimmervoid that are vulnerable to a single artifact removal spell.
With Fatal Push shoving Path to Exile into lower demand in Modern, we may see fewer basic lands in decks like Affinity, opening up a slot or two for Spire of Industry. The loss of Smuggler’s Copter knocks Spire of Industry down a few pegs, but I still think it will see substantial play.
Shock’s reprint isn’t flashy, but offers an alternative to Galvanic Bombardment for a 1-mana red removal spell. Red decks have had trouble assembling a critical mass of direct damage in recent sets—Shock can help the cause and creep into main decks, instead of being relegated to the sideboard like Galvanic Bombardment. The ability to disrupt the Saheeli Rai combo by dealing 2 damage to her in response to copying a Felidar Guardian should put Shock into decks, and onto my list.
#8: Sram’s Expertise
Sram's Expertise is just the kind of effect we need to make token strategies viable. Sram’s Expertise essentially costs 1 mana when you’re able to cast a 3-mana spell for free, allowing you to flood the battlefield quickly with tokens and pump effects such as Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.
This is the type of card that could be a complete flop as well, as three 1/1 tokens don’t really provide much value on their own, and it competes in a slot on the mana curve with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I’ll play it safe and leave it at number 8, but I could definitely see Sram’s Expertise being a big player in Standard.
#7: Oath of Ajani
Oath of Ajani into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar has been contested by some high-profile players as nothing more than playing a Servant of Conduit into a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. This is oversimplifying. Oath of Ajani is insulated from spot removal such as Fatal Push, Shock, and Grasp of Darkness, making it a more reliable way to ensure an early Gideon. Gideon is best when you’re ahead on board, and playing him a turn early is a good way to make sure that’s the case.
Oath of Ajani also provides a pump effect for Gideon’s Allies and Nissa’s Plants out of the same colors. I expect to see G/W Tokens decks utilize Oath moving forward and may put the deck back on the radar, especially after the huge shakeup of the bannings.
#6: Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Rishkar, Peema Renegade can generate a ton of mana along with a card like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and can be an explosive followup on curve to a Winding Constrictor, creating a 4/5 and 4/4 on turn 3. That explosiveness gets me excited to start brewing decks.
Disallow is going to be one of the best counterspells we've had in some time. 3 mana is what we expect to pay for hard counterspells in the modern era, and Scatter the Winds was a complete bust. Void Shatter had some uses, like exiling an Emrakul, the Promised End so the B/G Delirum player didn’t get to cast it over and over—but Emrakul is no longer an issue. One of the main reasons I disliked Void Shatter (or liked it, I suppose) came up when I was playing Temur Marvelworks. I would get to bring in Ceremonious Rejection for long drawn-out games against U/R Control. I was sure to get the added utility out of a sideboard slot by countering a Void Shatter or Spell Shrivel at some point in the game. Disallow allow you to avoid this scenario, while also having some utility in countering the triggered ability of an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or planeswalker ultimate.
#4: Felidar Guardian
When I first read the spoiler, I glossed over this card like it was nothing but a cute Limited card that could generate some value with other enters-the-battlefield effects. Then I saw a couple of Tweets and Facebook statuses shocked about “Saheeli Twin.” Combined with Saheeli Rai, you can create a copy of Felidar Guardian with haste, blink Saheeli Rai back to 3 loyalty, and repeat the process infinite times. This combo is sure to shake things up, and makes Felidar Guardian potentially the most important card printed in Aether Revolt for Standard. With all of that said, Felidar Guardian is weak on its own, so I’ll put it at number 4, but I wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see this card banned if Wizards is going to become more liberal with Standard bannings.
#3: Yahenni’s Expertise
An obvious staple sweeper for black decks in Standard, Yahenni's Expertise allows you to both sweep the board and add to it at the same time. You also get the added luxury of casting a Ruinous Path or To the Slaughter for free to kill any troublesome planeswalkers that it can’t deal with. I expect this Expertise to open up some room for control decks that want sweepers without having to play white for the less impressive 5-mana versions Planar Outburst and Fumigate. Yahenni’s Expertise is the best card in the “new cascade” cycle, which puts it high on my list.
#2: Heart of Kiran
Heart of Kiran is the obvious fill-in for the newly banned Smuggler’s Copter as a Vehicle that works well both with and against planeswalkers. When paired with a planeswalker, you can use a loyalty to attack, and then the threat of activating to block should save you another loyalty on its own.
Heart of Kiran will be the premier mythic in the set because of just how weak the other mythics seem. Heart of Kiran is both an artifact that slots into any number of decks and replaces Smuggler’s Copter, making me think it will be one of the more played Standard cards out of Aether Revolt.
#1: Fatal Push
Not only is Fatal Push my pick for best card in the set, but I think Fatal Push can make a play for best removal spell of all time. I saw people compare Fatal Push to Path to Exile, and I have to say, I think Fatal Push is even better. Fatal Push is easy to use on the first few turns, whereas Path to Exile has a huge downside early in a game.
Fatal Push opens doors for new decks in both Legacy and Modern, while also improving the removal suite for black in Standard. It has a better time translating to Modern and Legacy both because of fetchlands for revolt, and because there are more cheap and efficient creatures in these formats, making it less necessary to turn on revolt to begin with. But that doesn’t mean Fatal Push won’t be a huge player in Standard. It's still going to see tons of play both in main decks and sideboards across the board in Standard, killing Heart of Kiran for 1 mana. Just because Smuggler’s Copter was banned, doesn’t mean people will get away from cheap creatures, and Fatal Push is just the answer we need.
Now it may be obvious that these cards are good cards—check back later in the week when I review some of the harder-to-evaluate cards with the most underrated and overrated new cards from Aether Revolt.
What do you think are the Top 10 Cards in Aether Revolt? Tell me what I missed in the comment section below!