Aether Revolt Complete Review: Black And Blue

Columbus was only the beginning. Saheeli Rai was present but hardly dominant. The previous format’s archetypes made good bids, but nothing strangled the format entirely. That means there’s plenty of room to explore this format before SCG Richmond weekend! Patrick Chapin is the man for the job!

Aether Revolt has so much to offer Standard, but I’m not just talking about the total tippity-top Tier 1 tournament types. There is a lot of brewing to be done. For many, this can be intimidating. After all, why not just sit back and wait until people at the Pro Tour figure out what’s good?

In the words of the great philosopher Reggie Watts:

“It’s not about always being good. It’s understanding why you’re being good in the first place.”

The green cards of Aether Revolt can be found here, and the red cards here. Today, I’d like to tackle both the black and the blue, which means we’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s just dive right in.

On rate, Aether Poisoner is at least half a mana weaker than we’d generally consider for Standard. This means we’d likely have to be getting extra because of synergy. In this case, the novel elements of Aether Poisoner are:

  • Token-making is less common in black than other colors
  • It’s a source of artifacts for cards like Unlicensed Disintegration
  • It’s another cheap deathtouch creature if we end up with a really good source of ping-enabling or fight-enabling for free (like Pathway Arrows, but better)

In general, however, I think we can do better.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Battle at the Bridge’s niche as a potential one-mana removal spell in artifact decks has been greatly diminished by the existence of Fatal Push and tons of other good Improvise cards. However, it still has one big thing going for it, and that’s its use as a big source of lifegain. It’s hard to get this much lifegain in non-green, non-white decks, and there’s plenty to use the life on. It’s also a reasonable sideboard option for times when burn is getting a bit too popular.

While Battle at the Bridge is probably more of a sideboard card here, this list does feature a ton of new stuff.

One of the best cards in Aether Revolt, it appeared in tons of the decks from last week, and it will continue to appear in tons more. It really is the second-coming of Hangarback Walker. It’s less devastating of a threat early, but it can totally take over a game late. It’s also a tremendous combo with Scrap Trawler, making every single artifact that goes to the graveyard a potential Regrowth for the Ballista (since X=0 in the graveyard).

Tezzeret the Schemer isn’t as enticing as Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, in my opinion. However, the card still has plenty of play to it. It has built-in removal that can also be used to hit hard out of nowhere. Giving your Aethersphere Harvester +4/-4 can be a pretty big game.

It’s also another five-color fixer, and alongside Cultivator’s Caravan, Prophetic Prism, Spire of Industry, and Aether Hub, it can be part of the plan for supporting a five-color Dimir Artifact deck.

It’s an accelerator, but the Etherium Cells stack up, so we can play a seven-drop the turn after Tezzeret if we want. While we’re making the Cells, we’re also making lots of artifact enters-the-battlefield triggers, and the Cells, themselves, well, hell, they’ll Improvise creatures like flying 5/5s or a Battle at the Bridge of any size.

An in-depth analysis of Tezzeret can be found here.

Tezzeret’s Touch is an interesting twist on Ensoul Artifact. For one more mana, you get to rebuy the artifact if/when it dies. A couple of interesting interactions:

  • Walking Ballista: The Ballista’s +1/+1 counters stack with the Touch, so even a turn 2 Ballista attacks for six on turn 3. This lets you shoot something without it dying, and if it does die, you might be able to play it for a fair bit bigger of an “X” the second time
  • Key to the City: When Key to the City attacks for five, you can still pay two mana to draw a card when it untaps
  • Aethersphere Harvester: Aethersphere Harvester has flying, regardless of whether you crew it or not. Likewise, you can give it lifelink without actually having a crew

Aethersphere Harvest is efficient on mana, has great stats and abilities, and offers some invaluable flexibility. It’s not busted like Smuggler’s Copter. It’s just a good card with a lot of applications, especially when you’ve already got natural crew members lying around like Walking Ballista and Pilgrim’s Eye.

Speaking of 1/1s, a card I didn’t include but we may want to consider combining with Tezzeret’s Touch is Electrostatic Pummeler.

While traditionally used in G/R Energy decks with lots of pump spells, Tezzeret’s Touch is a very interesting new way to push the Pummeler. Changing its stats to 5/5 means we only need three extra energy to attack for twenty in one hit. Key to the City making the Pummeler unblockable and we might really be doing it. Besides, getting to rebuy Electrostatic Pummeler if it gets killed is pretty sweet.

An excellent card, Metallic Rebuke gives us some much-needed early interaction while also letting us force through key turns or keep our shields up without wasting a lot of mana. In many ways, Metallic Rebuke is like Circular Logic.

Once you’re playing the enablers, you might as well play some Metallic Rebukes if you’re playing blue.

This list doesn’t push Reverse Engineer that hard, but I can imagine a lot of potential for Reverse Engineer as an excellent source of raw card advantage in decks with Whirler Virtuoso and Maverick Thopterist.

Herald of Anguish is the most exciting of the new Improvise creatures, I think. It’s a flying threat that hits hard, is too big to Grasp of Darkness, and blasts through Mindwrack Demon and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. The discard ability gives us a lot of payoff for going to the trouble of casting it early. The -2/-2 ability gives us a way to profitably use all these artifacts we’ve got lying around, while also triggering Scrap Trawler.

This card is excellent. It will be a Modern staple thanks to fetchlands, but it’s also going to be a Standard staple thanks to how incredibly efficient it is. It’s going to be interesting to see how the desire for options to trigger Revolt at instant speed change other card valuations. For instance, Tireless Tracker is an excellent source of Clues, which in turn are excellent ways to ensure you can Revolt at will.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Defiant Salvager may jokingly be the “New Arcbound Ravager,” but I’m not 100% sure the card is a joke. It’s a zero-mana sacrifice outlet, and sacrificing artifacts and creatures is pretty interesting.

This version is super-rough, but I can’t help but feel like there is something in this space just waiting for Sam Black to break open.

Sly Requisitioner lets us make a profit off each artifact we sacrifice, whether to cantrip or to turn into a trigger for Defiant Salvager or Herald of Anguish. With Marionette Master, we might just deal twenty to someone out of nowhere. Once you have Sly Requisitioner, a Marionette Master, and a Defiant Salvager to sacrifice stuff to, a Servo Schematic adds sixteen damage!

Yahenni can provide another zero-mana sacrifice outlet, but they also bring a lot to the table straight-up. After all, a 2/2 haste for three isn’t that far off, and the +1/+1 counters can really stack up. Add in the ability to become indestructible and things start getting enticing. Plus, for a cherry on top, “Aetherborn Vampire” makes for one-and-a-half good creature types.

Vampires might finally have enough support to be a deck!

Yahenni makes great use of Scrapheap Scrounger and, along with Indulgent Aristocrat, ensures we can always trigger Revolt, although we could get even more mileage out of them if we played a Cryptbreaker / Prized Amalgam / Haunted Dead / Voldaren Pariah build.

It’s not just Yahenni, either.

Gifted Aetherborn is a rare standout among Aether Revolt cards trying to play “fair Magic.” I think it’s likely to fly under the radar initially, since BB is a steep cost and it doesn’t have an immediately obvious Tier 1 home. However, it’s actually quite an efficient distribution of stats, plus deathtouch lets us trade up, while lifelink provides more value than we paid for, particularly when we get stat boosts from stuff like Indulgent Aristocrat and Stromkirk Condemned.

Between Indulgent Aristocrat and Drana, Liberator of Malakir, Winding Constrictor might be an interesting addition (obviously with Hissing Quagmire and Blossoming Marsh instead of the white lands, plus a couple more sources of green). That said, we’re not exactly short on two-drops, and we didn’t even use Asylum Visitor.

Winding Constrictor can be used in dedicated +1/+1 counter decks, but even just Walking Ballista; Rishkar, Peema Renegade; and Verdurous Gearhulk give us enough payoff to make it worthwhile. After all, how many bonus +1/+1 counters do you need to make your 2/3 for two a good deal? Rishkar plus Winding Constrictor is eight power already!

A much, much weaker Herald of Anguish, which might be okay except Barricade Breaker removes most of the need for such a thing.

While G/B +1/+1 counter-based decks already had access to Hazardous Conditions, Foundry Hornet provides an alternative that more efficiently fights 1/1s…if you don’t care about 2/2s. It’s also a creature, making it a possible sideboard bullet, accessible by cards like Traverse the Ulvenwald.

The format would have to get pretty intensively focused on Human aggro decks to get me interested in Fourth Bridge Prowler straight-up. That said, it is also a cheap source of Revolt-enabling, which might be enough to make it a fringe option. It may sound silly, but it is worth noting that Aethersphere Harvester does make us interested in one-power creatures in order to most efficiently crew it. It is also worth noting that Fourth Bridge Prowler works well with Liliana, the Last Hope. It can stack -1s to kill two-toughness creatures, it can chump block to protect her, and it’s a cheap creature she can get back.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner may remind people of Dark Confidant, but it’s actually more of a Pain Seer. That said, Pain Seer had a time and a place. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is even better at attacking, while also costing less life!

Gonti’s Machinations is kind of interesting from a Lava Spike perspective. After all, it’s just one mana to deal three damage; you just also have to/get to trade two energy for three life. However, it also produces energy, so if you have Spire of Industry, Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Live Fast, or the like, you can get it at a discount.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

There aren’t exactly an abundance of Aetherborn, but you might be willing to Midnight Entourage with just Gifted Aetherborn and Yahenni in some kind of a Vampires deck. That said, we might as well give full-on Aetherborn a looksie:

The lifelink from Gifted Aetherborn and Contraband Kingpin is much appreciated, as the last thing we want is for Midnight Entourage’s upside to become downside.

Vengeful Rebel works great with Yahenni and Syndicate Trafficker as sacrifice outlets, but we can actually go quite a bit further with the card.

Eldrazi Displacer automatically triggers Revolt, so if you get it with Vengeful Rebel, it’s like the Wasteland Strangler combo, but as many times as you want without needing to play any of the exile stuff. This combo is so attractive, it might spawn a deck in order to house it.

It’s important to note that Clues trigger Revolt, as does Gideon’s zero ability.

Hidden Stockpile is a reliable source of Revolt as well as a fine payoff for achieving it. The selection can really help to ensure we don’t flood mid-game. I’m a fan of this card, even if it can be a little bit mana-consuming at times. It is kind of hitting that sweet spot for me where I’m especially interested in making it work because of how incredibly fun the card is to operate. This is definitely one of the Aether Revolt cards I enjoy the most. Of course, that’s partly because it uses scry 1, the most fun mechanic in Magic.


Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Secret Salvage is a little inefficient to just function as a draw-three; however, in can totally work in this role from time to time. However, part of the distribution of power probably has to be a combo.

Once you exile a Hedron Alignment, you can get the other three into your hand. Cast one and loot away another, and you win. This may sound fancy, but it might actually be a killer sideboard plan that some opponents just can’t beat.

Why draw three when you can draw 30?

Great sweeper, a versatile sideboard card, totally maindeckable, gives us extra incentive to play more threes and fewer fives, more cards that can be played proactively rather than reactively (think Transgress the Mind vs. Negate).

Of course, it can also be used in Modern to cheat cards like Boom//Bust and Ancestral Visions.

Mostly a draft-only card; however, that it is a one-cost artifact creature does give it some purpose, since it’s possible we’d be especially in the market for enablers for some kind of Herald of Anguish aggro deck.

A little expensive and clunky, so probably not good enough; however, it is an enabler for Improvise and Revolt, and it can be a small source of card advantage that stacks with Herald of Anguish. I’m skeptical but open-minded.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Aethertide Whale has two primary purposes. It can function as a sort of Aetherling / Blinking Spirit, protecting itself for zero mana. You generally want to make sure you’re capable of generating four energy to lead into it, though, since opponents can try to kill it with its own energy ability on the stack.

I am not overly optimistic about this path, since the potential tempo loss is so great when opponents cast Grasp of Darkness or block with Archangel Avacyn. However, it does make for an interesting sideboard option for decks capable of generating (and using) a lot of energy.

The other main use for Aethertide Whale is for combo applications. It’s a big source of energy, and it has built-in recursive potential. Gonti’s Aether Heart plus Aethertide Whale is an interesting one-two punch, whether from Indomitable Creativity or otherwise.

Gonti’s Aether Heart has plenty of other potential uses. For instance, if you cast it onto a battlefield with Whirler Virtuoso and Panharmonicon, you basically win.

Every Thopter you make triggers the Heart twice, which makes four energy. Use three of it to make another Thopter and repeat. After you have a billion Thopters and energy, you can sacrifice the Aether Heart to take an extra turn and attack!

Interestingly, Gonti’s Aether Heart combines with two Felidar Guardians to make arbitrarily large energy. Two Felidar Guardians and a Panharmonicon makes arbitrarily large mana (and energy, if you have Aether Hub).

Baral’s Expertise involves mana-cheating and has the potential to play nicely with cheap cards with enters-the-battlefield triggers. It’s also just a potentially exciting tempo-play that might get a lot better with new cards that combo well with it.

I can’t help but feel like there’s something to understand about the interaction between Part the Waterveil and Inspiring Statuary

Thraben Inspector plus Metallic Rebuke is an excellent opening, by the way. Unfortunately, Spell Queller won’t work for us, since it clashes so hard with Crush of Tentacles.

Costing a mana less than Myr Enforcer (or a mana more, depending on your point of view) and picking up hexproof is already interesting.

Turn 1: Thraben Inspector or Implements of Improvement

Turn 2: Servo Exhibition or Cogworker’s Puzzleknot

Turn 3: Bastion Inventor!

I don’t know that Gearseeker Serpent is the right second big creature, but it certainly looks a lot better than Wind-Kin Raiders. Maybe we’re supposed to play Toolcraft Exemplar?

This is just a horribly inefficient distribution of stats and keywords for today’s Standard.

A step up from Void Shatter or Scatter to the Winds, Disallow isn’t quite Dissolve, but it is the next best thing and occasionally allows for some wild tactics.

Playing a turn 4 Baral, Chief of Compliance with Disallow up is very exciting, particularly when countering the spell gives you a free loot (which is worth more than scry 1 would have been, to be sure).

Of course, Negate is just a reprint, but it is worth noting this is a better time for Negate than we’ve seen recently. Planeswalkers are back, Emrakul is gone, and Smuggler’s Copter no longer gives people such a big incentive to play so many small creatures.

Walking Ballista can flip Archangel Avacyn!

Still, maybe we’re supposed to try Mausoleum Wanderer instead of Toolcraft Exemplar?

Eh. Not exactly the most Aether Revolting new deck. However, the bans have definitely changed the value of the existing cards quite a bit, so you never know.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Efficient Construction could just stack with all the usual suspects in a Metalwork Colossus deck, sure; however, it could also be the backbone of a dedicated Thopter deck:

Maverick Thopterist is an excellent creature, frequently giving us more stats than the amount of mana we actually pay. It fights removal well, blocks well, makes extra artifacts for Improvise, makes for flying threats, and is generally just an extremely powerful card. I don’t think people have found the best homes for it yet, but this one is going to be a monster.

As for this list?

You see, between Efficient Construction, Whirler Virtuoso, Maverick Thopterist, and Pia Nalaar, we’ve got an awful lot of Thopter production abilities…

While Inspiring Statuary is letting us use our Thopters as artifact mana, Mechanized Production lets us win the game on our upkeep once we’ve got seven other Thopters (which it will build us toward each turn).

Of course, if we’re trying to Mechanized Production, maybe we should be looking to Servos?

While this may seem pretty hardcore, there’s actually even one more step we could walk down the path of insanity.

Is it time? Mechanized Production on a Clue is a lot harder to interact with than on a Servo or Thopter. We could reasonably just hang out, play a midrange game, drop Mechanized Production, and win the next turn or in a few.

I’m not even joking. Even if we don’t play as many enablers as above, this end-game is deceptively strong.

Besides, maybe just Tireless Tracker and Trail of Evidence is enough?

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Better than most other versions of these types of designs. If there’s a mono-blue or U/G control deck that wants some early interaction, this one isn’t off the table. However, it has less going for it than Aether Meltdown, for instance, so we’d really have to value the ability to hit non-Vehicle artifacts. Even still, the fact that it doesn’t tap the artifact when played, nor does it stop artifacts with activated abilities not requiring a tap (like Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot), probably dooms Ice Over’s chances.

Blinking two creatures and drawing a card is actually kind of a lot of value. That said, you’ve got to work for it, and it’s pretty midrange value that doesn’t always help you when you’re losing.

Getting to blink Maverick Thopterist and Felidar Guardian is sweet, since the Guardian coming back blinks the Thopterist again!

We can’t retrigger Elder Deep-Fiend with the Stratagem, but getting to sacrifice Maverick Thopterist is absolutely fantastic, since we typically didn’t spend five on it, plus we’ve got a couple of Thopters to show for our troubles. Besides, getting to lock down our opponent’s land when we want to combo off with Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian is hugely important.

Leave in the Dust is basically an Into the Roil without the option to be played for two. We’d definitely be super interested in Into the Roil, but I’d be surprised if this version gets there, beyond the occasional fringe play in blue decks without black that want a little extra insurance against planeswalkers.

We’ve talked a bit about Quicksmith Spy in previous weeks, but in general, Quicksmith Spy is probably not good enough to play just for value. It does have “virtual haste,” since the artifact you power up can draw a card immediately. However, if your opponent kills your Quicksmith Spy in response to the trigger, you get nothing.

It is, however, only a single card away from having enough combo potential to change everything, for instance, if an upcoming set gives us a way to reliably untap artifacts (like Mind Over Matter) or an artifact that can untap itself over and over (like Blasting Station, Honor-Worn Shaku, or Staff of Domination).

Some important interactions to note:

  • Key to the City: Normally, you’ve got to discard a card to tap Key to the City. With Quicksmith Spy, you actually get to draw one, and then another when it untaps.
  • Panharmonicon: With a Panharmonicon on the battlefield, you get to “power up” two artifacts. This can lead to card advantage spiraling out of control.
  • Paradox Engine: With a Paradox Engine, every card you cast untaps everything, including your Quicksmithed artifact. If you’ve got some artifact mana, you might even be making a profit each time.

Probably too much work as an “engine” for untapping your Quicksmithed artifact.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

I don’t think this one is actually going to end up getting there, but I’ll be damned if that is for lack of trying!

While we’re not likely to stack up that many block triggers, it’s still a 0/4 flash for two, and if we ever draw a card from it, we’re doing pretty well.

Alternatively, are we supposed to use it in U/R Dynavolt?

I don’t love the Aether Thief’s vulnerability to Fatal Push, but getting to cast it with flash can let us sneak a cantrip out of it a little more often. Still, I have nightmares of blocking a Grim Flayer and then getting Pushed out of the way.

You know… even if we don’t maindeck it, it’s not necessarily out of the question as a sideboard card…

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Skyship Plunder joins a relatively small group of cheap cards that can put extra loyalty counters on your planeswalkers (along with Animation Module and Oath of Gideon, as far as Standard goes).

Besides, it really doesn’t take all that much to get us interested in a 2/1 flier for 1U. It’s far from a slam dunk, but Skyship Plunderer is well worth consideration.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

I’m more interested in Trophy Mage in Modern, as discussed here. However, I’m trying to see what we might be able to put together in Standard at the moment:

Sram’s Expertise makes playing a ton of threes less painful, making it good to draw two (and in the case of Trophy Mage, it counts as two itself).

While there is some cool stuff to tutor up, having such a large three-cost toolbox, at least like this, is going to make for a clunky deck. It seems more likely that if we’re going to make Trophy Mage work, it should probably be in a little bit more moderation (although still with Sram’s Expertise or Yahenni’s Expertise).

What are the most exciting artifacts to search up?


You don’t have to get carried away with too wide of a selection of artifacts to tutor up, but I would try to make sure to have at least one artifact creature threat (like Combustible Gearhulk).

The second-best Tezzeret in the set; an in-depth discussion of the card can be found here.

An in-depth analysis of Dark Intimations can be found here.

As for an updated list:

Baral makes a great fit with Dark Intimations. Getting to play Dark Intimations ahead of schedule or with mana up is great anyway, but the real synergy is that Baral is a very powerful creature that people will want to go to great lengths to kill. This makes it a lot easier to guarantee that Dark Intimations will get something back.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance isn’t the best fit with the counterspells, but it is another must-kill that can be brought back by Dark Intimations. Of course, that raises a really interesting question. If we have a way to recur both creatures and planeswalkers, what are the absolute most devastating creatures and planeswalkers we can bring back?