Aether Revolt Complete Review: White And Artifacts

The brewing and new set knowledge aren’t over until The Innovator says they are! Patrick Chapin returns to lay down the last of the Aether Revolt landscape when it comes to card evaluation and fresh deck ideas! Best of luck at SCG Richmond, everyone!

Today, we’ll be concluding our exhaustive trek through Aether Revolt with a look at all the white cards and the artifacts. Blue and black can be found here. Red can be found here. Green can be found here. We’ll also be touching on a few of the successful decks from this past weekend. We’ve got a ton to cover, so let’s just dive right in!

Five mana probably prices this out of Constructed, particularly when Heart of Kiran, Aethersphere Harvester, and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship all fly already.

Similarly, Aeronaut Admiral is just not an efficient distribution of stats and abilities for Constructed. The fragility of the body makes it very vulnerable to cheap removal, and we can get fliers in Constructed at less of a premium.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

A 3/1 for two isn’t the worst set of stats, and it does have a somewhat useful creature type. The thing is, we have plenty of great options at two, so we’re really going to need to be making great use of the energy abilities to justify Aethergeode Miner. Veteran Motorist; Scrapheap Scrounger; Heart of Kiran; Sram, Senior Edificer; Kari Zev, Skyship Raider…there really is steep competition.

Aethergeode Miner’s blink ability most loudly can be used to dodge spot removal. That it blinks back means it can’t dodge sweepers. That it doesn’t get you energy until you attack once with it means there’s typically a “shields down” moment when you can fall behind to a Shock or Fatal Push. On the flip side, Servant of the Conduit, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, and Aethersphere Harvester work well with it, particularly against a removal-heavy deck without early blockers.

Aethergeode Miner can also blink in order to block and survive against a much larger attack, to get out of combat when blocked by a larger blocker, or to untap it and build “fake vigilance.” In fact, if you have enough energy, you could blink a Miner to block and then blink it again to avoid taking damage.

Finally, Aethergeode Miner can be used as a potential source of enters- and leaves-the-battlefield triggers. Every two energy you pay will give you another trigger, so as long as you make two energy per loop, you can do it as many times as you like. Anything you profit beyond that, you can repeat ad nauseam.

Looping Whirler Virtuoso with enough Decoction Module / Aetherstorm Roc / Panharmonicon types can lead to arbitrarily large triggers, arbitrarily large energy, and arbitrarily large flying tokens. Gonti’s Aether Heart is also kind of cute with the Whirler Virtuoso, since you only need one more combo piece in order to make arbitrarily large tokens.

If that combo piece was Panharmonicon or you have an additional combo piece, you can make arbitrarily large energy, easily paying the eight needed for Gonti’s Aether Heart to let you take an additional turn.

This is certainly not the only Felidar Guardian plus Saheeli Rai deck we’re going to look at today, but it does have some particularly sweet interactions in this deck.

In addition to the Splinter Twin-esque combo when used together, both halves can do some extra work to re-trigger enters-the-battlefield triggers. What’s more, Saheeli Rai actually functions as another full combo piece, since the combo pieces for the energy loop combos mostly stack with each other.

Felidar Guardian doesn’t actually count as a combo piece, but two of them give us arbitrarily large triggers with Pious Evangel, Aetherstorm Roc, Decoction Module, or Panharmonicon. Even just combining Panharmonicon with a single Felidar Guardian can give us four triggers from whatever we blink (such as a Whirler Virtuoso or, in a different deck, Maverick Thopterist).

In general, I think Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian is going to have a profoundly warping influence on the format. This doesn’t mean it needs to be banned or that it can’t be beaten. I just think the format will heavily revolve around the presence of this interaction, shaping the removal people play, the kinds of threats people present, and the pacing of successful strategies. With one weekend of results in the books, Saheeli combo is well on its way, putting 24 in the Top 64.

The two main styles, at least thus far, would appear to be Jeskai and Four-Color. The Jeskai lists are often like that of Daniel Fournier:

This deck plays a lot like a Jeskai Control deck before comboing off out of nowhere. It also gets extra mileage out of Oath of Jace, which makes for an excellent Felidar Guardian target.

The other style, Four-Color, has more variation, with some lists featuring a lot of creatures and playing a sort of “enters-the-battlefield” game. The other relies more heavily on planeswalkers and Oaths, playing a midrange control game and getting extra value from the Felidar blinks. The highest finisher was Robert Graves, piloting the first style:

With such an impressive opening weekend, I definitely expect to see a lot more copying of Cats in the weeks to come.

While that is a pretty reasonable chunk of life to gain, Airdrop Aeronauts isn’t in the same league as Arborback Stomper, which isn’t exactly setting any world records itself.

Alley Evasion is probably a Limited-only trick, but it is the right cost, and the combination of abilities is actually pretty respectable at the moment. The pump is perfect for combating cheap red burn and can usually be converted into a card in combat. The bounce ability can thwart removal or reset a Thalia’s Lieutenant.

There are plenty of worlds where a 3/1 for two with upside and a relevant creature type would have to be considered. In this one, however, Audacious Infiltrator isn’t even close. You’d have to really be in the market for another three-power two-drop Dwarf.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty. May I suggest playing Thalia, Heretic Cathar instead?

Too slow, expensive, and clunky for Constructed.

Probably too expensive for its lack of versatility, but it’s not completely out of the question to think a Sram, Senior Edificer deck could potentially value the Aura status (compared to something like Stasis Snare), since it is, I guess, an upgrade over Choking Restraints. For whatever that’s worth.

While obviously way, way more expensive than Modern counterparts, Consulate Crackdown is a niche sideboard option against Metalwork Colossus and other Improvise decks. It also might have fringe applications against Thopters and Servos.

Probably too expensive to operate in Constructed; but the Sram, Senior Edificer plus Conviction combo is cute. Now every three mana draws another card. It’s also a repeatable source of Revolt, assuming you’ve got that kind of mana lying around. Conviction on a Solemn Recruit might not actually be the worst.

Come on! We don’t really have to go that deep, do we? Do we?

Draft rate; however, Countless Gears Renegade does give us 3/3 worth of stats when stuff is working. It’s also spread across two bodies, one with a tribal reward and one with the benefit of being an artifact for our Toolcraft Exemplar or whatever.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

On the surface, Deadeye Harpooner looks like a Draft card. I’m not totally sure it isn’t secretly a Wasteland Strangler, though…

When Eldrazi Displacer blinks Deadeye Harpooner, you automatically have Revolt active when it comes back. This gives you as many instant-speed Assassinates as you want.

What’s more, you can use Eldrazi Displacer to tap opposing creatures, not to mention Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Authority of the Consuls (so as to not have to spend the mana). Authority of the Consuls has extra utility in this Felidar Guardian world, and the extra lifegain triggers from blinking opposing creatures every turn can add up. It should be noted that Eldrazi Displacer doesn’t stop the Saheeli Rai combo on its own, since blinking the Felidar Guardian in response to the Saheeli activation would give them another blink trigger anyway.

Eldrazi Displacer is actually pretty good against Walking Ballista, since it would always come back with zero counters (assuming they didn’t respond to the Displacer activation).

Of course, Walking Ballista has some interesting application in our deck, giving us an excellent way to trigger Archangel Avacyn at will (which Eldrazi Displacer could reset, if we needed).

A totally reasonable sideboard card, and if the format continues to slant more and more artifact-centric, even maindeck. In particular, Jeskai decks with Torrential Gearhulk will often find this a substantial upgrade over Fragmentize, thanks to the rebuy option for being an instant.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Flashy, but it seems unlikely that Exquisite Archangel is good enough. We wouldn’t play a 5/5 flying creature for five if that is all it had going on, so we’re paying more than a two-mana premium for this ability. That mana is mostly wasted in games that never get to a space where this ability could potentially trigger. Even in those games, the Exquisite Archangel could be killed before getting to use its ability. Even in the games where it lives and you would die, the Angel mostly just gives you some life back. It doesn’t actually help you stabilize beyond that.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Duel Deck rate, low Constructed novelty.

I’m not sure there’s a home for it yet, since good enchantments don’t go to the graveyard all that easily and decks that manage to get both into your graveyard usually don’t make the best use of a 2/1 Dwarf for two. That said, this card could rapidly ascend with the right cards printed in upcoming sets.

Solemn Recruit is flying under the radar at the moment, but it’s not actually a bad deal at all. The competition is high at the three-spot for white decks, but even without triggering it, you’re already getting a passable threat. It works great with cards like Oath of Ajani, both doubling the bonus from the +1/+1 counter and getting an additional +1/+1 counter from Oath of Ajani legend-ruling. Similarly, being a Dwarf means Solemn Recruit is entitled to Depala’s bonus, again getting double the boost.

Some interesting ways to trigger Revolt:

Sram, Senior Edificer is quite the Argothian Enchantress variant. Being a 2/2 for two means we’re already ahead if we draw even a single extra card. How hard we should “try” is an interesting question, but I could imagine Sram appearing in all sorts of random Vehicle decks, not just heavily dedicated Peacewalker Colossus builds. There is some tension in that Sram can’t crew a Heart of Kiran on his own, but that’s not necessarily a big deal.

Peacewalker Colossus and Siege Modification are substantially more powerful than Start Your Engines, and the printing of both Consulate Dreadnought and Heart of Kiran gives us a compelling reason to explore a dedicated Vehicles deck.

Additionally, Sram may appear in some sort of a Paradoxical Outcome deck alongside Cathar’s Shield and Bone Saw, as described here. Taking this to a bit of an extreme, he can even be used in Modern as Puresteel Paladins five through eight, such as the list Zac Elsik used to Top 8 an IQ this past weekend.

Sram’s Expertise is basically a white Hordeling Outburst that lets you cast another spell that costs three or less in exchange for the extra mana. Beyond that, it’s also a source of three artifact creatures, which works with a variety of synergies, such as Improvise.

The primary use, at least at the start, is surely as a dedicated tokens card. It pushes in a very opposite direction as Lambholt Pacifist, so we’re likely to see decks that maindeck Sram’s Expertise, declining to use the Pacifist, such as Evan Whitehouse’s third-place IQ list from this past weekend.

Likewise, lists with Lambholt Pacifist maindeck are more likely to have Sram’s Expertise resigned to the sideboard, such as Hunter Nance’s 4th place list from SCG Columbus.

A card worth noting in both lists:

Ajani Unyielding costs a lot but offers two big and very different strengths. First, as a raw card draw engine, it can singlehandedly overwhelm many midrange or control strategies. Beyond that, it provides additional creature kill for a strategy that has trouble coming up with slots for dedicated interactive cards. That he exiles the creature is not trivial, given the existence of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger; Scrapheap Scrounger; and so on.

Thopter Arrest is generally worse than Stasis Snare, but the ability to actually hit artifacts like Aetherworks Marvel, Cultivator’s Caravan, and Dynavolt Tower is enough that we should consider it for control decks. Maindeck or sideboard, Thopter Arrest has plenty of metagames where it can show up.

Too expensive, given how mediocre Ajani, Valiant Protector is. We’d have to really value tutoring up Ishkanah, Grafwidow every turn or something similar.

Ajani, Valiant Protector can’t protect itself well, yet costs six mana. It’s not zero percent, but this is generally more of a Duel Decks rate (even if it does have a little bit of Constructed novelty, in the ability to rig our deck to have nothing but platinum hits for the +1 ability).

An interesting +1/+1 counter option with a lot of competition. That said, I think the extra value from Revolt and delirium synergies, coupled with the occasional mana-saving, Oath of Ajani will show up from time to time (though probably not as much as a lot of people expect it to).

Draft rate. You could potentially build some arbitrarily large combos with it, but none of them are going to crack the top twenty arbitrarily large combos in this set, let alone be good enough to succeed in tournament play.

Simply excellent. Aethersphere Harvester isn’t the slam dunk Smuggler’s Copter was, but it has a lot of flexibility and is very efficient. It’s easy to crew, gives flying and lifegain to strategies that might not have it easily. It dodges Grasp of Darkness and is hard to Fatal Push or burn. What it doesn’t do, however, is kill Liliana, the Last Hope; Nissa, Voice of Zendikar; or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in one hit the way Heart of Kiran does.

Having at least two excellent new options for Vehicles that don’t require crazy stuff is going to be interesting. Obviously they have different crew requirements, and each has its own cost (Heart of Kiran is legendary with a demanding crew cost, whereas Aethersphere Harvester is better with a little energy, though it doesn’t require it).

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty beyond being a one-cost artifact creature.

There are a variety of Improvise fatties to choose from, and Barricade Breaker hits the hardest. Herald of Anguish is my top choice and Bastion Inventor’s ability looks the most appealing, but Barricade Breaker can be slotted into either deck’s secondary slot if desired. Being an artifact creature may ultimately prove Barricade Breaker’s undoing, though. People are already going to want to sideboard in their artifact removal for your enablers. At least if you stick a Herald of Anguish or Bastion of Invention, now you have a piece that works on a different axis. If you stick a Barricade Breaker, however, a single Decommission can ruin your day.

Fun combo with Metalworker. I really don’t think it’s time for Assembly-Worker tribal, though…

Self-Assembler is a potential source of card advantage, I guess, but the joke is that you can go search up a Cogwork Assembler. Then, every seven mana you spend, you make another copy, which then lets you search up another Assembly-Worker. Of course, the only other legal Assembly-Worker is Foundry Assembler.

I mean, I could easily imagine wanting this in the toolbox, but what are you even doing? This definitely strikes me as more of a series of casual and Draft interactions, at least until they print a busted Assembly-Worker next year…

Thanks to Peacewalker Colossus and Siege Modification, Consulate Dreadnought has a lot of ways to get into the red zone without having a full crew. That said, even when you do have to crew it, you’re getting more than just one point of damage out of it, since you can tap creatures you just cast and that wouldn’t have been able to attack, anyway.

Turn 1: Consulate Dreadnought

Turn 2: Sram, Senior Edificer

Turn 3: Depala, Pilot Exemplar, attack for eight (…and we’re on our way)

Consulate Turret isn’t a particularly fast or mana-efficient way to build energy. It’s also not a particularly versatile way to spend energy, since it can’t actually hit creatures the way Dynavolt Tower can. However, one thing it does do is provide an efficient way to produce energy if you have some looping way to untap it (like Paradox Engine or whatever). Nevertheless, this one is mostly for Draft.

Crackdown Construct was initially lumped in with Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian craziness, given the boundless loop of each. However, Crackdown Constructed is actually enormously harder to win with. First of all, the primary combo with Wandering Fumarole takes eight mana, not six (or three plus four). Additionally, the combo doesn’t have “haste” and is held off by a single blocker. There are plenty of ways to get it through, but now you’ve added a third piece to the puzzle.

One other Standard-legal way to “go off” with Crackdown Construct is with Kazuul’s Toll Collector. Now, you can pay 0 to move the equipment back and forth between the Crackdown Construct and Kazuul’s Toll Collector.

I went with Haunted Cloak and Strider Harness in order to open up the possibility of attacking for a billion out of nowhere. Haunted Cloak is particularly nice, since Crackdown Construct makes excellent use of trample.

Another possible direction to go is towards Cathar’s Shield and Bone Saw, maybe alongside Sram, Senior Edificer; Weapons Trainer; and Stone Haven Outfitter.

It’s an interesting card, but I am skeptical that cashing in our three-drop Vehicle for a Divination after two attacks is “upside.” And it’s not like a 4/4 Vehicle for three with a crew cost of two is in the ZIP code of something like Aethersphere Harvester.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Hope of Ghirapur offers a 1/1 flier to anyone that wants it.

  • It’s a cheap source of artifact for Toolcraft Exemplar, Unlicensed Disintegration, or Improvise.
  • It can contribute towards delirium or Revolt.
  • It’s a Thopter, if you Master Trinketeer.
  • It’s a one-cost legendary creature, for your Thalia’s Lancers.
  • It even has an ability! Getting to force through a key spell at a key spot is interesting, but it also “Time Walk” the opponent so that they can’t play a Saheeli Rai or Fumigate next turn, for instance.

In addition to showing up in Standard, I could totally imagine this appearing in some Affinity decks as a tool against combo.

A cheap enabler for Improvise, delirium, or Revolt, Implement of Combustion is also kind of cute as a form of disruption for the Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian combo. As long as you have an Implement of Combustion on the table and one red mana up, they can’t go off. When they use Saheeli Rai’s -2 ability, you can activate the Implement in response and redirect the one damage to her.

Implement of Examination is probably a little too expensive and clunky to use. It’s kind of a Courier’s Capsule, but way less easy to use (and that wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of card drawing capabilities).

Another cheap enabler, not to mention working okay alongside Toolcraft Exemplar. Thraben Inspector is the one-drop source of artifact of choice, but there could be decks that reliably want an artifact on one, even in the games they don’t draw the Inspector. Besides, paying two mana to gain two life and draw a card isn’t even a terrible deal or anything.

The price is right as an enabler for all the same stuff. That it can only be used as a sorcery means we’re basically going to have to be getting extra mileage out of the +1/+1 counter synergies. Of course, Walking Ballista; Rishkar, Peema Renegade; and Winding Constrictor make a pretty good start to that.

Costing two is probably a death sentence for Implement of Malice, but it is a possibility to keep in mind for some Herald of Anguish deck that wants more ways to enable its Improvise that can be turned into something valuable later besides just drawing more cards.

Inspiring Statuary is one of the most dangerous cards in the set. Maybe it doesn’t have a home yet… maybe it never will… but this is going to be an important card to keep working with, to find the busted deck with. The opportunity cost is just so low for how incredibly abusive it can be.

Combos with stuff like Key to the City take some of the pressure off so that you don’t have to be all-in on the crazy combo. Paradoxical Outcome and Paradox Engine are both very serious ways to potentially abuse the Statuary. It’s also a totally reasonable Aetherworks Marvel backup plan, particularly with Thopters from Whirler Virtuoso and Maverick Thopterist. It’s also potentially a key tutor-target for any Trophy Mage deck that may come to be.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Lifecrafter’s Bestiary is already showing up as a sideboard card for G/B Aggro or R/G Energy to help fight grindy matchups with a lot of removal. For instance, Daniel Weiser’s 23rd-place list from this past weekend’s Open:

It’s also showing up maindeck, such as in Hagan McHenry’s Top 8 list from the Classic:

In addition to its role as a card drawer and draw smoother, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary can be used as a combo card.

The main loop is Greenbelt Rampager plus Servant of the Conduit, although Rishkar, Peema Renagade can do a lot and Longtusk Cub gives us an additional way to sink whatever extra the Rampager is producing.

While we don’t need to combo off, Paradox Engine does make it surprisingly easy at times to do really crazy stuff. Even just untapping Rishkar, Peema Renegade and a Walking Ballista making mana can produce a surprising amount of mana when we’re drawing cards from Lifecrafter’s Bestiary over and over.

Just being a 1/2 artifact creature for one gives the Dockhand some purpose, and this ability doesn’t look half bad. You only need one other artifact to draw an extra card every turn. With a bunch of artifacts, we can start to do some pretty quick digging. If we have Paradox Engine and some artifact mana, we can start getting further and further ahead, eventually drawing and playing as much of our deck as we want.

Once we have enough artifacts on the table, we’re going to start netting mana every cycle. Walking Ballista is a way to convert arbitrarily large mana into a win, although it’s possible we need a one-of that lets us actually go arbitrarily large and not just “big.”

While Metallic Mimic’s initial buzz surrounded its interaction with Animation Module (as discussed in previous day’s reviews), its first tastes of success have come as a more traditional tribal lord. This past weekend, Tom Maney Top 32ed with a W/U Spirits deck that was in the market for another aggressive threat that helped pay off the dedication to one tribe:

Similarly, Adam Yurchick Top 64ed with his take on Boros Humans using the Metallic Mimic as a poor man’s Thalia’s Lieutenant.

Draft rate and relatively low Constructed novelty, since the one thing it does do (untap artifacts), it is so incredibly inefficient and awkward at.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Ornithopter has already proven itself a powerful enabler whenever there is a deck in the market for cheap artifacts. Improvise is probably the key to the Ornithopter’s next comeback.

Pacification Array is probably mostly for Draft; however, it is not out of the question to be a part of somebody’s Trinket Mage package. Besides, it is a cheap artifact for enabling Improvise that converts into a very useful Icy Manipulator variant later. I would actually think there’s more of a chance of Pacification Array making it into tournament decks than most might guess at first.

If Pendulum of Patterns cost one, I think there’d be a pretty good argument to be made for using it. At two, however, it’s probably not effective enough of an enabler to be worth the slot.

Planar Bridge is mostly just too expensive and over-the-top; however, it does have potential applications for decks that accidentally get arbitrarily large mana, particularly if they feature Whir of Invention. It also could be used as a serious over-the-top trump card for winning matchups that lock up.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

A passable enabler for Improvise, that helps us fit more artifacts into our deck without cutting spell slots. It’s disappointing that it doesn’t Improvise the turn you cast it (entering tapped). It’s also awkward sometimes when you draw it and miss your land drop.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

I’m intrigued by the card. I’ve even filled a spreadsheet with my ideas.

Likewise, Servo Schematic discussion can be found there, too. The short answer is that Servo Schematic, Cogworker’s Puzzleknot, and Servo Exhibition stack up for a lot of ways to get two artifacts on turn 2 for our Improvising.

Duel Deck rate, low Constructed novelty.

Treasure Keeper is discussed with Scrap Trawler above, but I think will ultimately prove too clunky.

Similar to Pacification Array, Universal Solvent is a Trinket Mage-option that is mostly about being an early Improvise enabler before turning into a late-game high-impact card. Too expensive to use “for value,” I would only use Universal Solvent if I were getting paid from the synergy in some way.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Draft rate, low Constructed novelty.

Aether Revolt has wasted no time making an impact. While G/B would appear to be the big winner Week One, Saheeli Combo, G/W Tokens, and Mardu Vehicles all put up good finishes. I predict we’ve only just scratched the surface. After all, now everyone knows about Walking Ballista