Welcome back! Aether Revolt is almost upon us, and I’m back with the second part of my financial set review. Aether Revolt might be the most exciting small set I’ve ever covered, and I can’t wait to see the impact it’s going to have on both Standard and Modern. If you missed the first part of my set review, you can find it here.
At any rate, you’ve probably skipped past this intro in your eagerness to see what I think about Aether Revolt‘s red, green, multicolored, artifact, and land cards. Let’s get going, shall we?
Indomitable Creativity – $4.99
Indomitable Creativity is really interesting. It isn’t all that hard to set up some sort of Polymorph-style combo that will get you Emrakul or Ulamog (albeit without their cast triggers), which makes this card hard to ignore. Even better, Indomitable Creativity gives you some flexibility later in the game to take out some of your opponent’s more problematic permanents in addition to setting up your combo.
The problem is that Indomitable Creativity is fragile, hard to cast, and hard to set up. It’s also in a set that’s overflowing with other potential combo pieces. There’s some real upside here if Indomitable Creativity becomes a top-tier enabler in the vein of Aetherworks Marvel, and a good Pro Tour finish could cause this card to spike above $20. It’s a long shot, though, and the odds are much greater that this ends up in the bulk bin. I’m staying away unless I start to hear the pros (or Saffron Olive) start rumbling about this card’s possibilities.
Lightning Runner – $3.99
There are two chances for Lightning Runner to break out: A G/R Energy deck or a mono-red aggro deck. Neither archetype is exactly tearing up the format right now, and it’s no guarantee that either would want to run a five-mana 2/2 anyway. That might change if the format evolves in such a way that red players can expect that their opponent won’t have a way to block and kill a 2/2 double striker on turn 5, but that doesn’t seem especially likely to me. Chances are that Lightning Runner isn’t speeding anywhere except the bulk rare bin.
Kari Zev’s Expertise – $3.99
This is the expertise with the cheapest mana cost, and I have to believe that it sees play if the format has any aggressive red deck at all. Those decks always have a glut of two-drops, and it’s not all that hard to make this card into a one-mana Threaten early in the game with some added flexibility of being a decent late-game draw. Kari Zev’s Expertise is not very good against Emrakul or a pile of infinite combos, though, so there’s a better-than-average chance that it ends up being a little too cheap and narrow to give you the sort of payday you’d want. It’d rather put my money in Sram’s Expertise, which also costs $4 and feels more likely to pay off. I expect this card to end up in the $1-$2 range fairly quickly.
That said, it is worth noting that this card can enable a three-mana Armageddon with Boom//Bust in Modern. Copies of that card are still under $10 and it’s a long shot to be reprinted, since it’s a split card. I wouldn’t mind owning a set or two of those just in case it sees another spike.
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider – $3.99
Not only is Kari Zev one of the coolest cards in the set, it’s also one of the best. Granted, it’s possible that Aether Revolt will never be legal in a Standard format where attacking with two-drops on the ground is a good way to win you games, but the value here is just absurd. Not only do you get three power and four toughness for your mana, but it’s split across two attackers with relevant abilities.
Even though I’m high on Kari as a Standard-playable card, I’m low on her from a financial perspective. Kari Zev isn’t very versatile—if you’re not attacking every turn, she’s going to look pretty pitiful—and she’s mediocre at crewing Vehicles. She’s also a legendary creature, which means that you probably don’t want four in your deck. Kari might be able to sustain a $4-$5 price tag, but there’s just no upside here beyond that. She’ll probably end up closer to $2 before long.
Freejam Regent – $0.99
There might be a deck that wants to try to jam this thing out for two mana on turn 4 or whatever, but wouldn’t you be better off going with Herald of Anguish in almost every case? Future bulk rare.
Pia’s Revolution – $0.99
There’s an outside shot that Pia’s Revolution sees some play in a Modern deck like Affinity or Ironworks Combo where the “punisher” aspect of the card isn’t really a choice at all because your opponent is going to die regardless. Those decks are pretty streamlined already, though, and it’s a bit of a long shot at best. If you’re a believer, focus on foils—they’re an intriguing buy at just $3, since this card’s best chance is in Eternal.
I don’t currently see a place for Pia’s Revolution in Standard, but this is the sort of card that’s easy to miss on because of just a single hard-to-find interaction. Like so many spells in this set, it’s very likely a future bulk rare that has a long shot of paying off.
Release the Gremlins – $0.99
Release the Gremlins is fantastic in a metagame where it always has a target. Manic Vandal is very playable, and this is one that can scale up in the late-game. Without a target, of course, Release the Gremlins a dead card—a problem that Manic Vandals doesn’t have. The fact that you only need one red mana to cast this makes it splashable, though, and if Aether Revolt has the impact I think it will, this will see a fair amount of play as a utility player. I doubt this ends up higher than $4-$5, but it’s a solid buy at $1. Grab a set.
Quicksmith Rebel – $0.49
You’ll be happy whenever you open this in Limited, but it’s not worth talking about for Constructed. Future bulk rare.
Rishkar, Peema Renegade – $5.99
If there’s a G/W Tokens deck (and I think there will be), it has to consider running Rishkar, right? It’s only good if there’s at least one other creature on the battlefield, but four power for three mana with the potential of making two of your tokens into mana creatures is quite interesting.
The other place I’ve seen a lot of Rishkar hype is in the Winding Constrictor decks that were kicking around the Internet all weekend. It’s possible that there are two solid homes for Rishkar (plus casual love!), which is why he’s jumped up to $6. At this point the card is just too expensive for me to recommend pre-ordering, though. It’s legendary, so it’s going to be a three-of at most. I suspect an eventual end point in the $2-$3 range.
Greenbelt Rampager – $3.99
Hoo boy. In case you didn’t know, you can cast Greenbelt Rampager without enough energy to keep it, retain priority, tap it to crew a Vehicle, and then return it to your hand. I expect that interaction to come up in Standard a decent amount this coming season, though it would have been much better if Smuggler’s Copter was still around.
Greenbelt Rampager would be busted if you could choose whether or not to pay the energy, but it is mandatory—if you have the energy, you must pay. That said, getting a 3/4 for one mana is a pretty nice boon to the G/R Energy deck, and the fact that this has some combo potential with Revolt or other enter-the-battlefield cards in earlier formats shouldn’t be overlooked. Cheap Elephants aren’t the financial windfall they used to be (Call of the Herd was a $20+ multi-format staple once upon a time), but I like this one at $4 because it’s got one obvious home with a chance at being a multi-format staple.
Aetherwind Basker – $2.99
Is a 9/9 trampler with upside worth seven mana? I suppose, but cards like this haven’t been good in Standard for a long time. Aetherwind Basker is good at attacking, but seven-mana creatures need to do more than just threaten a good attack in the year 2017. Future bulk mythic.
Rishkar’s Expertise – $2.99
Rishkar’s Expertise doesn’t look all that great at first glance because WotC has been printing these “draw cards equal to the greatest power among creatures you control” spells since 2009 and none of them have been very good. I always get fooled by them, too. I thought Momentous Fall would be one of the better cards from Rise of the Eldrazi—nope. Then I went in on Life’s Legacy in Magic 2015 and was disappointed again. This sort of effect is playable in the right form, though, and both Garruk, Primal Hunter and Prime Speaker Zegana saw a little play in their day.
This may be a Charlie Brown and the football situation, but I think Rishkar’s Expertise is much better than it looks. The big problem with these cards is always that you have to take a turn off to use them. Rishkar’s Expertise fixes that problem, and there will be plenty of situations where you just get to play your four- or five-drop on turn 6 while also drawing three or four cards. That’s game-breaking. Standard might be too fast for something like this to be good, but to me it looks like one of the best card draw spells printed in a long time. I’m in for a set at current retail.
Aid from the Cowl – $1.99
Standard probably doesn’t have enough deck manipulation for you to use this as a way to regularly hit Emrakul. And besides, Aetherworks Marvel is just straight-up better at enabling that kind of deck. Eternal formats already have better options already, too. I hate to sleep on cards that cheat permanents onto the battlefield because they always seem to over-perform, but Aid from the Cowl screams bulk rare to me, though it could be a great long-term buy at some point.
Greenwheel Liberator – $1.99
Greenwheel Liberator is a 3/4 for two if you’re running Greenbelt Rampager or you play it post-combat after a creature has died. I doubt that pushes the card above Sylvan Advocate, though, and the green Stompy deck probably wants more energy-centric cards to cast on turn 2.
Greenwheel Liberator isn’t unplayable, and there might even be a deck where it shines, but I don’t think it becomes the multi-deck staple that would be required for this to be a good spec. Grab a set if you want to play with them, but don’t go too deep. It’s the sort of card that might break out a few months from now, and I’ll probably recommend it as a spec once it drops below $1.
Heroic Intervention – $1.99
Heroic Intervention foils should be a great long-term hold. This is exactly what green decks want in Commander: a way to let your team dodge the inevitable Wrath effects that dominate the format. I doubt that Heroic Intervention ends up replacing Blossoming Defense in Standard, but it will likely be a sideboard card in some matchups and it could up seeing significant play if a pushed sweeper shows up in a future set. There’s not much upside here, but you can’t go too wrong at $2.
Hidden Herbalists – $0.99
I’m just throwing this on here because I’ve seen a lot of Burning-Tree Emissary comparisons and the conditionality on Hidden Herbalists makes it much, much worse. It might see some play in a dedicated shell, but don’t expect this to be a multi-format all-star.
Tezzeret the Schemer – $19.99
I really like Tezzeret the Schemer, but it’s just too narrow a card for me to imagine there being more than one good Tezzeret deck in the format. Four mana and five starting loyalty are both pretty nice, though, and a good Tezz-centric brew will want to run a full playset of these. It’s a solid $20 card that could see brief spikes to $30 or $35 if everything breaks right, but $8-$10 is where most of these sorts of planeswalkers tend to land if they don’t end up being format-breakers. I’m rarely a fan of pre-ordering expensive planeswalkers, so I’m staying away at current retail. It’s interesting that this price hasn’t moved since the Copter banning, though – to me, that gives Tezzeret a far greater chance of actually panning out and delivering a profit.
Ajani Unyielding – $14.99
This is the sort of planeswalker that would have been $25-$30 during previous preview seasons, but people have gotten smarter in recent days. Regardless, $15 is still probably too high for Ajani Unyielding. He’ll probably see play as a two-of if there is a G/W Midrange or a Super Friends deck in our future, but a six mana planeswalker can’t ever be a four-of and his color requirements are just too narrow for me to be very excited. I’m thinking $6-$8 with $15 upside if the format breaks in Ajani’s favor.
Oath of Ajani – $3.99
Oath of Ajani is powerful, but it’s not as amazing as some people seem to think it is. The first part of the card is much better late in a game, and the second part of the card is only good early on. That means that Oath of Ajani will rarely be dead but it will almost never be great. A hypothetical G/W Tokens decks wants two to three of these anyway, but it’s a casual-only card beyond that. I’d like it at $2, but $4 is too rich for my blood. I think the price gets cut in half eventually, though I do expect it to see some play regardless.
Dark Intimations – $0.49
Dark Intimations is a playable card without Nicol Bolas, though its mana cost is prohibitive and I don’t think there’s going to be a Grixis Control deck in the current Standard metagame. Regardless, I’ll probably try to grab a stack of these for twenty cents or a quarter each and then try to flip them for $3-$4 once Amonkhet previews start and some absurd new version of Nicol Bolas shows up for people to go crazy over.
Colorless, Artifact, and Land
Heart of Kiran – $22.99
Heart of Kiran is not Smuggler’s Copter. Were it legal in the format, I would still want the Copter in most situations. I suspect the Vehicles decks would have made room for one or two of these had Smuggler’s Copter stayed legal, though, and I liked it as a pre-ban spec back when the price was just $15. Crew 3 is tough, but if you’re already running Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to help pay for the alternate cost and your deck is full of cards like Depala, Pilot Exemplar, it’s a little more palatable.
The problem is that Heart of Kiran went up in price after the Smuggler’s Copter ban instead of down. This is backwards. Heart of Kiran would have played well in Copter decks, and the lack of them makes the Crew 3 so much harder. It was also the perfect card to help defend your planeswalkers against opposing Smuggler’s Copters, which is not something that midrange and control players have to worry about anymore. I understand not wanting to miss out on the next Copter, but you should not pre-order this card at $23.
That said, Heart of Kiran will probably see some play. The fact that Heart of Kiran can come down early and protect your planeswalker in combat for the cost of a single loyalty counter is a nice way to defend against aggressive flying decks. The fact that it has vigilance and can pull double-duty in these sorts of situations is nice, too. I’m thinking that the $5-$7 range sounds about right to me.
Paradox Engine – $9.99
Paradox Engine is a very cool card with some intriguing upside. Cryptolith Rite seems like the best enabler in Standard, so I’d grab a set of those if you want to mess around with this deck. Duskwatch Recruiter likely belongs in that deck as well, though there are plenty of places to go once you’ve got that core.
Outside of Standard, Paradox Engine could help Storm in Legacy (unlikely unless the deck moves more toward mana rocks), Storm in Vintage (better, but redundant?), Elves in Legacy or Modern (probably too expensive to cast and potentially redundant), or possibly some sort of Sprout Swarm / Intruder Alarm / Jeskai Ascendancy nonsense deck. I have no idea if any of this will come to pass, but the buy-in is pretty reasonable, considering the fact that Paradox Engine will be a beloved casual card and a chic spec for years. I don’t mind paying $10 for these, though it has a much higher chance of being a non-factor in Standard than many of Aether Revolt‘s other, more obvious combo pieces.
Planar Bridge – $7.99
Modern Tron will at least consider running this as a nominal Eye of Ugin replacement, but the fact that you have to pay fourteen (!) mana before you actually get anything makes me think that Planar Bridge will not become a multi-format staple. It’s a fantastic card in big-mana Commander decks, though, and I’m guessing casual demand will keep it in the $5 range. Because of that, $8 isn’t a bad deal if you’re more bullish on the card’s Constructed playability than I am. Personally, I’m going to hold off for a couple of months and try to save a few dollars.
Walking Ballista – $6.99
It’s hard not to compare this to Hangarback Walker, but I don’t think that Walking Ballista will be an auto-include in every deck like Hangarback Walker was during its heyday. That doesn’t mean it won’t see play, though. People are excited about Walking Ballista in G/W Tokens and Constrictor decks, and early testing notes seem to indicate that this card is legit.
It’s also worth talking about the outside shot that Walking Ballista has to make an impact in Modern. Triskelion can’t be fetched with Trinket Mage, but this can. That might be enough to push this interaction into the competitive sphere.
Even though I wouldn’t buy a set of these at retail, there are other financial actions worth considering. Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is already a popular Commander card, and Walking Ballista goes into that deck alongside Triskelion. It’s not an instant kill, but it’s a solid secondary play.
I’d also think about snagging a set of Mephidross Vampire. It’s a $6 card that goes infinite with Walking Ballista, and it’s only been printed once: in the woefully undersold Fifth Dawn. It’s unlikely that Walking Ballista changes the calculus to the point where Trike combo is suddenly a Tier 1 deck, but Mephidross Vampire has almost unlimited financial upside if it does.
Aethersphere Harvester – $5.99
I really liked this card at $4, but it’s still a reasonable buy at $6. Aethersphere Harvester seems like a better defensive Vehicle than Heart of Kiran, and if anything is going to lay claim on the title “next Smuggler’s Copter,” this is it. Both Glint-Nest Crane and Trophy Mage play well with Aethersphere Harvester, and there’s probably some room in the format for a deck like that. The low crew cost opens up some room for it in other control and midrange brews, lifelink is an underrated ability in those sorts of decks, and this thing dodges Fatal Push really well. I could see this spiking to $10-$12 before settling back down to the $5 range once the hype dies down.
Gonti’s Aether Heart – $4.99
Time Warps are almost always worth $5 over the long haul, and Gonti’s Aether Heart doesn’t require you to play any other energy cards in your Commander deck. That’s important, because if this were a parasitic spell that didn’t generate energy on its own, I’d be much lower on it as a long-term casual hit.
Gonti’s Aether Heart is a non-starter in Modern, though, and I don’t think it’ll have a major impact on Standard, either. Aetherworks Marvel decks might want one or two copies between the maindeck and sideboard, and there might be some sort of Whirler Virtuoso deck that wants this for its first ability. If it’s just a casual and sideboard card, I doubt it’ll break out of the $2-$3 range (though it will be a nice long-term buy at some point). If you’re buying at $5, you’re betting on it seeing play across multiple artifact/energy decks. I just don’t see it.
Metallic Mimic – $4.99
Metallic Mimic has just the right amount of competitive upside and casual floor to make me really excited. There’s a shot that Metallic Mimic could be a staple in B/W Humans, enable a new Animation Module combo deck with Servo tokens, and do something with one of the Innistrad tribes that hasn’t quite broken through yet. It’s also a card that every casual mage wants for their kitchen table tribal decks—as a two-mana artifact creature, it can fit in anywhere.
The only problem with Metallic Mimic is that it’s a $5 rare in a very deep set. How high can you really expect it to go? It’s a great long-term hold with some short-term spice, but it’s very fairly priced at the moment.
Spire of Industry – $4.99
I almost copy my Metallic Mimic paragraph and paste it here. Spire of Industry has a ton of game in Standard right now and it’s about as close as it gets to an auto-include in almost every Commander deck. There’s not a ton of immediate upside because of how good Aether Revolt is, but I doubt this card goes below $3 and you’ll want a bunch of these for the long-term.
Unlike Metallic Mimic, though, I’m probably going to grab a set of these at $5. Best-case, this thing ends up in the $10-$12 range for a while because it is a four-of in two or three of the format’s best decks. Worst-case, I already have four Commander decks that would go crazy for this. Pre-ordering good lands in the $5 range is rarely a bad call.
Hope of Ghirapur – $2.99
Seriously, how does this set have so many interesting cards? I honestly have no idea how good Hope of Ghirapur will be, but I think the comparisons to both Xantid Swarm and Silence are wrong. Both of those cards are better at shutting your opponent down for one (or more) turns and Hope of Ghirapur isn’t going to replace them.
In truth, I think Hope of Ghirapur is more accurately described as a Kitesail Scout with upside. You get to peck away in the air with this thing until it either becomes outclassed or you’re really fearing a particular spell, at which point you can pop it for value. I’d be a bigger fan of Hope of Ghirapur if there was better Equipment right now, but I still wouldn’t be shocked if it saw at least some play in both Standard and Modern. $3 isn’t bad for a one-drop artifact that might end up being good in multiple formats, so I’m going to try to snag a few at current retail just in case.
Inspiring Statuary – $2.49
Inspiring Statuary is a very cool combo enabler, but it’s harder to build around than it looks. Multiple copies don’t really do anything, you have to run enough artifacts to make the improvise good, and you can’t run so many that you don’t have any good spells to use the ability on. Spells that make Servos or Clue tokens work, though, and I can certainly imagine a world where there is some sort of second-tier Inspiring Statuary deck in Standard. I’m a bit bearish on the card for Commander play, though, since you can’t just jam it into your artifact decks and use it to go off.
Like most of the combo pieces in Aether Revolt, Inspiring Statuary has a small chance of being a format-defining card and a large chance of being a bulk rare. I’m staying away, but don’t sleep on this card if you start to hear rumblings about some really effective brew. Inspiring Statuary is a $10+ card if it overperforms early on.
Lifecrafter’s Bestiary – $1.99
I like the look of Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, but it strikes me as a bit slow for Constructed. Aggro decks don’t want to take a turn off to play this, and I’m not sure midrange decks want to, either. I’d rather draw cards while continuing to play out my threats with something like Rishkar’s Expertise. I could see this making a small impact if the format gets really grindy, but it’s probably a future bulk rare.
Scrap Trawler – $1.99
Cards like Scrap Trawler tend to be too slow for Constructed, though there’s an outside shot someone makes this work with Pia’s Revolution in Standard. It’s decent in Commander if you’re running someone like Daretti, Scrap Savant, but that probably won’t prevent it from becoming a future bulk rare.
Merchant’s Dockhand – $0.99
Merchant’s Dockhand is about as fragile as an enabler can be, but it can dig through a potentially crazy number of cards in order to find you some gas or that missing combo piece. I highly doubt that Merchant’s Dockhand will be a major player in Constructed—in fact, it’ll probably end up as a bulk rare—but if the format somehow devolves into grindy artifact-based battlefield stalls, I could see it doing some serious work. I’ll probably grab a set just in case, since the buy-in is so low.
Peacewalker Colossus – $0.99
Some kind of all-in Vehicles deck might want a few of these, but Crew 4 is pretty expensive and a generic 6/6 isn’t that good. Future bulk rare.
Aether Revolt is a very good set. What it doesn’t seem to have is a marquee mythic—that one chase card that towers over everything else. Tezzeret the Schemer and Heart of Kiran are the most likely to get there, and only Tezzeret feels like it will. It’s possible that one or both end up being worth more than they otherwise would because of the lack of other strong mythics.
More likely, though, Aether Revolt‘s value ends up spread out among its deep stable of very good rares. There may not be a $20 card in this set two weeks from now, but there should be plenty of cards in the $3-$10 range. If none of the mythics break out, all of the rares that normally lose 30-40% of their value over the first month of the set’s release could retain most or all their pre-order price tags. This makes me more interested in pre-ordering cards from this set than normal.
In most sets, the two or three best cards are easy to figure out right away. We all knew that Liliana, the Last Hope would be good, and she was. But with Aether Revolt, I’m just not sure. There are several dozen really interesting cards in this set, and any one of them has the ability to make a major impact.
More than ever, I suggest paying very close attention to Week 1 results and professional player testing notes. If you see a list that really jumps out at you, be aggressive in picking up the pieces. I firmly believe that there are great cards in this set that we’re all sleeping on—I just don’t know what they are yet.