How To Evaluate Cards From Aether Revolt

The only thing better than a new set’s preview season is checking in with Magic’s best minds to lead us into the new era of our new formats. GerryT is here to do just that. Check out his excellent work in breaking down the hype into layman’s terms so that we can get ahead of our opponents during the early days of new Standard!

A new set on the horizon means it’s time for me to talk about new cards where I’ll inevitably miss a bunch of important stuff.

I swore I wrote something about this previously (and failed miserably at scouring my archive to find it), but evaluating new cards is difficult. I’ve fallen into every trap in the past, and I’m constantly trying to find ways to improve at it. The thing most people miss (including myself) is the fact that most new cards, good or bad, won’t cleanly slide into existing archetypes.

In this instance, we have to ask ourselves what Revolt and Improvise do for Standard. What cards are these mechanics backwards compatible with? Obviously these mechanics aren’t things you add to current Standard decks, so what sorts of archetypes are going to exist because of them?

It’s incredibly rare for a new set to have zero impact on Standard. It’s far more likely that a new set brings about new Tier 1 strategies. Getting in on the ground floor is the best way to succeed in the first weeks of the format, including at the Pro Tour.

The moral of the story is that new cards are often much better than they look at first glance. As more cards get previewed, better synergies become apparent, further increasing the power level of the previously previewed cards. Most of their power level, especially in a set like this, is going to be tied up in the other cards in the set, not in what’s currently in Standard.

Basically, the trick is to play with the new cards and explore the synergies rather than trying to slot new cards into existing decks. Most of the time, that isn’t going to work out well. Another thing I like doing is imagining what a deck or format would have to look like in order to make a weird new card desirable. You might see something that looks powerful, but don’t know where it goes. There could also be a card that is good against a certain class of decks, but those decks don’t exist at the moment.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room.

I love this card.

Keep in mind that the text isn’t “G: Make an energy.” You must pay EE if you have it.

If we’re not using the term literally, then we should also talk about the other elephant in the room.

Good card is good.

While not completely format-warping in Standard due to the fact that there are playable five-mana creatures and Revolting isn’t as easy as cracking your Polluted Delta, this card will still be played, likely in high numbers. It’s better than maindecking Galvanic Bombardment, mostly due to keying off converted mana cost and therefore removing larger creatures than the first Bombardment would, including Smuggler’s Copter.

As for Legacy and Modern? Well, I’m revisiting my stance on not playing Grixis Control anymore.

Drawing (nonland) permanents off this can be pretty powerful, especially if you’re hitting multiples at a time. Having six loyalty after you pass the turn is a nice place to be too. If you’re looking for a card advantage engine that can occasionally pick off an opposing creature, you’re in luck. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the place we’re in with Standard, at least at the moment.

Maybe Deploy the Gatewatch is a thing?

Oath of Ajani is nice in that sort of deck. Fumigate also curves well into Ajani Unyielding. I could see that becoming a fringe archetype.

The ultimate is lackluster, but if you’re deploying the entire Gatewatch, it is a game-winner. Then again, if you’ve got enough planeswalkers on the battlefield, how much help do you need?

This one is a clunker and I would be surprised if it showed up a ton.

The first time I read this, I was underwhelmed. What can I do with these imitation Lotus Petals? How large will the –X/-X be on average? To know those, I needed to see more cards in the set. Hopefully we get more to Improvise with than just imitation Lotus Petals. If that’s the case, the -2 ability starts looking better and better.

So far, the best things to use with Improvise (and Revolt) are Clues. That means we’ve got to take a second look at the best Clue makers.

I actually think we’re in a world where Magnifying Glass isn’t the worst thing in the world, and that’s a world I’m happy to live in.

So far, there’s one cycle I really like for Improvise and Revolt.

Unfortunately the blue and black ones are a little more expensive than the others, making them a tad more unwieldy, but their effects are also better.

Implement of Improvement is a Renewed Faith for control decks, whereas Implement of Combustion isn’t that crazy for the R/B Aggro deck I played last season. Each of these is more in the Metalwork Colossus deck too. Implement of Ferocity fits into any green deck with artifact synergies or Rishkar, Peema Renegade.

I was hoping I wasn’t going to have to play Consulate Dreadnought or some such to power Improvise. Merchant’s Porter is kind of in the same camp but might be a card you want to actually play. Renegade Map is legitimately good. Pacification Array also looks sweet.

In another world, I could see this card being a huge boon for Grixis tapout control decks. As is, that style of deck doesn’t really exist right now. I imagine a Nicol Bolas planeswalker is coming at some point, and that alone could determine whether or not this card has a home.

This is effectively Chord of Calling for artifacts. How good Chord of Calling typically is in any given format is directly tied to how powerful the silver bullets you can search for.

Maybe you want an Aetherworks Marvel. Maybe a Planar Bridge. Maybe a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Either of those sounds reasonable in the Metalwork Colossus deck.

Realistically, I think it’s going to be difficult to make a deck dedicated to it, but that is basically what the set is trying to do, so I hope I’m wrong.

I like this card probably more than I should. Upheaval-ing your opponent’s battlefield is very powerful in the right matchup. This is definitely something that a G/U creature deck would look at sideboarding for mirror-ish matches. Getting to cast a four-drop is just icing.

Note that you can bounce your own thing(s) if your opponent doesn’t have enough worthy targets.

This isn’t Languish. It’s especially worse due to the presence of Vehicles. The saving grace, for Standard at least, is the fact that you can clear a small battlefield and Ruinous Path or To the Slaughter their remaining big threat.

We’ve had a lot of Dark Confidant wannabes over the years, and this might be the one that actually sees play. Obviously we need some energy to make it work, and maybe there’s a shortage of that? Green is the best energy color, so maybe we’re going to see a new, weirder version of B/G Delirium? Then again, this energy stuff could be overshadowed by Emrakul, the Promised End.

Right now, the best uses for energy are Aetherworks Marvel and Electrostatic Pummeler. It’s going to be tough to top those. Maybe this is a sideboard card for G/B Aetherworks? Maybe Winding Constrictor makes B/G Energy possible?

Yes. Yes. Hell yes.

In the not so distant past, we played Arashin Cleric, okay? I’ve even been happy with Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim as just a 2/3 deathtouch blocking things like Reality Smasher. This card is certainly playable.

Is there going to be a heavy-black deck capable of casting this card? I have no idea.

If you wanted a sacrifice outlet, say for Revolt or Zulaport Cutthroat, here you go.

As Standard becomes more and more creature-centric, Yahenni’s first ability starts looking pretty good. Combat and trading are going to happen naturally, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this gets out of hand some of the time.

I bet if Yahenni doesn’t already have the Key to the City, they’re looking for it.

Goblin Electromancer is a sweet card, and looting helps you find more sweet cards to cast.

I’m not sure how many copies of this you’d want in a U/R/X control deck or even in a Dynavolt Tower or Bedlam Reveler deck, but it’s probably high.

Cool Platinum Angel variant or coolest Platinum Angel variant?

Is this a control finisher? Is this something you want to Aetherworks Marvel into?

I guess this is what we need to do to get a Searing Blaze these days?

Despite being clunky at three mana and there also being a lot of competition for the three-drop slot, this card will probably see play. We’ve definitely played worse cards in the past.

This is a prime example of a card that reads as strong, doesn’t fit in anywhere at the moment, and could potentially end up sitting on the sidelines all season. The reason could be as simple as there not being a lot of trading happening early on in the format, making the Rallier difficult to trigger. You could jump through hoops later to trigger it, such as with Implement of Ferocity, but is that worth it?

Since it’s a Human and Thalia’s Lieutenant exists, I’m guessing yes.

Do we play this with Aetherworks Marvel, Temur Energy, Panharmonicon, Cryptolith Rites, or Eldrazi Displacer? Maybe all of the above. This could be a game-changer for value-based decks.

Peacewalker Colossus is powerful. If you have two of them on the battlefield, it’s very easy to activate both. Maybe between this, Siege Modification, and Consulate Dreadnought, there’s a Vehicle deck that tries to cheat the crew costs. Maybe even Heart of Kiran is aggressive enough.

Start Your Engines could be a thing?

I could see this as another powerful card to Aetherworks Marvel into, but if you have Aetherworks Marvel, that’s probably where your energy is being spent.

The power creep is real.

It’s not clear whether or not we need these sorts of effects, but it’s nice to have them in the artifact block.

The Latest

These were the last previews I saw before I had to submit this article. Note that I haven’t 100% confirmed these yet and most of the images online aren’t in English, but there seems to be a consensus that they’re legit.

Walking Ballista: Trinket Mage got a few more options, and while none of them are spectacular, this is the best of the bunch.Playing against Affinity or Infect? Get this Triskelion variant. Playing against Jund or Grixis? Get Hangarback Walker.

Unfortunately for Standard, a ping here or there isn’t going to accomplish much in today’s world of powerful creatures. There are still going to be instances of this absolutely taking over in the late game though. It’s a card that scales well, so that alone should make it stand out.

Vengeful Rebel: This is kinda like black’s Reflector Mage. It conveniently works well with Yahenni, and makes me think there could/should be an Aristocrats-style deck. Cryptolith Rite still exists; we just didn’t have enough to do with it. Rishkar, Peema Renegade fits into that deck well.

Shock: Shock is kind of underwhelming in the damage output department. As a utility card, it’s tough to beat. How good Shock is depends on how likely you’d be to maindeck it if it didn’t target players. Right now, that’s debatable.

I would have loved to maindeck it in my R/B Aggro deck, so I’m assuming it’s good enough. There are many early creatures it doesn’t remove, which I imagine is going to be very frustrating.

Hidden Stockpile: This is a weird one, so it’s tough to evaluate, even with my abstract style of evaluation. The translation I’ve seen:

Revolt – At the beginning of your end step, if a permanent you controlled left the battlefield this turn, create a 1/1 colorless Servo artifact creature token.

1, sacrifice a creature: Scry 1.

Once you have it up and running, you can pay one mana to scry 1 once per turn cycle. There are some token applications. It’s a sacrifice outlet. How are we using it, though? I still have no idea.


So far, there don’t appear to be any Smuggler’s Copters in this set, or really anything that just appears busted on rate. I’m definitely fine with that. Instead there are a pile of cards that ooze value, which tends to make formats more fun in general. It’s possible that Improvise can be broken, as cost reduction typically is, but we’ll have to see the remaining 100 cards in the set to know exactly what we’re dealing with.

Next week, I’ll share some of my sweet decklists. Until then, dare to dream big, explore the new cards, and build some sweet decks!