The 10 Most Likely Cards To Break In Aether Revolt

Aether Revolt’s SCG Tour metagame has shaped out, but The Innovator is not convinced. He fully believes the Pro Tour will look a lot different, and he has his eyes on the plethora of new set combo pieces that are dangerously close to the brink!

With the Pro Tour just days away, all eyes were on SCG Richmond. Last week, we saw a variety of shades of G/B come out on top with Saheeli Combo decks extraordinarily popular. Beyond that, G/W Tokens and various Scrapheap Scrounger decks were the only other major archetypes to Day 2, with countless rogue brews all over the place.

I’m not sure if people are intentionally saving stuff for the Pro Tour, if the SCG Tour players haven’t found anything new, or if the format really is this simple, but this past weekend’s results certainly don’t add much to the format. Is the format really this straightforward?

Signs point to “no.”

The real question, though, is what is it that is actually going to break?

To set the stage, here are the Day 2 results from this weekend’s Open:


Day 2 Metagame



Saheeli Combo


U/X Control


Scrapheap Scrounger Aggro


G/W Tokens




Not exactly the most diverse field, but it actually gets worse at the top. Yeah, there are two different styles of G/B and there are two different styles of Saheeli Combo. Still, the Top 8 was three G/B decks and five Saheeli Combo.

Ninth place?



Saheeli Combo.


Saheeli Combo.

In fact, 24 of the Top 32 competitors were piloting G/B or Saheeli Combo.


Okay, look. This set is complicated. The decks don’t just build themselves. There is an evolution that needs to take place. I’ve got a feeling this Pro Tour is going to be the unveiling of multiple revolutionary new decks, and honestly, this Pro Tour is at substantially above-average risk of breaking.

This list is an attempt to identify ten of the most likely ways the format could end up broken. This isn’t the ten best cards in Aether Revolt, either.

This set has already proven itself on the battlefield. The question is, what Aether Revolt cards actually lead to a break?

In most sets, Indomitable Creativity would easily crack a Top 10 list. There are so many combo kills possible, and it’s not like playing tokens and not playing creatures is the biggest ask in the world.

The aggressively Vehicles stuff is both good and interesting, but it’s not exactly flying under the radar, nor do I think it’s so powerful that it is likely to dominate. Decks using some amount of this stuff will do well. They might even be really good. However, they are probably not breaking the format.

The green Time Spiral seems like it’s missing something, but it wouldn’t take more than a single piece of technology to elevate the card to god-tier.

Now, I don’t think the real problem has been “only” drawing four to eight cards rather than ten. That said, whatever the “right” answer is probably involves designing well outside the box, an unintended interaction of unorthodox style.

This kind of card is never good. Get over it.

Oh? Really, no love for Garruk, Primal Hunter?

See? That’s what I thought…

Scrap Trawler has a high floor but also incredible high-end potential. Obviously rebuys on Walking Ballista are awesome, but Scrap Trawler’s incidental synergy with Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot and Renegade Map are worth more than might be clear at first glance. Where things might actually get crazy?

A deck that uses Scrap Trawler and one or more zero-mana sacrifice outlets…

Baral’s Expertise can just be used as a reasonable tempo card, and we’d almost be interested just on the merits. However, where the card really pulls ahead is with just how efficient of a combo card it is.

Bounce a bunch of zero-cost cards, drop an Aetherflux Reservoir for free, and you might really be doing it. Paradoxical Outcome is another great option for such a deck.

Paradox Engine with Cryptolith Rite.

Paradox Engine with Rishkar, Peema Renegade.

Paradox Engine with Cultivator’s Caravan and Hedron Archive.

Paradox Engine with Quicksmith Spy.

Paradox Engine basically doesn’t get used for purposes besides breaking it.

Kind of cute that Paradox Engine can be cast for free from Rishkar’s Expertise

You know what else can be abused with Paradox Engine?

Greenbelt Rampager is in that weird uncanny value between being a combo card and a value card. Thus far, even the Energy decks have declined the Rampager. Will it prove a total bust?

I don’t think so.

While Lifecrafter’s Bestiary can be combined with the aforementioned Greenbelt Rampager and Paradox Engine, it can do Thassa, God of the Sea duty with a little Bident of Thassa thrown in for good measure. Admittedly, this starts to pull us in some pretty fair directions. However, I think Lifecrafter’s Bestiary has a deceptively good rate and might have what it takes to elevate some weird deck to Tier 1 status thanks to the dimension it adds.

Maybe it’s in something like this, or maybe it’s in some kind of dedicated Vehicles deck. Either way, Sram, Senior Edificer can be used to turn lots of zero- and one-cost artifacts into an engine. Maybe it’s supposed to kill with Aetherflux Reservoir. Whatever we’re doing with it, though, there is greatly elevated risk with the card. There is precedent (Puresteel Paladin, Argothian Enchantress) and it wouldn’t take much…

Inspiring Statuary just looks so weird. Why would they make this? Maybe it’s busted with Part the Waterveil. Maybe Paradoxical Outcome. Maybe Paradox Engine.

Whether you’re reducing the cost of Part the Waterveil, Crush of Tentacles, Paradoxical Outcome, or even some nonblue card like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Inspiring Statuary is one of the most powerful and abusive cards of Aether Revolt.

We’re starting to get to the space where Inspiring Statuary not breaking would be at least a little bit surprising.

If I had to actually spell out all the Improvise cards that might break, this would be a rather boring list, as an awful lot of the slots would go to the Improvise mechanic. While Maverick Thopterist is my personal pick for best of the Improvise cards, but maybe we’re really supposed to be identifying this little creature for most likely to break…

Ornithopter, alongside Bone Saw and Cathar’s Shield, gives us a pretty ridiculous amount of “acceleration” if we want it. There are so many crazy good Improvise cards, I strongly think we do. It kind of reminds me of Treasure Cruise; Dig Through Time; Tasigur, the Golden Fang; Gurmag Angler; and Become Immense. Are they all absurd with fetchlands? Yes, like weirdly good. You can only play so many, but my goodness, are we not short on good options.

I think there’s a good chance people look back on the Improvise mechanic as though it was always obvious how much it’s the second coming of Affinity. Why would they do this? Did this set really need two super-pushed cost reduction mechanics? However we got here, this is where we’re at, and I think we’re going to find Improvise well beyond good enough.

I just want to find a build with Thraben Inspector and Spell Queller that still gets to play the sweet cards of other colors we want. Surely there has to be a way to make it happen with these five color fixers we have access to…

Yeah, at the end of the day, I think the riskiest card of Aether Revolt is still Felidar Guardian. After playing the format a bunch, it just doesn’t look like it was built with Felidar Guardian plus Saheeli Rai intended to be the cornerstone of the format.

It’s not that you can’t beat it. It’s just that the approach you have to take is so incredibly constricted. It truly is the defining interaction of the format, and while it is possible that the strategy is so heavily targeted at the PT that it isn’t the best-performing strategy, I think the floor is high on these types of decks, and the ceiling is through the roof. Even if it was the most targeted, most hated-on deck, a single piece of technology could very easily lead to the most busted deck of the Pro Tour.

Okay, I gotta get back to testing here in Prague before flying to Dublin on Wednesday. Anyone with some leads on stuff I should be working with in testing, please let me know! I usually prefer two weeks of in-person prep before an event rather than one, so I could use any advice I can get. Thanks, and see you on other side!