Welcome back, Insiders!
While several websites have/will use the past and upcoming week to shove set reviews and finance thoughts on Aether Revolt in your face, I'm back once again to provide my bulk-focused input on the second set in the block, while comparing it to its sister Kaladesh.
Several months ago I wrote about the commons and uncommons I thought you should be picking from Kaladesh; while I was wrong on a few (I called Harnessed Lightning a quarter on buylists.... whoops), I averaged out to have a pretty good expectation of what you should be pulling out of your bulk commons and commons. Even if you're not someone who wants to go deep into blueprinting or buylisting, I've always felt these "micro set reviews" have a good cross-over audience for Standard players who don't want to overpay for their uncommons at an SCG booth in the future.
While you could just pay the flat $35 or $40 to get your four-ofs on the entire set and cover your bases, that's overpaying. I'm here to show you how not to do that. Without further introductory paragraphs, let's introduce our starting line-up of dimes and nickels in Aether Revolt bulk.
Aether Revolt Common/Uncommon Picks
Caught in the Brights
We are starting off STRONG with this one. Do I expect it to see Standard play? Nope. Casual play? Eh, maybe a bit, but it's a common.
So why am I starting off my article with this card whose non-foil won't even be listed on the blueprint? Well, this is the kind of card that elicits a very strong reaction from some players. Some people hate it for breaking from the "fantasy" aspect of the game, and don't like the fact that's it's basically a joke stapled to a card.
Other people will love this. Some players will relish this in the same way they appreciate foil Storm Crow and foil Little Girl. I'm not saying that you should buy these, but if your box happens to have a foil one.... throw it in your trade binder. While TCG only has these listed at a dollar, I'm confident that you'll find a trade partner who laughs at the absurdity of this card. Someone out there is going to want all the foils, because it's a naked mole rat getting run over by a train on a Magic card.
While most vehicles in this set can be skimmed over or ignored, I'm a fan of picking these out as dimes for the casual crowd. More vehicles means a more cohesive 78-card unsleeved casual deck, and numbers like this are great with the red enchantment we'll get to in a little bit. Cards like this will make your opponent wary to tap out for fear of a Start Your Engines from nowhere. Not in Standard, of course, but with the much more casual crowd.
I don't really expect the Wandering Fumerole combo to make it big or even be tier three, but I do expect people to try. Set aside a playset or two from your boxes on release day and slide them into your binder. If a trading partner is trying to throw together their budget combo deck, let them have the set for $2. Even if this isn't a dime on a buylist eventually, standard infinite combos will always perk the Johnnys' heads up. Be an enabler.
Thankfully I don't need to spend words on this or the next card. These are the "you won't find them in Standard players' bulk very often" cards, but casual players have bulk too. I do recommend selling at the ridiculous $4 to $5 they're at now, though. The odds of the card staying that high are lower than having a chance to buy in later for $2 to $3, especially if you don't need the copies for Modern as soon as possible.
Deceiver Exarch Felidar Guardian
Obviously this card is very pickable thanks to the Saheeli Rai combo. It might get hated out of Standard, but there's an allure to combo decks in normally combo-free formats that can't be ignored. Have these in your binder ready and waiting to unload, especially if the combo looks too strong and earns the eyes of the five-week mid-format ban.
All of the bad nicknames aside, this curves perfectly into the OG Vampire Nighthawk himself. In what format, you ask? Well, casual. Both of those keywords are a slamdunk in the unsleeved world of non-competitive players, and that Vampire tag is blood-red icing on the cake. Pick 'em, sell them for dimes, buy bulk rares, and you've got yourself some profit margins.
I really like the Modern possibilities and applications of this card with Burning-Tree Emissary. I've been a vocal supporter of Myr Superion for a few years now, and this is just another piece to that yet-to-be-broken puzzle. Saffron Olive is one or two cards away from throwing together one of his signature "all-in" budget Modern decks where you vomit your hand onto the board on turn three, and it probably involves Goblin Bushwhacker, Manamorphose and this gal. I like this card a lot, even if it only ever hits quarters.
Jim Casale mentioned this card on our Cartel Aristocrats podcast, and I was blown away by how deceptively powerful it was. That's a lot of value you get for only three mana, especially in the colors where a two-mana spell can be Thalia's Lieutenant. Can GW humans make a comeback? I have no idea, I'm not a Standard player. I'm a finance guy who has an eye for bulk, and the connections to sell commons for quarters. Pick these just in case.
I feel like there's some sort of mono-blue combo deck in Standard with Whir of Invention, Aetherflux Reservoir and zero-drop artifacts, and I think this card serves an important role in that deck. I highly doubt the role extends beyond that, but I think this is more than "card draw with set mechanic stapled on." There's a good reason this is uncommon, even if I don't think it replaces Glimmer of Genius in most lists. Get your Bone Saws ready.
Slap this on a Dreadnought and you've got a stew! I mean, you've got a 10/11 first strike vehicle that hopefully doesn't get blown out by Fatal Push. You know who's probably not gonna play four Fatal Pushes in everything? Casual players. Keep this janky combo in stock, and be the one to provide players with their four-mana Colossus of Akros. You might need to venture outside the LGS and find where the non-competitive players congregate, but selling on Craigslist is a great way to do that anyway.
Jason Alt is correct in that this card searches for a lot of important cards, but I don't think that pushes it past dime status, if that. We've got a whole lot of artifact tutors now, and this might make the cut in some budget lists. Her brothers Treasure Mage and Trinket Mage aren't exactly super buylistable, and they've got an arguably larger breadth of important pieces of metal to search for. Do you have enough space to run both this and Fabricate? I don't know, but this isn't a card you want to own a bunch of. Sell or trade them for quarters and bulk rares when possible.
We had a professional player on Brainstorm Brewery this week as a guest, and he shed some light on this card's potential in Modern. Wasteland Strangler has seen some success in conjunction with Path to Exile and Tidehollow Sculler, but I'm not a strong enough Modern brewer to recognize if revolt will be easier to trigger or if the payoff will be worth it. This could be a nasty tempo play to advance the board state of a deck like Jund, or a similar Thoughtseize-style deck where you aim to attrition them out. Keep a set aside for your own Standard or Modern play, because I completely missed the power level of this one on first glance. Buylistable? Probably not, but you don't want to pay 50 cents each for these on a Saturday Open.
Golgari cards are my jam, and this is no exception. Maybe I'm seeing this through rose-colored glasses, but I can see this getting a home in a lot of different formats. Standard, Frontier, and Commander constitute a lot of formats, by the way. While it might be weak to Grim Flayer past the early game, I don't think this snake escapes the true bulk bin. I can see buylists paying dimes because of the casual appeal and uses with cards like Atraxa and Hardened Scales.
It looks like we've got a pretty strong suite of uncommons in Aether Revolt, but the commons are noticeably weaker. This is a similar trend to what we saw in Kaladesh, where we only had a couple of commons blueprinting for nickels while the rest of the spreadsheet had 20-something uncommons.
If you're curious as to what the Blueprint is that I've been ranting about, check out mtgblueprint.com and join the mailing list! It's updated every month or so, and gives you a great out for your bulk common and uncommon picks if you have the time and volume to do so. Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any other commons or uncommons you're looking out for; you can always find me on Twitter at @Rose0fthorns!