When I woke up this morning I had no idea how drastically different constructed Magic would look by lunchtime. A surprise emergency banning took place a full week ahead of schedule. For those who missed the announcement, here were the casualties:
Banned in Standard:
Banned in Modern:
These bannings are a big deal and will shake up both formats. I'm always excited for change, and I'm looking forward to taking a crack at solving both formats. For today, I'll discuss some speculation targets related to both formats, and close with some potential sleepers in Aether Revolt.
A few months ago I wrote an article about potential Modern bannings on Channel Fireball where I reached similar conclusions. Ultimately I recommended banning both Gitaxian Probe and something from Dredge. I thought that Prized Amalgam or Cathartic Reunion should do the trick, whereas Grave-Troll ultimately got the axe.
Dredge is obviously the biggest loser in the equation because the Grave-Troll banning directly takes it down a peg. However, aside from hurting Dredge I'm not sure that much else really changes. Dredge becoming less of a force doesn't really impact the decks that people will or won't play.
Gitaxian Probe going away obviously impacts a number of decks: Infect, Death's Shadow, UR Prowess, Storm, and more. The fact of the matter is that Gitaxian Probe is a card that simply should not exist and doesn't belong in Modern. I'm pretty happy with this ban.
From a metagame perspective, it's possible that Probe decks would have naturally been taken down a peg by the printing of Fatal Push. Push is obviously fantastic against decks like Death's Shadow and Infect trying to combo-kill with creatures.
The printing of Fatal Push and the bannings will likely create some big shifts in the metagame. For one, controlling midrange decks pick up a nice new piece of tech. Secondly, many of these fast creature combo decks become weaker.
One natural place to look for major gains would be Tron. The Gitaxian Probe decks have long been the natural predator of Tron, and Tron preys on the Fatal Push decks that are bound to start proliferating in number.
Ugin isn't too expensive and is ineligible for the next Modern Masters reprinting. I really like Ugin as an investment card right now.
Also, while expensive, the Ugin's Fate promo version of the card is pretty sweet and could also be a card that becomes highly sought out. $100 is a lot, but consider the price of cards like textless Mutavault and Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. It might be a card to pick up now before Tron becomes more popular.
Karn is the signature card of the Tron deck and part of the fearsome nut draw. Displaced combo players are going to be looking for new decks and that could really rock demand for Tron cards, especially if the archetype appears to be well positioned.
My expectation would be that cards from the decks that were hit by the bannings will decline, while basically everything else looks poised for a gain.
I also think that Puresteel Paladin is a pretty awesome speculation target right now. One of the problems with this deck before was that it could only run four copies of Paladin and had to use Spoils of the Vault to find it. Sram, Senior Edificer from AER gives the deck redundancy at the most important position—the lynchpin effect—which make the deck poised to be competitive moving forward.
Wizards appears to have gotten the message that people hated Standard loud and clear. Emrakul, Copter, and Reflector Mage leaving take a big bite out of the established pecking order of tier-one Standard decks. If the objective was to shake up the established hierarchy with the release of Aether Revolt, mission accomplished. They took a card from every major archetype: Vehicles, Aetherworks, Delirium, and UW Flash.
We're also getting some new cards in Aether Revolt that promise to fill the void. First up, Felidar Guardian combines with Saheeli Rai from Kaladesh to create a combo kill reminiscent of Splinter Twin.
These two in combination create infinite, hasty cat tokens just like Splinter Twin from back in the day. It seems pretty clear that a two-card "win the game" combo based around two reasonable cards will see considerable Constructed play. In fact, the Reflector Mage banning may have had something to do with its interaction with Felidar Guardian.
If you missed the boat on Saheeli, now isn't exactly the time to pick her up, but we can look to the other pieces we expect a "Copy Cat" shell to run.
I like blue Gearhulk as an investment because Jeskai Control was a deck that didn't really lose very much. It won the last Pro Tour and could be primed to improve moving forward. It also seems probably that some form of Jeskai Control could just port the combo in and also have a way to win all at once. Either way, I'm sure that Torrential Gearhulk will be a player moving forward.
I can't even believe how cheap Verdurous Gearhulk has become! With a bunch of the best cards being emergency-banned it seems like there's a good chance that Gearhulk could wake up and fill the gap.
Winding Constrictor seems like an interesting build-around that synergizes quite well with the green Gearhulk. It's basically a Hardened Scales attached to decent-sized body. If you spread out the +1/+1 counters from Verdurous, you essentially get double the number.
Tracker is another card I'm pretty high on right now. With Fatal Push being the obvious best card in the new set, there are a lot of reasons to play Tracker. First of all, Tracker incentivizes playing Evolving Wilds, which also triggers the revolt mechanic. Second of all, the Clue tokens created by Tracker will also help us trigger revolt throughout the game.
Also, without Emrakul, the Promised End around to abruptly end control and midrange match-ups, these games will once again become about outgrinding the opponent. Nobody grinds harder than Tracker in the mid- to lategame, supplying a seemingly endless supply of cards and becoming gigantic in the process.
There are also some cool Servo synergies floating around in the new set, including Sram's Expertise and Metallic Mimic. Adam pointed out that between Metallic Mimic, Chief of the Foundry, and Master Trinketeer, there are now three Servo lords in Standard that could make a Servo token deck playable.
I agree one-hundred percent that bulk rares like Trinketeer are excellent pick-ups right now. Low risk and high rewards.
Looking for things to do with another new card I'm excited for in the new set, Baral's Expertise, I came across Fevered Visions. Baral's Expertise is a very powerful effect that can end the game on the spot, and I think it will be good in UR Fevered Visions.
Generally speaking, I think Visions is a great card to pick up. Keep in mind that literally all of the competition was taken down a peg and the deck only improved with the printing of Baral's Expertise and Aether Shockwave. Also, don't underestimate the power of Shock—it breaks up the Felidar Guardian/Saheeli Rai combo for just one mana.
Another powerful combo that I've begun to experiment with is Baral's Expertise into Goldnight Castigator. The effect is about as swingy as things can get. I love the way that it takes all of their pressure off the board and adds a lot of speed and pressure to our side of the board.
Finally, the fastlands are good value right now and likely as cheap as they are going to get for a while. The ones that see a lot of Standard play will likely improve in price while others will stay about the same. I also like these as investments because they will always have a home in Modern.
Aether Revolt Sleeper Picks
Overall Aether Revolt looks to be an extremely weak set. A lot of the cards are based around energy synergies which is only relevant for Standard—and not good for card prices. The big exception to the rule is, of course, Fatal Push.
Fatal Push is an absurd Magic card and to be honest I'm really surprised it even exists. There has been a trend with not making removal more efficient than creatures and this card clearly bucks that tendency.
It is very likely underpriced at $3.00. This card will probably follow uncommons like Inquisition of Kozilek, Path to Exile, or Goremand and hit $8-plus while in Standard. Path to Exile has been reprinted a ton of times and still has a very high price tag. Fatal Push is likely better than Path in Modern, and also Standard-legal.
I think all of the Expertise cards are potentially undervalued right now. Each of these effects is reasonably costed but the fact that you get to "double spell" for free pushes them way over the edge. The advantage is so obvious. It lets you come from behind and fight back into a game or outright bury an opponent in a close game.
I think these are really powerful cards that people haven't played with enough to understand their role yet.
Heroic Intervention is another card that I think is highly underrated. Both of these effects are really powerful and having the choice to do either/or for such a reasonable cost is appealing. I'm not sure exactly what kind of deck wants to play a card like this, but I think it is inherently powerful and better than a low-end rare.
Last but not least, my favorite speculation target from the new set. I know a good thing when I see it, and Scrap Trawler is a good thing. In a set full of artifact synergies there is a lot of value to be had when you can continuously rebuy lost artifacts. I think the card even has Vintage and Legacy applications.
Right now it's in the junk rare category, but I think it's likely to be a competitive and casual staple for years to come. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the breakout sleeper card of the set.
Unfortunately, Aether Revolt isn't the flashiest set in the history of the world. It has a few nice cards that are going to have a strong impact, but overall it feels like a bunch of standard cog-type cards. Despite the fact that the set is low-impact, Standard is about to change in a huge way as a result of the emergency bannings. Modern too.
I'm looking forward to new Magic, new decks, and new ideas in the coming weeks. Obviously, the banning just happened yesterday and I'm on level zero when it comes to analyzing the information and the effect it will have, but these ideas feel rooted in sound logic to me. Obviously, things will start changing quickly so be ready to move in on new cards as the trends start to establish themselves.
As always, good luck and happy trades at the prerelease this weekend!