The majority of Aether Revolt has been spoiled, and we now have a very good idea of the set’s mechanics and general direction. There are many high-powered and efficient cards, and it’s clear that their designers have pushed the new mechanics into Constructed playability. This has implications that will ripple through the Standard format. Today I’ll share my thoughts on the standouts from the spoiler and what they mean for the metagame and the market.
The cost-reducing mechanic improvise has been pushed very hard with cards like Metallic Rebuke, the closest thing to Mana Leak in years. Combined with a simple Clue token from Thraben Inspector, this is Mana Leak, and with any further support it can be cast for as little as a single blue mana, a chilling thought. As is, I see Metallic Rebuke making an immediate impact in White-Blue Flash, but it will also inspire artifact-centric aggressive decks that look to make even better use of it.
Another example of improvise being slated for Standard, and in this case Modern and beyond, is Whir of Invention, which in very simple terms is Chord of Calling for and by artifacts. Chord has set a precedent for just how good combining an instant-speed tutor with a cost-reducing effect is, and I expect Whir of Invention will be just as good. Artifacts are a bit more limiting than creatures, but improvise does offer its own unique advantages over convoke, like its effectiveness with Clue tokens.
When I see Whir of Invention, Aetherworks Marvel is the first card that comes to mind as the best thing to be searching for. Decks built around Aetherworks Marvel have always suffered from consistency issues without a way to tutor for it, and people even toyed with using Madcap Experiment to find it. Much of the reason that the Red-Green version is popular now is it can win without Aetherworks Marvel, but Whir of Invention could bring about a return to the deck’s roots from Pro Tour Kaladesh.
The original version was more of an all-in combo deck full of cheap artifacts like Glassblower's Puzzleknot that are perfect improvise fuel, and it can be rebuilt to utilize Whir of Invention. It also offers the ability to add a utility toolbox to the deck, and even alternative win conditions. I expect to see a resurgence in the older style of Marvel decks driven by Whir of Invention.
Whir of Invention might also be used to help assemble Standard’s newest combo, Metallic Mimic and Animation Module. Metallic Mimic is a pretty strong card in tribal strategies, but naming Servo and combining it with Animation Module will start a chain reaction every time a new Servo hits play, creating a new Servo, and then putting a counter on it, triggering it again to produce a new tokens, ad nauseam, for each mana spent.
It’s a pretty decent imitation of the once-banned Sword of the Meek-Thopter Foundry combo, and it could break Standard. It is certainly great for the competitive and financial prospects of Animation Module. I expect that if this combo does make it into Standard, it will be in a deck that is capable of playing as a normal aggro deck, so I’d target other cards in the archetype, like the new Sram's Expertise, but specifically older cards like Master Trinketeer and Servo Exhibition.
The revolt mechanic triggers when something has previously left the battlefield that turn, so it’s a natural combination with sacrifice effects. It’s going to be most common with Evolving Wilds, of course, but creature outlets like Syndicate Trafficker just got better. It will help to enable cards like Fatal Push, perhaps the best card in the entire set and a paradigm-shifting removal spell that will increase the competitive value of three- and five-mana creatures relative to one- and two-drops.
Great sacrifice fodder, like Scrapheap Scrounger, is better too, and something like Bomat Courier, which sacrifices itself, is premium. These two staples are among the finest artifact creatures in the format and look like big winners in a world of improvise and revolt.
Tireless Tracker keeps getting better and better. It’s more desirable in a world where Clue tokens are great revolt triggers and Evolving Wilds is everywhere, green has a fair share of quality revolt cards, like Hidden Herbalists as the newest Burning-Tree Emissary that could make major waves in constructed.
I’m taken aback by the number of powerful and high-quality energy cards in Aether Revolt. If it was not already abundantly clear from Aetherworks Marvel that energy is pushed, it will be after cards like the hyper-efficient Greenbelt Rampager make their mark in Standard. This card will reinvigorate the Red-Green Energy aggro deck in Standard, and I expect will push it into the top-tier.
Rogue Refiner is a perfect fit for Marvel decks, which are already splashing blue. It would take a lot from the new set to push Marvel from the top spot, and with the deck receiving new tools, that’s unlikely, but new answers like Metallic Rebuke and Disallow do offer some hope.
Disallow gives control a fighting chance, as it now has some answers to Emrakul, the Promised End’s Mindslaver ability. The creature is easy enough to contain, so now the deck can play a long game against Aetherworks Marvel and expect to come out ahead. That’s a big shift, and it could bring about a revival in blue control. Blue-Black looks great with the new Fatal Push, and it’s a major beneficiary from Yahenni's Expertise, which provides control a sweeper and tempo play. I like the prospects of Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror, which was a part of Yasooka’s Pro Tour Kaladesh-winning deck, because it survives the -3/-3 effect and benefits from casting a free spell.
There’s almost a half the set waiting to be spoiled, but I expect they will only serve to strengthen mechanics by offering more incentives to play them and tools to support them.