Over the last few days, we’ve been lucky enough to get a peek at some of the upcoming cards from Aether Revolt. While the whole set isn’t officially spoiled until early January, we can start looking at how some of the newly spoiled cards can fit into the current Standard environment. Without any further ado, let’s get started.

Yahenni’s Expertise

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While the reveal of this card has been in circulation for a week now, it’s no surprise to anyone how powerful this card is. Right off the bat, the first line of text “All creatures get -3/-3 until end of turn” bears in similarity to Languish. Languish saw heavy play during its time in Standard and proclaimed itself as a format-defining card. What that means is that deck building and play had to consider Languish as an opposing threat. If you played an aggressive deck weak to the -4/-4 effect, it was vital to do so in a time where Languish was not as heavily played.

Although Yahenni’s Expertise only gives -3/-3 to everything instead of -4/-4, the gap between the power level in this card and Languish is not as big as you’d expect. Looking at the current Standard format, Expertise deals with almost all of the creatures in both U/W Flash and the various aggressive decks on the fringes of the format.

But the most important part of this card is the second line of text:

“You may cast a card with converted mana cost 3 or less from your hand without paying its mana cost.”

Wait, did I read that right? How is this card allowed to be printed?

What makes this card so powerful and format-defining like Languish is that in addition to sweeping up opposing creatures, it also allows you to deploy a threat from your hand, thus giving you the tempo advantage and switching the texture of the game with a singular card.

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Yahenni’s Expertise and Liliana, the Last Hope were a match made in heaven. Deploying a Liliana after giving your opponent’s board -3/-3 helps pick off the pesky Archangel Avacyn, and puts your opponent on both rebuilding their board and having to deal with an opposing Planeswalker on 4 loyalty.

Here are some other cards that are powerful with Yahenni’s Expertise: Grim Flayer, Grapple with the Past, Transgress the Mind, Ruinous Path, Tireless Tracker, and the list goes on. What’s interesting to note about some of the first couple of Aether Revolt spoilers is that cards with “converted mana cost 3 or less” seem to be of some importance. Whether this card dominates Standard or not, I would be surprised if it ends up being not as format-defining as Languish.

Disallow

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Finally, Voidslime is now blue! This is the “counterspell with upside” I’ve been waiting for to play in Standard. Without thinking of the applications this card has to the current Standard format, it’s safe to say the best feature of Disallow is its versatility. At times, this will just be a Cancel, but in a format revolving around crewing Smuggler’s Copter, activating powerful planeswalkers, and fighting cast triggers from powerful Eldrazi, Disallow does so much more. Here’s a list of cards where Disallow can interact meaningfully, beyond being a simple counterspell:

There are tons of other instances to add on to this, but what’s important to note about this card is that it’s so much more than a counter spell and is versatile in many different situations. Disallow fits in nicely into the U/W Flash sideboard, overtaking the place of the always-awkward Spell Shrivel, as well as U/R Burn and Jeskai Control. I predict Disallow to be a card many people will have to play around and consider when preparing for Aether Revolt Standard. No abilities or triggers are safe!

Ajani Unyielding

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This is one of the few spoiled cards that I’m skeptical about. 6 mana planeswalkers are usually a rare inclusion to most decks, and its vital they carry powerful effects to be worthy of that inclusion. There are some easily identified problems with Ajani Unyielding, the first being color restriction. A six-mana planeswalker is usually found in a midrange/control strategy, and has to provide a way of catching up against aggressive decks or become a threat that your opponent must deal with swiftly, or fall too far behind to recover. Thinking back about a year ago to Abzan Control’s prime in Standard, another six-mana planeswalker, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was the defining planeswalker of that strategy and Standard format.

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Although costing six-mana, Elspeth provided protection against the powerful 4-power creatures of the format and provided a fast-growing army of 1/1 soldiers as another form of protection. Being able to ultimate only four turns after deploying her prompted your opponent to find a fast way to deal with her, or perish.

Unfortunately for Ajani, he is not Elspeth. Ajani’s +1 ability allows him to start at 6 loyalty, while digging for other nonland permanents. His -2 lets you exile a target creature of choice. These aren’t two very powerful effects for an investment of six-mana. A six-mana sorcery Swords to Plowshares isn’t very powerful in cluttered board states with multiple pressing threats, and tapping out for six-mana just to search for more nonland permanents is not what you want to be doing with your time either. Ajani simply doesn’t do enough for that initial expensive investment, and while his ultimate gives a powerful buff to a board of multiple creatures or tokens, the fact of the matter is he’s not threatening enough during the first couple turns after he is played to make him a consideration for any of the established Standard decks.

Battle at the Bridge

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One of the story spotlight cards, Battle at the Bridge unveiled one of the key mechanics of Aether Revolt, Improvise, which reads:

Your artifacts can help cast this spell. Each artifact you tap after you’re done activating mana abilities pays for 1.)

In simple terms, convoke that uses artifacts instead of creatures. I really wish this card were an instant. I’d be more interested to see its Standard applications, but sadly at sorcery this card is reserved for limited. The one Standard application I can see this card having is in the sideboard of the R/B Aggro decks, relying on the “gain X life” text on this card to gain an edge in aggressive mirror matches. Sadly, Unlicensed Disintegration is much stronger and I doubt this card will have any impact on standard.

Heart of Kiran

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This card was extensively covered on Tuesday by Austin Mansell (you can find his article here) so there’s not much to add. Heart of Kiran does not live up to its predecessor, Smuggler’s Copter, for a variety of reasons: its legendary drawback, the importance of looting that is lost in this card, and having a crew cost of 3. It’s a seemingly powerful magic card given that Veteran Motorist, Toolcraft Exemplar, and Scrapheap Scrounger can all crew it on their own. Even Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can pilot the Heart for the low cost of 1 loyalty. Maybe Heart fits in best into the original style of R/W Vehicles, since Veteran Motorist and Depala, Pilot Exemplar can buff it up to a 5-powered flying creature. As Austin states in his article, “we won’t be playing the 1st Heart until we have the full 4 Copters,” so it’ll be unlikely any given deck will be packing a full playset of Heart of Kiran, if any at all.

With January quickly approaching, I’m excited for the release of Aether Revolt, along with upcoming Grand Prix and other large events I’ll be playing in. It’ll be fun to take a break from pressing schoolwork and get back into the weekend grind. What spoilers have excited you?

I’ll be back next week with a recap of the modern RPTQ. Did I qualify for Pro Tour Aether Revolt? You’ll find out next week.

But until then, cheers!

If you’re interesting in new strategies to evaluate cards, which will definitely be useful as more Aether Revolt spoilers get revealed, read this article by Ben Pall.

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