Happy New Year! As we all know, the new year brings new Magic cards. And with Aether Revolt spoilers starting to trickle in, it’s almost time for Kaladesh to hand over the spotlight to its new little sibling. At this point in spoiler season, I like to think about how the new set will interact with the Limited format of the block overall.
You can learn a lot about how a new set fits into its limited format by looking at its new mechanics. When the mechanic Exploit was revealed during Dragons of Tarkir spoilers, Jeskai Sage suddenly got a lot more attention. When we got colorless mana costs in Oath of the Gatewatch, everyone’s first thought was cards that make Eldrazi Scions. Of course, we won’t know which strategies will be good until the full set is released, but now is a good time to start considering which cards from Kaladesh will play best with the new mechanics Improvise and Revolt in Limited. Let’s start with Improvise.
I’m really excited to play with this mechanic since it looks like a cross between two of my favorite mechanics, Convoke from Ravnica: City of Guilds and Affinity for Artifacts from Mirrodin. We can look at the types of cards that those mechanics went well with to identify cards that will be good with improvise.
One of the best cards to pair with convoke the last time we saw it (in Magic 2015) was Raise the Alarm. It was commonly a powerful play in that format to flash in Raise early and follow it up with a threat discounted by up to two mana. If we want to find Kaladesh cards that serve similar role, we should look for cheap spells that produce multiple artifacts. Servo Exhibition is the first card that comes to mind, and I expect that Cogworker’s Puzzleknot will also be no slouch when it comes to accelerating out the newly-spoiled Foundry Assembler on turn 3.
You can also expect Iron League Steed and cards with Fabricate 2 or more to work smoothly with Improvise. But since those cards are more expensive themselves, they’re a bit clunky when you’re trying to reduce the cost of a five mana 3/3. By the time you set up your accelerators, you’ll often be in a position to cast your payoff for the full cost, which is not appetizing. That’s why these cards are better paired with big beaters like Gearseeker Serpent which are more likely to curve out nicely to follow a four-drop. Over the course of spoiler season, I’ll be looking out for larger payoff cards with Improvise that are closer to Gearseeker Serpent than to Foundry Assembler.
Additionally, cheap utility artifacts seem like they’ll work great with Improvise- the kind that has an immediate impact when you play it, then sits around on the board for a while. Think of the Puzzleknots. Right now, this cycle is mediocre at best in Limited. While they’re not all terrible, they often don’t do quite enough for the mana investment you put into them. However, in an Improvise-heavy deck, they all suddenly turn into mana rocks on top of to their other abilities. Because of Improvise, I’m predicting that all five Puzzleknots will be higher picks next format, along with the module cycle and the equipment in the current set. Prophetic Prism will also receive a boost- as if it needed it!
Among all the hubbub for these sweet combos, don’t forget that any old artifact will synergize well with Improvise. Sure, Fabricate 2 resembles Explosive Vegetation when casting a spell with Improvise, but cards with Fabricate 1 are still analogous to Rampant Growth. And, while not ideal, random vehicles and artifact creatures like Weldfast Monitor can also help you accelerate in a pinch.
Synergies with Improvise are the real deal. Cost reduction mechanics have proven to be powerful in Limited (and various constructed formats) in the past, and I expect Improvise to be no exception. But what about the other new mechanic, Revolt?
Like Improvise, Revolt is very similar to an older mechanic- Morbid, from Innistrad. It doesn’t take a Quicksmith Genius to figure out that things that are good with Morbid will also be good with Revolt. So what did Morbid like? Morbid liked strategies where your creatures frequently died in combat, such as creating a token swarm. Cards with Fabricate fit right into this strategy, so they work well toward helping your creatures die consistently.
Revolt is also broader than Morbid in two ways, giving it more potential for synergies. First, it applies not only to creatures, but to all permanents you control. Creatures that sacrifice themselves also worked well with Morbid, but we haven’t seen many of those in Kaladesh. With Revolt, you can use self-sacrificing artifacts, such as the Puzzleknot cycle, as reliable triggers, which makes the mechanic much more appealing.
Second, Revolt triggers off of something leaving the battlefield, not just dying. In most sets, this is relevant a reasonable amount of the time, with bounce and exile effects being commonplace. But it just happens that Kaladesh has a self-bounce/flicker sub-theme, paving the way for many more synergies with Revolt than there otherwise would be. Aviary Mechanic, a strong enabler of this strategy in Kaladesh, can even bounce a land for you to ensure a Revolt trigger. Wispweaver Angel is a card that interacts interestingly with Revolt. It is impractical to rely on the Angel to trigger Revolt for a card in your hand; six mana plus the cost of the other spell is a lot to spend in one turn. However, it lets you play smaller creatures with Revolt- such as Night Market Aeronaut– on curve, then flicker them a few turns later to get their bonuses. They trigger off themselves!
Note: Now that we’ve looked at both new mechanics, I’d like to briefly note that there is a lot of overlap between cards that work well with Improvise and cards that work well with Revolt. (This might be a coincidence, but it is more likely that it is a sign of a tight Limited environment. Kudos, Wizards of the Coast!) This is relevant to Limited strategy. For example, when it comes to your Kaladesh pack in Aether Revolt drafts, you should pay attention to which cards work best in your archetype and which cards are good in multiple archetypes. The cards in the first category are more likely to wheel.
Both of Aether Revolt’s new mechanics look like they’ll play quite nicely with cards we’ve already seen in Kaladesh. As we get to peek at more Aether Revolt cards later this week, think about how you’ll combine them with Kaladesh cards at the prerelease and beyond!
Are you looking for a new and fun Standard, Modern, or Legacy deck every single day? Spellsnare.com’s new Deck of the Day column is for you! Each day of 2017 you’ll get insight into a deck that we think could make a big impact on its format. You can read #1/365 here.
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