In the constructed world, everyone is losing their minds over bannings in Standard and Modern, but we Limited players have no reason to care (and I, for one, am looking forward to continue playing with Smuggler’s Copter next season). Instead, we get to spend some time looking at the spicy new commons and uncommons in Aether Revolt. With the entire set spoiled, I’d like to share some subthemes I’ve noticed in Aether Revolt that are not as sweeping as energy or artifacts matter (they’re not even named), but they are prevalent enough to impact what the format looks like as a whole. Let’s look at some subthemes!
Quick! How many one-mana common or uncommon artifacts are in Kaladesh? The answer is one: Inventor’s Goggles. Now how many are in Aether Revolt? With Improvise in the set, it might not surprise you that the number is higher than one, but the increase is really steep. There are eight of them in the small set, plus Ornithopter at zero for good measure. What does this mean for the Limited format? You see, in most Limited formats, there are very few reasonable turn 1 plays. In those sets, most of the few one drops are too weak to be worth playing in your deck. As a result, games tend to start at the earliest on turn 2. With Improvise and other payoffs for artifacts in Aether Revolt, its plethora of cheap one-drops are all likely to be at least somewhat playable.
Late-Game Mana Sinks
In Kaladesh, we got a cycle of common artifact creatures with colored activation costs. When activated, each creature would gain a keyword ability. Aether Revolt has a similar cycle, with one major difference: the abilities do something when they’re activated more than once per turn. In fact, you can see a great deal more useful mana sinks in the new set in general. (Cogwork Assembler is my vote for spiciest and is likely my favorite one.) Kaladesh had very limited options in terms of mana sinks- presumably to let the energy mechanic shine- but it will be nice to have something to do with your mana in the late game again.
Looking through the set, I was excited to see two brand new common creatures and two brand new uncommon creatures that let you sacrifice artifacts for an effect. One of them is even a functional reprint of an old school classic, Atog! Black-red sacrifice decks have always been sweet when they worked, and I’m hoping that the artifact-themed twist will be successful in this Limited format. I’m not optimistic, though: the payoffs for pursuing this theme are incredibly susceptible to card disadvantage if you run into a removal spell, and they’re not even that great; Ironclad Revolutionary, as a nearly strictly worse Cowl Prowler, is particularly atrocious. Still, every once in a while, you’ll bring together the perfect Defiant Salvager deck, and it will indeed be sweet.
Animation Module heralded a trend. Mini proliferate was present in Kaladesh, but it was rare, and it was only on one card, so it didn’t have much of an impact on Limited. This time around, it’s on three different uncommons! While that isn’t enough to make it a deck theme like it was in Scars of Mirrodin block, it certainly won’t be too hard to pick up one or two of these enablers while you’re “going ham” with a +1/+1 counters theme. The ultimate dream is to pair them with planeswalkers and start ticking up loyalty!
Every set, it’s the named set mechanics that get the most attention during spoiler season, but we should all try to make an effort to acknowledge the little guys: the subthemes that lurk in small corners of the set and make Limited an awesome exploratory experience. That’s all for today, but I can guarantee that if you look through the set, you can find a few more to exploit when you’re building your early draft and sealed pools.
Happy hunting, and see you after the prerelease!
Before you go into your prerelease, you should know all of the combat tricks and important cards to keep in mind in Aether Revolt Limited. This article by Roman Fusco goes over all of the format’s tricks and removal spells. Don’t go in unprepared!
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