With each set, game design continues to push the boundaries with new and interesting mechanics. Sometimes mistakes are made. Some mechanics under-perform (like Outlast), while others are just too powerful or plain broken (like Storm). Occasionally everything falls perfectly into place and we get something that not only makes waves in Standard, but breaks into eternal formats as well. With Aether Revolt now hitting your local game store shelves, we are left with the burning question – will the mechanics of Aether Revolt fail to impress, or will they be strong enough to make their mark on Modern (or even Legacy)? Let’s have a look and see for ourselves!
For those of you who were around during the original Ravnica block (or more recently Magic 2015), you may recall a mechanic called Convoke. For those of you who don’t, it allowed you to tap creatures you control to help pay towards to cost of a spell. This would let you cast powerful spells early in the game, or even when your ‘shields are down’. Improvise works in a similar fashion, only this time we use artifacts we control to help cast spells rather than creatures. When we talk Modern and artifacts, most peoples’ minds jump to Affinity. However, you may be mistaken in thinking we have found a home for Improvise in the Affinity shell.
Most Affinity players play hyper aggressive decks, casting cheap but powerful artifact creatures in a strategy designed to quickly overwhelm their opponent’s defences. So it would seem to be impractical to take a turn off from attacking to use your creatures to cast a Battle at the Bridge. Not all hope is lost for this mechanic though, as there is another Modern strategy which plays a multitude of artifacts to abuse Improvise with – Lantern Control. Let’s say you have three lands capable of producing blue mana, 2 copies of Lantern of Insight and a Mox Opal. You are close to locking down the board, but your opponent may hit you for lethal damage before you can finish the job. What you need is an Ensnaring Bridge, and you need one now. In this case, you can tap all of your permanents and cast Whir of Invention before they can attack you, tutor up a Bridge, then sit back and continue the slow grind to finish out the match. Whether Improvise will see play in this strategy is yet to be seen, but don’t be surprised if your local prison player begins tutoring win conditions and lock pieces out of thin air.
Revolt allows a spell to benefit from an additional effect, as long as a permanent you control has left the battlefield this turn. With some of the most played cards in Modern being fetch lands like Polluted Delta, you would expect most decks in the format to run them. Fetch lands give you an almost guaranteed Revolt trigger. That means any time you crack a fetch, have a creature destroyed or exiled, or even bounce a land back to your hand, you will trigger Revolt. Not only does this mean it is super easy to activate, it also means that Revolt should be easy to slot into existing builds, unlike Improvise.
The obvious example is Fatal Push, a card so hyped that it is already being referred to as the black Lightning Bolt">Lightning Bolt. For only a single black mana, Fatal Push allows you to remove any creature with a converted mana cost of 2 or less at instant speed. That means format staples such as Delver of Secrets, Goblin Guide or even Tarmogoyf are not safe from harm. And if your opponent has a Siege Rhino or a Thought-Knot Seer? Well if we trigger Revolt, they die just as easily as the rest. Fatal Push isn’t the only card with Revolt that could see Modern play. Narnam Renegade has had some people looking towards not only Elves, but also Naya Zoo. This 1/2 with Deathtouch not only provides some early board stability by fending off attackers, but starts to resemble a Kird Ape">Kird Ape if you were able to trigger Revolt. There is one more card I want to discuss – one that could slot right in to any Hatebears strategy. Vengeful Rebel may not seem all that impressive as a 3/2 for 3 mana, but its Revolt trigger certainly has some potential. Pairing this Aetherborn with blink effects such as Flickerwisp">Flickerwisp or Eldrazi Displacer">Eldrazi Displacer means that it can trigger Revolt all by itself, hitting an opposing creature for -3/-3. It is likely to replace Wasteland Strangler as a solid upgrade. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the future holds with Revolt in the format.
Whilst not strictly a true mechanic, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss this cycle of rares. All of the Expertise spells not only have powerful effects, but also allow you to cast another spell from your hand for free. Being able to cast a free spell not only provides you with great value, but can lead to some powerful interactions. You can cast a Rishkar’s Expertise with a Primeval Titan">Primeval Titan on board to draw 6 cards, then cast Through the Breach into another Primeval Titan. You could also cast Yahenni’s Expertise to clear the board, into Liliana of the Veil. What’s more interesting is the fact that each of the Expertise cards allow you to play powerful Suspend spells, such as Lotus Bloom or Living End">Living End without having to wait several turns to benefit from them. With all this going for them, don’t be at all surprised to see any of these cards become format staples.
As with all things, time will tell if any of Aether Revolt’s mechanics will cause lasting waves in Modern. I am already looking forward to brewing many new and exciting decks in the weeks and months to come, but I would love to see your new decks and ideas in the comments below!