Aether Revolt Limited Review: Blue

Previous Aether Revolt Set Reviews

White

Alright, welcome to the Aether Revolt Limited Review! As the second set in a block, we have more to build off of, so evaluating the cards won’t be as tricky. There are two returning mechanics: Energy and Vehicles (Fabricate did not return), and I’m going to start by assuming that Energy and Vehicles are about as well supported in Aether Revolt (AER) as they were in Kaladesh (KLD). That gives us a good base to work from, and leaves the wild speculation to the two new mechanics:

Revolt

Found on spells and permanents, Revolt is an ability word that has an additional effect if a permanent you control left the battlefield this turn. Spells check on resolution, and permanents check upon entering the battlefield. Revolt isn’t a complicated mechanic, and for the most part I will be evaluating Revolt cards as if they only sometimes work, without you going to great lengths to enable them. Of course there are enablers in the set, such as cheap artifacts or creatures that sacrifice, and when a Revolt card has an attractive enough trigger, I will discuss it.

Improvise

Cards with Improvise let you pay for them by tapping artifacts, with each artifact you tap reducing the cost of the card by 1 generic mana. It’s basically convoke with artifacts instead of creatures, with the slight difference that it can’t reduce colored or colorless mana symbols (so a 3{R} Improvise card will always cost at least {R}, the same goes for a 3{C} Improvise card, it will always cost at least {C} ). Improvise is a build around mechanic, though many of the cards are costed such that you only need to tap 1 or 2 artifacts to be happy with the deal. As such, I’ll evaluate them as if you are lightly building around them, instead of going all-in. I will call out cards that reward you for going deep, and Improvise enablers will be given credit for powering such a deck.

Now let’s take a look at the grading scale. Keep in mind that that the written evaluation of the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.

Grading Scale

5.0: The best of the best. (Archangel Avacyn. Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Gitrog Monster. Descend Upon the Sinful. Jace, Unraveller of SecretsNoxious Gearhulk.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Pia Nalaar. Elusive Tormentor. Whirler Virtuoso.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Duskwatch Recruiter. Renegade FreighterHarnessed Lightning. Fiery Temper.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Peema Outrider. Dauntless Cathar. Ovalchase Daredevil.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Brazen Scourge. Stormrider Spirit. Reduce to Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Consul’s Shieldguard. Inspiring Captain. Self-Assembler.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Fork in the Road. Skyswirl Harrier. Prakhata Pillar-Bug.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Moldgraf Scavenger. Prakhata Club Security. Servo Exhibition.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Invasive Surgery. Demolish. Minister of Inquiries.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Harness the Storm. Dubious Challenge.)

A little last note, I’m reviewing artifacts with colored activated abilities in their respective colors, as these aren’t really colorless cards.

Aether Swooper

Limited: 3.0

Aether Swooper is great value. A 1/2 flyer that makes a 1/1 the next turn is efficient and powerful, and even gives you an energy sink if you end up with excess to spend. The fact that this flies means attacking with it will be very easy, and all that for only 2 mana.

Aethertide Whale

Limited: 3.5

It’s hard to harpoon this whale, as any removal would need to be played in response to the Enter The Battlefield trigger. Otherwise, the Whale has built-in protection, and at worst can be used as pseudo vigilance or as an expensive energy generation machine. Add that to a 6/4 flying beater and you have a very good kind of finisher.

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Limited: 1.5

A 1/3 for 2 isn’t that far behind the curve, and the average blue deck is likely to have a couple of spells at the very least. In a deck with more spells, this provides an early blocker and a bit of mana savings, which is reasonable for how much you have to pay for this. I wouldn’t try and draft a counterspell deck around this, as getting to loot once or twice isn’t so much of an advantage that I’d warp my deck to gain access to it.

Baral’s Expertise

Limited: 3.5

Triple bounce plus playing a 4-drop sounds like awesome tempo to me, and it should put you far ahead on most boards. You can even bounce and replay your own stuff if you want, and with Revolt in the format, that could easily come up.

Bastion Inventor

Limited: 3.0

It won’t be hard to invent scenarios where this is played on turn 4, and even paying 5 mana for this is a solid deal. As such, Bastion Inventor looks like one of the better Improvise cards, and will be a good inclusion for any deck that has a decent amount of artifacts. You don’t have to go all-in for this to be playable, though the reward is there if you end up building your deck around it.

Disallow

Limited: 2.0

This is more of a Constructed card than a Limited one, though it’s playable in any heavy blue deck. It can lead to some unexpected blowouts, but Cancel was never a Limited all-star, and this isn’t that much more than that.

Dispersal Technician

Limited: 3.0

Enough decks will have artifacts that I’m always going to maindeck this and be happy doing so. It’s no Ogre Savant, but it’s still a good way to spend 5 mana. There may be some cases where you side this out, but I doubt that will happen all that often.

Efficient Construction

Limited: 1.0 – 3.0

This card provides an exciting build-around option. These are always hard to predict, but I’m going to put this on the good end, as it looks like a very powerful engine in the right deck. If you get 2 flyers out of this, it’s passable, and at 3+ it starts becoming very good.

Hinterland Drake

Limited: 3.0

A 2/3 is enough better than a 2/2 that I’m a fan of this card, even if it’s unable to block some creatures. It’s good on offense and moderately fine on defense, making it a reasonable play at 3 mana for any kind of deck. If you are defensive and your opponent has a lot of artifacts, maybe you should side this out.

Ice Over

Limited: 2.5

I’m always cautious of having too many removal spells like this, as your opponent gets to hit you with whatever it is at least once before you can ice it down. Add to that the vulnerability to bounce and blink effects and you have a card that’s good but not exciting.

Illusionist’s Stratagem

Limited: 3.0

Double Acrobatic Maneuver sounds pretty awesome to me. Not only does this let you set up blocks and save multiple blockers, but it has all this extra value when combined with Revolt cards. There are going to be decks where this will be fantastic, and there are decks where it will be just good, which is a fine range. The only decks that won’t be interested in this are the very creature-light ones, but that’s an easy enough restriction to keep in mind.

Implement of Examination

Limited: 2.0

I like this Implement a fair amount more than most of the others, but I still wouldn’t play it unless I had Revolt or Improvise synergies. Once you have additional justification, it’s nice that this enables those themes and leaves you up a card, even if at an inefficient cost overall.

Leave in the Dust

Limited: 3.0

Leave in the Dust is a good bounce + draw cards effect, and will often at least trade equally on mana, with a mana advantage being very attainable. You can even target your own cards if need be, making this a solid addition to any deck.

Mechanized Production

Limited: 2.0

Most of the value is produced by just putting it on a good card and getting additional copies of that card. It’s high risk and high reward, while also requiring you to control an artifact good enough to want copies of it. That puts it near the middle of the pack, as the number of risks and conditions do matter, even if the power level is there.

Merchant’s Dockhand

Limited: 3.5

I’m a fan of incremental value cards, and this one seems handy to have around. It only costs 1 mana to play, and even provides a body if you really need it. It can also fuel Improvise, and once you get to a point where you are activating it, drawing an extra card each turn (sometimes even with selection) means you will surpassthe opponent quickly.

Metallic Rebuke

Limited: 2.0

Paying 3 mana for a conditional counter isn’t exactly what I prefer, but the upside of getting to cast this for 1 or 2 mana is significant. In an artifact heavy deck, this can lead to some very efficient turns, as playing a 4 drop artifact on turn 5 and blanking their turn 5 play is a big swing. If you can reliably cast this at a discount, I like it, but otherwise I’d avoid it.

Negate

Limited: 1.0

I like having Negate around as a sideboard option, and occasionally I’ll maindeck it in Sealed. It’s a good card to have access to, even if it’s not a high priority to pick up.

Quicksmith Spy

Limited: 4.0

You will quickly pull ahead if this card remains unanswered, and all it asks is that you have an artifact when you play the Spy. Drawing an extra card each turn is very hard to beat, and it won’t take many turns before you have accumulated insurmountable card advantage.

Reverse Engineer

Limited: 3.5

If you can engineer a situation where this costs 3 or 4 mana, it’s quite good. Even at 5, it’s castable (I do like me a Tezzeret’s Ambition), and all that together leads to an efficient card drawing machine.

Salvage Scuttler

Limited: 2.0

A 5 mana 4/4 is nothing to write home about, but I wouldn’t be too crabby if I had to play one. This gets interesting when you have a lot of artifacts with EnterTheBattlefield abilities, or a lot of cards with Revolt, at which point it generates value with each swing. Once you have a few additional reasons to play this, it goes from filler to good, and is a solid way to top off your curve.

Shielded Aether Thief

Limited: 3.0

This blanks a ground attacker, generates a few energy over the course of the game, and gives you a very good way to spend energy. What else can you ask for at 2 mana?

Shipwreck Moray

Limited: 3.0

This can be a 0/5, a 2/3, or a 4/1, depending on what the situation warrants. It also creates a fair bit of energy, and plays nicely with pump spells. Worst comes to worst, you can kill it off for Revolt purposes, though that won’t come up all that often. All told, you get a lot of card for 4 mana here, and you surely want to play as many copies as you can get.

Skyship Plunderer

Limited: 3.5

A 2/1 flyer for 2 with an advantageous damage trigger. Super good. This fits well into any aggressive deck or any deck with counters and/or energy, and that pretty much describes all the decks in the format.

Take into Custody

Limited: 1.0

Even in a beatdown deck, I’d take a lot of other cards over this. Locking down one creature for two turns isn’t quite worth a card, even at a discount.

Trophy Mage

Limited: 3.0 – 3.5

If you have one good 3 cost artifact, this is about a 3.0. If you have one good one and one playable artifact, it goes up to 3.5, and that doesn’t seem too hard to achieve. With zero targets, it’s wildly unplayable, which I hope is obvious. Basically, if this reliably draws you a solid to good card, it’s an excellent deal.

Watchful Automaton

Limited: 2.5

I wouldn’t play a ton of these, but having one gives you a solid late game plan on a passable body. In a board stall, scrying once or twice a turn is very powerful, and getting that on a creature that can trade off is a valuable ability.

Whir of Invention

Limited: 1.5

This has a substantial setup cost, and what you get for it is selection. That’s not often enough in Limited, as how good your best card is varies so wildly, and many decks don’t have anything incredible to fetch. In a deck without a bomb, paying this premium isn’t appealing, unless you are so deep on Improvise enablers that this will end up being cheap. In a deck with something like Noxious Gearhulk or Skysovereign, it gets more interesting, but I’d still want a lot of Improvise support before trying to cast this for 5+. You mostly shouldn’t play this, but in a deck with a lot of support and a very good card, it can be justifiable.

Wind-Kin Raiders

Limited: 3.5

In an Improvise deck, getting a 4/3 flyer for 4 mana isn’t too hard, and is very strong. Even at 5 mana, this is a good deal, and that makes it a solid inclusion in just about every blue deck.

Top 3 Blue Commons

  1. Aether Swooper
  2. Dispersal Technician
  3. Shipwreck Moray

Blue has a lot of solid commons here. , Bastion Inventor, Leave in the Dust and Hinterland Drakeall compete for the last slots too, and blue overall looks very deep. Blue beatdown still doesn’t seem like it’s quite there, but various blue control or midrange decks, especially with Improvise, seem solid.

Thanks for reading

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