The revolt is on. What began as a celebration of ingenuity and innovation turned out to be nothing more than a ruse by the Consulate to crack down on the greatest minds and inventions on Kaladesh. And so the renegades rise up, launching the Aether Revolt. Which means it's time for the latest edition of my Standard Pauper set reviews. If you're looking for superb analysis of this set's impact on Limited and Standard, I'm afraid you've clicked the wrong link. Instead, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. With this set, we are introduced to the two new mechanics of Revolt and Energize, and we also gain new Energy and Vehicle cards. As such, it would probably be good to already understand how these mechanics work before continuing with this review, as I will not be spending time to break them down. Last time, in Part One, I looked at the White, Blue, and Black Commons as well as the three Common cycles. Today, I will finish up with the Red, Green, and Colorless Commons.
If you've read my previous set reviews, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as falling into one of four categories: "hit," for those cards that define an entire archetype or will (almost) always be played in a particular color; "grounder," which are cards that should see play in at least one archetype but won't always make the cut; "bunt," which are cards that are only borderline playable; and "myth," which are cards that should almost never be played. As always, special thanks to ChannelFireball which inspired my original "hit or myth" rating system. So with that out of the way, let's jump right to the cards!
II. Red Commons
1. Chandra's Revolution is an interesting but odd variant of Bathe in Dragonfire. You're paying a full 3R to deal 4 damage to a creature at Sorcery speed, which is playable but not exactly a good rate. But what makes it interesting is that you also get to tap one of your opponent's Lands and keep it tapped for a couple of turns. This has the effect of slowing down your opponent's plans, and at times might even allow you to cut them off from a color temporarily. In a reasonable aggressive deck, that delay might be all the space to need to finish off your opponent before he or she can stabilize the game state. While neither the damage nor the Land tap is particularly powerful, the combination of the two is certainly worth consideration.
Verdict: Grounder - It's somewhat revolutionary to get both these effects from one card.
2. I love the design space that cards like Destructive Tampering is occupying, particularly at Common. Getting two different conditional abilities on a single card makes it much more likely that the card will see play. In an Artifact-heavy block like Kaladesh, a Shatter-like effect would be a marginal but decent Sideboard option. Falter-type effects are typically not very good, but have seen play from time to time. But the fact that you get both of these effects as an option would seem to make this card quite attractive in a variety of Red decks. It allows you to get rid of troublesome Vehicles, destroy any other Artifact creature, or enables you to crash in for those final points of damage. I think this gets there.
Verdict: Grounder - This gives you two great options to destroy your opponent's plans.
3. Embraal Gear-Smasher is a decent Red creature that has a useful late-game ability. While a 2/3 for 2R isn't exactly what you're looking for in most Red decks, it's solid enough that it's worth considering under the right circumstances. And once it's outlived its usefulness, you can start converting each of your Artifacts into 2 damage a turn, giving you another way to get in those final points of damage. On the other hand, you'd need to be playing quite a few Artifacts to really make this get going, and this creature is fragile enough that your opponent is unlikely to let it deal its damage more than once. Perhaps if removal wasn't so good in the format this might make the cut, but as useful as it may seem I don't think it's actually that good.
Verdict: Bunt - I don't think this card will kick your deck into high gear.
4. Frontline Rebel is certainly an efficient and aggressive creature, which of course suits Red just fine. A 3/3 for 2R is about as good as it gets at Common, and in the type of deck that wants this card the fact that you have to keep attacking with it each turn isn't that much of a drawback. Unfortunately for this card though, we currently have Brazen Wolves in the card pool, which for the same mana cost is not only a better attacker but also doesn't have any drawbacks. In fact, even Howlpack Wolf is probably a better card, and it hasn't seen any play in the format that I am aware of. Given that reality, I don't think that this card will see a whole lot of play, even in the most aggressive Red decks.
Verdict: Bunt - I would rebel against any thought of putting this on the frontlines.
5. I'm not exactly sure where Lathnu is, but apparently they have gigantic lizards known as Lathnu Sailbacks that are quite scary, but not particularly effective. Specifically, you're getting a 5/4 for 4R, which is nice value, but otherwise we're talking about a vanilla creature with nothing but flavor text. Generally speaking Red wants to be quick and aggressive, and clearly this card is neither. Even in Green, which certainly is a better fit for big, dumb creatures, this card almost certainly wouldn't see play. In Red, it clearly doesn't fit with what most Red decks are trying to do, and doesn't offer any compelling reason why you want to include this in your deck. So like any other vanilla creature, it's not going to see play.
Verdict: Bunt - Last I knew, creatures like this are nothing more than a setback.
6. For some reason Kindled Fury wasn't considered a good enough name, so instead we get Precise Strike, which is exactly the same card with a different name. As far as combat tricks go, this has a lot going for it. First, it only costs a single Red mana, and you get to cast it at Instant speed. Second, while granting on a single point of Power is pretty mediocre, the fact that this also grants First Strike means that you should be able to trade this card for your opponent's creature in combat, assuming of course they don't have a combat trick of their own. The problem, however, is that this card doesn't really do enough to justify including it in your deck. It's simply too situational and too minor to earn itself a spot.
Verdict: Bunt - The fact that's it only good in such a precise spot is the biggest strike against it.
7. While we've seen plenty of different cheap Red burn spells come and go, it's been quite a long time since the classic card Shock was in the format. This is as basic and cheap as removal comes, and as such it is easily outclassed by more interesting spells like Chandra's Pyrohelix, Fiery Temper, or Galvanic Bombardment. That last card is a particularly relevant example. While it can never target players, Galvanic Bombardment will otherwise never be worse than Shock, and once you've got a copy in your Graveyard, subsequent castings get increasingly better. So unless your overall strategy revolves exclusively around burning your opponent out, I'm not sure Shock has that much to offer in the current metagame.
Verdict: Bunt - As shocking as it may be, I don't think this is actually all that relevant.
8. Sweatworks Brawler is a card that would already be decent even without the Improvise mechanic but becomes much better with the ability to get it into play earlier. A 3/3 with Menace is already tough to block early on, and it doesn't take much work at all to get this down on Turn 3 or drop this as well as an additional creature once you've reached the mid-game. While even in the best case this card probably won't dominate the game, Sweatworks Brawler could easily play a solid role in a Gruul Monsters or Rakdos style deck. My only concern with this card is whether or not the payoff of getting it into play cheaply is good enough to be worth running Artifacts in your deck without some other strong incentives.
Verdict: Grounder - Despite my concerns, I expect this will still see plenty of brawls.
9. Once upon a time Act of Treason was considered too good to see print at Common, and one can't help if Wrangle is pushing this effect back in that direction. While it's one mana cheaper than its predecessor, it also has a targeting restriction that keeps you from stealing any creature with 5 or more Power. Now that said, in Standard Pauper the vast majority of creatures only have 4 or less Power, so that isn't really a big restriction. The bigger issue is that even for only 1R, you either want to use this as your finisher or have some way of sacrificing the stolen creature to some other effect. Otherwise, you will probably struggle to get a full card's worth of value out of this card.
Verdict: Bunt - Definitely wrangle in your thoughts of the best case scenario when considering this card.
Red is an interesting mix of cards, but ultimately is fairly disappointing. Both Chandra's Revolution and Destructive Tampering give us access to some great utility cards, but ultimately it remains to be seen just how useful those options will be. It is disappointing that the only pure damage spell in this set is Shock, since that card is fairly weak by today's standards. Sweatworks Brawler is really the only other Red card that I expect to see much play, and even that isn't particularly powerful. In fact, I think it's fair to say that Red is probably the weakest of the colors at Common in Aether Revolt.
III. Green Commons
1. Aetherstream Leopard seems like it should be part of one of the Common cycles. A 2/3 for 2G isn't the most impressive stat-line for a Green creature, even one that has Trample. The fact that you can pay one energy to give it a 2 Power boost is a nice ability, but the downside is that you can only activate this once unless you have another energy source. If this ability also increased its Toughness, this would be a significant ability, since the threat of activation would keep your opponent from blocking it and allow you to preserve the use of the energy counter. But as is, at most this is trading up for a slightly larger creature or doing an extra point of damage to your opponent, neither of which makes this card worth inclusion in your deck.
Verdict: Bunt - I'd rather not be playing this card.
2. When it comes to mana-ramp creatures, you really want to get them down on the first turn if at all possible, and that's the biggest strike against Druid of the Cowl. The fact that this has 3 Toughness is certainly relevant in a lot of game situations, although if you're relying upon this card to play defense it won't be of much help if you're tapping it down during your turn for mana. Really, a 1/3 for 1G isn't all that good, and it doesn't really perform well as a source of mana ramp either. So even though this can serve two different purposes in your deck, it doesn't really perform either task all that well. As such, I don't expect that this card will see much, if any, play in the upcoming metagame.
Verdict: Bunt - This card makes me want to scowl.
3. Highspire Infusion is our Giant Growth variant for Aether Revolt. While not strictly as good as the more recent Titanic Growth, there's not much difference between +3 / +3 and +4 / +4, and assuming you have some use for the two energy tokens, this card potentially is giving you some extra value for your combat trick. There's actually a fair number of cards now that make use of this resource, and so if you're playing Green and making use of even a few of them, this card is probably good enough to earn a spot in your deck. And even if you're not, this is still among the better options for this type of effect in the cardpool. It's nothing fancy, but there's a reason this type of effect is always included in Green.
Verdict: Grounder - I don't exactly aspire to play this, but I think it does enough to be worth a second look.
4. Lifecraft Cavalry is not only a solid Green creature, but one that is made all the better by its ties to the set. It's not unheard of for a simple 4/4 with Trample for 4G to be one of the better creatures in the format, and the fact that you can have this come into play as a 6/6 pushes this well over the top. Given the variety of Artifacts and tokens, not to mention simple combat attrition, it should be easy to activate Revolt by turn 5, and when this hits the virtual battlefield it should almost always be the best creature on the board. Assuming you can protect it, it won't take very many turns for you to ride this to victory. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this is the best Green creature in the format.
Verdict: Hit - With this you should easily be able to craft a path to victory.
5. Natural Obsolescence is an odd variant on Naturalize and its ilk. With Green and White both having multiple spells that permanently deal with troublesome Artifacts, it's hard to imagine why you would prefer simply getting rid of it temporarily. Granted, putting it at the bottom of the Library does deal with the Artifact for a time, but there certainly are enough shuffle-effects that it's not unthinkable that your opponent would draw it again over the course of a long game. Even if the odds are low, why take that chance? Perhaps the best use for this card, instead, is as a last-ditch method to protect your own Artifacts from your opponent's spells rather than as a way of getting rid of theirs.
Verdict: Bunt - This doesn't seem like a natural fit for most decks.
6. The original Fight card Prey Upon has been reprinted yet again in this set. This is as simple and efficient as Green removal gets, allowing you to force two creatures to deal damage to one another for the cheap cost of a single Green mana. While it's a great design decision to allow Green to have access to these sorts of effects at Common, experience has proven that you really want these cards to either boost your creature's stats or resolve at Instant speed. Currently, the best Fight card in the cardpool is probably Unnatural Aggression, even though it costs three mana instead of one, since the ability to take out another creature at Instant speed allows you to get a lot more value out of this effect.
Verdict: Bunt - I hate to heap disapproval upon this card, but Green still has better options.
7. Scrounging Bandar harkens back to the world of Ravnica where we last saw this type of ability. As a 2/2 for 1G it's pretty mediocre, but it is interesting that you can essentially convert it into a creature Aura when it is no longer relevant in the game state, permanently boosting one of your own creatures. Of course, just like Auras, it also gives your opponent the chance to respond with removal spells, potentially wasting the effect and putting you down a card. It's also worth emphasizing that you can only move the counters during your upkeep, which means you can't respond to a removal spell or use it as a sacrifice outlet. On the whole, while this gives you some nice flexibility, I'm not sure it really synergizes well with the rest of the set.
Verdict: Bunt - You really have to scrounge up reasons to play this.
8. Silkweaver Elite is a bit unusual in Green in that it has Reach but has a relatively small Toughness for its cost. Furthermore, even a 2/3 Reach for 2G probably wouldn't see much play in the format. As such, you really want to ensure Revolt will trigger before playing this card. And when it does, you gain what is arguably the most powerful secondary ability of all - you get to draw a card! Given that Green rarely if ever has access to these sorts of cantrip abilities, Silkweaver Elite is actually pretty decent, particularly if you have the ability to recur it back into your hand from the battlefield or from the Graveyard. And even if all it does is trade with one of your opponent's flyers, you've definitely gotten your value out of it.
Verdict: Grounder - This is definitely among the elite creatures in Green.
9. Unbridled Growth is a nice mana-fixing card that has some nice secondary synergies with Revolt. While not as good as Abundant Growth from Avacyn Restored, this can be cashed in for another card at any time, giving you a free way to guarantee the activate Revolt. Interestingly enough, since this is a permanent, sacrificing it also works with Bloodbriar, but not any of the other creatures with similar abilities. Similarly, this card is also a quick way to get an Aura in the Graveyard, potentially allowing you to get Delirium active. That's quite a few different strategies this otherwise simple card can help out, and as such I think this provides enough utility that it will see some play in particular decks.
Verdict: Grounder - While not unbridled, there certainly are several ways this can be put to good use.
Green certainly has a couple solid creatures in Aether Revolt. Lifecraft Cavalry will probably replace Peema Outrider as the best Green creature in the format, while Selesnya or Simic decks will probably make good use of Silkweaver Elite. While neither Highspire Infusion nor Unbridled Growth will see as much play, both are certainly roleplayers in particular Green-based archetypes. The rest of the Green cards aren't anything special and probably won't make any impact.
IV. Colorless Commons (that weren't part of the Common Cycles from Part One)
1. Consulate Turret looks like a fixed Rod of Ruin that uses energy counters rather than mana, but it turns out to be fairly cumbersome to use. The ability to tap it to deal 2 damage to a player is certainly very strong, but the fact that it costs three energy counters means that you won't be able to activate it very often. In fact, this card is actually probably better as a slow but reliable way to produce an energy counter every turn that you can instead use to activate creature abilities rather than trying to save them up for dealing 2 damage every four turns. But even then, this is still such a slow ability that I question whether it will ever be worth the investment of time and a card slot in your deck.
Verdict: Bunt - This at least gets the consolation prize for being a cool concept.
2. Irontread Cursher is the first of two new Vehicles in Aether Revolt. While it's an impressive 6/6, it not only costs a full 4 mana to cast but also requires you to have 3 Power worth of creatures to invest in it. And while that may not seem like a lot, it's almost as expensive as Aradara Express, and that has proven to be the least played of the Vehicles from Kaladesh. Furthermore, with creature removal so prevalent in the format, you should expect that most of the time your opponent is going to be able to destroy this one of the first times you activate it. Finally, at the end of the day, it's just a big vanilla creature with no abilities, and that's simply not enough to justify the risk and effort that goes into getting this active.
Verdict: Bunt - I don't expect this to ever really tread on me.
3. Mobile Garrison, on the other hand, has a lot more going for it. Granted, it's only one mana cheaper, and still requires 2 Power worth of creatures to pilot it. But as a 3/4 for 3 it's still pretty decent value, and getting to untap any other Artifact or creature you control is a big plus. In fact, you can even untap the creature you used to Crew the Vehicle, allowing that creature to still be used on defense or to activate its ability instead. Alternatively, getting to untap any of your Artifacts could also prove to be a very useful ability. Overall, while I don't think this is innately as powerful as Renegade Freighter or Sky Skiff, its secondary ability is intriguing enough that I suspect a clever deckbuilder will find a great way to abuse this.
Verdict: Grounder - It will be interesting to see if this becomes the "go-to" Vehicle in Standard Pauper.
4. Pendulum of Patterns has one of the worst cost-to-benefit ratio I can remember at Common. You're paying 2 mana for an Artifact that gives you a meager 3 Life when it enters the battlefield and does absolutely nothing else. And while it's great that you can at least sacrifice it to draw a card, the fact that you have to invest another 5 mana to do so is just crazy expensive. Frankly, I have no idea why that ability is so expensive. They could have easily made it cost 2 mana to cycle, allowing this to at least be a reasonable way to activate Revolt at Instant speed and get a card back for your trouble. But as is, this is probably the worst card in Aether Revolt, and one that you should never play.
Verdict: Myth - I hope this isn't a pattern for other Common designs in the future.
5. At first Renegade Map looks like an even better version of Expedition Map from the original Zendikar, but it does have a few restrictions that hold it back. First, while it doesn't cost you anything to cash it in for a land, in this case it only fetches Basic Lands rather than any Land in your Library. Second, the fact that it comes into play tapped means that you will always have to wait a turn before activating its ability. On the other hand, this is another great way to trigger Revolt at Instant speed, and a very reliable way to fix your mana at very little cost; in fact, if your deck has a lot of Artifact synergies, this is actually better than a Land, since it helps "turn on" a bunch of different effects in your deck.
Verdict: Grounder - I can easily map out several solid uses for this little Artifact.
6. It's fascinating to compare Universal Solvent to Lux Cannon, which was a Mythic Rare in Scars of Mirrodin. Both cards essentially allow you to destroy any permanent as early as Turn 7. Granted, Lux Cannon was not only repeatable, but you didn't actually ever have to get to seven mana to activate it. Still, the fact that a Common can even be so similar to a Mythic Rare says something about the power level of this card. On the other hand, you're paying quite the premium to be able to get rid of any card your opponent has in play, especially with so many good choices for removing creatures, Artifacts, or Enchantments. While I don't expect this to see a lot of play, in the right Control deck it's at least a possibility.
Verdict: Bunt - This card certainly won't see universal play, but it might solve a particular problem.
B. Artifact Creatures
1. Filigree Crawler eventually gives you 3 points worth of Power and Toughness for your four mana, but splits it up into a 2/2 vanilla creature and a 1/1 Flying Thopter token that you only get after the first creature dies. This ability works well with sacrifice outlets like Gavony Unhallowed or Unruly Mob, but there are already cards that give you better incentives to get them into the Graveyard than a simple token. Perhaps this is best as an outlet for Emerge, since its high casting cost is almost an advantage in that particular case. But overall, even in a deck that has some Artifact synergies, I don't think this card gives you enough value for your investment to be worth playing in almost any deck.
Verdict: Bunt - The appeal of this card is all on the surface.
2. Foundry Assembler is pretty unassuming as a 3/3 for 5 generic mana. In an "Artifacts matter" themed set like Aether Revolt, just the fact that this is an Artifact does make it better than a vanilla 3/3. Of course, it also has the Improvise mechanic, which means that you can tap other artifacts to help pay for that cost. This card reminds me a lot of Frogmite from Mirrodin, but costs one more mana for an additional point of Power and Toughness. Obviously the cost reduction from Improvise isn't nearly as powerful as Affinity, but it should be relatively easy to get this down for 3 mana early and potentially for free in the midgame. It can also be searched up by Self-Assembler, for whatever that's worth.
Verdict: Grounder - I think you can assemble a decent gameplan around this card.
3. Night Market Guard is somewhat unusual for an Artifact creature. As a 3/1 for 3, it's quite aggressive, but has the downside of trading with any creature your opponent can throw in front of it (not to mention being particularly vulnerable to cards like Dual Shot). The fact that is can instead block two creatures instead of one means you have the potential to get a two-for-one in combat, but honestly your opponent is unlikely to offer you that opportunity very often. In an aggressive deck that's really looking to run Artifacts, this might be worth consideration, but even there you'd really only want to pay two mana for this card. Overall then, this is not a card I expect to see much play.
Verdict: Bunt - This is not the type of card you should be in the market for.
4. Unfortunately, Prizefighter Construct suffers from the exact same problem. You're paying a full 5 mana for 8 points of stats, but splitting those up such that this will trade with any 2 Power creature, which is by far the most typical creature in the format. Trading your five-drop for a card your opponent only invested two or three mana into is quite painful, and most of the time that's the best you can hope for with this card. Even a highly aggressive deck isn't going to be a good fit for this card, as the last thing that archetype wants to include is a five mana creature. Don't be fooled by its six Power. In almost any situation, you'd gladly trade this card for almost any other creature in your deck.
Verdict: Myth - I'd give this the second place prize for the worst Artifact in Aether Revolt.
5. Reservoir Walker has the exact same mana cost as the previous card, but only gives you six points worth of stats, which means its secondary ability better be quite strong. In this case, you're only getting three Life and three energy counters, which I suppose is a fairly reasonable trade for the extra mana you're investing. Cards that give you incidental Lifegain have proven to be better than they look in the past, but if you're thinking about including this in your deck, you better already have strong synergies with both Artifacts and energy counters to ensure you're actually getting full value for your investment. Even then, I would still probably keep this in the Sideboard and only bring it in against certain opponents.
Verdict: Bunt - I reserve the right to change my rating after seeing this in play a few times.
C. Other Colorless Cards
1. These two allied-pair Dual Lands are only available in the Planeswalker decks for Aether Revolt (along with Inspiring Roar and Pendulum of Patterns), shifting two of these Lands to Common rarity. While Selesnya has not been a particularly popular color pair in the format lately, Dimir and Esper have both seen quite strong showings, so I suspect that Submerged Boneyard will be a very welcome addition to those decks. Still, just the presence of these two Dual Lands is a compelling argument for building around these color pairs, so it will be interesting to see what effect these have on the metagame.
Verdict: Grounder - These lands should inspire deckbuilders to go both deep and wide.
For a set that is centered around Artifacts, I'm uncertain to what extent they will shape the upcoming metagame. While there are plenty of cards that reward you for including them, it isn't exactly clear which Artifacts will benefit you the most. Mobile Garrison is interesting, but replacing Renegade Freighter and Sky Skiff won't happen easily. Renegade Map is a great way to fix for mana, but doesn't offer much beyond that. And while Foundry Assembler certainly rewards you for playing lots of Artifacts, in and of itself it's not exactly the most powerful card either. So, it remains to be seen what mix of Artifacts will prove to be the best combination.
V. Final Thoughts
I feel like these second sets are much harder to design well, simply because they have such limited space to flesh out the themes and mechanics of the first set while still presenting something interesting and fresh. These limits really seem to constrain the Commons in particular, and as a result I suspect that we won't see very many pushed cards that make a big impact on the Standard Pauper format. With that said, most of the Improvise and Revolt Commons will probably see some play, along with a smattering of other cards. So without further ado, here are my top Standard Pauper picks from Aether Revolt:
So that concludes my Standard Pauper set review for Aether Revolt. In closing, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. Hope to see on the other side of the virtual table soon!