Aether Revolt is being spoiled early! The ten cards we’ve seen already are very exciting, and some will certainly be Standard staples. Let’s dive right in!
Blue Mages have been taking bad beats for a while, and based on some comments made by Mark Roesewater, they weren’t exactly expecting it to get better any time soon. But now there is a new hope! Disallow transforms Blue’s role in Standard, making it very appealing to play. Permission decks like Jeskai Control had a hard time dealing with a resolved threat like Liliana, and will be happy to have a counterspell that still has utility if you draw it after the threat you wanted to counter has resolved.
My favorite part of this card is how skill-rewarding it is to both sides of the table. Prioritizing when to use this card and when to play around it will make for some very interesting decision trees among the greatest players in the world, but will also help newer players understand the stack. Overall, it is a great design. Interestingly, this card represents power creep of a sort we don’t see very often anymore in spells, especially counterspells, since it is a strictly better version of Voidslime.
Torrential Gearhulk has already proven itself to be a powerful card by dominating Pro Tour Kaladesh, and Disallow adds many new dimensions of utility to it. With a solid instant-speed card draw spell in Glimmer of Genius, and a strong Planeswalker in Jace- Unraveler of Secrets, Blue decks could see a resurgence in Aether Revolt Standard.
Wizards had suggested that Smuggler’s Copter would be balanced by new cards in Aether Revolt, but we have no word yet as to how those cards are supposed to be balanced in turn. I guess this is just power creep at its finest.
Heart of Kiran gives a facelift to midrange-control decks and Superfriends variants, giving them a way to fight back against Copter and protect their Planeswalkers. This card is good news for Nissa, Voice of Zendikar who had been entirely hated out of Standard by Copter. She can now chump block on the ground with plants while using Heart to put a serious clock on the opponent, defend herself from fliers and fatties, or both if needed. Obviously Liliana is already one of the best cards in Standard, and in combination with Heart of Kiran she will completely dominate the board very early in the game. Even Saheeli could start seeing Standard play with Heart to defend her if we get some good E.T.B. effects to compliment her -2 ability.
Curving turn 2 Heart into turn 3 Tireless Tracker seems decent too, allowing slower midrange decks to go on the offensive as early as turn 3. On the other hand, if you’re facing an aggro deck, you can make that same curve, but keep Heart on defense and they have to take a turn off from attacking. If they kill your tracker you can crew in response, stymieing their attack and slowing their development since they had to spend mana on a removal spell instead of another threat.
Heart of Kiran also gives vehicle decks another absurd early threat. It is not uncommon for vehicle decks to have a 5/5 copter so it won’t be devastating against them. This card is mostly punishing to the decks that were incidentally running copter for value without building around it (for example, UW Flash or RB Aggro). The fact that Heart of Kiran is easily crewed by Veteran Motorist, Scrapheap Scrounger, and Depala means that overall the RW vehicle decks will be happier about adding this card than they will be worried about its presence on the other side of the table.
The fact that Nahiri gains two loyalty at a time makes her one of the strongest candidates for taking over a game with Heart of Kiran. Gideon can also efficiently crew the Heart, but without it to defend himself he is particularly vulnerable to the new legendary vehicle.
Ajani is a strong top-end for midrange and control decks alike. First of all it’s worth noting that +2 on a Planeswalker is so much better than +1, especially in a Standard format without good Planeswalker removal like Hero’s Downfall. Heart of Kiran will work double duty. Ajani will be tough to kill and will gain a ton of advantage in the meanwhile. Let’s look at little closer at his abilities.
Ajani’s +2 is good in an average GW deck where you can expect to draw one card at a time with it, but I’m interested in pushing it as far as we can to maximize this powerful Planeswalker by drawing 1.5-2 per turn instead. Imagine a powerful midrange deck with a toolbox of useful permanents that mimic effects an instant or sorcery would normally be necessary for. Fortunately, there are a plethora of options in Standard of powerful permanents to build such a toolbox: Stasis Snare for unconditional removal; Tireless Tracker for card advantage; Vessel of Nascency for digging; Sigarda to turn off Emrakul triggers, discard effects, burn, and protect Tireless Tracker; Nahiri to exile artifacts, creatures, or enchantments, filter your draw, and win the game; Heart of Kiran to protect your Planeswalkers and/or clock the opponent; Gideon or Cataclysmic Gearhulk to break board stalls; and Nissa, Vital Force to get any of these cards back from the graveyard. We’re waiting to see what else comes out in Aether Revolt, but this looks to be the core of a very powerful deck.
The -2 is Swords to Plowshares at sorcery speed on a 6-mana body. This is actually pretty good in Standard where exiling is important and enormous, difficult to remove Eldrazi roam freely. Notably this effect is at its best in a control deck where the life-gain drawback is negligible. If you suspect that Emrakul is on the way, you can just hold Ajani and have a guaranteed answer to the 13/13 body. Even if they “Mindslave” us and cast Ajani to -2 on our own creature, Ajani survives to remove Emrakul the following turn. This is yet another tool slower GW decks gain in the fight against Emrakul, and when used in conjunction with Stasis Snare and Sigarda, Heron’s Grace, one begins to wonder if GW could actually go over the top of Emrakul decks and render her obsolete without any counterspells or hand disruption.
That’s all for today, but stay tuned as my next article will cover exciting new cards including Scrap Trawler, Yaheeni’s Expertise, and more!