Aether Revolt can't get here fast enough, but at least we have a few new cards to brew with over the holidays.
For starters, it looks like Oath of Liliana wasn't the end of the planeswalker Oaths.
Oath of Ajani is an interesting card that is hard to maximize. However, both “halves” of the card are quite strong at the right times. If you've got Oath of Ajani in your opening hand, it's a two-cost accelerator that doesn't die to creature removal. A turn 3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is no joke!
Usually, a big weakness of mana accelerators is that drawing them later is typically a poor draw. However, Oath of Ajani is actually extremely efficient as a two-cost spell that puts a +1/+1 counter on each of your creatures. There are a lot of decks that would play that card, even without the acceleration ability, and that's to say nothing of enabling delirium by adding an enchantment to the graveyard when you cast your second copy.
Most of the time, Oath of Ajani is going to be either an accelerator or a +1/+1 counter Anthem, but there are going to be spots where you play an Oath of Ajani on turn 5 after a turn 3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and a turn 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Maybe it helps you cast Ajani Unyielding, but it also might help you to make two big plays in the same turn (possibly playing another Nissa or Gideon).
One possible home for Oath of Ajani is in some sort of G/W Tokens deck, taking advantage of how well it works with both Nissa and Gideon, as mentioned above.
With just eight planeswalkers, we're not necessarily jumping to play Oath of Ajani turn 2. If we can play a turn 3 Gideon, great, but otherwise, we're typically going to want to hold it until we can pump a lot of tokens.
Lambholt Pacifist has been used in G/W Tokens in the past. It stands to gain from the printing of Oath of Ajani, giving us another reliable way to pump the Pacifist up to 4/4. Besides, we want another two anyway…
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We could just play Smuggler's Copter. The thing is, it doesn't work well with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar or Oath of Nissa, and it's not exactly perfect with Oath of Ajani. Besides, if we want to support the Copter here, we probably also need to add a few more twos and threes and scale back on Oath of Nissa, Oath of Ajani, and Declaration in Stone, just to reliably crew it.
While the +1/+1 counters push us to use tokens, the more planeswalkers we play, the more we get out of the acceleration ability.
These are some great planeswalkers to play a turn ahead of schedule, but where do we draw the line? Are we supposed to play Nahiri, the Harbinger, even if we don't have any sweet fatties? Or perhaps we're supposed to play one? What about Ajani Unyielding?
Ajani Unyielding's +2 ability can easily average +1.5 cards per turn (and cards of quality at that). With loyalty going up to six out the gate, he might be durable enough to make up for how expensive he is (and how high the bar is for six-drops). Besides, Oath of Ajani certainly makes casting expensive planeswalkers much easier, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance would much rather accelerate out Ajani Unyielding than Chandra, Flamecaller most of the time.
Ajani, Unyielding's -2 ability is much less efficient than his +2; however, it is a powerful tactical option, particularly in a deck with few sorceries and instants. Exiling Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a great option, but in a pinch, we may also just want to exile Gideon or a land powered up by Nissa, Vital Force to gain five life.
- 1 Ajani Unyielding
- 1 Chandra, Flamecaller
- 4 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
- 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 2 Nissa, Vital Force
- 4 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Deploy the Gatewatch requires a lot of planeswalkers to be worth it, and we've got to play more expensive ones than we'd generally want to. Fortunately, Oath of Ajani helps ease this pain. Now Chandra, Flamecaller; Ajani Unyielding; and Sorin, Grim Nemesis can be played as five-drops before the turn 6 Deploy the Gatewatch.
- 2 Ajani Unyielding
- 2 Chandra, Flamecaller
- 4 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
- 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 1 Nissa, Vital Force
- 4 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
- 2 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
Oath of Ajani looks decent, but I do think it might be very easy to overestimate the value of the acceleration ability. Not every deck is going to care all that much. It's a worthwhile addition, but I think its applications are probably pretty straightforward. Besides, we're not really going to be able to tell how well Oath of Ajani fits into the picture until we find out what this set's Smuggler's Copter / Spell Queller / Emrakul, the Promised End / Gideon, Ally of Zendikar / etc. is.
To be clear, I do not anticipate Quicksmith Rebel being the busted, overpowered card of Aether Revolt.
What I do anticipate, however, is Quicksmith Rebel being quickly dismissed by players that consider this to not be a “Constructed” ability. The reality is that this ability's role in Constructed is a function of rate and synergy, and while opponents may have more removal in Constructed, it is easier for us to have plenty of artifacts, including those with positive synergies.
Key to the City is my favorite artifact to power up with Quicksmith Rebel so far (at least in Standard). The primary limiting factor to Keys to the City is needing to discard a card in order to activate it. Then, when it untaps, you can draw an extra card for just two mana. However, with Quicksmith Rebel, you can now tap the Keys to Cursed Scroll something without having to discard anything. Key to the City plus Quicksmith Rebel is like drawing two extra cards a turn, and one of them is Shock, and it takes just two mana a turn.
Quicksmith Rebel increases the need for removal, like Harnessed Lightning or Grasp of Darkness, since it can just rip apart some decks if they don't have one. That said, Quicksmith Rebel is fairly risky. After all, if they have a two-mana answer, you'll have lost a lot of tempo. We're often going to want to play the Rebel into tapped-out opponents, ensuring we at least get one shot. We're not always going to have such a luxury, however, and if our opponent kills the Rebel with the ability on the stack, we get nothing.
A turn 2 Smuggler's Copter or Key to the City makes a turn 3 Scrap Trawler a fairly reliable two-for-one, even if killed immediately. If it lives, however, you can start grinding out a surprising amount of card advantage.
I'd love to find a way to work Pia's Revolution into a deck like this, but I just don't think we've got enough support (at least not yet). Now, Modern, on the other hand...
Pia's Revolution can be kind of confusing, but the gist is that we aspire to make a deck where it functions as sort of a triple Disciple of the Vault. For example, if we drop Pia's Revolution and then activate our Mishra's Bauble, our opponent basically has to take three. If they put it back into our hand, we just do it again and can repeat as many times as we want.
Likewise, a second Mox Opal is not only another mana (legend-ruling the old one) but three damage from Pia's Revolution. Otherwise, we can just keep replaying Mox Opal to make arbitrarily large amounts of mana.
Krark-Clan Ironworks gives us an excellent way to sacrifice all of our artifacts. Each one costs our opponent three life, or else they have to give us arbitrarily large mana (when sacrificing any artifact that costs one or less). If we can loop Chromatic Star or Terrarion, we also get to draw as many cards as we want. If we find our Pyrite Spellbomb, we can shoot our opponent as many times as it takes.
There are enough similarities in the kinds of support cards Pia's Revolution wants, I wanted to start with a Faith's Reward style of Eggs deck. Sacrificing Chromatic Star or Terrarion to find a Lotus Bloom is a great way to jumpstart our combos. This isn't the only possible path, however.
Pia's Revolution can sometimes get choked on mana, since so many of the artifacts cost one to activate or cast. However, if we move towards Arcbound Ravager, every zero is potentially infinite counters (once they can no longer take three). Disciple of the Vault plays right into the deck's gameplan and makes a critical mass of artifacts lethal, guaranteed.
One card I'm very curious about is Etherium Sculptor.
I could easily imagine Etherium Sculptor being insane with Pia's Revolution and it being crazy to play less than four. However, I could also imagine it being slightly clunky and not actually playing out the way you want. My thinking is that a single Etherium Sculptor makes Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere loop (as always, once the opponent can no longer keep paying).
We should probably be playing these, right? It's just so quickly a one-mana draw two, and all we want is a critical mass. How to make room? Etherium Sculptor might be a couple of easy slots, but what else?
Is Cranial Plating actually that good in here? I mean, probably, but we're not exactly as good of a Cranial Plating deck as traditional Affinity. Is there any chance we're supposed to play less than four? Okay, probably not, but still…
I don't know. This all seems pretty sketchy. What if we take advantage of the Scrap Trawler tech with a slightly less ambitious supporting cast?
Scrap Trawler works as a pretty interesting multiplier for our artifact critical mass. If we have a Trawler and drop Pia's Revolution, we can sacrifice our Chromatic Star to get back a Mox Opal. They pay three for the Star, then three for the Mox Opal, and then we sacrifice our Ravager to put counters on the Trawler and get back our Chromatic Star again. They pay three for the Ravager, three for the Star, and then three for the Mox Opal again. That's fifteen right there, and we've still got the Trawler and all these cards.
The Preview Season Saga
Aether Revolt previews have been somewhat slow to come so far, but I'm guessing we're about to be hit with a weirdly fierce barrage. This set is also one of the most interesting in recent times from a Modern standpoint. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues, as well as what could possibly be in the set to upset the Smuggler's Copter / Spell Queller / Gideon, Ally of Zendikar / Emrakul, the Promised End metagame we currently see.
See you soon, with hopes of just such a day...