Is Aether Revolt the most obviously powerful set in recent memory? That's hard to say. It's hard to beat both Khans of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir, each of which made several waves across multiple formats. Eldritch Moon is no joke, either. In fact, Emrakul, the Promised End; Liliana, the Last Hope; and Grim Flayer are probably all better than any of Aether Revolt's mythic rares.
But Aether Revolt might be the deepest small set ever. Again, Eldritch Moon is up there, but boy howdy are there a lot of powerful cards in Aether Revolt. It will redefine Standard. It will redefine Modern. It will spawn new archetypes in Commander. This is no Dragon's Maze, folks. You're going to want to open many packs of this exciting new set.
I'd love to tell you exactly which cards from Aether Revolt will catch fire and which will go down in flames, but that's very hard to in a combo-centric set. The problem is that most of the best cards don't neatly slot into existing archetypes. Will Saheeli Rai's interaction with Felidar Guardian eventually define Standard, or will the Emrakul decks be too powerful and disruptive to stop them? Will Tezzeret the Schemer be a four-of in the format's best artifact deck, or will it end up one or two pieces short? We have to ask these sorts of questions every time a new set is previewed, but it's much harder to answer them when an expansion is so focused on combos and synergy.
As always, I'm going to do my best to provide you with my best take on both the risks and rewards present in each new card. When it comes to actually spending money, though, I strongly suggest following your gut, especially if you play a lot of Standard and have a good read on the format. If there's a combo in Aether Revolt that you strongly believe in, get your playsets ASAP. If you think a hyped interaction is going to end up being too slow, sell your pieces into the hype. Aether Revolt is not the sort of set where our initial read is likely to end up being correct. There are a lot of fluctuations to come.
So where do I stand on all of these cards? Let's find out. Below is my complete set review for White, Blue, and Black. Come back later this week for Red, Green, Multicolored, Artifacts, and Lands.
To the cards!
Exquisite Archangel - $4.99
Exquisite Archangel will have some long-term casual value just like Platinum Angel does, but a seven-mana card with mediocre stats and no enters-the-battlefield or death trigger is highly unlikely to ever see much tournament play. Snag a foil if you think there's some hope as a one-of in a Legacy combo deck or something, but I'm expecting Exquisite Archangel to become a bulk mythic before long. Expect this to end up on one of my “long-term casual cards to pick up” lists once it hits $1 in December of 2018.
Sram's Expertise - $3.99
Oh geez, what a strong card. I can't imagine that Sram's Expertise won't end up seeing a whole bunch of play across a couple of formats. Decks that want tokens always have a glut of two- and three-drop spells to cast, and this card is just stupidly efficient at putting you a turn ahead of your opponent. Yes, it competes with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on the curve, but what deck that runs Gideon isn't at least considering two to four of these?
Sram's Expertise is so good that I can see a world where it ends up in two playable Standard decks—G/W Tokens and B/W Humans—as well as in some sort of Modern Beck//Call shell. This card is a good buy at $4, and I wouldn't be opposed to grabbing a set of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar as well as Tireless Tracker if you think G/W tokens is coming back in Standard. Beck//Call already spiked last week, but speculators have already begun flooding the market with their extra copies. If you can snag these anywhere near their current $1.49 retail price, I'd get a set.
Sram, Senior Edificer - $1.99
Puresteel Paladin is already a fringe player in Modern and Sram, Senior Edificer might be enough to push that deck into the realm of playability. If you can still find Puresteel Paladins at their $6 retail price, pick them up ASAP—the supply is only getting smaller, and it's got the potential to hit $30 (yes, really) if enough people decide to pick up the deck and give it a try.
In Standard, Sram, Senior Edificer has a shot at showing up in the Aetherflux Reservoir deck as well as R/W Vehicles. It's also a very interesting casual card that fits the profile of a great long-term hold. I'm in for a set of these at $2—it's the sort of low-risk, high-reward spec I like.
Solemn Recruit - $1.99
I'm not buying Solemn Recruit as a Constructed-playable card. It'd be quite good at two mana, but 1WW for a 2/2 that requires a few hoops in order to be good isn't cutting it for me. This is a slower aggro card in a format where you can't screw around with stuff like that. Future bulk rare.
Call for Unity - $0.99
Call for Unity is obviously too slow for Standard, though it'll find a home in a couple of Commander decks. Future bulk rare.
Consulate Crackdown - $0.99
The best-case scenario is that Consulate Crackdown ends up as an important sideboard card against the coming plague of artifact decks. Those cards tend to be worth $1-$2, meaning that this spell is likely to stay close to its current value. Grab a set if you think you'll need them, but there's no spec potential here.
Aethergeode Miner - $0.99
Aethergeode Miner will see play if there is a Standard Revolt deck, but I don't know how likely that is. Based on what I've seen so far, the pieces just aren't there. If I'm wrong, though, Aethergeode Miner card will end up in the $4-$5 range. Grab a set if you want to screw around with Revolt—you can't go wrong at a dollar—but understand that the card has long odds to pay off.
Felidar Guardian - $0.49
Felidar Guardian is an uncommon, but it's worth noting that it goes infinite with Saheeli Rai in a combo that bears an eerie similarity to Splinter Twin and Pestermite. Once the internet found out about that, Saheeli Rai spiked to $25.
I have no idea if this combo will be good enough for Standard, but the fact that it can go off faster than Aetherworks Marvel makes me think that it's fairly legitimate. Selling your copies of Saheeli Rai into hype is probably still correct—$25 for a fall set mythic that only works in one deck is a tad high—but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss this interaction.
Baral, Chief of Compliance - $9.99
I've heard some people say that Baral will revitalize Modern Storm, but I don't see it. Those decks already have Goblin Electromancer and can't afford to run more than five or six copies of that effect without risking the ability to storm off. Baral will see play in those decks, but I doubt it will be enough to push the archetype into Tier 1 or invent a whole new style of deck.
In Standard, Baral's playability will depend on what the format's control decks are trying to do. We just got two more good counterspells in Disallow and Metallic Rebuke, so there's a real shot that some sort of Baral, Chief of Compliance / Torrential Gearhulk deck will materialize at the control end of the format. The more creatures that deck has to run, the better Baral will be—otherwise, you're just helping make their removal spells better by giving them a nice early target.
Ultimately, I expect Baral, Chief of Compliance to be Standard-playable, but probably not in more than one deck. That's a $5-$6 card, not a $10 one. Baral is good, but it's not as versatile as, say, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. I'm staying away at current retail.
Mechanized Production - $5.99
Mechanized Production would be a non-starter in most Standard formats, but there are still enough Clue tokens from Shadows over Innistrad running around that I'm a little bit intrigued. Tamiyo's Journal seems like an obvious part of the combo—not only does it make Clue tokens, but it can go fetch the Mechanized Production once you're ready to win. Grab a set of Journals if you're a believer.
Is this interaction too slow to be good, though? Almost certainly. But Mechanized Production is a fun casual card regardless, and there is some minor potential in a deck that doesn't go all-in on the Clue plan but uses this as some sort of card advantage machine with Gearhulks and/or Panharmonicon that can occasionally win the game off the combo. I expect Mechanized Production to end up as a bulk mythic with long-term casual appeal (a recurring theme in this set) but the card does have a shot at breaking through in Standard.
Disallow - $5.99
Disallow is great. We know that three-mana hard counters are playable in the current Standard format, and Disallow will occasionally allow you to buy that one turn you desperately need by countering a planeswalker ability. Flexibility is underrated, and this card gives you enough versatility to make it an upgrade over Void Shatter—yes, even against Delirium. Disallow is not going to make a major impact in Modern, though—that format already has too many other, better options.
Cards like Disallow tend to seesaw between $2 and $8 during their time in Standard, so $6 is a bit on the high side. It's not an awful price, though, and its floor is so high that you're probably not going to be sad about pre-ordering these if you're planning to use them for the duration of their time in Standard.
Whir of Invention - $2.99
Whir of Invention is not Chord of Calling for artifacts. It's similar on the surface, and tutors should never be underestimated, but the fact that you have to pay UUU no matter what makes Whir of Invention a really narrow spell.
That said, Whir compares favorably to Reshape, which is a playable card in both Commander and Modern Ironworks. Krark-Clan Ironworks has been rising a bit lately, and this is part of the reason why. I'd bet Whir has an easier time catching on in Eternal than in Standard, though, so I'd look at buying other pieces of potential combo decks instead of going in on Whir. This card will likely end up dropping to $1 and should be a nice long-term buy at some point.
Baral's Expertise - $1.99
Baral's Expertise is good, but it's nowhere near as versatile as some of the other cards in the expertise cycle. It's not obviously powerful, but it does play really well with what U/W Spirits is trying to do and it could end up finding a home as a two-of or three-of in that or another blue-based tempo deck. Five-mana sorceries aren't generally good enough for Modern, though, so I expect its success will be limited to Standard. Snag copies at $2 if you want them—why not?—but I doubt that Baral's Expertise will end up as one of the set's more important spells.
Aethertide Whale - $0.99
Sadly, I could tell from the name of this card that it wouldn't be Standard playable. Nothing about the text on Aethertide Whale dissuades me from this position, either. Future bulk rare.
Quicksmith Spy - $0.49
I could see an artifact deck or two taking Quicksmith Spy out for a spin. It's fun with Key to the City, and it certainly plays well with Panharmonicon as well. At the end of the day, though, it's a 2/3 for four that requires an artifact before it can do anything. Snag a set if you want them—the risk couldn't be lower—but the card's ceiling is probably in the $2-$3 range.
Herald of Anguish - $5.99
In order for Herald of Anguish to be playable, your deck has to be able to generate at least two artifacts by turn 5. In order for Herald of Anguish to be great, you need to be able to generate three artifacts by turn 4. Is this possible? Absolutely, but I can't imagine more than one deck heads in this direction. That gives this card $10-$15 upside if the deck becomes Tier 1 and a $2-$3 floor if it doesn't pan out. That's not a bad gamble at $6, honestly, though I wouldn't go too deep, thanks to the risk.
Yahenni's Expertise - $5.99
It's hard for me to imagine that Yahenni's Expertise isn't played somewhere—it's just so darn powerful. -3/-3 isn't going to kill everything, and this isn't the hard sweeper that some are claiming it to be, but taking out a couple of your opponent's dorks while getting a free play is great value. If there's a black or U/B control deck in Standard, it will likely want a bunch of these. Yahenni's Expertise has serious potential in Modern, too—the Beck//Call decks are a tad janky for my taste, but it fits well as just a value spell in black-based midrange and control decks. Just casting this into Liliana of the Veil is quite spicy.
There's not a ton of upside left at $6, but Yahenni's Expertise is both versatile and powerful enough to interest me quite a bit. I doubt it ends up being unplayable, so the floor is pretty high. I might pre-order a set myself, just in case—it's one of the best cards in the set.
Fatal Push - $4.99
Oh wow. I don't think you need me to tell you that Fatal Push is great in Modern—just sacrifice a fetchland and kill something with converted mana cost or less at instant speed. I suspect that Fatal Push will help make Esper, Sultai, Abzan, and U/B decks stronger. Snapcaster Mage should see more play. Tasigur, the Golden Fang goes up in value—pick up a few copies of that if you don't have them yet. Primeval Titan becomes harder to kill. Tarmogoyf gets significantly worse. Grishoalbrand might get better if more people play this and fewer run Path to Exile. Death's Shadow and Infect get a bit worse, as do the creature-lands. And if the linear aggro decks are pushed onto their back feet a bit, control might actual be able to make a bit of a comeback.
Seriously—the entire Modern format might be shaken up thanks to this card. Pay close attention to GP results once Fatal Push becomes tournament-legal. I'd start looking into trading for Thopter Sword, Faeries, and Esper Control pieces, just in case.
Fatal Push is obviously good in Standard, though some people are saying it will prevent Smuggler's Copter from seeing play. Not true—the best aggro threats will always be playable in a given Standard format, and Fatal Push isn't likely to change the number of removal spells a deck will run. It may prevent Smuggler's Copter from totally dominating Standard (please!), but that doesn't change the fact that now is still a great time to pick up your Copters.
As for the price of Fatal Push itself, it'll probably drop down to $2-$3 as boxes are opened. Just don't forget to pick up a set at some point—this is a multi-format staple that could end up at $5+ basically forever. If you have to buy in at current retail because you need a set for opening day, don't worry too much about it. Cards this good tend to hold their value no matter what.
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner - $2.99
I keep getting suckered into believing in these Dark Confidant analogs, and I'm burned every dang time. Black doesn't have a viable energy deck right now, and I don't know if that's going to change with Aether Revolt. You could pair black with green, but there's already a very good B/G deck and the color doesn't give you a ton of other great reasons to go into energy. This is a $5-$7 card if it catches on, but the chances of that are quite low and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is a bulk rare if it doesn't pan out. I'm staying away.
Midnight Entourage - $1.99
I don't think there are enough playable Aetherborn for Midnight Entourage to spawn its own archetype, and the fact that this card replaces itself when it dies doesn't change the fact that it's just too slow for Standard. Future bulk rare.
Yahenni, Undying Partisan - $1.99
I can see Yahenni, Undying Partisan finding a home is something like the W/B Fabricate deck that was kicking around a few months ago. If you're into that idea, you'll probably want to spec on Angel of Invention—it's a cheap mythic that W/B Fabricate runs four copies of.
Otherwise, Yahenni, Undying Partisan is just another three-mana 2/2 that needs you to jump through too many hoops before it's good enough to see competitive play. You can't really go wrong buying in at just $2, but I'm not a big fan.
Secret Salvage - $0.99
Secrete Salvage is probably a win-more, since it requires you to 1) have already played a good spell, 2) have the time and mana to take a turn off playing this, and 3) have the time to cast your other copies of the spell. I can see Secret Salvage ending up as a good sideboard card in control match-ups, so it might hit $2-$3 at some point, but I doubt it becomes a staple.
Battle at the Bridge - $0.99
If Tezzeret the Schemer is a thing, than surely Battle at the Bridge will see some play, right? It's at least a sideboard card against aggro decks if you have enough artifacts kicking around to kill a big creature while gaining a meaningful amount of life. The buy-in is pretty low here at just $1, and it could end up as a $3-$4 staple. Not a bad buy.
Gifted Aetherborn - $0.99
Gifted Aetherborn is probably too black-intensive for the current crop of B/R aggro decks, but it's a really nice card out of the sideboard (with some main deck potential) in black-based midrange and control decks. I could see it ending up a $2-$3 as one of the money uncommons in the set, but that would probably require it to have some success in aggro as well. Regardless, don't let these end up in your bulk pile.
This Week's Trends
As we discussed earlier, Saheeli Rai is the biggest gainer of the week, thanks to its interaction with Felidar Guardian. Selling into hype is almost certainly correct, but don't think of that as me saying that the combo is unplayable.
Wandering Fumarole also saw some major gains this week, likely as a result of its infinite combo with Crackdown Construct. This combo is a tad more spurious, but Wandering Fumarole is good enough on its own that I don't mind holding onto these for now.
Surgical Extraction is the big gainer in Modern this week, where it has almost doubled in price and threatens to hit $20. Not only is Extraction good against Modern Dredge, but it does an excellent job against Reanimator in Legacy. Surgical Extraction will likely settle in around $20 for the long haul—this demand seems organic to me, and I don't think it was the result of a buyout spike. Leyline of the Void saw some gains as well for much the same reason, and it should stay fairly high as well.
We also talked a bit about Beck//Call earlier, and it was another big gainer this week thanks to the Expertise cycle in Aether Revolt. I like it far more with the white Expertise than the black one, and I wouldn't be opposed to grabbing a few of these once the price settles down a bit. The problem is that so many finance writers (including me) have been recommending this card for so long that there is going to be an equilibrium period were speculator copies flood the market as people try to cash out. If you're interested in trying this deck out, just wait a few days and then grab your set. If you're holding a bunch thanks to some good speculating, I'd hold off—the time to sell into the hype was late last week, so at this point you're better off seeing if the deck actually works.
Atraxa, Praetor's Voice is so popular among Commander players that it keeps selling out everywhere. I can't recommend going too deep on a card that is in a print-to-demand product, but it seems likely that the price will surge once Commander 2016 leaves store shelves for good. Target these in trade at current retail.
In related news, Atraxa has caused Bloom Tender to spike again—yes, again. There are so few of these kicking around because it hasn't been printed since Eventide that it can probably sustain its current price tag for a while. I'd still sell your Tenders into the hype, though—this is the type of card that could easily come back in a Masters or Commander set. Oh—and Coalition Relic has started to spike thanks to Atraxa as well, so I'd grab a copy or two ASAP if you can still find them at current retail.
Also in the second spike club: Master Transmuter. Is Breya to blame? Possibly, but the fact that we're in the middle of a cool artifact block doesn't hurt. Again, this demand feels pretty organic to me, but I'm fine selling into hype thanks to the reprint fears. Mycosynth Lattice continues to rise in price for much the same reason.
Pride of the Clouds spiked last week as well, likely as a result of SaffronOlive's Jeskai Flying Men deck in Modern. It's not a bad deck, it's relatively affordable, and Pride of the Clouds is easily the hardest card in the list to come by. It might actually sustain its current $10+ price tag for a while.
Is Frontier a real thing yet? It's certainly the reason why Dig Through Time spiked early last week. This is interesting because it's the first card that has probably spiked solely because of Frontier's potential. What might be next? Check out my article on the format from back in November and see for yourself.