Cardboard Crack: Magic: The Gathering: Aether Revolt

The city of Ghirapur, in the plane of Kaladesh, is in uproar. The Inventor’s Fair was nothing more than a grand ruse for the Consulate, its oppressive and tyrannical government, to forcibly seize the fruits of the labor of the city’s best and brightest minds. In this volatile political climate, the Gatewatch, a group of planeswalkers of legendary power decides to throw their lot amongst the crowd and declare a popular revolt. Plowshares will be turned to swords as the now pissed-off inventors of the city turn their skills towards violent ends.

For it is time to take the power back.

Aether Revolt is the newest set in the extremely popular collectible trading card game Magic: The Gathering, adding 184 cards to the existing metagame, and adding 54 extremely rare Masterpiece cards. It is an expansion to Kaladesh and is meant to be used to finish off the entire cycle.

The set introduces two new mechanics. Improvise and Revolt. Improvise is a straight forward that allows you to tap any cards with the Artifact type to cast cards with the Improvise keyword, bringing powerful cards into play far earlier than expected. Revolt is a mechanic that improves the power of spells (with the keyword) providing you lose a permanent (usually a creature you control) on the turn you cast it. This mechanic is interesting in how it incentivises good sequencing of play in order to make the most of cards with the keyword, or knowing sometimes its better off to send your creatures to their doom for the greater good.

This new set, however drops on the day that the entire Standard format that the community had known for the last couple of months, would be obliterated with a new banlist that would be effective as of Aether Revolt’s release. Standard doesn’t usually see cards banned (the last banning being six years ago), which was a tacitly accepted part of the bargain for players who bought into the format, and reaction amongst the global playerbase is akin to a literal revolt, with those in favour and those against, each with arguments supporting their side.

Three cards were banned- Reflector Mage, who could bounce an opponent’s creature and then keep it in their hands (He had won me many many games int the past), which was understandably frustrating. I was about to get myself four copies of Smuggler’s Copter, which found itself home in practically every deck that wanted to attack head on, and then dig through their library and throwing out lands and other irrelevant cards to keep the aggression flowing. I was thankful for the money saved. Emrakul, The Promised End proved to be too much, with a flying monster that killed the opponent in more than one way (by taking control of their turn), there was no reason not to play any other big monster than this bowl of spaghetti bolognese. Wizards of the Coast did this in the hopes it would introduce more diversity in decks that are running around, which may or may not be anymore likely (my money’s on the latter).

So Aether Revolt’s impact on the tournament scene will be judged on how it operates in the new wild, wild West-like environment, and how the bans achieve the objective of seeing less frustration among players with the format itself.

I’ll be either getting down to a pre-release, or just picking up individual cards later down the track. Either way I am cautiously excited to play in this strange new format.

Andrew Ryan