This is the evaluation I must make after having a peek at the brand new commons coming to us by way of Aether Revolt. While many cards will fall somewhere in between these two extremes, the focus of today's article will be on the specific cards I feel have the greatest potential in regards to this column's format of choice. As usual, my initial summation of each Aether Revolt addition could very well end up being contradicted as time passes (since it's generally easier to over or undervalue a new card than it is to make a perfect prediction).
The follow-up to last year's Kaladesh had a number of unanswered questions to address: can energy ever become a thing in Classic Pauper? Will the stock of promising predecessors like Gearseeker Serpent see a rise? Do artifact-heavy decks not named Affinity or Boros have a place in the metagame? Can we improve the playability of vehicles? And so on and so forth. I'd pretty much argue that each of these questions has yet to be definitively answered, but perhaps my opinion will change by the time this article concludes!
Before we take the speculation plunge, I'd like to share a snippet from Marshall Sutcliffe's 2014 article “Quadrant Theory.” While this is an article that pertains to Limited rather than Constructed, there is a bit of crossover between Pauper and Draft in terms of format dynamics.
Here's a general tip from Marshall's article that we will hopefully not forget about with today's estimations:
“Cards that help out in the most diverse set of circumstances are more valuable than cards that only work well in some...Versatility matters. Cards that do something at all stages of the game carry a lot of the weight for your deck and should be valued highly.”
Okay, that should set the stage adequately well for our new card discussion! Let's begin.
The Aether Creatures Cycle
This cycle is comprised of a creature in each color, each of which generates two energy counters upon entering the battlefield. If the creature survives long enough to attack, those two counters can be converted into a 1/1 artifact creature token!
Out of all five entries, I believe that there are only three worth our serious consideration:
I've chosen Chaser, Poisoner and Swooper over the green and white Aether hopefuls purely based on mana cost. It's fairly rare for a creature priced at 4 mana or higher to make it into Pauper decks unless they're doing something quite special (see Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Mulldrifter for details). When that same creature dies to Lightning Bolt and at best brings along a 1/1 (at least without getting help from other cards) it's just not going to cut it here in commons only.
Aether Swooper already has a decent chance of making it into preexisting Mono Blue Delver decks for a few reasons. It interacts fairly well with Ninja of the Deep Hours, since flying often allows it to proceed into the red zone unblocked and the ninjutsu ability lets us replay Swooper for even more energy counters. Mono Blue Delver also tends to struggle managing heavily populated opposing board states, so the prospect of having a 1/1-making factory is not exactly an unwelcome one. Additionally, the Vedalken Artificer can swing a Bonesplitter with the best of em' and by itself bullies opposing Faerie Miscreants and Spellstutter Sprites!
Keep in mind that Eldrazi Skyspawner has been seeing Pauper play in decks like Izzet Fiend, Dimir Alchemy and Dimir Angler for some time now. While Aether Swooper possesses an inverted power and toughness and doesn't directly allow for extra mana generation, it does happen to cost 1 less. I think the cards are close enough in power level and CMC that we actually end up with a fair approximation of the new guy's viability.
As far as Aether Poisoner goes, there does in fact happen to be a creature that possesses ninjustu worth pairing her with. Let's say we attack with Poisoner and make a 1/1. The opponent lets her through since deathtouch otherwise allows her to “trade up” with their more expensive creature. Enter Okiba-Gang Shinobi for the casual Blightning with upside.
What about placing the 1/1 human into a variant of UB Trinket Control? It can trade with a creature and in the blink of an eye be resurrected by Undying Evil. The added energy generation might even make a card like Die Young somewhat playable in that deck. The -X/-X portion of that sorcery does get around the regeneration of a card like River Boa, by the way.
And I almost forgot to mention that Trinket Mage is able to fetch up an at times forgotten equipment called Viridian Longbow! Deathtouch-plus-Longbow equals a lot of problems for our opponents wielding creature decks.
Black seems to be the most natural buddy color for Ghostly Flicker strategies (one of which I'll be playing in the video segment below!), so a Flicker deck with Poisoner could eventually result in a whole lot of stored energy and a whole lot of 1/1s.
Just on a tangential note, I was content playing Baleful Eidolon (another 1/1 with added utility for 1B) in Standard Pauper, and Poisoner appears to be clearly better than Eidolon overall. The question that remains is: will there be a good enough deck in Classic Pauper for her?
The third and final Aether cycle entrant we're going to look at is Aether Chaser. One thing that I like about this guy above the others is the fact that he's in arguably the most artifact-friendly color around (we're talking Galvanic Blast, Kuldotha Rebirth, Reckless Fireweaver and even Atog here!). A 2/1 first strike beats up everything in Delver until they can resolve Spire Golem, and red decks in general can find plenty of reasons to want token production around.
Before we get too excited about these three, let's not pretend that this cycle is all clovers and blue moons. Sure, these cards technically do something when they enter play, but if they die before getting to attack and we aren't playing any other “cares about energy” cards then they actually didn't do anything. The whole dynamic of pretty much always wanting to attack with these cards also narrows the spectrum of decks that they work best in.
So what, if any, is the payoff to playing with energy counters? Well, what if it turns out that these Aether creatures are the payoff? Live Fast and Die Young both add energy to our reserve, so why can't we convert that stored energy into multiple 1/1 artifacts? It has the potential to turn a contested attrition battle into a victory by suddenly flooding the board with multiple guys. Perhaps when paired with a buddy condition like Bleak Coven Vampires or Reckless Fireweaver we can get some legitimate mileage out of these interactions. It's sounding to me like a solid Standard Pauper gameplan more than anything, but I was ambitious enough to try vehicles (and in my opinion succeed) and I'm more than happy to try energy out, too!
We arrive now at a question that I'm sure many of you might also be asking: how should we rank these three creatures at the end of the day?
I imagine Swooper will be the hardest to block, since flying typically lets creatures avoid the blockers in Affinity, Stompy, Hexproof, MBC, Elves, Izzet Fiend, Goblins and U/x Control (before Mulldrifter). This provides a big boost, in addition to the fact that Delver decks can already bounce this card with Ninja, Snap and/or Vapor Snag if they want. That token generation also lets Delver add to the board while simultaneously leaving permission mana up, which falls right in line with their gameplan. For these reasons I'll have to give Aether Swooper the top slot.
Poisoner is the one I'm likely to play the most, and I think it has the most direct support energy-wise thanks to the cards Live Fast and Die Young. I'd argue that it's a slightly more defensively-minded card than Aether Chaser, and deathtouch offers up more strategic versatility thanks to a card like Viridian Longbow. Lastly, while Poisoner can be blocked it will almost always get to trade with something, which isn't the case with the other two. I'll go ahead and put Aether Poisoner in second place.
That leaves Aether Chaser last, but not by a country mile necessarily. As I already mentioned, red does get on quite well with artifacts. This couples with the fact that this card is hovering around the power level of Attended Knight, a card that I recently expressed my fondness for. Could there be a market for Mono Red, or perhaps Gruul Tokens at this juncture? These kinds of factors could play a crucial role in permitting Chaser to enter into the big leagues.
Fold Into Aether
Wow! I spent so much time talking about just this one cycle that I ran out of space for everything else! That means we'll have to come back for the next edition of Common Ground to get ourselves a more panoramic view of Aether Revolt.
What do you think of the Aether creatures? Feel free to share.
As always, thanks for reading, and enjoy the videos!
About Jason Moore
Jason Moore is 25 years old, and a resident of Los Angeles
California. He began playing Magic seriously in 2010, and has developed a
strong interest in MTGO and the Pauper format. He is one of the hosts of the
podcast Pauper's Cage, and has covered Pauper on other
websites and his YouTube page. His other interests include acting,
writing and playing guitar.
The current Standard format could use a refreshing injection of new cardboard. Luckily, the Aether Revolt release isn't too far away anymore, and today Stjepan takes a look at some of the first Aether Revolt spoilers and speculates about what impact they might have on Standard.
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