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Aether Revolt's Modern Impact



As always when a new set comes out, I will go over every card that has a chance of seeing Modern play, every piece of paper that has any potential to get played not only in Standard but in older formats as well, and also try to point out long lost cards which might get a renaissance in their playability, once the metagame shifts in their favor.

This time though, it might almost be a one-man show, as one card in particular certainly steals the show from all other contenders and literally pushes them over the cliff. And when Aether Revolt hits the tournaments, it could be the fateful hour of the Modern format. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We start, as always, with the small fries, because there are actually quite a lot of them. Here we go:

Baral, Chief of Compliance - Baral will not found a completely new archetype, simply because we already have Goblin Electromancer and that one is only getting played in Storm anyway. But there, Baral could be the fifth copy at least and is easier to cast in this regard.

Sram, Senior Edificer - Again we get an additional copy of something already there, but with Sram it gets a little more exciting. Bogles will probably not want Kor Spiritdancer 5th-8th, but Puresteel Paladin finally gets a buddy to have a substitute if he himself doesn't show up. The card draw engine for Equipments is so essential and not replaceable - until Aether Revolt - that the whole deck was just a pile, but now could become a somewhat playable deck, which actually threatens to kill on turns three or four. Yes, Sram is Legendary and thus not stackable, but he only costs one colored mana and is more manageable on the combo turn, so there is at least potential.

Whir of Invention - We continue with possible playables for very fringe decks that could catapult them into a better Tier category. Here we get another Reshape, one mana more expensive but without the additional cost of sacrificing an artifact. This Chord of Calling for artifacts is certainly unqualified for every fair deck as well as for Affinity or Lantern. The colored mana requirements are just too heavy. But Eggs could have another resurgence with now eight ways to tutor up a Lotus Bloom. This also lets you play some singletons in the deck as well like a Krark-Clan Ironworks for example.

Hidden Herbalists - Well, I definitely remember the broken starts in Standard when Burning-Tree Emissary was legal. And there was almost nothing one could do at that point. The Modern version of this Aggro deck is just too inconsistent because it relies so much on these broken starts, while the other things in that deck are underpowered compared to the rest of the format. Now BTE has gotten a buddy and thus is twice as consistent as before, which is still not that impressive and in Modern you got so many more routes to counter this kind of strategy, but this guy will get played almost for sure.

Narnam Renegade - I lost count of which iteration of Kird Ape this is, we already got more 2/3s for one mana than we could squeeze into one deck. But that does not mean that Narnam Renegade may not be one of the best options, and in fact could actually be the best. Now, if you really want to play with it is another question - Gnarlwood Dryad has not seen much play since Eldritch Moon came out. But that is not for me to decide.

Hope of Ghirapur - Now Modern has its own Xantid Swarm, finally. Not that Combo decks were much in need of this, as the main disruption against these kinds of decks is discard. As Thoughtseize and Inquisition are far more prevalent than Mana Leak, Remand and Cryptic Command, a colorless Xantid Swarm is probably not the tool that the Combo decks are looking for, but with today's elephant in the room, maybe we get a resurgence of more controlling decks and if this happens, this could come in handy. This also lets the Storm player kill with Empty the Warrens even if there is no Bushwacker simply because the opponent does not get to deploy their board sweeper and one could even chain some of these together to deny them multiple turns, almost Silence like.

Yahenni's Expertise - When Yahenni's Expertise was first spoiled, everyone got excited for the other cards from this cycle. Now that we know that only this has the potential to be friends with Goblin Dark-Dwellers, we can start brewing up decks. Just like the Goblin 5-drop from Magic Origins, this can cheat with a handful of cards, most notably Ancestral Vision as well as Boom // Bust. Now with access to eight enablers, as well as eight payoff cards (or even more if you want to cast some other Fuse cards), one could actually make that deck function way more consistently than before.

Trophy Mage - Now we slowly get to the real stuff. This got so many implications but also so many great targets that I can't help but feel that there is potential. Yeah, Blue Tron could use this for getting either Oblivion Stone or some other stuff, but let's examine the other options. For starters, this gets Ensnaring Bridge. The most important card in the Lantern deck by far, and Lantern players would certainly play more copies if they could. Well now they can! Also, getting either Crucible or Vedalken Shackles (or Ensnaring Bridge as well) could make for a really sweet blue control deck. I remember the Delver deck with which Antonino De Rosa won Milano a couple of years ago, which made very good use of Shackles. This would also be a deck where a one-of Sword of Fire and Ice (or any other flavor) would be appreciated.

Renegade Rallier - This gets my vote for second best card coming from Aether Revolt, at least for Modern purposes. Maybe I am overestimating the ease with which one could activate Revolt, but an Eternal Witness directly onto the battlefield seems nuts. Yeah, I know that is only targets permanents with converted mana costs of two or less. Getting back Fetchlands lets you ramp, reviving fallen Tarmogoyfs or even Voice of Resurgence is nice in attrition wars, and being able to combo with Saffi Eriksdotter is just pure gold. While Melira Company can just utilize this to retrieve missing combo pieces which died previously, this can also just go infinite with a one-of Saffi, while growing your whole team ad infinite via Anafenza. Company also has more ways to put Revolt online with all the different sacrifice outlets. This does not count all the new wayst o abuse this Sun Titan junior. To activate Revolt, you could just blink this guy with a Restoration Angel for example. With him being able to ramp, there could be a whole new archetype, like Big Bant. When you Sun Titan this guy, oh boy!

Fatal Push - Alright, I won't repeat all that jazz that has been said from other sources over the course of the last days. This is easily the most impactful card for Modern coming out of Aether Revolt and maybe the most influential card in the last few years. Giving black this removal will make not only existing archetypes much more reliable for their early interaction (like Abzan, where you would not want to Path a Goblin Guide turn 1 but kind of had to), but also make new archetypes even possible, for example Sultai, which just had no good killing spell, because all of Abrupt Decay, Dismember and Murderous Cut have severe downsides. I firmly believe that Fatal Push will also shift the metagame, not only of the new decks which will arise, but because people will want to play creatures that can dodge this. Eldrazi come to mind with Reality Smasher and Drowner of Hope, but also decks like TitanShift or Tron could resurface when most players want to jump on the Fatal Push wagon.

That's it for today. What Kaladesh lacked in terms of quantity, Aether Revolt more than makes up for it, while also keeping up the quality portion. Fatal Push will shape the face of the metagame in more than one way and with Trophy Mage as well as Renegade Rallier we could actually see more than one new deck in the following months. I for sure am excited!

Until then,


Jasper Grimmer
Jasper Grimmer

About Jasper Grimmer

Jasper is a player from Germany who can be found at almost every European Grand Prix and prepares a lot for them. Being on the GP circuit since 2011, he has had a number of good finishes: 

  • Top 8 GP Malmö 2012
  • Top 8 GP Paris 2015 
  • Top 4 Team GP Florence 2015 (with Amit Cohen & Robin Steinborn)
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