Incremental Implementation

Posted in Card Preview on January 4, 2017

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Who's ready for Aether Revolt?

I guess I am?

I mean, we've had our hands on Kaladesh for quite a while now, but I still draft it almost every day. It's had remarkable staying power as a format, even past the mile marker by which most sets have overstayed their welcome.

Still, all good things must come to an end, and what better way to shake up this little slice of the Multiverse than with two fresh packs of Aether Revolt thrown into the Draft mix?

We've got preview cards for you this time around, and as I've grown accustomed to, we have a full cycle.

I love getting a full cycle of cards to preview. It shows us a good deal about what the designers of the set have in mind, and given that this particular cycle is at common, it shows us a big chunk of real estate for the set.

The fine folks in R&D wouldn't put throwaway cards in these spots. In this case, though, the five artifacts we are looking at actually are meant to be thrown away. Sort of.

Let's get into it.

The Implements

Our five preview cards are all artifacts this time around. They all cost generic mana to cast, but have a color requirement to activate their ability. They all share the name Implement.

We'll start with an easy one:

Here we have the white Implement. As you can see, it's quite straightforward. One to cast, one white to sacrifice it, and when you do, you get a minor effect plus you get to draw a card. Each of these Implements has the same basic template.

I started with what is likely to be the worst of the bunch, as gaining 2 life for two mana just to get the card back isn't really exciting. But when we evaluate cards, we often talk of a card's floor and ceiling. The floor of a card is simply what it is at its worst case. In this case, it's effectively "1W, gain 2 life, draw a card." Which while not particularly impressive, isn't very expensive and gets you the card back.

We'll touch on ceilings down the path a ways.

Let's look at an Implement that packs a little more punch.

The green Implement offers something of a bit more substance than the white one: a lasting effect on the board. It's not quite a combat trick since you can only activate this at sorcery speed, but you do get a +1/+1 counter for your trouble. This is closer to the type of small effect that is really worth the tempo loss. A single +1/+1 counter is often the difference between a good attack and no attack at all.

I like Implement of Ferocity and think it will see a good amount of play in the coming months.

Next is Implement of Combustion:

As you may have guessed from the name, this is the red Implement, and it does exactly what you would assume a red Implement would do: a little bit of damage.

Hitting a player for 1 damage is effectively never worth it, so this card might not be worth it unless you have a lot of revolt. Then, maybe.

Every one of the Implements we've looked at has cost one mana, and had an activated ability cost of one mana of a specific color. But they aren't all like that, as we see with Implement of Malice:

We are keeping the minor-effect theme rolling with having an opponent discard a card, but we do get the card back even if it costs us two mana up front rather than one.

Strangely, this is a relatively considerable change. In a normal set, the number of playable one-drops is quite low. Most of the time, your first turn is just a "land, go" scenario and things don't really get moving until you hit your second land drop. Then, you start casting creatures that can attack and block, soak up combat tricks, that kind of thing. This means that meaningful one-mana plays are quite good.

But this Implement takes up that precious two-mana slot, and defies being crammed into your curve at a later time.

Is it worth it?

Probably not. Even though you are technically getting a two-for-one out of the deal (your opponent discards a card and you draw a card) it's not the highest quality two-for-one you could imagine. When it comes to discarding just one card, it's usually not too difficult for the opponent to figure out the worst possible one and get rid of it.

Also of note, Implement of Malice has the same restriction as Implement of Ferocity: you can only activate it when you could cast a sorcery. This is to prevent people from waiting until their opponent's draw step to activate the Implement.

For our last Implement, we have the blue one. It's called Implement of Examination:

As you can see, we have a three-mana Implement here, though the activation cost remains the same. This card is interesting in that you pay in two separate chunks, but you get both cards only at the end when you sacrifice the Implement.

As far as effects on the game go, drawing two cards is the best of the bunch, but you pay for it. Four mana to draw two cards isn't a great deal, but at the end of the day, two cards are two cards and you do what you gotta do, you know?


So what is with these Implements? Why print a whole cycle of cards that have a relatively small impact on the game?

First, remember that this is the plane of Kaladesh, and on Kaladesh, artifacts matter. Some cards will care that you control an artifact, which these let you do (for a while at least).

Some will care that an artifact enters the battlefield on your side of the board. These make it easy to have an artifact enter the battlefield, since they are often so cheap to cast. If you anticipate this triggering something of meaning, you can simply hold it in your hand until the appropriate time. Given the relatively cheap cost of most of these Implements, you won't be severely punished for doing so.

But in Aether Revolt, artifacts matter in a new way: there is a new mechanic called revolt that cares about permanents leaving the battlefield this turn.

Here's an example:

As you can see, the revolt text cares about a permanent leaving the battlefield from your side this turn.

Artifacts are, of course, permanents. Which means that each of the Implements in this cycle is eligible to help with the revolt mechanic. They are particularly well-suited for this, as they all have such a cheap cost to activate them: just one mana.

There are other ways to get revolt going. Any sacrifice outlet at all or even losing a creature in combat will do it. But this cycle of Implements makes it quite easy to ensure that you get the revolt trigger of your dreams.

Remember when we talked about the floor of these cards earlier? My guess is that the ceiling will have something to do with a revolt card being triggered. And while that may not be the highest ceiling ever, it's plenty good enough to see play.

Be sure to find a store near you to see how the Implement cycle, along with the rest of the new cards in the set, plays out when Aether Revolt Prereleases take place January 14–15!

Until next time!


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