Two New Archetypes for Aether Revolt

Posted in How to Play Limited on January 24, 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.

It's early, I know, but I love to try to get a good head start on the competition by figuring out what some of the more obvious color pairs are doing in a new format. Today, we are going to look a few of the standout archetypes for Aether Revolt Limited.

It takes a lot of time in the pilot's seat to sort all of that out, but that doesn't mean we can't wildly speculate a bit going in. Today we'll look at the two headline mechanics for Aether Revolt and see how to build around them.

Let's start with an archetype that really looks sweet to me: Blue-Red Improvise.

Blue-Red Improvise

Blue-red was kind of lost in Kaladesh. It had a heavy energy theme, but the cards and the strategy itself rarely came together in a powerful way. In fact, it may have been one of the worst two-color combos in the format. I considered its standout card, Whirler Virtuoso, to be a card that was best when splashed into green-based decks. It was that bad.

So what has changed in Aether Revolt? Improvise, that's what!

Improvise is a headliner mechanic for Aether Revolt, and it looks like blue and red both got a bunch of it to play with. Blue has the most non-rare improvise cards with four, red gets two, black gets two, and there are two artifacts as well. The only gold card is the big and beautiful Maverick Thopterist, which is both blue and red.

Excited now? That card is insane.

Let's get into how the improvise decks work before we get too worked up about Maverick Thopterist, though.

Fundamentally, there are two types of card in the improvise deck: the enablers and the payoffs. We'll start with the payoffs because if you don't have those, you don't have an improvise deck. The payoffs are the guiding force that lead you into this deck, as the enablers are much easier to get your hands on.

Here is an example of a very solid payoff card for this deck:

What you'll notice is that most of these improvise cards cost about one more mana than you'd prefer to spend on them. Wind-Kin Raiders for six mana isn't a very good deal, but at five mana it would make the cut in my deck basically every time. Anything cheaper than that and my eyes are open.

Bastion Inventor is another solid payoff, even if it's perhaps not as good as Wind-Kin Raiders. Hexproof is really annoying for the opponent, and 4/4 are solid stats. Again, if you cast this for four or less mana, you're thrilled. Five is fine. Six is less fine.

The two red payoffs are nice too:

These are both aggressive attackers that are annoying to block. Sign me up. Enraged Giant hits hard, has enough toughness to be a repeat attacker, and can change the damage race significantly if cast early. Sweatworks Brawler on turn three is a super-solid play, as it's bigger than most every other three-drop and is hard to block as well.

I like one of these artifacts much better than the other:

Which one do you like? Remember, either of these can be cast for zero mana provided you have enough artifacts. I think Barricade Breaker is a very good payoff for the heavy improvise decks, whereas Foundry Assembler is medium. When your realistic best-case scenario is a 3/3 on turn three, it's hard to get super excited.

But Barricade Breaker hits really hard and can come down much earlier than the seven-mana cost would indicate. The forced attack is a definite drawback, but what are they going to do, keep taking 7 damage every turn?

The aforementioned Maverick Thopterist is a card that doesn't even need improvise to be good, feeds other improvise cards, and is just plain old fantastic. Reverse Engineer similarly would be good enough without improvise, but it has it, so why not?

We've seen some of the payoffs, but what about those enablers I was referring to? In this case, enablers are cheap artifacts, plain and simple. Artifacts that cost just one mana are the best, but two mana is fine as well. Remember, improvise works with any artifact, so even Servo tokens and other artifact creatures will work. That means that cheap artifacts that create multiple artifacts will be excellent here.

One easy to overlook factor is that artifact creatures allow you to develop your board while still building up for improvisation later. This puts a slight premium on good artifact creatures for this deck.

The most obvious of the cheap enablers are the Implements. The blue and red ones are both reasonable inclusions in the deck, though they don't really shine in it.

The fact that I am saying it's okay to play Implement of Combustion in your deck should highlight how important the enablers are to the strategy. Implement of Combustion is a very low-impact Magic card. In fact, it's just plain bad. But the two things it does just fine are A) be an artifact that is cheap to cast, and B) replace itself with a fresh card when the time is right.

The basic idea is that you play a ton of these cheap artifacts, use them to power out your improvise payoff cards, and then cash them in for cards later in the game.

Implement of Examination is a more powerful card, but at three mana it's much less useful for a deck like this.

Cards like Renegade Map and Prophetic Prism spike in value in decks like this as well.

They're so cheap, and they replace themselves while even fixing any mana issues you may have.

Cards like Servo Schematic are interesting in that they make two artifacts for just two mana, even though the overall effect is pretty low.

Many people have already asked me if I would include this card in an improvise deck:

No. No, I would not.

The truth is that you can just pick up cheap artifacts that have more effect on the game or replace themselves pretty easily, so you don't have to stoop so low to play an Ornithopter in your deck. And no, it's not a Mox.


Make sure you prioritize the payoff cards and get your hands on enough cheap artifacts to make the whole thing work. When it comes to spells that aren't artifacts or payoff cards, they had better be removal or very powerful effects, as every slot counts when you are trying to build a deck with this much synergy.

Green-White Revolt

Revolt is tricky business. There are times when you can turn revolt on at your whim and other times when you won't and you'll have to hope your opponent cooperates with your plan.

As far as how the non-rare revolt cards break down, white and green get four each, while black gets three. There are also two gold cards, one in green-white and one in black-white.

I think that there is a chance to splash some black in these decks, or even use different combos of these three colors to get the job done. I'm starting with green-white as my baseline.

Similar to improvise, there are payoffs and enablers in the revolt deck. The big difference is that you don't need the enablers to make the deck work, your life is just a lot easier if you have them.

Let's look at some payoffs first:

As you can see, there is some pretty nice stuff here. Sometimes, the difference between revolt and not revolt is very big, as is the case with Deadeye Harpooner. If you were to play this card without revolt, you would be sad. But with revolt it can be a big swing in your favor. Renegade Rallier is similar.

But with Airdrop Aeronauts, you would be just fine to play it in your deck without revolt, making the whole revolt thing more a gravy proposition rather than an essential piece of the puzzle.

Lifecraft Cavalry lies in the middle. It's great with revolt, medium without.

When it comes to enabling your revolt deck, you've got options. Cards that allow you to have a permanent leave the battlefield for little or no mana are the best way to ensure you'll have revolt active when you need it.

Well look who's back! It turns out this little map is the Prophetic Prism of this set. You know, the card that looks innocuous but playable, but ends up being a much higher pick than you realized? That.

You can crack your Map and even enable two-drop revolt cards like Countless Gears Renegade and Greenwheel Liberator.

It also smooths your draws, fixes your mana, and even taps for improvise like I mentioned before. It won't be long until people are snatching these up early, so prepare for that future. You can even save it for later in the game after you draw a key revolt card, assuming you aren't missing land drops.

Other ways to get revolt going are the Implements in these colors, Implement of Improvement and Implement of Ferocity.

Unlike the previous archetype, you don't need these cards to make the deck work, so you can take them much later and include far fewer of them in your deck (provided you have better cards to replace them).

You also can rely on good old combat to trigger your revolt. It will be interesting to see what happens when you attack with a 1/1 Servo into their 2/2 and they figure out that you are going for revolt. Do they take the damage? Can they resist the value proposition? Are you bluffing? There are a lot of cool interactions like this with revolt.

There are other hidden revolt enablers that will pop up from time to time.

For example, Caught in the Brights can be a revolt enabler. If it's on a creature and you attack with a Vehicle, the creature gets exiled, thus making the Caught in the Brights fall off and go to your graveyard, which satisfies the requirements for revolt and doesn't even cost any mana.

Keep your eye out for less clear ways to get revolt going.


This archetype is very straightforward: you are playing a green-white creature deck that has the potential for some really powerful plays thanks to revolt. Your fallback plan of casting creatures and removal (even without revolt) is solid, so pick up the revolt enablers when it's convenient, but you don't have to commit as hard as you do for improvise.

There Are More

I wanted to hit the two new mechanics hard here, as they are the ones that differ the most from Limited in Kaladesh, but there are plenty of carryover strategies like energy and +1/+1 counters to play with as well.

We'll explore those another time, though, as we are out of time for today.

Until next time!


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