Friday, 14 April 2017

Aether Revolt highlander set review pew pew

(^_^) Hey!

In a couple weeks the new set comes out! it's time for my Aether Revolt Highlander Set Review!!! or A.R.H.S.R. A little Easter treat for you.

Awwright, here we go.

Is this thing a Felidar or is Felidar what it's guarding? Guess we'll never know. All I know is that these are found hunting solo or in packs of 2, 3, 4 or 59 trillion billion. Saheeli Rai...yep, she did feature in my Kaladesh set review (I am so smert), she's been hanging out with this cat beast A LOT. I've yet to see the duo translate into the Highlander landscape but surely someone's tried? Canberra?
But yeah, there are infinite good "ETB" (enters the battlefield) effects which Saheeli and her feline friend can exploit, whilst they're not in each other's company. Ideally you want these ETB triggers to be on two or less costing creatures so that both Saheeli and Felidar Guardian can curve after them; Stoneforge Mystic...Baleful Strix (but then you're black)...ok, not much at cmc 2; wayyyy more at cmc 3:
Eternal Witness
Kitchen Finks
and many more including...

I feel like players don't appreciate how good revolt is in fetch land formats.
Most of the time Renegade Rallier will get back a fetchland, which is already great. Getting back powerful two-drops is awesome.
I love building Skullclamp decks because I'm obsessed and want to fuel the "Clamp sucks Vs. Clamp is broken" feud between the Highlander nations of Canberra and Melbourne (Skullclamp is mindboggling absurd broken by the way). Anyway, Rallier is a precious way of getting Skullclamp back from the graveyard. Skullclamp decks tend to lean on it quite heavily. They also tend to play Birthing Pod and Green Sun's Zenith BOTH of which tutor for Rallier. We always had the aforementioned Eternal Witness but her power/toughness body was never impressive, although Terese Neilsen's depiction of her suggests she would have an amazing body if all our cards came to life.
So yeah, Renegade Rallier also gets back other things, like Saffi Eriksdotter, again and again and again, provided you have a sac outlet, preferably one which wins you the game when you can do it infinite times, e.g. Viscera Seer.

Riding my Standard segway, this card is also good with Felidar Guardian and all dem other Blinky Bill cards. Oh, I forgot to mention Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is good with Felidar Guardian.
Rogue Refiner is just a decent bit of value. If your deck needs a little meat and you're looking to dig for your power pointed cards or combo, then Rogue Refiner is your man.

Another three-drop which likes a good blinking. Trinket Mage has a set the precedent.
Every three-cost artifact in magical existence as potential tutor targets. Think Ensnaring Bridge, think Basalt Monolith (with Mesmeric Orb). Think every Sword of X & Y. Crucible of Worlds. Shardless Agent...
What is she holding by the way? A metal lacrosse stick? Certainly not a trophy.

Trophy Mage could technically tutor for this card but I wouldn't put them in the same deck. I'd want this in an Affinity style deck with a healthy curve and a few sac outlets. The dream is having Arcbound Ravager, saccing a five-drop to get back Frogmite, casting Froggy for free, saccing Froggy to get back...I dunno, some sweet three cost artifact and then more saccy saccy and playing of zero-cost things with death triggers and charge counters everywhere.
Scrap Trawler is great in Mishra's Workshop beatdown decks and weird Time Vault beatdown hybrid decks. It's stupid that Time Vault beatdown is a thing by the way. Time Vault in my opinion, has way too low of an opportunity cost.

Speaking of cards which could go in Affinity. Affinity's mana is actually quite tricky cause you want to play lands like Mishra's Factory, Blinkmoth Nexus and mono-colour producing artifact lands but you also need access to Esper colours to get enough powerful artifact synergy aggro cards. Spire goes a ways to remedying that.

I feel like this card has potential. I did a Gatherer search to find some kind of enchantment which reads "whenever a creature enters the battlefield, return an artifact you control to your hand" and a few variations of that effect. I couldn't find anything. Wizards are getting better at not effecting infinite combos on old formats...certainly not new formats though (Felidar Guardian + Saheeli Rai; it still baffles me that they missed that), so they may not ever print the second half of 'infinite thopters' combo, but maybe.
You could jamb this in the sideboard of the Affinity deck which has a bunch of cheap artifacts. It's too slow against aggro and combo to maindeck. Sweet with Glint Hawk, Kor Skyfisher and cards of that effect. Paradoxical Outcome is another one.

Not just a nifty artifact creature for Affinity aggro, also plays as Xantid Swarm in combo deck sideboards.

Artifact control/prison decks. Best in Tinker variants, because he helps ramp out drawn Tinker targets.
Should've been called 'Tezzeret, the Florist', since he makes petals. His hand could easily be altered into a Lotus.

Like all the artifact strategy cards so far, this is not powerful enough to build a deck around but it is another card that you would chuck into any UB artifact aggro deck.
To get the most out of Tezzeret's Touch you want plenty of <3 cmc artifacts. If they're already artifact creatures with evasion, then that's even better, like Vault Skirge for example. Artifacts with ETB triggers are also nice since if they're touched, they're more likely to end up back in your hand. Ichor Wellspring is the dream but that card's so bad without a way to sac it.

More artifact goodness. Very versatile and ballistic. Combos with Arcbound Ravager. Is an alternate kill condition for the Hermit Druid combo deck (The Mimeoplasm exiling Lord of Extinction and Walking Ballista rather than Lord of Extinction and Murderous Redcap). I'm invested in the Hermit Druid applications cause that deck is my baby. Do you reckon if I maindecked Walking Ballista as a win condition that opponents would sideboard in Null Rod and Stony Silence? Cause that would be sweet when I switch to Murderous Redcap post-board; probably too deep. Plus, if I use Walking Ballista for the same cmc as Murderous Redcap to kill a Deathrite Shaman, then they can exile my Walking Ballista before the Deathrite dies, neutering my combo, which wouldn't happen with Redcap.
Another creature for my Training Grounds + Thran Turbine + Braid of Fire deck. I'm excited for that one.

This one doesn't go in artifact decks. This one goes in the 'Fling plus zero cost ability' deck. That's a six mana kill, which is probably too slow but hey, always good to be aware it exists in case something weird breaks it. There are many many functionally equivalent Flings and just as many zero-to-activate abilities. I've always wanted to play Ceaseless Searblades with Lavaclaw Reaches and Wandering Fumarole. Crackdown Construct is just better.

Possibly the best Aether Revolt card as far as Highlander's concerned. Finds Time Vault and Voltaic Key, that's enough to make it busted.

Goes in the Hypergenesis deck. That deck is bad but it can still get you. In fact, that deck probably got a lot better with the rules update of split cards. Now it can actually play cheap spells. Hmmm I will have to consult the oracle (Brett Hughes) and return with answers.

Speaking of cards which have been effected by the split card cmc rules update.
These fellas no longer fuse Beck//Call and Breaking//Entering. They do still cast Ancestral Vision and Hypergenesis though. They also don't cast Boom//Bust, anymore.

This expertise is probably still good in the 'expertise abuse' deck. You cast it a turn later but it's effect should regain enough tempo to keep you safe.
Baral's Expertise also has applications in the Tolarian Academy combo deck. If your Academy taps for seven mana (a big ask) and you have Eternal Witness and Candelabra of Tawnos, that's infinite.

Another Academy Assistant. This time it's Cloud of Faeries which is untapping the Academy. This one even draws your deck so it kills with one less piece but is less versatile than Baral's Expertise.

This thing was operating when Donald Trump got elected.
I've seen Lachlan Saunders and Colin Harris use this card to spectacular effect. Once you start untapping Grim Monolith, Mana Vault, Sensei's Divining Top, Staff of Domination, Metalworker, things get weird.
and of course you can always just untap Time Vault like the chump you are.

Storm? I really gotta play storm one day, just to understand it as a points committee member. I'm guessing this doesn't make it into storm due to not reducing the costs of eggs or spells with no generic mana in their cost.
Apart from storm, Baral seems like a shoe-in for any heavy instant sorcery deck. Who cares if he turns on the opponent's creature removal, he only costs two mana and you're probably already running Jace, Vryn's Prodigy for the same reasons. If he lives, party-time-win-the-game, if he dies, they got one a mana up on you, no big deal.

The shenanigans continue. You could have Emrakul be the only card with supertype 'Creature' or 'Artifact' in your deck. However it's probably better to have a two card combo that wins the game. There are a couple risks here: Your opponent could remove one of your targets in response. You may also have drawn one of the creatures you want to flip into. You could get around the second weakness by playing lots of cards which put cards from your hand back into your deck but Brainstorm is the only good one, the rest are very inefficient. Another way of getting around drawing your creatures is to play redundant huge game winning fatties; you know, Iona, Emrakul, Elesh Norn, Griselbrand, etc. Indomitable Creativity is quite difficult to tutor for so you'll want other similar effects to increase the consistency of the deck. Madcap Experiment, Shape Anew, Polymorph, that kind of thing.
Then of course you need to play a bunch of creature makers which aren't creatures or artifacts themselves, e.g. creature lands and token makers.

Man this card's insane. Zoo got yet another sweet beater here. The evasion and resistance to sweepers make it infuriating to play against. Even though I think this card is too powerful to be a healthy card for magic, I do like how it weakens planeswalkers, which wizards continue to push.
I like how Heart has a significant deck building cost. To get the most out of it, you want to be dropping a three-power creature or planeswalker each turn.
Heart crews nicely with exalted creatures but there aren't many of those.
Each artifact themed block adds more powerful artifacts to the pool and main deck artifact answers become more and more relevant. I'm not sure if we're at the point of maindeck Nature's Claim but we're getting there.

Another beater. Definitely not as good as Heart of Kiran but she is playable, especially in mono-red where there are less options.
There is a sweet Bloodghast + Goblin Bombardment aggro deck, saccing Ragavan each combat is cute. Monkey bombardment.

Also good in 'Wide Zoo' with Burning-Tree Emissary. In Highlander there are so many creatures which are all about the same power level but there are only so many slots and so some creatures don't see the light of day. Once you add restrictive cards like Hidden Herbalists, priorities change and 'almost there' cards can actually get played. In this case, Experiment One might become better than Kird Ape because you have a chance of getting it to three-power on turn two. Also, slightly less powerful creatures can get played since they can be cast for GG.

Castable in wake of Hidden Herbalist. In a format full of fetch lands this is just a good card, like a middle Tarmogoyf. 
If there's an elf beatdown deck, this would surely be in it.
I feel like all the revolt cards aren't getting the attention they deserve due to the lack of fetch lands in Standard.

This is the exception. Push is most certainly getting the attention it deserves. I said earlier that Whir of Invention was possibly the best Aether Revolt card, I forgot about this little beauty.
I can't believe I never thought about this but he's not exactly 'pushing' the dude off the balcony. More of a '300 kick':
and if you have revolt...upgrade to this:

Another great revolt card. You can play this in any non-combo deck with nine or more fetches. If you want to up the consistency of revolt, consider Wasteland, Stripmine or even Mishra's Bauble and Urza's Bauble if you're also try to accomplish delirium a la Modern Death's Shadow.

Flametongue Kavu eat your heart out. This is another generally amazing card. I forgot this one when talking about sweet blink effects for Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai.
Skinrender and Flametongue Kavu were always kept out of maindecks due to the 'must' clause of their abilities. They need to target themselves on an open board. Vengeful Rebel doesn't have that problem.

I can see this in sideboards against control decks, which lack blockers and ways to deal with Enchantments, e.g. the blue moon control decks.
The tokens come online a turn earlier than Bitterblossom and there's no life loss but obviously you're relying on a steady stream of fetch lands to keep the servos coming. Like the other revolt cards, you'll probably want to tweak your deck to include a few more revolt enablers.

This one needs a lot of work but there are rewards to be had. Sensei's Divining Top is your best friend here. Not only does it ensure that you will hit every time, it also lets you set up some big hits as they appear in the top three cards in your library. 
Without Sensei's Top, you can still set up some good hits. There are lots of tutors which put a card on top. That card could be Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Tutors which are permanents themselves: The Harbinger series from Lorwyn, Liliana VessMwonvuli Beast Tracker and Conduit of Ruin to name a few.

Cast Channel, cast Planar Bridge, activate it, get Lich's Mirror, then probably win. You will certainly win if you draw the Bridge again in your new seven cards.

Great in Elves or even just a deck with lots of cheap dudes and mana sinks. Especially good with Nettle Sentinel.
Nice to bounce with Karakas.

Snek. There could be an Abzan midrange deck with +1/+1 counter synergies. Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, Hardened Scales, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, Rishkar, Peema Renegade. Making all these large midrange beaters gives you game against creature decks but make sure you have the disruption you need against combo.

Sweet with Winding Constrictor and Kitchen Finks. Or even better, Murderous Redcap and a sac outlet. Also just good as a lord in Goblins or Elves.

Some Studio Gibli sky pirate action going on here.
Would be sweet to get a +1/+1 counter on a Gideon and get double counter addition happening.
The natural thought with this card is "sweet, get my planeswalker to ultimate super fast" but Skyship Plunderer is very bad at defending your planeswalker. 
Don't get me wrong, Plunderer is still good with planeswalkers but that should be a side bonus to his decent 2/1 flying stats and generally aggro nature.

There are a lot of Oblivion Rings these days. Generally Oblivion Rings are too inefficient but in the enchantress deck, they're awesome.

If you can cast it, excellent, get it in there. Any deck non-combo deck which can produce BB on turn two should be playing this guy.

What kind of deck plays lots of artifacts you don't want to tap? Cause in that kind of deck, this is awesome. Let's list some artifacts which don't tap: equipment, Spellskite, Ruby Medallion and all the other medallions...Heart of Kiran, clue tokens, Engineered Explosives, Pithing Needle. There's enough there for a deck and I'm sure there's more.

Anyway, I hope you found this set review inspiring. Next big Highlander Tournament coming up is Eternal Masters at Next Level Games Dandenong on the 12th of June. Most people will be practicing for the team limited GP in Sydney a couple weeks after but there's some awesome prizes to be had at Eternal Masters if you're willing to put the effort in.

Happy Highlandering!

Luke Mulcahy