What To Look Out For In Aether Revolt Sealed Deck – Teaching An Old Prof New Tricks At The Aether Revolt Prerelease, by Craig Jones
It’s 2am. My eyes are burning. The cards on the table are blurring in and out of focus. What phase are we in again? What am I even doing here?
Ah yes, the midnight prerelease.
While writing this I was trying to remember if I’d done one of these before. Maybe around original Ravnica or Time Spiral block at Altrincham Gamers when I was living up in Manchester. This is the first time Big Orbit have held a midnight prerelease in Shrewsbury. Normally I only play the Saturday prerelease, but I took the special offer to do all three because I’m an article-writer thingy nowadays and need fresh material every week to earn my keep.
That last part’s a lie. I’m here because it’s prerelease weekend. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kitchen-table newbie or a grizzled pro with a 100 pro points under your belt—everyone loves prerelease weekend. It’s that first chance to crack open shiny new packs and check out the goodies hidden inside.
Aether Revolt is the second set in the Kaladesh block, so that means more inventions, more energy, more crazy artifact combos, more adorably cute little gremlins and more vehicles to run the pesky little blighters over with.
Big Orbit Games in Shrewsbury can’t stay open past 6 in the evening, so FNMs and crazy midnight prereleases are held at Isaacs Keep. Isaacs Keep is a Medieval-themed café/restaurant, and looks a rather fitting venue to play Magic in.
Wizarding takes place here.
After a delicious all-day English breakfast to perk me up and a Modern FNM to get me in the zone (where I gave Grave-Trolls their last hurrah) it was time for the main event.
The Midnight Aether Revolt Prerelease at Isaacs Keep
Prereleases are great introductions to tournament play for new players. I was surprised to see one of the members of my local cricket team, Kieran Hatton, show up with a car load from Broseley. His introduction to the game was through Duels of the Planeswalkers. This was his first sanctioned tournament and while he was eager for an opportunity to scalp Mr Lightning Helix, our paths regretfully did not cross. Next time…
Prereleases have a simple prize structure nowadays. Four rounds and each match is for a booster pack (with it going to the winner of a dice roll in case of a tie*). Some might think this a little flat, especially if they remember the bigger prereleases of the past which sometimes had a box of the new set up for grabs for the winner. I prefer this. It’s more in keeping with what a prerelease should be about—having fun playing the new cards.
That’s enough waffle. Let’s get down to the exciting stuff. What did I open?
Hmm. I’m not sure I agree with the name of this card. I certainly did not feel hopeful after opening a pair of them.
As it was, my pool was pretty strong:
(No, I did not open a masterpiece)
This one didn’t take too much thought to build. Normally I’d be worried about whether blue had the depth to follow-up the juicy cards like Baral’s Expertise, but in an artifact set you really don’t need to play that many cards of a colour as the artifacts will fill the rest of the slots.
Here’s what I built:
Kaladesh-only Limited tended to be very brutal. Once you fell behind, you never came back. For this reason I’m very happy to see a decent deathtouch guy (Aether Poisoner) in the common slot and was even happier to open two of them. I’m ready for you, Mr Thriving Rhino.
I thought the deck was strong and it ended up playing even better, largely thanks to all the “draw a card” riders on my cards. The first couple of rounds I got to properly annoy my opponents with Baral’s Expertise, Leave in the Dust and Dispersal Technician bouncing the same artifact critter three turns in a row in one game. Typical black-blue nonsense, in other words.
Battle at the Bridge was very good. I thought it would most often get used as a late game “anti”-fireball to get rid of a creature and pump my life total up to a safe cushion. Instead I used it a lot for smaller amounts to gain tempo by removing one of their creatures and playing one of my own in the same turn. It’s a really versatile piece of removal and deserves the rare status.
The only deck that took me close was Guy Jones’ green-white deck. He managed to get great use out of Implement of Ferocity with Renegade Rallier, and an Armorcraft Judge drawing four cards took the game out of reach. I only managed to tie this match late in extra turns on the second game.
Initially the Implement cycle struck me as one of those rubbish common cycles that fill the bottom halves of boosters. The fact they all draw cards for relatively low mana and interact profitably with both revolt and improvise makes them far more interesting than the relatively weak effects they provide. There will be times when some of them are very handy in the right limited deck.
All the “draw a card” effects gave me an edge in the last round as my deck drew smoothly while Tom Bull’s black-white aetherborn tribal special hit a few stutters on black mana.
One interesting thing the match did throw up is the interaction between Pacification Array and vehicles. The beginning of combat step has thrown up some… shall we say spirited discussion on social media in the past, but here’s an interaction showing why the current rules are the way they are and why you, as a player, should be aware that your beginning of combat step exists.
Picture a board state with a creature and a vehicle on one side and a Pacification Array on the other. If both players aren’t aware of how the rules work this could be a messy Clint Eastwood-style standoff likely decided by who was better able to convince the other of why they should get to act last.
In actuality it’s really straightforward.
If you’re the attacking player with the creature and vehicle, you’re the active player and must act first. In this case, don’t crew the vehicle and just say “Go to combat.”
Now it’s the turn of the defending or non-active player.
They either pass priority, in which case the attacking player cannot crew their vehicle, but can attack with their creature.
Or they tap the creature, in which case priority goes back to the attacking player. They crew their vehicle in response to the creature being tapped and attack with that instead.
Yes, this does mean the player with the Pacification Array is pretty much boned. I suspect that’s why the card and effect is a little cheap mana-wise in Aether Revolt—it interacts unfavourably with vehicles.
I suspect most of the people reading this already knew this, especially if they play regularly online. I also suspect there might be a few who didn’t, and had their vehicles tapped down after crewing them because they thought that was how it was. Well now you know better.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my first prerelease of the weekend.
My record of pulling anything from Kaladesh boosters has been spectacularly poor, so it was nice to pull Aether Revolt‘s chase mythic.
I left Isaacs Keep at five in the morning. I stopped the night at Tom’s along with Allen Vespa, who was also joining me on the triple pre-release train. It was late but fine. We could easily get a full two hours sleep before heading out to the next prerelease…
Why did I do this to myself?
The Saturday Aether Revolt Prerelease at Big Orbit Games Shrewsbury
35 players showed up to the Big Orbit store on Saturday morning. It should have been more, but the midnight prerelease claimed a few souls. Let us mourn their passing and move on (They recovered in time for Sunday).
(No, I did not open a masterpiece)
Not much to think about here. Black is the best colour and White is the second best colour.
This was strong, but didn’t play as well as the blue-black deck I had the night before. The lack of cantrip effects meant I dropped a few games to iffy mana draws. The weirdest was a game against Jonathan Philips where I kept a two-land hand and never drew a third until turn seven or eight. Despite this, I still nearly won the game thanks to crazy dude with a gremlin (Audacious Infiltrator). That match ended in a draw and this time I lost the dice roll for the booster (which was probably a fair outcome given I was behind when we ran out of time in the third game).
Special mention goes to Walking Ballista. This card was amazing. It gave Jack Chetwood’s black-blue deck nightmares as it sat there accumulating counters and blanking his Syndicate Trafficker. Four mana to add a counter might seem a little expensive, but while the Ballista is on the board you pretty much don’t have to do anything else. A lot has been made of the Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian infinite cat combo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the Ballista that ends up being the breakout card of the next Pro Tour (and it’s worth noting a Ballista with a single counter on it is enough to prevent the cat combo going off).
On the less good side, Aegis Automaton ended up being a disappointment. It was there so I could live the dream of casting Noxious Gearhulk over and over, but in practise the ability is just too expensive.
Overall the deck was good enough to take me to another undefeated record.
Meh pulls this time, although Planar Bridge is a mythic (I think it’s too expensive to see play in either Standard or Modern, even in Tron).
Then, because you can never play enough Magic, a group of us went back to Tom’s to play Commander until crashing out time around midnight.
After a much more humane 8 hours of sleep it was time for prerelease number three.
The Sunday Aether Revolt Prerelease at Big Orbit Games Shrewsbury
This was by far the most interesting of the three pools. See what you make of it:
(No, I did not open a Masterpiece.)
Blue looked the obvious main colour with some bomby rares/mythics. After that I was caught between black and white and wasn’t sure which was the better. In the end I built both blue-black and blue-white with the intention of switching between them. The decks looked like this:
For both decks I had a lot of choice over the 23rd or 24th card. I planned to change it depending on what my opponent’s deck looked like.
I thought the deck(s) had enough to maintain my unbeaten record, but alas, tiredness caught up to me with a horrendous misplay in round 3 and I got stomped by a stronger blue-black deck in round 4 (Yahenni clearly has more expertise than Baral).
Again some thoughts on individual cards.
Renegade Map is really really good. I wouldn’t replace land with them 1-for-1, as drawing a Map when you really need to topdeck a land is a thing, but multiples can replace a land. They have great synergy with both Improvise and Revolt. Also, given how well they help turn on Delirium, I think they’ll show up a lot in the coming Standard format.
Caught in the Brights has maybe the best flavour in the set, but is not quite as effective without a vehicle to finish the creature off. I did use it to take out a few threats, but simply ended up giving them a free pilot for their vehicle in the process.
Mechanized Production. Oh Mechanized Production. This card is very powerful and also very risky. Both times I played it I was 2-for-1’ed without ever making a copy of an artifact. The thing is, I knew the card was risky and I knew the correct way to use it was to play it late after drawing out my opponent’s removal with other threats. In both games I never had that luxury. The second time was a full eggs-in-one-basket moment as I dropped it on an artifact already enchanted with Tezzeret’s Touch. This is not normally advisable, but my opponent had missed a land drop and I had Metallic Rebuke to protect it if I ever untapped. Jack was almost apologetic as he drew his fourth land and got off the best value Leave in the Dust ever. So, I dunno on this one.
These are better pulls than I first thought. Herald has moved up to being the second most expensive mythic, which makes me think there’s a scary Improvise deck floating around somewhere.
That gave me an overall record of 8-2-2 for the weekend.
Please help Prof do well at GP Prague
Now I need your help.
I’ll be going to GP Prague in two weeks time and I need to make sure that my Limited skills are up to scratch, hopefully we can also have a community discussion based on this in case it is also useful for others that in the same boat.
My first two pools are too straightforward to be interesting.
(At least to me, if you think differently then please let me know in the comments below. It’s been a while since I was on the PT and I wasn’t exactly feared for my Limited play back then either. So even though both decks finished unbeaten, it doesn’t necessarily mean I built them optimally).
The third pool however, I think I cocked up on. So to help me get better at Aether Revolt sealed deck:
How would you have built the Sunday prerelease deck?
Please let me know in the comments below. For your convenience, here is the sealed pool again:
Next up, the PPTQ season starts for PT Amonkhet and it’s more Limited Aether Revolt fun!
Thanks for reading.
*Editor’s Note: In this article, Craig talks about how the event used rolling a die to determine who gets the prize booster in the event of a draw. This is allowed by tournament rules, even though rolling a die to determine the match winner is expressly not allowed. The match is entered as a draw and what the players then do with the booster pack is entirely up to them.