Previous AER Set Reviews
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
The ratings scale is slightly different as well:
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
I do like that this is a control finisher that protects itself, though we’ve flown past the days where Aetherling-style finishers are what end games. High-end cards these days need to play defense and offense better than the Whale, though in a removal-heavy mirror it could be annoying. Also, the whole flying whale thing is still kind of strange to me.
Baral, Chief of Compliance
Baral looks pretty sweet to me. Getting a 1-mana discount on any spell is a powerful ability in either a combo or control deck, and the loot effect helps you churn through cards. You can even play more copies of Baral than you would otherwise because of that effect, which is nice on a legendary card.
This Expertise is a little harder to build around, because triple-bounce is a fairly narrow effect. It can help you combo off with Sram or Aetherflux Reservoir by bouncing 0-drops, or you can slot it into a tempo deck and try and get ahead on board. I’m more skeptical of the second plan, and would think Baral’s Expertise lends itself more to combo shenanigans.
Hexproof plus cost reduction makes me interested in inventing an improvise deck immediately. Playing 2- or 3-cost 4/4 hexproof beaters is a real dream, and given enough cheap artifacts this could be the finisher that these engine decks are looking for. Make sure not to have your cheap artifacts do stone nothing – I’m thinking Prophetic Prism and Terrarion more than Ornithopter.
A 3-mana counterspell with significant upside is a nice addition to Standard. This owns planeswalker ultimates, stops anything you need to stop, and even fights against Aetherworks Marvel. Disallow is going to be a staple in blue control decks.
This is potentially a replacement for Aetherflux Reservoir in this theoretical nonsense deck, but I don’t think that’s the deck’s weak spot. As a fair engine card, I don’t see this being efficient enough to construct a deck around it.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the combo of this plus Clues, ideally off Tireless Tracker, but I don’t have high hopes for making the full 8 needed to win the game.
It would be a huge leak if I didn’t mention how good this card is going to be in Standard. It’s a 2-mana counterspell with just one artifact in play, and a 1-mana counter if you have two. Given how powerful cheap counterspells are, this is very much worth building around. How many random artifacts you can fit into a deck is yet to be seen, but the power level of this card is so high that it’s worth looking at fitting as many as possible. Clues, Prophetic Prism, Vehicles, and more—these all make Rebuke into a powerhouse.
Negate is great.
This looks to me like a sideboard card for matchups where there isn’t much removal. Siding this in if you are a control deck could be awesome, as it is a card-drawing machine if it lives. It’s a little expensive and unreliable to play when it’s just going to die, hence the sideboard trickery.
I really like improvise in Constructed. It’s not that hard to build a deck that casts these cards for a 1- or 2-mana discount, and Reverse Engineer is the exact kind of card that can fuel crazy combos and decks full of cheap or free artifacts. It can also be a value card in an artifact-based control deck, and all those possibilities add up to a card with high potential.
2-cost 2/1 flier isn’t quite there, though we have playtested plenty of blue aggro decks that contain Welkin Tern (which never quite flew, in the figurative sense). Getting an energy counter or a +1/+1 counter per hit is a real upside, with +1/+1 counters sounding better to me. If you can get enough cards that care about this trigger into an aggressive deck, this card has a chance.
I like the value here, and if you can assemble enough powerful 3-drops, Trophy Mage can put in some good work. A 2/2 is a real card, and getting card selection out of the card you draw is worth a trophy when the right tutor targets are present.
Whir of Invention
This one is slightly harder to get working than Reverse Engineer, but it still strikes a chord with me. Being able to search for all sorts of different artifacts is powerful, and with enough trinkets, this can be cast for a very big discount.
Top 3 Blue Cards
Two counterspells and a card drawing spell. Sounds pretty blue to me, and these three cards are all quite good. It’s a good time to be a blue mage.