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.
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.)
This may not be Smuggler’s Copter, but a 3/5 lifelink for 3 is still an incredible rate. Any creature can crew this and let you start harvesting the sweet, sweet rewards, and the stats on this make it big enough to brawl with basically anything. Look to see a lot of Harvesters in the future.
I still don’t believe in the Siege Modification deck, or even the Peacewalker Colossus one, but I wanted to mention this solely for the absurd stats-to-cost ratio. If there is something to those two enablers, this is likely involved.
The only reason this has legs is because of Wandering Fumarole (well, and the fact that whoever built it added legs). With Fumarole, you can make Construct as big as you want by using the 0 ability over and over, which is a 2-card kill. Sadly, it takes a turn to work (summoning sickness) and you have a non-evasive creature to get through. I don’t want to dismiss a 2-card combo, but I’m also not over the moon about this.
If this lives long enough for you to cash it in for cards, I’m in. That isn’t a guarantee, and competing with Aethersphere Harvester is a tough gig (especially at a higher crew cost).
While I’m generally on board with improvise cards, this seems a bit too anemic for my tastes. The only reason this would be better than one of the good colored improvise cards is if you get it to 0 and drop like 3, but that’s a lot of work to assemble a bunch of 3/3s.
Gonti’s Aether Heart
Maybe I’m heartless, but I just don’t see it. Too much work for an extra turn, and basically just a worse version of Aetherworks Marvel.
Heart of Kiran
Never mind, my heart is filled with optimism once again. Heart of Kiran is very powerful, large enough to deal real damage, and works perfectly with Gideon (or any other aggressive planeswalker). Vigilance doesn’t matter much unless you have a planeswalker, but then it becomes quite important. This has the cost, stats, and abilities to make a real splash in Constructed.
Hope of Ghirapur
I’m looking at this more for older formats, where you hopefully run into more decks full of noncreature spells. In Legacy or Vintage, this can essentially let you take an extra turn against combo, while also shutting off counterspells against control. That’s powerful for just 1 mana, and even in Modern and Standard this could be an interesting sideboard card.
The combo potential of this is literally inspiring. It essentially taps for a mana by itself, and makes it possible to just go off as long as you have a lot of cheap artifacts. Casting Ulamogs, various card draw spells, and other giant monsters sounds great, and quite doable if you can strike the right balance between enablers and threats. There is a risk of the deck not working without the Statuary, but card draw and search help mitigate that.
The ability to draw a card for each creature you play is strong enough to warrant investigation, and getting a scry each turn is just gravy (delicious green gravy). The mana does add up if you are trying to play 2+ creatures a turn, but there are plenty of ways around that, such as Cryptolith Rite. Let’s just say it might be Ornithopter’s time to shine in Standard, for many different reasons.
A 2-drop that can potentially buff every creature you play afterwards is not weak, and there are enough tribal opportunities out there to make this a solid inclusion. A bunch of decks are tribal without even trying, which means you aren’t paying many costs to make this strong.
Look, it’s already a 4-of in Affinity, and the possibilities in this Standard format look promising. It’s a funny card to be good—and pretty awesome that it might be—but I really think between improvise, Paradoxical Outcome, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary and more, Ornithopter may be the real deal. Hurray!
The bar for 1-drop artifacts is lower in this set because of improvise, and Pacification Array provides an actual effect. It’s expensive to use over and over, but there are decks where this will fit.
This looks like a Cloudstone-Curio-esque card, where if you assemble the right mana producers you can go off. I don’t really know what that looks like, and it seems like it would take at least 3 cards, if not more. Still, there’s no way I’m not giving this at least a 2, because look at how strange it is. There has to be something here, right?
Peacewalker Colossus is large and synergizes with other Vehicles, including other copies of itself. That seems like a fine place to land, and given how big this is, I think it will be a reasonable option. Plus, it’s another excuse to make the X-Men video game Colossus noise (my favorite thing).
I can’t in good faith say this card is going to rock Constructed, but I can’t leave it off either. It seems pretty sweet, and I’d love to use it to destroy a control mirror.
This is the best revolt enabler in Standard, and even tags in for improvise as well. Renegade Map is going to be a critical part of many different decks, and does so while being a perfectly playable card even if you don’t draw your combo cards with it.
This reminds me of Matter Reshaper, which has done some solid work. It’s easier to cast but requires you fill your deck with cheap artifacts, though it also has the advantage of giving you triggers whenever your other artifacts die. That’s a pretty sweet deal for 3 mana, and makes this a solid value play.
I’d like to also retroactively give Cogworker’s Puzzleknot a 2 since improvise now makes two artifacts for 2 mana an appealing deal. There are minor sacrifice benefits here too, though I suspect improvise is the real reason this sees play.
Okay, maybe this is the Matter Reshaper of the set, or perhaps a slower Bloodbraid Elf. Either way, this is a 2-for-1 that gives you some mana on top of the extra card, which makes it worth considering. If a 3/3 ground creature is a relevant body in this format, this becomes a solid option.
Hangarback Walker version 2.0 also looks like it’s going to heavily impact Standard. This has a ton of synergy with cards like Nissa and Winding Constrictor, and it’s an appealing card on its own. It also combines very well with Avacyn, and gives G/W Tokens legs once again (legs made for walking). This is good early, good late, good by itself, and great with other cards. Flexibility and damage at instant speed, while being a mana sink, make Walking Ballista one of the more impactful cards in the set.
Spire of Industry
City of Brass got an upgrade, and City of Brass was already highly-played last time it was in Standard (yes, I know it was called Mana Confluence, but City of Brass is too sweet). This fits perfectly into Vehicles decks, and will power many 3+ color decks with ease.
6 mana is a lot for a planeswalker, and the successful ones we’ve seen at 6 tend to protect themselves from multiple threats (Elspeth, Chandra). Ajani can stop 1 creature, but that’s it, and that seems like not quite enough. The card draw ability is solid, but the whole package is just a little too pricey.
Cruel Ultimatum Jr. is an intriguing card. Casting it isn’t too hard, and it can add up to a 4-for-1, so I’m certainly up for trying it. It could also get a substantial power boost once you get a Bolas planeswalker, so keep an eye on this one.
An improvise card that also fuels more improvise seems like it could be a solid role-player. This has to cost 3 to be exciting, and that seems very doable. Three creatures is a lot of board presence, and Whirler Rogue saw a little play itself.
Oath of Ajani
Both these abilities are very strong, even if they won’t both usually be strong at the exact same time. Having a card that ramps 6-8 of your other cards early and buffs your whole team mid- or late-game is something G/W decks are interested in, and its additional synergy with Walking Ballista, Gideon, and Nissa is appealing.
Now this looks like something a Modern deck would want. Getting easy revolt off of fetchlands and bringing back cards like Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant sounds awesome, and even playing this and getting back the fetchland itself will be solid. In Standard, this is a little harder to manage, but the payoff is good enough that it could see play alongside cards like Renegade Map in a low-curve deck. It’s also an intriguing sideboard card against decks where you expect a lot of creatures to die in combat, as revolt isn’t hard to ensure there either.
This has a couple things going for it, and it could easily find a place in Aetherworks Marvel decks, emerge decks, or any sort of midrange energy deck. That’s a lot of potential energy. A solid body, an extra card, and a few energy is a fine deal for 3 mana, and I suspect it won’t only be rogue decks that want this card.
Tezzeret the Schemer
Schemes within schemes, most of which have a good chance of working. In an artifact-heavy deck, Tezzeret acts as a repeatable removal spell, a way to add artifacts to the board, and a high-loyalty planeswalker to absorb some hits. That’s a good deal for 4 mana, and along with Metallic Rebuke, gives me hope that an artifact control deck has legs.
Giving up the raw speed of Ensoul Artifact in order to get a second shot if the artifact dies isn’t a great trade-off. You are mostly putting this on crappy things anyways, so I’m not enthralled with the idea of using this as a beatdown card (and being a gold card doesn’t help).
There are so many ways to generate +1/+1 counters in Standard, and as a result, this somewhat gimmicky card actually provides a ton of value. Verdurous Gearhulk, Walking Ballista, Nissa, Oath of Ajani, and more all add up to incredible turns when you have a Winding Constrictor in play, which is great for just 2 mana (and with a relevant body). It looks like G/B has a new lease on life, as aggro Snake versions seem poised to be very good in Standard.
Top 5 Artifact/Gold Cards
These are some great cards. I like Harvester best because it fits so many places, even if it isn’t an auto 4-of just yet. Winding Constrictor and Ballista are good synergy cards, and Heart of Kiran and Spire of Industry breathe new life into multicolor Vehicle decks. All told, this was an impressive haul, and all of these cards are incredibly close together in terms of power level and impact.
Overall, AER brought a good amount to the table. Fatal Push is the most impactful across all formats, but there are tons of relevant Standard playables as well, especially once you factor in the void left by Emrakul, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage. Interesting times are ahead!