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An Early Look at Disallow and Heart of Kiran from Aether Revolt

A week has passed since GP Warsaw and GP Denver. I played G/B Delirium, of course, and I did fairly well. So what can we learn from these events? What percentage of U/W, G/B, and Marvel were played?

Just kidding… for myself and also the Premier Event scene, this Standard format is over, and the next big tournament is next year. Instead, let’s talk about Aether Revolt! There are two cards that have caught my attention already

Disallow

This is my favorite card previewed so far. Not because of its power, but because of its subtle flexibility that you don’t often get in a counterspell, last seen in Voidslime with a lot more awkward mana cost, or Summary Dismissal more recently.

First off, what’s the difference between Summary Dismissal and Disallow? The most obvious difference is the mana cost. 3 versus 4 is huge when it comes to holding mana up for a counterspell. 3 mana has been the benchmark for a playable counterspell in Standard the last few years, and the only real reason to play Summary Dismissal is that Emrakul, the Promised End has forced blue decks to have it.

The other difference is that Summary Dismissal counters basically everything on the stack and exiles it, which Disallow doesn’t do. Since you rarely cast a spell and then hold priority to cast another in Standard, the ability to counter everything on the stack doesn’t come up if it isn’t to 1-for-1 an Eldrazi Titan. What’s interesting here is that you can remove Summary Dismissal from your blue deck and slot in Disallow, so now you can counter Emrakul, the Promised End’s ability and then use sorcery-speed removal that otherwise would be ineffective against it. You can even spice it up a little by having something like Eldrazi Obligator or Noxious Gearhulk to punish your opponent even harder.

Another upside of Disallow is easiest to explain by understanding the fundemental weakness of counterspells—it doesn’t affect the board. Drawing a counterspell in the face of a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Liliana, the Last Hope is dreadful. But with Disallow, that changes, and is a big reason why I believe it’s flexible. With G/B Delirium, I’d plan my game 1 around resolving the ultimate from Liliana, the Last Hope—but the possibility to get the ability countered is a much more dangerous proposition. This also goes for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, sometimes saving 5 damage or killing him when he goes to 0 to create an emblem, or a Nahiri, the Harbinger going for her ultimate. Even more subtle possibilities, like countering an activation from Smuggler’s Copter to save some damage or Stone Raining an opponent trying to crack Evolving Wilds, add to its flexability. But the ultimate dream has to be countering the second ability of Westvale Abbey. Void Shatter is already playable, so a more flexible version with the same power? Sign me up!

Heart of Kiran

In contrast to Disallow, Heart of Kiran won’t be known for its flexibility, but its power. A baffling 4/4 vigilance, flying body for 2 mana is something we never see, and the only thing that comes close is Grim Flayer. Don’t get me wrong—crew 3 isn’t exactly free, but you don’t have to play cards like Vessel of Nascency either—just creatures with 3 or more power.

So what does Heart of Kiran do best, besides bashing for 4 damage on turn 3?

  1. It’s a potent planeswalker killer. Tapping out for a planeswalker in the face of Heart of Kiran is dangerous, especially for the current most powerful and played planeswalkers, Liliana, the Last Hope and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, which is a stark contrast from Smuggler’s Copter.
    Currently, there are only four planeswalkers between 3 and 4 mana that survive by using their uptick ability: Kiora, Master of the Depths, Tamiyo, Field Researcher, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Nahiri, the Harbinger. But if you add Veteran Motorist or Depala, Pilot Exemplar to the mix, only Nahiri, the Harbinger survives the trial. Who knows, if we see a large number of Heart of Kiran running around, Nahiri, the Harbinger might become an important role-player!
  2. It protects planeswalkers well. In proactive decks that use planeswalkers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, having vigilance as well as the ability to use a loyalty counter to activate itself before blockers is huge. It means that you don’t have to tap down one blocker to create another out of Heart of Kiran, and I don’t know about you, but I would rather have my Gideon, Ally of Zendikar lose a counter than his head.
  3. It’s good at racing opponents. Because of its vigilance, creatures can attack and block with it, which makes it better at racing—basic Magic. When it comes to Vehicles, though, it’s a different ball game. If you want to attack with Heart of Kiran as well as block, tapping 2 creatures with 3 power or more is quite a cost. But this is where the ability to use a loyalty counter comes in very handy. With a durable planeswalker in play, you can now play a fresh creature to crew it and attack with it, and then use a loyalty counter to block with it, basically not losing any attackers to do so.
  4. It survives some of the efficient removal spells such as Harnessed Lightning without energy, and Grasp of Darkness if you have a Veteran Motorist.
  5. Attacks through and blocks Smuggler’s Copter all day. Enough said.

The most obvious home is going to be in an R/W or Mardu Vehicles deck alongside Smuggler’s Copter and cards that naturally crew it for for the lowest cost like Toolcraft Exemplar, or with the most power in Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Veteran Motorist. That deck basically builds itself. Instead of showing you such a list, let’s look at something a bit more interesting:

R/B Colorless Vehicles

There are a few interesting things going on here that might not be obvious at first glance.

  1. Forerunner of Slaughter isn’t only for giving Eldrazi haste—like a Flinthoof Boar to smooth out the curve, he also gives it to artifact creatures and Vehicles. If they didn’t see a hasted Heart of Kiran coming for their Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, they’re really in for a surprise when you give Skysovereign, Consul Flagship haste, using its ability twice to lay waste to what was once a battlefield.
  2. Vile Aggregate also counts all artifact creatures to give it more power, and survives most widely played removal spells such as Grasp of Darkness or Harnessed Lightning.
  3. Scrap Trawler, a new addition from Aether Revolt, is an excellent card to crew Heart of Kiran and Smuggler’s Copter with on turn 3 because it becomes extra obnoxious to kill the Vehicle. Scrap Trawler will just bring it right back later.
  4. Scrapheap Scrounger becomes extra annoying with Forerunner of Slaughter because it can be brought back hasted. If you untap with 6 mana, you can bring back Scrapheap Scrounger, cast Forerunner of Slaughter, and give both haste to attack for 6!

It seems like there is no shortage of powerful sweet cards coming out of Aether Revolt, and with the holidays, as well as 2017 coming up, I can’t complain. What kind of cards are you hoping for that could change the metagame or make a new archetype great? Shoot!

 

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