Thursday, January 19, 2017

Aether Automatons

The full spoiler for Aether Revolt is old news by now, and the set's release on Magic Online is fast approaching. As I continue to work on my set review, I will be highlighting some of the more interesting Commons here on my blog over the next couple weeks. I've been looking at the three Common cycles in Aether Revolt - first the Implements, then the Aethers. Today, I'll look at the final Common cycle - the Automaton cycle.

The Automotons are all colorless Artifact creatures that cost 2 mana to summon (save for the Black one,which only costs one, and the Blue one, which costs three) and have an activated, Instant speed ability that requires colored mana and produces an effect consistent with that color. These costs range from 2 mana all the way up to 5 mana, and since they don't require the creature to tap, can be activated as many times as you have the mana to pay for them. Unlike most cycles, these cards are otherwise different enough that they are almost impossible to evaluate as a whole.

Both the Augmenting Automaton and the Verdant Automaton boost the creature's Power. For the Augmenting, you get a single point of Power and Toughness for 1B, which goes away at the end of the turn. This is essentially a cheap Shade with a double-costed activated ability to grow it, which is pretty unimpressive. The Verdant, on the other hand, sets you back 3G every time you activate it, but it grants a permanent +1 / +1 counter instead. While this is clearly much better, the fact that your opponent can destroy this for cheap and essentially waste all the mana you invested is a significant drawback.

The Welder is yet another Red creature than can ping your opponent for 1 each turn, and is a very reasonable 2/1 for 2. Unfortunately, it costs you a full 3R to activate it. Still, in an aggressive Red Deck Wins style deck, this ability allows this card to do double duty, attacking in the early game and still doing damage to your opponent once you don't have anything better to spend your mana on. That said, it's still not great.

The Aegis has one of the best activated abilities we've seen at Common: the ability to return a creature you control back to hand at Instant speed. But you're having to pay a full 4W to pull this off, which makes it pretty awkward to hold up enough mana to use this on your opponent's turn. It also has no offensive ability as an 0/3, and doesn't really have enough Toughness to be great on defense either. Perhaps in an Azorius Control archetype this might be good in certain matchups, but I don' think it's likely to see much play in the main deck, despite how good the ability is.

That leaves the Watchful, and it's almost certainly the best of the cycle. It's already a reasonable 2/2 for 3, which while not exciting is at least borderline playable. But for the cost of only 2U, you get to Scry 1 as often as you like, giving you the ability to dig quite deep into your deck in the late game to find a much-needed answer. With Scry equal to about half a card, it won't take very many activations for you to feel like you've gotten your value out of this card. I suspect this card will be a roleplayer in many Blue-based Control archetypes, particularly if they have any Artifact synergies.

So that's it for the cycles in Aether Revolt. As I mentioned last week, I've also liked these cycles at Common, since they do such a good job of illustrating the themes of the set while also showcasing the color philosophies. Next time, I'll be back to look at a few more interesting Commons from Aether Revolt.

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