If you’re a regular reader here at Hipsters of the Coast then you know that I don’t pull any punches. The entire staff and I are genuinely excited for Aether Revolt which was fully spoiled last Friday, has its pre-releases this coming weekend, and will be featured on the Pro Tour in just under a month. However, we have a lot of bones to pick with Wizards of the Coast right now, and we’re going to get those out of the way first before we start gushing over how amazing the new expansion set looks.
If you’re a casual Magic fan or even a regular attendee at your local game days and pre-release, the odds are pretty high that you’ve literally never heard of something called the Super Sunday Series. Even if you have heard of it, chances are quite high that you’ve never participated in it. Maybe you heard about it from your local grinder friends but that’s the extent of it. In fact, this event is so unpopular that Wizards ended support for it at the close of the 2017 calendar year.
So why, good grief, did Wizards choose to provide live video coverage of the Super Sunday Series Championship instead of Grand Prix Louisville? 45 players were invited to Seattle for the SSS Championship, and three of them are among the top-25 ranked players in the world. Not bad. On the other hand, four of the top-25 ranked players including defending world champion Brian Braun-Duin are in Louisville, among the 1,600+ players competing in Legacy.
Let me tell you something about the Legacy Magic community: there is absolutely no ceiling to the amount of content that the Legacy community will consume. Legacy is not the biggest community. It is not the most vocal community. But it may very well be the most dedicated community to their version of Magic. So when Wizards decided to give video coverage to the SSS instead of a Legacy GP it was just one more in a long series of slaps in the face to the Legacy community.
The only explanation I can come up with, unfortunately, is financial. The SSS only features 45 players and is held in Seattle meaning the work and investment required by Wizards to cover the event with live video is far less than that of a 1,600+ player tournament halfway across the country. Wizards bottom-line drives coverage, something we know from when Grand Prix tournament coverage was slashed last year. So they pick-and-choose which events they cover based on this.
If Wizards, or perhaps their new partner Twitch, can monetize coverage better, then we’ll see more coverage. It’s just a shame that the Legacy community, which in my opinion is as likely as any to help monetize coverage, is being denied access to one of the only events they have this year at a premier level.
Which brings me to my next gripe which is the overall tournament schedule itself. Why is this Legacy tournament even being held this weekend? The next Legacy GP is being held in Las Vegas in June and that’s it for Legacy events on the schedule. So the first event gets buried behind Aether Revolt spoilers and the SSS Championship while the second event gets buried behind the rest of Grand Prix Las Vegas. If Wizards has information that shows that Legacy Tournament Coverage is less valuable to them than Standard or Modern Tournament Coverage then I’d love to see it.
But let’s not ignore Standard and Modern because if you look at the Grand Prix schedule for those events things also don’t make sense to me. Starting with Modern, there will be a whopping total of eight Modern GP events this year, as well as two Team Unified Modern events. So that’s ten total events, which take place on six distinct weekends. Is it too soon to say that Wizards is giving up on Modern?
If this wasn’t bad enough, consider the timing of the Modern event weekends. Vancouver and Brisbane will be held in the middle of February. San Antonio will be at the end of March. Kobe and Copenhagen take place at the end of May, a ridiculous two months later. Vegas will be in mid-June and then it’s another two-month wait for Birmingham and Sao Paulo in mid-August. Oklahoma City and Madrid close things out an insane four months after that in mid-December.
Alright, well what about Standard, their bread-and-butter format and the one thing that Wizards seems to care enough about to actually test the format in development? The first Standard GP of the year will be the week after Pro Tour Aether Revolt. Okay, that’s a good start. And then there’s one two weeks later in Utrecht. Okay, not bad. Then there are, wait, four of them from March 10th to 19th? What are you thinking, Wizards?
Seriously, what is Wizards thinking? March is the release of a new Modern Masters, but there are no Modern events between mid-February and the end of May except for a team unified event at the end of March? What the hell? Also, why are we getting four Standard events right before Amonkhet comes out? Do you know when people hate Standard the most? In the month before a new set comes out. Why? Because the format is basically solved at that point and people spend most of their time complaining about it or playing Modern (or complaining about Modern I suppose).
Whoever comes up with the Grand Prix schedule has to seriously rethink their motivations in my opinion. Aether Revolt comes out in January but we don’t see a solid slate of Standard GP events until the end of February and into March. Amonkhet comes out in April but we don’t see a similar set of Standard events until the beginning of June. In the meantime Star City Games is trying to plug high-level Standard with high-quality coverage as soon as sets are released. I wonder what people will be more interested in watching?
Most Exciting Aether Revolt Cards
Alright, let’s talk about some positives and go over the cards I’m most excited about from Aether Revolt. First off is the entire cycle of cards that let you play other cards for free. This includes Sram’s Expertise, Baral’s Expertise, Yahenni’s Expertise, Kari Zev’s Expertise, and Rishkar’s Expertise. These cards are great and free spells are always exciting because it requires you to completely re-think what your opponent can cast on a turn with only three or four mana available to them. Sram’s Expertise, for example, allows up to seven mana of spells to be cast for four mana. That’s absurdly powerful.
Anyone who has ever played a storm deck, like myself, should be very excited for Baral, Chief of Compliance. Turning Cancel into Counterspell and looting on top of it could help make for a powerful permission deck in Modern, especially coupled with Counterbalance. I’m excited for Baral mostly because it might get old-school draw-go Magic players to stop complaining about how Wizards hates them.
I’m also excited for the entire Improvise mechanic. Everyone is familiar with the Affinity mechanic and this is clearly an attempt to make a “fixed” version of that mechanic by requiring you to tap your artifacts (so that Artifact lands wouldn’t become Sol Rings). Whir of Invention is the most exciting Improvise card in my opinion because of the obvious comparison to Chord of Calling. I expect Improvise to make waves in Modern.
Lastly I’m excited for a few very, very aggressive cards including Greenbelt Rampager and Shock. It seems clear that there will be some very fast decks out there and it may even be possible for Lightning Runner to be a legitimate game-ending card if it hits the battlefield and sticks around.
I almost actually want to draft this set a lot, especially when I see cards like Outland Boar and Renegade Wheelsmith helping to push you into a very powerful Naya Zoo limited deck or cards like Hidden Stockpile and Renegade Rallier creating an incredibly synergistic Abzan mid-range deck built around the Revolt mechanic.
What are you most excited for in Aether Revolt? Let us know on Twitter @HotCBlog!
Last but not least, I’m a big fan of Tolarian Community College and I highly suggest that if you have never seen any of the videos posted by this genius you check them out ASAP and then check out this one below.
What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.