Last weekend I fired up Magic Online for the first time in a while to jam a bunch of competitive draft leagues. Aether Revolt draft is fantastic. You can do just about anything if you read the signals well, and I found a lot of success taking the open colors. And for whatever reason, that often happened to be blue. You don’t have to twist my arm!
Over a dozen single elimination leagues, I won five trophies and came in second twice. You can chain a lot of drafts with that win rate. My plan was simple: take the good cards early, favoring artifacts when possible, then scoop up the open color at the end of pack one. From there, the drafts tend to flow smoothly. I often found cards like Hinterland Drake and Leave in the Dust circling the table. I’m happy to play those cards, and the signal suggests more rewards will come in pack three. Third pick Saheeli’s Artistry, late Glint-Nest Cranes, and Thriving Turtle on the wheel. It’s cruel that crane and Whirler Virtuoso show up in the same print run—I’ve had to make that difficult choice three times now. (Vituoso leads the head-to-head two to one.)
My first trophy winner isn’t exactly overflowing with blue cards, but the blue-red archetype was clearly open.
Aethersphere Harvester is a nice way to start a draft, but the pair of Enraged Giants I was passed really cemented my deck. Implement of Combustion is a card I love to take early in pack one, which really frees up the full slae of improvise cards. Sweatworks Brawler is fantastic if you can cast it on turn three every game. That’s one of the best parts of this deck: every two drop enables a third turn brawler, or Maverick Thopterist if you have an implement as well.
I was mostly drafting red in pack one, but an Aether Swooper came to me late, then I grabbed some filler on the wheel. Pack two pick two Maverick Thopterist helped me lock into the deck. Opening Key to the City in pack three was a real coup. I highly recommend improvising in the key of value.
The deck was not overpowering but played out consistently. I had flexibility to switch out creatures to fit the matchup—sometimes you want 2/3s like Salivating Gremlins and Embral Gear-Smasher over 3/2s like Foundry Inspector and Quicksmith Genius. That’s another hallmark of an open archetype, and also of 3-0 decks generally.
The improvise decks are among the best to draft in Aether Revolt. Red is a strong color with tons of artifact rewards, making Implement of Combustion easy to pick early. If you see late Sweatworks Brawlers and Bastion Inventors, you know you’ve got the deck to yourself. Burn spells and fliers help round out the deck. Go for this deck when you can, but don’t be afraid to jump ship after pack one if the improvise payoffs aren’t coming to you. Remember, you only have two packs to pick up improvise cards!
My second trophy winner is a bit of an outlier, but still a real deck that you should draft if you get the chance.
I opened the draft taking Peacewalker Colossus out of a weak pack. I thought I’d try building around it, even though I don’t like drafting white. A few picks later I was passed a second copy, and it was off to the races. Let me tell you, having two Colossuses on board is a sweet feeling, and it wins games.
The real star of the deck, though, is Sram, Senior Edificer. I love that guy. I’m not sure you want to slam first pick him pack one, but when I opened him pack two, I was stoked. You can draw a lot of cards casting vehicles and removal auras with an active Sram, and at worst he’s a 2/2 for two.
This draft shows how you can benefit from going into blue when it is open. I got the Bastion Inventor back out of my first pack, Spire Patrol and Cloudblazer came easily to me, and I was able to take Master Trinketeer in pack three while wheeling the Gearseeker Serpent. And just like the first deck, there are plenty of good options in the sideboard to customize your deck to each matchup.
Amusingly enough, both decks would have loved a copy of Trophy Mage. You can’t have everything, I guess. That card’s not really a high pick anyway. You’d rather have a good three-mana artifact before taking it. Three-mana 2/2s just don’t cut it in this format without a reliable upside.
So will blue decks continue to get passed to me? Will I be improvising every draft? I’m excited to see Aether Revolt’s draft metagame continue to evolve as we head toward Grand Prix Orlando next month.
Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.