Aether Revolt spoiler season officially began yesterday and by week’s end, the entire set will be spoiled. As usual, the small set is introducing some new mechanics, and Aether Revolt has two: Improvise and Revolt. Both are interesting remixes of previous mechanics. Today, I’d like to consider the design of Revolt.


Revolt is very similar to the original Innistrad’s Morbid. Both give you a reward if a creature you control died this turn. That said, there are three meaningful differences between the two mechanics.

When considering differences between mechanics, one should keep an eye out for whether those differences make a mechanic stronger or weaker. Assuming the original mechanic is balanced, a stronger (or less constrained) version of it is likely to either have weaker effects or be more expensive. The reverse is also true. For example, Megamorph is a strictly better version of Morph, but accordingly Megamorph creatures tend to cost more to turn face up or are smaller when they do flip.


#1: Only Yours Will Do

Revolt only cares about your stuff leaving the battlefield. Morbid allowed you to kill one of your opponent’s creatures and benefit, Revolt only rewards you for the loss of your own things. This makes the mechanic weaker, since it’s only looking at half of the battlefield (in a two player game—in a multiplayer game, it compares more unfavorably to Morbid).

#2: All Types Accepted

Revolt cares about all permanent types, not merely creatures. You can sacrifice an Evolving Wilds and turn on Revolt. That’s a huge increase in utility.

#3: It Doesn’t Matter Where It Goes

Revolt is triggered by permanents leaving the battlefield, not merely going to the graveyard. Aviary Mechanic bouncing a Cogworker`s Puzzleknot? Revolt! Perpetual Timepiece exiled itself? Revolt! Flipped Sensei`s Diving Top? You guessed it. Revolt.


On the face of things, it’s unclear whether Revolt is a more or less powerful mechanic than Morbid. It’s both more restricted and more flexible. I’d argue that in Limited, Revolt is weaker, since it’s harder to bounce, exile, or tuck permanents, but creature death happens frequently on both sides of the battlefield. However, in Constructed, Revolt is stronger, since you can build a deck where it’s much easier to trigger—fetchlands alone make Revolt child’s play.


That Design, Though

As far as mechanics go, Revolt is a flavor and design win. It’s a mechanic where you (or your spell/creature) is emboldened by the loss of something to work harder. That’s precisely what’s going on in Magic’s story, and it’s wonderful when gameplay matches what it’s approximating (in design-speak, we call that ludonarrative consonance). The mechanic tells a story all by itself.

On the more design-y side, Revolt both encourages interacting with your opponent (which is essential for games to end) and allows for creative deckbuilding. There are a lot of different ways to trigger Revolt and that modularity accommodates a host of different kinds of decks. Revolt combines the options of a mechanic like Escalate or Kicker with the flavor of Raid and Morbid. And that’s good design.


There is a bit of weirdness (i.e. ludonarrative dissonance) to Revolt, as well. Imagine two goblins upon a battlefield, Furt and Varv:

Varv: “Those Jeskai jerks destroyed our Arid Mesa! We shall avenge it! We revolt immediately!”

Furt: ”Uh, Varv, their Tectonic Edge is still there. I think Boss Mons blew it up himself for that Sacred Foundry. See, he’s tapping it right now for a Boros Ch-”

Varv: “Furt! We. Revolt. Immediately. WAAAAUUUGGGHHH!”

…but that kind of silliness is sort of inevitable with a game as large and modular as Magic.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He’s played Magic since 1994, he loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He quite enjoys Revolutionary Rebuff, since that card demonstrates just how insanely good Mana Leak and Miscalculate are.

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