Aether Revolt: Playing to Your Weaknesses – Red

NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)

As for my rating system, I’ll be using a new format this time around. After a lot of feedback, I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:

  • 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
  • 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
  • 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
  • 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
  • 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.

In Kaladesh limited, red all came down to speed. It had a lot of creatures that you could cast for 2-4 mana, and it had a good amount of combat tricks and burn spells. While red still has the speed in Aether Revolt, I feel like there’s less burn. The combat tricks are still there, but with white and black raising the bar on the arms race, will red be able to keep up? Let’s look at what red cards are playable in AER/KLD limited.


Many players are excited bout this card in energy decks. While a 2/2 double striker is beatable, a 3/3 is much harder to block. Once Scrapper Champion becomes a 4/4 you might as well kiss all hope of blocking it good bye. It’s very powerful for an uncommon, and it works well outside of energy decks as well. Casting a Larger than Life on this (+4/+4) could easily win you the game with a total damage of at least 14 (with the counter). Your best chance of pumping her up will be in GR decks, so make sure to get as many Blossoming Defense or Built to Smash as you can get! If you can protect her until her toughness increases, she’ll definitely become your champion.

RATING: 3.5 Stars


I thought that black had some good Improvise cards, but I think Enraged Giant is my new favorite. A 4/4 with trample AND haste? Goodness this could do some damage if have enough artifacts in your deck to bring him out early. It’s possible to play the giant on turn 3, but even playing him later in the game for cheap after populating your board with servo tokens from Fabricate effects is powerful. I’d love to have this in a BR deck, but UR improvise/vehicle decks would appreciate his speed as well.

RATING: 3.5 Stars


I like the loot/rummage effect, and the first strike as well. If you have a vehicle like Smuggler’s Copter you could possibly get a double loot, but I think most of the time you’ll have to attack with him. Thankfully Reckless Racer has 3 toughness which makes him challenging to deal with. If you’re playing him early in the game you should have no problem getting a couple rummage triggers offer before your opponent is able to slow you down. Once you play a vehicle, you can use this ability at will. I think this is going to be very popular in limited, and would draft him highly. His value will become apparent in those non-blue decks where getting pseudo card advantage becomes more important.

RATING: 3 Stars


Got too many servo tokens laying around and don’t know what to do with them? Our Gear-Smashers will turn them into scrap while sending the sharp pointy things at your opponent. Heck, you could even block with a Servo, then sacrifice it to deal damage. I could see the Gear-Smasher dealing a lot of damage in a dedicated servo token deck. RW would be a good candidate with Master Trinketeer, but Oviya Pashiri in green could also provide you with a steady stream of tokens. There are enough Fabricate effects out there to let you take advantage of his ability and turn a losing situation where you’re on the defense into a winning one from his subsequent damage. I think he’s worth playing. Worst case you have an alright 2/3 creature that fits your curve well. 

RATING: 3 Stars


I think Aether Chaser is better than his black and white brethren on offense thanks to the first strike, but you still run into getting stonewalled by bigger creatures later in the game. He also dies to a lot of removal. He’ll be good in an aggressive deck, and he fits into GR energy decks too which is a definite plus. I’m sure your opponents will have other creatures to worry about like Voltaic Brawler or Bristling Hydra in a GR energy deck, which bodes well for you getting a couple 1/1 tokens when they let him attack a few times. 

RATING: 3 Stars


Ooooh, spicy. I like this as both a tempo card and removal. 4 damage will kill a lot, and slowing down your opponent a turn or getting rid of a colored source of mana they sorely need could swing a game into your favor. Too bad it’s a sorcery. Still worth grabbing somewhat highly in draft though. I wouldn’t first pick it, but a card like this probably wouldn’t make it back around to you.

RATING: 3 Stars


Shock is back! Nice to have something that hits both creatures AND players again. There are a lot of 3/2 and other 2 toughness creatures in this limited format, so I think Shock will be an okay removal spell. I wouldn’t pick it over a card like Fatal Push or Skywhaler’s Shot, but it has its uses. Shock is not quite up there with Harnessed Lightning, but I think it’s playable.

RATING: 2.5 Stars


For limited, I’d much rather have Hungry Flames than Shock. Whenever there is a 2 for 1 involved, especially at instant speed, I’m on board. I feel like the mana cost is just right, and while you can’t do more damage like you can with a Harnessed Lightning, being able to kill a creature AND burn someone puts a smile on my face.

RATING: 3 Stars


It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to crew a Consulate Dreadnaught, but why not get rid of all the hard work of crewing it and just turn it into a 10/11 first strike creature? Sure you have to watch out for artifact removal (like Ruinous Gremlin), but the benefit of not having to crew a vehicle of that size is well, immeasurable. Untethered Express seems like another good vehicle to target this with as well. While I wouldn’t recommend putting this on a creature due to the danger of losing the enchantment and creature, that’s still an option. The larger the number of vehicles in your deck, the more advantage you have playing this card.

RATING: 3 Stars


There are a number of playable combat tricks in this limited format, but only Invigorated Rampage lets you choose between 2 targets. You can go all in with your Scrapper Champion and give it +4 power, or you can split it between 2 creatures for a double whammy that potentially takes out two of their blockers. With all of the first strike creatures red has to offer, I think Rampage would be more than playable. Just be careful not to play into removal.

RATING: 3 Stars

Other Cards That Might See Play

  • Gremlin Infestation – I’m sure your opponent won’t be too happy to lose 2 life a turn, so you’ll most likely get a 2/2 creature out of the deal. Not sure what type of deck you’d play it in though.
  • Lathnu Sailback – Solid beater if you don’t have anything else large at the top of your curve
  • Ravenous Intruder – if you can keep this guy fed, he can be a capable attacker. Not for every deck, but could end up being rather strong when coupled with token makers.
  • Sweatworks Brawler – I’m not sure if Improvise actually helps with this guy, but a 3/3 for 4 mana that has Menace is alright.
  • Destructive Tampering – another sideboard card for dealing with artifact heavy decks. Nice to have an alternate use.

Coming Up Next

If you’re playing red, most likely you’re playing a fast deck built around combat tricks. Red has those types of cards in spades, and if you need more creatures at 2-3 mana to help fill out your curve, red can do that rather easily. The removal cards are better in Kaladesh, and while the overall power level of the red cards is good, I feel like the color has become more of a supplemental color that benefits from having a lot of vehicles and artifacts instead of being able to operate by itself. GR and BR decks should still be really strong, but I think that its power level is closer to the other colors now.

The pre-release is less than 24 hours away now as I finish writing this, but I should be able to get out at least one more article before then. You can expect me to finish green before the midnight pre-release wherever you are, and the remainder of my articles should be out just as many of you are sitting down for your first tournament. Be sure to check back tomorrow night for a more definitive look at this new limited environment. Thanks for reading, and if I missed something or overlooked a synergy or interaction, feel free to talk about it in the comments below.