A clean design that promotes a simple bonus, Greenwheel Liberator is a card that promotes component-oriented Magic. That means synergy-driven gameplay that rewards you for putting a series of decisions, permanents and sometimes sheer happenstance together to accomplish something.
Recently, green has received a facelift with a greater trend of utility and gameplay that goes a bit beyond the ramp spells, fat creatures and beatdown of the past. Mark Rosewater stated that Kaladesh block is supposed to make the player feel like an "inventor," and sometimes this manifest itself in a simple ways like Greenwheel Liberator. Sacrificing a Clue Token or Etherium Cell or trading a creature within combat in order to follow up with a Revolted Greenwheel Liberator adds substance to decisions made in-game. You end up with an achievable award that is very tangible and on-board when complete.
Greenwheel Liberator is only sort of a 4/3 for two mana. On paper it may look quite strong, but in practice the hidden cost of revolt means it essentially costs more than two, and you will most likely not achieve the two bonus counters on the second turn. If you are casting this after an opponent has removed one of your creatures with removal or through a combat phase, that is when you are truly getting a great rate. Even so, this may a bit later in the game and will only be a huge swing if you can utilize the remainder of your mana. All in all we're looking at a card that will not be a Standard staple, but could see some play if we see revolt or more +1/+1 counter synergies.
The most riveting part of this preview is the spoiling of the new mechanic, revolt. It will certainly be interesting to see what other cards with the mechanic are in store, but also what sorts of enablers for the mechanic are introduced. Currently, there are no clean ways to trigger revolt with mana left over in the extremely early turns of the game, though things like Clue Tokens make it easier later in the game.
As a mechanic, revolt is most similar to the Morbid, from original Innistrad. I don't like that both mechanics disincentivize blocking, so I'm hoping there will be some built-in designs to fight that. I found Morbid spells to be interesting, as there was a relatively healthy balance of Instants such as Tragic Slip or Hunger of the Howlpack to more safely trigger Morbidduring your opponent's turn. Notably, revolt doesn't trigger off of a removal spell on an opponent's permanent, so it leaves less of a snowball effect in its wake. This makes revolt seem pretty well rounded through this first example, and I'm quite eager to see what sort of failsafes Aether Revolt provides around the mechanic as a whole.
Revolt is a deep mechanic. It can be built around to be turned on quite often in the right deck. If Greenwheel Liberator is any indication, I bet at least a handful of these cards to provide little-to-no value when played without revolt, so we will often look to building our decks with a plan to enable it.
One of the most frequent enablers of revolt is likely to be Morbid, since this will most often trigger when you have a creature enter your graveyard. But there are also several other mechanics that specifically work well enabling revolt.
We have already seen that they are bringing us more vehicles within Aether Revolt; just take a look at Heart of Kiran. The Liberator specifically is an aggressive card itself and works with Vehicles quite well, given that you already have the ability to crew. Vehicles force your opponent to remove them whilst active on your turn, which of course will Trigger Revolt. It's possible Smuggler's Copter got even better.
Really, what doesn't work with Planeswalkers? Given that there are powerful enough revolt cards, Planeswalkers provide the potential for a zero mana enabler. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is certainly the best at this (go figure), but Chandra, Flamecaller and Liliana, the Last Hope are also reasonable in terms of "bin-ablity". I imagine the more expensive revolt cards become, the more game-breaking the effects will be.
Within Standard, there are a few cards that already seem to do the trick most efficiently. Oath of Nissa is perhaps the least card-deficient method, but is only going to work in games where multiples are drawn. Selfless Spirit has been a Standard staple even though it was printed alongside Liliana, the Last Hope, and can essentially be on-demand revolt on a stick. Woodweaver's Puzzleknot is another card that is already widely played, though this is the most expensive enabler of the bunch. The list goes on, but we're better served to see exactly what else is in the new set before we go too deep here.
As touched on before, Clues and another new "sacrifice me" token Etherium Cells (we do not yet know their extent beyond Tezzeret the Schemer) are both solid ways to revolt. Clues mean you do not need to go out entirely out of your way using new cards. Ironically, Tireless Tracker is one of the reasons that I don't believe Greenwheel Liberator will see extensive play, since Tracker is a midrange powerhouse that is even better with Evolving Wilds than Liberator.
That brings us directly into fetch lands. Not specifically Evolving Wilds, but Windswept Heath, Scalding Tarn and beyond. With fetches being such an integral part of Modern, it is fairly likely we might see some Modern-worthy cards within Aether Revolt.
For an example of where Greenwheel Liberator might slot into modern, check out an adaption of Craig Wescoe's Green-White Aggro.
If Craig wanted, he could easily slot in some Greenwheel Liberators to be a tad faster. Fetch lands, Ghost Quarter and Horizon Canopy all trigger Greenwheel, especially with Aether Vial in the picture. Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel both can blink your Liberator itself into a 4/3, or another permanent allowing you to cast or Vial in a revolted Liberator. This deck may not Top 8 a Grand Prix any time soon, but I expect some people to try to Liberate Modern. Not to mention this is among the first revolt cards we've seen, so some more solid printings could provide even more power and incentive to play them in Modern.
- Steve Rubin