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The Secret of Aether Revolt (Exclusive Preview)


Aether Revolt is right around the corner, and we're right in the middle of the best time of the year: spoiler season! Thanks to Wizards being awesome, we have a spicy new card to show off for you today! Whether or not our card will end up being a Standard staple (or even a Standard playable), I'm not sure, but what I am sure of is that the card I'm about to show you is the perfect preview card for me because it's oozing with Against the Odds potential! I won't leave you hanging any longer. Take a peek at Secret Salvage, and then we'll break down this interesting new black rare!

Secret Salvage

Secret Salvage is a really hard card to evaluate because it's extremely unique. At first glance, it's a weird but powerful tutor with the downside of only tutoring for a card that is already in your graveyard but the upside of tutoring for any number of copies of that card. As strange as it sounds, as a tutor, it reminds me of a mixture of Infernal Tutor (which only tutors for a card that's already in your hand unless you are hellbent) and Squadron Hawk

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Beyond tutoring, it's also a unique card-draw spell: if you cast it targeting a card that's a four-of in your deck, it's essentially a draw three for five mana, which isn't exciting but similar to Jace's Ingenuity or Harrowing Journey. The question here is whether drawing three of the same card is an upside or a drawback, and I expect the answer will mostly depend on your deck. Getting three copies of Traverse the Ulvenwald seems pretty insane, since you'll be able to turn them into any creature you need or even just more lands, and even drawing three Grim Flayers seems quite powerful. On the other hand, Secret Salvage doesn't interact well with two- or even three-ofs, where it's pretty much an overpriced tutor with a drawback, and getting a bunch of the same planeswalker or legendary creature isn't very exciting. 

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As far as current tier decks in Standard, there are really only a couple of potential homes. The most obvious is GB Delirium, which naturally fills the graveyard to fuel Secret Salvage. As I mentioned before, Traverse the Ulvenwald might be my favorite target because it's so cheap and flexible (Grapple with the Past is also pretty good), but even just drawing three copies of Grasp of Darkness or Ishkanah, Grafwidow seems like pretty big game. The other possibility is a Prized Amalgam deck of some kind. While these decks also do a great job of stocking the graveyard, the problem is that the targets are much less clear. Is it worth exiling a Prized Amalgam or Haunted Dead to get three more copies in your hand? It's really hard to say without actually playing the card, but it's probably worth testing, at the very least. 

As such, I really have no idea what to make of the card as far as finding a home in tier Standard lists, but I also don't really care, because as soon as I saw the card, some super-janky, Against the Odds-type combos started churning in my head! So, let's take a few minutes to talk about what I want to do with Secret Salvage, whether it ends up being good or not.

Hedron Alignment

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Hedron Alignment is a hard card to build around in Standard, but it's gotten way, way harder since the delve spells (like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise) rotated. This is because three of the requirements on Hedron Alignment—getting a copy on the battlefield, in hand, and even in the graveyard—are all pretty easy to achieve, but getting a copy into exile is extremely challenging, but things have gotten a lot easier with the printing of Secret Salvage. If we can get a copy of Hedron Alignment in the graveyard with the help of various self-mill cards like Grapple with the Past, Secret Salvage becomes pretty close to a game-winning play, putting the copy from the graveyard to the exile zone and getting the other three from our deck into our hand, which means we simply need to find a way to discard one (perhaps with something like Collective Brutality and then cast one, and we can win the game on our upkeep!

Eternal Scourge

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The combo with Secret Salvage and Eternal Scourge is pretty obvious: we get one in our graveyard, exile it to search up three more, and then we can always cast the copy from our exile zone. The question is just how good a board full of 3/3s can be in Standard. While it's very likely not good enough to be the foundation of a tier deck, it does seem like it could be part of a deck built around other Secret Salvage synergies. 

Relentless Rats

Most of the time, the maximum number of cards we can draw with Secret Salvage is three, since we need one copy of the card in the graveyard and we can only have a maximum of four in our deck. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule, with one of the spiciest options being Relentless Rats. If we can play a deck with a ton of Relentless Rats, we can turn Secret Salvage into a draw 20 (or more) for only five mana, which is pretty insane. Plus, with some tricky deck building, we can turn Secret Salvage into a game-ending combo with the help of Relentless Rats

Here's the plan of the deck. We get a copy of Relentless Rats into our graveyard, either with the help of Collective Brutality or just by casting a few and waiting for our opponent to kill one of them. Once we get one in our graveyard, we can cast Secret Salvage and search the other 20 out of our deck. Now, you're probably wondering what we'll do with 20 copies of Relentless Rats. I mean, there's no way we'll be able to cast them all—we won't have enough mana. Well, we discard them to hand size, hopefully along with a copy of Hellraiser Goblin, and then we can use Rally the Ancestors to get them all back. Hellraiser Goblin will give them haste, and we can immediately attack with a massive board full of 10/10 or even 20/20 Relentless Rats.

Shadowborn Apostle 

At first glance, Secret Salvage looks completely unplayable in Commander, considering the format is singleton, meaning that even if you manage to exile a card from the graveyard with Secret Salvage, there won't be any additional copies to tutor up. However, much like the Relentless Rats deck we just talked about, there are a couple of cards in Magic that break the rules. One possibility for using Secret Salvage in Commander is to take advantage of Shadowborn Apostle, which—just like Relentless Rats—allows us to play any number of copies of the card in our deck. 

The plan here is actually pretty simple but also fun and unique. The basic idea is that we'll get a Reliquary Tower effect on the battlefield (Venser's Journal and Thought Vessel also work) and then use one of our many tutors to find our copy of Secret Salvage. Since our deck has 44 copies of Shadowborn Apostle, we shouldn't have any trouble getting one in the graveyard—in the worst case, we can always discard it to hand size (before we play the Reliquary Tower, or course). Then, we simply cast our Secret Salvage targeting the Shadowborn Apostle in our graveyard and search out the other 43 copies. At this point, we should have nearly 50 cards in our hand, which leads us to our commander: 

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Kagemaro, First to Suffer has a power and toughness equal to the number of cards in our hand, which means it should be something like a 50/50 (and remember: thanks to Reliquary Tower, we don't have to discard at the end of our turn). After getting our commander on the battlefield, we simply equip it with Hot Soup to make it unblockable, maybe a Loxodon Warhammer for trample and lifelink, and Swiftfoot Boots to protect it from removal, and go on the Voltron plan! Each turn, we should be more or less guaranteed to kill an opponent with Commander damage, and if everything goes wrong, we can always sacrifice Kagemaro, First to Suffer, wipe the board, and the recast it to try again. 

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As a backup plan, we can actually cast our Shadowborn Apostles and sacrifice them to tutor up a toolbox of Demons. Rune-Scarred Demon can search up a Reliquary Tower if need be and, if we already have a Reliquary Tower, can find an equipment to help with the Voltron plan or something like Balthor the Defiled or Patriarch's Bidding to get all of our Shadowborn Apostles back from the graveyard. Abhorrent Overlord gives us the ability to go wide by making a ton of 1/1 Harpy tokens to beat our opponent down (or to chump block while we are killing opponents one by one with Kagemaro, First to Suffer). Meanwhile, Archfiend of Depravity and Pestilence Demon give us access to some removal and help us keep our opponents' boards in check. 

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My favorite thing about Secret Salvage in Commander is that Shadowborn Apostle / Relentless Rats decks, usually involving Thrumming Stone, are already a thing in the format, and while the decks are really fun to play, they suffer from the fact that they only have access to one Thrumming Stone. Secret Salvage changes this. While Secret Salvage doesn't function exactly the same as Thrumming Stone, it does offer the deck another "I win the game" card, and any amount of redundancy will be helpful and hopefully make these fringe strategies a bit more playable.

Conclusion

All in all, I really like Secret Salvage as a card and expect that we'll be playing it at the very least on Against the Odds, if not also on stream or for Budget Magic, because it enables some really unique and fun combos. As far as tournament-level play, I really have no idea what the future holds for Secret Salvage. The card is unlike anything we've seen before, which makes it super difficult to evaluate. If it were simply a five-mana tutor, it would likely be unplayable. If it were simply a five-mana draw three, it would also be mostly unplayable. The good news is that it's neither and both at the same time, and as a result, it may be that—crazy combos aside—this flexibility gives Secret Salvage a shot in Standard. Drawing three good cards is much more valuable than simply drawing three random cards, and in the right deck, this is what Secret Salvage offers, especially if Standard continues to be light on graveyard disruption. 

So, what do you think? Are there any combos or synergies with Secret Salvage that I overlooked? How do you evaluate the card? Is it a tutor? Is it a card-draw spell? Do you think it's powerful enough to see play in Standard? As always, let me know in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive and at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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