Gifted Aetherborn loses the flying, but also costs one fewer mana to cast. It also has the same 2/3 stats as Vampire Nighthawk, which is actually a bit above average for only 2 mana. While the Aetherborn tribe hasn’t really become a thing competitively, this is a guy who definitely can hold the ground very well in much the same way that Vampire Nighthawk held the air. When it comes to Gifted Aetherborn VS Vampire Nighthawk, the Nighthawk is clearly superior. But while we won’t se Gifted Aetherborn much in Modern, it does serve a similar purpose to the Nighthawk in casual play, as a complement to Nighthawk in the singleton Commander format, and of course, in Standard.
It took some time, but after being tested in Magic Online brews consistently, players discovered that Gifted Aetherborn really does fill a similar niche to what Vampire Nighthawk once did. The biggest application since the release of Ixalan is in a Dimir deck that features the powerful Locust God from Hour of Devastation and Torrential Gearhulk from Kaladesh as the only creatures in the main deck. As a three-of or four-of in this high-powered blue/black Control deck, it’s not surprising that Gifted Aetherborn’s price has taken off. It’s also seeing play in the sideboards of Black/Red Aggro decks performing well on Magic Online. It hit $3 for a bit, before settling to close to $2. But can this price hold?
There is occasional play for the Gifted Aetherborn in the mainboard in some decks, as well. But most of these decks haven’t had strong showings in tournament play. in most cases, Gifted Aetherborn is primarily relegated to the sideboard as a way to matchup against certain decks. While this creature should be a good one to keep around during its time in Standard, it isn’t seeing enough widespread play outside of Standard to maintain a $2+ price tag.
However, when it does rotate from Standard, there are the odd Modern decks that will run it over Vampire Nighthawk purely due to costing one fewer mana to cast. But it’s unlikely to make a huge impact in that format. But because it’s a Vampire, an extremely popular tribe in Magic, there will always be a home for Gifted Aetherborn at the kitchen table and in a fair number of Commander decks.