Amonkhet Spoiler Review: Finale
Amonkhet is completely spoiled and ol’ Duke’s got your spoiler review hook up. On to the cardboard!
Bone Picker is a pre-flipped Delver of Secrets with Deathtouch. It’s important to note that the reduced casting cost applies when any creature dies, not just yours. Due to efficient removal cards like Fatal Push and Shock this is easier than than Revolt in many circumstances. Bone Picker even makes less efficient removal better value. If Amonkhet shakes up the Standard format Expect Bone picker to see play.
In removal heavy Modern, Bone Picker should see testing Grixis Control. In fact Grixis Delver may become Bone Delver. A 3/2 body with evasion is a decent clock. What may make Bone Picker better than Delver is that it trades with many creatures in the format.
Lord of the Accursed is the zombie lord, not that we want, but that we deserve. There are so many horribly inefficient and sluggish ways to create zombie tokens in the current meta. It’s rare to see a creature type pushed so heavily in Standard meta and yet see virtually no play. The reason is that a Zombie tokens deck is quickly out-valued by Saheeli and pumping out 2/2 Zombie tokens at half the speed of smell, is too slow against Mardu Vehicles.
Will this change now that those 2/2 tokens could be 3/3 tokens? Not bloody likely. Lord of the Accursed isn’t able to be cast on curve in the current meta as turn 3 is reserved for holding up mana to interrupt Saheeli Combo or killing Heart of Kiran.
At best the Lord could be a finisher in a mono black zombie recursion aggro strategy. The Lord’s ability to spend two mana and give the undead team Menace makes such a strategy plausible in a control heavy Standard meta. Such a meta cannot exist with so many sticky creatures creatures and pushed planeswalkers.
It would have be a nice touch for the Lord to give all creatures with Embalm the anthem effect as well. Yes ol’ Duke is well aware of how much of a flavor fail such an ability would be. However an Orzhov zombie token/recursion deck would allow for the use of Embalm creatures and more importantly white’s board-control package to compensate for the slow start such a deck is likely to have.
Shadow of the Grave has an ability that someone may find a way to break. Duke doesn’t see a perpetual motion Cycling deck in Standard. The cards available could support it, but with one possible exception, there’s no real pay off card. Cycling is therefore likely to be an ancillary mechanic in current meta. However, a pseudo Yawgmoth’s Will ability in a rotating format is nothing to dismiss out of hand.
Faith of the Devoted is the possible exception Duke mentioned above. Draining one’s opponent for single mana isn’t bad. Unfortunately, the decks that can really take advantage of this ability require unlimited free casting loops, or the Storm mechanic. Nothing in Standard can make Faith’s ability free, so there will always be a ceiling of Faith’s potential. There is a jank six CMC enchantment for Amonkhet called New Prospectives, that makes Cycling free, but it’s a six mana enchantment, so, nuff said.
Using Faith of the Devoted and Shadow of the Grave, late game, as a mana sink, isn’t unreasonable. Such a strategy would require the deck to built around these two cards, and they aren’t impactful enough to justify it.
The Swamp God, Bontu the Glorified, is as underwhelming as he is well designed. His ability has potential; pay one and a black mana to Scry 1, and drain each opponent for one damage. Much like the other Amonkhet Gods his ability also assists in allowing the god to attack or block. Bontu is well designed for the current Standard cycle because his ability also triggers Revolt.
Here’s an actual answer to vehicles, Aetherworks Marvel, Torrential Gearhulk, etc. Lost Legacy is fine card for a meta not dominated by broken artifacts. Disposess is a great compliment to Lost Legacy, as it does what Lost Legacy can’t do, and only what lost legacy can’t do. The only downside is that it’s slower than Heart of Kiran.
Allow yer ol’ pal Duke to rant a bit about quality control at WotC. Disposess is misspelled. The word is spelled Dispossess. How does a bumpkin like ol’ Duke know this? Because the spell checker on my word processor told me so! Multiple sets of eyeballs looked at this card before it was printed. How could they all miss it? How could they not see the red squiggly line under the bloody word. It’s there, right now, as I’m typing winking me in the face! smh MaRo, smh.
Plague Belcher is the hot Zombie tech. A 5/4 body with evasion for three mana and an Aristocrats style drain life effect? You have Duke’s attention. Belcher will probably kill one your own creatures with it’s ETB effect. This isn’t all bad since it will trigger the life drain immediately. Also if said creature has the Embalm keyword or is able to be otherwise recurred from the graveyard, who cares. Furthermore a creature in White, which we will discuss later can mitigate the -1/-1 counter ETB trigger.
An Orzhov Zombie tribal strategy is really starting to take shape in Amonkhet. With the foundation of the deck in Shadows over Innstrad block’s Relentless Dead, Diregraf Colossus, and Cryptbreaker, combined with Amonkhet’s offerings, which provide enablers, anthem effects and Embalm recursion; the tools for a competitive tribal strategy are available.
Even if Zombie tribal is never fully viable on the competitive scene, it’ll always be welcome on Duke’s kitchen table.
Pull from tomorrow may be the best cantrip since Sphinx’s Revelation. It’s easier to cast, but doesn’t gain life. It may be a tough sell to replace Glimmer of Genius, since Pull from Tomorrow doesn’t provide energy in a format where Harness Lightning is the most versatile removal in Red.
As stated in a previous article; Instant speed cantrips are essentially free in any control shell. The control pilot holds up mana for countering or removal. If the opponent does nothing relevant; that mana would be wasted. Pull from Tomorrow allows one to curve out on their opponent’s turn.
Pull from Tomorrow straight up wins any control mirror out of the sideboard. It seems unlikely that this will replace every copy of Glimmer of Genius in the maindeck. One doesn’t want a hand full of (x) costed cards of any kind not named Green Sun Zenith. As for eternal play, I can’t see it replacing Sphinx’s Revelation in the few dedicated control decks that run it.
As for Standard, Harness Lightning is the only reason not to play this over Glimmer. If Harness Lightning becomes usurped by another card in a future set, or when it rotates, Pull from Tomorrow will be the new top end cantrip.
Why print Cancel in a format with Disallow? Obviously Dispel, Negate, and Cancel are perennial reprints, but Cancel has never had worse timing. If it would ever be playable, now is certainly not the time. Kinda sick art though. The foil version must look amazing. Therefore Duke’ll have to preorder a foil playset with this new art, but I don’t have to like it.
Speaking of counterspells better than Cancel. Censor is a two CMC Force Spike, with a cycling cost of one blue mana. Like it’s big brother Mana Leak, universal but conditional counters have the issue of being dead in the late game, if not mid game. Censor solves this problem with the Cycle keyword.
A well timed Censor early can set an opponent’s game plan back by multiple turns in game one. Post board it puts the opponent off curve for the rest of the match. They have to play around it, even if you may have boarded it out.
It reminds ol’ Duke of his carefree youth, playing kitchen table magic, where two open blue mana would paralyze an opponent with fear. As the opponent started to contemplate tapping his mana, Duke could just casually reach his hand towards the towards those two Islands while maintaining uncomfortable eye contact. People would just prefer to pass the turn and do nothing than risk a Counterspell. Good times.
Anyway Censor is legit. It’s arguably on par with Disallow, though they do different things. Cycling on a counter spell. Score one for you MaRo.
It seems that WotC is at least partially sincere in trying to make non creature spells matter again. They show there sincerity by printing, well, a creature. In the right deck Cryptic Servant can be a 6/5 beater for a measly two blue mana. The downside is that it’s just a vanilla beater. No Evasion es no muy bueno. Standard is in a place right now where a 6/5 body for two mana isn’t good enough.
Draw two cards for four mana, or draw one card for a single mana with Cycling. Hmmm….Not bad. Not good either.
Stinging shot is great removal for Limited. Nothing in Standard justifies it’s use for constructed play.
Rhonas is a 5/5 body with Deathtouch and Indestructible. It can attack or block is you have Ferocious online. With Rhonas in play it’s controller may pay two and a green mana and give another creature +2/+0 and Trample.
Rhonas is one of the easier gods to attack and block with. Green is notoriously stocked with fatties and having Verdurous Gearhulk and Winding Constrictor in the same rotation may make Rhonas the only God in Amonkhet with a ready made home in a relevant deck; G/B Snek.
Harvest Season isn’t receiving much buzz, which is criminal. Besides being a Commander all star; it works well with the Convoke keyword and may make Cryptolith Rite a real card in constructed formats. If someone finds a way to break Harvest Season; Cryptolith Rite could skyrocket out of bulk status and into the powerhouse many thought it could be when it was released in Shadows.
Blazing Volley is a great answer card. If WotC didn’t fix the Fuse cards from Dragon’s Maze and Beck//Call was still becoming a Modern staple, Blazing Volley would see sideboard play. As the constructed meta stands now, Blazing Volley doesn’t really answer much. However pinging every opponents’ creature on the board for one mana, deserves some attention.
What in the literal hell is this? Duke loves this card. It’s a fresh and unique take on the Pact cycle. There are so many ways this card could be abused. Mostly it will see testing in combo decks that are dead on board and need another draw step to combo off. It could be tested in a Red Deck Wins or Burn build that has lethal damage next turn.
Glorious End could be Amonkhet’s legacy. Sets tend to one or two cards that define them. Forget new Gideon or the Gods Cycle. Glorious End is Amonkhet’s money shot and it’s squarely aimed right at your opponent’s face.
Real hate in Standard, yes Standard. Harsh Mentor serves no other purpose than than as a hate card. It’s drawing comparisons to Eidolon of the Great Revel. The comparison is valid except that Harsh Mentor is not necessarily the full playset mainboard staple of Modern and Legacy that Eidolon has become.
The big upside to Harsh Mentor in Modern and Legacy is that it hits fetchlands. The fact that it misses planeswalker activations somewhat hinders Harsh Mentors versatility. That drawback alone isn’t fatal to cards overall play-ability.
Modern Burn splashes green for Atarka’s Command and Destructive Revelry. Some builds also play Wild Nacatl, but that’s mostly just because they’re already in Green. Boros Burn lists are more streamlined and better in the mirror. The problem with the Boros version is that it’s Affinity match up is terrible. Harsh Mentor is better than Destructive Revelry in certain board states against Affinity. It’s also a 2/2 body. Expect to see less Naya Burn and more Boros at FNM.
By Force was Frank Karsten’s spoiler card for this set. Since he’s the best Affinity player in the world, giving him this card to spoil is quite cheeky on WotC’s part. It’s also a much better answer to Vehicles than Release the Gremlins. Having to sleeve up Gremlins for a sideboard was perhaps the most telling barometer of the sorry state of answers in Standard. Gremlins was the only real answer for artifacts. By Force at least allows a player to avoid the indignity of sleeving the jankiest of jank rares. Duke will have already burnt his Release the Gremlins copies by the time you’re reading this.
Bloodfury Militant is the last card spoiled for this set that fit into the oft ignored Madness theme from Shadows over Innistrad. Madness was ignored because it was garbage. It may still be, but a 4/3 body for two mana that doubles as a Madness outlet, is at least a worthy inclusion for any deck playing Fiery Temper. Which is virtually none right now.
Are you tied of only being able to play one set of Melira, Sylvok Outcast in your deck? Vizier of Remedies has your hook up. This is the creature Duke referenced earlier when Plague Belcher was discussed above.
One of Amonkhet’s themes is placing -1/-1 counters on one’s own creatures as a downside to powerful and otherwise under costed effects. Vizier substantially mitigates this drawback, allowing for many of these effects to hit the battlefield without weakening your board state. If the Orzhov strategy Duke has referenced throughout these spoiler reviews comes to fruition, Vizier will be a key enabler.
His effect and place in the is set is much like Winding Constrictor in G/B Snek. Like Constrictor, on his own Vizier doesn’t do much. With him on board early the entire deck becomes absurd. He’ll be an early removal target, but if his controller untaps him in play the strategy is live. He’s so critical that he may be the deck’s namesake; “Orzhov Remedies”.
Tribal strategies have not been relevant since Mono White Humans had a brief stint of success after Shadows over Innistrad was released. Eldrazi have mostly been a Modern and Legacy phenomenon and sees little Standard play. Zombie tribal has a legitimate chance at relevance.
Oh. My. God, Becky. Look at her butt. It is so huge. Oketra may look like a cat poking it’s face through the middle of a slice of bread, but kan Oketra haz play-abilitiez? Well, allowing her to attack and block isn’t particularly difficult. Any aggro strategy can expect to have three creatures on board early.
Her controller can pay three and a White mana and create a 1/1 token with vigilance. While this is poor value, it’s also a relevant Instant speed mana sink in the late game. With Double Strike and her huge butt Oketra flip a board state in her controller’s favor pretty easily. She’s probably the best of a relatively disappointing Amonkhet god cycle.
The only thing missing is for the tokens to have a synergistic creature type. Human tokens would not be out of place. However, WotC missed out on an opportunity to print 1/1 house cat tokens. Garfield tribal could have been a thing.
Anointed Procession is a live the dream moment for token strategies in Standard. This card will shake up the Standard meta and usher in a new world order for WotC’s flagship format. That is exactly would Duke would be saying about Procession if it didn’t cost four mana. At four CMC it’s not even guaranteed it would see play if a token based strategy becomes viable.
Duke isn’t saying Procession is a bad card. At three CMC it would be a great force multiplier. However, even in Standard the distance between three and four mana is a gaping maw. Tapping out on turn four for a card that does nothing the turn it comes into play is simply not a thing.
Commander token players have a new staple. Expect Procession to maintain it’s value even after it rotates. Casual and Commander play drives value for jank cardboard. Currently the card is preordering for less than two dollars. Duke we’ll be picking up copies as a speculation. Doubling Season type effects never sink to bulk status.
Put a playset or two in your trade binder and trade up on the backs of filthy casuals and neck bearded Commander nerds. Then take their lunch money, give them a wedgie, and make fun of their dead mom. Even Duke found that last part in bad taste. I could delete it, but the Enter key is closer to my hand than the Backspace.
Binding Mummy is a great way to finish an opponent for Zombie tribal. Cast/Embalm a Zombie creature or create a few Zombie tokens to tap down the opponent’s team and swing for lethal. One nice synergy is with with Cryptbreaker, which can create Zombie tokens at Instant Speed. Shutting down Gideon or Heart of Kiran as a tempo play each turn and improving your board state at the same time is sweet value.
Strictly worse Hero’s Downfall is strictly better than nothing. With WotC jamming the Jacetice League, specifically Gideon, down our throats like a bulimics index finger after a trip to Golden Corral, it’s nice to have options; even if that option is Sorcery speed. Mark Rosewater has hinted that the tradition of (intentionally) printing a broken planeswalkers in every set will, eventually, cease. Until then at least there will be an answer in Standard for the next two years.
Never//Return would be far more playable if the Return half wasn’t garbage. Four CMC for a 2/2 token at Sorcery speed is pitiful. The fact that the creature exiled can be from any graveyard is ok, but to be effective Return would need to be Instant speed. Never//Return not being an instant is testament to how faithful MaRo will be to his promise of better answers for Standard. Our suffering, through broken planeswalkers and unanswerable aggressively costed creatures will not be over quickly and we will not enjoy it.
Whether or not missing players is better or worse depends on the type of deck they’re played. Green is an odd color for removal, but WotC obviously had Hurricane in mind when they designed it. Earth as a sorcery is disappointing, though the original Earthquake was Sorcery speed too.
WotC promised more answer for creatures and Heaven//Earth is technically an answer. Adding an extra mana to Earth’s CMC would be more tolerable if it was Instant speed. Radiant Flames is still a more efficient sweeper, but can only be played in three color decks. It’s difficult to see a home for this in the current stable of Standard decks. However, Jund Answers is a reasonably competitive tier two deck where Heaven//Earth will may see play testing.
Reduce//Rubble provides both a higher cost Mana Leak and a tempo play in the Aftermath half. Counter the opponent’s spell early game and then shut down their top end finishers for a turn in the mid game. There’s a lot to like here. The colors are right for Jeskai or Grixis control, which sees some play with or without Saheeli.
Khenra could see play in the budget R/G Electrostatic Pummeler Energy deck. Pummeler’s downside is that it can be chump blocked into irrelevance. Khenra solves that problem and provides a 3/3 body. R/G Energy is probably the best budget deck in Standard. Khenra printed as an uncommon will keep the deck cheap and unleash it’s explosiveness.
Nissa, Steward of Elements is the best Nissa planeswalker in print. The first planeswalker with a cast value of (x) has alot of potential. Nissa’s +2 Ability is Scry 2. Her zero ability lets her controller peak at the top card of their library. If the card is a land it may be played as land for turn. If it’s a creature whose CMC is equal to, or less than, the number of Loyalty Counters on Nissa it may be cast for free. The -6 ability untaps two lands. Those two lands become 5/5 bodies with flying until the end of turn.
Cast her with three mana, use her plus ability, and she’s at five loyalty. Next turn play a 5 CMC creature for free. Or cast her late game for eight mana and put 2 5/5 flyers in the air to finish the game. There’s no wrong way to do Nissa stuff. Her Scry ability also allows her controller to set up her zero ability for the next turn.
New Nissa of the most flexible and versatile planeswalker ever printed. The hype is real. Obviously 4 Color Saheeli wants a couple in the main board. Probably replacing the Chandra and/or Tamiyo slots. Aluren in Legacy also will test her as a fun-of. She doesn’t have a ready-made home in Modern as Simic is not a popular color combination. But the potential for modern play will have brewers all tingly inside. Duke could not be happier about this design. MaRo, I bow to you sir.
Yes, Minotaur stompy is a deck played in Modern by three and half people. Yes, it’s god-awful. No, Neheb, the Worthy won’t change that. Yes, Duke wants to play it anyway because he gleefully makes poor life choices.
Neheb does have a lot to offer. Aggro decks don’t hold onto hands long, so getting to one card mid-game is the norm. Neheb hitting the board and giving all Minotaurs +2/+0 and First Strike is legit. Neheb’s trigger ability causing each player to discard if he damages an opponent is a nice touch. Also giving the discard ability to other Minotaurs would have been pretty B.A. Imagine a control or combo deck getting hit with a few Minotaurs in the mid game and having to discard their entire hand. So gross.
All your keywords are belong to Samut. Make your time. If Naya was a deck in Standard, Samut would be a welcome addition. At the time of this writing the only popular deck with access to Naya colors is 4 Color Saheeli. It’s doubtful that Saheeli wants Samut. A five CMC Flash creature that gives other creatures Haste is interesting. Samut is begging to be played on the opponent’s turn 5 end step. Then just untap, drop your handful of creatures on the board, then turn your team sideways; victory dance.
Will people try living the dream with Samut? Not likely. It doesn’t matter how many keywords a creature has. In a turn four Standard format, the five mana bomb is D.O.A. If the meta slows down and 4 Color Saheeli and Mardu Vehicles get the banhammer Samut, potentially, becomes viable.
Another Aristocrats effect for an Orzhov Zombie tribal strategy. WotC is pushing this archetype pretty heavily. If Standard is broken open after the B&R announcement in a couple of weeks, Zombies could be the next deck to beat. Hold on to your copies of Relentless Dead. There could be a huge spike after Amonkhet’s release.
Edifice has received a miniscule amount of hype in the last few days. Said hype is undeserved. This card is jank.
Embalmer’s Tools lives up to it’s name. It makes Embalm cheaper and you’re a tool if you play it. Two mana for this type of ability isn’t good enough. The mill ability is a flavor win and helps put Embalm creatures in the graveyard. However, nothing this card does justifies it’s play, even if Embalm becomes the next power level: 9000 keyword, Embalmer’s Tools isn’t good enough.
Commander players have two new ways to add mana fixing to their deck. It wouldn’t be out of line to suggest Painted Bluffs as a one of in 4 Color Saheeli. The problem with these one for one filter lands is that if one needs the color, they put themselves essentially one turn behind. That art going to look amazing in foil. Pulling a foil common or bulk rare won’t be as much of a let down when the art is so sick.
For your viewing pleasure the rest of the spoiled Amonkhet cardboard is pasted below. They’re only usable as toilet paper in derelict Cairo motel room.
Thanks for reading and remember; I misplay so you don’t have to.
Questions can comments can be sent to yer ol’ buddy Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone sending complaints will be cast in the starring role of Steven Stephens’ next film.