Amonkhet Spoiler Review: Part 1
Amonkhet spoiler season is here an yer ol’ pal Duke is back with a heapin’ helpin’ of superfluous apostrophes, referin’ to himself in the third person, and if we get around to it, reviewing the new cardboard. On the Amonkhet spoilers!
Amonkhet has four new keywords: Aftermath, Brick, Embalm, and Exert. The evergreen keyword Cycling will also be returning.
Aftermath is a new spin on two sided spells. The top half of the spell is cast as normal. The bottom half, titled 90 degrees, may only be cast when it is in the graveyard. The Dusk half of the spoiled card is a conditional board wipe. The Dawn half of the card returns all creatures with two or less power to its owners hand.
Despite the unorthodox (spelled “ugly”) appearance of the card itself, the Aftermath keyword is a potential ticket to Valuetown, Population: You. Dusk//Dawn has little application in constructed formats. Duke’s guess would be that WotC wanted an answer to the Eldrazi Archetype for Standard, which they probably assumed would more popular than it has proven to be. Of all the new keywords, Aftermath seems to have the most potential upside.
Bricks are a counter that can be added to a permanent. After said permanent collects a specified number of Bricks an ability is unlocked. In this case, Oracle’s Vault is a fixed Aetherworks Marvel, that uses Brick counters instead of Energy to activate it, which can be done at Instant speed. Using the ability unlocked by the Brick counters doesn’t remove Brick counters from the permanent, so the ability can be used each turn.
Pay two mana and tap Oracle to exile the top card of the library. Oracle’s controller may play it if they pay the exiled card’s mana cost as normal. Note that it says play, not cast. So if Oracle finds a land it may be played as “land for turn”. Oracle may also be tapped to exile the top of card of the controller’s library without paying the two mana. However, if Oracle’s Vault has three or more Brick counters on it; that exiled card may be played for free.
At this point Oracle is the only card spoiled with the Brick keyword so it’s difficult to predict how playable it will be. What makes Energy counters powerful in Standard is that so many cards create Energy as a passive enter the battlefield trigger. This allows one to quickly rack up an obscene number of Energy counters early in the game. Similar cards with passive ETB triggers that allow placing Brick counters on other permanents could make Brick a viable keyword.
Embalm is essentially Flashback for creatures. When a creature with Embalm is placed in the graveyard it’s owner may pay the Embalm cost and create a token of that creature. The creature card is then exiled from the graveyard. The token will become a white card with the Zombie creature type.
Embalm and Flashback have two major differences. Embalming a creature is not considering casting so it cannot be countered. Embalm is also Sorcery speed only. So even if an Embalm creature is printed with Flash it may only be Embalmed at Sorcery speed.
Duke is all about the value this mechanic gives to the oft ignored Madness keyword. Madness’ weakness is that it’s unsustainable. Since Madness is largely a Black/Red affair keeping a critical mass of cards in hand to make Madness viable late game is unlikely and somewhat the antithesis of what Rakdos is designed to do. Outside of making Fiery Temper into Lightning Bolt; Madness just doesn’t offer enough board state impact to justify competitive play.
Playing Embalm as a complement to Madness provides more value for cards pitched. When playing a Madness themed deck, one cannot always live the dream of Lightning Axe into Fiery Temper. Often Madness becomes a two for one in the opponent’s favor. Adding Embalm creatures into the mix provides a way to gain value from otherwise sub optimal Madness plays.
The flavor of Embalm seems very much on point with Amonkhet’s Ancient Egypt theme. Except for the chosen creature type of the tokens Embalm creates. WotC has chosen an Egyptian theme for this set and as we all know from our college Business Calculus 101 course that Undead + Egypt = Mummy. The art of the Trueheart Duelist token clearly shows it wrapped like a Mummy, yet it’s a zombie.
Yes, Duke knows that years ago the “Mummy” creature type was, among others, retroactively changed by WotC to “Zombie”. But hope springs eternal and in preparation for Amonkhet spoiler season ol’ Duke had written a slew of Mummy related puns to unleash on an unsuspecting world. Now said puns will have to be stored in the vault, next to my Enron stock and Laser Discs, until Return to Amonkhet is released.
Exert is the last new keyword. It allows a permanent to perform an extra action in exchange for it not untapping during the next untap phase. In the above example Glorybringer can attack and deal four damage to a non-Dragon creature. So Glorybringer plus Always Watching means that Glorybringer can Exert on every turn.
This is the only example of Exert so far. According to WotC it will only be available on creatures. However, Exert is not limited to simply dealing damage to another creature. There will likely be a lot of unique abilities attached to Exert creatures. Glorybringer has the potential to be the top end finisher of an Exert-Vigilance themed deck. Exerting an opponent’s blocker away and busting in for those last few points of damage is, as we say, a thing.
There’s a lot going on with the rare dual land cycle for Amonkhet. They’re fetch-able, tap dual lands, with Cycling. The consensus thus far is that they should be called Bicycles. As a bonus they work well with the dual lands from Shadows Over Innistrad.
Bicycles may find their way into Standard decks with strained mana bases or even in aggro decks that need a reliable way to cantrip into more action and avoid mana flood. Modern Loam Pox, for example, has been hanging around the fringe of the competitive scene for years. Smallpoxing away your opponents Goyf on Turn 2 is a sweet play, but the deck tends to run out of gas mid game and has difficulty “turning the corner”. Dredging these Bicycle Lands, casting Life from the Loam, and them cycling them for more action every turn is exactly the draw engine Loam has been waiting for. Life from the Loam itself has almost doubled in price since the Bicycle Lands were spoiled. One should expect to see some sick Loam brews at FNM.
The artwork features Date Palms and and barren landscapes and are very much on theme. WotC’s stable of artists have been producing spectacular pieces lately. Ol’ Duke can’t remember the last time he saw dull, uninspired land art.
Full art lands are no longer reserved for sets taking place on the plane of Zendikar. Mark Rosewater made that clear on his blog around the time of BFZ’s release. For those purists who only want full art lands to be printed once a decade when we revisit Zendikar, Ol’ Duke will be happy to pluck ’em out of yer ungrateful hands.
According to Mark Rosewater 25% of the lands printed will be full art. This would apparently mean that 25% of the “lands pack” one gets in a Fat Pack AKA Bundle will be full art. I think this is a smart move by WotC to make sure Bundles are sold at MSRP and aren’t hoarded, like they were for a short time during BFZ’s launch.
It seems obvious that these lands will be available in foil as well. WotC published an article for the Wizards Play Network which mentioned foil Amonkhet full art lands as rewards for participating in learn-to-play events called Magic Open House on April 15th, so we know foils exist. There’s no reason to believe that foil full art lands will not be found in packs, just like the Zendikar and BFZ lands are. If so, the foil Amonkhet Lands will be, in theory, four times more rare than their BFZ counterparts and therefore more valuable. Amonkhet is likely to have a higher print run than BFZ, which may alleviate some of the disparity.
Duke couldn’t be a bigger fan of the art itself. However I’m not sure jamming Nicol Bolas horns in the middle of every piece is necessary, in fact it’s something of an eyesore. It’s like Quentin Tarantino shoe-horning himself into all his movies. Yeah, Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece, but his acting is distracting and unnecessary.
The art is distinctive enough from Zendikar-esque landscapes to identify them as Amonkhet. All the artists really captured the sun bleached haze effect one finds at dawn or dusk in a polluted urban arid setting. It’s a nice contrast to the bold colors and somewhat more cheery tone featured in Kaladesh art.
Now to what we’ve all been waiting for:
Amonkhet Masterpeices: the Invocations
On first glance ya may be askin’ yerself: “Has Ol’ Duke gone barmy?” Why is he posting Yu-Gi-Oh! cards? I would like to apologize to all of you for these Masterpieces, because someone needs to apologize for them. These are the most hideous card frames ever printed.
The reader may not have noticed that some of the sweetest art ever printed on a magic card is buried, Entomb ed one might say, within these frames of shame. Just look at the new art work for Daze and Spell Pierce. Which ones are Daze and Spell Pierce, you ask? Hell if I know. My guess is that they are the cards that marked “Baze” and “Ispell Pierce”.
These Invocations represent an assortment of the most powerful spells ever printed. Force of Will and Wrath of God deserve better. This is an O.J. Simpson Trial level miscarriage of justice. Masterpieces are meant to be sought after and cherished; at once, an homage to the past and the promise of a bright cardboardy future. These abominations are what Duke would assume would come out of the back end of the last person in a human centipede.
It reminds me when people show pictures of their babies to others. If the baby is cute people say, “Awwwwwww”. If it’s ugly they say, “Awwwww…oh”. Opening one of these Invocations will be like showing pictures of an ugly baby to strangers. They didn’t ask for it, they’ll take it out of obligation, but just looking at it shatters their belief in God.
This is the first non land card to be spoiled with the Cycling keyword. The Archfield gives -1/-1 to all the opponents creatures when you discard a card. I mentioned the Madness keyword above and it’s synergistic relationship with Embalm. The Archfiend gives the kind of value to the Madness keyword requires to be relevant in Standard. Mardu Madness could easily become a reality if Mardu Vehicles is struck by the ban-hammer.
We only have two Blue cards spoiled thus far and they are Common/Uncommon bulk.
Sixth Sense may become a new staple in the poorly positioned Modern Bogles archetype. I say poorly positioned because it’s drawing a lot of crossover hate from Death’s Shadow, in the form of Engineered Explosives. A 1 CMC enchantment that cantrips may not be enough to put Bogles back into it’s former Tier 2 glory days. However, this little piece of candy enchantment is a new tool in the toolbox.
Prowling Serpopard is 4/3 body for 3 CMC that can’t be countered and makes all its controller’s creature uncounterable. WotC keeps efficient creature counter spells away from the Standard and Modern formats, but Legacy and perhaps even Vintage pilots will be testing it.
A 4/3 body is huge in Legacy and Vintage. The fact that Mr. Car Snake practically negates the most powerful color in each of these formats will warrant interest. Specifically Legacy’s Aluren deck archetype will at least be finding room for the sideboard for it. Nic Fit would also be a possible home. Both decks rely on resolving creatures in a hostile, counter-control heavy environment. The Cat Snake is a big body with a relevant ability that pressures blue decks to answer it immediately.
Dukey Duke never thought he’d see the day when Fling would find itself back in Standard. If any of the spoiled cards, thus far, can shake up Standard it’s this one. For example, Electrostatic Pummeler was the subject of much hype when it was released. After a brief stint, the R/G Energy decks featuring Pummeler have fallen out of favor as Mardu Vehicles is dominating the aggro scene in Standard.
The problem with Pummeler is it’s lack of evasion. On an empty board Pummeler is capable of producing an absurd amount of damage. 4 Color Saheeli variants and Mardu Vehicles are two-thirds of the meta and capable of producing a virtually inexhaustible supply of chump blockers. A single Scrapheap Scrounger or Whirler Virtuoso can lock a Pummeler pilot out of the game.
Fling has exactly zero F’s to give for chump blockers and will give Energy based Pummeler decks another chance at relevance. Simply pump up the Pummeler and cast Fling, ggs.
Aven Mindcensor, is inexplicably getting a reprint in Standard and shifted from Uncommon to Rare. It’s certainly a welcome reprint for the Future Sight all-star. Why the hate bears staple has found it’s way into Amonkhet is uncertain. Fetch Lands are long gone and unlikely to return to Standard as all eight of them have been reprinted recently. Cards like Attune with Aether and Traverse the Ulvenwald are staples for green decks. But what else Mindcensor is meant to answer or what place it may have in Standard is yet to be seen.
Below are the rest of the spoiled cards so far. They’re only slightly less valuable than my play set of foil Smuggler’s Copters.
Thanks for reading and remember; I misplay so you don’t have to.
Questions and comments can sent to your ol’ buddy Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone sending complaints will be bitten by an Asp, rolled up in a carpet and dumped into the Nile….because Egypt!