Welcome back to Elder Dragon Recycling, the local EDH/Commander series! It’s been about a month since my last article so I thought it would be best to wait until the full Amonkhet set was revealed to write my next one. It’s Pre-release weekend coming up and many of you will be heading to your LGS for some awesome sealed action. Hopefully this card review can help you with figuring out what cards to look out for – whether you open them yourself or trade with friends. Let’s Amonkhet down to it!
First let’s start with all the legendary creatures in the set. Most prominent are the Gods of Amonkhet, indestructible creatures that wield incredible power should you meet their goals. The most important part of these new gods that separates them from their Theros counterparts is that they are always creatures. To mitigate this, each God cannot attack or block unless you meet a certain criteria unique to each. This means two things – you don’t have to worry about Devotion to turn on your God, which means you don’t necessarily have to commit more to the board to turn them into fighters. Secondly, they are much easier to kill. Indestructible is nice but always being creatures means they can’t dodge things like Swords to Plowshares the way the Theros Gods can, but it does also mean they avoid cards that hit enchantments.
Rhonas the Indomitable – The first God we’re reviewing is Rhonas. Rhonas is the Green god and that combined with his condition means he will be the easiest God to turn on. Having large creatures is a staple of the colour and our reward is a 3 mana 5/5 with the ability to pump your other creatures to get them through. Trample helps a lot and he can even use this pump ability to turn a measly 2 power creature into one large enough to allow Rhonas himself to attack or block. His downsides come in that he has the least useful keyword of all the Gods in deathtouch since he is already a 5/5; and he can’t target himself with his pump ability so you’ll need to look elsewhere to give him trample. Trample is the one thing that helps save his keyword since it means your opponents will never be able to block effectively. Rhonas is a solid commander.
Oketra the True – Oketra is the second easiest of the Gods to activate, requiring 3 other creatures under your control. This means that any token or slightly creature focused build will have her active constantly. The most obvious point of comparison is Heliod, God of the Sun, so how does she compare? Firstly her tokens can activate her because Heliod must rely on more permanent Devotion enablers to be able to attack. She is better in combat as a 3 power double striker but her tokens are slightly worse by gaining vigilance themselves at the cost of 1 power. She is worse as a board presence because of this and not giving all your creatures vigilance themselves. I’d say she’s on par with Heliod overall but can lead a slightly more aggressive token-voltron hybrid build, similar to Kemba, Kha Regent without the overfocus on equipment.
Kefnet the Mindful – Kefnet is going to draw lots of comparisons to Thassa, God the Sea. They are both 5/5’s for 3 mana that have a form of evasion, though many would argue that Thassa is the stronger creature overall. They are not wrong but Kefnet approaches this from a different standpoint. Rather than being tricky in combat like Thassa Kefnet rewards drawing cards, which is something Blue already wants to do in multitude. Having a draw engine that can also double as a recursion engine for ETB effects or to save creatures from dying will be very subtly powerful, even if the cost of that ability seems rather high. Definitely run Training Grounds for him.
Bontu the Glorified – Bontu is pretty mediocre on the front end. She can’t engage in combat unless a friendly creature died that turn. That means at least one creature you control has to die each turn if you want her to be able to attack or block. That’s a pretty high cost to pay. What are your rewards? You get a 4 power menace creature, which means she can likely kill at least one creature that blocks her and she does a solid job of deterring your opponents from attacking into her. Her activated ability is not amazing but it does cost very little and the fixing you’ll see from her in the long run will definitely help keep her around. Also do not discount the life you’ll be gaining slowly from it. She’s a fairly average commander but she is pretty kool, being a crocodile and all, so expect to see a lot of people trying her out.
Hazoret the Fervent – Easily the worst God in EDH and the hardest to enable. Being (nearly) hellbent is basically the opposite of the primary tenants of the format, even in aggressive decks. She best serves as the general for a madness and hellbent focused deck but you lose out on all the powerful cards with those mechanics in other colours, namely black. The unlikelihood of having so few cards in hand when you cast her means the haste will rarely be relevant and her activated ability is both overcosted and underperforming. 3 mana means that it will be hard to have mana left over to cast the madness cards discarded to her, and 2 damage will not do much when it’s so little so rarely. Purphoros, God of the Forge serves better in this function. She’s fairly unique but woefully inadequate in Commander.
Samut, Voice of Dissent – This is a very awesome creature. You have the keyword soup that helps her utterly dominate combat as a voltron general, plus haste which enablers even more aggression. Mass haste to your creatures is a terrifying concept we haven’t seen since Urabrask the Hidden but she has a much stronger colour identity. The ability to untap other creatures is incredibly powerful at getting extra value out of strong utility dorks like Mother of Runes or Bloom Tender, not to mention the ability to abuse the new Exert mechanic. She can definitely lead many different strategies without being weakly open. Possibly the strongest new commander in the set. Look out for her.
Neheb, the Worthy – Minotaurs finally have the general they’ve been looking for! Sorry Mogis but your lack of mechanical identity really doesn’t help push a relatively weak tribe to playability. However this new legend may very well do that. Minotaurs are not a particularly strong tribe, but they were a favourite Standard deck of mine back in Theros, and there are certainly some strong minotaurs. Neheb also rewards the hellbent and madness synergies strong in these colours by helping your minotaurs attack even more. He also gives you a way to enable madness and force discard on your opponents, which is strong for an aggressive deck and will be the bane of many control decks that stumble.
Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons – There really aren’t any commanders that currently play around with -1/-1 counters but Hapatra gives you a solid reason to do so. You can politics your way into someone’s face with her in exchange for weakening another opponents creature. She also gives you plenty of tokens from those counters that make it very unlikely for your opponents to attack you. Finding ways to abuse the counters and tokens she provides from them will be an interesting challenge that might be more fruitful than it first appears.
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun – Temmet is an interesting little creature. Embalm allows him to mitigate some of the cost of the commander tax by coming back as a token, though this does slow your commander damage down. Giving a token unblockable and a small pump is a good reward that helps make some of the more powerful embalm creatures even stronger, though mass tokens don’t get much benefit from it. Similar to Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice Temmet wants to focus more on getting a few larger tokens and using them to generate advantage. Take advantage of Coastal Piracy effects and infect for a bit more late game power.
The Best of the Rest
Gideon of the Trials – Gideon is a solid fog effect similar to that of Kiora, the Crashing Wave but with some slightly less useful utility. The emblem is cute but mostly useless outside of a superfriends build that has a good number of Gideon planeswalkers in it, and the 4/4 animated form is the weakest Gideon for combat that we’ve seen since his Origins version. Probably not very good.
Liliana, Death’s Majesty – This is a powerful card. Rise from the Grave doesn’t see much play with more efficient options available but being attached to a planeswalker with other abilities helps a lot. Her plus gives her a body to block and fuels her minus 3. This gets extra mileage in graveyard decks like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and making all Zombies helps tribal decks. Her ultimate is actually really strong for said tribal decks, since it will be mostly one-sided and doesn’t hit the creatures she reanimates for you.
Nissa, Steward of Elements – Nissa is fairly generic, providing solid card-quality-advantage with her plus, and the ability to sometimes cheat creatures or lands into play with her 0 ability. Normally ultimates can be ignored but this one in particular likely will be little used outside of surprise murdering someone or hitting important enemy planeswalkers. She will mostly be used to scry once or twice and then start pumping out free permanents every turn with her 0 ability. Play her in decks with lower curves and higher creature counts, like Edric, Spymaster of Trest.
As Foretold – Talk about do-nothing enchantments. As Foretold definitely rewards you for cheating the extra counters through things like proliferate, but outside of decks that can reasonably speed up the rate this enchantment might not be worth the slot. One free card a turn is a useful ability but it takes a while to get up to three counters, which is generally where you’ll start to see cards you want to cast for free. Foretold is useful in control decks that want to tap out but still leave up counter magic or card draw.
Glorious End – Red does not get counterspells but this one is a doozy. Being able to end an entire turn, even at such a high potential cost, is very potent. Expect to see lots of this in aggressive decks that know they can end the game on their own next turn if they get to untap. You can also use Sundial of the Infinite to avoid the delayed loss trigger.
Vizier of the Menagerie – Vizier is very powerful as a creature version of Oracle of Mul Daya. Garruk’s Horde does exist but it gives your opponents information, meaning you can’t surprise them with a creature off the top. Vizier comes down earlier and helps you fix in multicolour decks. Notably the wording on its last ability lets you use coloured mana to pay Kozilek, the Great Distortion‘s colourless cost.
Trial of Strength – The trials are all fairly average enchantments, and outside of some decks playing cartouches for a very specific reason, should not be expected to return to hand all that often. But being enchantments with ETB effects does help out enchantress archetypes, with the green and blue trials being the strongest.
Vizier of Tumbling Sands – Vizier will be useful in builds that have commanders with tap abilities, getting to freely untap said commander for extra value. The cycling is extra value if late game it’s not what you need and can help untap a creature in response to removal if it’s relevant.
Stir the Sands – Mostly only useful in a Zombie deck, though it could also see play in black token builds that don’t specifically focus on zombies.
Angel of Sanctions – Fiend Hunter is a format regular, and adding the ability to work closer to a Banishing Light with a flying body is a good upgrade. These cards are already good in blink decks, and the embalm here is just an added bonus to enable even more shenanigans from beyond the grave.
Pull from Tomorrow – The best control card for Standard, Pull from Tomorrow allows you to generate massive card advantage at instant speed, and the only cost is a single discard that actually reads a lot like an upside with so many graveyard focused decks. Expect to see lots of this card in multiple formats.
Cruel Reality – Unless you’re playing a deck with a lot of Curses, Cruel Reality is probably overcosted and will make you a bitter permanent enemy of the poor foe you enchant with this. It certainly is cruel but also useless against token decks. Costing 7 mana also doesn’t help this card seem any more likable.
Combat Celebrant – Being unable to take multiple extra combats lessens the power of this card, though similarly to Aurelia, the Warleader it can be abused with Felhide Spiritbinder for every 1R you have available to spend.
Sandwurm Convergence – The mini-reverse-Moat is neat and actually slows down a lot of important threats in EDH. The 5/5 you get each turn is a solid but slightly small reward for most non-token decks however. Expect to see this in a lot of Trostani decks.
Aven Mindcensor – Although it’s not a new card, Aven Mincensor has finally found a plane to call home. The sheer number of fetches, tutors and land-based ramp spells in the format is an indicator of how powerful and annoying this bird is. Expect it to draw lots of ire and removal asap.
Vizier of Many Faces – Clones are as powerful as they are versatile, and being able to clone multiple creatures in a game is the epitome of versatility. Vizier has the interesting rule in that its token form will have no CMC when it clones something, which is different from most token clones. I’m not sure if there’s any particular interactions to abuse this way but it does bear keeping in mind.
Harvest Season – The new Boundless Realms for decks that play more mana dorks than land ramp spells, this card slots nicely into decks with tons of tiny dorks or aggressive creatures. Also expect to see in lots of token decks since it rewards making as many as possible.
Shadow of the Grave – Wheel-and-deal archetypes have existed since the dawn of the game and Shadow helps you avoid ditching your favourite cards. Also works very strong in stax builds that focus on mass hand disruption, and combos very nicely with Mindslicer and friends.
Harsh Mentor – With everyone raving about this card for Modern, here we’re going to just mention every card it hits in the format – fetches, utility dorks, equipment, many commanders, certain infinite mana combos and more. While not amazing the damage can add up, especially in aggressive decks.
New Perspectives – This enchantment draws you three cards but unless you’re a cycling deck, don’t expect to see much of this card. However, in said cycling decks it’s a powerhouse, acting as a way to make going through your entire deck pretty easy. Though you do have to have 7 cards in hand to do so, cycling and the etb effect help you meet that a reasonable amount of the time.
Curator of Mysteries – This is an amazing reward for the cycling decks. Being able to help fix the cards you draw from your cycles really adds up over a game and will put you hugely ahead of your opponents.
Hazoret’s Favor – I’m going to be playing this a lot in Marchesa the Black Rose as a way to make sure my creatures can die and to give them a bit of combat advantage. Outside of that, bigger red token decks can probably use this to their advantage as well.
Champion of Rhonas – This is no Elvish Piper but being able to cheat out creatures is an incredibly potent ability. The downside is that unless you can untap it or give Champion vigilance, you won’t be able to do this as effectively especially considering how small it is.
Drake Haven – Another reward for the cycling deck, New Perspectives also helps you spend your mana on drakes and not your cycling. Possibly a new win condition for the deck as well as some control builds.
Liliana’s Mastery – This is a great card for Zombie decks. It comes with Zombies and it pumps them. Being an enchantment means it is harder to kill but also means its much harder to recur since most of the Zombie lords in the deck are creatures. Still absolutely worth playing.
Gideon’s Intervention – Gideon’s Intervention is a must have for the decks that hate losing to certain cards. Does your opponent play Purphoros, God of the Forge or Omnath, Locus of Rage? Now they don’t! Can also be used as a political tool if the card has already been used to prevent recursion or on board damage from coming your way.
Regal Caracal – Caracal is a powerhouse. 7 power for five mana across three bodies is huuuuuuuge. Abuse with blink or tribal synergies and you have a powerhouse of a card. This card is a new staple and you should play it.
Archfiend of Ifnir – Another amazing card for the cycling deck, this can turn a few cycles into a huge one-sided board wipe. Even if you don’t kill creatures you will severely weaken opposing board states. This one works as well in the madness decks.
Open into Wonder – This is an amazing finisher and a card advantage engine. Giving several creatures unblockable and then drawing cards when they hit is a surefire way to end opponents out of nowhere or get enough cards to make sure you have what you need later.
Devoted Crop-Mate – There have been many cards in the vein of Alesha, Who Smiles at Death lately and they’re all quite solid in the decks that want them. Being able to be aggressive and using that as a reward by bringing back creatures is a great incentive to attack, which is what the deck wants to be doing.
Sacred Excavation – Getting more mileage out of work together focused mechanics is great. Cycling is not one of those mechanics but there are so many cards now with it or that support/reward it that it is becoming one of those mechanics. Getting your cyclers back to either recycle or actually cast is going to be really awesome.
By Force – By Force really cements even further how much Red hates artifacts. This is one of the most efficient mass artifact removal spells to date and the fact that it doesn’t hit your own makes it playable in decks like Daretti, Scrapper Savant where Vandalblast was already important, so having another copy is never bad.
Lord of the Accursed – Zombies and Merfolk are probably the decks most likely to include a creature count made up mostly of just lords. This is another for Zombies that also has the huge benefit of giving them evasion when you need it. The downside to many Zombie decks is that they have no way to punch through and end up losing to board wipes while their opponents stall out. The sheer amount of recursion these decks play helps mitigate that issue but getting a lord that grants evasion is another step towards an unstoppable zombie horde.
Cast Out – This card is a potential Standard all-star, and for good reason. The biggest problem Stasis Snare has is that it can’t hit anything except creatures and this can hit anything. Add in cycling so it’s never a dead card and you have a really solid removal spell. These reasons will also help it see play in EDH, especially enchantress builds that can take advantage of the flash for surprise.
Nest of Scarabs – This is a solid extra reward for Hapatra decks because it helps double up on the number of tokens you get from your counters.
Lay Claim – Mind Control effects often have the issue of being bad against removal. If your opponent simply removes the enchantment, goodbye any advantage you’d get. But being able to hit any permanent is a good reason to run a Mind Control. Add in cycling so that you can avoid having a really dead card in hand makes this playable.
Forsake the Worldly – My vote for best removal spell in the set. Instant speed, exiles and has cycling. This card does literally everything you want and as has been noted many times before it’s hard to be a dead draw thanks to cycling. You need to start playing this over Disenchant
Miasmic Mummy – Zombies again get better thanks to this mini-Mindslicer. The amount of recursion you should be playing will help mitigate the card disadvantage you get from the Mummy and help whittle your opponents down.
Bounty of the Luxa – Bounty of the Luxa is going to draw you cards and give you a lot of extra mana. Being an enchantment means it’s hard to remove and your opponents will probably want to save their removal for better enchantments. This is another Phyrexian Arena that also has the amazing flavour of mimicking the ebb and flow of the tides. Foils are going to be gorgeous.
Wayward Servant – If we get an Esper Zombie commander in the next set or if someone figures out the right general for the build now, this little mummy is going to be doing a lot of work at draining your opponents in the most obnoxious way possible.
Ahn-Crop Champion – Takes advantage of playing many exert creatures, has a respectable size-to-cost ratio and is in the colours most likely to be able to give this vigilance. Never amazing but also always puts in the work. Untapping creatures for a necessary block after declaring lethal at one opponent is going to be a useful ability.
Honored Crop-Captain – While it doesn’t say it, this creature has battlecry. And battlecry is very useful in token decks. Another battlecry in the right colours and with a solid body means this should be seeing lots of play.
Weaver of Currents – Mana dorks that tap for more than one mana have historically been pretty powerful. Getting colourless mana is definitely worse than coloured but it does help cast your Eldrazi or pay for their abilities. Might see play in UGX decks with a focus on Eldrazi.
Pyramid of the Pantheon – All of the brick counter artifacts (flavoured as slowly building a monument then getting a great reward once you finish it) are decent but even better with proliferate or untapping. Pyramid starts as a bad Prismatic Lens but slowly turns into a great Guilded Lotus variant.
Oracle’s Vault – This one is most likely to see play, as generating card advantage and eventually free spells is one of the more powerful things to do with your artifacts and your deck in general.
Edifice of Authority – Normally these sorts of combat-tappers don’t see much play in EDH but eventually being able to shut down abilities of said creature means this might be playable. Never forget their use against voltron decks.
Watchers of the Dead – More colourless grave hate is never a bad thing, and while your opponents get to pick what they keep the sheer volume of what you’re removing is worth the effect, especially since it hits each opponent and ignores your own yard.
Irrigated Farmland – The Bicycle Lands are going to be new staples of the format. They tap for two colours and have land types. This means they fix you and can be fetched at will. Their downside of coming in tapped is less relevant thanks to how slow EDH games generally are and late game they even avoid the topdeck problem by being cheap to cycle. These cards are all-stars.
Cascading Cataracts – This card is weird. It’s an indestructible mega Shimmering Grotto and those cards normally don’t see play. But being able to fix for 5 mana means it might see play in certain multicolour decks that don’t mind it’s inability to tap for coloured mana on its own. This probably isn’t a very good card but it could have use in land focused decks or those with lots of MLD.
The split cards are difficult to format so I won’t be discussing them individually but they are all incredibly powerful thanks to the ability to be able to cast both halves. In fact, having one half cast from the ‘yard means that you’ll get even more mileage out of them than you think. Think of these as closer to the Fuse cards from Dragons Maze than regular split cards. They’re all going to be pretty playable.
That’s all for this time. There are many exciting and powerful treasures buried in this set and it’s up to you to dig them up! Dust off those old trinkets you have lying around and see what you can do with the new cards in Amonkhet. I’ll see you next time.