The Hours are upon us! Nicol Bolas has descended upon Amonkhet and unleashed the full force of his decades long plans. And that means its time for another EDR set review! Now Hour is a small set so that means fewer cards and by extension less good cards for our format. So let’s get right to it shall we?
The Locust God – The Locust God is easily the best of the new Gods and best of the new commanders for that matter. It synergizes well with multiple strategies in blue and red, like token making and card draw. Skullclamp is an absolute must in this deck, and with Ashnod’s Altar you can make as much mana and locusts, and draw as many cards, as you want. Also goes well in Niv Mizzet, Nekusar and Arjun decks as a backup win condition. The Locust God also is a flying 4/4 so you can use it to beat in alongside your locusts and it is very hard to kill.
The Scarab God – The Scarab God is the best of the UB Zombies commanders we’ve ever gotten. But to be fair that’s because we haven’t exactly had great options before. The Scarab God lets us dig and zap our opponents each turn, which helps us look for the cards we need. This ability synergizes with Graveborn Muse incredibly, letting us scry and draw for as many zombies as we have. The second ability of the god lets us eternalize (reanimate it as a token 4/4 black zombie) any creature we want from any graveyard. This can function as both grave hate and a reanimation engine. Both the god itself and it’s ability are fairly low costed, making them a recurring issue for your opponents.
The Scorpion God – Many immediate comparisons to Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons were made when this god was spoiled, but they really don’t compare favourably. The Scorpion God is in a worse colour identity and costs far more. Plus the god has a much worse method of putting counters onto creatures. The reward is definitely better but black already has such good card draw that its actually better than the cards you would draw off it’s triggered ability, Black Sun’s Zenith notwithstanding. The only thing the god has going for it is a better body that can attack and block effectively in the late game.
Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign – Unesh is a very potent commander, giving you cards for playing sphinxes and making them cheaper so that you can chain them together well. Most sphinxes are relatively large and overcosted so this helps mitigate that issue, though you’ll have to get to six mana before you get these rewards. Being mono blue means you’re going to miss out on some powerful sphinx creatures like Sharuum but the power of Unesh should help make up for the loss of colors.
Razaketh, the Foulblooded – Razaketh is the single most powerful card in the entire set. The ability to instantly tutor any card at the cost of just 2 life and a creature makes it embarrassingly easy to assemble any number of combos with which to kill your opponent. This equates to one thing: if Razaketh resolves you should win the game that turn or the turn after. This will probably be a boring but powerful commander, however the 8 mana will make it far less likely to be a contender for cEDH tables. However, any creature based deck that has any sort of combos, such as Karador or Sidisi will want to run this card.
Neheb, the Eternal – Neheb is a really interesting commander for mono red, giving them better access to late game cards that they generally have to use mana rocks to get to. Paired with Earthquake effects you can start to burn boards and opponents, then use your new mana to drop huge dragons or the like, controlling the board and dominating with early access to powerhouses. Unlike similar strategies, you won’t have much backup in case your commander isn’t accessible. This deck will play similarly to Rakdos, Lord of Riots with worse tutoring but a wider use of the trigger since the mana can be used on more than just creatures.
Djeru, With Eyes Open – Djeru is an awful commander that functions as a worse version of Call the Gatewatch with a small upside of slightly protecting your walkers. Serves better as a card in the 99 of non-black superfriends decks.
The 99 Contenders
Crested Sunmare – This is a hilarious card. Horse tribal is nonexistant but we get a quite potent effect from gaining life. Expect to see in Oloro, Ayli and Trostani decks.
Bontu’s Last Reckoning – All of the Last cycle is pretty underwhelming in Commander since we have so many options that don’t completely lock out your mana base. However, Bontu’s Last Reckoning is likely the most playable since it has the highest impact on the board and you will be able to survive the turn after you cast it since it is unlikely that anyone will be able to attack you.
Hour of Devastation – Blasphemous Act is the premier red boardwipe and this actually does a decent job of living up to a second best slot. Now 5 damage isn’t going to kill most big threats in this format, but making them lose indestructible means you can combine this with other damage dealers to finish things with 6 or more toughness or answer things like Avacyn, Angel of Hope in a way that was previously incredibly difficult. The ability to nuke planeswalkers also makes this useful since so few boardwipes actually interact with them. Is it as good as it could have been? Definitely not, but expect to see this a lot more in various non-W/B decklists.
Hour of Revelation – Planar Cleansing is an incredibly fine boardwipe in a format where artifacts, enchantments and planeswalkers run rampant and often aren’t properly answered. Hour of Revelation is a strictly better version – if you’re running Cleansing you should either replace it with this or run it alongside the other.
Hour of Promise – A brand new combination between Skyshroud Claim and Tempt with Discovery that lets you tutor out any two lands without relying on your opponents, and if you have enough Deserts you get some extra zombie tokens. This should be grabbing Cabal Coffers, Gaea’s Cradle, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and similar lands. A brand new green staple in any deck with lands that make huge mana or have powerful utility.
Overwhelming Splendor – A one-sided Humility is going to really wreck some boards and earn you a lot of ire from the target, but 8 mana is a lot to pay to screw over only one opponent. The best way to use this is to cheat it out with Academy Rector but if you’re playing Academy Rector you should probably just grab Humility instead. Or better yet, grab Omniscience and just win the game. This is definitely going to be popular amongst more casual and durdly metas.
Champion of Wits – The Champion is a great card filter that will be useful in three major archetypes – Wizard tribal, UB zombies and any UX graveyard deck. The eternalize cost is high for a measly 4/4 but it’s just extra if you can afford it. Not to mention that it will often have higher power thanks to lords in Zombie decks and in Wizards they will take a higher cost if it means more card draw.
Uncage the Menagerie – This is a card like Birthing Pod where important consideration of your creature curve is the most important determining factor in the impact of this card on your deck. Most pro players seem to agree that 2-3 mana for X is the best number for Standard or possibly Modern, and for EDH 3-5 is likely to be the most profitable number. The scaling is simply awkward and putting them into your hand makes paying too much mana simply transform this into a worse Tooth and Nail. This is a good card for creature toolbox decks though.
Swarm Intelligence – Swarm Intelligence reads a lot like Cast Through Time but is mostly better. The instant copying of the effect gives it a higher immediate impact and let’s counterspells actually function well under it since your opponents will have to have two counterspells to every one of yours. The downside is that unlike Cast Through Time, board wipes don’t become much better when copied directly, whereas with Cast you could often keep players off of the board for two turns in a row for fear of the inevitable rebound effect. Still a fine addition to many spellslinger decks or other decks with big spells they’d like more than one of.
Angel of Condemnation – This angel is worse than Eldrazi Displacer for blinking and worse than any Banisher Priest for removal. But if you’re in mono white or white red and really need more blink engines, you can consider adding this after you’ve exhausted all other options.
Solemnity – Wowie. Now right here we have another amazing inclusion for Enchantress and Hatebears/Prison alike. This keeps your opponents from growing, keeps them from poisoning you and stops so much more. It can also be used to directly benefit you by giving you an instant Marit Lage from Dark Depths or keeping your age counters off Mystic Remora or hard locking your opponents out with Decree of Silence. That last one is my personal favourite and I intend to make a lot of friends incredibly angry when I resolve it.
Ramunap Excavator – Another amazingly powerful card. Crucible of Worlds is very expensive and very sought after for a reason. Being able to play lands from your graveyard makes land destruction must less effective, gives you more use from fetchlands and lets you dredge as much as you like. A brand new inclusion for The Gitrog Monster and Omnath, Locus of Rage.
Beneath the Sands – Beneath the Sands will be my example for all cards with cycling that a similar or exact functionality to other cards. Rampant Growth is a fine card for early ramp but late game can often be dead due to not needing more land. Now Beneath the Sands costs one more so it won’t ramp as efficiently as Rampant Growth but it will give you the option to pitch it later if you need something else and you can still play a land if you draw one. The same goes for all of the cards that fit this criterion – they are useful utility spells that may sometimes be of no use, and at those moments they can simply be cycled away to find something else. Consider them if your deck has some issues with consistency or lack of card draw.
Leave – Leave to Chance is an interesting option for Boros commander decks. It fits a very niche roll and thus will likely not be used outside those. This helps you avoid boardwipes by protecting your permanents and then later you can discard any number of cards to draw that many – either ditching some unimportant cards you just bounced or useless chaff just sitting in your hand during the late game.
Mirage Mirror – Mirror is not the most efficient but it’s effect is still cheap. Being able to change what you’re cloning on the fly can help you to keep a lock on the most important permanent in the game and make sure you’re at least getting as much benefit from it as an opponent who owns it. Another important thing to consider is that this helps you break the problem of the singleton nature of our format, and like other cloning effects can give you multiples of something you were never intended to have more than one of, at least for a turn.
Scavenger Grounds – Graveyard hate is a criminally underplayed aspect of removal for the format, likely because it doesn’t directly interact with the board and the cards that perform the hate often do solely that, which can take up a valuable slot or two. Lands that do this are thus at a premium, which explains Bojuka Bog‘s presence in nearly every black deck ever. Grounds gives this utility to any deck regardless of identity, and with the ability to perform it repeatedly if you have extra Deserts lying around.
Desert of the True – These are all worse than the other cycling lands, requiring two mana one of which must be coloured. However, this isn’t as big a downside as it might be and they make up for it with the admittedly niche tech of helping turn on your other ‘deserts matter’ cards, like the above mentioned Scavenger Grounds. These are new staples of mono coloured decks and The Gitrog Monster.
That’s all for today everybody. As you can see, the number of powerful cards is certainly lower than usual but the power of these cards exceeds the average we have come to expect from most. I would expect to see a lot of these cards in the near future, even if only in specific decks. In my opinion, those are the cards that define greatness the most. Sure every deck can run a Demonic Tutor but it’s the ability to abuse specific interactions like with Ramunap Excavator that make decks and cards feel special and more powerful than a more generic card might. Amonkhet block has given us a lot of awesomely unique and focused strategies which is an exciting place to be for a format that can sometimes degenerate into goodstuff. I’ll see you all next time.