We have arrived. I know I don’t have to tell anyone but it’s spoiler season, which is like advent for adults (or at the very least advent for man children who enjoy playing with cardboard). Every single morning for the next two weeks we get to rub the sleep from our eyes, reach for our smart phones and be gifted with sweet new preview cards. There is a lot to talk about considering such a small number of cards have actually been revealed, so let’s see what the first day of Amonkhet Spoiler Season has given us.
What Will Limited Look Like?
Recently I have been writing primarily about constructed, but that’s merely a malady of where my head has been at in regards to magic recently with the PPTQ grind. My true passion as a magic player is limited. I adore the challenge of deducing a limited environment, identifying archetypes and discovering optimal strategies and pick orders for draft. For me the most exhilarating part of spoiler season is using it as an insight into what limited will look like.
What have I noticed?
The limited environment for this set is going to be SLLOOOOOOWWWWW….. Or at the very least a lot slower than we have been used to over the last year or so. Every colour appears to have a road block at common and I believe this has been done very intentionally to allow the mechanics of the set to flourish.
Everything about Amonkhet has a ‘Build your Pyramid’ feel about it. By that I mean that what we have seen so far appears to incentivise players to construct a deck that aspires to do something great, build something wondrous.
Building a pyramid is a slow and laborious process, one which could never be achieved with an opponent snapping at your heels with efficiently costly creatures intent on getting you dead. From what I can tell at the moment, Wizards RD has crafted an environment where you can stave off these rush decks and your opponents are not incentivised to construct them in the first place.
The aforementioned ‘road block’ creatures are great for deterring early pressure from your opponent as is the embalm mechanic. Embalm creatures are more than happy to trade at the first opportunity as these creatures are willing to serve you in the afterlife. This means that when aggressive player trades off with one of an embalm creature they have traded one of their cards for half of one of your cards.
The other mechanics offer little reward to players who want to close out the game quickly, the most striking of these being Exert. So far we have seen Exert printed on aggressively slanted red creatures, but this time for a red mage to unlock their monsters true potential they will need to take a turn off attacking. This is going to create interesting play decisions for what is sometimes considered a brain dead draft archetype and mean that aggressive decks will also need to consider their defense.
Players will also need to ask themselves the question,
“Why do I want to be aggressive?”
Amonkhet offers a plethora of long game options and card advantage through its mechanics and card design. Both Aftermath and Embalm are powerful late game tools that offer players virtual card advantage if they can stock up their graveyard. Today we have also seen a couple of ‘build around’ uncommons, Nest of Scarabs and Trial of Knowledge, which encourage a grindy play style. Cards in this set even ask that you invest mana and literally build them using ‘brick’ counters.
To round it all off Cycling has also been included in the set. Cycling works triple time in this set and seems like a perfect inclusion to slow down the pace of play. It first of all allows you to ditch expensive cards in favor of trying to hit land drops of find more proactive spells when trying to fend off an early opposing onslaught. Cycling also allows late game decks to more consistently assemble their pieces of their pyramid by allowing you to essentially redraw for the cost of 2 mana. Cycling can also be your pyramid as we have already seen a couple of cards that incentivise you to cycle as much as possible.
Our first glimpse into Amonkhet has got me very excited to play what I believe will be a refreshing limited format focusing on synergy rather than the strength of individual cards.
Driven by Fire
Day one of Amonkhet spoilers have also allowed us to see what the Gods on this plane will look like in the form of Hazoret the Fervent.
Much like their Theros counterparts the Gods appear like they will only become creatures when a certain criteria are met. On Theros the deities materialized when their followers showed up in droves whereas the Amonkhet variety, or Hazoret at any rate, does so when you in direst need of his help. While the Jackal-headed idol does not fill me with excitement for his constructed playability I do like that he fuels the “one or fewer cards in hand” clause and expect the other gods to follow suit as many cards in the set reference ‘discarding cards’ and the mechanics of the set want you to have a full graveyard.
The spoiling of Hazoret the Fervent has also brought with it the confirmation that, to know ones surprise, the Amonkhet Gods will be receiving Invocation printings. Unlike most I am a huge fan of the Invocation series. I hold the opinion that they uniquely capture the flavour and feel of an Egyptian themed magic the gathering set and make me fondly remember those episodes of the Yu-Gi-Oh anime where they played the game in ancient Egypt. On the Hazoret the Fervent Invocation however, I do feel more thought should have been spared to the implications of the font…