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Formatting Amonkhet – the key pieces

Hi Everyone!
We thought we’d give you a quick breakdown of some of the Amonkhet cards we think will influence other formats or make a big splash in limited. If you like our breakdown or are interested in Australian MtG content, please don’t forget to check out our livestream of the midnight prerelease at General Games in Melbourne at www.twitch.tv/generalgamesaus!

Now for a quick bio on our Authors:

Sean: A lover of red, blue and white (in that order) who enjoys turning creatures sideways and casting Lightning Bolt, Sean is our Legacy aficionado and author of This Week in Legacy.

Reuben: A Timmy/Spike player and custom card creator who loves looking at the subtle ways the limited environments and individual cool cards are designed. Spoiler Season always has Reuben looking at what themes and systems are underlying the set as well as how they integrate those with great vorthos flavor.

Molly: A Spike through and through who enjoys aggressively costed, ridiculously powerful cards (who doesn’t!). For her it’s all about the win and whether a card will get her there. She does however really love the flavour that R&D imbues in sets and am super keen for some Egyptian flavour!

Chris A Modern player with a bias for green creatures with P=CMC+1, he recently came 6th at GP Melbourne piloting Melira Company and had a strong presence at PT Sydney.

Samut, Voice of Dissent

Molly: Despite the obvious contradiction of haste and flash, this card is amazing. A complete limited bomb especially in an exert shell. I cannot imagine that people won’t try to get this going in standard and it potentially has some relevance in Modern value decks.

Reuben: Due to their similar flavor flash and haste as very tempting keywords to put of the same card, but is nearly never correct due to how they don’t usually work together. By putting an activated ability on this card however they not only allow this to act as a 3 color commander, they also allow both keywords to be relevant while being a exciting card for Timmys.
This isn’t a very elegant design but it packs enough power and flexibility, especially with exert that it might end up seeing play somewhere.

Chris: The key ability here is the global haste effect. End step Samut into basically any 5-6 drop is going to be truly scary, and cards like Verdurous Gearhulk or Rishkar can set up ways to enable Samut to connect. I suspect that the last ability is an afterthought, though will make it even harder to race. I think this is incredibly powerful.

Annointed Procession

Molly: This as a white effect is very interesting, lends a lot more credence to the black white token decks floating around the bottom tiers in modern. There seems to be a lot of support for a White/Blue tokens deck in this set and it will be interesting to see if this has an impact on Standard. This is definitely a build-around card and I don’t think it will be a limited bomb by any means.

Reuben: White gets Parallel Lives now! While an interesting bend for the color pie this makes a lot of sense due to how white’s gameplan often relies on larger numbers of small tokens rather than a few larger ones. With Emblam centered in white this color shifted card fits really well into the themes of the set while being an exciting card for a lot of Commander players.

Chris: 4 mana to do nothing requires a slow Standard format. And how many 4 drops can a Standard deck play, because you’re definitely playing Gideon (though this is a reasonable follow-up to the Planeswalker). The effect is impressive but there are too many busted cards from Kaladesh seeing no Standard play for me to be optimistic about this, even if the Saheeli combo is banned. Picked early you can probably leverage this in limited.

Cryptic Serpent

Molly: There has been a lot of discussion about this card and its potential impact on legacy; smoothing out the mana bases in delver decks by replacing Gurmag Angler. Not having to have as significant a black requirement may be relevant and it doesn’t delve away all your cards, creating a static effect that leaves your Deathrite Shamans and other delve cards active. I’m sure we’ll see a few decks trying it out, however the UU cost means that you’re potentially better off just using Tomb Stalker and not getting bogged down on the ground as Gurmag’s tend to do.

Sean: Gurmag and friends will generally be superior in Legacy when playing Black, but this could see play in RUG Delver as a Fatal Push-proof top end like Mandrills. Mandrills has poor synergy with Mongoose’s Threshold, but this guy does not. However, Drills comes out much quicker and Tramples through True-Names. Although this guy is pitchable to Force of Will, he may not quite make the cut.

Reuben: Blue’s large serpents have always been a little clunky and seemingly out of place with blue’s other themes. This design however ties in perfectly blue’s love of instant/sorceries and the need for a big finisher in longer matches. While many players are going to look to break this in older formats, I’m personally going to enjoy trying to make this work in limited.

Chris: If you can cast this for 5 mana, it’s a terrific limited card. How good it is will depend on the rest of the set although there are a few payoff cards for getting instants and sorceries into the bin, as well as plenty of cycling. The double mana cost probably means it doesn’t get played in constructed much, if at all, though if blue-based control exists in Standard this will allow the development of a threat whilst holding up counterspells in the mid-late game.

Soul-scar Mage

Molly: I feel like this would be interesting in older formats where Sharpshooter-style effects are more prevalent. It’s certainly an interesting card and it would be interesting to see if it can find a home.

Sean: A Red one-drop! This makes me happy. This harkens back to Monastery Swiftspear, and though haste is a big deal, this guy’s second ability isn’t irrelevant, shrinking big dudes. I could see in Legacy a UR Prowess core of Delver, Swiftspear and this guy over the more typical Stormchaser Mage. I think the Haste on Stormchaser is still too relevant though, but nonetheless, this guy is on the fringe of playable for sure.

Reuben: One of the biggest issues with gods that Amonkhet solves really nicely is how they are indestructible, making them potentially unbeatable for red and green. This card very cleverly solves that issue for red aggressive decks by allowing your burn spells to do permanent damage that gets around indestructible. The cheap prowess body on its own allows this to be a playable even when the ability isn’t as relevant, making it both an exciting card and a good design that provides a safety valve for the format.

Curator of Mysteries

Molly: This just seems like a sweet value engine on top of a beat stick. It has early game relevance to get you out of mana screw, late game it’s a 4/4 flier for 4 and it has a potential upside. Not sure if it’ll make an impact on constructed outside of potentially standard, but this is a card I would want in draft every time. There’s a similar uncommon 3/3 flier in white with cycling (2) and embalm to get it back which is also ridiculous.

Reuben: Super efficient large fliers like Thunderbreak Regent being in red has always seemed odd to me from a colour pie perspective, so it is nice to see blue getting something similar considering it is supposed to be the #1 flying colour. This makes for a powerful bomb rare for limited while being an exciting constructed card for spikes and Timmies, combining flexibility with the scry and cycling with a super efficient body. I hope this ends up being good enough for standard as its exactly the type of card I love playing with.

Chris: Grotesque in limited, not enough impact for constructed. Scry 1 is much worse than looting, which might have actually been enough.

Naga Vitalist

Molly: I think we’re all pretty sick of wizards insisting that 1 CMC mana dorks are too powerful, and we all just want our elvish mystics or avacyn’s pilgrims back. However considering that’s not happening any time soon, this is not a terrible alternative. It’s just fine in mono/two coloured decks but clearly hits it’s strides in the greedy multicoloured mana bases. 2 toughness may end up relevant and I reckon this card will see play in standard.

Reuben: This card is a very clever common design. In standard the access to many flavors of dual lands makes this easily able to create 3-5 colors of mana, while being pretty consistent with the power level that wizards wants for mana dorks at the moment. However in limited this will usually only make 1-2 color of mana, which is important as Amonkhet is definitely not designed to be a limited environment where you can easily go 3-5 colors. This allows the card to safely be a common without warping the format while still being potentially standard playable and give more creative drafters the dream of using this to make more 3-5 color decks work.

Bone Picker

Molly: This card is amazing and I almost overlooked it in the spoilers. Morbid: Only costs B?? That’s ridiculous! Especially with the new black god. There will 100% be a sacrifice/value black deck this standard and it may translate into modern with the power level of this card.

Sean: There is a lot to like in this card, but I think it doesn’t quite make the cut in Legacy. Gurmag Angler, Tombstalker and even Sultai Scavenger may just be better, especially since this guy dies to Fatal Push. Miracles being top dog of the format means creatures dying isn’t really assured, and although Cabal Therapy/ Young Pyromancer is already a thing, usually that means you’re winning anyway. If this was a Zombie Bird, I could see this in the Zombardment decks to add evasion. For now though it’s shell is still to be revealed.

Chris: I think this isn’t great, though if I’m wrong, it’s because my favourite kind of deck will be good again. By the time you’re able to cast it, spending a card on a 3/2 with Deathtouch isn’t going be what you are looking for. Small-ball creature sacrifice gets totally outclassed by the Saheeli combo too, and there aren’t many high-value 1 and 2 drops to pull that sort of thing together. I hope it works out, but am not optimistic.

Prowling Serpopard

Molly: This is one more nail in the coffin of standard control. It has become more and more clear that wizards doesn’t want control to be a viable format in Standard for a while now, and there hasn’t been a more overt statement than this. That being said, the card is amazing and is right up my alley in terms of play style. This in a standard deck with Samut will be a big part of the new meta in my opinion. If control in Modern weren’t also dead I’d think this card could really have an impact.

Sean: In Legacy, this card ain’t amazing. Green creatures typically fall into Green Sun’s Zenith packages, and the opponent can just counter that. We already have Gaea’s Herald anyway.

Reuben: With Essence Scatter reentering standard for the first time since M14 this seems like a clear safety valve. Likewise this will be really exciting to newer players who hate having their fat green creatures spells do nothing. While this isn’t the type of card I necessarily love playing it will definitely have its fans, especially with its amazing creature type.

Chris: Is a 4/3 for 3 good enough? The text would have been mostly irrelevant in recent times, and doesn’t even stop Spell Queller. The lack of potent 1 drops is an issue for building a strong green creature curve, and this doesn’t really fit into the BG Snake deck, which is the only real existing deck of that kind. Maybe it stops Dynavolt Tower with Essence Scatter from taking over Standard? Seems unlikely.

Hazoret the Fervent

Molly: All of the gods in this set are very good, particularly the red and black ones in my opinion. Haste and Indestructible, respectable stats, 4 CMC and a downside that synergises well with what red decks want to do? A dream in a card.

Sean: This card is neat, and is a perfect fit for Dragon Stompy in Legacy. The deck has a wide variety of choices for four-drops, mainly Frontier all-stars like Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Thunderbreak Regent and Shaman of the Great Hunt. Like Shaman, the Haste on this is incredible, and her ability really assists with the burn-out plan most lists focus on nowadays. There’s a lot to like, especially since these Dragon Stompy decks are keen to dump their hand.

Chris: I really like this card. Assuming that you can spew out your hand in a red aggro deck, this card is miles above the curve in terms of power level. There needs to be the support for that kind of deck, but any Standard-power level mono red deck would love to have this.

Nissa, Steward of Elements

Molly: This card is nuts. The reason that power creep is a thing and elvish mystics are too powerful are cards like this. That said, I can’t wait to play it. This Nissa is good whenever you draw it, early game it’s all about the scry and fixing your draws, lategame it’s a value engine and a beathouse if required. She is the first x cost planeswalker, and I think they did it very well. While she doesn’t protect herself, the +2 ability means she will often be out of one hit range when she comes down. It will be very interesting to see how this card influences Standard and maybe Modern. I’ve heard tell that she potentially has a place in legacy 12 post, but we’ll see.

Sean: This card is pretty exciting. It’s definitely powerful, and on empty boards this card will dominate in the early game, fixing draws coming up. In the midgame, once she has some Loyalty, she can start churning out value – especially if working in tandem with cards like Oracle of Mul Daya and co. And in the late game her ultimate should largely polish off the opponent. Where does this card go though? There are a few shells that could appreciate it in Legacy. 12Post is the most obvious, as it has always wanted a walker to toy around with that also is an incredible mana sink. Nic Fit similarly likes a bomb that mana can be dumped in. Other than these fringe decks though, she is hard to see. Maybe Infect? Scrying and getting free Inkmoths or creatures is pretty neat. Although poor with Shardless Agent, maybe Alure, with all its dorks? I’m looking forward to seeing Nissa somewhere.

Reuben: If there is one thing you have to give wizards credit for, it’s that they do a great job with the majority of their planeswalker designs. These cards have small design space, a huge number of moving parts, have to fit the character, and are one of the showcase pieces of each set.
As a custom card designer I’m not surprised by the X cost planeswalker, it is design space many have looked into previously, but designing a even more flexible and complicated version of one of the most flexible and complicated card types is no easy feat.
Evaluating the card is also difficult but after seeing it played I think the design is overall very well done, taking advantage of the X loyalty nicely with its 0 ability to while threatening to be a late game mana sink that can end the game via the -6 ability.
My only concern is this being Nissa, but it’s possible her character evolves more throughout the set story articles to explain her new colour better.

Chris: This design is on the one hand kind of awkward, and on the other, a good hedge against it being too good. You want to play Nissa for a decent amount of mana – otherwise your 0 ability is not going to hit much. But to get enough mana for X=4 or more, you probably need to play some ramp and other bad hits off Nissa. So it’s kind of a ramp payoff that takes a long time to justify the resources and tempo you sink into it. Interesting but unlikely to be good enough for constructed.

Harsh Mentor

Molly: This has capacity to be playable in all of the constructed formats. Legacy have been debating its place amongst certain decks such as Imperial Taxes, Modern Jund and Burn would also be interested I’m sure. As for standard, there is a possibility that this will spawn it’s own deck or come in as a sideboard slot for the mirror in Mardu Vehicles.

Chris: Eidolon of the Great Revel forced people to take damage to deal with it. Harsh Mentor does not. This is much too narrow, and too small, to be a big deal in its own right. On the other hand, shutting down activated ability combos is great. If only it affected Planeswalkers…

Thanks everyone for reading our opinions! Whether you agree with us or think we’ve gotten it all wrong, leave us a comment and let us know!

Hopefully you’ll stop by and say hi during the twitch stream of the AHK prerelease from 00:01AEST Saturday 22nd of April.

That’s all for now!

Molly

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