"Five Planeswalkers have come to Amonkhet to slay a dragon. As the Gatewatch, they had sworn an oath to protect the Multiverse from the threats that spanned the Blind Eternities, and the dragon Planeswalker Nicol Bolas was perhaps the greatest such threat. So they came to Amonkhet—a world of blasted sand and terrible monsters, exactly the hellscape they had expected. Until a god appeared, saved them from sandwurms, and led them in the direction of a city. What kind of city could prosper under Bolas's reign? And what kind of god could live under his oppressive claw?"
Our dear Gatewatch has made progress on Amonkhet since my last article, and so did the spoiler season. However, the progress made by the Gatewatch isn't nearly as impressive as are the cards that were spoiled in the last couple of days, many of which have more than a bit of Constructed potential. But more on those later, let's talk about Amonkhet first.
The Gatewatch finally made it to the city of Amonkhet and gave us some additional pieces of the storyline - the Amonkhet city seems to be a more-or-less peaceful oasis with quarters of the city ruled by Gods who are revered by the colorful populace. It seems that even though the city and its people (or aven, or minotaurs, or cats or whatever lives there) are quite peaceful , they seem to revere something (or someone) even above the aforementioned gods - the main focus of their worship seems to be 'The Horned One' - quite certainly Nicol Bolas. It seems that Bolas not only created the plane of Amonkhet, but he also left some instructions for its inhabitants before he left to cause mischief in the Multiverse. It seems that the citizens of Amonkhet are pretty much just training for the return of Bolas, when he will mobilize them for whatever malicious purpose he might have in mind. There are no laborers in the city, all the manual work is done by mummies, so the living can focus on their training, making the whole city a huge training ground. Nice plan, Nicol!
There seem to be some doomsayers who guessed right that 'The Horned One' might be an evil entity, but those are silenced quickly and efficiently. I have no doubt that the Gatewatch will set things right and the people of Amonkhet will stand with them when the big boss decides to appear on the scene.
Let me start off with a few words on stuff I might have or might have not mentioned in my articles over the past years - I rant a lot, it is hard to keep track. I don't know if you are aware that lands are a mistake? The lands->mana->spells system is super volatile and inconsistent and it often feels like most games are decided by mana screw or flood. We have seen finals of the Pro Tours being decided by bad mana more than once and it just feels horrible. If you have ever played Hearthstone or World of Warcraft TCG, you are well aware how horrible Magic's mana system is. Years ago, someone at Wizards admitted that this was a mistake but one that cannot be reversed, back when they were allowed to say stuff like that without getting fired. Wizards is aware of this problem, and they are doing whatever they can to mitigate it without breaking the game too much. One of the best ideas to deal with this they came up with so far is definitely Cycling - an ability that lets you replace unwanted cards in your hand with a random card from the top of your library for a meager cost. This ability first appeared in Urza block, where it was rather popular and well received, but not nearly as popular as in Onslaught, where it powered one of the strongest Standard decks of all time - Astral Slide. I really like Cycling, mainly because of its mana screw mitigation factor, but also because it allows for borderline mulligan decisions to become a bit more justifiable, making games a bit less random. Well, now that we agree that cycling is awesome, let's talk about cards.
Cycling Land Cycle
I wanted to address these first because they are big part of what I was talking about above - while spells with Cycling certainly help with mulligans and with combating mana screw somewhat, they don't help with mana flood almost at all, unless you are trying to dig for your big spells, and even then, chances are you will draw into more land. This is where land cards with Cycling come in! Lands with Cycling have the exact opposite effect than spells with Cycling, making you mana base a bit slower, but also turning your extra land into random cards from the top of your library, which is, in the worst case, equally bad. Cycling spells without Cycling lands wouldn't be nearly as awesome, and even though these enter the battlefield tapped dual lands aren't super exciting, they will certainly find a home in some decks, just like temples did in Theros.
At first glance, this card seemed rather uninteresting, a four mana artifact that takes three turns to do something remotely useful isn't really my cup of tea, but it definitely has potential. Library manipulation isn't a very common thing lately, but this card does look like a worse Aetherworks Marvel, so we have to give it some credit at least.
Throne of the God-Pharaoh
Well, this is a card that I can definitely see being played in Constructed. It is a non-combat win condition for Elves as well as a decent one-of in most aggressive creature decks. This card can easily deal large amounts of damage over time and should not be underestimated.
Even though most of these split cards are interesting; I feel that this one has the most Constructed potential. Cheap, efficient removal attached to a reach card is exactly what B/R aggressive decks want, but still probably only as a one or two-of, since in the current Standard, sorcery speed removal isn't all that great.
Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons
I was thinking there might be an infinite two-card combo with this card and Phyrexian Plaguelord in Modern, but I was mistaken. Still, it might see some mild Standard play, but unless the -1/-1 counters become a thing, it's probably just too cute for real play.
Archfiend of Ifnir
Talking about -1/-1 counters becoming a thing - this guy just might do it. It has great stats for its cost, it has evasion, and has built-in tricks. On top of all that, it has cycling itself, so you don't mind running more copies. I'd say this card has plenty of potential, it just depends on what support it will get.
My long lost love! I have played this card a ton, even though I am not really a 'White mage' or a big fan of lifegain, but hey, this was one of the control staple cards for years in Standard, and even in Extended for a time. Most of the time it will just be cycled for some life and a card, but it will also pull you out of some hairy spots when you need to cast it for its full cost. Definitely an all star card, is there maybe a B/W cycling control deck in the making?
Red one drops are always interesting to me, and this one looks like a winner. Evasion on a red one drop with a potential pump sounds pretty sweet, it will just take a bit of time to figure out how to best use the card. Collective Brutality in Standard certainly sounds like a good idea!
This is a very powerful effect on a very cheap creature. Tapping out sounds like a REALLY bad idea against red mages once Amonkhet hits the shelves. This card is also a two-card combo with Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker, but that probably won't be very relevant.
Lay Bare the Heart
Standard was missing a good discard spell for a long time, and this just might be it. It's probably not great, but it still hits more things than Transgress the Mind and will see play, especially when Transgress rotates.
I have been calling for a Scrapheap Scrounger ban for some time now, and even though Wizards decided against that move, they certainly saw the problem, and this is their solution. As long as Scrounger sees play, this will as well.
I found it hard to believe that people actually play Horribly Awry in Standard. I felt very sad for them, and I am glad their agony is at an end. Yeah, I know it was decent against Scrounger, but come on.
If this was only an Instant four mana Oblivion Ring, I would call it a miss, but since it also has Cycling, I believe this card might even see some play in the catch-all slot. It is actually a very good catch-all card. It is a bit heavily costed, but there would be no way for them to print this at three mana.
Now, this is a pretty nice hate card. It works well against both Marvel and Saheeli Rai, and it might even find some use in Modern in the creature toolbox decks. This will definitely see Constructed play.
Curator of Mysteries
A cheap flyer with great stats, a good ability and cycling? This definitely has some Constructed potential, but it depends on the metagame, since there might be no decks that want it the way the Standard format looks right now. In some happier times, this would have been a pretty strong card.
A cat lord? This is certainly a Limited bomb, but as far as Constructed goes, it is probably a bit too expensive. On the other hand, I don't really doubt there will be tons of cat lovers and enthusiasts who will build their cat tribal decks, no matter how uncompetitive those might be.
This is literally a two mana 4/4 lifelinker if it survives a turn. Yes, it might not untap every turn, but does that really matter as much? If you connect with it once, you are pretty happy with how it went anyway. This will certainly see some play.
Well, these look pretty nifty for Limited, but since Cartouches are creature enchantments (and those are mostly a no-no in Constructed) I really doubt these combinations will see Constructed play. Trial of Ambition might be good enough to see some Constructed play on its own, since there are certainly some ways to return it to your hand without a cartouche anyway. There is always the option of 'blinking' the trials with Felidar Guardian, so keep that in mind as well.
A Tarmogoyf that produces/fixes mana? Ok, maybe not that crazy, but definitely an interesting card. Mana producers are generally well loved in Constructed, but ones that also grow to be decent beaters are definitely even better.
Hazoret, the Fervent
Well, I didn't really like any of the Theros gods a whole lot, so I approach these with a lot of skepticism as well. I do like that these gods do not work on the old 'devotion' principle, and that they seem to be easier to 'activate'. Hazoret doesn't really ask for a whole lot to be attacking on turn four, so if some sort of Rakdos Hellbent deck materializes in Standard, this will certainly be its top of the curve.
Gideon of the Trials
I really dislike Gideon as a character, I really wish Elspeth was the designated white planeswalker, but you have to play with the cards that you are dealt I guess. This iteration of Gideon is certainly well costed, it has decent starting loyalty, but it pretty much does nothing. Yeah, it can attack for four from turn four onward, but that's really not something I want my planeswalker to do. It still might see some play just because it is so cheap, and planeswalkers are a pain to deal with.
Liliana, Death's Majesty
I was saving the best for last - the lady in black, Liliana, strikes again. She is not only a really loveable character, but she also gets some amazing planeswalker cards! This one is certainly one of the awesome ones, reminding me of Elspeth, Sun's Champion at first. It has a built-in protection in the form of tokens, it can easily create card advantage through reanimating value cards, and it has a one-sided wrath as the ultimate ability that is very easy to reach. 5+1 starting loyalty for five mana is a great bargain. Orzhov or Esper control decks can't wait to add this beauty to their arsenal. No matter how quick-paced Standard might be, this will see play sooner or later.
It is rather obvious that Amonkhet has a rather high power level and that there are already plenty of cards with great Constructed potential spoiled. By the time we get the full spoiler, I have no doubt there will be quite a few more, so we can definitely expect some big tremors in Standard in the coming weeks, which is exactly what we all wanted and expected. I can't wait for the Amonkhet release!
Talking about release, stay tuned, for next time, when I'll talk about Amonkhet Limited!
Good luck and have fun!
About Stjepan Sučić
Stjepan started his Magic career in 2003, and had some decent finishes over the years, including a World Magic Cup top 8, Pro Tour and Worlds top 32 finishes, and a GP top 8, with 61 pro points total.
During the summer months he is also a Magic Online grinder who you can easily find in the draft queues. Stjepan boasts a 74% win rate in his real life Magic career. When he is not playing Magic, Stjepan enjoys watching Starcraft and playing MOBA games.