It’s game day again here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look through the new Amonkhet expansion for Magic the Gathering!
This is the 74th expansion for Magic, which is kinda mind-boggling to think of. The set is heavily inspired by ancient Egypt, and takes place on a plane ruled by the elder dragon Nicol Bolas. While Bolas himself doesn’t appear in the set, plenty of the art evokes his iconic twin-horns, and the theme is heavily implied that the people of Amonkhet are awaiting his return, not aware that he is a planeswalker.
The story of the set follows on directly from that of Aether Revolt, where Tezzeret had caused the revolt on Kaladesh before being confronted by Liliana over his master Nicol Bolas’ current whereabouts. Tezzeret had revealed that the dragon was residing on Amonkhet, which is coincidentally the location of one of the four demons Liliana had sold her soul to, Razaketh. The Gatewatch resolved to confront Bolas, against the wishes of the newest member Ajani, who instead travelled to Dominaria to try and get more allies.
There are a number of new mechanics and themes for this expansion, which combined make it feel like a totally new plane, to me. Aside from the fact that the artwork is unusually consistent for a Fertile Cresent theme, it just feels somehow exciting to me! So let’s take a look at some new mechanics.
First of all, we have Cycling coming back. This is the mechanic that allows you to pay a cycling cost and discard the card with Cycling, then draw a card (there is also a version that allows you to search for a card type). It’s a pretty great mechanic that really just gives your cards extra utility, and makes it a little less shaky to include some cards that you may otherwise not want in your deck, as if you draw them late in the game they still have a use.
-1/-1 counters are back, though this time without a name such as Wither or Poison. There is a lot of movement around these counters, where some creatures enter the battlefield with a number of counters on themselves, and you can move them around or take them off when they deal damage, or whatever. Of all the new features of the set, this is the one that feels a little too clunky, and seems to require a full build-around to make it work.
Exert is a new keyword that is fairly straightforward. When a creature with Exert attacks, you can choose to exert it for an additional benefit, though that creature will then not untap during your next untap step. It’s a fairly decent effect mostly, and is probably the mechanic that I’m most excited to build a deck around right now. So stay tuned for that!
Embalm is definitely among the more flavourful mechanics introduced in the set, and while the intricacies feel like they may be too much to keep a track of, it’s something I’m again thinking of building a deck around. A creature with embalm gives you the option to bring it back from the graveyard as an embalmed token copy of itself, except it’s a white zombie in addition to its other types. So a creature such as Aven Wind Guide above is out on the battlefield, giving your other creature tokens flying and vigilance, then it dies and goes to the graveyard. If you choose to pay its embalm cost of four generic, one white and one blue, you can exile the card from your graveyard and put a token on the battlefield in its place. The big drawback is touted as exile, meaning you could at most get one reactivation of the creature, but I might see how that sort of deck would look sometime soon.
Finally, we have another graveyard mechanic with Aftermath, a split card mechanic that allows you to cast the top half of the card as a normal instant or sorcery, then the bottom half of the card only from your graveyard, paying that half’s mana cost. The card design is just insane, and I have to say that I’m not a fan of it personally (to the extent that I don’t currently foresee myself including any of these cards in a deck for aesthetic reasons). But they’re here, and I suspect that there will be more in the next set, so yeah…
While they’re not mechanics as such, it’s also worth talking about the Gods of Amonkhet here. Each colour has its own god, such as Bontu the Glorified for black here, and each has its own Monument artifact card that allows you to cast creatures of the god’s colour for one generic mana less. Each of the gods is a creature, with a colour-specific keyword, and is indestructible, but cannot attack unless a specific state has been achieved, such as with Bontu needing to see a creature die under your control. Furthermore, each of the gods has an activated ability that will allow you to achieve that state, such as Bontu sacrificing a creature for one generic and one black.
There is also the theme of the Trials of the Five Gods going on in Amonkhet, and each of these trials has a colour-specific enchantment that does something when it enters the battlefield, such as the Trial of Ambition forcing an opponent to sacrifice a creature. The Trials are at uncommon, while there are also associated Cartouche aura cards at common that attach to a creature for a benefit, and bounce the Trial back to your hand, making sure you can repeat the effect of them. I find the Cartouches much more exciting than the Trials, but for theme’s sake alone, I think it’s necessary to include them in a deck!!
So, I’ve been talking a lot about building decks so far in this blog – let’s take a look at my Prerelease deck from Amonkhet:
Cartouche of Ambition
I didn’t make it to prerelease this year, being absorbed in my degree work and house-hunting, and basically forgetting about it, despite having signed up for it! So I thought it would be cool to work out a deck from my pool anyway, and came up with the above. I was so pleased to get Bontu in my pool, as I had been hoping to get a copy of her for Standard or whatever. My pool overall would have been pretty decent – much better than that of my last prerelease experience! And I would have gotten to play black/red, my favourite combo!
Well, let’s see what happens when Hour of Devastation is out!