If you told me a month ago that I’d be choosing to play a best-of-one draft format on MTGA over a sweet set like Double Masters on MTGO, I’d probably tell you that you’ve been sitting in the desert sun a bit too long. Amonkhet Remastered has been out for about two weeks, and despite there being other formats to draft and it having a little too much virtual sand for my taste, It’s been my draft format of choice.
In my previous Amonkhet Remastered article, I covered my takes of the top archetypes, top commons, and some format features I felt were essential to understanding how to draft the format optimally. I’m pleased to say that I think most of my takes were accurate, but today I want to go a bit deeper. Now that I have a bunch of drafts under my belt, I’d like to reaffirm some of my claims from the last article, cover a few format features I hadn’t anticipated, and do a deeper dive on the set’s archetypes.
The Big Picture Revisited
The big question on everyone’s mind going into Amonkhet Remastered was “which one of its parents does it most resemble?” The blistering fast, “you’re dead on turn five” Amonkhet or the mid-speed, multicolored good-stuff haven that was Hour of Devastation. It turns out that this format is much closer to Amonkhet than it’s successor, but the “blocking is banned in this format” gene seems to have skipped a generation.
Let’s look at an infographic from Twitter user @sierkovitz displaying week one win rates of 17lands.com users grouped by color pair. I’d like to use this data as a springboard for discussing the format as a whole.
Not listed here are base green decks playing three or more colors, which averaged a less than inspiring 50.8% win-rate.
We can see that early on in Amonkhet Remastered‘s lifespan, White Aggro, specifically Red-White Aggro has shown impressive results. These results line up with how many content creators, including myself, predicted things might pan out early on. White’s roster of commons is powerful and deep enough to support three or four drafters at a table. With a plethora of good aggressive cards like Gust Walker and Cartouche of Solidarity running around, it’s no surprise that these decks have been performing.
I had previously noted that Blue-White wasn’t a very supported archetype, but after a few drafts, I quickly realized it was one of the better color pairs in the format. There aren’t a ton of embalm and eternalize payoffs in the format, but the ones that do exist are great. Even without embalm or eternalize synergies, white’s package of aggressive commons pair nicely with cards like Cartouche of Knowledge and Ariel Guide to pack a punch.
The decks in the middle of the pack like Black-White Zombies, Blue-Red Spells, and Blue-Black cycling have performed about as well as I expected. These decks are quite good when they come together, but you have to be in the right seat to draft them. They rely on picking up some key uncommmons to be greater than the sum of their parts, so they aren’t going to come together as often as the aggressive white decks.
The exert aggro decks that touch green have performed worse than Red-White Aggro. I believe this is primarily due to the dissonance between green’s commons. Cards like Rhonas’s Stalwart and Hooded Brawler are great pick ups for these decks, but sometimes the packs don’t break in your favor. Even if green is open in your seat, you’ll end up getting passed cards like Oasis Ritualist and Sifter Wurm instead of the beatdown cards you’re hoping to snag.
I didn’t have high hopes for Red-Black or Green-Black coming into the format, and while the data might suggest these decks are bad, I believe there’s still hope for them being good decks in the format.
Week Two of the Format and Looking Ahead
The 17lands.com data generally lines up with how I believe you were supposed to approached the format on week one if you were looking to maximize your win-rate, but I think we’re right on the cusp of a format shift. While the infographic would imply that Red-White Aggro is a broken archetype and Red-Black is trash, it’s important to consider that win-rate data is not just a reflection of raw power, and is influenced by a combination of factors. In addition to raw power of a given archetype, the MTGA meta, and people’s evolving understanding of how to optimally draft each archetype play in a role in win-rate data as well.
While the white and red aggressive decks are the level one best decks in the format, I believe that the tools and incentives for drafting midrange and control decks are strong enough that you should be on the lookout for times when it’s correct to draft those decks. To be clear, my draft strategy for this format is still to bias towards white or red aggro early in the draft. When those decks are open, your deck will be great, but I’m quite willing to jump ship if I notice those colors are drying up. Identifying when you’re supposed to draft a midrange or control deck is especially important now that more people have calibrated their picks with an understanding of how good the red and white cards are. It has become increasingly likely that you’ll find yourself in a spot where you first pick an excellent white card but so have the three people beside you.
At this point in the format, I think one of the biggest edges you can get is drafting black-based control decks when the good aggro decks aren’t open in your seat. I’ve had a ton of success with these decks and have been particularly impressed with how well they beat up on the aggressive decks in the format.
Based on what I’ve seen on the other side of the table, my guess is that Red-Black and Green-Blacks low win-rates can be attributed to players drafting these decks like bad aggro decks instead of good control decks. Black’s good commons aren’t aggressive, and pairing Nef-Crop Entangler or Rhonas’s Stalwart with them isn’t a recipe for success.
Black’s commons do an excellent job of keeping you alive in a way that is unparalleled by the other colors. A control deck filled with Compulsory Rests and Open Fires or comparable removal spells is fine, but if I have good incentives to draft a control deck, I’m going to try my best to bias towards black, as many of black’s commons are two for ones against the exert decks. You could make a good case for Cartouche of Ambition being the best common to Pick 1 Pack 1 at this stage of the format, considering how many people are fighting to get into an exert deck.
Before we get a bit deeper into the set’s archetypes, I want to go over a few cards that are still going too late, and a few that I see in more decks than they belong in.
This is a card for your Blue-White or Black-White control decks. I’ve seen this card jammed into one too many Red-White Exert decks on the other side of the table.
Based on the fact that I almost never see this one in packs, I’d say it’s overrated. It’s still a good card in your aggressive white decks, it’s just not a reason to move into one of those the same way Gust Walker is. Being an x/1 really hurts in this format as well.
This one’s not overrated in the sense that it’s a bad card or anything, but your deck will often want either 3+ Scatters or none. I believe you are hurting your win rate by jamming a copy of Essence Scatter in your Blue-White aggro deck when you don’t otherwise have reasons to hold up mana.
There are so many ways to ramp and fix your mana in this set, you don’t have to stoop as low as putting this card in your deck. In theory, this card blocks early and then gets you a land, but exert creatures just laugh at this card.
This just isn’t a good rate for a combat trick. I’ll play four copies of Brute Strength before I play my first copy of this one.
This is the best uncommon in the set, and I’ve seen it go fifth pick on occasion. This card ends the game on the spot a lot of the time, especially with exert creatures. Even if the game isn’t just over, it leaves the opponent’s board decimated. Casting it once is often enough, but if not rebuying it with a cartouche will be.
I consider this card close to premium. It’s an above rate creature with a cheap embalm cost. The trade-off is that it dies to combat tricks, but in most cases, a trick would have traded with this card in combat anyways.
This is a two mana for a 5/4, not an 0/4.
Imminent doom looks like a wacky build around that you should only try on your 50th draft of the format, but it’s a legit card. The bottleneck for making this card work is making sure you have enough one drops to get it started. Crash Through works the best, but cartouches or Magma Spray are great as well. Once the engines on this card start to rev, it’s really hard for your opponent to keep any creatures around, and sometimes it just outright kills them.
This is like a mini Trial of Solidarity, if it doesn’t just bring your opponent’s life total to zero, it decimates their board. This is a reason to move into Green-White, and I wouldn’t shy away from first picking it.
I expected to see the cycling lands to get snapped up early, seeing as both Limited Resources and Lords of Limited have sung their praises on these cards, but still, on week two of the format, I see them wheeling. There’s not too much to be said about these that hasn’t been said already, but you should treat these as premium commons.
Instead of looking at each archetype under the lens of “what does this color pair do?” I think it’s more helpful to approach the decks in Amonkhet Remastered by dividing them into four macro-archetypes. Looking at archetypes as color pairs tends to lead to a lot of ambiguity, overgeneralizations, and corner cases.
What does a Blue-White deck want? Well, are we talking about Blue-White aggro, or Blue-White with Wrath of God and Approach of the Second Sun?
What about Red-Black? Do you mean mostly red aggro cards with some black removal, or do you mean a black control deck with some red removal?
Just like most color pairs in Ikora fit into the Mutate, Cycling, and Human macro-archetypes, the color pairs in this format fit into four main macro-archetypes: Exert Aggro, Spell-Based Aggro, Black-Based Control, and Green-Based Ramp. Within these four macro-archetypes are multiple color pairs to choose from, but all the color pairs within a given macro-archetype will want similar groupings of cards.
For example, all of the decks that fall under the White Aggro macro-archetype ( RW, GW, UW, and BW) will want this grouping of cards.
And the decks that fall under the Black Control macro-archetype ( UB, BR, GB, BW) will want this grouping of cards.
When drafting a Black-White deck, instead of asking “what cards does a Black-White deck want?” it’s more helpful to ask yourself “what macro-archetype am I drafting and what are the cards it wants?”
For each macro-archetype, I’ll be listing the tier 1 and tier 2 cards in approximate power ranking order. If a card isn’t listed in either tier 1 or tier 2, it’s either filler, or a generically good card that isn’t just good in a specific deck. I left out most of the removal spells as every archetype will want those but did include them when they’re particularly important to an archetype like they are to the Black-Based Control decks.
Exert Aggro – RW, UW, GW, BW, GR
Exert aggro has multiple flavors but they all aim to do the same thing: Play a bunch of creatures with exert and leverage them with cheap removal, combat tricks, and cards that untap your creatures or grant vigilance. Black-White versions of this deck may employ Zombie synergies but not in every case.
Spell-Based Aggro – UR, BR
These decks are generally base red and want to pick up cheap spells to enable their spells matter payoffs. They’re most often blue as that’s where the best payoffs are found, but I’ve had some decent versions of this deck using the red spells matter cards and black removal spells.
Black-Based Control – UB, RB, GB, WB
These decks look to prey on the Exert Aggro decks by gumming up the ground and spreading a bunch of -1/-1 counters around. These decks are very good a surviving the early game, but you often want a bomb or two before you start drafting them. Without a way to turn the corner quickly, the aggro decks will eventually build their board back up.
These decks harken back to the five-color good stuff decks from Hour of Devastation. They’re most often blue/green but can be based in any green color combination and often touch multiple colors as a splash. I will caution that these are not some of the better decks in the format. Oasis Ritualist has really lost some of it’s luster now that it’s surrounded by a bunch of aggressive decks. To make these decks worth the effort, you really want to open or get passed a decent number of powerful rares. Uncommons like Sifter Wurm and River Hoopoe are fine payoffs as well, but I really want to have a great reason to move into these decks. Since these decks can play basically any card they want with the right fixing, I don’t have an extensive tier list for the, but have included some of the more important cards.
Bias Away From x/1 Creatures
Can I just never put an x/1 creature in my deck again? There is a whole host of cards that punish low toughness creatures, so many in fact that I’ve moved every x/1 creature down in my pick order a good notch. Oketra’s Avenger is no longer a top white common for me and I am loath to pick a Nef-Crop Entangler early these days. This issue existed in original Amonkhet but not to the same degree as a lot of the x/1 hate from Hour of Devastation was ported over to Amonkhet Remastered.
Expect to get Wrathed
There is a whopping eight field wipes in this set and I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed one when counting. You should be cautious when dumping your hand on the table especially if you already have enough pressure on board to get a good beatdown going. This also means that when your opponent plays nothing for the first three turns of the game, don’t assume they’re just stuck on an all four-drop hand.
That’s all I have for today! I hope you enjoy drafting Amonkhet Remastered for the next few weeks. This set has been a blast to play and I really hope they give the remastered treatment to a few other sets. Who else wants Ixalan Remastered!? Just me? Ok I’ll go and sit back down…
I can’t wait until next time where we’ll take our first look at Zendikar Rising limited. Until then!