I have a huge soft spot for Amonkhet block. Aside from it releasing around the time I first saw some competitive success, it was the first time I cared about the lore and story of magic, making this Spike-at-heart go, “oh shoot, a bunch of planeswalkers teaming up to fight Nicol Bolas is actually kinda cool.” Naturally, I was thrilled when I heard that we were revisiting the plane in the form of Amonkhet Remastered!
This format overview will serve as an in-depth introduction for those new to the world of Amonkhet draft, a refresher for those who played the first time around, and a look at what’s been removed and added so we can get a better picture of what the limited format will look like.
What’s Old is New Again
Before we get into specifics, I want to take a look at how Amonkhet Remastered is set up structurally. There were 269 cards in Amonkhet and there are 338 cards in Amonkhet Remastered. That might seem like a large departure from what we see in a typical set, but the inflated set size is due to a bunch of rares added from Hour of Devastation, as well as a handful of rares that have been reprinted from other sets. For all intents and purposes, this will feel like a normal draft set. The rate that you see any given common or uncommon remains the same with about 20 different commons and about 10 different uncommons in each color.
Where it gets interesting however, is some of the commons and uncommons from Amonkhet have been swapped out for cards from Hour of Devastation. They’ve removed most of the unplayable commons (so long Luxa River Shrine) and replaced them with cards that support Amonkhet’s themes a bit better. This means that you should expect each deck in Amonkhet Remastered to be more focused and streamlined than their original incarnations, as there’s just less draft chaff flying around the table. Three identical draft packs also helps contribute to more streamlined decks. Instead of getting only two packs of Oasis Ritualists or cycling deserts, we’re treated to three whole packs of them meaning you’ll get more chances to pick up the cards you need to make your deck tick.
Everywhere they took out a card that was important to one of Amonkhet’s archetypes, they’ve swapped it with a comparable and often times better card. For example, Gift of Paradise, a key part of the Multicolor Green decks in triple Amonkhet has been upgraded to Hour of Devastation all-star Oasis Ritualist in Amonkhet Remastered. A few of the aggressive exert creatures like Rhet-Crop Spearmaster and Bitterblade Warrior have been taken out to make way for the arguably better Oketra’s Avenger and Rhonas’s Stalward (thank goodness, everyone who’s drafted Amonkhet knows the exert deck needed a power bump.)
Just like any other set, this one has ten two-color signpost uncommons that point you towards what each color pair wants to be doing. In addition, we get a cycle of two-color uncommon aftermath cards to further guide into a color pair.
The long and short of it is that if you’ve drafted triple Amonkhet before, you’ll feel pretty at home with Amonkhet Remastered. All of the themes, mechanics, and color pairs are still here doing the things they previously did, albeit some of the decks are going to be a bit better or worse than they used to be based on just how much support they received from the new cards added.
The idea behind exert is that some of your creatures can put in a little more work for a bonus effect, but then they get tired and don’t untap next turn. Most creatures with exert offer you the opportunity to exert them as they attack, as seen on Ahn-Crop Crasher, but a select few creatures like Oasis Ritualist can be exerted by using their activated abilities.
While exert isn’t an inherently aggressive mechanic, the majority of the cards it appears on have an aggressive bent to them. A density of powerful exert creatures lead to decks like Red-White Exert dominating triple Amonkhet draft, and is the primary reason why that format was so blisteringly fast. Exerting a creature like Hooded Brawler or Nef-Crop Entangler puts your opponent in a tough spot as they’ll almost never be able to profitably block one of these monster attackers. The joke at the time was while they banned cards like Smugglers Copter and Emrakul the Promised End in Standard, they put a format wide ban on blocking in Limited.
The trick to playing with the aggressive exert creatures is to only exert them when your creature can’t get in for a clean attack. Exerting a card like Gust Walker when your opponent has no blockers means that it’ll only get in for three points of damage over the course of two turns as opposed to four points, or five points if you attack normally one turn an exert the next. Every exert creature’s base stats and exert boost were designed in a way that you’ll want to follow this “only exert when necessary for maximum damage output” heuristic (save for Khenra Scrapper for some reason), but there will be corner cases where this isn’t true. For example, you may want to exert when you have a trick in hand and want to incentivize a double block or when you have a card that untaps your creature.
To that point, cards that can untap your creatures or give your creatures vigilance go way up in value when your deck is full of exert creatures, as being able to attack with an exert bonus multiple turns in a row is often backbreaking for the opponent.
While these are technically different mechanics, they play out nearly identically, with eternalize being a slight variant on embalm. Embalm is an ability you’ll find on creatures that says “Exile this card from your graveyard: Create a token that’s a copy of it, except it’s a white Zombie” effectively letting you “flashback” your creatures. Eternalize is the same ability but the creature always comes back as a 4/4 and is black instead of white.
These sound like grindy mechanics that make you want to play a long game, and they can be, but they also allow aggro decks to make more aggressive attacks, knowing their creatures won’t be dead for long. Cards like Naga Oracle that have you self-milling, or looting effects like Seeker of Insight go up in value when you can pick up a handful of embalm or eternalize creatures.
These mechanics proved to be quite strong, and nearly every card with embalm or eternalize in Amonkhet Remastered is a fairly high pick. Even something as unassuming as Sacred Cat ends up being good, especially if you can pick up payoffs like Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun or Vizier of the Anointed.
Fear not! Cycling in Amonkhet Remastered is a far cry from the cycling menace from Ikoria you’ve likely come to loathe, and in fact, takes somewhat of a backseat to some of the set’s other mechanics. It’s around, and you’ll certainly notice it’s impact, but there are no where near as many cycling cards here as there were in Ikoria and the payoffs aren’t nearly as busted.
The cycling cards in Amonkhet Remastered are focused in blue and black, and the payoffs for cycling lean towards the controlling end of the spectrum with cards like Drake Haven and Ruthless Sniper. You’ll often play fewer than 17 lands in decks with many cycling spells, but without the presence of colorless one mana cyclers, you’ll usually want to play around 15-16 lands, not 12-13 like we did in Ikoria. I specify cycling spells, as Amonkhet Remastered has a common cycle of lands, the deserts, that also have cycling. The more of those you can pick up, the more land’s you’ll want to play, sometimes submitting a deck with 19 lands if you pick up six or seven deserts.
Scattered throughout Amonkhet Remastered are a bunch of lands with the subtype “desert.” Cards with this subtype are valuable, as they turn on the cards that care about them like Sand Strangler and Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs. There are cards like Sunscorched Desert that have minor effects and basically only exist as a last resort if you’re in desperate need of deserts, but there are two cycles of desert cards that are powerful, stand-alone cards that you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
The common cycling deserts are going to be some of the best commons in the set. It’s incredibly easy to underrate how good it is to have a deck with 4 cycling lands in it. Do you like to flood? Me neither, and cycling lands help to prevent that all while making sure your Sand Strangler does the Flametongue Kavu impression it was born to do. These cards were top commons in their respective colors, and I would be surprised if that wasn’t true in Amonkhet Remastered, especially the Blue and Black ones since those colors care about cycling.
Potentially even higher picks than the cycling deserts, this cycle of uncommon deserts are a real house. Ifnir Deadlands is the standout here as a repeatable removal spell tacked onto a land, but Ramunap Ruins doesn’t fall far behind as an incredible form of reach for aggro decks. Note the wording on these cards: they say sacrifice a desert not sacrifice this card, so the more deserts you have the merrier.
Cartouches and Trials
I distinctly remember playing with the Cartouches for the first time and saying to myself “oh snap, they figured out how to make Aura’s good in Limited.” All of the Cartouches are high picks. Cartouche of Strength is a good fight spell, Cartouche of Ambition is one of the best tools to fight the aggro decks of the format, Cartouche of Knowledge is a mini Rousing Read, and despite how dorky they may look, Cartouche of Zeal and Cartouche of Solidarity are excellent in the format’s aggro decks.
In addition to being good cards on their own, they can even start to generate card advantage if you pick up a trial or two. By the end of triple Amonkhet draft, the cartouches were top commons in their respective colors and I can’t imagine it’ll be much different here.
Afflict is a pretty basic mechanic and is only sprinkled on a few cards here and there. When you block a creature with afflict, you take damage. Nuff said.
As far as the mechanic’s in-game implications go, you’ll often want to block creatures that have afflict sooner rather than later, as they’re guaranteed to sneak in the last few points of damage if left unchecked. Of course, this leads to some nice counter-play where afflict incentivizing blocks means that players with afflict creatures in their deck are often more willing to include a few combat tricks to punish opponents who are eager to block.
There’s an old joke that every mechanic in Magic is really just kicker or split cards, and aftermath cards sure don’t look like they have kicker to me. The twist with aftermath cards is that you can only cast the bottom half of the card from your graveyard. Like embalm, these play well with self-mill and discard outlets, although, each side of the aftermath cards have fairly minor effects and you’ll often want to cast both sides as their effects often play well with each other.
While we won’t be going over every archetype in Amonkhet Remasted today, I want to touch on the ones that are most supported and that I think will be most relevant for your drafting experience.
This was the best deck in the format back in triple Amonkhet and seeing how it got a boost from the Hour of Devastation cards with not much cut on the Amonkhet side, I Imagine it’ll be near the top again. Most of the tools that made these decks tick like the cartouches and cheap tricks are still here and many of the cards that kept the aggro decks in check in Hour of Devastation are absent.
This is a typical aggro deck trying to get on board as early as possible and leverage it’s creatures with combat tricks and removal. Exert is the real deal and lets your two and three drops attack well into the late game. This deck is hyper aggressive, often playing 15 or 16 lands and playing cards like Bloodlust Inciter (small aside: players didn’t put this card in their deck nearly enough back in the day.)
Great Uncommon Pick-ups
Green White Exert
The slightly slower but beefier cousin of Red-White Exert. This deck has basically the same plan as Red-White Exert except it focuses a bit more on untapping its creatures after they’ve exerted using cards like Synchronized Strike and the gold uncommon Ahn-Crop Champion.
This deck wasn’t top tier in triple Amonkhet but was gifted a significant power boost in Hour of Devastation thanks to cards like Rhonas’s Stalwart and Appeal//Authority which just so happen to be in Amonkhet Remastered. I expect this deck to be one of the better decks in this format. Green isn’t the strongest color, but most of the power in these exert decks comes from the white cards anyways.
Great Uncommon Pick-ups
This is a deck that we’ve seen so many iterations on lately that even if you’ve never drafted Amonkhet , you’ll have a good idea of how to draft this deck, especially if you’ve played M21. You’ll want to stock up on cheap prowess creatures like Spellweaver Eternal and Thorned Moloch as well as cards that care about non-creatures like Riddleform (long time no see,) Magmaroth, and Firebrand Archer. Cards like Crash Through are great here and you’ll of course play as much cheap removal as you can get your hands on. Cards with cycling can help will your grave with spells for the cards that care about that like Enigma Drake and Cryptic Serpent.
Just like in M21, this deck can be build as a tempo deck if you have a bunch of good two drop creatures, or as a control deck if you happen to pick up an abundance of cheap removal. This was another top deck back in the day and while I think it’s still quite good, it lost a few good payoffs like Bloodwater Entity and Warfire Javelineer.
Great Uncommon Pick-ups
The best way to draft this deck is often draft it like a white exert deck but with some black cards and zombie payoffs thrown in. The set is littered with zombies, especially when you count the embalm and eternalize creatures which are zombies when they come back from the graveyard.
Binding Mummy is one of the keys to this deck. It’s a fine card on its own, and if you ever get multiples in play it’s near impossible for the opponent to put up a reasonable defense. Unconventional Tactics looks, well, unconventional, but it’s one of the decks most potent tools for pushing damage.
This deck has an absurdly high ceiling If you’re the only zombie player at the table and get to snap up all of the Lord’s of the Accursed and Binding Mummies, but I remember it being merely okay without the good payoff cards. I think this deck will be fine but not great. We lost a few good Amonkhet zombies like Cursed Minotaur and Unwavering Initiate in the transition to Amonkhet Remastered, and the Hour of Devastation cards that replace them are quite mediocre.
Great Uncommon Pick-ups
4-5 Color Green
The name of the game here is raw power, you’re simply trying to shove as many powerful cards and ways to cast them into your deck as possible. While this was a deck in triple Amonkhet, the version of this deck I think most people remember is the one that popped up once Hour of Devastation came around. While we don’t have as many fixing and ramping tools as we did in that format, we do have the key card that enabled the deck, Oasis Ritualist. There are other cards that can ramp and fix such as Naga Vitalist and Hope Tender, but none of them do it as well or in the same explosive fashion that Ritualist does.
The tools to play a bunch of colors are all there, but whether this deck can hold its ground against the exert decks of the format remains to be seen. I’m cautiously optimistic about this one, but nagging thoughts keep reminding me there’s nowhere near the same amount of incidental life-gain in Amonkhet Remastered as there was in Hour of Devastation, and that we’ll be playing this format as best of one draft, a format often hostile to this style of deck.
Great Uncommon Pick-ups
The Slither blade deck
This was my absolute favorite deck back when we first drafted Amonkhet, and I was ecstatic to see that nearly all of the tools that make the deck tick are still here. Popularized by Christian Calcano after he 3-0’d a draft pod with the deck at Pro Tour Amonkhet, this deck was one of the best in the format when it came together.
For the first few weeks of Amonkhet draft, Slither Blade was a card that no one at the table wanted, it’s the exact type of card you’re always told not to put in your deck. However, some players realized that this was exploitable, and if you could end up with every copy of Slither Blade opened at your table, you could build a hyper-aggressive deck that could outrace even the best Red-White Exert decks.
The deck was comprised of two main pieces, all the Slither Blades you could find, and ways to augment them. Most often you would augment them with cartouches, but Rhonas’s Monument, pump spells, and equipment can get the job done as well. The deck is most commonly blue/white or blue/red to make use of the cheapest cartouches but would sometimes be blue/green to play Sixth Sense, another card no one at the table generally wanted. The best Slither Blade decks would play an extremely low land count, and often look something like this.
A crucial thing to consider when drafting this deck is that you don’t want to move in a the first sight of a Slither Blade. Instead, you want to take note of Slither Blades in early packs and track them to see if they wheel in pack one, and If they do, you know that you’re likely to get more in pack two and three. This is important as a Slither Blade deck with just two copies of the card just isn’t going to get the job done, you need to make sure you have a good number of them to increase the chance that you’ll draw them in your opening hand.
I worry that this deck will fall victim to the “Spider Spawning effect”, the deck that everyone wants to draft during flashback drafts because it’s the cool, wacky deck in the format, effectively meaning no one gets a good version of it.
This is mostly a classic blue/black control deck with card draw and removal but can have a cycling sub theme some of the time. This is not the same style of cycling deck that we saw in Ikoria, Shadowstorm Vizier may look like it does a decent Prickly Marmoset impression but it’s on blocking duty more often than not in this deck. This is the best deck for one of the set’s mythic uncommons, Ominous Sphinx, and both Vile Manifestation and Ruthless Sniper are bonkers good payoffs with enough cheap cyclers. The best cards for this deck live at uncommon, but Horror of the Broken Lands is a fine card as well.
Cheap removal and card draw. Anything with cycling for one mana.
Great Uncommon Pick-ups
Lesser Decks in the Format.
These are decks I felt were worth mentioning as you’ll see them a decent amount of the time, but are either uncommon based or just not very good.
This deck is billed as an embalm synergy deck, but just as the zombie tribal deck is often white aggro with some black cards, this deck is often drafted best as White aggro with some blue cards. If you’re lucky you can pick up good uncommons like Aven Wind Guide or Vizier of the Anointed, but the common payoffs like Anointer Priest aren’t good enough to build your deck around. I actually like this deck a lot considering how good the white aggro cards are, just know that this isn’t going to be the most synergy driven deck in the format.
Black-Green -1/-1 counters
This deck wasn’t very good in either triple Amonkhet or Hour of Devastation and I can’t see it improving much here. Black and Green have the weakest commons in the format and we’ve lost one of the big pulls into the deck, Decimator Beetle. If you’re getting great Black and Green cards late, go for it, maybe you’ll even get passed a Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, but this isn’t a deck I’d be looking to get into early in the draft.
The Top Commons
My take for the best commons in the set is of course subject to change as we start to draft the set, but this is where I’m starting out as a baseline for my evaluations.
Cards of Note
This isn’t the best removal spell in the world, but is quite playable if you’re lacking cheap ways to interact with exert creatures.
This card is much better than it looks. A 2/3 gain two life that turn’s one of the cards in your hand into a 4/4 gain four life is a great card, especially against the more aggressive decks in the format.
Lay Claim on the other hand is much worse than it looks. This card is fine, but seven mana is a heck of a lot, even for an effect as powerful as this. You can always cycle it, but a card that you cycle 90 percent of the time carries a steep opportunity cost.
Final Reward is to Amonkhet what Finishing blow is to M21, a clunky removal spell that you hope to play no more than one copy of. Amonkhet Remastered may end up being a tad slower than either one of those sets, but I wouldn’t take this one too highly.
Samut, The Tested
This is not the planeswalker you’re looking for. Samut just doesn’t do enough for the amount of mana she costs. If you get this mid-pack, feel free to pick her up, but there’s a lot of commons I’d take over her.
Edifice of Authority
While not quite as good as Icy Manipulator, Edifice does a good impression of icy and has the same “great colorless card to take early” vibe to it.
Most of the Monuments are quite bad. Tapping out on turn three is tough and most of the effects they provide are marginal. The exception here is Oketra’s Monument which is one of the best uncommons in the set, as it’s not hard to make upwards of five mana and five tokens over the course of a game with this card.
Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs
This is one that took players a few weeks to realized just how good it was. It blocks early creatures well (or at least makes them exert) and is a threat that needs to be dealt with at some point in the game. I’ve first picked this card before and I’m not afraid to do it again.
If it’s not already evident, I can’t wait to get my hands on this set. While I do think this format is going to play out much closer to Amonkhet than Hour of Devastation, I hope that for the sake of the players looking for a reprieve from M21’s “all aggro all the time” gameplay, Amonkhet Remastered can find a happy medium.