Hello Everyone! This weekend WOTC released the newest addition to Magic: Arena with Amonkhet Remastered. Many players will be familiar with the set, as it puts together a combination of most of the cards introduced in Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation back in 2017, and smashes them into one large release set. This is the first time most Arena players have had a chance to play with these cards, and today I wanted to take a look at both the limited format and the impacts we will see to historic.
Limited Review: Math is for Blockers
Anyone who played the original release of Amonkhet will tell you that a key definition of the limited format was attack, attack, attack. Amonkhet stands up with Zendikar as one of the most aggressive limited formats. The addition of HoD slowed things down a bit, but it is still important to be prepared for an onslaught of attackers. One of the main reasons for this is the keyword ‘Exert’, which most often is used as an option when attacking to give your creature additional power/toughness or forms of evasion at the cost of not untapping the following turn.
When combined with aggressively costed 2 and 3 drops you see a format where blocking tends to be outclassed. This is mainly highlighted in Red, White, and Green. Because of this, you need to be sure to have a curve that can either compete with aggressive decks or stop them quickly. If you are not playing cards until turn 4, you will probably be dead before you can cast most of them.
Cycling is also back with Amonkhet Remastered, but for those having flashbacks of Ikoria and the domination of
Zenith Flare, fear not. There are much fewer aggressively costed cycling cards, and the U/B cycling deck tends to play a slow control game with no finisher that hits your head for 10 damage. Some key cycling cards to keep an eye on are the common cycling lands. These lands help by allowing you to pitch them for another card when flooding, while also being the subtype Desert. A few cards gain additional bonus for having a Desert in play or the graveyard and can turn your average commons/uncommons into format all stars.
As with most modern developed sets, there are some color combinations that push towards a certain theme. Below are a few of the common themes you will see playing the format.
- RW: Attacking Matters/Exert
- BW: Zombies
- UW: Embalm/Eternalize (creatures that can be cast again from the graveyard)
- UB: Cycling
- GB: -1/-1 Counters
- UR: Spells Matter
When drafting Amonkhet Remastered, I try to keep an eye on a few key things:
How is my curve?
Amonkhet Remastered tends to have a lot of strong cards at 3 mana, and it is easy to pick all those cards and forget to develop a good curve. This will often leave you on the back foot, especially on the draw, constantly playing catchup to your opponents' early drops in aggressive decks. Because of this I try to make a point of grabbing strong 1 and 2 drops like
Gust Walker, and
Rhonas's Stalwart so that I can be the one putting the pressure on my opponent
How do I grind out victory when not the aggressor?
There are some decks in the format that focus more on trying to outvalue the opponent. Blue and green decks often want to grind out enough incremental card advantage to beat the more aggressive decks in the format. When going this route, make sure to have a strong gameplan for beating a lot of 1 and 2 toughness creatures. While there are a decent amount of boardwipes in the format, most of them are rare. You want to have a strong suite of removal to make sure you are not run over the first 2-5 turns.
What kind of reach do I have?
Oftentimes you may find yourself with a deck that can push through 10-15 points of damage but then your opponent starts to stabilize, and suddenly you are struggling to finish them off. This is when cards like
Open Fire, or
Aerial Guide can be key at pushing through those last few points of damage.
Am I dependent on bombs to win?
While I will happily grab a
Hazoret the Fervent,
The Scarab God, or
Hornet Queen it's important to recognize that board stalls are much less common compared to other formats, such as Dominaria limited. Because of this, you cannot put all your eggs in the rare or mythic basket.
With multiple suspensions and bannings introduced in the past month, Historic has already felt a bit like the wild west. Add on top of that a big pile of new cards from Jumpstart and your head might be spinning trying to keep up with the new meta. The format continues to evolve at an aggressive pace as we see new cards introduced from both past and future sets. Amonkhet Remastered took this one step further by adding a few additional cards to the set that were not originally printed in it. These are some of the format all stars I would expect to see show up right away:
The premier one mana discard spell,
Thoughtseize has seen play in just about every format in existence. Being able to disrupt your opponent’s line of play is extremely powerful, as anyone who has been on the receiving end of a
Thought Erasure can attest. Being able to do this on turn one is even more powerful, and I fully expect black mages to adopt this card in almost any deck able to cast it. A lot of the current Historic metagame focuses on key cards like
Muxus, Goblin Grandee or
Kor Spiritdancer. Being able to remove that from the opponents’ hand can change their turn four win into a pile of durdly spells that cannot compete.
Hazoret the Fervent and Ramunap Ruins
Anyone who played Standard during the original release of Amonkhet will remember the menace that was mono red. While perennially a competitor in most formats, these two cards pushed forward a deck that dominated competitive events for over a year. Their addition to Historic red decks gives players additional reach by converting excess lands into damage to an opponent’s face.
Ramunap Ruins was so strong it eventually had to be banned from Standard play. Hazoret is also a hard to remove threat, similar to
Questing Beast in its ability to knock out a large chunk of your opponent’s life total immediately. It also stonewalls a player’s creatures if you need an extra turn or two to draw the last few points of damage. Expect to see both these cards in aggressive red strategies.
A new addition that was originally released in Dragons of Tarkir,
Collected Company (CoCo) gives green creature decks a combination of card advantage, combat tricks, and mana value all in one. A deck that has a high density of creatures like Elves, Spirits, or Mono Green Aggro uses CoCo to push out threats quickly, surprise an opponent’s attack with additional blockers, or quickly rebuild an army after a board wipe. Just remember that you need creatures in the top six cards to get full value, so you want to run 22 creatures, at a minimum. You can read more about the math behind this number here.
Hour of Promise
Another green card that saw a limited amount of play during its original release,
Hour of Promise does not appear particularly busted. Putting two lands on the battlefield is fine and all, but we have multiple options at four mana to do that. They key here is that these two lands can be ANY land, not restricted to basics or gates. In a world where
Field of the Dead continues to be debatably public enemy number one,
Hour of Promise gives us the ability to tutor it out onto the board and start triggering zombies immediately. Anyone who has played
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in Historic will know the value of being able to grab your marquee card from the deck, and
Hour of Promise will give Field decks just another tool to continue the endless onslaught of zombies.
Wrath of God
I’ll keep this one brief, as most players are already familiar with this card. If you are currently running
Shatter the Sky,
Wrath of God should be a direct upgrade for you.
The Scarab God
This one may be a stretch as the current Historic format is overly aggressive, but
The Scarab God is one of the stronger grindy win-cons you can play in midrange/control. Its ability to return from the graveyard means most removal is just a speed bump. Once on the field, it turns any threat that has died into a resource, along with giving you the ability to drain an opponent and improve card selection. If you have enough mana available, you can activate the ability at the start of your upkeep to get a scry effect similar to using
Castle Vantress. I don’t know if
The Scarab God currently has a home, but it is a powerful card that may be just the tool Dimir needs to find a fully fleshed out deck.
With over 330 new cards to play with, Amonkhet is sure to give Arena players a variety of fun new experiences and memories. Whether this is your first time diving into the set, or you’re already an expert there are lots of amazing new cards to experiment with. As we gear up for a return to Zendikar soon, Amonkhet Remastered is a great way to dive into MTG on Arena.