Welcome to Part 2 of my review of Amonkhet. In case you missed Part 1, I'll break down each color and then offer what I find to be the best of the best, as well as an overall grade for the color. As with every set review, I'll remind you that there are some cards we'll talk about today which might be very strong in other formats aren't that great in Commander.
Glorious End: It'll take some doing, but the cheaper red Time Stop might just be the kick over the top you need to get business done. Buy yourself some time with Sundial of the Infinite. Play it with Final Fortune to really ratchet up the tension. Put Final Fortune on Isochron Scepter and hope someone doesn't blow up your Sundial.
Glorybringer: I'm not particularly high on cards which just damage other creatures, but four damage is enough to be useful. As with other exert cards, in this format you're playing them with stuff with untaps your creatures anyway, so it's like you get the benefit at no cost.
Hazoret the Fervent: The weakest of the Amonkhet Gods, Hazoret is clearly more designed for Standard play. I could see it as part of an engine in which it was important to discard cards, but there are more efficient ways of doing that.
Hazoret's Favor: Like the God it represents, this one seems highly situational, but it should be okay when you want stuff in the graveyard, like in your Kresh the Bloodbraided deck. Attacking right away with Pelakka Wurm seems pretty strong.
Soul-Scar Mage: Now noncombat damage which won't quite kill a creature will still make it smaller. Cast this and then Aether Flash to limit the size of every else's creatures. Have Blasphemous Act kill Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Of course, it goes along with the cool cards in this set which trigger when you put -1/-1 counters on things.
Combat Celebrant: I'm always excited by additional combat steps, and we certainly have ways of untapping Combat Celebrant before the next turn. The major challenge will be keeping it alive, with its one toughness and all—but folks might just dismiss it since you've already generated the extra combat step before they block. And just remember, Cowards can't block Warriors.
Heart-Piercer Manticore: Now we're talking! I love me some Fling on a stick. Sacrificing Lord of Extinction — with Stalking Vengeance on the battlefield — is going to kill some folks. Play with Dack's Duplicate so you don't necessarily have to Embalm it in order to get the effect again. Also play with Cloudstone Curio to keep the chain going.
Insult//Injury: I would play this if it were only Insult. In fact, I will play it just for that part. It's a sorcery, so you can't surprise anyone with it (for that, you'll need the always-useful Flaring Pain), but it also means that the person who was counting on Fog to protect them is getting hurt pretty badly. Note that damage not being prevented means that part of protection won't work, meaning you can kill Progenitus with Blasphemous Act.
Grade: C-. The density is low, and there are very few great cards for the format. That said, it's clear that some of these cards will be well-played in Standard. They're definitely designed with 1v1 in mind.
Cartouche of Strength: Repeatable fights? I'm in.
Crocodile of the Crossing: Same, only more battle-worthy.
Defiant Greatmaw: This deck is building itself. As mentioned, removing -1/-1 counters is incredibly strong with persist. There's definitely some kind of engine here.
Greater Sandwurm: It's getting all Dune up in here! I'd rather have trample, but no chump-blocking is okay too. Of course, Greater Sandwurm's strength is in cycling it for the card (and triggering one of the other cool cards from this set) and having it in the graveyard for the eventual reanimation.
Harvest Season: Whoa! In Commander, this will turn out to be something like Boundless Realms. It's not your traditional third-turn ramp, but you'll end up making it way splashier than that, such as in your landfall decks. Omnath, Locus of Rage, here we come.
Prowling Serpopard: Clearly a Standard- and Modern-ready (maybe even -defining) card, it'll find its way into decks in groups that have some heavy counterspell players. If I had to pick only one, I might take Surrak Dragonclaw because of the trample part, but there's no reason you can't play both.
Quarry Hauler: Again, flexibility gives you options that you like. Whether it's adding another turn of Fogging to your Spike Weaver, taking the -1/-1 off your Woodfall Primus, or nixing an age counter from something with cumulative upkeep, there will likely always be a target for Quarry Hauler's ability.
Sandwurm Convergence: Even better than something which creates a token on your upkeep, since you get it on the same turn you play Sandwurm Convergence. Add to that the benefit of not getting attacked by flyers, and this is a strong card (it had better be for eight mana). Looks like Lark is going to have to update his Dune deck.
Mouth//Feed: The only thing I care about the token is that it's a Hippo. What I really care about is drawing a bunch of cards for only four mana.
Rhonas the Indomitable: Only Vizzini would say this card has a drawback. There's room for Rhonas to be a pretty strong Voltron commander, or simply a giant, bashy member of any army. If you're blocking with Rhonas, you're doing it wrong. Note that you only have to control a creature with power 4 or greater; it doesn't have to attack as well. Turn 3 Rhonas, turn 4 Thragtusk works just fine.
Shefet Monitor: Sometimes the best cards aren't the objectively strongest, just the most useful. For one more mana than Krosan Tusker, you put the land on the battlefield instead of in your hand. And just like Krosan Tusker, I don't think I'll ever cast it.
Vizier of the Menagerie: Wow! A better Garruk's Horde that helps with mana issues as well. This card has me written all over it. Being able to play off the top of your library is like drawing extra cards. You dig deeper into your deck, and so long as you have creatures and mana, you go even further. Love it!
Grade: A. Best color in the set. Thick with goodies, and the strongest are truly powerful.
Ahn-Crop Champion: Remember all those creatures you Exerted this combat? Untap them. Jeebus.
Bounty of the Luxa: The only issue I can see is not knowing whether I really want the card or the mana. I suppose you could have worse things happen than to draw a card and then really wish you had the extra mana to cast it. Brilliant flavor, top-shelf design.
Decimator Beetle: The attack trigger doesn't even have an “if you do” clause. Even if you don't have a counter of your own to remove, you get to put one on a creature of the defending player. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons gets another weapon. This set is so good, you just have to take a breath.
Neheb, the Worthy: Almost lost in all the things that Neheb is worthy of is the fact that if it connects for combat damage with someone, everyone discards a card. Minotaur tribal is already theoretically possible with Tahngarth, Talruum Hero or Zedruu the Greathearted, but Neheb is opening the door to a real tribal deck, in which the commander does something for the tribe. Break out your Digeridoos and hope for more Minotaur stuff in Hour of Devastation.
Nissa, Steward of Elements: I'm almost speechless. This Nissa version is in rampy colors, and all I see myself doing is using the middle ability to get more land or creatures to protect her with. A little top-of-the-library control, like Scroll Rack or Sensei's Divining Top, and we're onto something.
Samut, Voice of Dissent: Here's the Naya commander you really want leading your army. Samut could make a good Voltron commander, using other creatures which tap to buff her up, like Nantuko Disciple or Nantuko Mentor. A little less expensively, there's Naya Battlemage. For even more hilarity, attack with Samut, pump it up with Seedcradle Witch, and respond by untapping Seedcradle Witch with Samut to do it again. How about Beast tribal with Canopy Crawler? This card is all that and two bags of chips.
Reduce // Rubble: You know you want to be That Person. Embrace it.
Onward // Victory: You can't surprise anyone with Victory, since it's a sorcery, but you might not care—especially if the creature in question has trample.
Spring // Mind: Perfectly useful now and later. You wouldn't likely play either individually, but having them separately effectively adds another card to your deck.
Grade: A. There were so many good multicolored cards, it didn't even make sense to pick a Top 3.
Artifacts and Lands
Bontu's Monument: Because I love casting creature spells, this is my favorite of the Monuments. Note that because there's no mana symbol on it, you can play this in a deck that doesn't have black in it. I wouldn't because I'm a flavor slave, but just like off-color fetch lands, it's perfectly legal to do so.
Embalmer's Tools: If I can't attack you with all my Zombies, I'll just mill you. Or maybe I'll mill me. We'll see how it goes.
Hazoret's Monument: Any deck which wants to eventually or repeatedly recur its graveyard wants this Monument.
Kefnet's Monument: This one isn't super-strong, but it goes right into your Merfolk decks.
Oketra's Monument: The token even has vigilance. Of course, you play this in your deck with Knight-Captain of Eos. And Eldrazi Monument.
Oracle's Vault: Yes, someone is going to make an insane deck with this and Paradox Engine. That in and of itself is not a reason to ban anything. Oracle's Vault is extremely strong on its own, and there are plenty of other things which untap artifacts. Note on the first ability that you can leave the card in exile and you still get the brick counter.
Pyramid of the Pantheon: Hey, look, it's a build-your-own Gilded Lotus!
Rhonas's Monument: Green creatures being even cheaper to cast is exciting. A creature getting bigger and now getting trample for each creature you cast is scary. Don't worry; it's the good kind of scary.
Throne of the God-Pharaoh: And the hits just keep coming! I don't really need that much of an incentive to turn creatures sideways, but I'm down. Pair with Exquisite Blood or Mindcrank for more hilarity—but please, no cheesy Sanguine Bond combo.
Just like with the multicolored cards, there are just too many good artifacts to pick a Top 3.
There's not much to say about the lands that we haven't already said. Canyon Slough, Fetid Pools, Irrigated Farmland, Scattered Groves, and Sheltered Thicket will only get called their proper names in print. Otherwise they'll be referred to as “the [first color/second color] cycling dual.” Cascading Cataracts is definitely a thing that'll help fix your mana, and the 6-to-5 ratio isn't all that bad compared to the 2-to-1 of Painted Bluffs. The best lands are those full-art basics, which I can't wait to see in foil.
Amonkhet is the most pulse-pumping, heart-pounding Magic set in recent memory. It seems like only red got short shrift in Commander. The rest of the colors are so chock-full of goodness you're going to wonder how you'll make room in your decks for all the new stuff you want to put in. You're going to be seeing loads of these cards at your Commander tables as early as this weekend. I'd say “get 'em while they're hot,” but these beauties aren't going to cool down for a long while.
Our regular features Deck Without Comment and Idiotic Combo will return after release season.
Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:
Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever;
Shards and Wedges
Adun's Toolbox; Animar's Swarm; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke's Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith's Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; You Take the Crown, I'll Take Leovold; Zombies of Tresserhorn
If you'd like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that's been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery's Monday Night Gamers."