The Landscape After Amonkhet
With about 2 weeks until Amonkhet is released, I figured I would join the endless parade of articles reviewing a few cards that have caught my eye. The spoiler is incomplete as I write this, but I am going to try to include a card from each of the sanctioned constructed formats as well as the card in limited that I'm most excited to play with.
There is just something elegant about Cartouche of Strength. It does something that none of the other Cartouches do and that is immediately impact the battlefield. Sure, people love to talk about card advantage but if you cannot turn that into a meaningful impact on the battlefield then what does it really do for you in the end. This is essentially the child of Prey Upon and Hunt the Weak. We get to fight and immediately go on the offensive with a creature that is sized above its casting cost. Add in the fringe benefit of bouncing the Trials back to your hand and you are looking at a top tier common for the next set. I think Green is looking like the early front runner for best color in the set.
Non-blue Planeswalkers are notoriously hard to get off the board in Vintage and with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar already seeing play, I think Gideon of the Trials has a chance to present a new lock for various decks. "Embleming" Gideon followed up by another or 4-drop Gideon and I have a hard time seeing a lot of decks being able to get him off the board. A control build using Moat or Ensnaring Bridge would make it almost impossible for the Gideon in play to be attacked. The lack of lightning bolt running around makes it very hard for these to be burned away as well. This might be a bit of a stretch but with the unique angle in which this would attack the format could present the opportunity to spike a tournament or two.
I have a confession to make: Fluctuator is my favorite magic card of all time. I was a small child when Urza’s Saga came out and the idea that I could cycle things for free really appealed to me. Fast forward a couple years later and Astral Slide and Lightning Rift were printed and I got to live my dream of cycling people out of the game. Shadow of the Grave takes that concept and ramps it up to a million. This card plus the 2 mana cyclers will ensure that you never run out of cards to cycle, digging you deeper. I could see this deck running a lot of free mana, drawing your deck, and then finding a way to kill your opponent. This could be a completely glass cannon but so are a lot of decks in legacy and this one just sounds like so much fun. Beyond Fluctuator, any card that lets you discard cards for damage is going to want to look at Shadow of the Grave because that will essentially double the amount of damage you will be able to do that turn.
Throne of the God-Pharaoh just screams tribal to me. Having this in a deck that is either attacking with Goblins or Merfolk or using Elves to generate mana has me believing a deck will be able to fireball their opponent out of the game rather quickly. This is also very hard for a deck like Death’s Shadow or Burn to race since they are doing so much damage to themselves in a short amount of time. I could be completely wrong in what I see this card doing or where it fits in Modern but the chance to get past cards like Ensnaring Bridge make me believe that these aggro decks are going to have a new tool to work with.
I saved Standard for last because that is the format that is most up in the air. I do think we will see some sort of change, from a Saheeli/Felidar Guardian ban to something like Attune with Aether getting the axe so that it is harder for the deck to have all 4 colors but not completely destroy the deck. There was a time when a 4/4 Flyer for 4 would have been considered a top tier constructed staple. That time has passed, but Curator of Mysteries is a completely different animal.
Any time a card cycles for one we have to give it serious consideration regardless to what else is attached to it. A long time ago Wizards decided that 2 mana was the appropriate amount for drawing a card but here we have the option to only pay a single blue. There are 2 ways I see this card being used in a format without Saheeli combo. The first way as a control finisher that gives you the flexibility to dig for an answer card if you need to slow your opponent down. A 4/4 will finish the game in short order but giving you the chance to prolong the game is an even bigger advantage.
The second way is that it can fit into the Drake Haven decks that people want to develop. Between this card and Cast Off, we have 2 high impact cards that cycle for 1 mana. At this point we could either go with Green to ramp it out faster to get a clock on various planeswalkers or pair it with red to form a control deck that instead of Dynavolt Tower relies on Drake Haven to close out the game.
Amonkhet has the tools to shake all four of the major constructed formats. The limited format looks to have a lot of interactions and the embalm mechanic plus cycling is going to ensure that the games go longer and both players have a chance to out play their opponent. I am looking forward to this set a lot more than I was to Kaladesh and I cannot wait to get started preparing for the various upcoming summer tournaments!
Thanks for reading!
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