Rant of Valakut: Monumental Discoveries

At the Amonkhet pre-release it didn’t take long for me to learn the power of the new Monument cycle. In my first round I was facing off against a player with Oketra’s Monument and a lot of white creatures. With the Monument triggering over and over my opponent easily had twice as many creatures in play as me; each spell they cast gave them a free 1/1 Warrior token. It didn’t take long for his force to grow to an incredible size, and it only took a couple of attacks with a Tah-Crop Elite supporting his army to completely crush me. I knew the white Monument was powerful, but seeing it in action was quite demoralizing.

In the next round I found myself opposite another of these artifacts: this time it was Bontu’s Monument. At first this didn’t seem so bad, since unlike Oketra’s Monument it wasn’t pumping out a small army of tokens. Then I noticed my life total. Without even attacking my opponent had drained me for a good seven life, and it was only getting worse. Before long I was forced to make some unfavourable blocks just to stay alive, and it only took a few more creature spells for my opponent to drain the last of my life away anyway.

Fast forwarding to my first Amonkhet draft, I decided to try something odd. I was drafting a white-blue deck with plenty of creatures in it when I was passed a copy of Rhonas’s Monument. I had to stop and consider the pick; it was too late in the draft to move into green, but even if I wasn’t getting a discount on my spells, was the triggered ability good enough to include it anyway? Looking at the rest of the pack there were some other options that might have made the cut in my deck, but I thought I should give this artifact a try; at worst I would try it out and discover that it wasn’t any good. As it so happened, it proved to be one of the best cards in my deck. I was running a lot of small, low cost creatures, which meant that I could trigger the Monument almost every turn. This helped me to close out the game on more than one occasion, and forced my opponent to trade off his mid-sized creatures just to stop my normally small 1 and 2 cost creatures from killing him. It was clear to me that the green Monument wasn’t as strong as its white counterpart in a vacuum, but it worked well in my aggressive, creature heavy deck. The trouble with Rhonas’s Monument was that, short of casting a creature with Flash, it was only useful when I was the agressor, while Oketra’s Monument could work both defensively by making blockers, and offensively by building up a large force and attacking en masse.

Looking at the other Monuments, I’ve been seriously considering each of them whenever I see them come up in my draft. The question is what kind of deck each artifact is best in; it seems clear that just because they make spells of a certain colour cheaper doesn’t mean that they belong in every deck of that colour; in fact, given their triggered abilities, they might be better in a different coloured deck altogether. Of course, none of them are worth using unless there are enough creatures in your deck, but needing creature cards is a pretty broad requirement, especially in limited.

Looking at Bontu’s Monument, it gives a deck ‘reach’ by whittling away at an opponent’s life total without needing to attack. For a slower, more defensive deck this black Monument could be a good win condition. Limited games tend to grind to a stalled board state if they go long enough, so being able to gradually drain your opponent’s life away when both of you are unable to favourably attack could be enough to win the game. The downside is that the life gained by the Monument really isn’t enough to keep you alive against aggressive decks. You really do need a way to protect yourself, especially early on, if you’re going to be relying on Bontu’s Monument to steal those last few points of life.

Hazoret’s Monument provides decks with much needed ‘rummaging‘ (the ability to discard a card to draw a card). This has obvious synergies with the red, blue and black cards that trigger when you discard a card, but it also helps you to dig past cards to try and find what you need. The advantage with Hazoret’s Monument is that it lets you do this while building out your board at the same time, instead of having to decide between cycling a card and casting it… so long as you have an extra card in your hand to discard instead. Any deck that would really benefit from the red Monument would probably be better off playing more cycling cards instead, but depending on how your deck is shaping up it could still be worth using. The big advantage of Hazoret’s Monument over a bunch of cycling cards is that is that it lets you discard anything you want, which is a great way of dealing with an excess of basic lands.

That leaves Kefnet’s Monument to consider. Because the blue Monument does not tap creatures itself but only prevents them from untapping, it is difficult to imagine it being more than a nuisance for your opponent. That said, if you have a way of proactively tapping your opponent’s permanents, perhaps with something like a Binding Mummy or a Fan Bearer,  then this Monument goes up in value. Binding Mummy seems especially good with Kefnet’s Monument, turning any zombie creature spell you cast into a miniature ‘frost breath‘. For any ‘tempo’ deck that is trying to slow down the opponent gradually over the course of the game, the extra disruption from the blue Monument might be enough, but it seems like your opponent should be able to plan their turns and attacks around it.

None of these artifacts will outright win you the game, but they do provide quite a bit of value. Even the weaker Monuments have their place, and it’s not necessarily in the deck of the ‘proper’ colour. That said, the sorts of decks you would typically make in each colour could probably benefit from the matching Monument: White decks tend to benefit the most from having extra creatures in play. Green decks need ways for their big monsters to get damage though. Black decks are good at grinding value and setting up for a long game. Red decks easily stall out and need a way of ditching excess lands. Blue decks excel at playing a disruptive tempo game.

Any creature-heavy deck, which in Limited is going to be almost any deck, would do well to consider taking a Monument if one should come up; it might not be what your deck needs, but don’t dismiss one just because it makes the wrong colour of creature spell cheaper. I don’t imagine you’d really ever want more than one of these artifacts in your draft deck… unless you’re planning on making a deck with all five of them!

….I’ll be honest, running all five Monuments in one deck doesn’t seem like the best of plans, but that does sound really sweet.

I do have some plans for these artifacts outside of Draft, too. In Commander I’ll probably try them out in a few of my mono-coloured decks to really benefit from that creature cost reduction. In Modern I’m thinking I want to try building a deck with Oketra’s Monument as a part of a “ThopterSword” style deck. When combined with either Kor Skyfisher or Whitemane Lion the Monument can produce a token for a single white mana…. In the right shell I think the combo could be pretty good, but that will have to be a discussion for another time!

Until then, if you do end up with all five Monuments in play together, please let me know; I’d really love to see that happen.

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