The Metaworker: Amonkhet EDH Technology James LaPage May 3, 2017 The Metaworker I’ve had a few people approach me over the past 2 weeks or so to talk about Amonkhet. What do I think? Do any of the cards have competitive applications in EDH? Is this set going to make as big of a splash as Kaladesh or Aether Revolt? Is Amonkhet going to make as big of a splash in the high-powered EDH world? Honestly, I doubt it. We’ve been spoiled in the last year, because Kaladesh and Aether Revolt brought us things like Paradox Engine and Aetherflux Reservoir, which have taken the EDH community by storm. On top of that, we got perhaps the best infinite mana sink in the history of Magic in Walking Ballista. These are some pretty big shoes to fill, and today we’re going to take a look at the tools that Amonkhet has brought us. How about them set mechanics? Embalm Embalm is one of the cooler mechanics I’ve seen in recent sets. The idea is pretty simple – your creature gets a second crack at impacting the board after it dies, or if the creature hit your graveyard without ever hitting the battlefield, sometimes you can cast it from your graveyard for a bit of a discount. Embalm, for the most part, is stapled onto vanilla creatures and strikes me as a mechanic designed for limited. French vanilla beaters like Honored Hydra have potential to win drafts, but I don’t think I’d ever spend 4 mana for a French vanilla 6/6 in EDH. All in all, I give embalm a failing grade in terms of EDH playability. If you’re playing reanimator in EDH, you don’t want to be exiling cards from your graveyard to put copies of them into play. It’s generally a better bet to just… well… Reanimate them. Exert Exert isn’t a terrible mechanic when it’s run in support of other combat modifiers. That being said, combat modifiers don’t often find their way into more competitive strategies. In general, the more competitive a meta is, the less it relies on creature combat to get the job done. There are a few exceptions here, and things like Devoted Crop-Mate (Alesha stax) and Champion of Rhonas (Animar, maybe?) could potentially crop up in some competitive decks. If I’m going to give this mechanic a grade for EDH I’d go middle-of-the-road and give it a C. If you’re attacking, you might find something you like here. If you’re not attacking (which I rarely am), these are awful garbage. Aftermath I like the design space for these cards. It’s basically flashback, but when you cast it from your graveyard it has a different effect than when you cast it from your hand. The effects are designed to work well with each other, similar to other split cards. One thing I like to do whenever a set spoiler comes out is take a look at cards that look similar to cards that already see play. This gives me an opportunity to assess these cards in the context of things we already know are good, and determine whether the new card is better or worse than existing staples. Interestingly enough, there are 2 examples of this in Amonkhet: Failure // Comply Failure looks an awful lot like Remand or Unsubstantiate. Remand and Unsubstantiate see most of their utility in storm lists. They’re used on the combo turn to return storm cards like Tendrils of Agony or Mind’s Desire to your hand from the stack so you can cast them more than once. The upside with these spells is that you can use them as tempo counterspells in a pinch. You burn a card but often times you can delay having to deal with a big threat until the threat’s controller untaps and tries to cast it again. This usually gives people a turn cycle to dig for answers. Unsubstantiate has additional upside of being able to deal with creatures on the battlefield, which you can get a lot of mileage out of if you’re in a meta full of hatebears. Remand has additional upside of cantripping, which is extremely useful on a combo turn. Failure has neither of these things, but does have something that these two don’t… Comply bears a passing resemblance to Silence, with a few key differences that I think massively impact the card’s playability. First, it’s a sorcery. This means you can’t play both halves of this card on someone else’s turn. This card would be a lot better if you could bounce a spell off the stack and prevent someone from re-casting it, but you can’t. It would also be a lot better if you could cast it in response to an Ad Nauseam and prevent someone from casting Aetherflux Reservoir, or something like that. Second, you require a little bit of knowledge about your opponent’s intentions to get any utility out of this card at all. It’s fine if you’ve recently Gitaxian Probed someone, or if someone has revealed something off of a conditional tutor, but if you’re stabbing in the dark this is going to be useless more often than not. All in all, this side is definitely not Silence. Failure // Comply as a card functions as a poor analog for two cards that are inexpensive, readily available, and functionally superior, so I don’t see a problem that this card solves. Commit // Memory I was sitting in the Competitive EDH discord channel link here when this card got spoiled, and no fewer than 8 people linked to the spoiler page. It’s understandable why people might get excited over this card, because its Aftermath half looks an awful lot like Time Spiral. Time Spiral is one of the classic examples of totally unbalanced cards from Urza’s Saga. This card sees play in a ton of competitive decks due to its ability to simultaneously Untap lands – breaking parity with Static / Winter Orb. This also means that if it resolves, you’ve actually got mana available to cast the spells you’re drawing. Wheel – replenishing depleted hands and providing card advantage when played correctly Shuffle graveyards into libraries – this totally undoes a lot of the effort that graveyard-based strategies put into assembling their machine. If you’re not a graveyard recursion deck, it helps you get back pieces that you don’t want in your graveyard. Memory accomplishes much of what Time Spiral does, but the fact that it doesn’t untap your lands means that you’re hard-casting it for 6. If you’re playing against any kind of stax or tax effects you’re probably not going to be able to cast this at all. If it gets countered, it’s roughly equivalent to Time Spiral. Commit is kind of interesting card. Oblation is a pretty fair comparison. Commit mitigates the card disadvantage of Oblation but costs 1 more mana. In general, I don’t like the idea of holding up 4 mana for my responsive spells – in fact, in my competitive decks I don’t play any responsive spells over 3 mana. If you’re in blue, you can probably get away with using bounce magic like Chain of Vapor or Into the Roil for most of the same utility, but they’re considerably more versatile and castable at any point in the game. All in all, Memory isn’t the worst thing that you can have in your graveyard, and this card is certainly going to command a much lower price than Time Spiral. That being said, I don’t think I would play it. If you’re looking for a budget wheel effect, go with Windfall, Winds of Change, or Day’s Undoing. If you’re looking for “shuffle into library” effects and your colours allow it, go with Chaos Warp. If your colours don’t allow it, go with bounce removal. Cycling Cycling doesn’t see a lot of play in competitive EDH, because the cards themselves are often over-costed relative to the effect they provide. That’s the price you pay for the versatility of drawing cards, though, so let’s take a look at it. Cycle of Cycling dual lands Duals with basic land types always deserve a fair look in higher power playgroups. Every land in your deck that is fetchable with fetchlands increases the efficacy of those fetchlands. These have the added benefit of replacing themselves if you draw them in the late game when you no longer need to make your land drops. The big downside, and I think this is going to be what keeps them out of competitive metas, is that they come into play tapped. In one of my later articles we’re going to explore the downsides of these types of early game plays and the tempo loss associated with them. Scarab Feast This is one that people have talked about quite a bit as well. In a fishbowl, this card is pretty decent. With the prevalence of graveyard combo, being able to exile 3 cards from a graveyard is pretty great. Once we hop out of the fishbowl, though, we see that there are a few existing cards that do the job in better ways: Faerie Macabre – Faerie Macabre is one of the best effects in the game at performing this task. The action is an activated ability, making it extremely difficult to interact with. It also hits 2 cards if the effect you’re looking for absolutely has to hit more than one card. This also has the benefit of being able to affect two different graveyards simultaneously. Shred Memory – If you want the flexibility of being able to ditch this spell for something better, Shred Memory has your back. 2-drops are really great in competitive EDH, and being able to search for any of them is really powerful. This is better than drawing a random card from your deck, and is totally worth the additional mana investment. Shred Memory costs a little extra to cast, but we can use it to exile 4 cards rather than just 3. Extirpate – Extirpate has split second, which can be great if you’re worried about people having a lot of stack interaction. The downside is that it only hits 1 card, but from my experience that’s generally good enough. Surgical Extraction – Surgical Extraction doesn’t cost mana, which can be very useful. It also only hits 1 card. Coffin Purge – Coffin Purge is probably the worst out of all of these, but depending on what you’re up against, it can be situationally better. Rather than hitting 2 cards at the same time like Faerie Macabre, you can use the card to exile 1 card, then a different card later on. I’d say that all of these cards are better than Scarab Feast. The cards effect has some utility, but it’s probably the 6th or 7th best card in our available card pool at providing that kind of utility. Other than these two examples, I don’t see a ton of value in the rest of the cycling tech that Amonkhet brings us. If you disagree, feel free to leave a message and let me know! -1/-1 counters Counter manipulation isn’t typically a competitive strategy for the same reason that exert isn’t – it generally focuses on preparing creatures for combat. There’s some sweet tech in here for Atraxa and Vorel players, but really only one thing worth talking about for use in higher-powered metas: Vizier of Remedies There’s not really much to say here, but this card combos with Devoted Druid to produce as much green mana as you could ever want. If you have this on the battlefield and Devoted Druid and Bloom Tender are in your graveyard, Necrotic Ooze will produce other colours of mana as well. This combo is making its way into some competitive decks. I think it’s a pretty solid addition to Necrotic Ooze strategies. (Side note: Nooze strategies also got Blighted Bat, which is a way to give Necrotic Ooze haste without coloured mana.) Trials and Cartouches I’m not going to go in-depth on these. They’re not inherently bad in EDH, but they don’t fit into any existing competitive strategies or add to the list of viable strategies, so I’m not going to talk about them in this article. Anything else? Aside from the “signature mechanic” cards from Amonkhet, I really only see four five cards that have potential to crop up in tuned competitive lists: Vizier of the Menagerie This one’s pretty narrow, but I think you could make the case that this deserves a spot in Animar. Animar’s a really colour-intensive deck. It typically only needs access to red mana in the early game to cast Animar (and Imperial Recruiter if you’re playing 1v1), after which point it’s basically a Simic deck. Being able to cast the top card of your library if it’s a creature gives the card a Future Sight feel, and essentially turns those creatures into cantrips. All this, and the fact that it doesn’t have a coloured mana requirement in its mana cost means this card is – at the very least – worth testing. As Foretold I feel like this card is what Brain in a Jar should be been, if they were looking to create something of an Aether Vial equivalent for non-creatures. This card’s text has a few things going for it: “At the beginning of your upkeep, put a time counter on As Foretold. Once each turn, you may pay 0 rather than pay the mana cost for a spell you cast with converted mana cost X or less, where X is the number of time counters on As Foretold.” R&D definitely didn’t go conservative in their templating here – if they had, I wouldn’t even be talking about this card. Being able to cast a free spell each turn, rather than on each of your turns has the potential to be really powerful. Even being able to cast low-cost counterspells like Swan Song and Dispel while you’re tapped out means that if it sticks around for longer than a turn you could see some decent dividends. The deck I see being able to take advantage of this most is Rashmi, Eternities Crafter, although I’m by no means an expert on the deck. Reddit user /u/Rarian92 has an excellent storm list here for anyone curious about it. Winds of Rebuke I have to admit, I initially wrote this card off entirely. Into the Roil sees a lot of play, though, and this bears a passing resemblance. The question is whether milling everyone for 2 outweighs the benefit of the spell replacing itself. I think in a lot of situations I would like the card, but with the number of tutors that send cards to the top of a player’s library, I’m tempted. This card is definitely not better than Chain of Vapor, but if you’re playing Into the Roil right now I think this card is worth testing. Harsh Mentor Stax decks get a new tool in Harsh Mentor. This seems tailor-made for Alesha decks because it can be recurred using Alesha’s ability, and can be absolutely punishing in the right meta. I really wish this hit activated abilities of enchantments (Sneak Attack, Survival of the Fittest, Necropotence), but it doesn’t. The weirdest part about this card is that most stax decks don’t play red, but with any luck this will be the start of a movement to improve red’s viability as a primary colour in higher power metas. Edit: /u/warddav16 pointed out that I missed Manglehorn entirely! Manglehorn is a neat piece. It’s got some potential to see play in pod and Yisan chains, as well as any green list that eschews mana rocks. This can really be a backbreaker against artifact storm lists, and if you’ve got ways to put it into play at instant speed (say, via Chord of Calling or Green Sun’s Zenith) then it gets even better. I’d say this is better than Reclamation Sage outside of a Pod chain, and inside of a Pod chain it’s probably roughly equivalent. How do we feel about Amonkhet? Overall, I’m underwhelmed. There are for sure some goodies I’m looking forward to testing in my lower-power decks, but for the most part this feels like a set full of worse reprints of existing cards. Until we start to see spoilers for Hour of Devastation you’ll find me continuing my Kaladesh-block testing and probably jamming some drafts, because I’m told this limited environment is pretty good. What do you think? Have you found a way to incorporate some super secret tech from this set? Hit me up on reddit at /u/chefsati. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.