Last week at the prerelease for the 74th Magic: The Gathering expansion, Amonkhet, I tried my hand at necromancy, plundering graves and being a general nuisance. This isn't very different from my usual activities, however this time there were pyramids.
The new expansion is set in the Ancient Egypt-inspired Amonkhet plane, where inhabitants strive to compete the Trials of the Five Gods (the Trials of Solidarity, Knowledge, Strength, Ambition and Zeal). Upon completion of these five trials, Amonkhet god Hazoret rewards the initiate by sending them to see planeswalker and God-Pharaoh of Amonkhet Nicol Bolas. She does this by killing them. Also, Nicol Bolas is a 25,000-year-old dragon.
Everyone seems pretty cool with this arrangement, but then the Gatewatch show up ready to throw down with the God-Pharaoh. It turns out that Nicol Bolas is planning to create a Planar Bridge, which could have bad consequences for the Multiverse, and the Gatewatch is not down for that.
The next addition to the realms of Magic. The Gathering is taking players to the desert oasis of Amonkhet, a magical land that's essentially Magic's own take on the mysticism of Ancient Egypt. Ahead of the 74th expansion's arrival in stores later this month, we are proud to debut a few of the new cards and the art behind this new plane of mystery.
The Amonkhet expansion is the first in the block of the same name, and consists of 269 cards (20 basic lands, 101 common, 80 uncommon, 53 rare and 15 mythic rare). In addition, there are 10 cards that can only be found in the Planeswalker decks, and eight nonbasic lands that can only be found in the Deckbuilder’s Toolkit.
Amonkhet is largely graveyard-based, and is accordingly heavy on the Zombies, featuring Magic: The Gathering’s first monocoloured white Zombies and the first Zombie Angel (Angel of Sanctions). This expansion also introduces three new mechanics, Embalm, Exert and Aftermath, as well as bringing back one returning mechanic, Cycling.
Exile this card from your graveyard: Create a token that’s a copy of it, except it’s a white [original creature type] Zombie with no mana cost. Embalm only as a sorcery.
Remember that creature your opponent mercilessly destroyed? It’s back! In Zombie form.
Embalm is like having a backup of your creature, so if anything goes wrong you can just load it up again and keep playing. Only the backup is corrupted so rather than being a straight copy of your creature, it's a copy that’s all zombified and gross. It’s like a horror movie where the deceased come back wrong and rain hell upon those who killed them. Or just a straight up zombie film, really.
This is one of my favourite new additions from this expansion. I enjoy a bargain, and getting double the use out of one creature is pretty good value. You can get even more out of this mechanic by combining Embalm cards with a card like Liliana’s Mastery (“Zombies you control get +1/+1…”) or Lord of the Accursed (“Other Zombies you control get +1/+1…”). It’s almost preferable for creatures with Embalm to die so they join the horde and get that Zombie boost.
It also enables you to be a bit more callous when you're throwing bodies at your enemy like fleshy water balloons.
Cast this spell only from your graveyard. Then exile it.
Like Embalm, Aftermath also expands your options by allowing you to rob graves. But instead of coming back wrong, your spells just come back different.
Aftermath cards have two different card faces on one card, one of them turned sideways. The first card face can be cast from your hand as usual, while the second card face can only be cast from your graveyard. Usually you will only be able to cast the second face if you have already played the first at some point.
The major advantage of Aftermath is that you're no longer restricted to the maximum of seven cards in your hand. Further, if you're put into a position where you have to discard cards you can mitigate the damage by throwing out Aftermath cards. Instead of completely disposing of your spells, you'll just have few on standby.
At their cores, both Aftermath and Embalm are similar to previous mechanic Flashback: "You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it." The new mechanics simply add their own twists to the tomb raiding concept.
An exerted creature won’t untap during your next untap step.
My first thought upon seeing this mechanic was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I don’t like having my creatures tapped for longer than necessary – I want my army alert and able to defend.
Then I was repeatedly destroyed by people playing Exert decks.
Exert is for players who go hard or go home. The activated ability typically gives your creatures a boost such as lifelink, flying, or additional power or toughness, causing it to hit extra hard for a turn. Yes, it temporarily weakens your defensive line, but that doesn’t matter so much when you’re firing a cannon. Your opponent will probably be too busy scrambling to recover to mount a counterattack.
Exert isn’t quite my style. But if you like the idea of a weapon you only have to fire once, and are confident in your ability to keep your opponent on the back foot, you might get some good use out of it.
Discard this card: Draw a card.
Cycling is a returning mechanic, last seen in 2009's Alara Reborn expansion. I’m not terribly keen on this one. I don't like the idea of throwing out a card in the off chance I’ll draw something better. Better the Demon you know.
I will concede that Cycling provides more of a benefit when you combine it with a card such as Archfiend of Ifnir, a 5/4 black Demon which allows you to put a -1/-1 counter on each creature your opponents control whenever you discard a card. However the Archfiend himself can also be Cycled. You might do so if you were having a particularly bad mana draw, as he costs five mana to cast, but you’d probably prefer to hang on to him. Cycling is best for bailing you out of a bad draw, but you'd hope you never need to use it.
While I wouldn’t build a Cycle-focused deck, cards meant to compliment Cycling work very well with a Madness-based deck. Madness is a mechanic that last showed up in Eldrich Moon: “If you discard this card, discard it into exile. When you do, cast it for its madness cost or put it into your graveyard”. In this way, you can have your spells and discard them too.
Amonkhet is a serviceable expansion - all of the mechanics could work well with past cards, so you don't have to build a completely new deck if you don't want to, but there are still interesting possibilities if you do. The expansion is out today, April 28.