Amonkhet: A paradise in the desert or a mirage?
Bounty of the Luxa by Jonas De Ro
Wizards of the Coast has given Magic its long awaited Egyptian themed set. From a pure aesthetic standpoint, it feels like Ancient Egypt with a taste of Magic, and that is a good thing. The look of the cards, the mechanics, the flavor of what the set brings is a home run, like the sets of New Phyrexia and Innistrad. However, we are here to ask the question, "Is Amonkhet worth it?" The cop-out answer of maybe doesn't help, so let's take a break down the set to understand why it's not so clear. Here's a small hint: there is more good than bad with the set.
This set on its own is a well designed set. There are no extremely overpowered cards, and good amount of the cards are playable. That is really good, except in the current Standard. It has no current answers to the best decks in the format: Saheeli Rai based decks, which will be referenced as Saheeli Rai for this article. None of the printed answers in this set are better than what is already out there. However, there is plenty of punishment for other decks, like Mardu Vehicles and B/G Delirium. This is a shame, because if there is no answer to Saheeli Rai, then it won't matter what new cards are produced, aside from ones that help Saheeli Rai. Saheeli Rai is the albatross around Amonkhet's neck.
Return of Gods
Can the new gods compare to the gods of old?
Hazoret the Fervent by Joseph Meehan
The return of the God cards is an interesting take, especially in an Ancient Egypt theme. Making five mono-colored gods is going to draw direct comparisons to the Theros gods. For the most part, the Amonkhet Gods are weaker and less field warping. This is not a completely bad thing, but is not a good thing. All five of the Theros Gods saw play in competitive level events and Thassa, God of the Sea still sees fringe play in Merfolk decks. Yet while the five Amonkhet Gods are weaker than the Theros Gods, that does not mean they are bad. Aside from the white God, all the gods have a decent chance to see competitive play, with the red God the most likely. The strength is these goods fit into existing deck whereas the Theros Gods required decks built around them and they were usually mono-colored. The Amonkhet Gods have a different kind of restriction that means they don't need to go into devotion decks or have decks centered around their abilities. Overall, the God cards will retain a lot of their value, even after the price of the set drops.
Now, to evaluate god cards, the first thing to do is ask yourself, “Am I fine with just the non-creature part of this card?” If you aren't, then it's not good enough to run and thus not worth getting. If it is worth it, then you ask yourself, “Is there a card that does this effect better in this format?” After that, then, “Can I reliably get the god card to become a creature?” If you answer all of these questions as yes, then it is worth to run the God card. Further, that is also how to determine if any card is a good card.
The force is strong with this set.
Force of Will by Jaime Jones
The Masterpieces are just bad. These should not be a factor when looking at Amonkhet as a good or bad set. These are basically inserts that take up a foil slot. If you get one, that's a great bonus and that's how the Masterpieces should be. If they are the star of the set, they are bound to destroy the value of a set like what happened with Battle for Zendikar.
For the most part, there will not be much in the ways of new decks coming out of this set. Saheeli Rai, barring any bans, will be the top deck. As stated earlier, there are no cards that directly hurt the deck. The best solution to Saheeli Rai is a very aggressive red based deck. Mono red gained a lot of solid cards in this set and will be likely to take a top spot of Standard. However, there will be at least one new deck and a lot of upgrades on existing decks.
Cycling will have an impact on Standard and will hopefully become evergreen after this set. There will likely be a cycling control deck, most likely U/B. It will be a tier two deck that will do well at FNM and maybe against other decks. A U/R version might also do well and could be better than a U/R, depending on how the meta responds to Amonkhet as it will be more aggressive most likely.
Embalm will not make an actual impact on Standard. Few of the embalm are actually worth running, but some people will try. The -1/-1 counter theme will not manifest into anything more than some strong -1/-1 counter cards being added to decks. Exert is the same, with a few good exert effects, but nothing to make a dedicated deck. Always Watching will make exert kind of free, so look to that card.
Ramp has gotten some good tools and might have a chance to be a deck again especially if Saheeli combo is banned and the format slows down a bit. A mono green beats deck could do well if Saheeli combo is banned, but if not, then that deck is a free win for Saheeli Rai.
Control gained two solid two mana counterspell in Essence Scatter and Censor, some instant good card draw, and some decent finishers. This is the time for control to come back as a real archetype, but it's a coin flip at this point.
Individual Card Reviews
Don't fall prey to the set's few pitfalls.
Glorious End by Raymond Swanland
There will be a section proceeding this one detailing the pre-order prices, where they should go in price, and comments about card. Cards that are under a dollar won't be included as most of them aren't that good. Hearing that a card sucks is a waste of everyone's time. If there is a card that is not on the list is most likely that reason. As always, this article is open to discussion.
Overall, the cards in the set are well designed and good in a lot of cases. There is a lot casual and Commander appeal and there are several competitive level cards in this set. The problem will this translate in cards with solid value. Most likely no, as casual and Commander cards don't hold up for good value, usually dropping to low numbers and staying there.
Cards are evaluated based on their effect on Standard primarily and then other formats such as Modern and Legacy. Cards that are good for Commander will be noted as such, but keep in mind that most cards that are recently printed will not hold value in the Commander market. Competitive Magic is what drives a new card's value. Limited will be not considered.
Card By Card
|Gideon of the Trials||$27.65|
|Until Gideon, Ally of Zendikar comes out, this will not see much play. The emblem is nice and cheap to get out, but in most regards, if you have a Gideon that is sticking to the board, you are already doing well.|
|Nissa, Steward of Elements||$17.33|
|Nissa Is dipping into the blue and she has come out as a strong planeswalker. Her effect in Standard will remain to be seen, although she could slot in with Four-Color Saheeli, as well as making ramp somewhat viable. She has a lot of potential, so keep an eye on her.|
|Liliana, Death's Majesty||$16.64|
|There is talk about this card reviving Reanimator style decks. However, this is not likely to pan out. Standard is currently an aggressive format and most of the reanimation targets are not that game swinging. Back in old days of modern-era Reanimator, there were target like Inferno Titan, Wurmcoil Engine, and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. There simply not these kind of powerful creatures to bring back, so don’t expect this to do well.|
|Rhonas the Indomitable||$13.99|
|A minor nitpick, but deathtouch on a creature that is not defensive seems like such a waste. Oh well. This God is likely to be played as its stats to converted mana cost ratio is good, it has a relevant ability, and it's easy to activate. It could easily see play.|
|Gimmicky cards like these will drop. A few players will try to break this like they tried with Bring to Light, Day's Undoing, Mirrorwing Dragon, and many other tired deck ideas. Expect this to drop to the $4 range in a few weeks.|
|This is likely to be one of the best cards in the set. Harsh Mentor will see play in other formats, so keep an eye on this.|
|Vizier of the Menagerie||$7.39|
|The Vizier menagerie is a really nice card design and will see a lot of play in multi colored green-based Commander decks. It has some potential in Standard if there is a ramp deck as this gives pseudo card draw.|
|Hazoret the Fervent||$7.19|
|Hazoret will most likely be the top God of this set. The activated ability of this card is strong in a Red deck and the condition to make attack and block is easy to make happen. This card slots very well into the established R or R/B aggressive decks. Look for this to go up.|
|Angel of Sanctions||$6.98|
|The reason Oblivion Ring is good is because enchantments are harder to deal with than creatures. This is not a bad card, but don’t expect it to make any serious splashes, especially when there are better answers.|
|Samut, Voice of Dissent||$6.30|
|This card could either be one of the best cards in the set or another card that failed to live up to its potential. I would lean towards not living up to its potential since making it to five mana against a lot of the current decks is not easy, but this has the potential to be a format changer.|
|Kefnet the Mindful||$5.48|
|Kefnet is a fine God. Not bad, but not outstanding. Expect this god to hover around this price, or dip a little lower, even if he sees play.|
|This is the kind of well designed card that is hurt so bad by Saheeli Rai. This does so much, but just opens you to die on the next turn. This will be a great curve topper for aggressive Red decks. This should be worth about the same as Thunderbreak Regent for Glorybringer’s time in Standard.|
|What is great about cards like these is they get creative juices flowing to see how to break this card. This will not likely break anything but some Johnnies' hearts. Expect this to drop to a few dollars.|
|Bontu the Glorified||$4.39|
|This is one of the better Gods, but a lot of that lies its ability and not its stats. It has an easy activation cost that will enable some combos. It is unlikely to be a competitive all-star, but it has a lot of potential to be good and that is something worth looking into.|
|Oketra the True||$4.31|
|Oketra is the worst of the Gods and is likely to be the only one that might not see real competitive play. The reason she is bad is because she does nothing you want her to do. Her activated ability is fine in a long grinding game, but that is rarely going to happen in Standard. Most games are about the early and mid stages and she does nothing most of the time. Most of the time, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a better choice. However, unlike most cards that will be in this spot, her value won’t go down because there will be both an appeal to make her work and people who love God cards, similar to planeswalkers and iconic creatures.|
|This land is the next most likely to grow. U/W Control is a solid archetype that runs as many lands as possible. A land that is drawn later in the game that can be cycled away is great.|
|This land has the most potential to grow as both colors care about cycling, but don’t expect them to hit above five dollars.|
|Like the other bicycle lands, this is a solid land.|
|This one will see play in Modern Scapeshift, so expect this to have value.|
|This one has potential to really grown. R/B is a strong aggressive deck, and this is good fixing for Mardu Vehicles.|
|The more hoops you have to go through to make a card good, the less good the card is. None of the additional combat phase cards in recent times even saw play. Aurelia, the Warleader was the last time an additional combat phase effect was playable. Expect this to be under $2.|
|A slightly worse Monastery Swiftspear is still good. This has a lot of utility and could easily see play. It could go up, but there is a better chance it won’t.|
|Cycling will make an impact on Standard and this will be one of the cards everyone that runs the deck tries to fit into their deck. This is a coin flip as to if it will be good, but it has the potential to be good. Don’t expect it to be worth more than a dollar or two.|
|Two-mana mana dorks are not what is holding back ramp from being great, but this is one of the best two-mana mana dorks in Standard. It is a mana ramp early and then a three power creature later in the game.|
|Shadow of the Grave||$2.44|
|This has combo potential written all over the card. Expect this to be a good speculation target.|
|Pull from Tomorrow||$2.36|
|Instant draw X cards have seen play in the past, but this one is the lower end of that spectrum. Sphinx’s Revelation and Blue Sun's Zenith were powerful cards because of the format they were in and had additional effects like gaining life or going back to the library to be drawn again. Only time will tell if this card will be strong as well but it's unlikely command a high price.|
|Insult // Injury||$1.99|
|The doubling of damage is a tantalizing effect and a lot of Red mages will try to take advantage of this. This could see some small play in some combo burn decks or as an alpha strike style card. Don't expect it to hold its value.|
|Another token adding effect will always be a casual favorite. This could see some competitive play if the embalm mechanic goes somewhere positive.|
|This card dropped a lot, as it should have. It will see mild play in the foreseeable future, but rarely for its effect and more for its flash.|
|Another great Commander card that won't fetch a high price and will be a likely reprint in Commander products. Not unplayable in Standard, but likely not to see play for the foreseeable future.|
|There are some cute things you can do with this, like Always Watching, but as a general rule, if the card is only good for cute things, it's best to leave them be. This however, is fine without the cute things as a 3/1 Human Warrior. Not great, but fine. It might slot into a Humans deck quite well.|
|A four-power creature that is uncounterable and makes your creature uncounterable is a solid card. It will be in a lot of Green creature sideboards, but the real question is how many Green creature decks there will be and how prevalent counterspell decks are.|
|The -1/-1 counter cards have a lot of strong cards that fit better in other decks rather than their own, and this one is proof of that. This is great in a lot of zombie sacrifice decks and will find a home.|
|Manticores have not had a good card in a long time, and this has not changed that. The effect is certainly fine, but the inability to sacrifice itself limits the playability of this card, and thus drives it price way down. The best part of this card is that it wasn't a mythic.|
|This has a lot of potential. It could see play in some dark Naya decks or the start of aggressive Black decks in Standard or Modern.|
|Throne of the God-Pharaoh||$1.44|
|I wonder if a thousand souls have to be sacrificed on it every day. This could be good in a token deck or a way for a wide Red aggressive to close a game. It won't be worth a lot, but it isn’t a bad rare.|
|Dread Wanderer has a lot of potential, although it will never take the place of Gravecrawler in non-Standard decks|
|Curator of Mysteries||$1.36|
|Cycling will be a thing and this card is a great incentive. A good sized body for a great cost and a relevant ability and cycling on itself makes for a solid card that will be decently priced.|
|Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons||$1.35|
|Great stats, a supported color combination, and abilities mark this as having potential, but it will most likely remain there.|
|Ramp is getting a nice push. There will not likely be a ramp deck because of both the speed of the format and Saheeli Rai, but if the stars align correctly for this card, ramp could make it. This card has a lot of potential for Standard, casual, and Commander. It won’t be worth a lot, but it will be worth something decent.|
|Archfiend of Ifnir||$1.29|
|This is what makes black cycling a thing. If there is a Black cycling deck, expect this to be at the heart of it, but that won’t make it worth very much.|
|This card has potential to be good. Slagstorm saw play in an aggressive format and this is a slightly better version in that it is card draw when a board wipe is not needed. It might be worth a few dollars, but it won’t be expensive, ever.|
|Never // Return||$1.12|
|Remember Ruinous Path? This is a worse version. Hero's Downfall is still too good for Standard. This will be worth something weak when Ruinous Path rotates out or there is a really pressing need to exile cards out of the graveyard when there are much better choices in the set.|
|A slightly better Nevermore is not the worst position to be, but it's not likely to be worth anything. Speculating on this would be a bad gamble.|
|You know a mythic is great when it starts out at around a dollar and Commander players want to avoid it. There will be fringe wants on this, but don't bother with it.|
As always, across the board, these are the highest prices these cards will be. Unless you are willing to play the speculation game on some undervalued card or you really need the card, hold off pre-ordering.
Amonkhet is a well designed set that has a chance to be worth investing into, provided Saheeli Rai is dealt with to a point where non aggressive decks have a chance. Most of the cards are well designed and could have some value. There are some potential revamped decks to come out of Amonkhet, but few actual new decks. There are some bad cards and missed opportunities like there are in all sets. Overall, it is likely there will be little financial value in buying a box, like most Standard sets.