The Top 10 Cards from Amonkhet

Feature Article from Brian Braun-Duin
Brian Braun-Duin
4/28/2017 11:01:00 AM
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Well, it looks like the cat's back in the bag.

Bum dum TUSH.

Felidar Guardian was emergency banned on Wednesday of this week, which started a Chain Reaction that caused two very important things to happen. First, I had to rewrite my article because it had abruptly decayed in relevance, and secondly, we can finally Felidare to dream of a Standard format without a cat combo looming over it. The first one is clearly of greater importance, but I think it's key to cover all the angles, not just the big ones.

Alright, fine, you saw through my obvious ruse. Good thing it's too late for you to stop it! Muahahaha. That's right. Just as you suspected, cat combo isn't dead. My Regal Caracal six-card, highly disruptable combo deck is going to ruin the format. Have fun with that. Or don't. Fine with me either way. Actually, it isn't. I changed my mind. You will have fun with this deck or else you're dead to me. There, I said it. If you don't Care-acal about the Caracal then we're done here.

Things are going to look way different in a world where cats are reduced back to having nine lives instead of infinite. Without the threat of the combo, there is going to be a lot more room to breathe for other strategies in Standard. I'm going to talk about what I think the top 10 cards for Standard are from Amonkhet, and I'm going to be doing so with New Perspectives. However, I will not be mentioning New Perspectives, the actual Amonkhet rare, because I do actually have some principles. Sorry to all my cycling fans out there, the Lance Armstrong of discarding and drawing cards is gonna have to take its ball and go home.

And they told me I couldn't squeeze a Lance Armstrong joke into the first four paragraphs of a topical Magic: The Gathering article but I proved them wrong. Thank you, Mom. You always believed in me and knew I could achieve my dreams. I can now ride off into the sunset, just like Lance Armstrong didn't do.

And while we're on the topic of cycling, I'm going to be ignoring the cycle lands for the purposes of this article. We all know they will see play, but it's boring to rank them. Drawing comparison between cards that make up your mana base and cards that you actually cast makes for bad television. That's like trying to decide what's better between your mother-in-law and a plate of broccoli. Of course it's the broccoli, but you can't actually say that out loud. It's better to mutter it under your breath when they can only sort-of hear you.

And while we're still on the topic of cycling – because I just can't give it up – I think they should be called Motor Vehicle lands. That may sound ridiculous, but hear me out. They are a cycle of cycling lands. When you take a cycle of cyclers, you get two cycles, or a bicycle. It would therefore make sense to call them bicycle lands. Are you with me so far? Good, because it's about to take a dark turn. I'm afraid it doesn't end there.

There is a mysterious thirdrd cycle that we've somehow overlooked. That cycle is the cycle of insanity, self-loathing, and the exasperated feeling of hopelessness that I am currently spiraling deeper and deeper into. As my life is being consumed by this ever-worsening cycle of self-destruction I pause for a brief moment to consider the cause. I hate the petty and semantic-driven debates about what names we should give to combos or cycles of cards or decks, and yet I have willingly debased myself to stoop to the level of discussing what to call these lands, and my egregious lack of self-control has begun this thirrd cycle of never-ending misery.

So tricycle lands, am I right? Oh, I'm not. I'm never right. Looks like you all forgot about the fourthth cycle. This is like some Dante's Inferno level of cycling. Once you get to the fifthth cycle, things start to get crazy, but let's not go there. Not yet at least. Foreshadowing. So, what is this fourth cycle? Oh, it's the cycle where we start to argue and debate the previous three cycles in the comment sections of articles and on social media. It's where I look up at the clock and realize three hours have passed while I'm knee-deep in a nine-paragraph response to someone with an egg avatar about what we should name these lands. I never cared in the first place, and yet somehow, here I am, wasting my life away debating a pointless topic I care nothing about. And that's when I move past self-loathing and hatred and begin to simply pity myself and feel bad for the hollow husk of what used to be a semi-reasonable person, but has since degraded into a pile of flesh and bone with meaningless existence. That's the fourth cycle.

So yeah, four cycles means four wheels which is what a Motor Vehicle has. Hence they are now Motor Vehicle lands. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? I like it! Very nice art. Great art.

But we're not here to talk about Motor Vehicle lands. Oh no. Of course not. We're here for that sweet, sweet top 10 action. Let's get right to the list!

#10 - Felidar Guardian

Mid
Low
 Felidar Guardian
$0.35
$0.10
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This uncommon from Aether Revolt is the 10th best card from Amonkhet. It's a cat, so it plays with the cat theme in Amonkhet. I can't wait to do things like use this card to bounce my Regal Caracal to reset it for an additional two cats, and then the Felidar Guardian itself also gets +1/+1 and lifelink. I can also see using it to bounce value-oriented enchantments like Trial of Solidarity to pump your cats even more. You can also use it to reset exert creatures like Glorybringer or Glory-Bound Initiate. There are infinite things you can do with this creature and I can't wait to explore them all. I'll have to do a full gatherer search on Standard to see if there are any sweet Standard-legal permanents I missed that you can bounce with this fun-loving feline besides Regal Caracal, which is already busted.

#9 - Angel of Sanctions

Mid
Low
 Angel of Sanctions
$4.55
$2.02
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This is a long-term call. I think this card is very strong. It has a powerful ability and reasonable, although not great, stats. I think in most Standard formats, this card would see play. I just don't think it can see much play with Archangel Avacyn still in the format. Archangel Avacyn is a disgustingly good card and I don't think Angel of Sanctions is on the same power level. With that being said, Angel of Sanctions is well beyond the minimum threshold for playability in Standard. Maybe it can get the love it deserves once Archangel Avacyn rotates out, which could be tomorrow or never. Who can really know these days? Say what you want about WOTC, but at least they aren't predictable. Every day is journey. A Journey to Nowhere. Some say the journey is the destination. Those people are horribly wrong.

This card caught my eye as being extremely powerful, and usually those cards find a way to see play eventually, one way or another. Plus, I just want to play a bunch of cards with embalm so I can tell my friends that I've achieved embalmer status.

#8 - Gideon of the Trials

Mid
Low
 Gideon of the Trials
$16.15
$11.35
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I don't think this will see much play while Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is around. I'd rather play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and I don't want both in my deck, because things get really awkward when you have a Gideon of the Trials in play that is taking away from the allure and value of playing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

I think if we find ourselves in a format where aggressive white strategies are good again, Gideon of the Trials is a phenomenal three-drop toward the top of the curve. It protects itself well, can allow you to attack smaller creatures into bigger creatures by preventing damage, and it also attacks for a reasonable amount itself, assuming you can keep it alive. The emblem is mostly worthless, but could have occasional use in racing situations.

I would rank this Gideon higher, if it weren't for a few things. The first is that Gideon requires an aggressive white strategy to be effective. I don't think Gideon slots into a controlling or purely midrange deck the same way Gideon, Ally of Zendikar does. Secondly, Gideon of the Trials reminds me a lot of the flip side of Kytheon, and the flip side of Kytheon always ended up being worse than it looked. This Gideon has roughly the same abilities, which leads me to think that it is overrated in some aspects.

I slept at a hotel the other night and I checked the dresser drawer when I woke up and there was a copy of a Gideon Bible. This is unrelated to the topic at hand, but I get paid royalties every time I mention Gideon, and I can't pass up on that value, much akin to the value that Gideon of the Trials, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Gideon Jura, Gideon, Champion of Justice, or Gideon, Battle-Forged can provide. Gideon up. (That counts).

#7: Pull From Tomorrow

Mid
Low
 Pull from Tomorrow
$4.80
$0.25
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The easy comparison for Pull from Tomorrow is Sphinx's Revelation. Pull from Tomorrow actually provides better card selection than Sphinx's Revelation did. You get to draw the same number of cards and you get an additional loot on top of it all.

I think it's easy to draw a comparison to Sphinx's Revelation and think that they are roughly the same card. You trade off some life gain for extra selection, which seems like a fair trade. Considering how Sphinx's Revelation dominated an entire Standard format, I can buy the hype on this card.

However, I don't think trading life gain for extra selection is anywhere close to a fair trade. Life gain is an extremely underrated ability in modern day Magic. It used to be a very low-impact ability when Magic was all about spells and when cards weren't nearly as powerful as they are now. In those days, it didn't matter if you were at one life and your opponent thirty. If you took control of the game you were never losing, because they didn't have strong enough cards to come back. Now there are so many insanely powerful cards that this level of inevitability is gone, and being able to buffer your life total is very relevant, especially in an era where Walking Ballista is ubiquitous.

Sphinx's Revelation was a fresh hand of cards and a Fog at the same time. That was a devastating swing. It wasn't enough to draw five cards, you also needed to be able to make sure that you weren't dead to a topdeck burn spell or that you could spend a turn to draw cards and you wouldn't just simply die to the creatures already in play while doing so. Pull from Tomorrow can't replicate that. I think it will be a good card and a player in the format, but I don't think it can or will reach the dominance of Sphinx's Revelation.

#6: Censor

Mid
Low
 Censor
$2.25
$0.99
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This is the card that blue needs to compete. The issue with blue cards, stuff like Glimmer of Genius and Disallow, is that they are way too slow to match up with the likes of Heart of Kiran and friends. With Censor, blue finally has a way to deal with aggressive starts from Mardu or Black-Green Constrictor without having to play this guessing game of whether you need Negate or Horribly Awry, because of how situational those cards are.

Cycling for only a single blue mana means that when you draw this card later in the game and it's basically dead, the opportunity cost to replace itself is pretty low. Cycling can also provide other benefits, depending on if you have cards like Drake Haven or Curator of Mysteries in your deck.

#5 - Hazoret, the Fervent

Mid
Low
 Hazoret the Fervent
$8.42
$6.12
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I rank the Amonkhet gods by one simple measuring stick. How easy is it to get them active? All of the gods have great stats, but relatively weak abilities. As a result, I think it's extremely important to be able to turn them into creatures easily and early for them to be relevant, since I don't believe they can exist on abilities alone.

I think Hazoret, the Fervent has one of the best activated abilities of the bunch and I think he is the easiest to make active. Haste is also the most powerful of the static abilities. For that reason, I think he is the best god from Amonkhet. Getting down to one card in hand isn't generally that difficult for the kinds of decks that would play Hazoret. In aggressive red-based decks Hazoret would top the curve, so it's reasonable to expect that most of your hand has been deployed by the time Hazoret hits the board.

There are also a number of cards to facilitate emptying your hand that are also reasonable cards on their own accord. I'm thinking about cards such as Key to the City or Lightning Axe. If we branch outside of red, we get access to possibilities like Haunted Dead or Stitchwing Skaab or Cryptbreaker.

This card gains a lot from the banning of Felidar Guardian. Previously, it was hard to imagine wanting to cast Hazoret when you could just die the next turn while you tapped out for a card that had no guarantee to even immediately affect the game. Now, you're safe to play Hazoret and your opponent is safe to die to it.

#4: Cast Out

Mid
Low
 Cast Out
$1.25
$0.50
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Oblivion Ring has always been a Standard playable card. In fact, along with a card like Pithing Needle, Oblivion Ring is almost always the card that players beg for the most to be a part of Standard formats that are being dominated by particular hard-to-deal with non-creature permanents, like planeswalkers or artifacts. I think most recent bad Standard formats are largely the result of poor answers to the threats of the format, and not having an Oblivion Ring effect contributes to that. With Felidar out of the picture, Aetherworks Marvel is going to again start being a major part of the format and Cast Out is an actual main deck answer to both Marvel and the Ulamog that they cast off it on turn four every single game you ever play against that deck. I can't believe how lucky they always are. It's gross and disrespectful to honest Magicians everywhere.

I, for one, am glad to see Cast Out and I expect it will see a lot of play. It's one more mana than Oblivion Ring, but being instant speed and having cycling totally makes up for that. It's possible that cards that interact favorably against Cast Out also see an uptick in play. I'm looking at you, Nahiri, the Harbinger.

#3: Liliana, Death's Majesty

Mid
Low
 Liliana, Death's Majesty
$16.14
$12.12
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Liliana is really good. Ob Nixilis Reignited has seen a lot of play and I think Liliana is abstractly a more powerful card than Ob Nixilis is. The difference is that Liliana requires a bit of synergy to be truly great whereas Ob Nix can just slot into any black deck. Liliana starts with a high loyalty and her +1 ability protects herself and facilitates both of her other two abilities. It provides a zombie that doesn't die to the ultimate and it puts two cards into the graveyard to help make the -3 ability stronger.

Speaking of which, I think her ability to Reanimate creatures isn't getting the respect it deserves. I'd like to compare Liliana's -3 with the second ability on cards like Nissa, Vital Force and Liliana, the Last Hope. Both of those abilities usually end up rebuying a creature back to hand, and both of those abilities were really powerful and a large part of what made those Planeswalkers playable. Liliana, Death's Majesty puts the creature directly into play, saving the time and mana investment of having to recast it, and it makes it a zombie, allowing it to play nicely with other zombie synergies, such as her ultimate.

I think Liliana can immediately find a home in a deck like some of the slower versions of G/B. Those decks are full of insanely powerful creatures to return to play, such as Verdurous Gearhulk. With a Gearhulk in the graveyard, Liliana is at worst another copy of Verdurous Gearhulk and at best a Gearhulk plus some.

No card from Amonkhet gains more from the banning than this card. Well, maybe that's not exactly true, but tapping out for a five-mana planeswalker never worked out against Copy Cat. Now you don't have to fear that anymore and Ishkanah, Grafwidow is also playable again, which is one of the best possible creatures to return to play with Liliana. Six feet under the ground is the limit for Liliana.

#2: Drake Haven

Mid
Low
 Drake Haven
$2.05
$0.50
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I'm taking a risk putting this card number two, as it's certainly bears a reasonable chance of being a flop. With that being said, the power level of this card is off the charts. It's over 10,000! I think this card and effect are so powerful that I have to imagine someone will figure out how to make a deck that uses this card in potent and disgusting ways. I know I plan on using it as a coaster for my peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise and pickle juice drink and nothing gets more potent, yet disgusting than that. The bar starts high.

Being able to make a steady chain of nearly free 2/2 flying creatures will take over a game very quickly, especially because by cycling you are drawing into more cyclers, which keeps the cycle of destruction going. It's the 5th cycle. And there it is. You got me. They are now called Pentagon lands.

I'm not sure that this will end up being a fit into a deck like White-Blue Control, however I wouldn't be surprised to see this card do a lot of work in decks like the Blue-Red Emerge deck or Blue-Black Zombies with Key to the City. These are decks that discard a lot of cards through various effects and are aggressive and tempo-oriented enough to really take advantage of the Drakes in a way that a control deck cannot. Those decks started from the bottom, now they're still hovering around the bottom, but optimistic.

#1: Glorybringer

Mid
Low
 Glorybringer
$5.99
$2.98
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I've been high on this card since I saw it spoiled and that high hasn't died. I had to move to Colorado just to continue to enjoy reading the text on Glorybringer legally. Glorybringer is the third coming of Thundermaw Hellkite and Stormbreath Dragon and this effect hasn't failed yet to produce a very powerful Standard-defining card. I've been doing a lot of Amonkhet drafts the past few days and exert as a mechanic has been way better than I expected. I expected it to be an awkward, mostly weak ability and that has not been the case at all. I'm not sure if that holds up for Constructed, but regardless I think Glorybringer is going to be great.

Glorybringer is a natural foil to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It comes down, kills a creature and then kills the Gideon. Glorybringer also plays really well with a number of cards in Standard, such as Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai. Check this combo out. In your Jeskai Regal Caracal cat deck, you can also play Glorybringer. Felidar Guardian is a cat that can reset Glorybringer. You can also use Saheeli Rai to copy Glorybringer or just copy Felidar Guardian and then use the token copy of Felidar Guardian to reset Glorybringer. Now that's a combo. It's like exert isn't even a drawback in this Jeskai Cat Dragon combo deck, because of how often you can reset Glorybringer and continue attacking with it.

Glorybringer fits into a couple of already existing shells, such as 4C Copy Cat Dragon such as only Mardu Vehicles and nothing else. It is also powerful enough to potentially create its own shells. I expect to be losing to this card for the next two years, much like I lost to Thundermaw Hellkite and Stormbreath Dragon many times before. I can't say I like it, but I've accepted my fate. Haste is stupid. So are infinite cats. Come at me.




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