Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success! This weekend will be the Amonkhet Prerelease and just in time for that is the Amonkhet Sealed Set Review! In case you're not familiar with the review, I take a look at the cards in relation to how well I think they'll be in Sealed Deck. This is a little different than draft because a draft review will compare every card with one another, whereas in this review I'm looking at the cards independently. I'm asking "is this card good?" as opposed to "is this card better than this one?". They're slightly similar ways to look at things but structurally different when you look at the grand scheme of things.
Last week I said I would be finishing up Aether Revolt Limited this week and I have to push that back one more week unfortunately. Unexpected Easter festivities left me with less time to record and the Amonkhet review was my first priority in what needed to get accomplished. Everything after that would be bonus at that point. So this week will be Amonkhet only, but next week I'll have Aether Revolt Limited and Amonkhet Limited. Let's go ahead and take a look at the upcoming schedule:
Today - Amonkhet Sealed Set Review
4/27 - Aether Revolt Sealed League #4, Aether Revolt Sealed League #5, Aether Revolt Draft #9, Amonkhet Draft #1, Amonkhet Prerelease Pool #1
5/4 - Amonkhet Draft #2, Amonkhet Sealed League #1, Amonkhet Sealed League #2, Amonkhet Prerelease Pool #2, Amonkhet Prerelease Pool #3
5/11 - Amonkhet Draft #3, Amonkhet Sealed League #1, Amonkhet Sealed League #2
Amonkhet comes out on Magic Online the 24th of April, giving us an earlier start to when it would normally hit Magic Online. This means we'll be able to not only hit Amonkhet early, I can import my sealed pools onto Magic Online instead of adding each card to the article one at a time. Very much a lifesaving move! Before we go ahead and talk about the set review, I want to take a moment to talk about how I'll be grading the cards:
For Aether Revolt I tried a letter grade scale and for Amonkhet I decided to bring it back since I liked its use from last time.
A - Bomb
B - Premium removal, good mythic/rare/uncommon
C - Okay mythic/rare/uncommon, most commons
D - Bad mythics/rares/commmons, sideboard cards
F - Unplayable cards
The scale is meant to give a card a letter grade based upon what you would expect an A/B/C/D/F card to look and play like. A's are cards that win the game on the spot, that produce an immediate impact and must be dealt with quickly otherwise they will win the game for your opponent. Cards such as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Pack Rat are among more recent A's. B's are cards that are quite strong but not necessarily win the game outright. They help you win the game or are extremely powerful pieces of removal. Fatal Push is an example of a B-type removal while Winding Constrictor is an example of a B-type creature. C's are filler cards that go in most Limited decks, or higher rarity cards that don't have that high an impact. Kari Zev, Skyship Raider is an example of a C. D's are either bad cards but not completely unplayable, or sideboard cards that have narrow effects but are strong in the right situation. Demolish is a D. F's are unplayable cards that make your deck worse for having them in your deck. I would rather have a basic land than any card that is an F. Fog is an F.
The purpose of this scale is to see how good a card is on its own, not how good it is with or against other cards. Some cards will rise and fall in rating depending on what other cards you have, but I can't account for that. Instead I choose to see what the card can do on its own and see if that's good enough or not. With that said, let's talk about the mechanics in Amonkhet.
Cycling - (Cost) Discard this card: Draw a card.
Cycling allows you to play the cycling cost in order to discard the card in order to draw a new card. Have you ever wish the useless creature you drew could be a better card? If your card has cycling on it, now you can. Cycling allows you to have the option to discard that card from your hand for the chance to draw a random card from your deck. This essentially makes your cards split cards, either you cast whatever the card does, or you draw a random card.
Having this option is good and bad for the player. The upside to this is that you can leverage your resources better and better your odds of hitting land drops when you need them or hitting a better spell when you don't need the spell you currently have. The downside to all this is that because you have a cheaper way to use mana, you might make the mistake of cycling a creature away when you actually need it to attack/block. In general the more options you have the better you can leverage your play skill, but it also opens you up to more mistakes. This is why beginner decks have less options than more experienced decks, it's a lot easier to avoid mistakes if you have relatively few options to work with.
In general I think you should play cycling cards only if you are happy casting the actual spell. If you play a weak card because it can become a random card, isn't it just better to play a stronger card in its place? Cycling on bad cards still means that you drew a bad card, and a 2 mana card that only draws a card isn't the best card to have access to. One of the rules of sealed deck is to only play good cards, and that rule applies to cards with cycling as well.
Embalm (Cost) Exile this card from your graveyard: Create a token that's a copy of it, except it's a white Zombie in addition to its other types with no mana cost. Embalm only as a sorcery)
Embalm allows you to use your creature once again after it has served its duty in its life. To embalm you need to pay the cost and exile the creature from your graveyard and you get a token copy of that card put onto the battlefield. In a sense this is actually flashback but for creature spells. Because of this your creature with embalm will need to be dealt with twice in order to truly be gone from the game. Creatures with embalm sometimes have cycling, meaning you're able to discard that creature to draw a card and then later on bring it back and it's like you never even discarded it.
As with cycling, you need to be playing good cards no matter what and not play a bad creature because you're able to use it twice. A bad attacker/blocker is still bad no matter if you're able to use it a second time. Good creatures with embalm are very good since now they have more utility and you're able to keep the pressure going even if they die the first time.
Exert: You may exert ~~~ as it attacks. An exerted creature won't untap during your untap step.
Life is harsh on Amonkhet and you need to do your best in order to bring glory to the Gods. You may choose to exert a creature and be given a bonus in exchange for not having the creature untap during your next untap step. Since your creature won't untap, you need to make sure that the exertion is worth losing a turn of attacking/blocking from that particular creature. Some creatures you want to exert like Glorybringer, a 5 mana 4/4 that when exerted deals 4 damage to a non-Dragon creature. You don't need to worry about defending if the creature is already dead right?
Other bonuses to exert may be as good as Glorybringer, or they may be much smaller. An example is an exert trigger that lets you give that creature +1/+1 or you draw a card or you tap down a creature. Since exert is a combat mechanic and can only be used when attacking, an exert deck is looking to attack way more often than it wants to block. Exert your creatures wisely and make sure you understand combat extremely well and are able to think turns in advance. Exerting your creatures has great benefits, but will test your mettle at combat.
Aftermath - Cast this card only from your graveyard. Then exile it.
After the dust settles you're able to witness the aftermath of how your instants and sorceries have affected the game. Aftermath is a new variation on split cards, with the bottom part of the card only castable from your graveyard. This means you either have to have used the top part already from your hand, or you milled the card into your graveyard and now have access to the bottom part of the card.
With this new way of doing split cards, if you want the bottom part of the card you're more than likely needing to be wanting the top part as well. If you're able to cast both sides then you have a card that gave you two spells; card advantage indeed! However, if you're only interested in the bottom half and can't cast the top part, then you're out of luck. Aftermath cards can only really be evaluated from the standpoint that you need the top half and then the second half is just free/upside.
Amonkhet Sealed Set Review
Wow that's a lot to take in! Amonkhet seems to be a fun set, and in my opinion will be a fast or slow set depending on the decks in play. Blue and black tend to be more controlling since they have cards that care about cycling and give you mana sinks when you're doing so, whereas white, red, and green either have embalm or exert, mechanics that tend to favor creature combat and letting creatures die. Most creatures die in combat, so it stands that embalm would be a more aggressive mechanic than a defensive one. Overall I think Amonkhet will be a fast format than can slow down at times due to how the mechanics work with or against each other.
I'm high on white and green and bullish on blue and black, but all that could change as I get an opportunity to play with the cards. We'll see this weekend as the first chance to play Amonkhet arrives during the prerelease. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below. The Amonkhet Sealed Set Review came out this weekend on my YouTube channel, so you could have seen this earlier if you were subscribed to the channel. You would also see other content I do on my own; you can subscribe here.