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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
May 28 2020 12:00pm
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Last time on Designing Reprint Sets, I went through my expectations of what I expected Wizards to do in terms of putting Pioneer on Arena. Of course, as soon as I hit submit on my overview, Wizards put up a new State of the Game that muddied the waters even more with “Pioneer Masters” sparking a wave of confusion that essentially meant “the status quo” once it was clarified. However, we did get a relatively solid idea of what’s coming next (and confirmation in the next State of the Game): Amonkhet Remastered. While it’s strange that Wizards isn’t just putting up all of Amonkhet block (as it’s already been coded), it’s not like it was the best format that couldn’t be improved. We know it’s coming this summer, and the point is synergize with Ikoria (which is also why Historic Anthology 2 had a lot of Cycling support), so let’s get started! 

Overall Amonkhet is a fairly simple block to condense. The ten archetypes are clearly signposted and themes like Embalm, Deserts, heckbent, and -1/-1 counters don’t require too delicate of a balance, at least for a “quick-and-dirty” design like I’m doing (presumably Wizards is actually playtesting its balance). The opposite is actually true: there isn’t a lot of chaff to remove, making for some hard cuts. In particular the Desert theme, along with other themes like the Monument cycle and the brick counter cards mean there are a lot of colorless cards that deserve slots. The gold cards at rare also aren’t color-balanced in the slightest, and the enemy-colored Aftermath cards don’t deserve slots to boot. Format-wise the main balance concern is that aggro (and Exert cards in particular) are a bit strong, and while I’m naturally increasing the baseline power level slightly by cutting the chaff (and using some key rarity downshifts), I can also remove some of the outliers. Unfortunately the outliers I can’t remove are the gods, particularly the Bolas gods from Hour of Devastation, as well as God-Pharaoh's Gift. Eight gods also means there is a crunch at mythic rare, but let’s start by focusing on Limited with the archetypes.

 

Archetypes:

White/Blue: Embalm

The Embalm/Eternalize token archetype doesn’t need any major changes, other than choosing one of duplicated cards like Steadfast Sentinel over Unwavering Initiate. Blue gets trimmed a bit more since Vizier of the Anointed counts as one of its slots, leaving it with only three actual non-rare cards with “creature Flashback.” Blue keeps most of its graveyard value like Strategic Planning and Winds of Rebuke at least, so it shouldn’t lose too much power—it’s not like people actively wanted to play Proven Combatant or Labyrinth Guardian anyway.

 

Blue/Black: Cycling

Cycling is one of the themes I’m wary of keeping too much of, as I kept 43 of the 59 cards with the mechanic in the set, along with most of the payoffs and build-arounds. It feels like I’m leaning a lot on the colored mana symbols in the Cycling costs, as there are 27 commons with Cycling (compared to 22 in Amonkhet, so essentially the same number plus the Cycling Deserts), including 10 that cost a single mana to cycle, 7 of which are in UB. I think the key is that the payoffs outside of the rare Drake Haven are a lot worse than Ikoria: the creatures are at a worse rate and Faith of the Devoted is much worse than Zenith Flare. Generic aggro is also a lot better, so it should be fine.

 

Black/Red: Heckbent Aggro

Heckbent is such a loose theme that combines the Cycling payoffs in black, random discard outlets in red, and only a couple explicit payoffs like Thresher Lizard, which is why it didn’t really work as a theme. Instead, whatever strength it had came from the generically powerful aggro cards like Khenra Scrapper, some of which I cut. Hopefully the increased density of Cycling helps a bit, but I wouldn’t start with this archetype.

 

Red/Green: Midrange Trample

Another loose theme, but Khenra Charioteer is a nice payoff for decent-sized creatures. The most notable change is that I’ve downshifted Resilient Khenra to uncommon, which seems perfect for the theme. This feels like an average archetype, no matter how much or little I push it.

 

Green/White: Wide Exert

The non-aggro version of Exert is in a strange place, but I can focus it a bit more. Having the activated ability Exert cards in all three packs (as opposed to just Hour of Devastation) helps a lot, and Watchful Naga is a safe Exert card to downshift. Still, I don’t think I can do that much, though hopefully the more balanced power level helps it by default.

 

White/Black: Zombies

Zombies is one of the themes I had to cut cards for, as a lot of the simple creatures help fill out the curve and I cut some of the lesser build-arounds like Accursed Horde, Unraveling Mummy, and Embalmer's Tools. Still, there’s a pretty high density of zombies (and Embalm/Eternalize creatures), and the workhorses like Wayward Servant and Binding Mummy are still here, so it should still be one of the top archetypes.

 

Blue/Red: Spells

The spells deck is in a strange place here. On one hand it gets pretty much all of its build-arounds (other than swapping Warfire Javelineer for the more general Sand Strangler), though choosing Bloodwater Entity over the already-printed Enigma Drake is a slight downgrade. On the other, a lot of the cheap spells like Unsummon, Essence Scatter, and Crash Through got crunched out since they already exist (though Tormenting Voice stays in by default as it’s a unique effect). Overall I think it’s a wash, but staying stable might not be great when everything else is improving.

 

Black/Green: -1/-1 Counters

Of all the archetypes, the one I’m least sure about is the Golgari, as I cut a lot of the random “put -1/-1 counters on your creatures” cards, so a lot of the enablers are also removal (though I cut Lethal Sting, so that’s a bit of a counter-balance). Most of the build-arounds are still here, so it could work, but I don’t know how much density this deck wants.

 

Red/White: Aggro Exert

The Boros aggro deck was the outlier in Amonkhet, and thus it’s where I’m making the most notable cuts. White’s creatures don’t take a hit, but it loses some of the more efficient pump like Mighty Leap and Trial of Solidarity, and swapping Compulsory Rest for a downshifted Desert's Hold slows it a bit. Red losing Khenra Scrapper is a bigger hit, as is swapping Electrify for Puncturing Blow, though I’m worried the late addition of Blur of Blades after Blazing Volley got reprinted might push it over the edge. It’s also hurt by choosing Resolute Survivors over Honored Crop-Captain, slowing it again while forcing a tighter theme. I think it’s still one of the top decks, but hopefully by not as wide a margin.

 

Green/Blue: Ramp

Ramp is hurt the most by losing its second gold card (Weaver of Currents), but not only is Spring/Mind strongly on theme unlike many of the Aftermath cards, Oasis Ritualist makes up a lot of the way. It also gets a bunch of great big Cyclers, but while picking Striped Riverwinder over River Serpent is a great upgrade, the archetype got a late downgrade when Greater Sandwurm got replaced by Rampaging Hippo. Overall this archetype seems fine, and I wonder if more people will play it now that they understand the power of cheap cyclers.
 

Deserts:

The biggest problem with the Desert archetype is that there are so many of them that are relevant in Constructed, not only is it hard to fit them all in I also risk making the Desert cards too good. Not only have I kept most of the build-arounds in, I also downgraded Desert's Hold and Hostile Desert. You couldn’t really build around Deserts in Amonkhet, but it seems much more possible here.

 

Mythic Rares:

Even though no one will be buying this set directly (they’ll likely either be drafting it or using wildcards to get the cards they need), it’s still interesting what gets put at the top of the heap:

 

Oketra, the True, Kefnet, the Mindful, Bontu, the Glorified, Hazoret, the Fervent, Rhonas, the Indominable:

Unlike other sets (*cough*Theros*cough*), the main WUBRG gods aren’t nearly as dominant here, especially since I have to make fewer cuts overall in a two-set block.

 

The Scorpion God, The Scarab God, The Locust God:

The Bolas gods are much more problematic, as they’re much more warping, and they’re necessary for Constructed as well. However, this is where the downshift of Desert's Hold helps, as does Final Reward being in all three packs.

 

Gideon of the Trials, Liliana, Death's Majesty, Nissa, Steward of Elements, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh:

These four planeswalkers are obvious additions, even only Gideon sees a lot of Constructed play. Samut, the Tested gets left out since he was pretty bland to begin with, though he was the last cut.

 

Angel of Sanctions:

One of the harder choices was the angel or Crested Sunmare (and I don’t think I should have four white mythics), but Angel of Sanctions is slightly better in Constructed (and the horse would be easier to fill in a later collection since it doesn’t have a mechanic).

 

As Foretold:

A necessary constructed card (even if Ancestral Vision probably isn’t coming to Arena anytime soon), I thought about downshifting it, but mythic is less packed than blue rare.

 

Glorybringer:

The dragon was by far the biggest problem in Amonkhet Limited, so I made a straight swap with Combat Celebrant, as that card is much more fragile and less immediately impacting (and Glorybringer is a Constructed card, so I couldn’t cut it completely).

 

Notable Cuts:

The most surprising cut was the Trial cycle, as while they’re an interesting and unique part of the set, they’re also extremely powerful even before you start recurring them. I also cut most of the Reckonings, only leaving Bontu's Last Reckoning since it’s a Constructed card. However, the Defeat cycle was planned to be left out from the beginning, as it starts a trend in my Arena remasters: leaving out the color hosers since they don’t do much for the Limited format (especially in best-of-one, where I assume most of the matches will be played, if Traditional drafts are even available) and aiming to reprint them in an Anthology of some sort. If you’re interested, my entire set list is here.

 

Conclusion:

While Amonkhet Remastered is the big non-Standard edition coming to Arena, something is more immediate: Historic Anthology 3. The biggest overall headliners are the first Flashback cards on Arena, which means it’s probably coming soon in a Standard set. However, in terms of the Pioneer Remasters, only four cards are also legal in Pioneer. The minor ones are Maze's End (wouldn’t take up a slot in the main RTR Remastered set), Swan Song (Theros Remastered blue rares aren’t that packed), and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (I haven’t started BFZ Remastered in earnest yet, but it probably doesn’t need two giant Eldrazi mythics). The major one is Ratchet Bomb, which frees up another slot in the packed rares of Pioneer Core Remastered’s rare slot. However, what’s most interesting is what’s next, as this is the last Historic Anthology for the year, with Historic content being fulfilled with Jumpstart (which is the most interesting “reprint” set in a while), Amonkhet, and other Pioneer remasters (meaning at least one more is planned for 2020).

 

As for what I’m doing next, I assumed it would be the Limited Review of Core Set 2021, followed by either Kaladesh Remastered or Return to Ravnica Remastered. However, then Double Masters popped up out of nowhere, and it rocketed to the front of the line. This isn’t quite the time for me to create a bigger than normal Masters set with virtually no guidance (five mostly directionless mythics, especially since Blightsteel Colossus and (Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice) don’t guarantee Infect and Proliferate get proper representation), but I’ll certainly try, and the timeline means it’ll likely be out before the M21 article. However, until then.

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter