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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Aug 18 2020 12:00am
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When Amonkhet Remastered was first floated at the beginning of the year, I assumed it would follow the template set by Tempest Remastered to the letter, especially since it presumably wouldn’t take much work to port cards that were already on the beta of Magic Arena. In retrospect it makes sense that WotC would throw a couple of safe Invocations in there to spice things up (and the Planeswalker deck cards seem fine), but turning the top end of the set into Pioneer Anthology 1 (with new art to boot) came completely out of left field. However, since that talks more about the design of the set, I’ll save it for the second half of the article. Instead, I want to start with the part most people care about: the Limited Review.

 

If you ignore the top-end, there aren’t many surprises in Amonkhet Remastered, whether you’re looking at the original sets or my attempt at designing it. I’ll treat this like a normal review with a look at the archetypes, but I’ll assume at least baseline knowledge of the original sets, so you can check out my Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation reviews to catch up.

 

Archetypes:

White/Blue: Embalm

Embalm (and Eternalize) felt like it took a big hit from the culling, mostly because there aren’t that many creatures with the mechanics left. There are only three commons and four uncommons with the mechanic, only one of those has Eternalize, and the only common with more than one power is Aven Initiate. The one benefit is that most of the mill remains, as cards like Naga Oracle and Winds of Rebuke let you possibly get more value—but the reason I saw most of those cards getting cut was because they’re relatively underpowered. This doesn’t seem like the place to go, and you should instead just take the good Embalm creatures and put them in other decks.

 

Blue/Black: Cycling

Another deck that took a big hit, both in enablers and payoffs. On the enabler side, there are 11 cyclers at common in Dimir, and while that’s similar to Amonkhet (one more with slightly more commons in the set) there are fewer one-mana cyclers below rare, and the numbers took a bigger hit in other colors (especially in red and white). The payoffs are the bigger problem, as Faith of the Devoted and Sacred Excavation were cut, which leaves Ruthless Sniper as the only uncommon payoff. I think it’s still fine, but I wouldn’t draft it at least as the start of the format, if only because all of the Arena players who were raised on Ikoria’s version of Cycling will overdraft it.

 

Black/Red: Heckbent Aggro

I’m surprised at how okay one of the worst and least-supported archetypes in the original sets looks now. On one hand it’s more that most of the decks were knocked down a peg, and the lack of meaningful nerfs to the red creature base (cards like Khenra Scrapper) helps all the red aggro decks. On the other, Rakdos gets both of the actual new non-rare cards to the format, and while (Wasp of the Bitter End is “just” a very efficient cheap flier for black (the only other non-white 2/1 flier for 2 below rare without a downside is Skyship Plunderer), Zealot of the God-Pharaoh is perfect for a deck that wants to empty its hand, making it less punishing to discard cards to your Burning-Fist Minotaur. I still don’t think it’s the best deck, but it’s not embarrassing anymore.

 

Red/Green: Midrange

Not much changed for Gruul, which isn’t great for a combination that was already meh. The non-nerfs in red help as does the addition of Zealot of the God-Pharaoh, and green kept almost all of its cycling, but Gruul is left just playing efficient creatures, which doesn’t seem as good in an environment where most of the chaff was cut. It’s a fine deck, but one I wouldn’t aim for.

 

Green/White: Wide Exert

The “other” Exert-focused deck mostly stays the same, though the minor cuts are meaningful, particularly Rhonas's Stalwart replacing Bitterblade Warrior and the removal of Vizier of the True, which means opposing creatures are meaningful now. The untap synergies like Stalwart Aven and Initiate's Companion are still here as well, which works best with the remaining activated ability Exert creatures. It’s still the “other” Exert deck, but it seems fine.

 

White/Black: Zombies

Amonkhet Remastered surprisingly managed to keep up the as-fan of Zombies, with ten common ones (counting Doomed Dissenter but not the Embalm creatures or Spellweaver Eternal). Most of the payoffs remain too, with the only major cuts being Mummy Paramount, Unraveling Mummy and Time to Reflect (and Plague Belcher, but that’s a personal complaint as that’s close to Constructed). Zombies was one of the better decks in normal Amonkhet block, and it should continue to do well here.

 

Blue/Red: Spells

If there’s a deck that didn’t lose anything, it’s the spells deck—seriously, the only things it really lost was Bloodwater Entity and Scribe of the Mindful. It also kept almost all of its red removal (only Electrify was cut), leading to a critical mass, along with all of its Prowess creatures. I don’t know if it’s the top deck, but it’s certainly a contender.

 

Black/Green: -1/-1 Counters

This deck has never been more than mediocre, and it’s taken some big hits. The obvious problem is that it lost a lot of support, including Decimator Beetle, Banewhip Punisher, Tenacious Hunter, and Grasping Dunes. The bigger problem is that a lot of the power that did exist in Golgari was on pure stats from cards like Crocodile of the Crossing, and since the power level overall has increased due to the removal of all the chaff that isn’t as meaningful. The cards are fine, but I wouldn’t start in this archetype.

 

Red/White: Aggro Exert

Oh boy. The Boros Exert deck was the bane of the previous format (especially triple-Amonkhet), and at first glance it doesn’t seem like much has changed. However, notice some of the cards that seem out of place if you were removing the chaff: Ancient Crab, Dune Beetle, and Those Who Serve. Those vanilla defensive creatures work well to block most of the Exert creatures. In addition, it’s much harder to get through creatures now, as stall-breakers like Vizier of the True, Resolute Survivors, and even Djeru's Renunciation are missing. It feels like this is still one of the best decks, but it’s not a mile ahead of the field anymore.

 

Blue/Green: Ramp

While I’ve been talking about decks that didn’t get hurt from the changes, the Simic deck might have gotten improved overall. It kept almost all of its ramp, including both Beneath the Sands and Oasis Ritualist, and it kept Greater Sandwurm, Ominous Sphinx, and River Hoopoe as well. It also keeps most of its card draw, and is best-positioned to use some of the new rares like Hornet Queen, Sphinx's Revelation, and Perilous Vault. Easily the most-improved deck (and of course modern R&D would improve the Simic Ramp deck most), and now an easy contender for best deck, especially if the minor Exert nerfs have slowed down the format.

 

Deserts:

Now from the best deck to one that essentially doesn’t exist anymore, as a lot fewer deserts made it into the format than I thought. Obviously the common and uncommon cycles made it in, but otherwise there’s only Sunscorched Desert and Scavenger Grounds, which is even stranger when cards like Crypt of the Eternals and Evolving Wilds made the cut. A bunch of the payoffs also got cut, especially the ones that want you to go hard into the archetype. Obviously you should keep drafting the color-aligned Deserts highly, but don’t think of it as an archetype.

 

Other Important Cards:

There is a strange dynamic between the number of artifacts in Amonkhet Remastered (only Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs at common and nine uncommons, half of which are unplayable Monuments) and the amount of artifact removal (Forsake the Worldly, Dissenter's Deliverance, Abrade, and Manglehorn, which doesn’t even count Cast Out or the unplayable-in-Bo1 By Force and Shatterstorm), and while most of the bomby artifacts like Sunset Pyramid and Edifice of Authority are still good, it’s worth noting there’s a bunch of hate. I also don’t normally mention rares, but there’s a ton of mass removal in this set, with three wraths in white, Bontu's Last Reckoning in black, three big clasms in red (counting Heaven/Earth), and Perilous Vault as a colorless option, so be careful about getting too far ahead. Finally, Cycling is still good even if you can’t build a deck around it, especially the one-mana cyclers and the lands.

 

Design Review:

I didn’t like Double Masters that much as a design, and while I do have some complaints about the set, I’m surprised at how well it works overall. In particular, I like how it solved the Exert problem without completely removing all the good Exert cards. However, before we get to what’s been added, I want to talk about what’s been removed. First of all I’m surprised at how randomly all the cycles were distributed—all the Cartouches, Trials, and Monuments remain, but the set only contains one Reckoning, three Hours, and most strangely two Defeats. It also includes every Aftermath spell and every mythic except Uncage the Menagerie, which makes the set feel bloated at rare. It also managed to hit most of the Constructed cards, especially for Pioneer—the main cards that I feel are missing are Flameblade Adept, Plague Belcher, Fraying Sanity, and some of the one-mana cyclers, and those can be back-filled if necessary.

 

Now let’s get to the elephant in the room: what the heck are these random Pioneer cards doing in my Amonkhet? The random former Invocations make sense (though a world where Pact of Negation is safe isn’t expected), but the Pioneer staples feel much more random. While all except the Planeswalkers (which brings the total up to a ridiculous seven, especially in a world where Double Masters only had two) are top-tier staples, and most make sense flavorfully, it’s still strange. In particular, most of them are almost straight duplicates of other effects in the set: Anger of the Gods to Sweltering Suns, Sphinx's Revelation to Pull from Tomorrow, and Perilous Vault to Hour of Revelation (and all the other wraths), among others. It is certainly going to make things interesting for both Historic and Arena Pioneer (which I assume will launch alongside Pioneer Masters in the vein of Online Extended back in the day).

 

Other than that, I have two other minor complaints. I’m disappointed there are almost no rarity shifts, and none on the Amonkhet cards (just an upshift of Hornet Queen and a downshift of Perilous Vault). I’m also annoyed that there are so many reprints of cards already on Arena, eighteen total. Most notably a lot of the UR Spells deck is reprints, and while the glue like Crash Through is understandable, reprinting Enigma Drake instead of Bloodwater Entity makes little sense. However, what’s worse are all the generic cards with plenty of easy replacements—I can understand Mighty Leap if you don’t want to code a usable interface for Act of Heroism, but Life Goes On and Pouncing Cheetah are less understandable.

 

As for my design, I did pretty well for skipping about sixty cards and not calling the out-of-set reprints at all. Overall I got about two-thirds of the set right (64% if you don’t count shifts), which is a decent hit rate, though remasters are much easier to get accurate for obvious reasons.

 

Conclusion:

If you can accept the random inclusions of non-Amonkhet cards (and admittedly a lot of people can’t), there is a lot to like about Amonkhet Remastered. Almost all of the important cards were included, the Limited format feels better at first glance, and it feels like WotC took a lot of care in its design, especially for something likely done on a shoestring budget compared to normal sets (as it isn’t coming out in paper). Presumably Kaladesh Remastered is coming soon, though there is a much more interesting remaster being rumored (though it isn’t clear if that’s for paper or Arena).

 

As for me, Pioneer Masters is probably next, as it’s mostly done and I just need to decide how much extra I want to add to it (and if I want to finish the outline for the second Pioneer Masters to figure out what else is missing). Zendikar Rising also is coming whenever it normally launches, and then I need to figure out whether my next pre-announcement project is Kaladesh Remastered or Time Spiral Remastered—the latter might come out first, but the former is obviously much easier, especially now that we have a template. However, that’s a while away yet (I assume neither will be announced this year unless Kaladesh Remastered is launching Q1 2021, which seems unlikely with Historic Anthology 4 already slotted there), so until then.

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter