Welcome back readers! The Amonkhet set draws inspiration from ancient Egypt so it seems appropriate that it bears a lot of eternal potential with it. This set has me pretty excited as I think we will see some cards greatly alter the eternal landscapes. Now I will start by saying that I am an avid fan of Modern, Legacy, and Commander my knowledge regarding vintage is extremely limited, so rather than make any type of guesstimate I will simply not analysis cards with regards to their vintage capabilities (though I may allude to potential when the card's power level is high enough). So without further ado let's begin.
This has to be my favorite card from the set. This is another in a line of strong "hate bears" from WoTC. What's particularly interesting about this one is that it's red instead of white (which typically gets the "hatebear" cards). This is the type of card that can fit into an aggressive deck or aggro/control style deck. We have heard a lot about this cards from quite a few players (Craig Wescoe wrote an interesting piece on it on TCGplayer). The ability on him affects a LOT of cards that are currently played in eternal formats including;
- Fetchlands- The most obvious of all, but the fact that if you jam this guy on turn 2 in modern and your opponent doesn't have a removal spell for him immediately there's a high likelihood they will have to take 5 (or more) damage the next turn OR slow themselves down a lot as the act of fetching will now deal your opponent 3 damage (and if they need an untapped shock it's another 2). Obviously in Legacy the opponent will just take the 3, but that's still significant as it's over 10% of your starting life total.
- Sensei's Divining Top- As a die-hard Miracles player this guy definitely concerns me. The key to miracles is to use your life as a resource until you can lock your opponent out of the game or gain massive card advantage with a well timed Terminus (and then lock them out of the game). The fact that every activation of Top will cost you 2 life (let alone you looking at the top 3 AND then tapping to draw will cost you 4 life) and the fact that this creature also swings for 2 means that using your life (as a resource) will deplete a lot faster than it used to, which means you may not be able to stabilize.
- Modern Lantern Control- This card wrecks modern lantern control as it can come down before they can start locking the opponent out of the game and each one of the "mill one" artifacts will cost them 2 life per activation. A little part of me wonders if WoTC just hates that deck and this card was created as a nice "screw you" to the pilots of it.
- Griselbrand- Most decks that abuse Griselbrand use their life as a resource to set up some sort of game winning kill. The fact that each activation costs an additional 2 life with this on the field means that the math shifts slightly (and that matters). For example, if your opponent is playing modern Grishoalbrand and uses 3 life or more before getting Griselbrand on the battlefield than they will only be able to activate the card draw once as you can't subtract 9 (7 +2 life from the mentor) more than once from 17.
- Arcbound Ravager- For those who might have forgotten Ravager's ability gets hit by this card too and the days of activating Inkmoth Nexus and swinging with the team and then sacrificing around blocks is gone.
- Viscera Seer- This card also really harms the Abzhan CoCo decks in modern as now if you try to go off with Kitchen Finks instead of gaining infinite life all you get is a bunch of scry's and whatever life you started with.
- Equipping deals damage as well.
As you can see this card has effects a LOT of different cards which means it is likely to make a pretty big impact on eternal formats. They even made it a human so it can enjoy all the additional synergies associated with the Human tribe.
I'll be the first to admit that this card made me giddy when I saw it spoiled (and I even misread it thinking that you could only cast spells with CMC X (not X or less). The power level blows my mind and I honestly see this card creating an archetype in modern; how good that archetype is, I don't know yet but I'm working on it. Every time we get a card that allows us to cheat on mana and/or cast things for free we need to pay special attention to it. It's also important to note that the way it's worded allows you to cast suspend spells with it, which given how powerful some of the "free ones" are we will now be able to cast Black Lotus[card] via [card]Lotus Bloom, Ancestral Recall via Ancestral Visions, and Wheel of Fortune via Wheel of Fate all 3 of which are restricted in freakin' Vintage. Sure we are limited to casting them at sorcery speed (since none of the 3 suspend versions are instants), BUT thanksfully WoTC has created cards that allow one to cheat on that requirement as well (Leyline of Anticipation). Now at least it is limited to once per turn (though obviously if everything in your deck has flash you can also cast these things on your opponents turn).
I know what you are thinking, how does a card that says "you lose the game" make this list. But hear me out. This is not one of those ubiquitous "it goes in anything that can support it" type of cards, but what it offers is a way for non-blue decks (that play red) to interact with all in combo decks which is something they haven't had before. Normally in the Burn vs Storm matchup, the Burn player has to just do their thing and hope that the Storm player draws poorly. More often than not "one more turn" is all the red aggro/burn decks need to win the game and the fact that you can cast this in their upkeep to essentially time walk your opponent means it might honestly fit in additional fast aggro decks as long as they can kill fast enough.
Gideon of the Trials
I bring Gideon up because the Emblem can be used in multiple combos (especially with Ad Naseum) and the fact that one can make an Emblem and then use him to prevent damage from a single permanent,which can force an opponent to over commit, or turn into a threat that ends the game in 5 turns (or less depending on life totals). I think modern Ad Naseum players will at least try him as an alternate to say Phyrexian Unlife because despite the fact that Gideon is harder to cast the benefit of an alternate win condition (like say if they happen to have Leyline of Sanctity in play) might just be worth the extra bit of hassle.
This card reminds me a lot of Monastary Swiftspear which has definitely found a home in both modern and legacy burn decks. Prowess is a powerful mechanic on a cheap red aggro creature and the pseudo "whither" effect is also incredibly useful as one of the biggest problem burn decks face is when the opponent drops a brick wall like Tarmogoyf forcing the burn player to Abyssal Specter themselves every turn or sit back and do nothing waiting to go over the top of said brick wall. Turning noncombat damage burn spells into a way to make these brick walls passable comes in handy. Now unlike Swiftspear this one doesn't come with haste (which is a big deal), so I don't know if it will see as much play (or could be a sideboard card for these red aggro decks when they need to go longer against midrange), but I definitely expect players to try it out and I won't be surprised if it finds a home in an eternal deck.
I'll be honest I haven't heard a lot of chatter about this one on the forums (heck how many of you even knew it was in the set) but this is a color shifted (and arguably more appropriate) Unstable Mutation which was a key card in a lot of blue flyer aggro decks back in Magic's early days. Now we have more ways than ever to remove -1/-1 counters and the fact of the matter is if you can dump this on an unblocked creature you get 6 extra damage (over 3 turns) for 1 red mana, that's efficiency right there. It also happens to trigger prowess so you can do a whole lot of damage with something like turn 1 Goblin Guide turn 2 Monastery Swiftspear+ Consuming Fervor ) which assuming they can't do anything about it means they will be at best 11 on turn 2.
It seems mono red is getting a lot of love in this set, though I admit this one is much lower on the totem than the previously mentioned cards. Most players see this one as part of the turn 3 standard kill, but the fact that the pump comes at no mana cost and it has menace (making it easier to get through) still seems like there is some potential here, granted most red aggro decks aren't wanting to just discard cards, though it is important to remember that the Bloodrush mechanic involves discarding a card to pump..so you get a little extra boost for your Bloodrush.
Shadow of the Grave
Honestly my first thought on this card was that maybe we would see the old Fluctuating Death deck come to legacy (for those who don't know the deck revolved around using Fluctautor and all the 2 mana cycling creatures from Urza's Saga to dig through ones deck and fill one's graveyard and then playing a Living Death (often on turn 3 with the help of Dark Ritual) to have a giant battlefield (and typically wipe one's opponents creatures as well, basically the original deck that modern's Living End deck has copied. The problem the deck had before was that all the cycling lands came into play tapped so in order to maximize your ability to find your Living Death you had to play a lot of CIPT lands (which then of course slowed you down). The benefit of Shadow of the Grave is that by being able to re-use cyclers one could reduce the number of cycling lands needed in the deck and thus play more lands that don't enter tapped and speed up the deck by a turn or 2. Even if this doesn't happen, the ability to return a bunch of cards from your graveyard to your hand at instant speed for 2 mana (only one of which is color dependent) is still very powerful and not to be ignored.
Zombie decks always seem to be "make or break" based on how readily available repeated recursion abilities are. This one requires more mana than usual, but the fact that it is again a Zombie means that it can turn on Gravecrawler and of course it can also trigger Prized Amalgam. I personally feel like Zombie decks are just a bit too slow (and usually too fair) for eternal formats, but one day we may very well likely hit a point in which they are do-able.
Champion of Rhonas
I'll be honest and admit I don't think this one has a really high probability of finding a home in eternal formats, but the ability is incredibly powerful (again cheating on mana has typically led to WoTC's biggest design mistakes) and green being the color of mana dorks has ways to get this card out quickly (and ideally give it haste). This is one of those cards I don't expect to find a home immediately but if the price drops to $1 or less I will aggressively pick them up (as they are still insanely good in commander).
While at first this might look like a slightly worse Reclamation Sage on account of the fact that it's not an Elf and can't hit enchantments the second ability is the one that sets this card apart. This card shuts down the modern Puresteel Storm deck (by forcing their Mox Opals to come into play tapped and not allowing them to chain Retracts. It's also a 3 drop so it can get hit off of Collected Company and isn't all that bad against Affinity decks.
Throne of the God-Pharaoh
This is definitely a card that can either be "built around" or serve as a great addition to token or swarm style decks. The fact that this triggers on your end step does mean that it has an immediate effect the turn you play it (as it triggers when you end said turn) and it can deal a lot of colorless damage in the right type of deck. It's a 2 drop as well so it has the mana cost of an eternal card. I could definitely see slotting it into maybe a Faeries deck or some sort of B/W Tokens deck in modern.
This isn't related to any one specific card, however, with the return of the cycling mechanic there is always some potential for something busted to come out of it. Cycling adds consistency (by allowing one to draw a new card at the cost of the cycling) and consistency is something pretty much every deck likes. As we've already seen Fluctuator jump from $2.50 to over $10 there is definitely some hype with the return of this mechanic, especially now that we have cycling dual lands.
As I said in the beginning I'm really enjoying this Amonkhet set and I think there are a lot of cards that might have an impact on eternal archetypes. There are some other ones that might, but I had to have a cutoff somewhere (sorry Vizier of Remedies and Devoted Druid), so definitely let me know your thoughts in the comments section.