It's Amonkhet time! I have mixed feelings. The set looks pretty good and has a cool feel and flavor to it. With that being said, I don't feel blown away by it. I think we are pretty clearly taking a step back from the extremely high power level of Kaladesh block, which is probably smart. I mean, it isn't always great for the game when bannings are necessary.
With that being said, the set looks like it has a lot of interesting modal and grindy things going on. There are a lot of cards that can be played from graveyards and a lot of weird cog-type of cards that look like they could potentially enable new decks and strategies down the line. We may need to wait for the second part of the block to fully realize what is going on.
I think the biggest "bad taste in my mouth" about Amonkhet is that Vehicles and Copy Cat still currently exist and are going to make it very difficult for these new cards to make a serious impact in Standard. I mean, the more I start brewing with the set, the more I realize these cards do not beat Saheeli. There is always a chance that we'll see a ban—but for the time being I'm trying to take in what I see and judge it on its own merits.
There are a lot of obvious powerhouse cards in the set, and for the most part the presale prices reflect the obviousness of these cards. As a finance guy, I rarely care about the good cards out of the gate because they are always heavily inflated by the overwhelming demand.
Instead, I try to focus on cards that feel underappreciated in terms of demand compared to how good they potentially are. Today's article I'm going to give you my side track on the cards that are potentially overlooked and undervalued for the time being.
Mana creatures are always a big deal. In Magic, the only thing that really matters is mana and efficiency. Cards are basically "good" or "bad" based on how they allow players to effectively generate advantage based on mana production. Obviously, it is more complicated than one sentence—but, as a general rule, the best cards are hyper-efficient with regard to how they allow a player to effectively generate and spend mana.
I'm always going to be interested in evaluating a new mana creature. Channeler Initiate is actually pretty decent as far as 2cc mana dorks go. True, two-cost dorks are worse than one-costers, but since there are no one-costers in the format such a comparison doesn't matter.
We can directly compare this card to Servant of the Conduit. Servant has the advantage in an energy-based deck, but Channeler could have lots of applications in other decks. For instance, I might rather play this card in a BG Winding Constrictor deck. I like how in the midgame, once I'm done using it for mana early, it becomes a respectable threat. I could see this card having actual Standard applications. It's pretty cheap right now; it might be worth picking up early on.
In the abstract, this is a powerful Magic card if you can use it to make a slew of 2/2 flying tokens. It generates a ton of card advantage, and those tokens both block and win the game.
I'm looking at interactions with madness or discard outlets. Noose Constrictor's free discard outlet can translate into a lot of Drakes for a pretty cheap cost. I also think this card could do some things in a Modern Grixis deck. Liliana of the Veil, Street Wraith, and Raven's Crime are all potentially abusable ways to generate advantage from the spell.
It's basically a bulk rare but it feels like the kind of card that could be the lynchpin for a new deck. I'm not saying that it will be able to compete with Vehicles or Saheeli. However, if those cards were to magically disappear from the format, something like this could easily become a player. It is a better Magic card than a lot of people are giving it credit for.
Don't ever scoff at a one-drop because they are the bread and butter of Constructed Magic. Dread Wanderer is a potentially good one. It has a couple of things going for it. First, it is pretty decent as far as one-mana 2/1s go. Second, it's creature type of Zombie is relevant.
Relentless Dead is another card that could potentially benefit from some of these new Zombie synergy cards. The deck was really missing a card like this and it could easily become a thing at some point. These are a solid pick-up while they are floating around in the bulk price range for now.
I feel like this card is really powerful. A 4/4 flying haste that can also function as a removal spell. It has kind of a planeswalker vibe going on.
True, it will be tapped down for a turn, but maybe that is good on certain boards. At the very least it is good to have options. I could certainly see this card being better than the very small hype it has gotten.
I also noticed there are quite a few good "Red Deck Wins" cards in the set and this could certainly be a nice top-end finisher for an aggressive red deck. I like that it brings the beats but also has additional value in a grindy game based more on attrition.
At the very least, I could see myself playing this card. At current prices it's potentially underrated and underappreciated.
The ability to generate multiple Rampant Growth effects with one card is nothing to overlook. There is a tension between wanting to have multiple creatures on the battlefield and be ramping which is why the card hasn't blown up yet. Ideally, you'd want enough cheap creatures in play to cast this spell for big value relatively early.
A couple of things to think about:
1. Mana creatures. Harvest Season doesn't require creatures that attack. We can pair it with mana dork creatures like Channeler, Hedron Crawler or Servant of the Conduit, which contribute to a ramp strategy. In this sense, the card actually has some synergy. The question becomes: is this just worse than Explosive Vegetation? The answer depends on how much value we can get.
2. Tokens. One way to generate a lot of value might be to utilize this card in a token-based deck. Since tokens typically come at a rate of two or more creatures from only one card worth of investment, it could be an easy way to generate an absurd amount of value from Harvest Season.
I also see this card as a straight-up Commander staple, especially in token strategies. Foils on this card are probably going to be solid gold.
Never // Return
I don't get why this is a bulk rare. I think it's better than Ruinous Path. The problem with Path is that you want to cast it early to interact with the board and the upside only comes when you draw it super late in the game.
Never // Return can be thrown away early to interact, and the value is waiting for later when you need it. Its also kind of cute that you can Return to exile your opponent's Never // Return. I think this will be a card that sees a lot of play—especially with Gideon such a force in Standard.
I think this card is better than people give it credit for. In case it hadn't crossed your mind, this card is very good with Felidar Guardian. Blinking it for two more tokens and making the Guardian into a 2/5 lifelink is pretty gross.
Regal Caracal is already a good control card and could easily make its way into a Jeskai Saheeli shell. It's also pretty great to copy the Caracal with Saheeli. This is a Constructed card that probably already has a tailor-made shell... Doesn't feel like junk to me.
Shadow of the Grave
I'm not always high on "cog" cards as investments, but this one feels really suspicious. It is the kind of card that exists because you are supposed to build a deck around it.
I've looked through the spoiler and don't feel like the complete deck exists yet—but keep in mind there's will be another set based around cycling cards on the horizon. There is also the chance of some sort of a Legacy Fluctuator deck that could work with this card.
It's also worth noting that this triggers off discard of any kind, which gives the card potential synergy with Seismic Assault or discard-for-value strategies. Clearly a combo card that could be quite powerful somewhere.
Throne of the God-Pharaoh
Last but not least, Throne is another card that I feel could be very real in Standard. It can potentially deal a lot of damage for just two mana. It is kind of like a Hellrider that doesn't die to removal and costs half the mana. The best part of Hellrider was always the pinging ability, and this card provides it on the cheap.
I'm pretty excited about Throne in aggressive decks for Standard. Nobody has talked about it much, but I could see this being quietly one of the most important printings in the set.
I do love to pick cards off the scrapheap to invest in, and today's picks are certainly that logic put into action. As always, the upside is high and the cost tends to be very low. These are the cards that people are not currently looking for and have low starting values, which means there is a lot of room to grow.
I'm looking forward to the prerelease and these are some of the cheap cards that I'll be looking to trade for in the coming weeks. Enjoy the set and the events! Let's hope we have a fun new Standard on the horizon.