Hello everyone! Magic: the Gathering Arena is a truly unique way to play due to the robust digital experience it offers players, especially during a global pandemic. Because of this, Wizards has worked hard on giving us a special type of set to give us something to do: a remastered set! Originally done with Tempest for MTGO, this type of set allows us to revisit a plane outside of a standard release and gives them a chance to re-tweak what’s in a set and adjust rarities for limited balance. The sets that Wizards has chosen to re-release were very well-received in limited and made big waves in standard: Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation! Though I’m sure we all have “fond” memories of RDW with Hazoret the Fervent and just The Scarab God in general, we will be able to prove ourselves amongst the worthy yet again in Amonkhet Remastered! Fortunately, these cards won’t enter Standard again and will instead by injected directly into Historic, where the larger card pool will hopefully keep these cards in check. Today, I’d like to talk about this unique set and the limited archetypes you’ll find in it. Talking about all 10 color combinations would be an insane take (and totally not the first draft of this article...), so we'll break it down between allied colors and enemy colors. With all that being said, let’s get into it!
Before we get into the archetypes, let’s discuss what will be in the set. For starters, the set is comprised of 339 cards, including a digital buy-a-box promo, the vast majority being from Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation (~180 and ~100, respectively). In addition to this, there are 35 lands, 7 for each color (for some reason), two cards from the planeswalker decks (Zealot of the God-Pharaoh and Wasp of the Bitter End), a digital buy-a-box promo in the form of Regal Caracal, and 14 cards from cards outside the block! All of the outside cards are at rare or mythic rare, so hopefully you’ll get to use their power when you hop in!
So how do you go acquire these cards? Well, fortunately, Wizards seems to have learned from Jumpstart by allowing us to buy packs from the store! This allows us better access to the cards permanently. Additionally, you can play limited events up until mid-September in draft or in sealed for a week. This set was largely designed with limited in mind, so it will be perfect for anyone wanting a different experience for a bit. Lastly, you can always just craft the cards with your wildcards if you really need a piece to build a deck.
Another thing to note with this set is that it is essentially Hour of Devastation limited rolled into a single set. That means that most of the archetypes present there carried over but with more options from Amonkhet. In this set, there is almost no form of fixing aside from ramp spells, mana dorks (both of which are in green), and Evolving Wilds, which taps and sacs itself to fetch a basic tapped. That means that this is exclusively a two-color set. I repeat: do not try to go three or more colors. Your mana base will not be good enough to do this. There are only two cards that you would really want to go this route for: Samut, Voice of Dissent to put you in a Naya exert deck and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh for a Grixis cycle/discard deck. The monument cycle is not true ramp in that it only decreases the cost of spells, not give you mana. If you get a bomb rare like Glorybringer or one of the gods, you can consider trying to splash, but you really cannot be a dedicated three or more color deck if you hope to succeed.
Now that we’ve discussed the set at large, let’s dive into the limited archetypes. Each archetype has a signpost uncommon selected from either original set (Amonkhet has more representation in this area) and can be built with reasonable efficiency. When talking about the archetypes, I’ll only be focusing on the commons and uncommons, as this is what your deck will primarily be built from (rares and mythic rares will get their own section). For the sake of this article, I’ll be showing the Arena cards so we can get familiar with some new rarities except for the aftermath cards, which will require their original forms to be legible. So, let’s start from the top with:
So our first signpost uncommon here tells us that this color pair is all about getting creature tokens onto the battlefield and giving them some benefits. Fortunately, Amonkhet block introduced two new keywords to help out with this: embalm (which Aven Wind Guide has itself) and eternalize. In case you’re not familiar with the mechanics, here’s how they work: a creature in the graveyard with either embalm or eternalize can create a zombie token of itself with no mana cost by exiling the card and paying the ability’s cost at sorcery speed. Embalmed tokens are white zombie creature tokens of the original creature while eternalized tokens are 4/4 black zombie creature tokens. This allows you to get some serious late-game reach out of your dead creatures to help out-value the opponent.
The Ranks of the Dead
So these are the brave warriors who will be honorably serving the God-Pharaoh even after they have fallen! Most of these creatures are rather mediocre even at the rate you play them when they’re alive, but do a great job adding to the board once the game has gone on for long enough. Even if they’re milled or discarded into the graveyard, they can still present a threat in the late-game should you get there. However, an important thing to note is that this deck doesn’t just care about embalmed or eternalized tokens; it cares about all of them!
Living Token Generators
Here are some additional ways to generate tokens in this deck at the lower rarities. It is unfortunately centered in white, so you may want to have white be your primary color. Another downside is that all the tokens created by these cards already have vigilance, making the signpost uncommon a bit worse in this regard (flying is still worth it in its own right, though). Start//Finish is the most unique of the bunch in that you can only cast the first half, so take that into consideration.
The biggest payoff for going this route is, of course, the signpost uncommon. The ability to give all your tokens vigilance and flying is huge and can help end games if your opponent can’t deal with it efficiently. Vizier of the Anointed is a specific payoff for embalm and eternalize and rewards you a card every time you do (a shame he doesn’t have that himself). Anointer Priest can help a little bit, but probably won’t come up too much.
The best card for this deck by far is Anointed Procession. The ability to double your creature tokens is pretty back-breaking for your opponent, as you’ll soon be able to outdo them 2-1. A similar sentiment can be held for God-Pharaoh’s Gift, which can turn all of your dead creatures into eternals in a very Bolas-esque way. Drake Haven is best in another deck, but it does make tokens, which fits the theme. Oketra the True is easy to get online with all your embalmed or eternalized tokens while Crested Sunmare can hopefully start spitting out horse tokens as often as possible. Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun is another great piece of glue that get a lot of damage in over time and can turn on the damage himself once he’s been embalmed. The rest are just rares you can get zombie tokens out of and aid in the synergy of the deck.
One thing to note is that this deck is probably the best place to play big-mana spells such as Pact of Negation and Approach of the Second Sun. They don’t fit the deck in terms of synergy, but this is probably the best deck for them just because of how easy it is for it to go long.
Zenith Flare fans rejoice! Cycling was a mechanic brought back during this block and makes an appearance here! This is a great mechanic that is great on its own and just improves a lot of mediocre cards when used. However, this color pair doesn’t just take advantage of cycling; discarding cards is a subtheme of the color pair, with payoffs rewarding you for doing either or. Unfortunately, there’s nothing as busted as Zenith Flare in this set, so the playing field is a lot more balanced this time around
Similar to Ikoria, if a card has a cycling cost you can pay for, it can be included in the deck for those payoffs. Putting down every cycling card would be too much, so we’ll instead look at the cards that allow us to discard ourselves instead.
Abandonment of Knowledge (Self Discard)
As you can see, there are ways to discard yourself in this format, but they’re not very abundant. It will mostly be from looting, rummaging, or suboptimal self-discard effects (Hazoret’s Monument aids in playing red creatures, after all). Overall, the blue effects will be much more attractive for this deck’s purposes, as they can help advance the game plan more efficiently.
Fortunately for this color pair, there are a lot of nice payoffs for discarding or cycling across the colors. The only card that doesn’t care about discarding is Vile Manifestation, all other payoffs care for both aspects. Countervailing Winds is not upfront about how it cares, but basically gets better the more you cycle and discard as it loads up your graveyard. Overall, you get a nice suite of effects for cycling and discarding to help round out the deck.
Luckily for this color pair, there are a plethora of rares that help turn the deck online and get you the win. Curator of Mysteries, Drake Haven, Archfiend of Ifnir, Shadow of the Grave, and Hollow One all have certain payoffs for cycling or discarding, all of which are attractive reasons to do so. Curator of Mysteries, Nimble Obstructionist, Archfiend of Ifnir, and Hollow One also have cycling themselves if you need it in a pinch, with the obstructionist being a counterspell when you do. Champion of Wits and Pull from Tomorrow are good ways to get discarding going while Abandoned Sarcophagus is an interesting way to get more value out of cycled stuff. If there is a deck for Kefnet, the Mindful, it’s this one, as it’s easy to hold onto more cards than usual to get him online. New Perspectives helps in this regard as well, making your cycling costs go to zero by meeting Kefnet’s requirements.