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.
So here we have probably the least cohesive color pair of the set. This color pair was much more synergistic with original Amonkhet block and kind of got a bit shafted in this remaster. Originally, this color pair focused on discarding yourself down to one or fewer cards in hand to get some additional payoffs. Called “heckbent” by the community based on the old Dissension mechanic hellbent, the deck would have ways to getting your hand size down with both cheap creatures and discard effects to get the most benefit out of the deck. However, this proved to be extremely dominant in both constructed and limited, with Hazoret, the Fervent being one of the best cards around. Despite this nerfing, red and black have a lot of powerful cards in them that don’t need too much help to be good (especially red), so going the route of red/black “good stuff” with a “heckbent” backend is probably the best place for the deck.
Unfortunately, here are the only ways to self-discard in this format, with Burning-Fist Minotaur and Merciless Javelineer being the only consistent ways to do this. Additionally, the same black discard payoffs from the previous deck are still applicable and won’t be discussed further. One interesting thing to do with all the self-discard is to pitch aftermath cards into the bin to get the aftermath effects. Ideally, you want to cast both halves, but getting value out of these cards isn’t the world plan.
As for actual “heckbent” cards, there exists only one at the lower rarities: Thresher Lizard. For these purposes, it’d be better to go for a good stuff strategy to make a good deck.
Let’s be honest: if you went into this deck, there’s a good chance you got Hazoret, the Fervent. It’s the best self-discard engine in a very long time, and faster you can get her attacking, the better. Archfiend of Ifnir, Dread Wanderer, Shadow of the Grave, and Hollow One were already discussed and fulfill the same role here. Cut//Ribbons is a key example of a good aftermath card for the deck: it’s preferable to cast both halves, but not a bad discard target. Neheb, the Worthy can take the deck in another direction of minotaur tribal if you can get it going, while The Scorpion God synergizes with the signpost uncommon very well and is just a great card overall.
Red/Green: Thicc Bois (Trample Tribal)
Red/green goes with the tried and true strategy of getting big creatures onto the battlefield and swinging hard. Khenra Charioteer makes the deck much more attractive by giving everything you have trample, annihilating chump blockers and allowing you to get in more damage at a time. To really utilize trample, a creature has to be big enough to really walk past bigger creatures, so having some bigger creatures on the curve will make the deck really shine.
So this set tends to count creatures with power 3 or greater to count as big enough, so just look towards that power as a good indicator for what to shoot for. Note that the creatures that give minus counters, such as Crocodile of the Crossing and Defiant Greatmaw will be problematic by shrinking your creatures and making them hit lighter, which defeats the purpose. Putting them on a sacrificial lamb of sorts is doable but be careful you don’t end up killing it too early. Another area to be wary of is the costs of some of the creatures. A lot of them have larger mana costs, so it may be helpful to ramp into them or to have some more defensive early drops to survive until you get your bigger threats.
Fortunately, there are other ways to make creatures big enough to make trample really matter in this deck, so let’s take a look at them.
As you can see here, there are quite a lot of ways to grow your creatures in this set. Some, such as Burning-Fist Minotaur and Hooded Brawler only pump themselves while others do so when either cast or certain conditions are met. Cartouche of Strength gives the weakest buff but gives trample while also acting as removal while Crash Through is a good trick to give when your board is very tall.
There are a plethora of good rares and mythics that can give your deck an edge against your opponent. The best cards by far are Insult//Injury and Mouth//Feed. Insult is the better half of the card, as it can let your board smash through with ease and kill just about whatever your opponent has, while Feed is an excellent card draw piece that, in this deck, could refill your entire hand in the idea situation. Some of the creatures, such as Neheb, the Worthy and Combat Celebrant are big on their own while the eternalize ones do so in the late game. Sandwurm Convergence, though better in a different deck, nonetheless spits out some huge wurm tokens for the late game to keep adding to your board. Majestic Myriarch, while needing a bit of help to get big, can get a suite of abilities from the rest of your board and is a great include overall. Rhonas the Indomitable fits in extremely well in this deck, as it may not need any help to become usable. Both versions of Samut are the oddest inclusions. Her creature card has a suite of keywords as well as giving your board haste. While you would have to splash white to get her activated ability, it may be worth it, as you don’t have to jump through any hoops to cast her naturally. Her planeswalker card doesn’t necessary synergize with the deck well, but it is in her colors, so this is the place to use her if you get the chance.
Unlike traditional Selesnya color archetypes, Amonkhet Remastered has a much more aggro-focused game plan by trying to get all your exert abilities going consistently. If you don’t remember, here’s how exert works: whenever a creature attacks or taps for an ability, you may exert that creature (the card will say which action to do this in). If you do, you get an additional benefit to that action, but you don’t get to untap that creature naturally during your next untap step. For example, if you exert Ahn-Crop Champion here when he attacks, you get to untap all your board for no mana but at the cost of him staying tapped during your next untap step. The flavor here is that the people of Amonkhet are trying so hard in their trials that they go above and beyond for a little bit but have to rest due to the exhaustion and stress it puts on them. It’s s nice way of painting the fervor in which the people are trying to overcome the trials and, later, surviving Bolas’s onslaught of the plane. Now that it’s been explained, let’s see who will go above and beyond in this color pair.
The Greatest Warriors
Wizards seems to have really enjoyed this mechanic, because there are a slew of things to exert. Three creatures, Steward of Solidarity, Hope Tender, and Oasis Ritualis exert in non-attacking ways while the rest of the creatures all have some combat benefit when done, mostly in the form of increased stats. One thing about exert is that it’s a self-rewarding mechanic; the payoff for using exert is exerting creatures. However, there are some bits and ends that can help the deck become more consistent in other ways.
Odds and Ends
There’s only one way to grant your team vigilance in this set from Trial of Solidarity (which is a great include for this deck), so the rest of these cards try to work around this or give some benefit to the fact that they’re tapped. Dauntless Aven, Djeru’s Resolve, and Initiate’s Companion all straight up untap a creature under certain circumstances (though how you’ll be able to get the cat to do this is beyond me). Vizier of Deferment can flash in to blink a creature, thus coming into play untapped. Supply Caravan straight up does none of this and instead gives you an extra body if you have something on the battlefield that’s tapped (which, in this deck, is very likely).
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many rares to go with this color pair. Both Glory-Bound Initiate and Champion of Rhonas all exert themselves for some pretty nice effect. Pride Sovereign is similar to Neheb, the Worthy in that you could go a different route with the color pair and go cat tribal. This would be your only payoff for going that route, however, as Regal Caracal was taken out to be the buy-a-box promo. Throne of the God-Pharaoh is best in this deck as it can tack on a lot of damage from all your exerted creatures, helping to close the game. One thing you could also do is splash red for Samut, Voice of Dissent. Her activated ability requires white mana and can help you get past the exert cost on your spells. However, she requires red mana to even cast, so be sure your deck can accommodate that.
And there we go, all of the allied two-color archetypes in Amonkhet Remastered limited. I was really looking forward to this set when it was announced, so I hope this proves helpful whenever you want to give it a try! It’s a great set to draft and I look forward to seeing you on there. Join me next time as we dive into the enemy color pairs. Have a good one, y’all, and may you obtain eternal glory in the afterlife!