Hey everyone! Last time, I talked about all the allied color pair archetypes present in Amonkhet Remastered limited, and today I want to finish off with the enemy color pairs. I don't want to waste much time, so let's get into it!
Black/White: Tribal Zombies
Here we have the only true tribal archetype in the set: zombies! While zombies are almost always in black (they are its representative race, after all), Amonkhet is the first set to feature the tribe in white. This comes from the mummies of the plane, which are fallen initiates who failed to pass all the trials. This color pair has a lot simpler synergies than the rest of the set. To qualify as good, all a card has to do is be a zombie or a zombie payoff.
Legions of Undead
Here are all the zombies you can find at the common and uncommon rarities. Most of the creatures are in black, so it may be beneficial to have a heavier bent towards that color. The creatures with embalm or eternalize, as well as Doomed Dissenter, while not zombies at first, will soon join the ranks of the dead at a later due to their abilities, so they are counted in here. Other cards do have certain synergies with their fellow undead (which will be discussed later) while others will just benefit. The sheer amount of creatures in the color pair is what gives it staying power, as you’ll have no trouble amassing an army of the undead for your cause (and no, I’m not talking about the “amass” mechanic).
The Boon of Undeath
There are quite a few payoffs for going this route, all of which are attractive in their own right. Binding Mummy can get problematic artifacts or blockers out of the way for a turn, Unconventional Tactics can buy itself back, and Wayward Servant drains the opponent for one all whenever another zombie ETBs on your side. In Oketra’s Name is an OK pump spell and gets marginally better with the zombies. Lord of the Accursed is an actual lord that can also give all your zombie menace, which can be pretty great with the boost it gives them. Marauding Boneslasher actually has downside without another undead friend, so it becomes a great blocker whenever you need it when conditions are met.
Most of the rares in this archetype are in black, so it furthers the black bent. Crested Sunmare can be a bit of a stretch but can be turned online with Wayward Servant. Liliana’s Mastery is a lording enchantment that comes with two bodies, while Dread Wanderer is a zombie itself. Never//Return is a great card in this format, with Never removing a problematic creature or planeswalker and Return possibly turning said card into a zombie. Speaking of which, God-Pharaoh’s Gift is also great in that it can give all your dead creatures some brand new life and can even zombify your previously alive stuff! Finally, Liliana, Death’s Majesty is an incredible planeswalker with all three abilities being relevant to your game plan. Getting a body as a plus is very nice, while reanimating a thing works very well too. Her ultimate will mostly be a one-sided wrath that will often end the game on the spot.
Red/white isn’t having any surprises in this format. This archetype is all about one thing: turning stuff sideways. Honored Crop-Captain is a good indicator of this philosophy, giving all other attacking creatures a small power boost. I, personally, am not the biggest fan of this type of deck in limited, as the lack of refueling options is limited and you’re likely to run out of gas. Still, this deck can do well and out-aggro opponents well, especially with all the exert stuff in red and white.
So here are a load of cheap creatures you can put into your deck to try and aggro an opponent out. Some cards, like Nimble-Blade Khenra and Sacred Cat, are better in other decks, but their low mana costs means that they can be played alongside everything else to increase your board. The goal is to go very wide to take advantage of the captain’s ability while also being spread out enough to make blocking everything very difficult. However, all of these cheap creatures can’t do much on their own, so they’re going to have to be helped out in some way to stay alive or at least trade in combat easier. One thing to think about is that all of these lower costing spells may allow you to drop your land count to put more damage in. You will need enough lands to get your spells out consistently, but bear in mind that you are not mana hungry and can trim down easier when you want.
There are quite a few cards that can get your creatures to hit harder in this set. In Oketra’s Name, Trial of Solidarity, Pursue Glory, Honored Crop-Captain and Shefet Dunes are all weaker mass pump spells, with Trial of Solidarity being the best of the bunch giving the biggest boost. Meanwhile, Mighty Leap, Unconventional Tactics, Brute Strength, and Onward//Victory are all individual pump spells that have bigger bonuses. It would be best to target creatures that will either trade in combat or hit the opponent directly harder. You can try and survive combat (which is recommended with the captain) but those would probably be better uses for them.
Other cards that can help the deck can be divided into two categories: things that help go wide (i.e. token generators) and other combat enablers. Cartouche of Solidarity and Supply Caravan give you an extra body when they comes into play (the latter of which only does so when you have a tapped creature and, trust me, you will have at least one), Steward of Solidarity can exert itself to give a body, and Oketra’s Monument spits a token out whenever you cast a creature spell. While not great bodies, it can apply a lot of pressure to your opponent, to block so many creatures, especially with a mass pump spell. The combat enablers are less cohesive. Djeru’s Resolve is a damage preventer that can save a creature from dying in case you swing with something too early or the opponent has a trick of their own. Cartouche of Zeal and Pathmaker Initiate prevent a creature from being blocked while Bloodlust Inciter can do this to a creature every turn and is probably better doing that than attacking itself. All of this aids the deck from the immediate drawbacks it can have and make it more playable.
Fortunately for this deck, there are a lot of rares to help the deck out. Crested Sunmare will add to your board by churning out horse tokens whenever you gain life. Dusk//Dawn can mostly be a one-sided board wipe since your board will mostly be so small while getting your dead creatures a bit later on. Glory-Bound Initiate can hit really hard when you exert it and potentially swing your life totals by four points. Both Oketra, the True and Hazoret, the Fervent are playable in this deck, but for different reasons. Oketra can increase the side of your board with her ability while Hazoret is more likely to get online naturally just by you playing out your hand faster than usual. Chandra, Pyromaster and Earthshaker Khenra also fulfill similar roles in getting opposing creatures unable to block with Chandra’s plus ability and the khenra’s ETB. Chandra also has a great zero ability for this deck, steadily refueling your hand when you get low. Combat Celebrant is amazing in this deck, allowing you to get in another attack when it exerts. It’s own toughness means it’s not likely to survive, but that extra attack could be all you need. Insult//Injury is best used for the Insult half, giving your board pseudo-double strike. Throne of the God-Pharaoh is also good here, as you’re very likely to have tapped creatures and can close out a game late enough. Probably the most important rare to have is Leave//Chance. There are two cards that absolutely ruin this deck: Sweltering Suns and especially Anger of the Gods. Both cards do three to the board and will likely kill off everything you have, with the latter exiling it. Leave is an excellent solution to this by bouncing everything to hand and saving your board. Overall, I’m still not a fan of this go wide strategy when it can be easy to pick apart with removal or blockers, but there are a lot of options to make sure you can kill your opponent before that happens.
One of Nizzahon’s favorite birbs in all of Magic, this signpost tells us that we want to sink mana into things and do so as quickly as possible. Original Amonkhet block was designed before Simic colors went off the rails, so this is a much more balanced card than some of its successors. While this set doesn’t have a lot of color fixing, there are a lot of ways to ramp and get to those big spells early.
Preparing for the Show
There are a lot of ramp in this format, though it all has some stipulations. The monuments, while decreasing costs, are not true ramp pieces, as they don’t add mana, just decrease costs. Beneath the Sands, Oashra Cultivator, and Spring//Mind are actual ramp spells that get lands (the cultivator has to sac herself to get the same effect), while Hope Tender, Naga Vitalist, and Oasis Ritualist are mana dorks (Hope Tender more fixes your mana when not exerted, but can ramp when necessary). Shefet Monitor is the oddest of the bunch, as it cycles for a more expensive ramp while also drawing you a card. All of this leads to a pretty standard ramp package, so what’s left except to see what we’re ramping into. For the purposes of this set, we’ll say anything five mana and above is counted as a something to ramp into because of River Hoopoe’s activated ability.
Big and Scary Monsters
There is a nice suite of monsters to choose from when building this deck. However, some cards, such as Cryptic Serpent and Ominous Sphinx, are much better in other decks and just happen to have a high mana cost (I’m sure you won’t mind getting them early, though). Additionally, River Hoopoe is rather cheap to cast, but has a rather expensive activated ability that is nicer the earlier you can get it. Overall, the rest of the things here are just good cards that you would like to get sooner rather than later.
Most of the rares for this color pair take advantage of the extra mana lying around, either by costing a lot of mana or by having an X casting cost. Instead, let’s look at the rares that are a bit more interesting than just that. Pact of Negation is a zero cost counter that requires a hefty cost at your next upkeep. Luckily, this deck can generate a lot of mana quickly, so that cost shouldn’t be too hard to handle. Hour of Promise is a rare ramp piece that incentivizes you to get deserts to get those additional zombies, making deserts an attractive option for this deck. Rhonas the Indomitable may seem like a strange include, but remember that he requires something with power four or greater to start getting online, which a lot of big mana creatures are. Overall, there are a lot of ways to get mana early and a lot of things to spend it on, so it looks like a good deck to try out.
Red/blue is another consistent player here in that it asks to be playing a lot of noncreature spells for your game plan to work. Enigma Drake is a familiar piece from recent standards and can grow huge when in the right deck. It probably won’t get so huge in limited, but it can still be an aggressive flyer in the air. Now, obviously, this deck wants to be playing as many noncreature spells as you can get, so it would be insane to list them all here. Essentially, if the spell is not a creature, see if you can afford to run it (bonus points from the signpost uncommon if it’s an instant or sorcery). This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run creatures at all but bear in mind that your creature count may be a bit lower than usual to get some additional benefits. Ideally, you’d like to have those noncreature spells be removal spells or draw spells but use whatever you think will further your needs the most.
So here is our group of cards that care about noncreature stuff. Spellweaver Eternal, Nimble-Blade Khenra, and Thorned Moloch all have prowess, which gives them temporary boost based on the number of noncreature spells you cast during a turn. Riddleform, Seeker of Insight, Firebrand Archer, and Magmaroth each have different effect whenever you cast a noncreature spell, with Riddleform becoming a 3/3 sphinx, the seeker being able to tap to loot, the archer pinging an opponent, and Magmaroth getting rid of -1/-1 counters. Cryptic Serpent and Enigma Drake break from the other payoffs in that they care specifically about instants and sorceries. While the majority of your noncreature spells will be either one of these, you won’t get anything from them when casting anything else, which is kind of a bummer.
Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of good rares or mythics to power up the deck aside from just good rare or mythic noncreature spells. Commit//Memory is a decent removal spell and can reload your hand later in the game. Refuse//Cooperate can damage an opponent based on what they’re playing and later clone a spell. Chandra, Pyromaster is less than ideal for this deck, but her ultimate is insane if you can get to it. Soul-Scar Mage has prowess himself and will turn any damage spells you have onto creatures into permanent -1/-1 counters before he starts attacking himself. Finally, this is the only deck The Locus God really fits in, both due to its mana cost and the likelihood of drawing extra cards. This is a tried and true archetype that experienced players will be familiar with when piloting.
Black/Green: -1/-1 Counters
The final archetype in Amonkhet Remastered has to deal with the mechanic of -1/-1 counters. The idea for this mechanic is that the initiates would do so much to their bodies that they will be permanently injured from all the training and have lasting consequences. Putting these on creatures can seriously diminish their viability for players, as they become less effective at everything. While it is possible to kill creatures with them, it’s probably better to use as a way to negate creatures into oblivion instead so your stuff will have an easier time getting through.
Ways to Pass the Pain
Here are all the ways to get counters onto your opponent’s stuff. Most of it is locked away in black, but it doesn’t necessary mean it’ll be your primary color (more on that in a bit). Additionally, some of the cards are rather narrow in how they do this. Cartouche of Ambition, Splendid Agony,Obelisk Spider, and Ifnir Deadlands are pretty straightforward, with all but the spider doing so as an effect (though the deadlands does require you sac a desert); all the spider needs to get going is to attack and damage a creature. Festering Mummy has to die to get counters on something (which shouldn’t be too hard due to its stats) and Stinging Shot can only do this to flyers. Ruthless Sniper and Quarry Hauler are different in that the sniper can only give counters when you cycle and may not be best in this deck while the hauler has a proliferate-like ability by giving something more counters when it ETBs. This isn’t exclusive to just -1/-1 counters, but make sure you have something to add onto when you cast it.
An interesting thing about this color pair is that you don’t necessary want to put the counters on your opponent’s stuff exclusively. There are cards that exclusively put -1/-1 counters on your stuff for various reasons, so we’ll look at those cards right now.
Most of the creatures that put -1/-1 counters are done for balance reasons. Cards like Baleful Ammit and Exemplar of Strength are just too powerful for their mana costs and need a downside. However, this isn’t all for not. There are some payoffs for doing this despite the overall nature of doing it at all.
Gain from the Pain