Amonkhet is upon us! I got to play one prerelease and a few Drafts—thanks to the early release on Magic Online.
Before jumping into any Drafts, I like to look at every common and uncommon each color, and decipher the plan for each color combination. Nowadays, you can almost just look at the uncommon multicolor card, and it will essentially tell you what the archetype does.
Personally, I dislike that shortcut, because it really takes away a part of the learning process, but I will admit that it makes it easier for newer players to build a more cohesive deck and have fun with it.
With that said, I’m going to give you a little more information than what the multicolor cards of the set tell you by going through all the combinations and describing the key cards.
Exert is the most likely theme you’ll end up with. You’re going to play solid creatures that have the exert ability and that you abuse with untap effects such as Synchronized Strike or more conditional tricks like Djeru’s Resolve and Spidery Grasp that other decks won’t be particularly interested in.
Trial of Solidarity is excellent even without any Cartouchesm, because vigilance is as strong as the untap effects. On top of that, you have access to the best of the Cartouches, Cartouche of Strength, which is essentially Hunt the Weak for 3 mana.
Unlike the past 20 years of Limited, blue-white is not so focused on flyers in this set.
The multicolor Aven Wind Guide encourages you to play embalm creatures to some extent—or other tokens, such as the ones popping out of Oketra’s Monument. Because of embalm you want to trade as much as possible, the complete opposite of a traditional blue-white flyers deck.
If you’re unable to pick up enough embalm creatures, you still have the backdoor tempo deck that will play cards like Decision Paralysis, Open into Wonder, Floodwaters, and solid creatures like Tah-Crop Elite, Gust Walker, and Angler Drake.
This archetype is a little all over the place and hard to grasp, but in the end what matters is finding out around the middle of the Draft whether you’ll be aggressive, tempo, or control to make better pick decisions.
While most Draft decks will have cycling cards, blue-black is the only one that has true payoffs for it. Wander in Death does a nice Divination impression, Pitiless Vizier can’t be beat in combat, and Horror of the Broken Lands is gigantic. Zenith Seeker jumping your River Serpent sounds pretty sweet as well.
Essence Scatter fits nicely here because you can hold it up, and if your opponent decides to play around it, you can spend your mana cycling at end of turn.
Ruthless Sniper is pretty much a bomb in this deck—being able to place a -1/-1 counter every turn will make it really hard for your opponent to ever find profitable attacks.
I have yet to draft this archetype, but it seems to me that the hardest thing to do while drafting will be to balance the amount of durdling you’re doing and affecting the board. Looking at the commons and uncommons, there aren’t many great early creatures you can play. I suspect taking those Dune Beetles and Ancient Crabs will be essential to help you get to your cycling shenanigans.
Red doesn’t really have a theme other than killing your opponent as fast as possible, and the black cards aren’t particularly good at that.
I assume red-black will often be a mish-mash of good cards without any real synergy standing out. The actual synergy that R&D wants us to put together is the new pseudo-hellbent, but the only payoffs are Grim Strider and Thresher Lizard.
I did include Grim Strider above as one of the key black cards to this archetype—yet, I’m not even convinced it’s good. Splendid Agony might as well be a more representative card of the archetype, since I assume you’ll end up a good old-fashioned kill-everything-in-sight red-black deck.
I suggest that you not willingly go into this color combination, but sometimes you just get a ton of good cards and you should be open to receiving them.
The goal here is to play big stupid dudes and give them trample. Khenra Charioteer could not represent this archetype better.
Bloodlust Inciter seems like a nice fit for this deck too, as you won’t have many early drops anyway, so you should probably have one or two of these to catch up when you’re casting 4s and 5s.
Especially with cards like Desert Cerodon and Greater Sandwurm, Naga Vitalist becomes a more reliable piece of ramp since the ability to cycle them incentivizes you to play a higher curve. It can also wear the -1/-1 counters that Ornery Kudu would produce on turn 3.
Cartouche of Strength really is at its best in this deck. I compared it to Hunt the Weak earlier and that was wrong. It’s way better—it gives trample!