Welcome to the Amonkhet Limited Set Review! Before we dive into the cards, I’ll make my usual note: The rating on each card is less important than the commentary—the numerical value is more to provide a relative value than to define the card. This is especially true from 2.5-3.5, as those ratings are more contextual than the best or worst cards.
Previous AKH Set Reviews
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa's Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Noxious Gearhulk. Verduous Gearhulk. Aethersphere Harvester.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Untethered Express. Herald of Anguish. Whirlermaker.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Renegade Freighter. Winding Constrictor. Thopter Arrest.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Welding Sparks. Prophetic Prism. Aether Chaser. Daring Demolition.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Dawnfeather Eagle. Scrounging Bandar. Dhund Operative.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Wayward Giant. Leave in the Dust. Countless Gears Renegade.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Bastion Mastodon. Implement of Malice. Highspire Infusion.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Renegade’s Getaway. Reservoir Walker. Watchful Automaton.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Ironclad Revolutionary. Precise Strike.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Take Down. Natural Obsolecence.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Secret Salvage. Lost Legacy. Gonti’s Machinations. Other complicated black cards.)
Creatures with embalm can be recast from the graveyard, in token form. This makes all of them easy 2-for-1s, as long as whatever kills them doesn’t exile or incapacitate them without sending them to the graveyard. It’s a very strong ability, and expect to see high grades across the board for creatures that have it. It also makes bounce/Arrest/exile effects stronger.
Another form of 2-for-1 are the spells that come in two modes, the second of which you cast from the graveyard. These often synergize with each other, and are naturally quite powerful. They don’t require much special analysis, as their strength is largely what’s on the card, on a case-by-case basis.
Cycling is the trickiest of the mechanics, as it adds a ton of power to a card in a somewhat innocuous way. Being able to cash in a card for something new makes the cost of adding cycling cards to your deck very low. Any card with cycling is baseline good, and cheap cycling makes situational cards much more appealing. I’m going to be high on cycling cards because of this, even if I don’t explain it each time. Trading in a card for a new one when the card isn’t useful reduces both mana screw and mana flood, and is a huge shaper of how this format will play out.
Keeping a creature tapped for an extra effect is pretty straightforward. Cards with exert don’t impact the shape of the format all that much, and can be evaluated on their own merits easily. This does make untap effects stronger than they otherwise would be, though.
While not the cream of the crop, this is a 4/4 for 4, which is always a welcome addition. The ability adds a little, as it's useful in a race or with other exert creatures, but most of the power here is in the body.
Aven Wind Guide
This card is fantastic. It's good value by itself and adds a powerful dimension to any deck with tokens. I like when my build-around cards are great on their own, and this is a prime example. If you take this early, you can draft with it in mind, but you don't need to really worry about missing.
Bounty of the Luxa
This is a luxurious bounty indeed. You draw a card or get 3 mana, alternating, and that's a hugely powerful effect for just 4 mana. I'll gladly take a turn off to cast this, and it very neatly gives you extra mana to cast all the extra cards you are drawing.
The -1/-1 counter theme gets a flagship uncommon in Decimator Beetle, which also has the upside of being a great card on its own. Don't expect to get passed these late, as anyone who can cast them will gladly snag the Beetle. It's worth noting that it distributes a -1/-1 counter no matter what, even if it doesn't remove one, which Marshall got wrong in the LR set review.
Limited: 2.0 // 3.5
Outside of a dedicated spells deck, this is a marginal playable. It really only needs 1 spell to be passable, which most blue-red decks can provide. In a spell-heavy deck, this becomes awesome, and will just be a huge under-costed flyer.
Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons
Hapatra takes a little work, but she really pays you off for it. By herself, she won't get through very easily, so her power is largely based on being able to place -1/-1 counters with other cards. Getting just one Snake makes her good, and any more than that makes her insane. I'd be glad to pick this poison early, though she loses some luster later in the Draft.
Assuming you are already red-white, this is a good 2-drop. I wouldn't go into 2 colors early for this—it's not a piece of crop, but it's also nowhere near a bomb. If you are going wide, something that appears difficult here, it gets better, though that's marginal upside for most decks.
Good stats and a useful ability make this an above-rate pick, though another gold card that isn't worth committing for. It's tricky—in a red-green deck, this is a 3.5, but it's not like Decimator Beetle, where I'd first pick it and feel happy committing to 2 colors. Part of that is that it's not splashable, since it's an early aggressive creature, and splashing it defeats the purpose.
Merciless Javelineer really hits the target. It's powerful by itself and makes combat a nightmare for the opponent, while also having additional synergy in the red-black discard deck. It even triggers cards like Ruthless Sniper, and is an excellent way to start a Draft.
Neheb, the Worthy
Neheb is a bit more than worthy, since a 4/2 first strike is a huge beating. It gets in early without too much trouble, which fuels the hand size ability, and later in the game it's not hard to get down to 1 card if you are trying. That's not even looking at other Minotaurs, which makes Neheb even worthier, since you should naturally end up with a couple moo cows in your deck anyway.
Nissa, Steward of Elements
Nissa doesn't protect herself, which is a real drawback on planeswalkers. She does tick up quickly, though, and her 0 ability isn't that hard to hit with. Later in the game, she plays like a Fireball, as playing her for 8 and ulting immediately deals 10 to the opponent. Nissa is a strong card if you can protect her, and threatening late-game, but falls short of being a true bomb.
Samut, Voice of Dissent
Despite looking like a RoboRosewater card, Samut is a bomb in Limited. She ambushes well, bashes for a ton of damage, and makes your other creatures more threatening. I wouldn't worry about activating the white ability—playing her in straight R/G is more than acceptable.
This will play well in most blue-black decks, though if you somehow end up with 0-2 cyclers, it's cuttable. Your opponent won't know what you have, so leaving this back could scare off attacks, even if you are out of cyclers.
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
Temmet is a bear that comes back in a much more threatening form, as he can start targeting himself with his ability. He also makes your other embalm creatures into huge threats, and he's efficient no matter how you use him.
The Zombie decks look pretty good to me, and Wayward Servant attacks early and wraps up the game late. If you are short on Zombies, this obviously becomes much worse, but your opponent doesn't know that, and could use good removal on it.
Weaver of Currents
This is like a better Sol Ring since it can attack and block. Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but this card is very good. It's incredibly good on turn 3, and even later in the game it's useful to have extra mana in this format.
Start // Finish
6 mana to kill any creature and leave a 1/1 behind is playable, and gets way better once you can split the mana cost up over 2 turns.
Reduce // Rubble
I’m not thrilled with a 3-mana Mana Leak, and would rather not be reduced to spending mana to make my opponent’s lands not untap. This is two weak effects stapled together, which doesn’t really get there for me.
Destined // Lead
I like that Destined is a nice combat trick by itself, and combines nicely with Lead. Casting both sides in the same turn is worth saving it for, though you won’t always have that luxury.
Onward // Victory
Onward to my sideboard. This card is just not strong enough, especially given that Victory is at sorcery speed.
Spring // Mind
In a ramp deck, this is worth a slot, as it gives you two effects you are happy with. Outside of that, it’s borderline, as 3-mana acceleration hasn’t traditionally been good, though the 6-mana draw 2 part of the card does protect you against flooding out. Overall this probably will play better than it looks—which is good, because it doesn’t look great.
Prepare to Fight
I’m prepared to first pick this, as it’s a clean 2-for-1 that comes with a bunch of life to boot. I don’t think you'll cast both halves on the same turn all that often, because it’s better to use Prepare as a trick and then later Fight to pick off a creature. It’s hard to find a situation where Prepare lets you survive combat and still have enough toughness left to survive a fight. This also is playable just for Prepare, which means that splashing Fight is a real possibility (whereas most of these cards are just gold cards).
Failure // Comply
Limited isn’t fast enough for cards like this to really shine. This just delays a problem, instead of dealing with it, and most decks won’t be able to close out games before whatever you countered comes back.
Rags // Riches
It’s going to be hard to play with and against this card, and it gets significantly better once you add more removal to the mix. Imagine the opponent with a 5/5 and a 2/2, and you bounce or kill the 2/2 end of turn. Untapping and casting Riches is a beating, and that scenario doesn’t seem unbelievable at all. Plus, the -2/-2 part of the card is powerful already, so this is just a good card all around.
Cut // Ribbons
Cut is a first pick by itself, and getting a win condition for free is just absurd. This looks like a bomb to me, and is not a card I’m going to pass very often.
Heaven // Earth
Heaven is going to get cast for 0 a lot, as Earth is the half of the card that makes the biggest impact (or literally is the biggest impact). This is very powerful, and extremely hard to play around.
(except for Oketra’s Monument, which is a 2.5)
The Monuments are largely bad, which is why I lumped them together. The cost reduction part isn’t worth a card, and the effects on all save Oketra’s Monument are minor enough that I’m not going to include them in my deck.
Edifice of Authority
I have it on good authority that Icy Manipulator is a great card in Limited, and this may even be better. It loses a little bit in aggro decks, as it doesn’t prevent blocking until the fourth use, but it’s still a very powerful removal option.
I don’t want to spend a card to make embalming cheaper, and there isn’t a realistic Zombie mill deck around. All I get from this is that embalmers are tools.
Gate to the Afterlife
Non-token means that this isn’t even good in the sacrifice deck, and as Marshall and I found out when we fruitlessly looked for God-Pharoah’s Gift on the set review, that card doesn’t exist yet.
This is too low impact for me to be happy about including it, though it does make a fine 23rd card. There are also matchups where you know what the stats that matter are, and making your 2/3s beat their 3/3s could be worth a card if that interaction comes up a lot.
Luxa River Shrine
1 life is too little, and 2 life takes too long to get working. I don’t want to spend this much mana on a pure life gain spell.
I’m in for a slow card advantage machine. The first couple activations may not net you much, though hitting lands is always sweet. Once you get enough brick counters, you stop bricking, and start playing awesome things for free.
Pyramid of the Pantheon
Team Pantheon found some nice digs for the next Pro Tour, though hopefully they find something better than this card to play with. I don’t like losing mana for 3 turns to eventually gain mana, and it would take a lot of expensive cards and many colors before I’d consider this.
Throne of the God-Pharaoh
These artifacts are pretty anemic. If you have a ton of tapped creatures, you are probably winning anyways, and this doesn’t help when you are behind or even at parity.
Watchers of the Dead
If you need an easy-to-cast 2/2, this is your card. Otherwise, you are barking up the wrong tree, as the ability is just a blank.
These are solid picks if you are both colors, and playable even if you’re just one of the two. I wouldn’t take them over premium removal, but they are better than average commons.
I’m not envisioning the wacky decks that this fuels being any good, but at least it’s indestructible.
Cradle of the Accursed
If your mana is great, this is a marginal playable. In a normal deck, it’s not worth the risk of getting color-screwed, as a random 2/2 isn’t a big payoff. I’d largely avoid this.
Not a high pick unless you are 3 colors, but I’d always play it in a 2-color deck.
This is an effect that's worth a little risk, especially in a -1/-1 counter deck.
Please, do not play Shimmering Grotto, no matter how prettily it’s been painted. Paying an extra mana for your spells is just not worth it.
Unless you are literally mono-color, this is not remotely playable.