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
White | Blue | Black | Green | Gold, Artifacts, and Lands
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.
I feel like I’m going to die to this card a lot. It swings a combat by two creatures, adding itself and removing their best blocker, which often will mean that untapping doesn’t matter. This is great for any aggressive deck, though I’d probably just run it in anything but the most controlling deck.
Assuming you are in the market for a 2/2 for 2, you could do worse. I don’t really believe there’s a deck that chains a bunch of exert creatures together, but if you have multiple exert creatures, this does get a little better.
This looks like purely sideboard material, and not even hot stuff at that. There just aren’t that many tokens or 1-toughness creatures running around.
I’m sure this will incite plenty of discussion, but 1/1s for 1 with marginal abilities just aren’t good. This is a heinous topdeck, and not a card I ever plan on casting.
Speaking of inciting rage, losing to this card is going to be frustrating. When you have the answer, it’s a blowout, but a 4/3 on turn 2 demands an answer quickly. This also isn’t a drawback with an empty hand, and the red deck that thrives on having a small hand will gladly run this. This is a high-variance card, but on balance a good one—the payoff is worth the risk.
I prefer combat tricks that let my creatures survive, and this won’t always do that, but it does push through a ton of damage. I like this in aggressive decks, but I’m not very impressed with it outside of that.
Technically, this is a sideboard card against artifacts, but I highly doubt you will ever be forced to bring this in. There just aren’t that many artifacts, and most of them seem quite bad.
Cartouche of Zeal
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
This gets a split rating because it’s either wildly unplayable (in midrange or control) or a huge beating (in aggressive decks). Building your own Ahn-Crop Crasher is a profitable move, and this will swing games easily. As long as you make sure you are the beatdown, you’ll want to include this.
Combat Celebrant is a sweet card, but not quite a bomb. It will often die the first time it attacks, so exert away, and it might get you an extra couple damage if you have another attacker or two. Where it gets really gross is when you stack it up with effects like Cartouche of Zeal, and prevent the opponent from blocking. If you can get even 4 extra damage from the trigger, this is a beatdown, and you aren’t paying much of an opportunity cost to do so.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.5
This is similar to Cartouche of Zeal, in that it’s unplayable outside of aggro. Like a bunch of these other red cards, it’s unstable—you open yourself up to a lot of risk when you play this, but the payoff is high. If they don’t have an answer, they die rapidly.
I kind of wanted to give this a 3.75. It’s a little higher than most 3.5s, but a little lower than most 4.0s. I guess the scale doesn’t need that much granularity, but this is worthy of more than one grade and less than another. In any case, this card is great. For 5 mana, it kills just about anything, and for 4 mana, it gives you a nice 2-for-1 against a smaller creature. That all sounds great to me, and at instant speed no less.
A big creature with a 1-mana cycling cost. I’m in, because there’s just no fail state with this card.
This isn’t revolutionary, but it will kill most things you care about. I’d be shocked if you ever thought about cutting this, and it will be a high pick.
Not only are the base stats good here, you can bash as a 5/4 menace when the situation demands it. I like this card in any red deck, not even just aggressive ones, though it clearly gets better if you are the beatdown.
I’m not sold on this for Limited, though it certainly has Constructed potential. It just doesn’t hit for quite enough damage on its own, and getting 1 more damage for each cycler isn’t quite the payoff I’m looking for.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
There are some neat things you can do with Fling in this set, but at a baseline it’s not playable. In order to make it decent (not good, mind you, decent), you need cards you want to sacrifice and high-powered creatures. It is cute that you can target something with -1/-1 counters and Fling it away in response, like when you play Baleful Ammit or the like, but that’s not enough to make me throw this in my deck.
I know this is going to be a controversial one, but I accept my fortune. I’m willing to argue that this is unplayable, because the circumstances it requires just seem so narrow. You need to be in a position where you know you are winning the game next turn, and because it isn’t just “take an extra turn,” your opponent gets to untap their creatures and have blockers up. If they make an attack before casting their blockers or sorcery-speed removal, this can get them, but you still need to be able to win on your turn.
The high end of this card is high—you can give me examples in which this does win the game. Don’t let that warp your perception—the majority of the time you draw this, it’s wildly unplayable, and even some of the times you can play it, you were winning anyway. The situation required for this card to take you from a loss to a win just doesn’t come up often enough for my taste, and my recommendation is that you do not include this card in your deck.
That said, I might try it for the story equity, even though I honestly think it’s horrendous.
Oh. This isn’t mythic. Well then. A 4/4 flying haste that kills a creature is beyond absurd, and it not untapping the next turn doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a flat 5.0. This has to be on the edge of being mythic, at least.
If you want a 2/2 for 2, this is that plus a minor upside. It can teach Fan Bearer a lesson, but mostly it’s going to be a bear, and its rating reflects that. Looks pretty good for Constructed, though.
Hazoret the Fervent
Hazoret is not hard to enable, gives you a ton of reach, and is exactly what aggressive decks want. I’d even run this in midrange since the upside is so high, with the only criticism being that Hazoret is less fervent about blocking than most cards, so you won’t get help when you are behind and have a bunch of cards in hand.
This isn’t my favorite, as you are paying a steep cost to get some bonus attacks in. To make this worth spending a card on, you need to play a lot of creatures afterward, and pressure the opponent enough that you don’t mind sacrificing them after one attack. That seems a bit implausible to me, though it is a sweet combo with Threaten effects that temporarily steal the opponent’s creatures.
Two shots through the heart make this a fantastic threat and answer all in one. You do have to sacrifice a creature, so it’s not a freebie, but you are paying so little for the ability, and I’d gladly include an embalm 4/3 for 4 to begin with. This is powerful enough that you don’t need to go out of your way to enable it, but it does get a bit better once you do.
This is classic filler, with stats just barely good enough to make the cut more often than not. This set looks powerful enough that I assume you can do better, as this won’t shine in aggro or control.
Limits of Solidarity
This is a threatening card. The drawback with cards like these is that they are dead much of the time, with the upside that they are insanely good in a race. Cycling solves that drawback, and makes this a great card in any aggro deck.
Efficient removal that stops embalm is at a premium, even if there are a lot of big creatures running around. Sometimes you will point this at a 4/4 midcombat, just to exile, and it still kills almost everything that costs 3 or less.
Manticore of the Gauntlet
There are worse ways to close out the game, even if nothing here is outstanding. This strikes me as a replaceable finisher for aggro decks, and because red doesn’t have a ton of -1/-1 counter synergies, it won’t often be much better than it looks by itself.
Sure, why not? This is a good amount of stats with two useful abilities, and plays well on both offense and defense. It’s not a reach at all to take this early and play it.
I don’t mind this getting in for 2 a few times before the board gets tangled up, at which point it can exert itself to attack as a 3/3. It’s a solid aggressive card, and one that will fill out the curve appropriately.
I’m hoping the blue-red spells deck is a thing, because this doesn’t look all that appealing outside of that. I think you’re an underdog to include this in a normal deck.
I like the ability to attack early and break through a board stall late. This is exactly the kind of card that’s a huge threat when you are at 8 life, and will demand removal later in the game (when 2-drops normally suck). Don’t play this if you aren’t aggressive, by the way.
I’ve trumpeted enough about situational cycling cards, though I like this one a bit more than most. It costs 2 to cycle, and the effect of the spell isn’t one I think most red decks will end up being that happy about.
This is probably worse than Nimble-Blade Khenra, on balance, and I already wasn’t a huge fan of this. Monastery Slowspear is more of a Constructed plant than a Limited powerhouse, and the second ability essentially does nothing.
The Gods are (sometimes) angry here, and when this effect isn’t good, you get to bin this for a new card. Adding cycling to a hugely powerful situational card is a recipe for success, and I’d always play this, even in aggressive decks.
It can’t be that hard to make this a 4/4 in the late game, and the right deck can get there earlier than that. As long as you don’t include too many expensive cards in your deck, this has a substantial upside (i.e., for people who aren’t me).
Tormenting Voice is in a strange spot. It’s never going to be abysmal, but it doesn’t add a whole lot either. I’d lean toward not playing it, as spending 2 mana to filter cards is less appealing in a format where cycling already gives you that ability (and on cards that actually do something, no less).
Trial of Zeal
This is great to cast and great to bounce with Cartouches, which, in a shocking twist, makes it great.
I still don’t quite buy that there’s a deck built completely around exert, but these hounds are still playable on their own. If you are going wide, they go up in value, and can serve as a passable 5-drop if you are short.
Despite the impact that mana-screwing the opponent could have, I’m not maindecking this unless I’m going heavy on the cycling theme (or am drastically short on cards).
Limited: 1.0 // 3.5
In a spell-heavy deck, this is hot fire. Outside of that, it’s a garbage fire. I love building around cards like this, and with 7+ spells I’m in. Once you get to 10+ spells, this becomes one of the best cards in your deck.
Insult // Injury
This is one of the aftermath cards that pays you the most for casting both halves in one turn. I’d gladly pay 6 for a deal 4 + deal 4 to the player, and you even get to deal double damage with your attackers. This is a very strong card in any red deck, aggressive or otherwise.
Top 5 Red Commons
Two removal spells, an efficient 4-drop, a flexible 6-drop, and a solid 2/3 for 3. Red got a wide range of commons here, with plenty of decent ones outside the top 5. Red looks aggressive overall, but has enough to do even in a control deck that I like the look of it.