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.
Blue | Black | Red | 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.
Angel of Sanctions
Well, let’s start things off with a bang. A 3/4 flying Banisher Priest would already be great, and giving this thing embalm just makes it filthy. I’m glad to see white is back to getting the best of the best, as we’ve come to expect.
This combos with embalm and whatever token making is in the set, but I’m still not lining up to add it to my deck. It would take 7+ good token producers before I’d even consider it, as paying 4 mana for a do-nothing is a high cost.
Limiting this to tokens makes it a lot less exciting, as this might gain you 2-3 life over the course of most games. It is still a 1/3 that comes back from the dead, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to play it even if I didn’t have much in the way of tokens.
Approach of the Second Sun
This is a weird card, but I suspect not a great one. Winning the game in 7 turns is a big ask, even if you get an extra 7 life to play with. Card draw (like cycling) does speed that up, so in a deck full of cyclers, this could be a pretty sick win condition. I think by itself it’s underwhelming, but with card draw it becomes plausible. This is high on my list of “cards I’m going to first pick,” at least until my curiosity is satisfied, but I’m not starting it too high even if I find it intriguing.
I don’t mind just playing this for a 2/1 flash flyer, even if the other ability never kicks in. Plus, this new art is pretty badass.
It’s not clear how good a generic 2/2 for 2 is in Amonkhet, but my guess is “not very.” Aggression in a world of flashback creatures can be rough, and trading for an embalm creature is not what I’m looking to do. That makes small ground creatures much less appealing, and bears won’t automatically get a solid grade as a result. That said, this has an ability that does help push through damage, as all embalm creatures are Zombies, and I could see this putting the opponent in a bind if they are trying to block.
Cartouche of Solidarity
Cartouches (I swear “cartouche” sounds like a filthy word) can bounce Trials, a cycle of uncommon enchantments, but besides that don’t do anything past what’s on the card. As a card, this is solid. +1/+1 and first strike makes the enchanted creature win basically all fights, and getting a 1/1 (oddly enough, with vigilance) is a nice bit of upside. I wouldn’t be unhappy to play this in an aggressive deck, and it only gets better once you add Trials to the mix.
Unconditional removal at instant speed that you can cycle in the event of mana screw? Sign me up.
2 mana is a good deal for this effect, even if it doesn’t get around embalm like you’d want it to. The opponent being able to sacrifice their creature for 2 life is a drawback, but not one big enough to make this anything less than premium removal.
Despite the absurd name (Crop-Mate?!), this is a solid addition to most decks. A 3/2 for 3 isn’t far below the bar, and if you have a couple 2-drops you’d like to get back, this becomes a nice 2-for-1. Be sure not to count embalm 2-drops fully, as often they will have vacated the graveyard before this comes along.
This is a perfect example of a great cycling card. It’s a situational combat trick that you can cash in whenever it’s not useful (which will be more often than not). Situational cards are powerful when the situation is right, and trading 1-mana for their 4/4 is going to be awesome when it happens. When it doesn’t happen is the drawback, which this card avoids with cycling, making it a solid card in any deck.
Sigh. I tried to avoid it, I really did, but I’m afraid there’s no getting around it.
I’m a fan of this card.
This is actually a fine card. It locks down whatever the biggest threat is, and does so in a manner that doesn’t give embalm creatures value. It also fights against Cartouches, as those seem to be solid playables that you’ll encounter often. It’s not very mana efficient, so I wouldn’t want that many copies, but the first one is pretty cool.
Forsake the Worldly
I’m not thrilled to be playing this, even though cycling makes it a main deck option. There just aren’t that many good targets, and the Cartouches having enters-the-battlefield effects reduces that further. It’s never a disaster to run a cycler with low value, but don’t prioritize this during drafting or deckbuilding.
Gideon of the Trials
Gideon protects himself against one threat and is a fast clock, which is a good deal for 3 mana. The ultimate is basically flavor text, as any opponent who could attack and kill you could also kill Gideon, so aside from gaining a few life it won’t do much. Still, the first two abilities are more than enough to make Gideon a strong card in any aggressive deck.
This is basically Pacifism, but the creature can still block even if it doesn’t punch back. That’s a solid deal for 4 mana, and the fact that this randomly hoses multiple copies is pretty nice.
A 2-mana 4/4 lifelink is absurd, and even having to skip an untap step doesn’t make this anything less than awesome. How this will often play is that you attack for 3 until they have a good blocker, at which point you start slamming for 4 points of lifelink every other turn. This is a great deal and a great card that you are bound to play in any deck, aggressive or not.
This is the kind of 2/2 for 2 I want in my deck. It hits for 2 early, when 2-drops are relevant, and can start chipping in for flying damage later in the game. Good early and good late is a recipe for success.
I was underwhelmed by this card last time it showed up, and I don’t see a reason for it to improve much. It’s certainly playable, but I was never excited by it. Situational removal that only kills small-to-medium creatures just isn’t premium, despite looking good.
In Oketra’s Name
In a Zombie deck, this can be a solid finisher. In a creature-heavy white deck that doesn’t have a ton of Zombies, it’s more a filler card than anything else. +1/+1 is fine, but not enough to swing things unless you know the matchup. I like having this as a sideboard option, and will maindeck it only if I’m playing an aggressive deck, preferably with some Zombies.
If embalm creates enough board stalls that aggro decks need finishers, this could leap up to a 2.0, but otherwise it’s going to remain as a midrange combat trick that you play about half the time.
Oketra the True
Oketra truly looks great to me. It’s not hard to end up with 2 creatures at the start of your turn, at which point you can either cast another or just activate her, and start smashing for 6. She also gives you a good late-game engine, and does so while being nigh unkillable and not too expensive.
Cycling plus embalm makes this a 2-for-1 no matter which way you use it, and it’s already a 3/3 flyer for 5 (which is a fine deal). This is exactly the card that’s going to elicit a groan when your opponent sees it—slogging through two 3/3 flyers is a huge pain, and getting to trade it for a new card means it’s impossible for this to be bad.
Protection of the Hekma
This will be hekma annoying for some decks, but isn’t a card I’m looking to main deck. Against aggressive decks, you can slow them down a lot, but that requires you be a late-game deck and that they have mostly 2-power creatures.
5 mana for 7/7 of Cats is a great deal, and the lifelink is just gravy. Delicious Cat gravy? Even if they kill Regal Caracal, it isn’t a catastrophe, and you still got a lot of value for your mana. Plus, sometimes you will randomly have other Cats running around, at which point you are getting a nice bonus.
I’m not really going to cut this from anything but the most aggressive deck, but I’m not super excited about it either. It’s just a nice bit of value, and sometimes will help swing a race. You aren’t paying for it, but it doesn't add much either.
This is another exert creature that will attack normally until a blocker appears, at which point it becomes a 4/1 first strike. Dealing 4 every other turn is still a fine deal, as this is hard to stop until the late game.
This may look innocuous, but embalm makes it a solid playable. Trust me, this is going to accumulate enough value, all told, and you won’t regret playing it. The life it gains adds up, and it will chump or trade often enough that you feel like you got a card out of it.
Seraph of the Suns
7 mana is a lot, even if you are getting your mana’s worth. Some decks just won’t play 7s, though a format with cycling does lend itself to playing expensive cards (you are more likely to hit land drops if you have a bunch of cycling cards in your deck). I like this as a control or midrange finisher, and would largely avoid it in an aggro deck.
I can appreciate some fodder with a minor exert combo, though I won’t be thrilled about. I’d only play this if you need the body or have 5+ exert cards, as a vanilla 3/3 is not great in a format with so many good value creatures.
It doesn’t seem hard to meet this condition, and a 3/5 plus a 1/1 (again, with vigilance?) is a fine way to spend 5 mana. When it misses, it’s a bit under the curve, but I like getting 2 blockers and a good amount of stats when it hits.
What’s up with all the hyphenated Crop names? I guess it’s an Amonkhet theme of sorts? As for the card, the bird is the word, as this attacks for 2 until you want to set up a big swing, at which point it more than pulls its weight. You do want to be aggressive to make use of this, and it will be quite good if you are.
Those Who Serve
I’m willing to toss this in my deck and call it a wrap. 2/4 is just enough stats for 3 mana that I won’t be unhappy with it, even if I’m not looking to play tons of copies.
Time to Reflect
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
In a deck with 7+ Zombies, this is a great removal spell. In a deck with fewer or none, it is quite poor. Act accordingly.
Trial of Solidarity
I’m not that excited about this card without a few Cartouches. In an aggressive deck, a mini-Overrun is fine, but sorcery speed takes a lot of the power away. It’s not even an effect you need to run back that many times, because when it’s good the first time you usually end up in a great spot. Trials seem powerful in general, but I’m not a big fan of this one.
Even without the multi-block text, I’d be in. With that text, this offers the potential to stop a lot of damage, and at very low cost.
This is another good, clean, embalm creature. It’s cheap to play, not too expensive to embalm, and adds up to a nice 2-for-1.
Vizier of Deferment
Banisher Priest this is not. It’s a fine trick, but it truly does defer the problem instead of solving it. There are a lot of ways to use this, from before blocks as an additional blocker to mid-combat as a response to combat tricks (regardless of whose turn it is). You can also exile a creature during an end step, and it won’t come back until the next end step (useful to stop a vigilance creature that attacked from blocking on your turn, for example).
It's also worth nothing that this kills embalm tokens, which is a substantial upside in this format.
Vizier of Remedies
As protection from enemy -1/-1 counters, this is fine but unexciting. Where it really shines is when you can make a deck where you utilize the ability, at which point you’ve built some kind of reverse Winding Constrictor. That sounds pretty good to me.
I don’t see cutting this from any white deck. It’s a 3/3 flyer when you need one, and the top card of your library when you don’t. Flexibility plus power is a delightful recipe.
Dusk // Dawn
Dusk would be a good card by itself, and getting Dawn for free just sweetens the deal. It’s not hard to set up a board where this kills a couple of your opponent’s creatures and none of yours, and later in the game you can draw a few cards off Dawn. At the risk of offending Tarantino fans, this is a better card than it is a movie.
Top 5 White Commons
It seems like white got 3s across the board, so it’s pretty hard to sort them into a meaningful ranking (luckily, I’m an expert at meaningless rankings). I’ll put the removal spell and the tapper at the top, though I could see all of these (plus Sacred Cat and Rhet-Crop Spearmaster) flip-flop over the course of the format. White has a bunch of good commons, so just take whatever suits your curve and the aggression level of your deck best.