With the early release of Amonkhet on Magic Online, we got the chance to do way more Drafts than usual in preparation for Pro Tour Amonkhet.
My team, MTG Bentcards, along with MTG Mintcards, featured the two players to earn the most trophies in competitive Draft Leagues prior to the Pro Tour. To have the opinion of two of the most successful drafters, Jason Chung and Javier Dominguez, gave us a huge advantage in the format.
Today, I’ll sum up the lessons that Draft master Jason Chung imparted to our play testing house prior the Pro Tour.
The key to the format is to be aggressive, or to have a good plan against those who are. I’ll focus on the former objective, and show you how to correctly build an aggressive deck in this format.
The aggressive colors in this set come from Jeskai: R/W, U/W, and U/R. Some consideration could be given to R/B and B/W, but those colors lead midrange decks much more often. So my pick order will pertain only to those three color combinations.
Gust Walker is your new god. It’s the top common, and you rarely want to pass it. You want to play about five 1-drops, six 2-drops, and four 3-drops. But if you go big with 1s and 2s, you can trim 3s.
Fan Bearer is easily the first 1-drop, It not only carries equipment and Cartouches and gets in for damage, but in the late game it becomes spot removal. Be careful of Slither Blades. They are necessary in the U/R and U/W hyper-aggro decks, but they are likely to wheel, so while it’s more important than Sacred Cat in its archetype, it can be picked later since no one that isn’t drafting U/R or U/W hyper-aggro will be interested, whereas the Sacred Cat can go in a multiple other decks.
It’s also important to note those early Slither Blades, since you can move into blue even without having any blue cards, because you know those Slither Blades will wheel and you’ll get them.
Flameblade Adept and Soul-Scar Mage are similar, but the Adept is better, since having menace is a real threat with Cartouches and equipment—it’s almost unblockable in the early stages of the game, which is all you care about.
The difference between the second and third spot is huge. Gust Walker and Glory-Bound Initiate are insane because they can attack free if your opponent doesn’t have defense, and once they do you can exert for evasion.
Nef-Crop Entangler is similar, but on a lower level.
Pathmaker Initiate is very good at dealing the last point of damage. Jason isn’t too high on this card, but I am. This also goes nuts with Throne of the God-Pharaoh, which is a very underrated rare that is key in these decks.
Binding Mummy over Battlefield Scavenger might seem odd, but all you care about is dealing damage, and Binding Mummy with Fan Bearer and embalm creatures can be devastating. I could see taking Battlefield Scavenger over it if you have plenty of exert creatures already, but not giving any bonus when exerting is pretty bad, because it means you have to use your pump spell to help the Scavenger survive, or it won’t attack as freely.
Labyrinth Guardian is kind of cool, but the fact that it can’t get Cartouches is pretty bad. Still, it’s a very solid 2-drop.
Ahn-Crop Crasher is one of the top 3 uncommons in the set, after the white and red Trials, and it can steal games on the spot. Combat Celebrant is very close if paired with a Cartouche of Zeal and it can unexpectedly deal 20+ damage in one turn out of nowhere (ask Josh McClain for more information).
I was down on Rhet-Crop Spearmaster, mostly because of its 1 toughness, but it’s an amazing creature that attacks into almost anything without fear.
Thresher Lizard is insane in the late game, but sometimes you need 1 or 2 turns before it gets the bonus. It’s still a good card, but the Spearmaster, which can attack immediately no matter what, is a little better.
Don’t Play 4+ Drops!
The only ones I can get behind are Glorybringer, Angel of Sanctions, Regal Caracal, Hazoret the Fervent, Oketra the True, Curator of Mysteries, Vizier of Many Faces, Glyph Keeper, Emberhorn Minotaur, Heart-Piercer Manticore, and Tah-Crop Elite.
You always want to have 15 lands, so playing 4+ drops isn’t ideal at all.
Cartouches will be your next most important tools behind Gust Walker. You can play any number of them, from 5 to 10, and the more you have the fewer games you’ll lose. Don’t pass them. Kelvin Chew went 9-0 in Draft at GP Bejing, drafting only R/W, with 6+ Cartouches in all of his decks.
Removal spells are clearly great, but Cartouches come first. There is not a single noncreature/non-Trial card that you should take over Cartouche of Solidarity, Cartouche of Zeal, or Cartouche of Knowledge—not even Magma Spray.
Trial of Zeal and Trial of Solidarity are the bombs of the archetype. They are second to only the 2 mythic rares: Glorybringer and Angel of Sanctions. They work well with your Cartouches, and recurring their effects is almost always game on the spot.
You don’t need these as much as you need Cartouches, so make sure to take those whenever you see one.
Winds of Rebuke is especially great, and Jason ranked it over even Cast Out and Compulsory Rest, though I wouldn’t go that far. It’s still a great tempo card that’s essential in a deck with cards like Cartouche of Zeal.
Brute Strength/Mighty Leap plus Fling is a great combo that ends games often, the second being better than the first because it means that your creature survives in combat, deals damage, and then can be sacrificed to deal lethal.
I’ll leave you with my first deck from the Pro Tour, where I ended up 2-1, losing to a powerful B/W Zombies decks, and with the 2 featured Drafts of my teammates Christian Calcano and Lee Shi Tian, who drafted U/W Aggro Slither Blade, commentated by Ian Duke and Luis-Scott Vargas.
Have fun drafting the aggressive strategies of Amonkhet!