You know what April sets bring, right? You do know what they bring? That’s right! May Flowers of Joyful fun times at the Kitchen Table of All Things Magic. And boy do we have a shower of new stuff coming in April via the plane of Amonkhet. Egyptian themed Nicol Bolas loving!
Everyone loves (or loves to hate) Nicol Bolas, and this Elder Dragon has been around the block on more than one occasion. We’ve seen him in multiple sets and behind-the-scenes manipulations. From planes like Alara and Dominaria to spying on Mirrodin and having an involvement on Kaladesh, Nicol Bolas gets around.
And that is where our good Dragon Planeswalker enters the stage. We are here on his world, and ready to rock the new set of cards!
Now, there are a few caveats here for my choices for the top ten cards from Amonkhet. Casual formats can play literally any card ever printed officially from Wizards of the Coast, as well as their own made up ones. There is no stopping us. So we have a lot of experience with existing card values. I can look at a card like By Force and easily hold its value in tension with cards from the past that I’ve played like Vandalblast, Shatterstorm, Shattering Pulse, Shattering Spree, and Release the Gremlins. Very few cards in any given set are so unique that you cannot understand their power in a vacuum.
Therefore, we tend to do a good job evaluating a card’s value in a certain set prior to release. Sure, a few cards will always disappoint or surprise us after they are deployed in action, but that’s pretty uncommon.
So, what are the best ten cards for everything multiplayer? Check it out!
10. Champion of Rhonas
One of Green’s ever”green” mechanics is the playing of one or more creatures from your hand or library for free. Natural Order. Green Sun's Zenith. Tooth and Nail. Defense of the Heart. Collected Company. Garruk, Caller of Beasts. You get the idea. And these have always been warmly received in kitchen table Magic, heading all the way back to cards like Elvish Piper. And now we have the next iteration of that plan with Champion of Rhonas. Now the Champion plays into some nice space. For example, it requires you to attack, so you have to actively push the table around to get what you want. And this exert is just an attack trigger, so your creature arrives before blockers are declared. You could cheat out a Nekrataal to kill a potential blocker or just tap it down with Niblis of the Mist. And if its later and you want to trade the attacking 3/3 for a nasty creature, knowing that the Champion is likely to be blocked and die, well, that was using it just like a four-mana sorcery that reads, “Put a creature from your hand onto the battlefield.” And don’t forget the potential reusability of the Champion’s exert later, as well as Green’s acceleration getting the Champion out and swinging earlier than its 4th turn sell-by date the other colors’ 4-drops would normally have.
9. Bounty of the Luxa
Who likes drawing cards? (Me) Who likes making mana? (Me) Who wants to get that Bounty of the Luxa on ?!?!? (Me!) Then get your Bounty on the dance floor, and make my day! You can use the mana to play stuff and hide behind your normal lands and their mana friends for counters and responses. You can draw a card every other turn as well, which ain’t nothing. And its heat index is likely to be pretty low given its cost and fluctuating ability. It replaces itself easily enough. It’s also in the running for my favorite piece of art in the set, by the by.
8. Dusk // Dawn
This is an amazing tool for a lot of decks across a lot of formats. For example, take a White aggressive deck built around cheap creatures with tempo-disruption abilities attached like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Imposing Sovereign, Containment Priest, and Aven Mindcensor. And then you play Dusk to sweep precisely none of your creatures, and you have a weaker five-mana Patriarch's Bidding for your whole team later. A lot of aggro decks run bigger and meatier early drops, like Thalia, Heretic Cather, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and Fleecemane Lion. So running a little under with tempo is nice since you can slay away and keep on trucking with your Gaddock Teeg. You could go wide with something like Squadron Hawk or a token making card such as Precinct Captain.
7. Vizier of Many Faces
My basic struggle in choosing which Clone effect to use in any given deck (such as Commander) is trying to figure out if I want a Clone copy effect that can copy a lot of potential targets, such as Phyrexian Metamorph which can be an artifact as well as a creature or which has some built-in card advantage, like Evil Twin. Which is better? Well, here we marry card advantage and increased flexibility as well! Clones are great, because you can always get a copy of the best creature on the battlefield. The Vizier plays into that place nicely, and it’s just a simple four mana to play. And then, when it passes into the dark graveyard in the sky, you can embalm it for a whole additional Clone, and that’s really potent. You have the ability to get two Clones for one card, but multiple Clones over the game as well, so it’s good card quality with a longer-lasting impact on the board than most Clone variants have. So welcome the Vizier of Many Faces to your multiplayer festivities!
It’s time. We’ve had a number of high quality big flyers at the 4-5 drop for Dragons now for a while. Thunderbreak Regent. Thundermaw Hellkite. Stormbreath Dragon. Glorybringer certainly fits as the next in that line. It has flying, haste, and a 4/4 body. You’ll hit for four damage when you drop it. And then you can exert it, if you want, to shoot something for another four damage. Would you play with a five-mana sorcery that read, “Deal four damage to target creature, deal four damage to target player, and put a 4/4 flying dragon token into play tapped at the beginning of your next turn?”. I would! That’s a solid effect. And Glorybringer can be a lot more. If the battlefield doesn’t really feel like it at the time, or right after a sweeping effect, just swing and you can just keep hitting. In that mode, it’s a mana cheaper than Volcanic Dragon. You’ll also keep the threat of exerting open too. Imagine you just popped a Nevinyrral's Disk, played this and swung for four damage at someone’s face. Who wants to play a creature you’ll just exert and kill with the Glorybringer while still hitting for another four damage? Unless it’s some chump utility creature like Coiling Oracle, I don’t see people playing their good kill-able creatures. It’s such a useful card, with a variety of options and modes for you to harness its power at the table.
5. Samut, Voice of Dissent
Take a long and careful look at Samut, Voice of Dissent. Does it remind you of any creatures in the past? Maybe a lady legendary creatures who has multiple versions, all good, and proved herself time and time again? Exactly! My nickname for Samut is already Gruul-Kroma named after Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Why? What connections am I seeing? Let’s do the math!
Akroma, Angel of Wrath — 6/6 for eight mana, has six abilities (seven if you count the double protection twice). Just two fewer abilities than mana cost, as well as a good size to boot.
Samut, Voice of Dissent — 3/4 body for five mana, has six abilities.
Samut has the same number of abilities as Akroma for just five mana. And, one of those abilities actually gives your entire team haste, so Samut’s good at helping others. But do you see that additional synergy hidden here?
Exactly, it really super secretly has six power with that double strike.
Double strike? Vigilance? Haste? The only thing Samut lacks are an evasive ability and some built-in protection. But the haste for everyone, flash, cheaper cost, and untapping creatures all play into a powerful theme. Samut is just good. Don’t sleep on Samut!
4. Nissa, Steward of Elements
The number of Planeswalkers we’ve had printed, since Lorwyn introduced them, is about 88. And this is the first with a flexible X cost. Because of that, Nissa offers a level of flexibility that can work early game or late, putting pressure on folks or as a great top deck later. For three mana, you get a one loyalty ‘walker and can give it +2 with the first ability immediately and Scry 2. That is precisely what I’d do with her on an open board where she won’t be attacked for a turn or two. You don’t want to hold her until later on nothing but fumes of hope when she’ll be good early. Each turn you wait for another land to play her is two fewer loyalty you’d get from scrying. Might as well get your Scry on. And each time you increase that loyalty count, you have a better chance of getting a powerful 2nd ability to work. On turn four, with Nissa already rocking three loyalty, you get a free land or 3-drop creature if one is on top of your library, which you’ll likely know given the scrying you did last time. Her first two abilities synergize perfectly well, and playing her later for six or more loyalty and getting all of your stuff for free is pretty keen and cool, as well as swing with two 5/5 creatures out of nowhere. Nissa works.
3. Vizier of the Menagerie
Do you like cards that have the potential to draw you a bunch more by letting you play cards from your library for free? Cards like Garruk's Horde or Oracle of Mul Daya come to mind. Getting free cards is great! Plus, the ability to cast all creatures, not just the ones on top of your library, with any mana you have laying around is a great gift for decks with a bunch of colors, like the four-color Commanders printed just last year. It’s got a lot of size and heft to it as well, and 3/4 for four mana is no joke either. It has a lot of synergy with cards that want you to know the top card of your library, like Vexing Arcanix or #4 Nissa, Steward of Elements above. Plus, unlike other similar effects, you are not revealing the top card to anyone, so you aren’t giving away any information if you don’t want to. It’s a strong card
2. Regal Caracal
I love Deranged Hermit. Most casual aficionados do. For a five-mana investment, you get nine power of creatures over five bodies. Now, there are some issues with the Hermit. It takes a full 2nd investment of five mana beyond the 1st to keep it out, so it’s usually a two-turn commitment. And five of that power is committed to the 1/1 Deranged Hermit itself. If it is killed or answered, then suddenly you’ve got a few 1/1 Squirrels that took you ten total mana and two turns to make. So there are some issues, but it’s still fun, right? And that’s why I love the Regal Caracal. It’s in line with White creatures + token makers, like Cloudgoat Ranger, that compare positively to Deranged Hermit in a modern context. 7 power for 5 mana, and your central power maker isn’t some weak 1/1, that anything this side of Zap or Spark Spray is going to handle. And it work with in-color friends, like other Cats or token pumpers. So let’s get it on Regal Cat style!
1. Gideon of the Trials
I mean, seriously? How does a three-mana Planeswalker have this ability straight out of the gate, “As long as you control a Gideon Planeswalker, you can't lose the game and your opponents can't win the game.”. Was Platinum Angel deemed too expensive at seven mana for the same ability? After all, all you have to do is kill the Angel or the Gideon. But, of course, that’s the rub, because all of the Gideons have a tendency toward indestructibility. Your options to kill a Gideon are pretty tough. Straight up removal, like Hero's Downfall, burn to the face that slides over to smash ol’ Gids, and then ummm, maybe creatures? But any deck with a Gideon, including this one, can easily go, “Mass Removal Spell, Make Gideon a Creature, swing with Gideon.” So it’s down to removal and burn for the most part. Giving the most pillow fort of Planeswalkers a Platinum Angel ultimate on a three-mana ‘walker you can drop on arrival for –0 loyalty is just . . . wrong. And meanwhile, you can prevent damage folks would deal to keep your Gideon alive and racking up those sweet sweet loyalty counters. My Trial is going to be figuring how to best handle these things all over the place.
And there we go! The best ten cards from Amonkhet for multiplayer and casual audiences alike. What did you think of my list? Did you like it? Anything you are really looking forward to opening? There is a lot of fun to be had, so good luck with your packs, Pre-releases, and release day parties!