THE MANA DORK – The Second Sun Approaches!

Amonkhet Prerelease –  The Second Sun Approaches!

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Hail Nicol Bolas, the God-Pharoah! May his return come early, and may we be found worthy!

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The store’s Amonkhet prerelease is only hours away, and Magic’s newest set has a ton of fun toys for Limited and Constructed play. Cycling looks like it will be making some noise with the new cycling dual lands and a number of fun payoffs like Drake Haven and Archfiend of Ifnir. The new exert and embalm mechanics are going to make for some very interesting choices during games, the Aftermath cards will have players agog (atog?), and the prevalence of -1/-1 counters will have implications for removal spells and build-arounds in every colour.

Here’s everything you need to know to do probably-better-than-last-time-maybe-or-at-least-walk-in-with-more-confidence-because-confidence-is-good-right-yes-excellent-good-show!

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EMBALMS AWAY

Embalm is pretty straightforward: it’s like Flashback, but for creatures. Once the Embalm creature is in your yard, you can pay the Embalm cost and exile the creature to create a token that’s an exact copy of it, except it’s also White and a Zombie. (Which raises the question: most Zombies are Human, but Humans are also Human. Does that mean an Embalmed Anointer Priest is a White Zombie that’s more Human than Human? These are the things I think about.)

 First things first: yes, the Embalmed token itself also has Embalm, but it doesn’t matter, because tokens can’t exist in the graveyard. (Or in your hand, library, or exile.) Whenever a token would change zones — by dying and going to the graveyard, for example — it vanishes from existence as a state-based action, before players receive priority. Which is a fancy way of saying that before you could activate the token’s Embalm ability, the game has already ushered it along into the next life.

That being said, Embalm is still powerful and something you should think about when building your deck for the Amonkhet prerelease. You’re getting two creatures off of one card, on a bit of a layaway plan. Don’t count them as two creatures when you’re building with them, of course, but do remember that you’ll be able to clog up the board state a little longer, and that you’ll be facing down extra blockers and board stalls some percentage of the time. I’d definitely consider looking at exile spells like Cast Out and Final Reward for the creatures, and bounce spells like Winds of Rebuke to deal with the tokens. (Remember what I said about how tokens can’t exist in players’ hands? Turns out, if you bounce a token… )

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I HAVE BEEN EXERTING MY BRAIN BUT CANNOT COME UP WITH AN EXERT PUN

Once more unto the breach, my friends, once more, or close up the Hekma with our Naktamun dead! Exert lets a creature give 110% when it swings to convey some additional benefit, at the cost of not untapping the following turn.

A reminder for using Exert — you must declare whether or not you’re Exerting a creature BEFORE blockers are declared. The option to Exert a creature triggers as the creature’s being declared as an attacker, so you have to decide before your opponent declares blockers.

This means you must Exert your creatures carefully if you want to successfully use them during the Amonkhet prerelease. There’s no use Exerting every time and skipping every second combat — AND giving your opponent a combat step where he knows you can’t block! I’d be careful to Exert only when you need it for your creature to get through or when you specifically need the creature’s Exert bonus. If you can read your opponent and anticipate what the boardstate will be in a turn or two and whether or not it’s safe, go ahead!

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IN THE AFTERMATH

Aftermath is pretty straightforward: it’s like Flashback, but for spells.

Wait, what? Don’t those already have Flashback?

Actually, Aftermath is a new take on split cards like Fire // Ice and Ready // Willing. Cards with Aftermath also function as two separate spells, but one of them can only be cast from the graveyard. Then, just like with Flashback and Embalm, the card gets exiled.

 Once again, we’re getting the value of two cards for the cost of one, on a bit of a layaway plan. This time, though, we’ll have to be more careful — many of the Aftermath spells have heavier mana costs than normal, and none of them have cycling, so they’re not going into your graveyard for free. I would look at the “normal” side of an Aftermath card when building your Amonkhet prerelease deck and judge whether or not I actually want it in my deck before including it.

 (Also, a side note for the more invested among us, and by “invested” I mean “people who like Isochron Scepter“: as of Amonkhet’s release, all split cards are treated as though their CMC is the combined CMC of both halves when in any zone other than the stack. This makes them much more difficult to use with Scepter and similar effects, but much easier to actually remember how they work without six minutes of Googling and a judge call. Overall, I’m a fan.)

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I LIKE TO RIDE MY CYCLING CARDS, CYCLING CARDS, CYCLING CARDS

An old friend slides back into Magic with Cycling’s appearance in Amonkhet!

Cycling is sometimes challenging to evaluate. Cycling cards are usually a little overcosted, but the benefit is that they’re not dead in your hand or deck — if you’re in a situation where you’re holding a Cycling card that does nothing for you, you can cash it in to draw a card instead, and have another chance at drawing that premium removal spell much-needed land drop. In general, you can safely include narrower effects and more toolbox-y cards in your deck when they have Cycling, because they don’t take up an entire card slot.

With Cycling, I’d be careful to manage the number of cycling cards versus the number of cycling-payoff cards in your deck. I’ll be looking for at least 8-9 cycling cards before I include my first Drake Haven or Horror of the Broken Lands.

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GENERAL NOTES

As always, drink water, eat healthy, get some rest, and don’t be afraid to call a Judge if you need to, they’re there to help everyone at the Amonkhet prerelease.

Also, remember BREAD — bombs, removal, evasive creatures, aggressive creatures, then duds. Live by the bread, die by the bread. Be the bread.

(… if you’re wondering why none of those phrases used “bread” originally, I recommend breadening your horizons. Eh? … Eh?)

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THE PLANESWALKER DECK CHALLENGE CONCLUDES IN OUR NEXT COLUMN — WHILE YOU’RE WAITING, COME HANG OUT AT THE STORE 

I have finally plunged the Dovin Baan Planeswalker Deck we’ve forged over the course of Aether Revolt (1, 2, 3) into the crucible of Standard combat at A Muse N Games, even as the fires of the Revolt began to smolder. Soon, my friends, I shall tell you tales of towers, rats, and energy. Soon.

In the interim, A Muse N Games is hosting Amonkhet prereleases events all weekend! Swing by at midnight, noon, 5 PM, and 6 PM Sunday for sweet, sweet Amonkhet Prerelease Sealed action — and a chance at sweet, sweet prizes!

On top of that, the GPT Farewell Tour continues with GPT Montreal Standard on Sunday April 30 and GPT Vegas Legacy on Sunday May 7, both at noon (11 AM registration)!

Finally, it is time for the human boardgames to be celebrated! International Tabletop Day is Saturday April 29, and A Muse N Games has a bunch of fun things planned and prizes waiting! Bring a game, bring a friend, bring both, bring neither, just come on down!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He has spent the last week staring at As Foretold and dreaming of free counterspells on his opponents’ turns. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!