Amonkhet Remastered Limited (Sealed and Draft) Guide
Although Core Set 2021 has proven underwhelming, you have to appreciate the efforts Wizards has been making to keep Limited players engaged during this time. Dominaria Premier Drafts have been great, and I am even more intrigued by this upcoming Amonkhet Remastered (AKR) release. I found Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation quite enjoyable back in closed beta, and really think they are on to something with combining choice cards from each set (and adding a few new ones) to craft what will hopefully be an awesome Limited environment. Thematically, these sets come through Egyptian and Apocalyptic and it is a lot of fun. I was happy to see the card list released early so that I could peruse it and give you all an overview of the set before it hits Arena in both Sealed and Draft formats.
First, I will break down the mechanics and archetypes and provide some commentary on the set as a whole. Then, I will go through each color and highlight the best cards of each rarity, focusing mostly on common and uncommon cards as you will be seeing those most frequently. It would be disingenuous to attempt to rank archetypes as the set has yet to be played in the wild. Additionally, I suspect most successful decks will draw from multiple sources of synergy while prioritizing individually powerful cards rather than going all in on one particular theme. My goal for this guide is to help you conceptualize the set, especially if you’ve never played AKH/HOU before, and identify the best cards to Draft or pick out of your Sealed pool in each color. Each pool/draft will provide unique opportunities to maximize positive interactions between your cards. This guide will help you identify some of those, but in a 339 card set there is sure to be a lot of diversity. Ultimately, I believe the most compelling Limited environments feel balanced, while providing a high level of variance in deck strategies and card interactions. Amonkhet Remastered seems to have the pieces to pull it off, so let’s see if Wizards nailed it this time!
AKR and its Mechanics/Themes
The overall power level of Amonkhet Remastered is low compared to more recent sets, as creatures tend to have smaller stats for their cost. Some familiar Planeswalkers and Gods make a much lower impact on the board than you may be used to, although by and large they are still extremely good in the context of this set. Despite their low power level, Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation supported Aggro very well. This was primarily due to the ‘Exert’ mechanic making creatures very difficult to block, often leading to damage races. Control elements are still present though, most evident in the staggering number of Wrath effects. These can make things awkward for Aggro decks that may struggle to apply enough pressure without overextending. Fortunately, the mechanics of AKR provide some staying power for its spells in multiple forms of graveyard interaction. Amonkhet Remastered incorporates quite a few keywords so let’s take a deeper dive into all of its features:
Embalm is a very powerful ability that allows a creature to be played twice while subtly supporting Zombie synergy. Blue and White feature Embalm, and creatures with it range from powerful bombs with enter the battlefield abilities down to ordinary ones with some upside. Embalm rewards trading in combat to generate value, but sometimes the Embalm cost can be too high to capitalize in time. I tend to think of Aven Initiate as only a little better than Snapping Drake for this reason. Still, it is nice to have some recursion in a format that is very effective at removing creatures.
This ability is basically the same as Embalm but the creatures come back as a 4/4. Since these creatures have enter the battlefield abilities based on their power, the extra stats provide a nice bonus. Note that both Embalm and Eternalize creatures return as tokens, so bounce effects will remove them once and for all.
Aftermath is basically Embalm for Noncreature spells. There are twenty such spells in this set, 1 uncommon and 1 rare for each color pair. The top card that you cast from your hand tends to have synergy with the bottom Aftermath card, and generally these are good reasons to be in both colors. Sometimes the top (or bottom if you can reliably get it in your graveyard) can be run independently, but outside of something like Cut // Ribbons you are very often going to want to take advantage of having two cards in one.
Exert is the reason this format will likely lean Aggro. It may seem a little counterintuitive for Aggro decks to run creatures that can potentially only attack every other turn. But, Exerting is optional while providing a way for your lower curve creatures to continue attacking throughout the game when they otherwise couldn’t. Plus, there are quite a few ways to untap creatures in this format, unlocking the ability of these things to Exert every turn. Green, White, and Red have access to this ability and all Aggro archetypes will draw from at least one of those colors.
Although less prevalent than Exert in the format, Afflict is another ability that rewards aggression. Creatures with Afflict discourage blocking and push damage through even if your opponents block. Blue interestingly has the most creatures with it, but you will find some Afflict in Black and Red as well. Spellweaver Eternal is one of a couple Blue/Red creatures to feature Prowess, an ability most players are used to seeing but it shows these colors tend to care about casting noncreature spells in this format.
Here is a mechanic we haven’t seen in a while. Amonkhet Remastered utilizes -1/-1 counters in a few ways. In addition to many spells adding them to your opponent’s creatures, Black and Green have creatures that are extremely cost efficient but require you to place -1/-1 counters on your own creatures. Sometimes there is a bonus for the counters being removed or the creature dying with them as with Soulstinger, but generally these spells reward running creatures that you don’t mind weakening such as Naga Vitalist.
We are not in Ikoria anymore so don’t expect it to be its own archetype, but Cycling still allows you to play situational cards that have it and enables various graveyard synergies. All colors have access to cards with this mechanic, but running too many increases your chances of mana flooding. Cycling cards that you almost always want to hard cast or provide a bonus when you cycle them slot well into any deck, but some archetypes encourage you to run more Cycling in order to fill your graveyard with specific card types or provide a bonus every time you cycle. Just make sure these incentives outweigh the downside of some of your Cycling spells finding extra land cards.
Cartouches and Trials
Speaking of cycling, there are several of card cycles present in this format. The most apparent are the Cartouches and Trials as they represent ten cards which work together.
It is generally best to play cards that stand alone such as Cartouche of Strength instead of forcing the combo. Later in this guide I break down the best common and uncommon cards in each color and you can see which of these made the cut. Those will be the ones you want to prioritize in your Draft. But, sometimes the opportunity to create a sub theme will present itself and Cartouching it up can be rewarding if you can reliably recycle Trials as they are quite solid. I think in a larger set like this it will be harder to find multiple copies than in Amonkhet, though.
The White one is okay, but the rest of these are traps. The bonuses just aren’t really worth spending your third turn on, and if you draw them late you are going to have a bad time. I think at this point it would be good to transition into seeing how the different color combinations utilize the underlying mechanics of the set.
Now let’s take a look at the ten two-color archetypes present in the set. Each of them were given two Aftermath cards and a ‘signpost’ uncommon. Some also have Rares and Mythics but I have omitted those from this section to balance things out. However, most of them will show up later in the Multicolor Bombs section as they are very powerful cards. Ranking archetypes at this point would be a bit ridiculous, but I will reflect some on how they performed in AKH/HOU and provide some overall impressions. I am going to list them roughly in order of my excitement in drafting them, but this is a shot in the dark at this point. Also keep in mind that splashing a third color is often possible, opening up the possibility of combining elements of two or more archetypes into one deck. Finding creative ways to take certain ‘packages’ of cards with synergy and merge them into a cohesive deck is a powerful skill, and Amonkhet Remastered looks to be a perfect format for practicing it.
Zombies were top tier back in Amonkhet but it will be interesting to see where they stack up in the remaster. Decks in these colors tend to lean aggressive, but Graveyard interaction and quality removal options help them stay relevant when longer games develop. I expect this to continue to be a strong archetype in AKR.
This is the most Aggro archetype of the format and is the type of deck that can go very wide. If the tweaks made for the ‘remaster’ end up slowing down the format this archetype will be much worse than it was in vanilla Amonkhet, but in my view it still has the tools to run people over.
As I mentioned in the mechanics section, Exert is much stronger than it probably looks. These colors best utilize it and work best as a creature deck with a few combat tricks. Your removal and card advantage options are fairly sparse in these colors, so forming a good curve is essential.
I just realized I put all of the White archetypes at the top of this list, interesting. UW wasn’t really a flyers deck in Amonkhet, but played nicely with efficient creatures and card advantage. I like this as a more controlling archetype that wants to accumulate card advantage and make use of its Embalm creatures. Just make sure you don’t skimp on your lower curve creatures and prioritize removal spells in order to stave off the Aggro decks.
This archetype has lackluster creatures but looks to make up for it with fantastic removal options. I am a little tentative about this combination, but do think removal is going to be king in a set full of playable auras and combat tricks.
Blue-Red Noncreature Spells
I really love this color combination but I think it is going to be difficult to pull together. Card advantage is going to be its greatest asset, allowing it to find efficient Instants and Sorceries and thin the deck enough to find its threats. This combination is looking very tempo oriented and could be excellent depending on which cards you can pull (more on that in the next section).
Khenra Charioteer is a great avatar for this archetype. Efficient creatures and Trample for everybody! There are some Ramp options to make this more midrange, or it could be more of an Exert Aggro deck. Ultimately what it is lacking is card advantage, so similar to Green-White it is imperative that you have a good curve so you are less at risk of stalling out or missing plays. I like this archetype less than Green-White though because its threats are more singular and easier to spot remove than a go-wide board. Both archetypes crumble to board wipes though so watch out!
Black-Green -1/-1 Counters
Obelisk Spider is great but I am not sure how realistic it will be to create an entire deck centered on -1/-1 counter synergy. I could still see some great decks in these colors that rely on individually powerful cards and a sub theme of -1/-1 counters though.
Similar to Black-Green with counters, I really don’t see cycling decks coming together in this set. Both Black and Blue have payoffs for doing it, but I doubt it will be worth the mana flood risk most of the time. Plus, these colors lend themselves to a Control archetype that just doesn’t seem too well suited for an Aggro format. Now, if Amonkhet Remastered ends up being on the slow side I will eat my words and this archetype may end up being good.
I really don’t see Ramp being effective in this format. It is going to be too easy to punish decks that durdle for the early turns in order to set up singular threats that can be easily removed or tapped down. River Hoopoe looks nice on paper but good luck stabilizing to the point where you can actually use its ability.
Combat Tricks and Best Cards
Before we get into the best cards for each color I’d like to dump the combat tricks here so you can familiarize yourself with them. This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything that can be done at Instant speed, but I have pulled together the vast majority of cards which can be cast for effect during the combat phase.
In Amonkhet Remastered White finds itself someone split between go-wide and control elements. I anticipate this will make White rather sought after as it provides good support for any of the other colors. I could see this set going the way of Ikoria where low curve White archetypes ended up being the deck to beat.
Wrath effects (looks like we get their namesake in this set) tend to be insanely powerful in Limited. Even if you are playing an Aggro deck you can create just enough board presence to get your opponent to overextend before windmill slamming your Wrath of God. This set has more board wipes than probably any before it, so be wary of opponents that aren’t playing anything in their early turns. The rest of these cards are mythic rares for a reason, potentially having huge impacts in any game you are lucky enough to draw them. Crested Sunmare does need some enabling but a 5 mana 5/5 is fine and the upside is tremendous.
Best Commons and Uncommons
Cast Out and the Pacifism cards make up White’s typical removal suite, and they should get the job done. Unconventional Tactics won a lot of games in HOU and I am sure it will still be good in this set. Fan Bearer and Binding Mummy are other simple ways to get your Zombie deck to evade blockers. Gust Walker, Dauntless Aven, and Tah-Crop Elite are a nice little Exert package with built in evasion. Decks with these cards can be nigh-unblockable. For example Fan Bearer could tap down a creature on your opponent’s turn and then tap down two additional creatures on your turn if you have Dauntless Aven in play. I think we will be seeing quite a few damage races in this set. However, the removal options, combat tricks, and surprise untaps this set provides should keep even those games interactive and dynamic.
Blue has some nice control elements and the best Cartouche/Trial combo. Blue-based decks are going to need to be careful not to get too greedy with the card advantage though, or they will likely get run over. I am feeling a bit lower on Blue than usual for this reason. In the end there are still plenty of great reasons to play Islands, so let’s have a look.
I was tempted to put Drake Haven here. It can win games by itself but it can also be very challenging to build around without having a compromised deck when you don’t draw it. I still like the card but think these six are universally good. As you can see Blue tends to run on the expensive side but the investment should pay off, provided you can stabilize well enough to cast them.
I really like cost-effective stuff like Censor and Labyrinth Guardian to help out in the early game. The key is getting into a position where you can draw-go with Supreme Will in hand or tap out for Trial of Knowledge. I want to like Blue but it just seems really slow. Lay Claim for example is a great effect but 7 mana is outrageous even though the Cycling 2 helps justify playing it.
Blue does shine with its common offerings, and I would be happy to play all of these cards. Blue has some low-key Aggro support with these cards and maybe we will see some low curve UW stuff a la M21. At any rate I will be looking to draft Blue when it seems open, but don’t see myself speculating on it too often.
Black provides strong removal spells and a bunch of support for the Zombie archetype. You will also find some minor themes such as -1/-1 counters and Cycling, but they are less prevalent. I expect this to be one of the strongest colors in the set.
Black has some really fantastic Rares here and only two of them are Mythic. All of them would pull me happily into the color even though some assembly is required for Bontu the Glorified.
Best Commons and Uncommons
Black also has a good Trial/Cartouche combination. I am not super high on Trial of Ambition or Doomfall because of how wide some decks will go, but still think they belong here. Black primarily supports the Zombie archetype and provides some good removal, but there are also supported sub themes of -1/-1 counters and Cycling. If you find payoffs like Archfiend of Ifnir and Ruthless Sniper feel free to go down that road, but Zombies are tried and true. I like Baleful Ammit, Bone Picker, and Gravedigger in any Black deck. One of the most demoralizing plays is dropping a Bone Picker or three in your second main. Your opponent won’t always be in a position to trade, but casting Bone Picker as a Snapping Drake with Deathtouch is not a bad rate either.
In Amonkhet Remastered, Red is looking extremely Aggro. Its cheap removal looks really well situated, and between Exert and removing blockers it is going to be really hard to shut down a Red deck that curves out.
Red has a few board wipes so watch out for that. I could see Hour of Devastation playing awkwardly in a low curve go-wide Aggro deck, so not all of these cards belong in every Red deck. Glorybringer sure does though, I can’t believe they didn’t make it Mythic for the remaster as it is downright oppressive.
Best Commons and Uncommons
Like I said, the Aggro is strong with this one. I expect a lot of players will want a piece of Red due to all of the quality removal, so this color may get crowded. There is plenty of good stuff here though, and I see it pairing most naturally with White or Black.
Green has some solid creatures but that is about it. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, but Green decks are looking pretty one dimensional in this format. There is some good support here for Exert and -1/-1 counters that do help it differentiate somewhat, but overall this color wants to play creatures and turn them sideways.
These are all decent reasons to be in Green, although I do think the other colors are more Bomb heavy.
Best Commons and Uncommons
I do really like the efficiency of these cards. Even at common, Rhonas’s Stalwart and Hooded Brawler make a great one-two punch. Green decks really need to find cards like Cartouche of Strength and Synchronized Strike to help them continue attacking. Synchronized Strike may be a bit of a sleeper as some players may see it as a simple combat trick and underestimate how great it is paired with Exert. Crocodile of the Crossing, Defiant Greatmaw, Exemplar of Strength and Quarry Hauler also have great synergy together. These cards also pair well with Black, which provides further -1/-1 counter interactions.
In this section I will just be touching on the best rares, as we already saw the uncommons in the archetype section.
Finding these cards will typically force you into certain archetypes, so hopefully this guide has helped you start thinking about ways you can build to their strengths!
Finally, there are a few notable land cards:
You need to lean fairly Black to run this (the mana cost effectively requires 3 Black sources). But, turning your Deserts into -1/-1 counters is pretty insane, making this the best land in the format.
The dual Cycling lands should be early picks as they improve your mana base while helping to mitigate flooding. They are playable even if you are in only one of the colors. The Cycling Deserts are effectively the same as running a dual land and only being in one of the colors, although their stock goes up depending on how many Desert payoffs you have in your deck.
Amonkhet Remastered looks to be a great Limited environment and I can’t wait to play it. I hope you found this guide helpful for beginning to wrap your head around the format. It will be really interesting to see the variety of decks players come up with due to the high card count and how the metagame develops. See you on the ladder!