The Promised Hour

Posted in Card Preview on June 27, 2017

By Chas Andres

Chas Andres is a freelance writer and MFA student living in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he's not at his keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find him playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

Green: the color of environmental connection. Some of the most iconic green spells allow you to increase the number of lands you have in play, and their flavor is almost always verdant. Rampant Growth, Explosive Vegetation, Cultivate—these are the kinds of effects that would make Nissa proud. After all, they showcase a powerful bond between a spellcaster and the land they inhabit.

As with everything on Amonkhet, Nicol Bolas has managed to shape this concept into something dark. If you'd been hoping that the Hour of Promise might live up to its optimistic name, allow me to dissuade you of that notion:

Hour of Promise

Wow. Flavor-wise, Hour of Promise gives us a very different kind of green acceleration spell. With the Hekma breached, there is nothing left to protect Naktamun from the deserts beyond its disintegrating border. The lands fetched by Hour of Promise don't represent growth, creation, or cultivation. They depict a city being swallowed by sand.

This concept may not seem particularly green at first, but remember: the natural world does not care very much about the integrity of your artificial constructs. And when you factor in Nicol Bolas's influence, Hour of Promise makes a twisted amount of sense. I'm pretty excited to cackle maniacally while casting it, that's for sure.

Mechanically, Hour of Promise does a good job of incentivizing you for using it in a flavorful way. Want a pair of Zombies? You can only get them if you control three or more Deserts after the first part of the spell resolves. Most of the time, then, you'll be using Hour of Promise to go and fetch your Deserts—just like Nicol Bolas did when he set the Hours into motion. Rewarding you with Zombies makes sense, too. We all know that hordes of the undead are lurking in the sand just beyond the Hekma, salivating at the chance to come inside and play.

Why three Deserts and not two? To me, this is the card's way of ensuring that you have a connection to the Deserts outside of the Hekma before the spell is cast. The sand has to blow in from somewhere, after all. For the coolest possible results, I recommend pairing one of Amonkhet's Deserts with two Deserts from the new set of common cyclers in Hour of Devastation. Grasping Dunes and Sunscorched Desert are a great way to represent the wasteland beyond the Hekma, and using the new cycle is a great way to show off what the monuments of Naktamun will look like once the Hour of Promise has ended.

As with everything in Amonkhet block, I love how Hour of Promise's flavor ties into real Egyptian lore and mythology. The art evokes the swarms of locusts whose land-scouring ways were feared by the ancient Egyptians. The Pyramid Texts, one of the few written artifacts that we have from that time, references a swarm of locusts massive enough to hide the sun. That appears to be what's happening in Hour of Promise as well, though on Amonkhet the sun-blotting plague is being led by a gigantic locust god.

Speaking of the locust god, let's take a closer look at how it is depicted in Jonas De Ro's gorgeous digital painting.

Hour of Promise
Hour of Promise | Art by Jonas De Ro

Most interesting to me is De Ro's decision to use shades of yellow and brown almost exclusively here. It's a bold choice that could have easily flopped in lesser hands. Instead of creating a flat and muddy atmosphere, though, De Ro uses these muted colors to show us the sand and dust hanging in the air as Bolas's destruction ripples through Naktamun. The subdued choice of palate also allows the artist to use aerial perspective to make the locust god appear larger and more imposing than if it were drawn in clear, sharp focus. I also love how the positioning of the sun shows off the creature's massive, translucent wings.

De Ro also uses a clever technique to show off the locust god's color identity. If you look closely at the magical energy flowing around the creature and its swarm, you'll notice that all of the energy is red and blue—the locust god's colors. It's hard to pull this off without making the entire card feel like a blue-red spell (Hour of Promise is a green card, remember), but it's done in such a subtle way that we can see the different schools of magic at work without getting distracted.

Hour of Promise may not be the sort of ramp spell you're used to, but it does a wonderful job of using the mechanic in a new and flavorful way. If you're looking for a story-centric way to fix your mana (to cast a certain God-Pharaoh, perhaps), this is the card for you.

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