On the fourth Hour, the Eternals arrived.
"To serve as an Eternal is the afterlife granted to the worthy."
But . . . what is an Eternal? Who deems them worthy? Let's have a look.
Looking at the staff, it's clear that "worth" is in the eye of the beholder. Those eyes belong to Nicol Bolas. The blue sheen on their bodies seems to indicate that Bolas doesn't just give them extra attention—he gives them extra power.
This appears to be the fate of those heroes who have experienced the Trials. Rather than be merely embalmed as mummies, Nicol Bolas raises them as elite Zombies with their skills and abilities intact.
As the penultimate Hour, what this foreshadows is more than a little frightening. Nicol Bolas is making undead servants of the most elite warriors of this plane, and to what end?
In Amonkhet, the only embalm creature we saw with strictly better stats than a 4/4 was Honored Hydra, who we all know hangs out with Rhonas the Indomitable. Elite in life, elite in death, the Eternals stand apart from the denizens of their plane.
How do we best use the Eternals summoned at this Hour in our games of Magic?
Hour of Upgrades
Hour of Eternity echoes "mass recall" cards like Rally the Ancestors. You can bring back multiple creatures you have already used to exploit enters-the-battlefield abilities. That is where the similarities end. Hour of Eternity has a more difficult time getting started, with a requirement of UUU before have to spend two mana for each Eternal it creates. You must spend five mana before you can get your first creature! Rally had an easier time bringing back creatures, but Hour of Eternity more easily upgrades the creatures it brings back. I'm going to come back to costs, but I want to discuss what these upgrades can look like.
Hour of Eternity is great for converting your early game creatures into large bruisers with the same abilities they had before. It doesn't seem like much, but many creatures become different cards when you keep a cool ability but upgrade their power and toughness.
A Slither Blade or Benthic Infiltrator coming back as an unblockable 4/4 is difficult for an opponent to deal with. Temmet would give himself or another creature that same unblockable ability in addition to being a 4/4.
Enlightened Maniac sees no play in Standard, but even this innocuous card puts 7 power on the board when brought back with Hour of Eternity! Skyspawners can often find a space and return to bring 5 power split among two bodies.
The upgrades work with many creatures regularly seen in competitive Standard:
These creatures are strong in the early game, and come back even stronger with Hour of Eternity.
It wouldn't be right to talk about a card that creates elite Zombies without talking about . . . Zombies.
Could Hour of Eternity make Blue-Black Zombies a thing? Not only do Zombies gain access to Prized Amalgam and countermagic, being able to access Hour of Eternity in the late game grants the deck even more power to its endgame. Instead of bringing back 2/2 creatures, you can bring back 4/4 creatures to crush your opponent. Liliana's Mastery, Lord of the Accursed, and Metallic Mimic augment your Eternals even more. The heavy blue requirement to cast Hour of Eternity might limit the amount we see it, but it could be useful as a one- or two-of in Standard.
The Cost of Being Elite
I haven't really addressed the cost of Hour of Eternity yet, but it must be discussed.
Nine mana to get three creatures back isn't bad, but since their power and toughness will be capped at 4, we must introduce a new element to our deck building to make sure we are getting the best value from the card. We need to reduce the cost; improve efficiency; or find a unique, game-winning combination that turns our mana investment into an instant payout.
For cost reduction, we have a few options. Cryptolith Rite turns creatures into mana, which can then be turned into Eternals. Using cards that fill the graveyard, we can flood the board and the grave and then flood the board again. An approach like this plays well with Throne of the God-Pharaoh, giving you an extra vector of attack.
There is one card that improves efficiency that seems designed with Hour of Eternity in mind:
Casting this means the following turn you can create two Eternals for five mana, four Eternals at seven mana, and six at nine mana! That is a great improvement on rate.
Cycling creatures do not by themselves improve the efficiency of Hour of Eternity, but that they can place themselves in the graveyard while letting you draw means you don't expend extra slots trying to fill your graveyard.
Hour of Dissent
In looking for game-winning combos with Hour of Eternity, one card kept coming up with combo after combo:
Double strike, vigilance, and haste are good, but granting other creatures haste is the hallmark of a game-winning card. Combine this with the upgrade from Hour of Eternity and you get, well, let me show you.
I'm sure this isn't the only big combination we're going to get, but it does illustrate the potential synergies Hour of Eternity can create.
What do the rising Eternals bring with them? What will we see in the final Hour? I'm interested to know and just as interested to see what powerful combinations Hour of Eternity can introduce into games of Magic!