All good things come to an end. And so it goes with the world of Amonkhet. As promised, the God-Pharaoh has returned. Unfortunately, the promise of a glorious afterlife wasn't quite what everyone thought it was. Nicol Bolas has come to claim his perfect Zombie army, and everyone else gets the short end of the majestically curved horns. The new abilities in Hour of Devastation celebrate Bolas's greatest triumph to date. The graveyard is still very much in the spotlight, what with everyone dying and whatnot. Let's check out what awaits us.
Mummies were an accepted part of everyday life in the city of Naktamun. The last set's embalm ability gave your creatures a second life, as it were. The new ability eternalize is similar. Creatures with eternalize can be reborn as Zombies. But we're not talking about simple mindless servants this time around. These are Bolas's Eternals: a lethal undead fighting force that has transcended their mortal capabilities.
Like embalm, eternalize is an activated ability you can activate if the creature card with eternalize is in your graveyard. To do this, pay the eternalize cost and exile the card with eternalize from your graveyard. You can do this any time you could cast a sorcery, which means during your main phase when nothing else is happening. Just like with embalm, the eternalize ability isn't casting a spell. Things that counter spells won't work against eternalize.
When the ability resolves, you create a token copy of the card. As you'd expect, the process of becoming a champion of a millennia-old, power-obsessed, thoroughly evil Dragon Planeswalker causes some rather pleasant changes. The Eternals are very much undead, so they'll be Zombies in addition to whatever creature types it used to have. They're focused on serving Nicol Bolas and him alone, so they'll be black instead of their former colors. They'll also lose their mana costs, just like creatures with embalm did.
Here's the best part: the token will be 4/4 instead of its printed (and smaller) power and toughness. Many creatures with eternalize have abilities that get better because of their increased power. Even if your opponent manages to deal with your eternalize creature once, it'll be much worse for them the second time around.
Remember those sweet printed tokens that were made to highlight the new Zombie look of embalmed creatures? If you're thinking we should do that for eternalize, I have great news: We did. Each creature with eternalize has a corresponding token.
These tokens are optional play accessories. If you don't have the right token or if you just don't want to use them, you don't have to. But if you prefer your victory to be decorated with the lazotep-coated instruments of your ascendance, you have the opportunity.
The God-Pharaoh's legions are destructive, vicious, and just generally the sorts of folks you wouldn't invite to a party. But perhaps you're just going to the wrong parties. In any case, if a minion of Bolas is attacking you, it's a sure bet something bad is going to happen. The new ability afflict ensures just that.
Khenra Eternal attacking puts your opponent in an uncomfortable position. If they don't block it, it gets through to deal combat damage. If they do block it, they're losing 1 life anyway. Different creatures with afflict have different afflict numbers and cause the loss of different amounts of life. It doesn't matter how many creatures block a creature with afflict; afflict triggers only once per combat at most.
Exert will be familiar to those of you who played with Amonkhet cards. You remember Amonkhet, right? When civilization wasn't being ripped apart? Good times.
Exert returns in Hour of Devastation on cards that can be exerted as they attack. This means that they'll stay tapped on your next untap step, but in exchange an ability will trigger that grants some positive effect. Whereas last time exert signified extraordinary effort in service to the God-Pharaoh, this time it's flavored more as doing everything possible just to survive his wrath.
On cards like this, the decision to exert the creature or not is made as you declare attackers. But Hour of Devastation introduces a new twist on exert. On some cards in the set, exerting the creature will appear as a cost in an activated ability.
On cards like Oasis Ritualist, the decision to exert the creature or not is made as you activate its last ability. Some cards have abilities that trigger whenever you exert any creature, not just themselves. These abilities will trigger no matter if the creature is being exerted as it attacks or to activate one of its abilities.
And just like before, if you can find a way to untap your exerted creature before your next untap step rolls around, then the rule trying to keep your creature tapped will have no effect at all! The God-Pharaoh once again smiles on your ingenuity and/or tries to melt your face off. God-Pharaohs are funny that way.
There was a smattering of Deserts in the Amonkhet set, and if you thought they were portending a prominent theme in this set, you were correct! Hour of Devastation features a number of nonbasic lands with the land type Desert, including a cycle of cycling ones.
Desert doesn't mean anything by itself, but there are cards throughout the set that will reward you for either controlling a Desert or having a Desert card in your graveyard.
Caring about your graveyard is nice so you don't have to fret about cycling your Deserts in the early game. With the right combination of Deserts and cards that care about them, your opponents will quickly be buried beneath the sands.
Nicol Bolas seems to bring chaos and destruction with him wherever he may go, and it's time to put that to work for you and your Magic decks. We've already seen quite a slice of what awaits, but as foretold, there's plenty left to come. Enjoy the rest of preview week, and we'll see you all at the Prerelease!