It's again one of the most wonderful times of the year! I'm not talking about the holidays, though it might feel that way to many of us. No, I'm talking about new-set hype! The full list has been revealed from Hour of Devastation, and we finally get the chance to see what havoc Nicol Bolas has unleashed upon the denizens of Amonkhet. Better yet, we get to see that story played out on a plethora of new cards! As a Limited format enthusiast, it's always great to play with new sets and get a feel for how things have shaken up and especially to find the synergies between the cards as opposed to just their individual merits. Hour of Devastation largely picks up where Amonkhet left us, but let's take a look at some of the things you'll expect to see working together in this new set.
Getting Your Just Deserts
One of the coolest themes to pop out of Hour of Devastation is the Desert lands. Each of the five colors gets itself a cycling Desert at common and a Desert with an activated ability that requires you to sacrifice it at uncommon. These are the core cards that Desert synergies will revolve around, and the nice thing is you don't have to do much work to turn these Deserts into personal oases of value. Better yet, cards that utilize Deserts are still playable even when you don't have the added value! What kinds of cards am I talking about? Let's take a look.
Four-mana 3/3s with no abilities, what Magic players call Hill Giants, are generally accepted as fine cards to play in your Draft decks. You're not excited about them, but they get the job done. That's what we have in Sand Strangler, yet if you have a Desert card on the battlefield or in your graveyard, it suddenly becomes reminiscent of one of the most powerful creatures to have been printed: Flametongue Kavu. Each of the five colors has at least one creature that benefits from these Desert synergies, and generally I would consider them relatively high picks as their power level can go anywhere from always playable to simply amazing. Just don't forget to keep an eye out for Deserts when building your deck; it's easy to overlook lands.
Recycling Old Ideas
We saw cycling in Amonkhet, and it definitely undergoes a resurgence in power with the addition of Hour of Devastation. While there aren't nearly as many awesome payoff cards like Faith of the Devoted and Drake Haven, you can still get something like an Abandoned Sarcophagus to really make things great. Notably, you'll still have the opportunity to play with cards in Amonkhet; you'll just be playing with more cards from Hour of Devastation as drafting will only use one pack of Amonkhet and two of Hour of Devastation, so your likelihood of getting the powerful cycling payoffs will be reduced. That being said, cycling decks will definitely still have a spot in Hour of Devastation, as having even just a few Cunning Survivors or Grisly Survivors will reward drafting around this specific strategy—which will only get better if you can also pair it alongside any of the cycling-matters cards from Amonkhet.
We first saw exert with Amonkhet, and now we rekindle that flavor with Hour of Devastation. Unlike in Amonkhet, however, there are now creatures that don't need to attack to exert themselves. This is a new concept that should add an extra layer of complexity to an already interesting ability, as correctly timing an exert activation will often be the difference between a game-losing error and a game-winning play. Along with all the new exert creatures, we also gained a few new ways to give vigilance to those creatures or untap them once they get tapped down. Playing a useful card that also acts as a valuable resource by unlocking a tapped card just adds to the power of that individual effect. Here are a few of the cards that do that for us:
Of course you'll have to be aware of the old tricks from Amonkhet as well, as cards such as Synchronized Strike, Spidery Grasp, and Djeru's Resolve will still be role players in a deck heavy on exert.
Show Me the Mummies
What good would Hour of Devastation be without more mummies? What was already one of the premier strategies in Amonkhet has now gotten some more embalmer's tools to get the job done. These cards reward you for playing a more tribal strategy, one where each individual piece becomes empowered when played together as a whole. Better yet, you still have access to all the embalm creatures from Amonkhet as well as getting additional value from eternalize creatures from Hour of Devastation, such as the Steadfast Sentinel. While you won't be seeing as many copies of Binding Mummy or Lord of the Accursed, you should value Zombies higher when you understanding their overall strength as opposed to just standalone.
Walk Before You Overrun
I saved the best possible synergy in all of Hour of Devastation for last, and that of course is the power of Overcome and, wait for it . . .
. . .
. . .
. . . creatures.
While I'm clearly jesting (somewhat), the power of Overrun effects with creatures can't be denied.
Step 1: Play creatures
Step 2: Play more creatures
Step 3: Play Overcome
Step 4: Profit?
All in all, I'm really looking forward to playing with the new set. While a lot of the synergies presented are reminiscent of things we saw in Amonkhet, playing will be an entirely new venture. Of course, I haven't touched upon everything you can expect to see in Hour of Devastation, just a quick glance at some of the more prevalent synergies. Now it's your turn: go out and explore all that remains of Nicol Bolas's toy world and enjoy Magic: The Gathering with a fresh and exciting set.
~Kenji "NumotTheNummy" Egashira