This isn't strictly a Commander review for Amonkhet. Reviews are great, and something that's easy to find if you want information about every card. What I'd like to do today is something abridged: Equip you with every card you could use or really need from the set—if you play Commander that is.
There's three parts to the article:
Utility Cards and Value—staples and staple effects you can use use in many decks.
Notable Power Ups—narrower but powerful effects that work with popular themes.
The Best—cards you should have simply because of what they do.
Cycling always brings new tools to decks since "you can just cycle it away" is always an option. It's not necessarily the best option, but the choice to go digging or just sit and do nothing makes it easier to justify playing some over others.
Forsake the Worldly and Dissenter's Deliverance both hit the intersection of answering common types of cards while adding cycling to the mix. Break Asunder is expensive and a sorcery; these new takes are cheaper and instants. Forsake the Worldly also exiles the target, which is much better as a permanent solution.
Cast Out is a little different. While the new rules text for Oblivion Ring effects prevent any Flicker shenanigans, Cast Out is faster and still answers obnoxious things like Planeswalkers and indestructible (nonland) permanents.
Shefet Monitor is almost Krosan Tusker. Having to hit four mana before cycling it is harder, but getting to ramp (untapped!) and drawing a card is still powerful. Similarly, By Force is outclassed by many other ways to Wipe Away some, or all, artifacts. The surgical scaling is a nice feature if you plan to play your own though.
Liliana, Death's Majesty is a great Zombify twist. I count on her reanimating something annoying (powerful) then either taking a hit from another player (smart) or sticking around to do it again in a ew turns (gross). She's great, but I would bet the farm on her being a Wrath of God effect for you.
By Force is a great alternative card for Commander decks that want to run their own artifacts but have answers for others. Four mana to destroy three target artifacts is reasonably efficient, even if it isn't an instant.
Tuck effects like Commit // Memory are less powerful than they once were, but with so many players searching their library an instant way to tuck is a solid answer. The aftermath side is an expensive, sorcery Wheel of Fortune but it's effectively a "free" extra card that still works if you discard it.
Similarly the front half of Never // Return is the stronger half, but as a sorcery it's more role-filling than flagship trick. Killing a planeswalker on your turn is generally good enough, but it won't save you from something like Prossh, Skyraider of Kher gone wild. The aftermath side is… not great. Fringe use for Zombie tribal decks is the best I'd hope for, though exiling Protean Hulk before it comes back again is always a good idea.
Thanks, Rules Committee.
Manglehorn is another slow, role-filling card. I'm a fan of "spell creatures" that give you something and a body at the same time. The "artifacts enter the battlefield tapped" rules text is probably a blank; opponents will kill it first if it matters. If you like to toolbox value and answers with creatures, like I do, you'll find Manglehorn useful.
Pull from Tomorrow is stupendous value. The casting cost is easier than Blue Sun's Zenith and you get to put something into your graveyard for later value. This is a staple you'll want in multiples since it goes in nearly every blue deck. Unless you really need to target someone else to draw cards, you'll never need a copy of Stroke of Genius again.
As an unabashed fan of Hippos, tokens and green card draw it's no surprise I think Mouth // Feed is the perfect card for many green decks. Making a 3/3, then drawing plenty of cards (assuming you set up your battlefield with 3/3s) is an efficient one-two punch and should fill out plenty of green-heavy lists with late-game gas.
Spring // Mind is fair ramp into a six mana sink for two cards. Play this for the three mana land fetch, but you'll be grateful for extra cards if you have nothing else to do on someone's end step.
Aven Wind Guide is a great way to power up Bant and white-blue token strategies. Flying and vigilance is no joke. Clone Legion and Rite of Replication are just two of the blue ways to take advantage of the Aven, with embalm making up the other side of how far this card can reach. Flying and vigilance will win more than Limited matches.
Five-color fixing is often clumsy and painful. Cascading Cataracts feels a little clumsy. But indestructible is a valuable ability for a land. The fact you can put five mana in and get five of just one mana back out makes this can great card to fix challenging mana costs and be a budget way to pay for Cromat. I wouldn't go out of my way for this in every deck, but four-color commanders and partner setups should appreciate this clever, super-sized Shimmering Grotto.
Narrower cards aren't necessarily those to avoid. The right kind of decks love the right kind of effects, and these will all find homes with popular commanders.
Cards like Angel of Sanctions aren't permanent answers, but in decks running Deadeye Navigator and friends can find ways to abuse any flicker effect. Wispmane Angel and, of course, Felidar Guardian can play nicely with flicking away different things. Embalm is additional value, but I'm not putting this into a deck unless I plan to play around with opponents' things.
Harvest Season is another three-mana ramp card, but this asks for a little more setup. A coworker in the TCGplayer office asked about this card, comparing it to other effects. Creature-heavy decks (tokens in particular) can set up a swath of lands for three mana. This should find its way into decks that will have an army of creatures in play.
Once card I'm a little leery of is Cut // Ribbons. The front half can sometime be tough: You need a creature to target to cast it, and four damage won't stop big threats. Worse, it's not even an instant. However, discarding this or casting it the hard way to get the aftermath option online is worth the trouble. Vial Smasher the Fierce and Grixis Control decks of all stripes will enjoy the finishing power of Ribbons.
I'm generally not a fan of lockout and narrow answers like Gideon's Intervention. Enchantments are often more fragile than sturdy in Commander games, but Gideon's Intervention can stymie commander-specific strategies well. Purphoros, God of the Forge is just one of the many powerful leaders that Gideon's Intervention stonewalls. If your meta sees similar commanders this is one way to answer them.
Shadow of the Grave screams Grixis value. Discarding a mess of cards for profit only to immediately get back all those cards is a Commander dream waiting to be fulfilled. While you can't tutor for this into your hand before dropping Wheel of Fortune, Vampiric Tutor or Mystical Tutor before going off with Windfall will work wonders.
Hate bears aren't reliable in Commander, but Harsh Mentor is one of the few I'd gamble playing with. Like Ankh of Mishra or Leonin Arbiter, the delay annoying effects can have until someone is forced to use a removal spell can be worth the hassle. Alongside effects like Stranglehold, Harsh Mentor can give red the flavor of control you might need.
Each of the Gods in Amonkhet are powerful in their own right. Overall, I'm unimpressed with the legendary creatures of the set. While many have interesting build-around-me ways to go, none of them strike me as something overwhelmingly necessary for a Commander player to try.
Indestructible Gods with useful abilities are as close as it gets for me. Each has their own wrinkle:
- Oketra the True is easy to turn on and a fine mana dump in a pinch. Try adding Equipment to make double strike terrifying.
- Kefnet the Mindful begs for Wheel of Fortune effects. If you have a full hand, it's amazing rate. If you want to bounce your own lands then Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Trade Routes are the first options I'd recommend. Kefnet is a pretty good Treasure Trove if that's what you need.
- Bontu the Glorified is a sacrifice outlet with value stapled on. Sac outlets are always handy, and getting a little damage in along the way is helpful. Again, other outlets are easier and cheaper to use, they're also not indestructible.
- Hazoret the Fervent likes seeing cards discarded, and you can certainly build around dumping your hand if you want. Unfortunately, there's a huge risk in having an empty hand. As a way to discard for value on demand, it's great. I'd leave it at that.
- Rhonas the Indomitable is as huge a rattlesnake card there is. Deathtouch and indestructible are great friends, and three mana isn't an unreasonable ask to keep open. For decks that want a great groiund game, and perhaps the ability to pass trample around (which you can pop onto opponents' creatures attacking other opponents after blocks are declared), Rhonas is fine.
These are in no ranking order or a specific top X countdown: Just the very best Amonkhet has to offer Commander.
Anointed Procession is white Parallel Lives. Parallel Lives is an incredible token enchantment. There are tons of strategies that like to make tokens, split pretty well across white and green and even more colors. Now you have two options for Rhys the Redeemed decks, as well as one for all the crazy Cat Token decks coming next.
Wrath of God effects are a mainstay in the format, and Dusk // Dawn is the latest take. While Dusk won't get everything, it's generally the bigger creatures you care about killing. Having an aftermath card to buy back your small fries is gravy after that. See Snapcaster Mage, Mother of Runes, Deathrite Shaman and Harsh Mentor.
Clone effects are somewhat underrated in Commander. They scale well, meaning the more powerful your opponents' creatures the more powerful your own will be, and Clone effects give blue and undeniable slice of the color pie all its own. Vizier of Many Faces not only does work coming down, but embalms back out for another round of glory. Sultai and Grixis decks that love to discard cards and abuse the graveyard will benefit well from the reliable copy effect.
Time Stop is now red. Glorious End will upend a game of Commander soon, if it hasn't already for some lucky Prerelease player. The steep "lose next turn" qualifier is dangerous, but stopping the middle of someone's annoying combo that's killing you anyway will be worth it. This card will be amazing to see, and I can't wait to get blasted by this out of nowhere. It's awesome, and absolutely worth playing for the fun of it. This card is part of why Commander is so amazing.
Did I mention token strategies get a nice boost in Amonkhet? Throne of the God-Pharaoh is free damage. Tap your creatures, perhaps by attacking, then drop the Throne for a cool pile of almost unavoidable damage. Pairing this with something like Cryptolith Rite means not only can you out-ramp opponents, you can blast them for damage while doing it. Cheap, abusable artifacts are a hallmark of deck staples. If you have 10 copies of Sol Ring and are waiting for Sensei's Divining Top to finish bottoming out, you might as well grab a few of these to pile on more value.
The new dual lands in the set are great. They don't replace shock lands or the original duals, but fetching a tapped land on the first turn or two or cycling a dead land late in the game is incredible flexibility. These are among the best "enters the battlefield tapped" lands ever printed for big, singleton decks. Having these on hand to fill out around your shiny new Modern Masters 2017 enemy fetch lands will be well worth the investment.
There are more cards you can use in Commander. In fact, going into some of the upsides for legendary creatures and cards like Drake Haven was possible. But if you do nothing else, getting all of these cards will put you on the road to updating and tweaking your Commander decks with the best goodies in Amonkhet.
I look forward to the obligatory "I can't believe you didn't mention X" in the comments below. Enjoy the release this Friday!