We are a little less than a month away from the next Magic: the Gathering set release, and that means spoiler season is upon us! Amonkhet promises some interesting mechanics from the world of Nico Bolas, where the dead don’t stay dead and sand is guaranteed to get stuck in places you don’t want it to.
Archfiend of Ifnir & Cycling
Well, would you look at that, cycling is back! This popular keyword ability originates back in the Urza’s Saga set and has popped up several times over the years. Cycling is pretty basic—anytime you have priority you pay the cost, discard the card, draw a new one. It will be interesting to see what other spin-cycling we will get. Whether it is type-cycling or something new, we’ll just have to find out!
The Archfiend is a solid, limited bomb for sure, but it’s unlikely to see play outside of drafts and sealed. What makes him interesting is that we will likely see other cards that grant benefits when you cycle. Not only are you drawing a card, but you could potentially kill that opposing Thalia that is giving you trouble, or maybe make an opposing flyer smaller so you can favorably block or trade creatures with. So while Archfiend might be a little underwhelming, there is a lot of potential for other powerful cards to support cycling.
The Mechanics of Embalming
Here’s the good stuff: Embalm. Embalm is an activated ability that can only be activated if the creature is in your graveyard. When you pay the Embalm cost, the original creature gets exiled from your graveyard and put a token copy of the creature onto the battlefield except now it is a zombie in addition to its other creature types and its color identity becomes white.
Since it is an ability and not an alternative casting cost the Embalm can’t be countered by a traditional counterspell. A player can also only Embalm a creature during your main phase while nothing else is on the stack. So no fun, end-of-your-opponent’s-turn Reanimating here.
With the Duelist, we already have a better Bear that doesn’t stay dead. Each card with Embalm also has a companion token that has all the information you need from the original.
Any card with a built-in recursion effect is automatically better in almost every scenario. Maybe you’ve run out of cards in your hand but you have all these untapped lands. Embalm a few creatures and suddenly you have a board state again. Perhaps there is a new board wipe spell and the control player is trying to even the battlefield again. Whoops, now everyone is back as a mummy.
It will be cool to see this mechanic on some different creatures, and maybe some other abilities that trigger when you Embalm something. This ability could easily be pretty dangerous if a good enough creature gets printed with a cheaper Embalm cost. Embalm is basically flashback on a sorcery, and flashback has had some pretty powerful cards (I’m looking at you Cabal Therapy, Lingering Souls, and Think Twice). Card advantage is powerful in every format, and if the right cards gets printed it could be pretty dominating.
Good ol’ dragons bringing the heat. Glorybringer has a new keyword action called Exert that grants an extra ability when the creature is declared as an attacker. Once declared, the controller decides whether or not to Exert the creature for an added effect. If the player does the creature will not untap at the beginning of the player’s next untap step.
This handsome boy is a limited bomb as a 4/4 flying haste dragon that also does other stuff is really solid but that’s probably as much play as he’s going to see. What makes Exert interesting is seeing it on creatures with Vigilance seeing, as they don’t tap to attack. Or seeing an aura that grants an Exert ability would be neat, as you could give something with Vigilance some added effects. With only one card with the ability it is a little too early to determine how much of an impact it will have on the various formats but let’s be honest, probably not much.
So here’s something new: Bricks. Well, bricks themselves aren’t new, but it’s the first time we’ve cared about them in Magic. Brick counters just seem to be a flavor twist on the otherwise boring counter.
Speaking of counters, Wizards also revealed a new punch card that will be packaged with packs that come with some -1/-1 counters, Bricks, and Embalm and Exerted notifiers so players don’t get confused on the status of a card.
Amonkhet is certainly laying the groundwork for some powerful cards and we haven’t even gotten to the exciting stuff yet! Let us know what you think about these new abilities in the comment section below!