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Non-Basically Speaking — Touring the Land of Amonkhet
Hello friends and article-thirsty desert nomads, welcome back to EDHREC and our continuing biweekly column, Non-Basically Speaking, the series that strives to identify non-basic lands that should be considered valuable staples or hidden gems based on their visibility on EDHREC. Well, except for today. In this article I wanted to set aside our normal routine of non-basic evaluation and take a look at some of the new plots we have to discover on the plane of Amonkhet!
Tour de Amonkhet
As a casual veteran and witness of Magic the Gathering's long and storied past, nostalgia hit me full force this year with the revelation that the cycling mechanic would return in Amonkhet. Cycling, to this day, is one of my favorite keyword abilities, and I was ecstatic to see it displayed proudly within the rules text of the newest set of dual lands. Late game land draws can be a bummer, especially when you hope to draw an answer or other key element of our deck's strategy. However, if that land is an Irrigated Farmland, Fetid Pools, Canyon Slough, Sheltered Thicket, or Scattered Groves we can pay 2, discard it and hope for top-decking gold. The original cycling lands from Urza's Saga have served me well in the past, and I look forward to the same great service from these new Amonkhet options.
Another fantastic fact about the Amonkhet dual lands is that, like Shock Lands, they have the basic land types. Seasoned Magic players are already familiar with the value that these type of lands bring. Scattered Groves, like Tundra and Godless Shrine, are fetchable with cards like Windswept Heath, Farseek and Eternal Dragon. In addition, dual lands with two basic land types play well with check lands such as Clifftop Retreat or other cards (like Anger) that rely on the basic land types.
Sure, our new bicycle lands, as the cool kids are calling them, enter the battlefield tapped; however, the fact that they can be brought into play with a fetch land, cycled to draw a card, and should be a decent budget option will make our wallets happy and alleviate this minor setback.
Amonkhet Falls National Park
In addition to having access to the allied bicycle lands on Nicol Bolas' home plane, we are also treated with an interesting piece of real estate that presents a unique hue filtering system. Cascading Cataracts draws a striking resemblance to Odyssey's Crystal Quarry, but instead of being forced into a mana of each color, we can pick and choose any combination of mana to add to our pool.
While trading six colorless mana for five colored may not seem optimal at the time, I could foresee scenarios where five, four or even three color decks will require resources from the prismatic filters of "Amonkhet Falls". Take for instance Breya, Etherium Shaper. We could easily feed a few artifacts to Krark-Clan Ironworks and use the colorless mana derived from the Ironworks to activate Cascading Cataracts and cast Breya or any other hodgepodge of color intensive spells.
While Cascading Cataracts is a swell addition to our four and five color decks, we could also use it in decks where we want to steal and/or cast our opponents' spells. In January, 2016, the EDH Rules Committee removed the Commander-specific rule that prevented a deck from generating colors outside of its commander's color identity. With "Rule 4" abolished, cards like Sen Triplets and Praetor's Grasp can be used to fully exploit the mana spewed forth by Cascading Cataracts.
Oh, and let's not overlook the fact that Cascading Cataracts is indestructible. When our opponents see how we manipulate Cascading Cataracts in our game plan they will be thoroughly disappointed that it cannot be destroyed by their Strip Mine or Acidic Slime. How about we wrap this up with a "drop the mic" type of moment? In a five color deck we enchant the Cataracts with Genju of the Realm. An 8/12 Indestructible with Trample? Booyah!
EDH Death Valley – The Amonkhetian Desert
I always look back at the original Desert from Arabian Nights with admiration and wonder why we haven't seen any other cards that tinkered in this design space. Here we are 24 years later and Amonkhet introduces us to four new lands with the desert subtype, and a creature that can seek them out for our exploitation.
The design team at Wizards has definitely scored a flavor win for including deserts in this Egyptian-themed set, but the lands themselves seem a bit dry with regards to EDH playability. Simply put, our opponents won't be sleeving up a Camel or Desert Nomads to play against us anytime soon. Regardless, today we will challenge ourselves to find a home for each Desert in an EDH deck. Where in the world of Bolas are we going to allocate these underpowered sand heaps? Let's take a look!
Possibly the easiest of the Deserts to assign to a Commander deck is Cradle of the Accursed. While swapping a land for a 2/2 Zombie is not an ideal situation for a majority of EDH builds, we know that theme-conscious brewers stitching together a Zombie tribal deck will want a copy. At 528 decks on EDHREC, Gisa and Geralf is the most popular Zombie tribal commander and the first recommendation for annexing Cradle of the Accursed.
Whenever I see a new card that dishes out -1/-1 counters, my EDH brew bubble immediately turns to Vhati il-Dal (69 decks on EDHREC). For those of you that read this column before, you may remember we discussed building a colorless Golgari deck with Vhati at the helm: Non-Basically Speaking: Vhati-Il Dal. Grasping Dunes fits right in with Vhati's disgusting creature control provided by -1/-1 counters and his unique activated ability. If we also include Shefet Monitor in our deck build, we could use the cycling ability to draw a card and put either Desert or Grasping Dunes directly onto the battlefield.
Another commander that is no stranger to the hostile climate of the Grasping Dunes is Amonket's Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons (67 decks on EDHREC). Using the sorcery-speed activation of the Dunes with Hapatra on the field summons forth a 1/1 Deathtouch snake. Definitely not the ideal trade-off, but the option is there in desperate times.
Whether being used in conjunction with Hapatra, Vhati, or we just need to get the rotting process of Blowfly Infestation started, Grasping Dunes is a niche pick that could occasionally play a role in a game of Commander.
This Desert is probably the toughest to find a home for. Honestly, I'm not sure if there is any format in Magic that could use a colorless land designed to simply flick an opponent in the ear for 1 point of damage. With that being said, I can think of one Commander that could possibly obtain some value from Sunscorched Desert. The infamous Rakdos, Lord of Riots (745 decks on EDHREC). In order to cast Rakdos, the notorious demon has a prerequisite that an opponent must have lost life that turn. Sunscorched Desert can provide the life loss required to summon Rakdos in case there are other issues with meeting the requirements through combat or casting spells.
There are very few Commander players that have the courage to sleeve up a Shimmering Grotto. Unfortunately, the same will be probably be true of Painted Bluffs. The Bluffs, for the most part, is a functional reprint of the Grotto that may find a home in a few four or five color budget Commander decks.
That's all I have for you today my EDHREC friends! What are your thoughts on Amonkhet? Where do you rank the Bicycle lands? Do you think they will finish the cycle with the enemy colors in Hour of Devastation? Are you planning on using any of the Deserts? Is this a land type you would like to see more of in the future? Let's discuss in the comments below!
On to the next!