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Amonkhet is out on Magic Online for the first time before the full paper release and the set looks fantastic. I like sets with a variety of archetypes and styles to draft and Amonkhet definitely looks to offer that up. I wasn’t sure when I was reviewing the cards that there would be enough pay-off and that the format would be slow enough to support a dedicated cycling deck, since it spends so much of it’s early game setting up.

Luckily, I can say it is definitely draftable. I don’t like to make definitive statements early on in a format, but the cycling decks, whether Blue-Black, or Blue-Red look to have more than enough tools to be competitive and judging by the number of mirror matches (just look at the video!) I’ve had with cycling and other long-game strategies it is performing very well.

Some things I’ve learned from my first few tries at the cycling deck:

You don’t need the uncommon payoffs.

Cycling is a powerful ability all on it’s own and there’s a decent amount of payoff at common. You’ll be less “all-in” on the strategy and won’t need to take cycling cards as high, but Pitiless Vizier, Cryptic Serpent, and Scribe of the Mindful/Wander in Death strategies will still be good even without the bomb rares or uncommons. This really helps with the viability of the deck, since you can take cycling cards early and expect to get some decent payoff.  Cycling adds a lot of consistency to your draws so even if you don’t get there and are stuck with just a Blue-Black or Blue-Red control type deck, you’ll be perfectly fine.

Faith of the Devoted is good.

Cards like Ruthless Sniper and Archfiend of Ifnir were obviously powerful, but a card like Faith of the Devoted that does nothing immediately is a tougher card to justify. It still shouldn’t go in every deck (Need 7+ cycling) and you should consider siding it out in aggro matchups, but it gives a dedicated cycling deck a ton of reach in the late game.

Shadow of the Grave isn’t.

Don’t try this, it’s a trap. You need to have a hand full of 1-mana cycling cards on turn 7 or later to actually get any real benefit. It’s just too hard to set up and does nothing most of the time even with dedicated cycling.

1-mana cycling cards are key.

This is very important once you pick up one or two cards like Faith of the Devoted or Ruthless Sniper. There are very powerful cards to trigger off of cycling, but it gets expensive to pay 4 or more to trigger all of your cycling payoff. It may not seem like much, but having a slight reduction in that cost is a big deal and it lets you ambush unwary players who might expect 2-mana cycling. Once I have three Faith/Sniper, or two and a Cryptic Serpent and other payoffs I would absolutely run a card like Compelling Argument, just to cycle.

Wander in Death is better than it looks. 

In a deck with dedicated cycling creatures, rebuying two is amazing. It gives you flexibility to use those cards to re-trigger your Faiths and Snipers, or just slam down a big fatty like River Serpent that you had to get rid of early. In a mirror-match or other grindy game it’s important to note its interaction with Scribe of the Mindful, where you can use it to generate value turn after turn by rebuying Scribe and another creature and then using Scribe to get it back. This is slow, slow, slow, but I wanted the interaction multiple times in different drafts so it will definitely come up. Thankfully Scribe is an easy pick-up and you can leave it in the side for the faster matchups.

Really, the cycling deck works exactly the way you want it to. Faith of the Devoted, Ruthless Sniper, and company are great payoffs and the consistency from having a lot of cycling is great. It needs time to set-up, so cards like Dune Beetle go up in value as insurance versus aggro.

I have faith that if you’re devoted enough to cycling cards you’ll pick up a few wins at your release event, and if you like value decks like I do, you’ll have a blast doing it!

Vote for next week’s Full Force archetype, as I continue to learn Amonkhet: