Blake Smith: Everything You Need to Know About Amonkhet

Blake Smith   April 28, 2017   Comments Off on Blake Smith: Everything You Need to Know About Amonkhet

With Amonkhet being officially released today, there is a lot to go over.

Before we go into all the changes, I would like to give a shoutout to Max Kahn for providing the me this opportunity to write this article instead of writing it himself. Also, before going into the new mechanics for Amonkhet, we had two ban notifications and a policy change that I will be covering.

First, I would like to go over the policy change that covers the Converted Mana Cost (CMC) of split cards. In the past, there was a lot of confusion when it came to figuring this out, and players who knew these rules would take advantage of the fact that they could have different CMCs at different times. Now, this has been changed to say that the CMC of a split card is the added total of all the mana costs on the card unless the card is on the stack. When it is on the stack, then the CMC is based on which side is being cast. This change should clear up a lot of confusion about when a split card can be targeted by another spell or how much life a player loses to Dark Confidant.

Next, the two ban announcements. The first announcement came out on its scheduled day —April 24 — and banned Sensei’s Divining Top in Legacy and restricted Gitaxian Probe and Gush in Vintage. The restrictions in Vintage should have no effect on Amonkhet. The only effect on Amonkhet that banning Sensei’s Divining Top should have is the value of the invocation version of Counterbalance, because both Top and Counterbalance are key components to the Miracles deck in Legacy.

On April 26, Wizards came out with an addendum to the initial announcement and banned Felidar Guardian, effective today. This ban kills the infinite Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian combo that was dominating the standard format. In the initial ban announcement Wizards said that they would continue to watch the deck, but didn’t believe that it was necessary to take and actions yet. Well it appears that it only two more days of observation were needed to see that it became necessary.

Now that all of that is taken care of, let’s start talking about the Amonkhet mechanics and how they work. The first one I will go over is Embalm. The official rules for Embalm are as follows:

  • 127 Embalm
  • 127a Embalm is an activated ability that functions while the card with embalm is in a graveyard. “Embalm [cost]” means “[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Create a token that’s a copy of this card, except it’s white, it has no mana cost, and it’s a Zombie in addition to its other types. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.”
  • 127b A token is “embalmed” if it’s created by a resolving embalm ability.

The most asked question I received during prerelease for the Embalm mechanic was “Does this work with the triggered ability of Monument cards on casting a creature spell?” The answer is that Embalm is an activated ability and not casting a spell.

Another new mechanic is Exert. The official rules for Exert are as follows:

  • 37 Exert
  • 37a To exert a permanent, you choose to have it not untap during your next untap step.
  • 37b A permanent can be exerted even if it’s not tapped or has already been exerted in a turn. If you exert a permanent more than once before your next untap step, each effect causing it not to untap expires during the same untap step.
  • 37c An object that isn’t on the battlefield can’t be exerted.


Every question I was asked about Exert was when did the decision have to be made. Exert is a triggered ability, so you will have to make that decision when it is triggered. For example, If a card says “you may exert Creature when it attacks” you must make the decision during your declare attacks phase, before your opponent declares their blockers.

The next mechanic I want to cover is Aftermath. I believe that the official rules do an excellent job of explaining how this works and the only weird thing about this that would need to be explained was done earlier when I when over the policy change for split card. The official rules for aftermath are as follows:

  • 126 Aftermath
  • 126a Aftermath is an ability found on some split cards (see rule 708, “Split Cards”). It represents three static abilities. “Aftermath” means “You may cast this half of this split card from your graveyard,” “This half of this split card can’t be cast from any zone other than a graveyard,” and “If this spell was cast from a graveyard, exile it instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack.”

Now that we have completed the new Amonkhet mechanics, let’s review the returning mechanics. The first returning mechanic is Cycling. The official rules for Cycling are as follows:

  • 28.Cycling
  • 28a Cycling is an activated ability that functions only while the card with cycling is in a player’s hand. “Cycling [cost]” means “[Cost], Discard this card: Draw a card.”
  • 28b Although the cycling ability can be activated only if the card is in a player’s hand, it continues to exist while the object is on the battlefield and in all other zones. Therefore objects with cycling will be affected by effects that depend on objects having one or more activated abilities.
  • 28c Some cards with cycling have abilities that trigger when they’re cycled. “When you cycle [this card]” means “When you discard [this card] to pay a cycling cost.” These abilities trigger from whatever zone the card winds up in after it’s cycled.
  • 28d Typecycling is a variant of the cycling ability. “[Type]cycling [cost]” means “[Cost], Discard this card: Search your library for a [type] card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.” This type is usually a subtype (as in “mountaincycling”) but can be any card type, subtype, supertype, or combination thereof (as in “basic landcycling”).
  • 28e Typecycling abilities are cycling abilities, and typecycling costs are cycling costs. Any cards that trigger when a player cycles a card will trigger when a card is discarded to pay a typecycling cost. Any effect that stops players from cycling cards will stop players from activating cards’ typecycling abilities. Any effect that increases or reduces a cycling cost will increase or reduce a typecycling cost.

The only extra information I would like to go over for Cycling is that it is an activated ability and can be done at instant speed.

Lastly, we also have the returning theme of -1/-1 counters. This is the first time in a while that -1/-1 counters have been in Standard.

If a creature with indestructible gets enough counters to bring its toughness to 0, it will die when state-based actions are checked. I say base toughness, because there is sometimes confusion with damage combined with negative counters. If a creature has indestructible and a base power/toughness of 5/5 is dealt four points of damage and then it gets a -1/-1 counter, it will still live. It survives because even though it has four points of damage, its base power/toughness is still 5/5 when the counter is added. So, indestructible will still protect it, because the creature will have a power/toughness of 4/4 with four points of damage, and damage can’t kill indestructible creatures.

The other interaction with -1/-1 counters is that a creature cannot have both positive and negative counters. So, when a creature already has one of those types of counters and it gets one of the other type, they will cancel each other out. For example, I have a 1/1 creature with a +1/+1 counter on it and a spell gives that creature a -1/-1 counter. When the spell resolves, I will take the +1/+1 counter off of that creature instead of adding a -1/-1 counter.

If you still have any questions about interactions in this set or the game of Magic overall, please feel free to email me or ask a judge at your local tournament.

Blake Smith is a Magic player and Level 1 judge from Kenosha, Wis. Contact him at