Ahoy planeswalkers! Happy spoiler season! An hour after this article goes up, every card in Amonkhet will be revealed on the Magic homepage. While I’m sure there will be many more cards whose art and flavor text offer new, exciting insights into the world of Amonkhet, my schedule is my schedule, and it’s time to plow ahead with my thoughts on what we do have. So, here are a few pieces of the set that have caught my eye.
The Story of Amonkhet
We have our five Story Spotlight cards for Amonkhet, so let’s start there. Here they are, in order:
The arc of this is pretty straightforward: this is how we get from Gideon’s intense, immediate devotion to Oketra in “Trust” to Gideon drawing his sural on Hazoret (also seen at the end of Amonkhet’s trailer). Wednesday’s episode of Magic Story revealed, among many other things, that Gideon has entered the trials of the five gods. Clearly, in one of those trials, he encounters Cruel Reality, watching one initiate (Djeru, by the looks of it) drown another. Although the obvious guess would be the Trial of Ambition—Cruel Reality is a black card and “murder somene in order to prove you truly want to be Worthy” feels like a black trial. But I’m not sure that’s what this is. Looking at the art, there is a lot of greenery, and there seem to be snakes on the water. This might happen as part of the Trial of Strength rather than the Trial of Ambition.
Then, Gideon sees a procession of the Anointed carrying the dead—possibly a whole crop of initiates cut down in a failed Trial of Solidarity. This is further evidence of the gods’ carelessness with mortals’ lives, giving Gideon the nudge to team up with Chandra, who is innately suspicious of rulers like these gods. It appears, both from the latest Magic Story and the card Dissenter’s Deliverance, that at least some of Naktamun’s unbelievers are sealed in sarcophagi within the city (although some of these Doomed Dissenters also get banished into the desert), so the Gatewatch breaks them out. Finally, teaming up with these people of Amonkhet who have seen through the lies, Gideon takes the lead on disrupting the sacrifice of one of the worthy (again, Djeru if I’m not mistaken).
Tracing this arc brings us to a big question mark. The final story spotlight of the first set tends to leave out something big, like the conclusion of Pia and Tezzeret’s Fateful Showdown on Kaladesh or the failure of the Aligned Hedron Network in Battle for Zendikar. So what’s the missing link here?
Part of it, probably, is just what happens when Bolas returns; however, there might be another big thing that happens as a result of Gideon’s intervention . . .
Blake Rasmussen kindly spotlighted my Amonkhet predictions in the Magic Daily Update four weeks ago, and coyly teased that I was right about something. And I’m becoming more and more convinced that we’re going to see a new planeswalker’s spark ignite. In addition to Djeru drowning another initiate in Cruel Reality, consider this card:
This Djeru has committed his whole life to becoming Worthy. This is true of many on Amonkhet, but Djeru comes across as unusually fervent, even by this plane’s standards. He also, notably, seems to be the narrator for part of the Amonkhet trailer and appears to be the Worthy depicted on Deem Worthy and Gideon’s Intervention (as well as the Game Day playmat). Giving Djeru part of the trailer especially seems like a sign of his importance to the story.
The question we must ask is: by intervening, is Gideon saving Djeru or robbing him? This is a man who has trained beyond all limits for the honor of being killed by Hazoret, being posthumously granted the Cartouche of Zeal, and joining the ranks of the Worthy. And Gideon, this strange outsider, swoops in and denies him the moment he has pushed himself his entire life to earn? This is precisely the sort of moment of inner turmoil that we have seen ignite so many sparks.
This then leads to interesting possibilities for Hour of Devastation (assuming Djeru figures out how to planeswalk back to Amonkhet). Clearly Djeru starts off an enemy to the Gatewatch—but is that all? Does he commit himself to his God-Pharaoh body and soul? Or does Djeru realize that Bolas has been using him, corrupting Amonkhet, inspiring him to come to the Gatewatch’s aid in their final showdown against the mighty dragon planeswalker?
The Gods and The Hours
We also have some hints about what the people of Amonkhet believe is coming in their future, as several cards give quotations from The Accounting of Hours. The key to what is to become of Amonkhet may lie in the Hour of Glory.
“The gods . . . will prove their worth before the God-Pharaoh.” The gods must prove themselves to Bolas. And the Hekma, the barrier that protects the city of Naktamun, will be lowered after this confrontation. I am assuming the gods are going to pass this trial. But what if afterwards they can be induced to turn on Bolas? What if this is where Gideon’s powerful connection with Oketra is going?
Wednesday’s exquisite Magic Story seems to hint in this direction, as it reveals that Bolas did not create this plane and its gods, instead co-opting and corrupting it some twenty years ago. The story further reveals that there used to be eight animal-headed gods (rather than the five we know), and Nissa communes with Oketra and learns that the cat-goddess has had her memory wiped.
Impending Hour of Devastation notwithstanding, I find it difficult to believe that Wizards is going to destroy their much-requested Egyptian plane (winner of Mark Rosewater’s head-to-head Twitter bracket for new worlds) in the first visit. And yet, pretty much everyone I have seen write or tweet about the topic agrees that the Gatewatch is due for a loss. The gods turning on Bolas would explain how the Gatewatch could lose a fight with Bolas—indeed, get beaten badly, too injured to planeswalk away, leaving them seemingly moments from being killed—but still survive the battle and help save the plane, as the gods come to their aid in their moment of need. This would also help keep Amonkhet and Theros from both being planes where the gods are the problem, creating more room for a range of religious experiences to have their place in the multiverse.
(This may be petty, but I would also like the record to show that I was onto this theory before Wednesday’s story came out).
But how do you free the gods from Bolas’s influence?
A clue to this question’s answer might lie in Hipsters of the Coast’s own spoiler card!
Let me step back for a moment. “The Writing on the Wall” begins with a sleeping Nissa having a nightmarish communion with the Soul of Amonkhet. In her dream, Nissa sees catacombs beneath the earth where the anointed dead of Amonkhet were once kept, now filled with only scarabs; the Soul of Amonkhet laments, “He took them.” The core of Bolas’s corruption lies in the theft and the reappropriation of Amonkhet’s dead.
The key takeaway here, for my purposes, is that there are abandoned catacombs beneath Naktamun. Exploring trap-ridden catacombs in search of hidden treasures is a key Egyptian trope in the popular culture imagination; yet, a couple of Invocations aside, this is missing from Amonkhet. Perhaps this is partially to keep Amonkhet’s identity separate from Zendikar’s, but we do have some things that are missing (most prominently, three of Amonkhet’s gods and clues to what Bolas was planning when he reshaped the plane).
That brings us back to the Cascading Cataracts—clearly a sacred site, considering how the images of the five gods loom beneath the waterfalls. If this site predated Bolas’s intervention, that would imply that there were once eight waterfalls with god-statues here, and I wonder if the power Nissa feels might suggest that some powerful enchantment rests nearby, perhaps in a catacomb that can be entered through or near the waterfalls. The prison of the three missing gods? Crucial artifacts pertaining to the spells that Bolas has used to reshape the plane? The demon Razaketh’s lair?
It wouldn’t surprise me if Hour of Devastation saw the Gatewatch split up, with Nissa leading one group to seek an answer in the catacombs while Gideon leads a group in Naktamun trying to fight Bolas and stave off the apocalyptic destruction he promises to bring upon the plane.
Beck Holden is a Ph.D. student in theater who lives in the greater Boston area. He enjoys drafting, brewing for standard, and playing 8-Rack in modern. He also writes intermittently about actually playing Magic at beholdplaneswalker.wordpress.com.