Theros is my favorite draft format of all time. It had some issues—Nessian Asp was too good, for example—but it was well-balanced between fast and slow strategies and all the colors were good. Theros had great mechanics—heroic, monstrosity, and bestow—that provided value at various parts of the game and created a rich draft environment. Scholar of Athreos was also a good card. And one of my favorite draft archetypes—blue-green tempo—was one of the best decks to draft.

Amonkhet has thematic links to Theros. Obviously there are gods, and Gideon feels right at home. Instead of Ordeals, we have Trials and Cartouches. Even though Amonkhet is not an enchantment set, it has some important ones in Limited even beyond the Trials and Cartouches—Sandwurm Convergence, Cruel Reality, Lay Claim, Liliana’s Mastery, etc. And even the core theme of mythology has a similar feeling. Hundred-Handed One becomes Prowling Serpopard. All we’re missing is the new Fleshmad Steed.

The Limited gameplay in Amonkhet has a divided fast-slow feel like Theros as well. Aggressive decks in Amonkhet are even better than heroic decks in Theros, and monstrosity creatures are bigger than the big stuff on Amonkhet. The creatures sizes here fall in a narrower band. But exert does a great job of diversifying combat within this narrow band. Hooded Brawler is a solid blocker as a 3/2 but an amazing attacker as a 5/4. Sometimes it just sits there tapped, perhaps dormant, or possibly waiting to jump back in a Synchronized Strike or Spidery Grasp. The small attackers also don’t get as big as heroic creatures, going more for evasion—Gust Walker, Cursed Minotaur, Slither Blade. This again helps keep combat dynamic despite most creatures being the “same” size.

The removal spells on Amonkhet also harkens back to Theros. They’re not that great. Cheap removal is hard to come by, and hard removal is expensive. In both formats, blue tempo spells jump into the gap. Voyage’s End was one of the best commons in Theros draft. Winds of Rebuke isn’t quite as good, or as necessary to survival, but it is still a great spell. Plus it can interact with any non-land permanent, meaning it can potentially beat Sandwurm Convergence. Galestrike and Decision Paralysis help provide a diverse suite of tempo spells.

So does that means blue-green tempo is good in Amonkhet like it was in Theros? I sure think so. There’s another key piece to any successful Simic draft archetype—ways to give flying to big green creatures. Cartouche of Knowledge might not be the best Cartouche, but it’s close enough, and absolutely essential to blue-green decks. Zenith Seeker can also help out here. There are also good ramp spells, like Spring // Mind and Weaver of Currents, that help power out giant creatures than you can them slam to victory in a few turns with the tempo blue provides.

Last weekend I got a chance to draft a great version of the archetype with some of the Denver regulars:

The Return of UG Tempo

Creatures (17)
Bitterblade Warrior
Initiate’s Companion
Exemplar of Strength
Tah-Crop Skirmisher
Weaver of Currents
Hooded Brawler
Prowling Serpopard
Crocodile of the Crossing
Aven Initiate
Vizier of Many Faces
Shimmerscale Drake
Colossapede
Greater Sandwurm

Spells (7)
Cartouche of Knowledge
Spidery Grasp
Shed Weakness
Essence Scatter
Censor
Winds of Rebuke
Stinging Shot
Lands (16)
Forest
Island

Sideboard (18)
River Serpent
Pouncing Cheetah
Seeker of Insight
Cryptic Serpent
Ancient Crab
Trial of Knowledge
Floodwaters
Haze of Pollen
Compelling Argument
Kefnet’s Monument
Sixth Sense
Harvest Season
Lord of the Accursed
Djeru’s Resolve
Painted Bluffs
Sunscorched Desert

This deck felt perfect. I can think of plenty of cards I’d like to add—Cartouche of Strength being an obvious one—but this is exactly what I want to be doing in Amonkhet draft. This deck is stacked with two drops, which is a big key to Amonkhet. Not only does this ensure an early board presence and a quick start, it helps fit spells like Essence Scatter and Winds of Rebuke into the early turns of the deck.

Crocodile of the Crossing is the real deal. It’s rare for blue-green tempo decks to have actual haste, and it is huge here. I picked up Bitterblade Warriors over Naga Vitalists, but both wear a negative counter well. A 2/1 deathtouch still attacks well, and exert gives you a window to throw the counter somewhere that won’t matter for another turn.

I started the draft picking Lord of the Accursed over Kefnet the Mindful and Weaver of Currents. I draft blue often and was hoping to do something different, and I don’t think the blue god is that great. Well, I got passed Vizier of Many Faces (somehow) and then wheeled the Weaver. Throw in the early Crocodile and I was off to the races in a deck that was open for my seat.

I had more of the enablers and midrange cards after pack one, so I had to put emphasis on some expensive payoffs. That means second-picking Greater Sandwurm in pack two and fourth-picking Colossapede in pack three. Both were fantastic. I wish I could have gotten a second Cartouche of Knowledge, but the deck came together well enough and I was able to win the draft.

In the finals I narrowly defeated a blue-red double Glorybringer deck. It turns out counterspells and Vizier of Many Faces match up well agains the broken red dragon. Colossapede does too, as I was about to outrace a Glorybringer being untapped with Vizier of Tumbling Sands with Colossapede to win the deciding game.

Overall, the deck was proactive and flexible. Bouncing, tapping down, and flying over your opponent’s army is a great way to win in Amonkhet draft, and Hooded Brawler is a great three drop to enable that strategy. Initiate’s Companion wears Cartouche of Knowledge really well, letting you cast another two drop after hitting for four on turn three. I highly recommend drafting this archetype.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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