Hour of Devastation released on Friday, and as usual for a set these days, I picked up a single booster pack to hold me over until I started playing Sealed and Drafts with my friends. I'll run through each of the cards in what turned out to be a pretty strong pack in the common selection.
This card is going to cause a lot of headaches if you can bring it down, and because it's a common, you're going to see a lot of them as well. Frontline Devastator is an okay size at 3/3 for four mana, but it comes with two benefits. First, no matter what, this is doing damage if its attacked and it's not burned by an Open Fire or Electrify. The Afflict ability, on a different card, won me several games during my first online tournament, and it's because there's just no way to stop that two damage. Blocking does not matter.
The second ability is a nice little Firebreathing pump. Two mana for +1/+0 is the standard rate these days, and it forces your opponent to make a decision. Does he block and automatically take two damage and possibly trade a creature, or does he save his creature, take the hit, and hope you don't pump him up to four or five? Tough choice sometimes.
Another beat-down card that has the potential to be an even larger threat in the Desert deck. I encountered this card in my online tournament, and with a desert in play, the 4/2 trample forced me to hold back on casting a Planeswalker I drafted. Nothing I had in play could prevent the three mana trample damage from pulverizing it on the very next turn. Eventually, I took care of it with my own 2/2 creature, but I gotta say, this had me shaking for a few turns.
Overperformed against me. I've got my eye on you, Sidewinder Naga.
Yet another solid common card. Seven mana is a real doozy in Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, but when you get this down, there is little your opponent can do about it. No limitations on it attacking, unlike the River Serpent from the last set, and no way to blow it up with a removal spell. If you can get this down, it's great.
If you can't, it's still great! While most cycling proved to be a bit slow in Amonkhet's aggro world, the cost of a single mana never was too much of a burden. If you're in Blue, and there's no bombs at rare or uncommon, this is one you want, especially if you are in the Blue Green Ramp deck.
I played with this in my tournament, and it held back a lot of scary stuff. Thanks to Afflict, Exert, and a host of powerful, cheap common creatures, blocking in Hour of Devastation is going to continue to be difficult. However, Deathtouch is still a thing, killing any creature with a single point of damage, and the threat of a 1/1 trading for anything will make your opponent hold back their biggest attackers.
Nice little common, and the extra ability on the end is pretty relevent with Eternalist, Embalm, and zombies all over the place.
Man, I would have to find my dropped jaw if I was drafting this pack. Unquenchable Thirst has appeared in various forms over the last few sets in cards like Malfunction and Containment Membrane. Here, it is incredibly strong if you have a desert since you can immediately lock down any creature for two mana. No questions, boom. It's out.
However, even without the desert, it's still a powerful card. You might need to take a hit from a big creature or wait for an opponent to get their mana from a mana dork, but slamming this down afterwards on your turn still effectively removes the creature from the game. My only problem with it is that Hour of Devastation has a lot of Untap abilities floating around, so your opponent can still get antother use or two out of the creature if they are lucky enough to draw one.
Okay, our luck had to run out at some point. A 2/3 Vigilance for four mana is not so great, but at least the ability to get it back as a 4/4 for six mana is where we find value. The idea is you put this down and attack and block as aggressively as possible, hoping that it will die and take some creatures with it so you can make it stronger in two turns. Your opponent won't want to block it too much since the two damage is less of a problem than the 4/4 threat it can become, and it might even dissuade them from attacking in some instances.
I change my mind, I've convinced myself it's maybe a little bit decent. My only problem with it is that it's too slow for the ultimate value. You can put this in your deck if you need to take up space, but otherwise, it's filler that just barely makes the cut. *spoilers* This is the only mediocre common we opened, and even then… it's still playable.
Yes, please! 3/3 for three mana will destroy most other creatures on the board in the early game and smack your opponent for a lot of damage. I played with this, and it worked just as it was supposed to. The downside isn't too meddlesome since zombies are so easy to find in this set. Only once was I not able to block with this creature when I needed to.
And yup, the very next card is a fairly solid zombie. I wasn't too big on this card when it was revealed, thinking that it only filled in the 2/2 for two spot. However, after being on the receiving end of it, there is value with attack as a 3/3 or even a 4/4 later in the game. The payoff is big for a 2/2 creature, making this very playable in a zombie deck… but only in a zombie deck.
After thinking about it, the Steadfast Sentinel is actually better than this, making it the weakest card in the pack.
I've never really played a ramp card that you need to ramp into. Wow, a four mana dork. The ability to add any mana color is nice at least, and the 2/4 body is respectable for the price. The true value here is being able to add two extra mana on turn five. That's a potential of seven mana! Big spells like Sandwurm Convergence, Lay Claim, and our friend the Striped Riverwinder just became much easier to cast, and the Oasis Ritualist alone buys you a creature if you use him to cast Hour of Eternity.
Our last common card is one of the common deserts. These fit into any deck since the potential to cycle an uneeded land easily offsets the downside of having it coming into play tapped. If there is nothing in the pack you want, and a desert in your color comes up, be sure to take it.
Yes, these commons are all really solid, and I would be thrilled to see this pack in a game of limited if we were using these cards to make a deck. Based on the commons alone, I have no idea which color I would aim for since they all seem strong at this point. Most likely it would be a Black White zombie deck.
However, our uncommons and rare have us going in a very different direction.
Whoa! A 5/5 for four mana? I have no problem with that. This is no Ammit Eternal, but Magmaroth is still a really solid beatdown card, especially if you are playing in a Red and Blue spells deck. Putting this down on your turn leaves up a 5/5 blocker on turn four, something that will be almost impossible to contend with.
On your turn, it becomes a 4/4, making it a bit easier to deal with. You can attack with it, it gets blocked for a trade with another 4/4 creature. At the point, you can cast a cheap Open Fire or a Magma Spray and burn another creature, and Magmaroth gets stronger swallows the blocker. Casting any spell also saves it from dying to Electrify while it's at 4/4.
Red is so stupidly powerful in Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, and the only shame is that this pack didn't really come with the Red or Blue spells to back this monster up.
Stinker alert! This serves very little purpose in Hour of Devastation since the number of 2-drops you want is somewhat limited. Maybe this works with an Earthshaker Khenra, which and you would really rather Eternalize, or the Burning-Fist Minotaur for tons of first strike damage. You might even get lucky in your Amonkhet packs and nab a Nef-Crop Entangler or a Bloodrage Brawler, but that's just a fleeting dream at this point.
The limited number of valuable targets in Sealed or Draft make this card a clear miss. Save it for Standard or even Modern since, naturally, the more aggressive Red or Black targets it has, the more valuable it becomes. It's cheap and buys you back value at a very low investment.
Rock on! If I'm drafting, this is the first card I pick and then just hope to beat down with a wave of powerful creatures. This card is a win condition on its own, and it's easily the best card so far in this pack…
Is it better than our rare?
I would think so. Overcome is much better than Uncage the Menagerie, but I'm still definitely considering Green after seeing this pack in Sealed. This card lets you search your deck for your best creatures at each casting cost. For five mana, you get three 3-drops, and at six mana, you get four 4-drops. Anything more or less than that makes this utterly pointless unless you really need a bomb 5-drop or 6-drop on your next turn.
However, just looking at our pack already, we have Oasis Ritualist, Magmaroth, and Frontline Devastator, three really solid 4-drop creatures. With just one more, we'd have the full number to get maximum value out of this card.
If we're playing Standard with these cards, you're basically drawing your best three or four creatures, which is a decent effect for five or six mana. Not a bomb mythic, but not awful. If we open this pack in Sealed, I'm clearly aiming for Green and Red based beat down deck.
Awesome pack, hope to open lots more.