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HOUR OF DEVASTATION DRAFT RAOUL ZIMMERMANN 11/09/2017

Hour of Devastation/Amonkhet is a great draft format. It has brought a welcome change to the hyper-aggressiveness of triple Amonkhet by introducing a number of new viable strategies. Before we say goodbye to the format, it will feature prominently in one last tournament: this weekend’s Nationals!

So in this article, Sean and I will run through some of the archetypes, what cards fit into them and how you might end up in each one.

BW Zombies

The Black/White Zombies deck picked up a few new tools in Hour of Devastation, with more support at common and less reliance on the lords from Amonkhet.

Key Uncommons

Unconventional Tactics
Unravelling Mummy
Accursed Horde

Key Commons

Mummy Paramount
Marauding Boneslasher

Commons Best Suited Here

Khenra Eternal
Carrion Screecher
Lurching Rotbeast 

Cards from AKH

Wayward Servant
In Oketra's Name
Fan Bearer
Binding Mummy 

Cards like Unravelling Mummy and Accursed Horde are backbreaking when the Zombies player is on the aggressive and executing their ideal gameplan but look lacklustre otherwise. The ideal Zombies deck is close to unbeatable but putting it together can be difficult, depending on your table.

This deck might come together if you pick a speculative Unconventional Tactics, (a very powerful repeatable effect), pick up some good white cards and manage to wheel/see a couple of late Marauding Boneslashers. Alternatively, you can take a few Black or White cards and are passed a relatively late Unravelling Mummy and move in.

Mummy Paramounts are less than stellar in non-BW decks so they should be easy to pick up if you are the only Zombies drafter at the table. The random common Zombies like Khenra Eternal and Lurching Rotbeast find a nice home in this deck, providing the Zombies in numbers for your many synergies.

UR Spells/Tempo

Many cards in the Blue/Red colour pair care about casting non-creature spells. Having multiple of these on board lets you get extra mileage out of your spells.

Key Uncommons

Bloodwater Entity
Riddleform
Magmaroth

Key Commons

Spellweaver Eternal
Firebrand Archer
Unsummon 

Commons Best Suited Here

Blur of Blades
Thorned Moloch
Crash Through
Strategic Planning 

Cards from AKH

Warfire Javelineer
Winds of Rebuke
Magma Spray
Enigma Drake 

This archetype is usually an aggressive one as indicated by cards such as Riddleform and Spellweaver Eternal, which perform most optimally when beating down. Turning an Unsummon into a bounce and an extra 3-4 damage is extremely powerful, especially when you have leftover mana to deploy another threat.

This is one of the easier decks to get into, where you might take some red removal spells such as Open Fire or Puncturing Blow early and see a late Spellweaver Eternal before moving in. A lot of the commons are quite playable and work well together.

The bounce spells are very powerful in this deck as they are cheap interaction that also gives you a lot of tempo, so I think it's important to get your first one. I would happily play Consign // Oblivion without being able to play the back half.

UB Cycling

Similar to the Blue/Red Spells archetype, having multiple cards on board that benefit from a cycling activation rewards you for cycling and reduces the cost of the tempo lost in spending mana without affecting the board.

Key Uncommons

Ominous Sphinx
Consign // Oblivion
Vile Manifestation 

Key Commons

Cunning Survivor
Countervailing Winds
Scrounger of Souls 

Best suited for this Deck

Seer of the Last Tomorrows
Moaning Wall
Tragic Lesson 

Cards from AKH

Trial of Knowledge
Seeker of Insight
Ruthless Sniper
Wander in Death
Horror of the Broken Lands 

The deck is quite reliant on payoffs like Abandoned Sarcophagus, Hour of Eternity or God-Pharaoh's Gift. It is typically more of a slower control deck with cycling payoffs.

Being able to pick up something like Drake Haven or Archfiend of Ifnir in the third pack is the dream. In general, you are hoping for payoff even in one of the weaker cards that care about cycling in the third pack with this deck, as there are few cards that cycle as well as a lack of payoff cards in Hour of Devastation.

Red/Black and Red/Green Midrange 

These decks mostly look like your bread-and-butter Limited decks, a balanced curve of solid creatures backed up by removal spells and/or tricks. Neither Red/Black nor Red/Green have inherent synergies, therefore these decks rely on an individually high power level of their cards to succeed.

Key Uncommons

Sand Strangler
Manticore Eternal

Key Commons

Puncturing Blow
Open Fire
Khenra Scrapper
Frontline Devastator

Best suited for this Deck

Desert Cerodon
Kindled Fury

Cards from AKH

Manticore of the Gauntlet
Electrify
Cartouche of Zeal
Emberhorn Minotaur
Cursed Minoutaur
Hooded Brawler
Khenra Charioteer
Merciless Javelineer 

Cards from Black

Torment of Venom
Torment of Scarabs
Banewhip Punisher
Lurching Rotbeast
Scrounger of Souls 

Red and Black are the removal colours, so your deck will be able to kill your opponent's creatures with relative ease. It is important that you maintain pressure while doing so though as you will run out of removal before they run out of creatures, which is why something like the innocuous Lurching Rotbeast can work well in the archetype as a hard-hitting creature while you keep the board clear. The dream is, of course, to have cards like Sand Strangler that add pressure while also acting as removal.

Cards from Green

Ambuscade
Tenacious Hunter
Sidewinder Naga
Rhonas’s Stalwart
Gift of Strength

The Red/Green deck will be more focused around interacting in combat, as Green offers more tricks rather than removal, though Ambuscade and the Green Cartouche are excellent exceptions. Kindled Fury is particularly good in this colour combination as the Green creatures tend to be larger than those of other colours at each point in the curve and Fury will win exchanges easily for just a single mana. Such combat tricks work particularly well with creatures with trample such as an active Sidewinder Naga, or any creature enabled via Khenra Charioteer.

Multicolour Green

This archetype revolves around picking powerful cards of different colours and playing all of them, which is made possible by the abundance of mana-fixing at common. Since both the Blue/Green and Black/Green colour combinations tend towards going for the long game as well, the decks of these colour combinations tend to bleed into each other so that a straight Green/Blue or Green/Black deck is possible but rare.

Key Uncommons

Sunset Pyramid
Sifter Wurm
River Hoopoe 

Key Commons

Oasis Ritualist
Beneath the Sands
Manalith 

Commons Best Suited Here

Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs
Feral Prowler
Bitterbow Sharpshooter
Aven of Enduring Hope
Rampaging Hippo 

Cards from Black

Scrounger of Souls
Obelisk Spider
Ruin Rat
Final Reward
Soulstinger 

Cards from Blue

Unquenchable Thirst
Striped Riverwinder
Ominous Sphinx
Weaver of Currents
Shimmerscale Drake
Lay Claim 

Cards from AKH

Gift of Paradise
Naga Vitalist
Greater Sandwurm
Colossapede
Scaled Behemoth

I find myself drafting this archetype when I open an expensive but powerful card like Chaos Maw, Overwhelming Splendor or Sifter Wurm and taking cards like Manalith and Beneath the Sands in mediocre packs, over time building up a shell that allows me to take and play all strong cards. I value Oasis Ritualist very highly if I have taken an expensive game-winning card such as the ones listed above. However, the deck does not even require an absurd bomb to succeed. Even having a couple of Rampaging Hippos is often enough to end the game because they are very hard to remove!

This archetype often plays removal such Sandblast, Farm // Market, Open Fire, Struggle // Survive. The multicolour aftermath cards in general work well with the fact that Manalith can provide you with all the colours of the rainbow (and Magic's colour pie).

Decks in this archetype lean towards playing Green, White as well as a smattering of cards in other colours due to cards such as Aven of Enduring Hope and Sunscourge Champion being sources of incidental life gain, something that is important when you are losing tempo by playing ramp spells that don't affect the board. Sandblast is also quite a good removal spell in this kind of deck and deals with many threats.

I have had success with all the combinations as black also contains defensive cards such as Ruin Rat, and Ifnir Deadlands shines more in this sort of deck. GRxx seems like the version least likely to come together as none of the cards really help you defensively, but I have managed to put together a deck with a number of Puncturing Blows that tied me along to the late game.

White-Based Aggro (Exert)

These decks revolve around the same core white commons to form an aggro shell, with each colour contributing additional exert synergies or cards that fit within the archetype.

The archetype consists of strong efficient creatures backed up by removal and pump spells.

Key Uncommons

Vizier of the True
Power uncommons of the appropriate colours (see below)

Key Commons

Oketra's Avenger
Dauntless Aven
Quality two-drops 

Cards from AKH

Trial of Solidarity
Gust Walker
Tah-Crop Elite 

Red/White and Green/White are the colour pairs this archetype lends itself best to due to the number of combat tricks, efficient creatures and removal spells. Blue/White is also a possible combination, making use of the blue tempo cards to force through damage. You will normally end up in this archetype after picking up some early Oketra's Avengers and seeing Dauntless Avens whilst picking up some late combat tricks.

Cards From Green

Appeal // Authority
Overcome
Ambuscade
Rhonas's Stalwart
Synchronised Strike
Hooded Brawler 

Overcome is a card that has gone down in most people's estimations I'm sure. It's an expensive card and is miles away from how powerful Overrun was, but it fits in this particular archetype the best. Appeal // Authority is also a very powerful card and in a lot of cases will deal more damage than Overcome does.

Cards From Red

Resolute Survivors
Open Fire
Khenra Scrapper
Trueheart Twins
Battlefield Scavenger
Nef-Crop Entangler

Red provides a few more cards that directly give you bonuses for exerting and a bunch of aggressive 2 drops in the third pack, as well as removal in both packs.

 

Cards from Blue

Spellweaver Eternal
Unsummon
Aerial Guide
Eternal of Harsh Truths
Aven Initiate
Winds of Rebuke

A Blue/White deck is less likely to focus on Exert synergies, due to their absence from Blue, but might take advantage of Zombie synergies due to Embalm and the Zombie creature type on the blue Eternals.

Cards that have gotten better or worse

High-costing powerful cards in general have gotten better due to the format slowing down. Cards like Cruel Reality, Lay Claim and even Greater Sandwurm are all playable and are actually great payoffs for the multicolour green deck. Even Colossopede, a simple vanilla creature, is a big threat as the creatures in Hour of Devastation at the same cost are smaller. Similarly, the ramp cards from Amonkhet have also gone up in value.

Unlike Triple Amonkhet, in which basically the only route to victory was to be aggressive, this format allows for slower strategies to succeed as well. This not only leads to the effects mentioned in the previous paragraph, but also to mechanisms to gain card advantage being more relevant as you can stall to make use of the extra cards. Card draw spells like Hieroglyphic Illumination and Trial of Knowledge are thus more useful than they were before. Counterspells like Cancel are also now fringe playable as opposed to completely useless.

Splendid Agony was already quite good in AKH but there is abundance of very playable 1-toughness creatures in HOU, so the effect has arguably become even stronger. Aggressive decks rely on their powerful early drops to win and a Splendid Agony killing a Firebrand Archer and a Spellweaver Eternal or an Oketra’s Avenger and a Dauntless Aven can win a game all by itself. In a similar vein, Cartouche of Ambition can be backbreaking and Blazing Volley is a strong card to pick up for the sideboard.

The main losers of the introduction of Hour of Devastation are the Cartouche/Trial combinations. Most of the cards in each cycle are of course good cards in their own right, but you are now unlikely to get to return trials by means of Cartouches. This is mostly relevant for the Black and Green Trials that only provide mediocre effects when you first play them, and for the Red Cartouche, which requires quite an aggressive stance in order to get good use of.

Cards that cared about -1/-1 counters were already fringe before Hour of Devastation and are now extremely hard to make use of. For instance, Nest of Scarabs required a lot to go right in Triple Amonkhet, but getting mileage out of it now seems nigh on impossible. Cards like Quarry Hauler, on the other hand, are good enough cards in their own right, but don’t expect to be able to do many fancy things with them.

Overall, it was surprising to see the extent to which the introduction of Hour of Devastation shook up the draft format. It went from hyper-aggressive strategies dominating with little to no other avenues to success to a balanced format in which a wide range of decks are viable. The value of cards changes substantially depending on the archetype you are drafting and having a clear mental image of what you want your draft deck to look like is rewarded. In short, this is an excellent Limited format and I very much look forward to drafting it at Nationals. See you there!

About Raoul Zimmermann:

Raoul started attending GPs in 2007 with Time Spiral block. Following their World Magic Cup appearance in 2015, he co-founded Team Axion alongside Kayure Patel and Tom Law. Within the team, he enjoys collecting the data from testing and making it presentable. Raoul is from Germany and currently lives in Poland; his Magic home, however, is still very much the UK. He travels to UK events where possible, including Nationals, where he made the Top 8 in 2018. He has a few Pro Tour appearances and is eagerly looking to requalify. His favourite Magic format is Draft, as he enjoys the theoretical overlap from format to format, while the change in individual cards keeps things fresh. As such, he is always eager for a team draft with friends and has 18 boosters of various formats stocked up at home.