In the Amonkhet expansion we will visit an oasis on a desert world, which was massively manipulated by the evil dragon-planeswalker Nicol Bolas, a true master of intrigues. In the first expansion of the Amonkhet Block, we will see how the residents of Amonkhet are locked into a fierce competition. They are fighting through the trials of their five gods, trying to win their place in a promised afterlife. But what about the other three gods who apparently also existed at some point on Amonkhet? What is Nicol Bolas planning for his return – just on time for the Hour of Devastation? Will the gatewatch group find out early enough to stop him? And why is Nissa suddenly flirting with blue magic? Visit Amonkhet to find out!
On Amonkhet we encounter some well-known mechanics in a new variation. Cycling is, ironically, the only old ability that has been recycled in its original form. Aftermath on the other hand can be considered a new variant of split cards, while embalm is practically flashback for creatures. But let's begin with exert, an ability that allows us to force a creature to give everything it's got. A much needed feature in the face of the extremely difficult trials imposed on the inhabitants of Amonkhet by their gods.
Each time you declare a creature with exert as an attacker, you decide whether you want to exert it. If you choose to do so, its ability is triggered and the corresponding advantageous effect is obtained. The only disadvantage of this is that the creature does not untap during your next turn. It has expended itself and can only attack again after skipping a turn. You do not have to exert the creature every time it attacks though. If you decide against it, the ability will not be triggered and the creature will be untapped normally at the beginning of the next turn. The exert effect of a creature is independent of whether it is tapped or not - it just prevents the creature from untapping on the next turn. If the creature you have exerted is already untapped for some reason at that time, nothing will happen and it will no longer be exerted. It is therefore quite valuable to find another way to untap it, or to give it vigilance - especially because there are some very strong exert effects.
If the trials of the gods were too difficult this time around, even though your fighters have exerted themselves, there is always a second attempt in the afterlife! For that approach the poor fellows must just be properly embalmed. Embalm is an activated ability of creatures which can only be used if the creature card with embalm is in your graveyard. Unlike flashback cards, the card is not cast a second time. The activated ability can therefore not be stopped with a conventional counterspell. To activate the embalm ability, you only have to pay the embalm cost and put the card from your graveyard into exile. This creates a creature token which in principle is a copy of the original creature. The creature is only a zombie in addition to its other creature types, it is now white and has no mana cost any more. In all other regards the zombie is just as useful as the original creature, but obviously does not allow for more copies to rise after dying again. Amonkhet boosters contain corresponding token cards for each creature card with embalm.
Cards with Aftermath are, so to speak, two cards in one card again. Instead of having a choice between two effects like on a traditional split card, the choice is already fixed here though. You can only cast the upper half, as long as you have the card in your hand. As soon as such a card enters the graveyard due to getting cast or discarded, the lower (and only the lower) half can be played. The lower half is played exactly like any other spell: You pay the cost, it goes to the stack, it can be countered and so on. All of this just happens from the graveyard, and as soon as this half is cast, the card is sent to exile. You could also say that an aftermath card has flashback, but does something else the second time you play it. Both halves of an aftermath card can be used on the same turn or you could wait and leave the card in the graveyard for a while. Thanks to the new card frame, the remaining option can easily be visualized in the graveyard by rotating the card counterclockwise by 90 degrees. Then it literally stands out.
Cycling is a very popular ability among players, which was first used in Urza block, and resurfaced in the Onslaught, Time Spiral and Alara blocks. This ability lets you exchange a card from your hand for a new card from your deck. This allows you to accommodate more situational answers in your deck, as you can easily cycle the cards you do not need into something more useful. This ability is particularly popular on lands, as it allows you to play a higher number of lands than usual. This means that you will rarely have too few lands at the beginning of the game, but can cycle all the surplus lands into the spells you need later on. The cycling ability can only be activated while the card with cycling is in your hand. You pay the cycling cost and discard the card from hand to draw a new card from your deck. Sometimes you get more effects than just drawing a replacement card, or effects from other cards on the board can be triggered by cycling a card.