June 23, 2017

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Daily Dose of Hour of Devastation – Re-Cycling old Mechanics

Welcome, welcome, welcome to a new edition of the Daily Dose of Hour of Devastation as we finish up week one of preview season. This week I’ve talked about some of the new mechanics in Hour of Devastation, but today I want to talk about some returning mechanics.

During two and three set blocks, one of the ways that sets have a continuity is by using the same mechanics throughout the block. Sometimes though, this can get a little stale by the end of a block where the design and the fun of a mechanic get overplayed. In Hour of Devastation we've already seen Embalm changed to Eternalize, which is basically the same mechanic, but making the token created with it a 4/4 instead of its existing power. This is enough of a change to make the mechanic more interesting in the second set.

Some mechanics are difficult to change the main design of, like cycling. Where differences can appear is through giving spells and creatures bonuses or abilities when a card is cycled. Let’s look at an example of that in Hour of Devastation. Here's Nimble Obstructionist.


To start off, you get a 3/1 creature with Flash for only three mana, which is relatively strong on its own. If you do decide to cycle it instead, you get to draw a card and potentially counter a target activated or triggered ability that an opponent controls. Most of the time countering one of these abilities is just a stop gap until you can deal with the source itself, but sometimes it can be back breaking. This includes preventing a Planeswalker from using their ultimate, or preventing a Vehicle from crewing so it can’t kill one of your own Planeswalkers. This card will see some play as it has versatility by being able to prevent an ability or provide a good three damage clock against your opponent.

Exert was one of my favourite mechanics from Amonkhet and I’m hoping that it becomes an evergreen mechanic going forward. All the spells that had exert were creatures that exerted themselves when they attacked to gain a certain ability. This allowed them all to get better with any card that gave them vigilance, like Always Watching, allowing them to be exerted every turn.

In Hour of Devastation, there are some still some creatures that exert in the same way, but they’ve expanded on the mechanic by giving some creatures exert with some tap abilities. Let’s have a look at Pride Sovereign.


I’m sorry, but cats rock. I just want more cat cards that do more awesome things with cats.

Pride Sovereign shows off the new design space for exert by giving you two 1/1 cat tokens with lifelink for only one mana. The only drawback is that unless you have a way to untap it, you can only use this ability every two turns. Creating on average one creature a turn, while making Pride Sovereign larger and larger as you do is great.

Imagine playing Pride Sovereign on turn three, activating its ability on turn four, followed by Regal Caracal on turn five. That's seven cat creatures and a 9/9 lifelink Pride Sovereign. This shows the power of adding exert as a creature ability in Hour of Devastation. It opens more design space to add overpowered abilities to creatures.

Deserts are something like the Guildgates we've seen before. In Amonkhet we saw four Desert lands, but only one card that loosely interacted with Deserts in Shefet Monitor. Well this changes in Hour of Devastation with a ton of cards that give you advantages for playing Desert cards. They're also printing more Desert cards for you to use this time, including some that provide colorued mana. Here's part of that cycle of lands, Desert of the Glorified.


Now that we have more Deserts to play with in Hour of Devastation, let’s have a look at a new card that takes advantage of this. Here is Ramunap Hydra.


This card reminds me a bit of Woodland Wanderer at first glance. I do find it interesting that you get an additional bonus for having a Desert card in your graveyard, so playing and cycling cards like Desert of the Glorified become even more advantageous. I didn’t feel the need to play any Desert cards in Amonkhet Limited play, but I have a feeling I'll have to give them more of a look during the Hour of Devastation prerelease if I get the right cards to go with them.

So, as you can see, if done correctly there is enough design space in existing mechanics to change them up a bit to keep them interesting in multiple set blocks or if a mechanic gets re-used years later. It will be interesting to see if more mechanics get re-used when Magic moves to having only a large set in each setting.

Thanks again for reading more of the Daily Dose of Hour of Devastation. Next week we continue the ride that is preview season with more great new cards, more analysis, and more surprises for Hour of Devastation.