Another Hour of Cycling: HOU Limited Breakdown

Khenra Scrapper artwork by Jesper Ejsing

Hello once again my friends! I’m back for another pre-Pro-Tour article and excited to talk about some things. Today I’m going to be discussing the Hour of Devastation limited format, what’s changed from Amonkhet, what you should expect, and maybe I can help you crush some local drafts!

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A small set couldn’t make that big of a difference to what is basically a solved format, could it? Absolutely it can, and it has. Hour of Devastation means our turn two Gust Walker into turn three Unwavering Initiate, into Tah-Crop Elite curves that were always just so much fun to be on the other side of won’t happen nearly as often. Will anyone miss that? I know I won’t!

Hour of Devastation has brought the format to a much slower, and in my opinion, healthier state. With that said, it is definitely a learning curve to getting your brain off the mind set of “picking the smallest fastest things and just jamming” gameplans I’ve been used to with Amonkhet. I’m roughly 20 drafts deep and have to say that control and ramp strategies reign supreme. Weird, right?!

First let’s talk about the ramp strategy that I’ve been in love with. One mechanic of Amonkhet limited that was swept under the rug was Cycling, and more importantly, cycling fatty creatures like Greater Sandworm, Desert Ceradon, and Shefet Monitor. These cards just were not good enough in a fast environment, they too easily got ignored.

The new set brings new opportunities to make what was once suboptimal, a real threat in Hour of Devastation. Forget all those fancy pants indestructible gods, Oasis Ritualist is our new lord and savior for this slowed down format. It really does it all, giving us an easy splash for bombs along with being able to drop a turn five Greater Sandworm or similar humongous creature. Another key player in these ramp strategies is Beneath the Sands – not only is it a great ramp spell when played on turn three, it’s easily traded away for another card when you shift to the mid-late game and mana isn’t as important.

Now, when it comes to these ramp strategies you still have to make sure you’re not just getting overrun by gangs of 2-2’s and 3-3s, which make up a large portion of the format as far as early creatures go. The key cards that make this all possible are cards like Unquenchable Thirst, and the MVP of the format – Wall of the Forgotten Pharaohs.  No seriously, this card does it all, giving you time to cast your huge monsters while also getting in a few points of damage here and there.

We’re still early into the format, but I do think UGx Ramp decks are the strongest. These multicolor green decks really want to have like three to four big cyclers to make the deck work. If you’re lucky enough to grab a God Pharaoh’s Gift it is the ultimate payoff card for this deck.

Another thing I’ve struggled with in this format is deciding how early and how badly we wanted deserts. The answer is fairly high, they’re super important in not only ramp, but basically the entire format. With cycle-lands being drafted higher that also gets us away from the 15-16 land format we have grown to love with Amonkhet. With 2 to 4 deserts, I have been playing 17 lands and loving it. Don’t be afraid to be jam 18 lands if you have a lot to cycle, though.

Let’s go back to the Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs again for a minute, because it is not just an all star in ramp strategies, it’s also insane in the Blue/Red/White tempo decks that want to be flying over your opponents, casting Unsummons and Winds of Rebuke to keep their fatties at bay.

Did y’all forget about how good Unsummon was? Because it’s still good. Blue-White and Blue-Red creature decks aren’t all about removal anymore – tempo swings and synergy are much more dominant, for example Vizier of the Anointed is pretty fantastic value, and getting even a something like Proven Combatant is awesome.

Cycling-control archetypes I found to be very good at handling large creatures, especially if you focus on blue-black mechanics. Having early defensives spells like (you guessed it) Wall of Forgotten Pharaoh’s or Vile Manifestation is so good for the gameplan, being able to save your actual hard removal for the things that get past these cards is crucial. The deck can be busted if you can draft enough removal and 1 to 2 mana cyclers, as you just get to power your cards up consistently.

If you are the type of player that loves little creatures, Black/White zombies are still viable. It is disappointing that the creatures are all rather tiny, and if you don’t get any payoff cards like Unraveling Mummy, or Lord of the Accursed the deck has pretty poor creature quality compared to most decks. You can still configure these brain-suckers into a strong package though. This deck really stands up well against the ramp strategies if you can get a few Lethal Stings and some Final Rewards to kill their big threats.

Overall the point I want to get across is the slowing of the format. Even though there is still good Red-White aggro decks out there, they have defiantly gotten worse and shouldn’t be looked at the same as they were with just Amonkhet limited.

And I just wanted to share my 3 favorite cards from Hour of Devastation for limited purposes. The Ritualist is my favorite common, Vizier of the Anointed my favorite uncommon, and The Locust God is my favorite rare/mythic.

So, enjoy taking a breather in your upcoming drafts and being able to live past turn six. Hope you enjoyed the article! Wish me luck in Kyoto!

[Khenra Scrapper art by Jesper Ejsing, (c) Wizards of the Coast]

Corey Baumeister

Corey Baumeister is a professional Magic: The Gathering player, degenerate gambler, brother to Brad Nelson, Grand Prix champion with 5 total Top 8’s to his name, and a lover of music festivals.

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