Casual Brewing with Amonkhet: The Noose is Loose

The Amonkhet Prerelease took place last weekend where we all got our hands on some sweet cards from the latest, Egyptian-themed set, and now it’s time to try and put them to good use. I’d like to spotlight a few Amonkhet cards that piqued my interest because they possess unique effects we previously did not have access to in Standard. They’re mainly cards to build around and the resulting decks are not supposed to be highly competitive Standard decks, but rather meant for the more casual mages among us. With that being said, it’s time to get strapped in as Brewforce One is fully fueled and ready for takeoff!

One of the first cards that stood out to me was Shadow of the Grave, offering us an effect that can either be broken or completely useless. The card is quite restrictive when it comes to deck-building and it does take some setup, but you do get to reap the rewards if you manage to make it work.

My first idea was to incorporate Shadow of the Grave and Noose Constrictor in sort of a aggro / combo deck together with Flameblade Adept. These three cards combined allow for a theoretical turn 3 kill in Standard. You play Flameblade Adept on turn one, then on turn two follow it up with Noose Constrictor and attack for one point with the Adept. On turn three you discard four cards to Noose Constrictor, play Shadow of the Grave to get the four cards back and then discard them again. This results in a 10/10 Noose Constrictor and a 9/2 Flameblade Adept, which does work out nicely with your opponent on 19 life. Here’s a first take on what such a deck could look like:

The Noose Is Loose

// 60 Maindeck
// 21 Creature
4 Flameblade Adept
1 Hazoret the Fervent
4 Noose Constrictor
1 Olivia, Mobilized for War
4 Honored Hydra
4 Bloodrage Brawler
2 Rhonas the Indomitable
1 Bomat Courier

// 15 Instant
4 Fiery Temper
4 Lightning Axe
3 Shadow of the Grave
3 Uncaged Fury
1 Fateful Showdown

// 23 Land
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Foreboding Ruins
2 Forest
4 Game Trail
3 Mountain
4 Sheltered Thicket
1 Cinder Glade
1 Canyon Slough

// 1 Sorcery
1 Collective Defiance

This deck is trying to play a solid aggressive game even if you do not manage to pull off the Shadow of the Grave combo. You will still be able to apply some solid beatdown with Bloodrage Brawler and Honored Hydra, backed up by removal spells. Noose Constrictor ties it all together by enabling not only Flameblade Adept and Shadow of the Grave, but also by allowing Honored Hydra, Hazoret the Fervent and Fiery Temper to perform at their best.

I also like the idea of combining Uncaged Fury with Rhonas the Indomitable and especially Honored Hydra, giving you the potential to deal massive amounts of damage out of nowhere.

As you can see, the list includes quite a few fun-ofs just for the sake of giving them a try. Fateful Showdown does combine nicely with Flameblade Adept and Shadow of the Grave, but at four mana it seems quite clunky and it might be difficult to still have a relevant number of cards in hand when you get to cast it. I imagine Collective Defiance is just the better option.

The current mana-base could use some work, as many lands enter the battlefield tapped and make it difficult to curve out. It’s possible that a red-green aggressive deck would just be better than trying to go for the fancy wins with Shadow of the Grave.

Madnoose

// 60 Maindeck
// 2 Artifact
2 Key to the City

// 27 Creature
3 Bomat Courier
4 Bloodrage Brawler
4 Noose Constrictor
4 Honored Hydra
3 Rhonas the Indomitable
1 Hazoret the Fervent
4 Incorrigible Youths
4 Ravenous Bloodseeker

// 8 Instant
3 Lightning Axe
4 Fiery Temper
1 Uncaged Fury

// 23 Land
4 Game Trail
3 Cinder Glade
8 Mountain
8 Forest

This deck resembles blue-green Madness from back in the days quite a bit. With Noose Constrictor playing the role of Wild Mongrel, Honored Hydra being an improved version of Roar of the Wurm, and Incorrigible Youths acting as an Arrogant Wurm with haste instead of trample.

There are some other directions we can take the Noose Constrictor / Shadow of the Grave / Flameblade Adept concept. By adding blue we gain access to Shadowstorm Vizier, who does a nice Flameblade Adept impersonation, as well as Forgotten Creation, which allows us to draw all the cards with Shadow of the Grave. Here’s a rough sketch of what a Grixis version could look like, this time focusing even more on discard synergies:

Noose Less Combo

// 60 Maindeck
// 18 Creature
4 Bomat Courier
4 Flameblade Adept
4 Shadowstorm Vizier
4 Forgotten Creation
2 Hekma Sentinels

// 12 Instant
4 Shadow of the Grave
4 Fateful Showdown
4 Fiery Temper

// 24 Land
2 Canyon Slough
4 Foreboding Ruins
4 Fetid Pools
4 Choked Estuary
1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Mountain
1 Island

// 6 Sorcery
4 Collective Defiance
2 Nahiri’s Wrath

I do believe that this deck is not nearly consistent enough to have any sorts of competitive applications, but boy is it fun if you manage to pull off some Forgotten Creation / Shadow of the Grave shenanigans while having Shadowstorm Vizier and Flameblade Adept in play.

The complete pinnacle of hubris would be to merge these two decks into a four-color Noose Constrictor / Shadow of the Grave / Shadow of the Grave combo deck, and while I usually have no problems with building non-functional decks, I will have to leave that deck up to your imagination, as I envision quite a few difficulties when trying to make the mana work in our four-color aggressive-combo deck.

Last but not least, I want to highlight another combo deck incorporating Shadow of the Grave. I believe the concept for this deck came originally from Frank Karsten, the idea being to combine Shadow of the Grave and New Perspectives into a beautiful piece of art that lets us draw our whole deck and then win by casting Approach of the Second Sun twice. Just to stay on theme, the list below is using a different win condition – it’s again Noose Constrictor!

Noose Perspectives

// 60 Maindeck
// 9 Creature
4 Vizier of Tumbling Sands
4 Shefet Monitor
1 Noose Constrictor

// 8 Enchantment
4 Cast Out
4 New Perspectives

// 16 Instant
4 Dissenter’s Deliverance
4 Haze of Pollen
3 Shadow of the Grave
4 Censor
1 Fling

// 27 Land
4 Scattered Groves
4 Irrigated Farmland
4 Fetid Pools
4 Sheltered Thicket
1 Canyon Slough
1 Botanical Sanctum
1 Swamp
1 Plains
3 Forest
2 Island
1 Mountain
1 Port Town

The game plan of this deck is to keep cycling cards until you find New Perspectives and stay alive by casting the occasional Haze of Pollen, Cast Out or Censor, all while making sure you keep enough cards in hand. Once having reached six mana you play New Perspectives, which will allow you to keep cycling for free until you hopefully find Shadow of the Grave, generate some mana with Shefet Monitor and Vizier of Tumbling Sands, and then win the game by flinging a big Noose Constrictor at your opponent’s face.

While all of this does sound quite simple in theory, there are a few problems when it comes to putting it all into practice. You absolutely need to find New Perspectives for the deck to do anything at all (you can try Shefet Monitor beatdown, but that does not seem too promising) and sometimes you won’t be able to find it in time. Once you have New Perspectives in hand, you will need to get to six mana without dying and it will also be really difficult to beat any sort of counter spell from your opponent. There is also the risk of all your copies of Shadow of the Grave being stuck near the bottom of your deck. But if you manage to clear all these hurdles, you do get to draw your whole deck and let the Noose loose.

These were a few, fresh Amonkhet brews that caught my attention. Feel free to let me know what Amonkhet cards and decks you have been brewing with!

Andreas