Hour of Devastation Limited First Impressions

Hallie SantoLimited

The Hour of Devastation prerelease took place last weekend, and as has become my tradition, I signed up for a few tournaments at Mox Boarding House Seattle. After nearly five years of playing tournament Magic, prereleases are still among my favorite events. It’s always thrilling to open those shiny new booster packs put my Limited skills to the test with a fresh set of cards.

At my first prerelease of the weekend, I was fortunate enough to open the God-Pharaoh himself, Nicol Bolas, and a solid pool of Grixis-colored cards. I hemmed and hawed a bit about which combination of blue, black, and red cards I’d play, and eventually settled on a black-red midrange deck, splashing blue for the devastating dragon. Plan A: Win by attacking with creatures; Plan B: Get my opponents to seven and finish them off with Bolas’s -4 ability. It worked surprisingly well – Bolas’s high loyalty count makes him easy to protect in Limited, and his +2 ability will usually add an extra creature to your board.

The creature that impressed me most at that first prerelease was The Locust God, with whom I went toe-to-toe in the third round. My opponent had an excellent blue-red control deck with several copies of Open Fire, Unsummon, and Unquenchable Thirst to take care of my creatures and keep me off balance. The Locust God is among the new format’s best finishers – a large, evasive, resilient threat that can generate card advantage and swarm the skies at the same time. If I couldn’t draw one of my exile effects (Final Reward, Puncturing Blow) or cast both halves of Never//Return in the same turn, it was game over. This is an easy inclusion in any Sealed deck, and I’m already thinking about trying it out in my Cube.

I came back to MBH the following day to play in another prerelease event and opened a critical mass of zombies. My curve was a bit higher than I would have preferred, but I had a hard time saying no to archetype all-stars like Binding Mummy, Fan Bearer, Wayward Servant, and Stir the Sands. I was also keen to try Unraveling Mummy, which turned out to be the MVP of my deck. In Game 3 of Round 3, I was on the ropes at a precarious three life against an opponent who had access to direct-damage spells, and a top-decked Unraveling Mummy allowed my Carrion Screecher (“Creature – Zombie Bird”!) to help me gain back some of the life I’d lost. While I was missing key zombie anthem cards (Lord of the Accursed, Liliana’s Mastery), Unconventional Tactics allowed me to go high when I couldn’t go wide and helped me win some crucial games. In short, zombie synergies are still tough to reckon with in Limited, and I expect to see more of this deck in the coming weeks.

A few miscellaneous notes:

  • Striped Riverwinder is no Scaled Behemoth, but the ability to cycle it early makes it a worthy inclusion in blue decks.
  • While W/U Embalm was one of my favorite decks to draft in Amonkhet, I’m still unsure how I feel about Eternalize. A 4/4 creature can accomplish a lot in the late game, but Unsummon’s presence in the format makes me a bit less interested in making tokens, and there are enough common exile effects in the format (most notably Puncturing Blow) that our Eternalize creatures may not always hit the bin.
  • I was especially impressed with the removal in Hour of Devastation. Amonkhet didn’t offer much in the way of cheap removal or interaction, allowing hyper-aggressive decks to dominate. Now, we have access to cheap direct damage spells in red (Abrade, Open Fire), more conditional removal in white (Farm, Sandblast), and soft removal in blue (Unquenchable Thirst, Unsummon, Consign).

Hour of Devastation is now available to draft on Magic Online, and I can’t wait to dig in and learn more about this format. If you’d like to do some drafts at home with your own playgroup, you can pick up booster boxes from Card Kingdom this week. Good luck, have fun, and may the gods be ever in your favor.

Header design: Chris Rowlands

Header image: “The Locust God” by Luis Lasahido