Greetings, pharaohs and pharaohesses, and welcome to another Under the Hood – that series where I get in deep with the mechanics of Magic and have a poke around! With Amonkhet spoiler season subsiding, I’m going to look ahead to Amonkhet and one of its flagship mechanics: Embalm!
Now, when we were brought to an Egyptian plane, we knew there would be mummies. The mummification ritual is a keystone of Egyptian culture, and as such it makes a large amount of sense to embody it within the set’s mechanics – Enter: Embalm. Embalm sought to tackle the mummification mechanic in an elegant and flavourful way – when an Embalm creature hits the yard, you can exile it and invest to bring back a token copy of it – no mana cost, and white instead of any other colours, but mechanically the same.
On a technical level, this is great. While the mummy of the creature embodies all that the creature was, it’s infinitely more fragile – while the living creature would be able to resist something like Unsubstantiate and live to come back another turn, a mummy of the same creature would instead be immediately obliterated. Exiling also helps on a gameplay level to prevent infinite recursion (boo); but this is a no brainer when we consider that flavourfully only one instance of the creature exists (and if we want infinite recursion we can just ask Gravecrawler).
Being an incoming mechanic, there isn’t much to write about in any 60 card formats as of yet, but there are some rumblings of potential standard powerhouses that could impact the Standard climate (the three guys I know who are interested are happy about it). First up is Honored Hydra – while nothing particularly exciting, a couple of this resilient threat as a curve topper for a stompy deck (perhaps not hard-core ramp though, still having 2 of 3 of the eldrazi titans in standard) could see this guy in the Standard spotlight, at least for a couple weeks. Perhaps more exciting, is the prospect of Glyph Keeper. Being a Ux control player at my core, I always keep an eye out for potential control finishers. While control doesn’t look to be that much of a player again (I’m waiting, Wizards), Glyph Keeper forms the role of difficult to deal with threat that has a short clock to chip away a floundering opponent. To me, that makes me think they’re at least trying.
Implications in EDH
Now, this is an interesting question. With everyone going full bent broken in EDH, is there any room for our friendly Embalm? Personally, I think so.
Hear me out; tokens is a huge deal in EDH. As you will find out in a couple weeks from my Top 5 token commanders article (or remember from, depending on when you find this article), tokens are huge, with many different ways to build them. In EDH, with multitudes more token doublers (with one for nongreen decks incoming through Anointed Procession), suddenly your Honored Hydra becomes 2. Or 4. Or 8. Timed correctly, that makes even French vanilla creatures powerhouses. A particularly interesting thing I find is that it also opens up nongreen token decks up a little; having a potent token producing ability available to primarily blue (blue! What a time to be alive) and white means that occasionally Embalm will be a great addition to token builds forgoing the traditional green commanders (And occasionally in those builds anyway, but more on that in a sec)
It has definitely been pushed in our direction too, with the addition of Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun joining the legendary ranks this set. Putting a great spin on Embalm (and affecting himself post-embalming), Temmet seems to be a great choice for an Embalm deck going forward, even perhaps a token deck (though being the traditionalist that I am, UW tokens seems safe in the hands of Geist of Saint Traft)
There are plenty to choose from (for a standard only mechanic thus far, it seems a lot more fleshed out than say, Emerge). First off, lets talk about how cool Vizier of Many Faces is! Another in the line of strictly better Clone effects, the Vizier comes into play as anything you want it to be; the biggest threat on the board, or a value engine like Dark Confidant, or an excellent ETB like Eternal Witness. It comes in, does precisely what you need it to do, then inevitably dies. But as with all Embalm creatures, death isn’t necessarily the end for it. It can sit in your graveyard for turns and turns, coming back for the surprise route to victory later in the game! As it makes token copies of another creature, they get doubled by things like Anointed Procession, allowing you to make flashy plays by doubling things that are inherently more powerful, like a Consecrated Sphinx or a Blightsteel Colossus. The Vizier is an underrated piece of EDH tech for blue token decks, and I’ll no doubt be seeing this guy some.
Next up is Aven Wind Guide. Inexplicably left until the set dropped, this guy is an excellent token Lord that presents your entire token team with evasion for a reasonable cost. While he can only be used in UW decks (ideally monowhite would have been great, but the permanent granting of flying is way too far blue), the granting of flying (and vigilance) to your team for 5 mana with flashback seems too good to pass up.
Finally, the splashy embalm mythic of the set: Angel of Sanctions gets me really excited and I’m unsure why. A flying banisher priest seems good, but I take him out of the 60 card environment and combine his ability to become a token with token doublers or Panharmonicon (both available in standard currently, I might add) and his lofty cost suddenly becomes a bit more worth it. Still not permanent, and unable to get the pure value of something like Luminate Primordial, but still an enormous source of value to those wanting removal on their top end.
When it came to brewing up a deck for this issue, the muses truly took me. Before I continue, allow me to present:
The idea of building around Embalm is a tantalising prospect; it offers something to blue that blue doesn’t usually get; token production. As such, Temmet can easily unlock an archetype previously unexplored – UW tokens. While yes, it does end up heavily white, blue gives us the tools we need to churn through the deck looking for action, be it token producers, lords, or protection for the army.
I love the two white gods in this context, both offer indestructible mana sinks for when the heavily white deck inevitably runs out of cards in a long game, as well as offering token generators that get better with each anthem/doubler you manage to keep hold of.
One last thing I really enjoy about the deck is the walker package. Lacking Red and Green for token staples such as Beastmaster Ascension for beef or Impact Tremors for direct damage, UW tokens benefits heavily from sturdy value engines. Both Elspeths provide a large amount of soldiers for little effort, while threatening emblems that make your tokens incredibly threatening. In a stalled board state rushing the emblems can be a viable tactic, as the tokens protect their chief amiably. Failing that, each of them can churn out tokens indefinitely turn on turn, as it’s stapled to their upticking abilities. Similarly, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar brings a standard-style headache in his ability to rush out and begin creating 2/2s, but I felt he deserved a section of his own due to his ability to also instantly ultimate, sacrificing himself for the emblem immediately; with an already established board state this is a valuable option that can push through the last points of damage.
That just about covers me (like a mummy, perhaps?) For Embalm, guys! What do you reckon? Hidden gem? Obvious flop? Be sure to let me know, and be sure to like us on Facebook if you’re left wanting more. Until next time, Unmistakable out!