Amonkhet shapes up to be a great set for the cube format, likely the best set in my history of cubing – 9 years! As such it is unavoidable to dissect the set review to smaller parts. The set is high in innovation and the most natural way to discuss the new contenders is to see the new mechanics separately first. This post will talk about the gods.
Theros was the set that introduced Gods for the first time. They were mostly not cube playable when the set came out and only one out of 15 cards stood the test of time in cubes and that is Purphoros. This time, the mono red version again seems to be the only possible contender. This is pretty much where similarities between the two divine iterations end though. The new gods are always creatures, so they are easier to interact with. They can be killed by Terminus or Diabolic Edict, they die to Toxic Deluge. Man-O-War can bounce them, Control Magic will steal them. That amount of interaction is still minimal though and you can count on the deities to stay on the battlefield.
Theros gods used devotion. They required a high amount of permanents from a single color to be present on the battlefield. They were easy to stop from animating, and indeed seeing a Purphoros attacking in cube is nearly unheard of. The value of the old gods is almost entirely on their abilities. The new pantheon has varying criteria for being able to attack, but they are comparatively easy to do so. As such their bodies are a much bigger part of their evaluation.
Oketra the True – unplayable
This card is a Heliod twin. In dedicated decks, this will be at least twice as easy to attack with. A single Spectral Procession will do it, so will Sram’s Expertise or Angel of Invention. Still, most decks will need to play some creatures the fair way. It is perhaps the easiest god to deactivate by your opponent too, usually killing that 1/1 token would do it.
Then there is the impact issue. If you play a token deck, it is hard to block your board effectively and you are weak to mass removals. Oketra is easy to block, and is just as vulnerable to a mass removal. Would you not prefer an anthem effect or a planeswalker for threat diversification, or just more token producing cards or higher impact creatures?
Finally there is the mana cost issue. No way to include this among the stacked white four drops, between your Armageddon, Elspeth, Gideon, Day of Judgment etc. Even in a token deck you have multiple better four drops, so this just has no chance to see play in any normal cube, even in very large sizes. What a missed opportunity to get a cat god into the cube…
Kefnet the Mindful – bad and/or extremely niche
The god with the hardest condition. It is very hard in cube to keep a full hand. You do it with Library of Alexandria sometimes, but usually only for a few turns during the early game, sometimes not at all against aggro. More importantly, Library is still a perfectly playable land if the conditions are not there for it, while Kefnet is a do nothing enchantment that costs 3. The ability is likewise overly expensive and should be played only in the late game. If you can keep a full hand for that many turns in most places you should be winning. It will be powerful in control mirrors, but that’s about it. Cute with draw sevens as well, but not for large cubes. Discard will wreck you if you rely on it. Will be used somewhere with Howling Mines, not in cube.
Bontu the Glorified – bad and/or niche
An indestructible sacrifice outlet is useful sometimes, but Bontu is just too expensive for cube. As the benefit of 1 life leech and scry 1 is so low for the mana you want it in a deck that actively wants to sacrifice. The body is good, but requires a lot of resources to keep alive. Very narrow and not powerful enough to build around.
Hazoret – hard to evaluate, likely a comfortable inclusion
Hazoret appears to be the best Egyptian god. She appears to be potent as an aggro curve topper. First of all, she is splashable, a rare feat for red four drops. She provides infinite reach, so your opponent is never fully stabilized when you have her out. In testing she was used in asymmetrical Sulfuric Vortex mode against a Moat with success. She can go directly for opposing planeswalkers as well. Even without her ability, having one or less cards in hand is natural for aggro decks. It is much easier to maintain than full hellbent. Hellbent tended to fail when you were flooded or screwed, and keeping no burn in hand is far riskier than keeping a single piece. As such she is a good fit, and a 5/4 indestructible haste attacker will close games.
True, the haste will not matter if you play her on turn four. She will not be active by then. But she is a great topdeck, and she can be played as the second last card in your hand to great success. Aggro decks are not those that consistently play four drops on turn four anyway, as they have low land counts and they mulligan aggressively for gas. Then Hazoret will survive all mass removals. She is hard to deactivate.
Unlike something like Hero of Oxid Ridge, she has some applications outside of aggro. Mostly in R/G ramp decks that empty their hands and with black symmetric discard like Liliana of the Veil. She likely loses still to Hellrider which is far more direct, not to mention Fiery Confluence and other aggro four drops such as Armageddon. But the space below Hellrider exists after a certain cube size, and in 720 I think she can be squeezed comfortably. Aggro only four drops are very narrow cards, and she helps a bit by being broader than usual.
Rhonas – hard to evaluate, likely playable at 810+
Rhonas does nothing without a creature around. The 5/5 deathtouch body is like a vehicle – does not attack the turn you play Rhonas, but can attack later right after a mass removal if you topdeck a creature (with sufficient power, harder than it seems). The deathtouch does matter a little, as the cobra can take down titans and Inkwell Leviathans. The activated ability is like an equipment, in that it only affect other creatures. Rhonas seems easy to activate, but is even easier to deactivate. If you plan on pumping your 2/2s early for the snake god, be prepared to get blown out by removals and bounce. Yes, the god is intimidating and cannot be ignored, but the repeated cost of 2G is hefty. I foresee decks just bouncing/burning your smaller bodies for a few turns, completely ignoring him and winning. On the other hand, I fear that in many cases winning with Rhonas will result in a gross overkill and vast amounts of overspill damage. In short, it is somewhat of a winmore.
He is not an aggro card, despite being almost purely offensive. The tempo loss of playing him early is too big. In midrange or light ramp decks however, it would be much more fitting. You’ll have creatures with natural 4 power. You could use him as a topdeck to immediately pump something and give it trample. It is a mana sink for your Gaea’s Cradle. And it gives you all the inevitability.
The card makes you more vulnerable to some of your inherent weaknesses. It is unavoidably narrow as it requires a large creature count (of sizable creatures if possible) and large mana count. It competes for the same space as vehicles and equipment in decklists. As such I do not think it stands a chance in cube in the long run. It will always feel like a sort of luxury to have it. I am however willing to test it if I find a cut for the high ceiling it provides and because his uniqueness makes him hard to evaluate properly.