Amonkhet preview season is in full swing, and so far, it hasn’t disappointed (depending on your view of the new Masterpieces). New Gods, Dual Lands, new and returning mechanics: Magic’s latest set has a lot to offer. It may be a bit early to identify any new break out cards and archetypes, but for all you Vorthos, there is a ton of tasty bits of flavour to get excited over. Whether it be Gothic Horror or Greek Myth, Wizards of the Coast never cease to lace their sets with loads of nods and winks to their source material, and Amonkhet is no different. So today, we are going to have a look at some of the cards, and their influences, so you can impress your playgroup with ‘your’ knowledge of Amonkhet inspiration.
So, when you saw the this green rare, I bet most of you out there thought it was R&D just phoning in the design. I mean, ‘cat snake’, really? Well, if you thought that, then you my friend, were wrong. Although there was no text or name for the creature, the ‘Serpopard’ was depicted on Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian art, showing as a creature with the body of a leopard, and the long neck of a serpent. The name is a modern term to describe this unknown beast, it is suggested that in Ancient Egyptian art the Serpopard represents “a symbol of the chaos reigned beyond Egypt’s borders”, which the king must tame. This is referenced in the flavour text of the Prowling Serpopard, which hints at these wild beasts being caught and kept by servants of the God Rhonas, for use in his trials. Strange, yes. But in flavour for the plane, absolutely.
Now, I know what you are thinking, minotaurs aren’t Egyptian, they’re Greek. And you would be right, if they were traditional half man, half bull. But if you look at the art on Ahn-Crop Crasher and Cursed Minotaur, you will notice that they are half Ram, not Bull. Since this is the case, we can easily identify the influence in their design, and by extension, the rest of Amonkhet hybrid humanoids. It is obvious gods of Ancient Egypt prove a wealth of visual influence when designing the inhabitants of the plane, with the Jackals being inspired by Anubis, while the Aven resemble Horus. So, it comes as no surprise then that the Ram-headed Minotaurs are based on Khnum. This is where Wizards seem to move away from the source material. Where the Minotaurs of this plane seem to be primarily aligned with red mana, with a touch of black for the zombies, the god Khnum, was a deity of creation and water. So, unless Wizards wants to give us a blue sheep man, Khnum’s visage will remain inspirational only.
So, we have a new Enchantment – Aura subtype, in the form of Cartouches. It looks like there may be a draft archetype to be had here, with cards like Trial of Knowledge synergising with the Cartouches, to provide some more value when you cast them. This is sweet and all, but what are Cartouches? In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. They are often seen carved into stone wall or tablets, at times amulets were given the form of a cartouche displaying the name of a king and placed in tombs. Cartouches were formerly only worn by Pharaohs. The oval surrounding their name was meant to protect them from evil spirits in life and after death. The cartouche has become a symbol representing good luck and protection from evil. Egyptians believed that one who had their name recorded somewhere would not disappear after death. A cartouche attached to a coffin satisfied this requirement. There were periods in Egyptian history when people refrained from inscribing these amulets with a name, for fear they might fall into somebody’s hands conferring power over the bearer of the name. This has some major story implications, as we know that the people of Amonkhet seek to ascend the trials, and be rewarded in the afterlife. Are these given to worth champions, own to be kept by Nicol Bolas to help him control them when they rise?
Lay of the Land
I don’t mean that Lay of the Land is getting a reprint, (though it is still early). No, rather I wanted to touch on the geographical influences of Amonkhet. It should come as little surprise to anyone, but Wizards have not only relied on the myths of Ancient Egypt to inspire the creation of this set. Looking at cards such as Oracle’s Vault and the cycle of Monuments, the similarity to the real life Sphinx, and other ancient structurers like the Temple of Edfu, is hard to deny. Even the River Nile is referenced in cards such as Ancient Crab and Floodwater, though in Amonkhet, the name of the river is the Luxa. That last example also references the annual flooding of the Nile. Though it is more a holiday than a natural disaster, telling the story of how Isis, the Egyptian Goddess, mourns for the brother Osiris. This natural cycle is not as important as it once was, thanks to dams and canals, but it still carries significance to this day.
There are tons more things I could talk about, from the building of the Oracle’s Vault, to the Nest of Scarabs and Viziers, but I won’t spoil all the fun for you. Why not let out your inner Vorthos, and explore the rich flavour of Amonkhet yourself? After all, those hard working people at Wizards did go to a lot of effort to make this set what it is. So, look beyond what cards are ‘standard playable’, and enjoy the awesome flavour of Amonkhet.