Rhonas the Indomitable is the green god from the new Amonkhet set. While the other four gods seem like strong, balanced, and well-designed cards, I can’t help but think that Rhonas might just be too good. A good friend of mine, Noah, saw the card on my computer screen leaned over to me pointed and said “that card is so good.”
Now, let me take a second to talk about the other gods and their designs. The main point of this should be fairly obvious, but here are the four other “drawbacks” that the gods have. These drawback requirements if fulfilled will allow the gods to attack and block like normal.
- Three or more creatures (White)
- Seven or more cards (Blue)
- One or less cards (Red)
- Creature under your control died this turn (Black)
I think that these drawbacks are super-balanced, and I love the way that the gods are strong and their relatively costly activated abilities help turn themselves on. However, Rhonas’s drawback is far far far easier to turn on than the others. I find it extremely unlikely that Rhonas won’t be able to attack on turn 4, unless the opponent decides not to tap their mana, which is a powerful swing in it’s own right. Rhonas is going to slot into some great aggro deck in Standard without a doubt, the I’m worried that we now have to be concerned about its power level.
Overall, I think that Amhonket is a wonderful and pretty balanced set, but Rhonas seems a step above. I don’t know what shell it will be, but a 5/5 indestructible deathtouch that only costs three mana is probably the best rate we’ve ever seen. Forget cards like Bloodrage Brawler that are going to activating Rhonas extremely trivial, Rhonas is powerful enough in a vacuum to get anyone and everyone excited. Rhonas is possibly the most powerful card in the set, and it illustrates the point that I want to make concretely that the power level of cards might be getting too high over time, especially in creatures and planeswalkers.
In my opinion, Rhonas is the beginning (or at least an indication) of a new age in Magic, where creatures become extremely hard to deal with threats in every set, no matter what. The reason that Rhonas is the piece of this puzzle that grinds my gears is because it is so clearly better than the other gods, and it makes me feel as if Wizards’ desire to create powerful and flashy cards has outweighed it’s desire for good and balanced gameplay. If Rhonas is the best card in the set, my opinion of the unparalleled power of creatures in Magic is holding true.
However, even if Rhonas isn’t the best card in the set, why am I worried and why is it so problematic? I think that the design of Rhonas scares me, it makes Magic feel like Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the one thing that keeps me away from an undying pessimism is that I know that Amonkhet looks like a fantastic set and I am not too worried about that aspect of the game. Magic will continue to be the best game ever made, I just want to protect it’s ingenuity.
Let’s now make a quick note about “power creep” and what it means for the future of Magic with regards to Amonkhet. Power creep in the context of Magic is the idea that creatures continue to get better over time, outpacing spells set by set in an effort to make Magic more flashy and new player-friendly. Power creep is certainly a really scary thing when following the game, because there has to be a ceiling before the game’s fairness and quality gets diminished. I hope that Rhonas the Indomitable isn’t a bad sign of things to come. However, I’m concerned that Rhonas is an indication of power creep.
As we’ve learned from mechanics like Delve, it’s important when analyzing cards to assume their power level is always at their best, because people will figure out how to do just that. For Delve cards like Tasigur, the Golden Fang, we’ve realized over time that that card is frequently a 1 or 2 mana 4/5, which is better than excellent. Similarly, at Rhonas’ best, it is a 5/5 indestructible for 3 mana with a relevant activated ability. Printing this card on its own would certainly be a mistake, and I think they may have done that here by making the drawback so easy to mitigate. A lot of game design is about tuning “knobs” and striking a balance, and I think Wizards may have tuned this one a little too aggressively.
Only time will tell however, so let’s get excited for Amonkhet!
As Amonkhet is getting released, it’s important to understand how this set’s -1/-1 counters theme will be different from other sets’ +1/+1 counters themes. If you’re looking to get a step up on the competition in Amonkhet Limited, read this article from Ben Pall.
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