Draft Digest: Cartouches On Trial

The common cycle of Cartouches doubtless will influence Amonkhet Limited. Ryan Saxe evaluates all five, separating the worthy from the wanting!

Let’s look at one of the common cycles of Amonkhet: the Cartouches. Auras tend to be pretty bad in Limited, as they create situations where you can get blown out, but these look substantially better than I expected. The reason for this is that they all come with an enters-the-battlefield effect, so if that is worth a card and the Aura does enough, a resolved Cartouche is almost tantamount to card advantage. While evaluating these enchantments, make sure to break them down into each relevant part.

Combining the aspects of Cartouche of Solidarity, we get 2/2 worth of stats for one mana, and it’s split with first strike and vigilance.

This sounds good, but in most Limited formats, an Aura that gives +1/+1 and first strike wouldn’t be very good, and as a 1/1 tends not to be worth a card, I’m skeptical about this card.

It does get better with any of the Trials, notably Trial of Solidarity, as Cartouche of Solidarity provides an additional body for the pump effect, but so does every Cartouche (although one mana is very good with the recursive effect). This also doesn’t increase how I value the card in a vacuum. Just remember that, if you have any of the Cartouches, the Trials go up in value, and vice versa (although this direction is more substantial).

Overall, I don’t think this card is very good, but I’ll definitely end up playing it early in the format to get a good feel. First strike can be a very potent mechanic in Limited and can take over the game on a big enough creature. But if there’s enough removal, I don’t think leaving a 1/1 behind will leave me satisfied.

Let me tell you, I’m pretty excited about this card. We all recently learned from Gryff’s Boon (one of my favorite cards in Shadows over Innistrad Limited) that a cheap Aura that can take your creatures to the sky can be powerful. It ends the game relatively quickly. Now, one of the key factors to Gryff’s Boon was the recursion, but instead of that, we get to draw a card when Cartouche of Knowledge resolves.

If this card resolves, you have created a must-answer threat (most of the time) without going down on cards. I don’t expect this to be too early of a pick, but it looks like it’ll be one of blue’s best commons. It’s as simple as that!

This is the hardest of the Cartouches to evaluate. The value of a -1/-1 counter really depends on the format, but they tend to be good. As they are a sub theme, I’m going to assume that the effect is a little better than usual. I mean, there are even build-around cards for -1/-1 counters in Nest of Scarabs. But three mana for that counter is way too inefficient, so hopefully the other part will be worth it.

+1/+1 and lifelink is certainly enticing. Lifelink is one of the swingiest mechanics in Limited and can completely turn a game around if put on an ample threat. If there is an abundance of x/1 creatures, this card is going to always make the cut; as is, I’m not certain if that’s the case. Probably a middle- or end-of-the-pack kind of card.

We’ve actually had this exact card, barring the interactions with the Trials, and it wasn’t particularly good. The haste and removing a blocker are certainly relevant, but only for one turn. This card is full-on aggression. And that’s it.

There are pretty much two scenarios in which it’ll be a reasonable card to draft in the format. First is if the format is something like a fast bread-and-butter type, like Magic Origins (which doesn’t look very likely). Second is if you’ve drafted multiple of the Trials, especially since Trial of Zeal seems to be the best one by a pretty large margin. If you return Trial of Zeal to your hand, Cartouche of Zeal also draws you a removal spell. That’s pretty insane. But other than that, I’m not really looking to draft and/or play this card.

In fact, all of the Cartouches are good enough that if you add returning any of the Trials, they become very powerful. Just something to keep in mind while drafting.

We’ve saved the best for last! I think it’s unlikely that green will get a better common than Cartouche of Strength, and it’s quite possible that this card will end up being first-pickable. In fact, I think Cartouche of Strength is powerful enough that seeing it fourth-pick could be a signal (but this will depend on the power level of the uncommons in the set).

But why is Cartouche of Strength so good? Well, we all just played with Hunt the Weak, and Cartouche of Strength is one mana cheaper, gives trample, and has the upside of returning Trials! That’s a lot of additional, relevant upside to a card that was already quite good.

And it’s as simple as that. No Cartouche was that difficult to evaluate, but not all of them required only trivial methods. I’m pretty excited to test them out in Limited, especially the black and white ones, as I really don’t know exactly where those will settle.