Welcome to Amonkhet
Get ready to step into the world of Amonkhet, Magic: The Gathering fans, as the game’s last expansion set—which hits stores later this month—is entirely set in this Ancient Egypt-inspired realm. Ahead, EW presents an exclusive look at some of the art and cards of the upcoming expansion set, as well as a look at the soon to be released Amonkhet-themed art book, The Art of Magic: Amonkhet. The Amonkhet expansion hits stores April 28 — preorder it here — while The Art of Magic: Amonkhet will be available for purchase July 4. Preorder it here.
Sunscorched Desert Card
This setting serves two purposes. First, it allows the game’s creative team to tackle different facets of Egyptian mythology — as evidenced in the art of the upcoming cards, which will feature mummies, sphinxes, and scorpions, as well as various animal-headed gods and people. Second, it lets the game delve into its "graveyard" mechanic, which sees players discard played cards into a pile that renders them no longer relevant to the game (with a few exceptions).
Exert, which reflects the way that the people of this world are pushing themselves to succeed in the trials of the gods and earn a place in the afterlife, which basically means that when you attack with a creature you can leave it. It's putting in an extra effort so it stays tapped longer. It doesn't untap during your next untap step.
"The Egypt world fit in well with our story plans, and is a world that our fans have been demanding for a long time,” explains writer James Wyatt. "It was time in our story for the planeswalkers of the Gatewatch to go and confront [Elder Dragon] Nicol Bolas in his lair, and making it an Egypt world fits with him and informs a lot of the mechanics and creative elements of the cards."
Grim Strider Card
And of course, drawing on Egyptian mythology means that Death will be involved. "Amonkhet is a plane that hates the idea of an end. Death, as we know it, is a mostly unknown concept on this plane, as any being that dies and has enough of a body is immediately brought back to life," explains writer Alison Luhrs. "This second life is not a sentient one, and the majority of creatures that die return as mostly mindless zombies. The residents of Naktamun use cartouches to control their dead, but the mummies of the desert are not nearly so tame."
Adds Wyatt of the city-state of Naktamun, "One of the key concepts of the world is that there's this little, and literal, bubble of civilization, It's protected by this magical veil called the Hekma. Beyond that is the barren desert. But inside it they are sheltered and protected by the beneficence of the god-pharaoh."
Cryptic Serpent Card
But just because the iconography of Egyptian mythology is familiar, players shouldn't expect what they already know. "There are pyramid structures, but they're not tombs. They're monuments and celebrations of achievement, not places where mummies are buried," explains Wyatt. "But there are also mummies who are embalmed inside the city, circumventing that curse. So yes, they rise up again as mummies, but they are controlled. They're bound to the service of the living people in the city."
Part of this is rooted in the culture of Naktamun, which sees its people eagerly awaiting the afterlife. "The people of Naktamun undergo trials to prove themselves worthy of a glorified death," explains Wyatt of the residents' mindset. "It sounds nice at one level, but maybe not so much on another level. The gods seem like they're nurturing and helpful, but then also one of them is granting the glorious death to a person. So it's definitely a mixed bag."
The Art of Magic: Amonkhet
"The central tension that we're exploring at this particular moment is Gideon, one of our planeswalker characters, has come here, and he has a weird history with the gods of his home world of Theros, the Greek mythology-inspired world," says Wyatt. "The faith that he used to have in those gods has broken, and now he comes to this world and he sees these five animal-headed gods. He was expecting to find a hellhole ruled by this evil dragon. Instead, he finds gods walking among the people and caring for and protecting and nurturing them. It's this weird cognitive dissonance for him."
Of course, there's been a lot of speculation among fans about when the other shoe is going to drop and Gideon will discover that this plane is not what he thought it to be. "We're starting to see some of that," explains Wyatt. "In the card, Cruel Reality, we see Gideon being restrained as he watches an initiate of the city drowning another initiate in a pool of water. Suddenly, he's realizing that there's something rotten in the city, which he should've expected all along."