Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Amass Work in Magic?
Not many Magic cards have the amass trait, but it's a powerful supplement to zombie decks. If you don't control a creature with the army subtype when you amass, you create a 0/0 "zombie army," then place as many +1/+1 counters on it as specified. If you already control an army, amassing simply adds the counters to it.
This means you'll only control one amassed token, but it gradually strengthens throughout the game. You can amass with various cards in the red, blue, and black factions (the same colors required for infamous planeswalker Nicol Bolas)—which spells deserve your attention?
These are the ten best amass cards in Magic: The Gathering!
- Grim Initiate
- Honor the God-Pharaoh
- Commence the Endgame
- Invade the City
- Callous Dismissal
- Widespread Brutality
- Vizier of Scorpion
- Gleaming Overseer
- Enter the God-Eternals
- Dreadhorde Invasion
10. Grim Initiate
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1
Grim Initiate is a weak 1/1, but that's forgivable considering his low cost. Plus, he has first strike, letting him preemptively kill weak units before they can counter, and when he dies, you amass one, making him prime fodder for creature-sacrificing effects. Additionally, Initiate himself carries the zombie subtype, which you're probably supporting in an amass-based deck.
9. Honor the God-Pharaoh
Like blue's "Divination," Honor the God-Pharoah has you draw two cards for three mana, but now you have to discard one to cast the spell, so your overall hand size doesn't change. However, you also get to amass one, and that discard can actually be useful for setting up graveyard-revived creatures like "Reassembling Skeleton".
If you trash an instant or sorcery, you've moved two one-offs into your graveyard, perfect for empowering blue/red creatures like "Enigma Drake" and "Crackling Drake."
8. Commence the Endgame
Endgame doubles Divination's mana cost, yet still only draws two cards; why invest the extra mana? Well, Endgame can't be countered, and after drawing your cards, you amass an army equal to the number of cards in your hand. That should be at least a 2/2 token, likely more if you've been building an advantage throughout the match.
Plus, unlike most draw spells, Endgame is an instant—wait to cast it until the end of your opponent's turn, during which they'll likely think you have a counterspell planned and thus misplay.
7. Invade the City
Useful in Izzet themes as well as zombie decks, Invade the City amasses X, where X is the number of instants and sorceries in your graveyard. This adds some much-appreciated martial prowess to your one-off themes; use in tangent with low-cost spells like "Opt" and "Bolt" to assemble a massive token. Just watch out for graveyard-exiling effects on cards like "Ashiok, Dream Render."
6. Callous Dismissal
Unlike many of blue's early removals, Dismissal only functions as a sorcery, so you'll have to wait until your main phase to cast it. However, it both returns a card to its owner's hand and amasses one. And since you can pick any non-land permanent, you can bounce planeswalkers or enchantments as well as creatures.
Ironically, Dismissal is actually a great counter against amassed tokens; since they can't exist outside the field, "returning them to the hand" essentially removes them from the game.
5. Widespread Brutality
Brutality requires specific mana colors in its cost, so be sure to run lands that can tap for either red or black mana. It first amasses two, then has that army deal damage equal to its power to every non-army creature.
So you're basically getting a field wipe in addition to a creature, and if you've previously amassed with other effects, you'll hit foes for more than two damage. Just remember your own creatures will be affected, so time your play carefully.
4. Vizier of the Scorpion
Vizier is pitifully weak for his cost at 1/1, but he's lenient with his mana needs, useful when mixing blue and red into black. More than that, when Vizier enters the field, you amass one, and he grants your zombie tokens deathtouch. This turns your new army plus regular zombie tokens into insta-kill removals.
While Vizier himself doesn't benefit from the boost, he carries both the wizard and zombie subtypes, synergizing with the most abundant factions in blue and black. And speaking of the Dimir colors...
3. Gleaming Overseer
While Overseer's power is only one, his toughness is an impressive four, meaning he's sturdy enough to withstand many of red's removals (like "Lightning Strike") and block most mid-game aggression.
More than that, when Overseer arrives, you amass one, and he grants your zombie tokens both hexproof and menace. The former prevents opponents from targeting your tokens while the latter means they can only be blocked by two or more creatures. This makes Overseer a staple in my own amass decks, especially since he's one of today's cheapest cards, costing less than a single dollar!
2. Enter the God-Eternals
While a bit mana-locked with the Dimir colors, God-Eternals compensates with a wealth of great effects. First, you deal four damage to a creature, then gain life equal to the damage, a fierce removal/lifegain combo. Then, you amass four and have a target player mill four cards from their deck to their graveyard.
In addition to removal and lifegain, you receive a fierce 4/4 army, and the mill can help deck-out an opponent. Or, target yourself to stock your own graveyard, hopefully with self-reviving black creatures.
1. Dreadhorde Invasion
Similar to black's infamous faerie-swarming "Bitterblossom," Invasion is a two-cost enchantment that automatically amasses one during your upkeep. You'll gradually build your army into a gargantuan token, or replace it if destroyed.
The drawback is you lose one life during your upkeep, and the effect isn't optional, so Invasion can potentially kill you. However, this is mitigated by Invasion's next effect, which gives your attacking zombie tokens with power six or more lifelink, letting you recover your lost health when enough of your minions unite. You can hasten the process by attaching auras or equipments to your tokens, quickly facilitating your recovery.
Supporting Zombie Tokens in Magic
While the amass mechanic plays off the army subtype, it's really the token's zombie nature that offers synergies. Amassed zombies can benefit from both token-specific effects (like "Teysa Karlov") and zombie supports (like "Lord of the Undead"), making them one of the best adaptable families available.
Since most amass cards don't require more than three mana, you can gradually swarm your undead while building mana for one of Nicol Bolas's daunting planeswalker forms. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of army-forming spells, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: Now that we are well into Theros Beyond Death, do you think amass decks are still viable?
Answer: Yes! They're out of the standard rotation by now, but I use several amass cards in my proliferate and zombie-focused commander decks.
© 2019 Jeremy Gill