The Best and Worst of Khans of Tarkir

Justin Clouse | 19 Sep 2014 12:00
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The new fall set is finally upon us and it looks easily more exciting than anything else released recently. While we'll be sad to say good bye to Return to Ravnica - Justin: I'll miss you "End of turn Sphinx's Revelation for seven, I gain seven life and draw seven cards." - we're just as eager for the new standard metagame, getting the Onslaught fetches for Modern and the brand-new draft environment. Here are the cards that we think you should really keep an eye on.

The Good

Clever Impersonator


Josh says: In a world full of giant scary monsters, and devastatingly powerful Planeswalkers, it's easy to fall behind on the board, and never be able to climb your way back to the top. In this world, Clever Impersonator is a Godsend. Copying *any* nonland permanent, you can duplicate your beefiest creature or copy your opponent's most powerful Planeswalker. Whether you're being buried in 1/1 tokens from Elspeth, Sun's Champion or trying desperately to fend off a Garruk, Apex Predator, Clever Impersonator will help you get the drop on your opponent. Hell, copying a Garruk lets you immediately +1 him to take down the opposing Garruk. It should be noted that the Legend and Planeswalker rules have changed recently, allowing each player to have their own copy, rather than both being sacrificed immediately when a second copy is played. Suffice to say, Clever Impersonator will make your opponent Think Twice before running out their favorite 'walker.

Charm Cycle - Abzan Charm, Jeskai Charm, Sultai Charm, Mardu Charm, Temur Charm

Justin says: Ask yourself this, has there honestly ever been an outright bad multi-colored charm? Sure, some of them are pretty conditional, but I'm pretty certain every single one of them has seen constructed play in some format at some point, even if it's just sideboards. It turns out stapling three different color specific abilities on an instant speed card makes it really hard to churn out a complete dud. While we are just coming off the two color charms in Return to Ravnica block, these new three color charms are more similar to their cousins in Shards of Alara. I don't know if I'm ready to say any of the Khans of Tarkir charms are quite Esper Charm levels of awesome yet, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a three colors deck that's not interested in having its on-color charm somewhere in the 75. And certainly anyone playing these colors will scoop them up for Commander. Personally, I'm a big fan of Sultai Charm, it's a versatile answer to a number of card types and worst case replaces itself to dig for what you need.

Bloodsoaked Champion

Josh says: A 2/1 for one mana is almost always a good deal, and Bloodsoaked Champion takes it up a notch by returning himself to the battlefield anytime you attack with a creature. You can attack into defenders all day with this guy, hoping to sneak some damage through. He'll pair particularly well with an evasive creature, that can attack unopposed every turn, allowing Bloodsoaked Champion to reappear turn after turn. He's sort of Gravecrawler, if a little more expensive to return. Sacrifice him to cards like Altar's Reap, or the new nastiness, Butcher of the Horde. A 2/1 for one with major upside is always going to rank high in my book.

Mantis Rider

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Justin says: For anyone that's been following Magic for a while, creatures have been steadily getting better over the years. So it's a little surprising that Mantis Rider's progenitor, Lightning Angel, came out all the way back in Invasion block in 2001. Besides one extra toughness and an additional mana symbol, the two cards are pretty much exactly the same - unless you happen to have a monk tribal deck. The creature body is right on size for the cost, but in both cases a hefty color requirement gets the keywords flying, haste and vigilance on top of it. And this combination of abilities is just really well suited for closing out a game quickly. Flying gives it evasion, haste to start the beatdown right away and vigilance makes it difficult for your opponent to race back. This combination is also incidentally really good at taxing planeswalkers. I expect a lot of Kiora the Crashing Wave and [Xenagos, the Reveler] will die to a hasty Mantis Rider the next turn. Sadly Mantis Rider probably won't see a ton of play in older formats where extra toughness gives Lightning Bolt protection, but it's a strong start to some kind of tempo Jeskai build in Standard. Some burn spells, a few other decent threats (Goblin Rabblemaster fits really well in a deck that can get blockers out of the way) and some strong tempo cards like Crippling Chill or Void Snare and you're basically half way there. Even the new Jeskai Charm seems right up the deck's alley.

Mardu Ascendancy

Josh says: Cards in the Ascendancy cycle aren't all terribly impressive, but in a swarm deck, Mardu Ascendancy is going to be backbreaking. Every creature you attack with creates a 1/1 red Goblin that's also attacking. Pair this with the likes of Goblin Rabblemaster and Foundry Street Denizen, plus the various warrior buffs and draw options from Khans, and you'll be creating major headaches for your opponent.

Savage Knuckleblade

Justin says: Much in the same way that the charms are good, Savage Knuckleblade is just a little Swiss army knife of awesome. For starters, a 4/4 for three mana is just solidly good. Loxodon Smiter saw play throughout its life in Standard and sees a bit in Modern too. Where Loxodon Smiter had some precisely targeted abilities against counterspells and discard, Savage Knuckleblade just has a suite of activated abilities that you can leverage to your advantage. Have an extra red mana? Smash face this turn with haste. Need to dodge a removal spell? Return Savage Knuckleblade to your hand. And finally, want to attack through that pesky Polukranos, World Eater? Well Savage Knuckleblade can pump up to a 6/6. The last one even gives it pseudo-evasion on the right board state, since just attacking with it threatens the ability, making it unprofitable to block. It's a little, ok a lot, hopeful, but turn 1 mana dork, turn 2 Savage Knuckleblade, turn 3 Savage Knuckleblade with haste is a pretty 'savage' way to start the game. It also synergizes really well with some of the other Temur cards. Surrak Dragonclaw ensures that your Savage Knuckleblade can't just get chump blocked by a token, it's one of the cheapest ways to trigger or enable the ferocious ability, and while expensive, you can get a little draw engine going with Temur Ascendancy by bouncing and recasting it.

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