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At First Glance: Khans of Tarkir


Welcome back to Very Limited. The Khans of Tarkir prerelease is fast approaching. Khans of Tarkir looks to be shaping up to be among the most powerful sets ever printed. With fetch lands at rare and a ton of powerful rares and mythics, this is a set we’ll want to be drafting with as much as possible. Today, we’ll be discussing the Limited applications of the cards that have been previewed thus far.

Khans of Tarkir is a multicolored set, so we’ll need to fix our mana properly. Check out my column from last week for an in-depth discussion on securing a strong mana base when drafting.

Follow along at Gathering Magic’s spoilers page or on the official card image gallery. Let’s talk about some cards!

Ainok Bond-Kin seems like an incredible common. We have a 2-power creature for 2 that has the ability to grow when the smaller body no longer matters. Additionally, it creates a lot of interesting plays with any card that has outlast. With outlast mana up and a creature untapped, it’s going to be difficult for our opponents to attack us without evasion. I expect this to be among the better common creatures in Khans.

End Hostilities is a board sweeper for 5 mana. This is an obvious first-pick bomb when drafting. We can turtle up and not play threats while the opponent overcommits to the board and wipe the slate clean for one card and 5 mana. 5-mana Wrath of God effects are always going to be bombs. Newer players may assume that this card isn’t great if they’re playing a ton of creatures, but the truth of the matter is that, in Limited, there is far too much utility and power in playing a get-out-of-jail-free card like End Hostilities. Take it when you see it.

Herald of Anafenza is always going to make the cut as a decent rare, but I wouldn’t value it quite as highly in a set that’s this powerful. We’ll often have a lot of stuff to do with our mana, and while the extra mana sink is nice, it isn’t necessarily game breaking. This becomes a lot better in a deck with a lot of instants and tricks because we can always leave mana available and have something to do with it when we can’t punish the opponent with something on his or her turn.

Watcher of the Roost is cool in the sense that it’s a 2-power flyer for 3 with random added bonus. We can cast it and turn it face up without access to white mana even. It’s also reasonable to leave it morphed until the flying matters or until we’re about to cast our last white card. This will make our opponent play differently without affecting our game plan.

Wingmate Roc is some kind of absurd. In all likelihood, we’ll be suicide-attacking if we don’t have a real attack before we cast this. A pair of 3/4 flyers on turn five is basically game over most of the time, and the added life-gain makes it even better at racing opposing aggressive draws. This is easily the best card white card we’ve seen thus far.

Clever Impersonator is a Clone, and it’s a real one that can actually copy our opponent’s things, not some imposter of a Mercurial Pretender. This is a nice one that should probably find its way into most Cubes, and it may be a Constructed sleeper. As a Draft pick, this has first-pick potential, but I may end up taking it below decent removal. I’d like to reserve the right to increase how highly we’ll value this though. It has a ton of potential, especially in a set with this much bombasticness.

Dragon’s Eye Savants isn’t great, but it’s definitely playable. Looking at the opponent’s hand at instant speed when we need a big blocker gives us perfect information about the tricks we need to play around, and it will often make the 0/6 worth the effort.

Jeskai Elder is pretty sweet. Looters are always good in Limited, and the fact that any spell becomes a combat trick makes this card have a lot of potential to grow to a 3/4 or 4/5 as the game progresses. The card is much better in our opening hand than as a top-deck, but that’s a fine drawback for a 2-drop that might just be chump-blocking when we draw it late anyway.

Jeskai Windscout is a 2-power flyer for 3 that has growing potential. This seems to have the most potential of all the blue commons we’ve seen thus far.

Kheru Spellthief is absurdly powerful if we are able to morph it for virtually anything. The opponent loses a card, we gain a 3/3, and we gain whatever card the opponent was trying to cast. I could definitely see this being a first pick.

Thousand Winds is a bomb in Draft. We get a Mahamoti Djinn or we get a Gray Ogre that becomes a Mahamoti while also casting Sea God's Revenge. Let’s just go ahead and take this over whatever else is in the pack.

Mardu Skullhunter is fine as a 2-power creature for 2; making the opponent discard won’t be easy on the second turn, but it gives this card additional value as a later draw step. This looks to be the kind of common we’ll be using to fill out our deck.

Necropolis Fiend is pretty good as a massive flyer, but it becomes even more exciting if we’re late enough in the game to start killing things with it. It’s probably hard to have a lot of graveyard ammo when drafting, but this will be a first pick anyway as a 4/5 flyer that costs 5 or 6 mana in a lot of cases. This card grows better with a lot of deathtouch and removal in our decks.

Ruthless Ripper is a nice way to kill big creatures without a lot of mana investment. We can use it as a Typhoid Rats, but we can also play it as a morph to get our opponent to attack with his or her biggest creature and make the trade. The incidental 2 life is a nice little bonus.

Shambling Attendants seems to cost a lot of mana. We’ll need either some ways to fill our graveyard or a format dominated by 4- and 3-power ground creatures for this one to be good. It doesn’t look that way now, but we still have a lot of the set that we haven’t seen.

Crater’s Claws is a Blaze, so it’s already a tremendous first pick. The card can be played as a Shock when we have a 4-power creature, and it will probably be aimed at the opponent’s head to end games out of nowhere when things are close.

Dragon-Style Twins is another incredible rare. 3/3 double strikers are already great for Limited, but giving it the ability to grow means that the opponent needs to have a removal spell almost immediately if he or she doesn’t want to die to a single pump spell when we attack with this.

Howl of the Horde is a fun card to do silly things with in Constructed, but the card doesn’t have much Limited potential unless the set turns out to have a lot of inexpensive spells.

Mocking Instigator is incredible. We can combo this with cards that let us sacrifice creatures for especially huge value, but it’s probably going to steal a lot of games by itself anyway.

Mardu Heart-Piercer is really nice because it lets us continue attacking with reckless abandon. Did our opponent play a juicy 4/4 to block our 2/1s? We’ll attack anyway, shoot the 4/4 for another 2 damage, and keep our lead on the board. Traditionally, 187 effects like this are good in all decks, but Mardu Heart-Piercer truly shines in the most aggressive Draft strategies.

Mardu Warshrieker can lead to some absurd openers in this format. Fixing mana can also be an issue that’s solved beautifully by this card. I expect it to be a reasonably unexciting card that leads to some blockbuster games when draws cooperate.

Sarkhan, Dragonspeaker is a Planeswalker that either jumps to 5 loyalty while bashing the opponent for 4 damage or kills the opponent’s best creature while threatening to go into Dragon mode the following few turns. This is a windmill slam of a fist pick if I’ve ever seen one. Planeswalkers are always too good in Limited, and this is a very good Planeswalker.

Heir of the Wilds is a phenomenal Grizzly Bears that starts attacking for more and more damage if we’re able to stick a big creature. Spoiler alert! We’re playing green, we have big creatures, and our opponents are dead.

Rattleclaw Mystic is a fine body with some nice fixing and ramp built in. We’ll probably have to take it early, and it’s probably one of the quietly awesome rares in a set that’s this mana-dependent.

See the Unwritten can do some sweet things in Constructed. In Limited, it’s kind of like a Christmas during which you may not get anything because your family and friends hate you.

Temur Charger’s morph could potentially come into play, but I’m fine with a 3/1 for 2 mana.

Abzan Ascendency comes down and pumps all of our creatures with +1/+1 counters in a format with a 2-mana common that gives all of our creatures with +1/+1 counters first strike. As if that weren’t already absurd enough, whenever a creature dies, we make a 1/1 flyer, meaning we’ll be able to grind pretty much any game out if we play correctly and trade damage effectively. This is a first pick that solidly plants us in three colors, but it’s so powerful that it’s probably worth it.

Abzan Guide is a common that has huge game-winning potential. Try not to morph this early if the opponent has a decent amount of removal. It would be rough to lose turns three and five to a single card that cost 2 or 3 mana.

Anafenza, the Foremost is a 4/4 for 3 with nothing but upside. This set sure does have a lot of first picks.

Ankle Shanker makes blocking impossible. This has to be the most frustrating card to play against in recent Draft memory. Again: first pick.

Avalanche Tusker is a fine body that works especially well with pump spells and tricks. The opponent will throw everything he or she has at this, and we can often shape our game plan around protecting it.

Crackling Doom is a great removal spell that’s extremely hard to cast. I imagine this will be incredible in Constructed, but it’s simply an awesome card if we’re already playing the correct colors when we’re drafting.

Duneblast clears the board except for our best creature. I really want to be playing this card in the new Limited format. More first picks.

We sometimes think we’re winning a match, but our opponent uses fabled martial arts we aren’t familiar with. The Flying Crane Technique will end games out of nowhere in decisive fashion. Everybody’s jumping and kicking and punching, and it’s just no fun at all to be on the receiving end. This card is at its best in a deck with a ton of creatures, and the colors required seem to encourage playing a lot of spells. I wouldn’t go all-in on first-picking this, but the person on my left will be happy to grab it second. I’ll try to take black or green cards.

Icefeather Aven is awesome as a 2/2 flyer for 2 mana, but it becomes a Riftwing Cloudskate in the midgame and has a ton of utility. This seems to be an awesome card that I would be happy to have in any G/U deck.

Ivorytusk Fortress continues to push the Elephant theme of the new set. Elephants have great memories, and when they attack, they don’t forget to block as well. There are a lot of ways to put +1/+1 counters on our guys in the Abzan color combination, and a 5/7 body for 5 mana is just fine as it is.

Mardu Ascendency is about the most awesome thing ever when we’re already attacking with a bunch of stuff, but it’s not very exciting on defense. I wouldn’t first-pick this, but I’d be happy to have it in my deck if I wanted to be really aggressive. What I really want to do is put this in play alongside Doran, the Siege Tower; that’s a whole lot of damages.

Narset, Enlightened Master is a big, flying, hexproof body that lets us cast spells for free. This seems to be an awesome card if we’re playing a lot of spells, and it seems that the color combination lends itself to that. I’ll take the master of the flying crane technique over the technique itself any day of the week.

Rakshasa Vizier is impossible to pronounce properly. I like to refer to her as Rock Sasha, which is my dog’s name with the word rock in front of it. If we have a lot of delve, this card has the potential to attack as a 7/7 pretty often the turn after we cast it. It’s a big, dumb body, but big, dumb bodies are often pretty great.

Do you like winning races with evasion creatures? So does Sage of the Inward Eye. This is the type of card that can be very bad or exceptionally good depending on how many combat tricks and evasive creatures we have in our deck.

Sagu Mauler is a 6/6 with trample and hexproof. This isn’t frustrating at all. Our opponent has a 6/6, and our cards can’t target it. Our life total is dwindling—just another day at the office. Take this thing first pick high and high-five the dude across the table who just opened Sarkhan.

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant has the potential to make a real army of guys that can grind the game our in traditional card-advantageous Limited fashion. The real beauty of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is that it fills our graveyard with juicy delve fodder. This seems to be a cornerstone for building a deck with a lot of Delve.

Sorin, Solemn Visitor is a good Planeswalker, so it’s obviously a first pick. It’s not as juicy as the new Sarkhan, but it’s still incredible at racing and pretty decent at playing the grind. It’s also worth noting that the +1 ability lasts until our next turn, not just until end of turn, so we can activate the +1 defensively if it suits us or if we’re building to The Abyss against a player with only one or two creatures in play.

Sultai Charm is a removal spell, a Disenchant, and a hand-sculpting tool we’ll probably use one every fifty thousand Drafts. Still, it’s basically a Vindicate in Constructed, and I would be happy to have as many as possible in each of my appropriately colored Draft decks. The set being as multicolored as it is makes me think this isn’t quite as strong as we initially presume.

Temur Ascendency seems really good to me, even in Constructed. Giving all of our creatures haste makes our deck very good against sorcery-speed things, and the fact that we’ll be drawing extra cards to replace the card we spent on Temur Ascendency makes it even more exciting. It seems that this card seems could be pretty sweet if there’s a way to put it into play on turn two somewhere in the set.

Utter End is a no-questions-asked removal spell for any nonland permanent. 4 is a lot of mana for this effect in Constructed, but at instant speed, we can expect this to be an awesome inclusion for any Limited deck.

Zurgo Helmsmasher has an interesting last name. He must come from a family of clumsy blacksmiths or something. That being said, this is another card that forces our opponent to have a removal spell while also bashing that player for a ton of damage in the process.

Khans of Tarkir is shaping up to be among the most powerful Limited sets we’ve ever seen. I feel that every other card I look at is of first-pick quality, and the interactions seem deep even with only a third of the set previewed thus far. Join me next week as I continue our discussion of the newest and most exciting cards in Khans of Tarkir!

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