We’re here! Finally, we have our chance to play with Khans of Tarkir. This weekend is the Khans of Tarkir prerelease, and it’s hard not to be excited with a set this powerful. After looking at the set, it’s clear that there’s one thing I want to be doing in Khans of Tarkir Limited, and it absolutely involves doing crazy things with my graveyard in a Sultai deck. Today, we’ll be looking at the Sultai deck and discussing our plan for the prerelease.
Sometimes—maybe even often—we’ll fall behind in the early game. Luckily, the Sultai deck is very good at catching up. The color combination lends itself to a lot of creatures with a lot of toughness, and the happenstance life-gain we gain from cards like Sultai Flayer give us the ability to hang on in races that might otherwise seem very difficult.
The rares in this set are, generally speaking, very strong, but there are a lot of commons and uncommons that might go unnoticed despite having huge implications for the new Limited format. Let’s take a moment to talk about the cards that make the Sultai deck work. I wouldn’t take these cards over the cards with a high raw power levels, but ending up with a few of these would definitely push me toward playing a Sultai deck.
The first card I’d like to discuss is Bitter Revelation. It may seem to be an overcosted Read the Bones (which would still be fine), but the fact that it puts three cards into our graveyard really turbo-charges our delve cards. It often takes a bit of time for the Sultai deck to establish its graveyard as an actual resource. Bitter Revelation sets the groundwork for all the shenanigans we want to be deploying by the fifth or sixth turn. One of the best parts about Bitter Revelation is that it will be viciously underdrafted even if the Sultai deck turns out to be insane. In this weekend’s Sealed events, we’ll need to be lucky and crack open our graveyard interaction, but that shouldn’t be a problem with the way the new set looks.
Mind Rot in Limited. In fact, I always sideboard in Mind Rot on the draw in pretty much every Draft format ever. I actually feel this is among my biggest edges when I’m playing Limited formats. People just don’t get it. There’s a lot of variance in Magic, and when we make our opponent discard his or her last two cards, we can almost always have a plan to win the game. In Khans of Tarkir, we’re given a Mind Rot that I’ll happily play if I’m on the play or draw. Rakshasa's Secret actively gives us card advantage in most situations while also filling our graveyard with three cards. In this format, putting three cards in the ’yard represents a 3/3 flyer for 3 mana instead of 6 or a 4/4 trampler for 3. It’s going to take a few sessions to truly understand the nuances and value of the delve mechanic, but Rakshasa's Secret is exactly the type of card that can teach us about its power level and placement.
Scout the Borders is pretty overcosted for the effect if we’re not jamming a lot of the delve mechanic into our deck, but if we have a healthy dose of the delve cards, this does a good job of refunding its mana cost. I like the plays we can make with Scout the Borders. We can cast Sultai Scavenger or Hooting Mandrills for 1 mana after we’ve scouted the borders, and either of those cards is quite good at 4 mana. This is the type of card that’s very playable if we’re seriously Sultai and miserably bad if we’re playing one of the other green decks.
Sultai Soothsayer is probably the best delve enabler available. The card is absurd even without a lot of delve, but things become really exciting when we’re able to put the graveyard to use with this card. Having 5 toughness seems to be a great place to be in this format. It appears that a decent number of creatures profitably attack with 3 or 4 power, but there isn’t much in the 5/5 department. Having 2 power is actually enough to hold back attacks from a lot of the format’s creatures. Being able to replace Sultai Soothsayer with a high-quality card makes it among the best non-rares in the set, and this is exactly the card we should be looking to draft aggressively if we’re trying to move in on Sultai in the release-weekend Drafts next weekend.
Taigam's Scheming is a card that I’m not completely convinced of just yet. It seems that we’re putting a lot of eggs in a single basket with this one. I’m always happen to spend mana to do nothing, but I at least want my card or cards replaced or refunded. It’s hard to justify a graveyard filler, even one as big as this, when it costs more than 1 mana and outright loses us most games when we’ve already mulliganed.
Death Frenzy, on the other hand, could convince me to buy swampland in Florida. We’re playing with a lot of toughness, creatures with big butts that discourage opponents from attacking. A single 3/4 or 2/5 on our side of the table will often hold back three or four bearlike creatures on the other side. Death Frenzy seems to be a card that we can engineer to be strong regardless of our current situation, and the life-gain seems to be exactly what we want with this type of effect.
We can also look for looter effects such as Jeskai Elder and Force Away (if we’ve happened upon enough 4-power guys). Looting works very well with delve, setting up future turns while also allowing us to cast big spells at reduced costs.
Once we have enough ways to fill our graveyard and enough cheap creatures (preferably with deathtouch), we need to find the cards that let us abuse our graveyard.
Murderous Cut would be an incredible Limited card even if we were always casting it for the full cost. The morphs that cost 5 to morph for each wedge will be played in virtually every deck they’re castable in, so we’ll often be killing things that our opponent put 8 mana into. Sometimes, we’ll be casting this as a trick for 1 mana and completely blowing the opponent out. Regardless of how much it ends up costing on our end, this is easily the most valuable delve card in the set.
Murderous Cut. Sure, they’re playables for everyone, but they aren’t truly absurd for anyone but us.
Treasure Cruise may be good, but I wouldn’t play more than one copy until we have more concrete evidence, and it may turn out to be lackluster altogether.
Set Adrift seems to be a great removal option for the Sultai deck. I really like cards that put creatures on the top of the opponent’s deck. We can get rid of key cards by responding to the opponent’s shuffle or mill effects by putting the key card on top. I’d be happy to play a copy or two of Set Adrift.
Sultai is looking to be the most fun choice for the prerelease. If you’re looking for complicated board states and exciting interactions involving new mechanics, Sultai is definitely for you. I’ll be prereleasing this weekend and spending the next week drafting all the prize packs I acquire. Next week, we’ll continue to explore the new and exciting world of Khans of Tarkir Limited.