Well Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are enjoying the time with your friends and family…and maybe opening a few cool new treats that Santa left for you! It’s a pretty busy time of year for everyone with visiting family, big turkey dinners, and generally being festive during the Holiday season. However, I know that those of you who are Magic players can’t wait for Fate Reforged to drop in a couple of weeks and for the Draft format to get totally turned on its ear again, so I thought what better way to start getting ready than to crack open a holiday treat a little early and see what we find. Let’s take a look.
Well then…we opened ourselves up a Mythic…and a pretty good one at that. Zurgo is pretty devastating bomb to open up in limited because there really isn’t much in Limited that can handle him. He attacks all the time and can be very difficult to handle when he attacks because of the indestructibility he gets. Also, blocking profitably is really just an impossibility with this guy so you are always on your back foot. Kill Shot and other such removal won’t really do the trick either. So, you end up having to get him with clunkier sorcery removal on your turn…which is not a bad thing or impossible, but it just makes the whole process of killing him harder and more narrow. 5 mana isn’t impossible and the fact that he has 3 different colours might be an issue…but the fact is the upside in terms of power is likely well worth the risk. He would immediately get moved to the front of the pack for serious consideration.
In this pack, to complement Zurgo, there is a Nomad Outpost, Highspire Mantis, a Ponyback Brigade, and a Trumpet blast. All of these would see themselves thumbed to front of the pack as well. We have the makings of a pretty solid Mardu deck that would absolutely cause our opponents a bunch of trouble. However, here is the issue. These are all good to very good Mardu cards meaning that one of your neighbors is going to take a look and decide that Mardu appears to be open and move in too. That is an issue because Zurgo is going to reward you most when you have the ability to curve aggressively into him and then go on a massive offensive. The very real reality could be that none of these cards wheel around to you and that you have a number of other players competing for the Mardu deck too. So, while Zurgo is still a very strong card, and this pack has a whole of bunch of super nice cards to complement it, there are still going to be some issues that you will need to negotiate as you move through the draft.
Longshot Squad is likely the next card that gets my attention. It is a very solid creature, has a relevant ability and is just a very useful Green creature. I have been a fan since day one and will continue to be a big fan. It may not be a game breaker or spicy the way Zurgo is, but he’s solid, reliable, and knows his role.
Sidisi’s Pet…no…I’m not taking this. A 1/4 is woefully inadequate in this set even with the Lifelink. The ONLY plus is that he can be a Morph in a Secret Plans/Trail of Mystery deck, but since that doesn’t appear to be the direction I will head with this pack it would be WAY down my list of cards for this pack.
Smoke Teller is a potentially useful 2/1 for 2…and that’s it. He’s a Bear with an ability. I feel like his ability is under-utilized, but I’m not really surprised.
Disdainful stroke is useful and shuts out pretty expensive bombs. I would be looking at this in the mid-to late rounds of this first pack if I was in Blue, but since this pack looks Mardu heavy it will likely be a late pick.
Awaken the Bear…and no once again. It is a marginal trick that in most situations is really just a Giant Growth. Occasionally the trample will be relevant, but the biggest issue is the casting cost. Giant Growth is 1 mana for +3/+3. Titanic Growth is 2 mana for +4/+4. This is 3 mana for +3/+3…and some trample. No. If you are looking for a pump spell, this really isn’t a good option. It feels slow, is too expensive, and is not something I can get behind.
Gurmag Swiftwing has a load of abilities, and even flies…but is a 1/2. He could be useful, but I’m not lining up to get this little critter. A serviceable choice in the mid-rounds, but that is about it.
Rakshasa’s Secret feels like an expensive way to target your opponent’s hand. Yeah, 3 mana isn’t outlandish, but it feels a little slow to be relevant regularly and is likely on the outside looking in for most decks. Besides, this pack is looking like a Mardu style pack and the Secret plays into a Sultai deck a little bit better.
Salt Road Patrol is just about the only reasonable White card in this whole pack but even that isn’t saying much. Yes, 2/5 is tough to fight through, and to Outlast him once makes him just about impossible to fight through, but really, he’s kind of bland and just not overly exciting. I would take him in the mid-round and be pretty ok with it. Like I mentioned earlier, this pack has a number of Mardu cards in it meaning that it could get striped of prime Mardu cards long before the pack wheels. However, this might be something that you might find should the pack wheel meaning you would at least get a second solid playable out of this pack for your Mardu deck.
Weave Fate is an acceptable card draw spell, but it is dwarfed by Treasure Cruise in terms of flexibility and overall power. You might see this get forced at the end of this pack, and that’s ok…or you might see this card disappear to a Blue player around the table because blue cards in this pack are so sparse. On the whole…Blue players will curse this pack while players packing Red are going to be drooling.
My first pick goes against almost all of my beliefs. I don’t like taking a three coloured spell first…it potentially pigeon holes me into those three colours. Three coloured spells are rough to cast because your mana invariably takes a beating and you lose a bunch of consistency. It just feels like you are forcing a very narrow understanding of your deck and not allowing the cards to come to you to make up your deck. HOWEVER, I have seen that many of the three colour spells are just ridiculous BOMBS. Villainous Wealth is evil. Duneblast ends games on the spot in most situations. There is no reason NOT to expect that Zurgo would have a significant impact on the game as well. Also, just because I open up with a Mardu mythic creature does not mean that I am FORCED to play Mardu. There are almost 3 full packs for me to change directions if I start to notice that something else is open. So, with that in mind, I want to take a first pick that offers the most potential upside and highest power ceiling. So, I’m going to grab Zurgo and cross my fingers some of those other Mardu treats come back my way. I realize the Outpost and Mantis are likely gone, but there is an outside chance that the Ponyback brigade, Trumpet Blast or the Salt Road Patrol will come back meaning that I would have a complementary card for a Mardu deck.
Well, there we go. That was an interesting pack to say the least. A tough choice if you want to venture down the Mardu path because you know you will be fighting with a number of other players for the same pool of cards, but the upside on Zurgo might just be too much. What would you have done? The Outpost for the fixing? The Mantis because it only leaves you in 2 colours? Maybe the Longshot squad because you appreciate the simple reliability of it? Let me know what you think.
Once again, Merry Christmas to all of you and I wish you all a happy holiday season with your friends and family. May you have a terrific end to 2014 and an amazing start to 2015!
Until next time, may you open nothing but Mythic bombs.By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
It feels like it has been a long time since I’ve sat down and played much in the way of Magic recently. There are times when playing Magic is largely inconsequential and events in the world around us put things in perspective. For those of you who don’t know I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and our community was recently touched by a tragic act of violence. I won’t recap what happened because you can find all that relevant information online if you’re interested. However, as a result of the events on October 22nd , 2014 we have been trying to put things back to normal and get things back to the way they were. However, when events like what happened in Ottawa take place it makes playing Magic seem very trivial. What really matters is ensuring that your friends and family are all safe and that you value your time with all of them. If you haven’t done so recently, pick up your phone and call your friends and family and just have a chat with them and be sure to tell them how much they mean to you.
From my end, I am teacher. The events of Oct 22nd were extra scary because I was organizing a soccer tournament. We had 300 plus 9 and 10 year olds out playing soccer and had to stop our tournament on account of what happened and find some place safe to go and shelter until we got the signal that things were all clear. It was a very stressful day for all the coaches and students but everyone handled the situation very well. However, as the guy who is organizing the tournament I have spent much of my time since trying to organize a chance to re-play our tournament, on short notice, before the snow flies. Needless to say, I have been busy.
But today I wanted to take some time and go back to Magic, crack a pack, and allow Magic to be the diversion that it is, even if only for a little while. Let’s bust open a pack and see what we’ve got!
So…Siege Rhino? As my rare? Well, that is a snap first pick if I’ve ever seen one. 4/5 for 4 mana? Sweet enter the battlefield trigger? Trample? Hell YEAH ! This wins on every metric I can find. The card is efficiently costed, a huge beater, comes with a sweet upside in terms of an enter the battlefield trigger and is even worth a pretty penny on the secondary market. This is a slam dunk.
Swiftwater Cliffs actually gets my attention because in draft 5 colour Morph decks are a thing. You need all the fixing you can find to pull it off, but the potential power level is through the roof. I’ve watched a number of players draft the 5 colour morph deck and it looks sweet and very potent (and surprisingly reliable). I would be seriously eye-balling this card.
Sultai Scavenger is a pretty nice 3/3 flier. The Delve on this is what makes it very viable because it makes this so much cheaper to play. The single Black mana in the casting cost makes it very splashable, but the real treat is a 3/3 flier. Flying is crazy relevant in this format because fliers are hard to come by and the evasion allows you to bust up a board stall really quickly. This is a super solid common and something that really gets my attention and a solid push to play Black.
Sultai Flayer is still a solid 3/4 for 4 mana and comes with a solid upside. I wrote about this card a couple of weeks back and I’m still a fan. I think it brings enough presence and pressure to the board, has a relevant upside to help your position and is just an efficient creature to slide in your deck. I’m on board.
Scaldkin is another creature that gets my attention, but I’m not really sold on it yet. It’s a little pricey for a flying 2/2, but the flying really helps restore this creature. The fact that it can also be used as a Shock to handle those pesky Morphs is useful and relevant and makes this a nice mid-round pick.
Dragon Grip is kind of spicy, but the issue I have with it is that it doesn’t add any toughness to my creature. Think about it, Hammerhand and Titan’s Strength at least pump your creature a little in the toughness department so that it can rumble a little more effectively than it could before. Inferno Fist, another recent enchantment, allows you to clear the path with a “Shock” and remove something. This simply gets used as a pricey combat trick to pile on the damage, but then leaves your creature no better able to stave off dying because the toughness hasn’t taken a boost (and leaves you open to a 2 for 1 later). Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some flash, but I’ll likely take this mid to late round because I’m not big on it.
Shambling Attendants. These guys are everywhere in these packs. They are solid, but unexciting and expensive. I’ve spoken about this in previous weeks…go check them out here on Three Kings Loot to read my thoughts.
Glacial Stalker and Canyon Lurker are both nice Morph cards that I’m likely to prioritize. They can be played in any deck and if you can Morph them back then you get to seriously ambush your opponent and smash face. I’m a fan…and I’m increasingly a fan of the 5 colour Morph deck so I might prioritize these higher than some other cards.
Salt Road Patrol is another nice card that is relatively inexpensive and outlasts nicely. Unexciting and a tad clunky, but if you can get a +1/+1 counter on it you are likely laughing because fighting through a 3/6 (or better) is really tough..
Tusked Colossodon is another curve topper and is a pretty healthy fatty to play. I would put this down near the bottom of my selection pile, but can still be serviceable. I usually figure that for the 7 mana I spend on this guy that I would rather do a number of more impactful things, but if you need a big body, this fella will do nicely.
Alpine Grizzly is another reasonable 4/2 for 3 mana. I’m not excited for it, but I won’t be sad to see this either because it trigger Ferocious…plus 4 power is nothing to sneeze at.
Awaken the bear…umm…no thanks…
So, once again this week, it is really a non-issue. My first pick is quite clearly Siege Rhino because it outclasses everything else in this pack by a fair margin. Efficient and devastating is nice…and the Enter the Battlefield trigger is a nice addition as well. It’s hard to argue with this card and when it sees extensive play in Constructed formats you know it has to be good.
The other cards on this list are other efficient critters or provide useful upside…and Swiftwater Cliffs enables a whole ton of interesting deck options if you go down the 5 colour deck road. One of the interesting pieces I’ve started to see in these decks is that when there are no really good choices for you to draft and you can opt to take a land card, you’ll grab the land. If this becomes an early strategy in Pack 1 you have opened the door for a deck where the upwards power level is extremely high because you can honestly select the most powerful you see at every pick from there on afterwards, making a very reliable strategy. Now, this will likely dry up as more people get on board this and get wise to the ploy, but at this relatively early stage of things it feels like a perfectly viable strategy and route to success.
Well, there we go. We have another pretty diverse Khans pack and a nice new Siege Rhino to rumble with. Sweet! I’ll keep crossing my fingers for a few other sweet treats to come my way, but on the whole this was a nice pack and well worth the time to sit down and have look at it.
Until next week, may you open nothing but Mythic Rares…have a great one ladies and gents!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
|Set Name||Khans of Tarkir|
|Block||Set 1 of 3 in the Khans of Tarkir block|
|Number of Cards||269|
|Prerelease Events||September 20-21, 2014|
|Release Date||September 26, 2014|
|Launch Weekend||September 26-28, 2014|
|Game Day||October 18-19, 2014|
|Magic Online Prerelease Events||October 3-6, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Date||October 6, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Events||October 6-22, 2014|
|Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir||October 10–12, 2014|
|Pro Tour Khans of TarkirLocation||Honolulu, Hawaii, USA|
|Pro Tour Khans of TarkirFormats||Swiss:
|Official Three-Letter Code||KTK|
|Initial Concept and Game Design||Mark Rosewater (lead)
Mark L. Gottlieb
and Ken Nagle
|Final Game Design and Development||Erik Lauer (lead)
and Adam Prosak
with contributions from Matt Tabak
|Languages||English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish|
|Available in||Booster Packs, Intro Packs*, Event Deck*, Fat Pack*
(* – Not available in all languages)
(Magic Online only available in English.)
Khans of Tarkir is going to be a large set—small set—large set block structure (like Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored, with a special consideration for Limited and “a time travel element” yet to be revealed.
Tarkir itself is a plane of five warring clans, each worships a different aspect of the plane’s (now extinct) dragons.
Abzan Houses – , Aspect: Endurance, Khan: Anafenza, Symbol: Scales, Theme: Control
Jeskai Way – , Aspect: Cunning, Khan: Narset, Symbol: Eye, Theme: Tricks
Mardu Horde – , Aspect: Speed, Khan: Zurgo Helmsmasher, Symbol: Wings, Theme: Aggro
Sultai Brood – , Aspect: Ruthlessness, Khan: Sidisi, Symbol: Fang, Theme: Resource manipulation
Temur Frontier – , Aspect: Savagery, Khan: Surrak Dragonclaw, Symbol: Claws, Theme: Midrange fatties