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
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Fresh of my weekend of playing entirely too much Magic at an event, and getting a bonus chance to draft the Khans format, I was all excited this week to sit down and crack a pack and see what we find. The format is super fun and I can’t wait to get another crack at it, but in the meantime this will need to suffice for me. Let’s crack open our pack and see what we find this week!
Wow, just my luck. This is a tough pack to work with because there are so few creatures. There are only two creatures to look at in this pack and neither of them are super noteworthy. Are they bad creatures? No. But you certainly aren’t going to First pick either of them. So, you are going to prioritize things slightly different in this pack.
Our rare today is How of the Horde. I’ve been kind of down on this card for a while now because it just feels like a bad Fork spell. I got spoiled by Fork as a young player…and Reverberate was very similar. Both of those were 2 mana (granted double Red) and at Instant speed. This is 3 mana and a sorcery meaning it is significantly less versatile and much slower. Now, it could combo off something crazy with some Jeskai Prowess triggers (unless I have misunderstood how this copy effect works) but I would like to look at it in the context of this pack. This COULD copy such things as the Take Up Arms and net you 6 tokens. Or it could copy the Rush of Battle or Swift Kick you some added value. All of these cards could wheel and might make this a valuable pick, but I’m not overly fond of going this route because it takes a lot of set up to make this card good. I’m more likely to pass on it and move to something else.
The card that actually drew my attention first was Nomad Outpost. The reason it got my attention is because I learned from my experience, and watching a few other drafters play on Twitch, that mana fixing is huge in this format and that prioritizing land early in the draft is fairly key. This Nomad Outpost enables you to go the Mardu route, but it also enables Jeskai as well, meaning that it could be a very useful addition in this pack. Besides, you have the remaining 3 full packs to try and find spells to cast and if this pack is a bit on the weak side it might be the best play just to grab the land and work on building the consistency of the deck.
Debilitating Injury grabs my attention next because of what it offers. It is inexpensive, reliable, removal that just crushes Morph cards. It may as well read “Morph Hate” on the text line. With the high number of Morphs circulating around in the format it is a good idea to have a couple of these handy to take them out before they flip and really cause trouble. It can also shrink down something much large down to a manageable size so you can block it more profitably. This isn’t idea, but may be your only way of dealing with something big like an Abzan Guide or something.
Stubborn Denial is a super-efficient counter spell that will most likely become relevant in some sort of Constructed format because it costs 1 mana. Spell Pierce was the same some way and has become a staple in Modern. However, you are much less likely to have the 4 power creature on board to trigger the Ferocious on this to counter something out-right in your draft deck making this somewhat conditional, but still very good.
I haven’t given up on Take Up Arms. I know it isn’t Raise the Alarm or Triplicate Spirits, but I have hope that any card that produces three tokens is a strong addition to a deck. It could synergize nicely with some of the other tribal Warrior cards. It might be a trap because it might be too slow to be overly relevant, but if Hordling Outburst can be good, I feel like this could be good too.
Leaping Master is a “Bear” that can gain flying if you get stuck. He’s a little underwhelming but could be tricky to cope with if you can make him a little bigger and then pay to make his fly each turn. Flying isn’t overly prevalent in this set and the fact that this card gets some measure of evasion really makes this guy’s stock climb.
Disdainful Stroke lets you counter their most relevant spells for a mere two mana. You KNOW this is Constructed worthy because it pretty well hits every Planeswalker currently in Standard and most of the most relevant spells. Now, an Aggro or Burn deck can make this useless quite readily, but in Limited the logic still applies. Most of the biggest bombs your opponent wants to play are 4+ mana and the ability to set them back for a mere 2 mana is very appealing.
Rush of Battle could be kind of funny if you can grab the Take Up Arms early, and then find this late to capitalize on the synergy between the warrior tokens and this spell. It is still kind of slow and clunky at 4 mana and Sorcery speed, but you might not care.
Sagu Archer is a very reasonable creature that is actually quite valuable because it also packs Morph. That makes it very versatile and a very real play to make on turn 3 to build your board presence. The Reach is relevant as well once it flips but is otherwise fairly vanilla.
Swift Kick is Instant speed removal…sort of…and I still don’t like it. It’s 4 mana and the fact that it doesn’t boost the toughness of your creature makes it kind of unappealing. I would look at this very late in the round.
Naturalize is 100% a sideboard card. Enough said.
Jungle Hollow and Tranquil Cove are both very appealing for the same sort of reasons as the Nomad Outpost. Access to the correct combination of mana is hugely important and has started to push the relative value of these cards in Draft quite a bit higher. The fact that there are two in this pack alone shows just how prevalent these lands are, and consequently how relevant they are to your deck. Don’t overlook these guys.
Jeskai Banner. Pass. Slow. Not good enough. End of discussion.
So, this pack has lead me to an interesting choice where the Rare doesn’t really figure in the equation. Do I want the cheap and efficient Morph Killer, or the land to build options and consistency? I feel like I want the land for the sake of consistency and the options it affords. Injury is a good card but I can assure you I’ll see a few more copies of that before the draft is over so I had better grab the land and make use of it to ease the mana burden on the deck and build in some inherent consistency. These sorts of packs always make for the most difficult choices because I could conceivable go a number of different directions quite happily but I feel like the Outpost is the safest, most reliable options afforded out of this pack.
Well there we have another pack of Khans and another very tough choice. What are you guys finding? Is drafting the lands as crucial as I seem to think or do you routinely stumble into the cards and mana you need on your own as the draft progresses? Would you have grabbed the Rare in this pack? Would you have picked something else entirely? Shoot me a tweet and let me know so we can all help each other start to sort out this very tricky draft format.
Thanks very much for reading again this week…and until next time may you open nothing but mythic bomb rares.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
KTK card reviews by authors Daniel Crayton and Bruce Gray
Racing across the blazing steppe, the wave of attackers crests the barren hills. Nothing can stop their reckless advance. These warriors live fast, fight hard, and strike terror into the hearts of those in their path. The scarred countryside seems abandoned. Then, suddenly, hidden fighters spring from ambush. The overconfident enemy recoils in surprise, outflanked and outsmarted. Who will prevail, the swift or the sly?
Deck Design and Deck Development: Chris Millar and Sam Stoddard
Official Three-Letter Code: DDN
Twitter Hashtag: #MTGSVC
Languages Available: English, Japanese
Release Date: September 5, 2014
Magic Online Release Date: October 6, 2014