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
|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