Khans of Tarkir is shaping up to being a very exciting set. I have always liked multicolored sets, and some of my favorite blocks were Shards of Alara and Ravnica. These types of sets usually provide us with lots of fun and interesting multicolored cards and plenty of options for mana fixing. Each day of spoilers seems to be better than the last and we have only seen half of the cards so far. Today I'm going to discuss some my favorite cards that have been spoiled and how they could fit in to the new Standard format.
We have seen dozens of charms in Magic's history, from single colored charms like Emerald and Funeral Charm to double and triple colored charms like those in Ravnica, Invasion, and Shards of Alara. It made sense that these new wedge charms would see print, and so far they have not failed to impress.
What I ask myself when evaluating charms is, "is this charm good in any point in the game?" For example, Azorius Charm is a card that is never dead. If you have no creatures to give lifelink to or there is nothing to put on the top of your opponent's library, you can always use it to draw a card which is never bad. Simic Charm on the other hand is sometimes not useful in some games. The only time you can use this is when either you or your opponent have creatures in play. If at any point the battlefield is clear, Simic Charm will do absolutely nothing.
Sultai Charm is a great example of a powerful charm. Destroying a monocolored creature, an artifact, or an enchantment is great but if there are no targets in play you can always use it for some card filtering. With Sultai having a theme of getting cards into your graveyard, I think the third ability can be very useful. This spell is so versatile that Sultai Charm is good enough to be an auto four of in BUG Control decks.
Compare Sultai Charm to Jeskai and Temur Charm which are much less versatile. Jeskai Charm has one fantastic mode, putting a creature on top of its owner's library. The creature doesn't even have to be attacking, which makes this spell incredibly valuable. It's a great play in response to your opponent cracking his fetchland which will tuck the creature back in his library until he randomly draws it again. Unfortunately, the other two modes of Jeskai Charm are very deck dependent. Dealing four damage to an opponent is good. We all remember how good Boros Charm was and this mode is practically the same thing. However you generally only want to play that type of effect in an aggro or burn deck. Dealing four damage to your opponent isn't very good when he's at twenty. The third mode is also quite restrictive. Overall you will need to be playing a heavy creature or aggro deck to use Jeskai Charm to its full potential.
Temur Charm suffers from the same thing that Jeskai Charm does. It has one very powerful mode but the other two are pretty narrow. The first mode is only good when a) you have a creature in play and b) your opponent has a creature that you want to kill. If your opponent is playing a creatureless control deck then this mode will likely do nothing. The third mode is even more narrow. I can see situations where you will want to make all of your creatures unblockable but I don't see it happening very often. However, one thing that this charm has going for it is it's a Mana Leak, one of the most powerful effects in Magic. While this effect can be played around, it is practically a hard counter in the early and mid-game.
The charm that I'm the most excited to play with is Mardu Charm. Kill a dude, Raise the Alarm with an upside, and instant speed Duress are all excellent abilities for three mana. All three abilities have their uses and there will rarely be a situation in which you don't want to cast this spell. While the first two modes are pretty self-explanatory, I'd like to discuss the third one for a bit.
On the surface, Mardu Charm looks like a three mana Duress which seems bad, but remember that all of the charms are instants. Instant speed discard is quite insane. I remember playing Funeral Charm in Extended, Esper Charm in Standard, and even earlier than that, Greel, Mind Raker back in old Standard. You could use these spells during the opponent's draw step after they have drawn a card and if that was the only card in their hand, they couldn't do anything for their entire turn. Mardu Charm isn't nearly as broken as these other instant discard spells were because you can only take a noncreature, nonland, and there's no guarantee what your opponent will draw, but being able to cast Mardu Charm during your opponent's end step is still really good.
Abzan Charm hasn't been spoiled yet as of writing this, but I have high hopes for a charm in the wedge that has discard, removal, creature tokens, and pump. We'll have to wait and see.
Overall I really like the charms. They do pretty powerful things but at three mana instead of the two that we're used to. Three mana charms will definitely slow the format down a ton, especially with manabases that are trying to support one mana of each color by turn three.
I nicknamed this guy "RUG Wedgemage" because it's very similar to a guildmage but of course he is in wedge colors instead of guilds. This card is just bonkers. When I first saw this guy, I immediately thought of Woolly Thoctar with three abilities. Woolly Thoctar was very playable and he didn't even have any abilities! RUG Wedgemage is practically a 6/6 when attacking because generally you will be keeping three mana available during combat. Keeping three up will make him unkillable as well because you can just bounce him back to your hand. Sure, it's a huge tempo loss but your opponent will be losing a card every time he tries to kill him which will get you ahead in the long run.
The haste ability is probably the worst of the three but it's still powerful. You can attack for four on turn four but later in the game, you can just bounce your guy in response to removal, replay him, and give him haste with the amount of mana not even being a concern. I'm sure that Savage Knuckleblade will see lots of play in the year to come and I just hope that the name "wedgemage" catches on.
Empty the Pits
Wow, this card is amazing. I think it's not only a great finisher for control decks, but it can be easily built around to abuse the delve mechanic. Sultai has many ways to get cards into the graveyard, such as Bitter Revelation, Sultai Charm, and Sultai Ascendancy. Jace, the Living Guildpact is pretty good at putting cards in the graveyard as well. There aren't too many ways to deal with an army of 2/2s at instant speed and I think this card has some serious potential.
It seems like Khans is the set of powerful three colored creatures. I think Siege Rhino is bananas and fits perfectly into a junk midrange shell. I always thought that Junk Midrange was really good in RtR Standard but was just a little too weak against the Sphinx's Revelation decks. It had all of the tools to fight other midrange decks and aggro was an incredible matchup. With control getting a major downgrade and Junk getting cards like this, I think it has what it needs to be tier one. In fact, the last block constructed Pro Tour was won by Patrick Chapin piloting a Junk Midrange deck, and it's likely the first deck that will be added to Standard gauntlets come Khans. Here's a potential decklist.
At first I didn't want to play Fleecemane Lion because it is just the worst creature in the deck and didn't seem necessary, however without the Lion, this deck is painfully slow with the only other two-drops being Sylvan Caryatid. While the format is much slower than RtR block was, monored and monoblack aggro still exist and we don't want to die to a bunch of one and two-drops. If this deck can keep up with the aggro decks without the Lion, then he'd be the first card to go.
We are probably never casting a Thoughtseize on turn one but that's ok, it's still great at nearly any point in the game and even counts as a two-drop most of the time. I think Thoughtseize was one of the best cards in Theros Block and playing any less than four in a midrange deck with expensive spells seems wrong. Thoughtseize, love it or hate it, is a card that we can expect to see as a four-of in most black decks for the rest of the time it's in Standard.
As for new cards, I think that Siege Rhino is an auto four-of. It's a 4/5 body for only four mana which is huge, and it even survives Stoke the Flames which is important. The other new creature in the deck is Anafenza, the Foremost. While putting counters on creatures is never bad, it does have anti-synergy with Brimaz, which never taps to attack. Regardless, a 4/4 for three is great value for the cost, and exiling creatures from graveyards can be relevant if people start playing Nighthowlers, delve decks, or other graveyard-based strategies.
I wanted to play Brimaz because it's just great value. It's pretty hard to block effectively early in the game and putting tokens into play can really add up. It also works pretty nicely with the new Sorin (keep in mind that Sorin's ability grants +1/+0 to creatures until your next turn, so you can attack and your vigilant creatures will still have the bonus for blocking). Sorin is great in a deck that utilizes cards that make tokens. We only have Brimaz and Elspeth for token generators as of now, but that should be good enough for Sorin to be worth the slot.
I'm not sure if we have the correct removal package because we don't know what kind of decks people will be playing yet and we still don't know what Abzan Charm does. Once we know more about the set, we can adjust accordingly. Some options include Duneblast, Suspension Field, and Murderous Cut, and we still have Hero's Downfall and Silence the Believers from Theros Block if you want to play a heavier black manabase.
We can't really build a sideboard until we know more about the metagame, but one card that I think can make it is Abzan Ascendancy. This card is great against any deck that plays removal and can give you some added value out of your creatures. One thing to be aware of is that some removal, like Utter End, exiles the creature which will not trigger the Ascendancy. This card seems great against control decks that are playing End Hostilities.
Another card to consider for this deck is Rakshasa Deathdealer. Most players have compared this guy to Putrid Leech, and while I don't really think it's a fair comparison, this card is still pretty good. Putrid Leech allowed you to pump for free, which is much different than paying two mana. Of course, the Deathdealer has no restrictions on how often you can use his ability like the Leech does but there is a big difference between being vulnerable to a burn spell while tapped out and being forced to keep mana open every turn. This is a great card but I think Fleecemane Lion is better as a two-drop just because it's bigger and once it's monstrous you never need to pump mana into him again, unlike the Deathdealer which is extremely mana intensive.
Overall I think this list is a good starting point for Junk Midrange. It has game against the major archetypes and its creatures are very good and resilient. These colors have tools to beat any deck and your sideboard can be tuned accordingly. Between discard, removal, and big creatures, Junk has enough options to beat anything thrown at it.
The major downside of Junk is it does have a slow, clunky manabase and it has very few ways to gain card advantage. Both of these problems can be easily fixed. If you want better mana you can play a base of two colors and splash the third, or you can go the other route and play something like Sandsteppe Citadel, which will of course make the deck even slower. The card advantage problem can be fixed by playing either more value creatures or creatures that do things other than attack and block, such as Polukranos. You could also play some Read the Bones or Bitter Revelation to just get more cards in your hand.
I think Khans looks awesome and I can't wait for the set to be fully spoiled next week, and then after that it's prerelease time! Next week I'll be back with my prerelease primer so don't miss it! As always thanks for reading.
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