At this point in the spoilers for Khans of Tarkir it should be obvious that this is truly a three color based format. All of the wedge cards or cards which require three different colors of mana do seem to be more inherently powerful than the single color cards in general. To be fair there are more multicolor cards in proportion to single colored cards than a traditional set. The set is constructed in a similar way to the Shards of Alara block, as it strongly encourages playing three colors in both Limited and Standard.
Of course in order to play three colors it is necessary to have access to mana fixing. Each of the clans (Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, Mardu, and Temur) have very similar access to mana fixing. I won't go into mana fixing too much, but I do think fixing plays a large role in creating a three color deck.
Most people are aware of the fixing that was available before Khans of Tarkir, but this set provides both two-color and three-color fixing. The two-color fixing is of course headlined by the fetchlands, though I should specify two-color fixing for Standard and Limited as of course in other formats fetchlands can fetch a shock or dual land. Moving past the fetchlands there are three other cycles of fixing, though I think their applications are primarily for limited. The new Refuges are basically another form of two color fixing that are reprints from Zendikar, but have been given different names. The three-color fixing is the new trilands and Banners, which are basically the same concept as the trilands and Obelisks from Shards of Alara.
So what makes one clan stand out from another? I am going to talk specifically about Temur and Jeskai in this article, and plan to continue with Mardu, Abzan, and Sultai next week.
Let's start with my personal favorite clan, Temur (blue/green/red). I will say that there is a very important piece of mana-fixing that gives Temur an advantage over the other clans: Rattleclaw Mystic. I expect most Temur decks to run this guy, though he is going to have to compete with Sylvan Caryatid. Rattleclaw Mystic is also unique as he is single colored, but operates as a Temur card, so he is in his own category. Let's move onto the actual Temur multicolor cards.
Savage Knuckleblade: This guy is pretty incredible, and one of the primary reasons to build a Temur based deck. He does so much for his mana cost and is very versatile. To start he is either a three mana 4/4 or a four mana 4/4 with haste. Then the ability to make him into a 6/6 makes him larger than most creatures in the format, and very hard to block profitably. The third ability to bounce him back to your hand means that any type of removal, whether it's mass or spot removal, will not kill this guy if you leave three mana open. He is one of those cards that is great at any stage in the game, and the three abilities combine to make him one of the best cards in Khans of Tarkir.
Temur Ascendancy: I am very excited about the Ascendancy cycle, and this card certainly on the surface is very powerful. On initial impression it does seem like the best of the Ascendancy cycle, but there are some underlying issues which makes it slightly less powerful. The first issue is that some of the best four power creatures already have haste. Stormbreath Dragon and a lot of the time Savage Knuckleblade already come into play and attack. The other issue is that Planeswalkers like Nissa Worldwaker and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker make large creatures but you won't draw cards from them. By playing Temur Ascendancy it means that it is better to play more actual creatures than planeswalkers. I don't expect this card to be a four-of, because it is generally worse in multiples.
Temur Charm: what is a three color set without a cycle of Charms? Of course as is evidence from Return to Ravnica, block Charms don't need to be three colors, but they are in Khans of Tarkir. Starting with the first mode we have a form of removal. Fighting with another creature is perfect in Temur as most of the creatures are 4/4s or larger. Then, we have Mana Leak which means that already we have a Counterspell and a removal spell rolled into one card. The last mode will probably not be used as much as the others but I expect it to be a useful tool at forcing through the last points of damage, and stopping mana producers or Elspeth, Sun's Champion tokens from blocking. This card is definitely good enough for Standard play, and the challenge will be finding exactly what sort of Temur shell it will fit best in.
Bear's Companion: Bear's Companion is uncommon, and its power level isn't quite as high as some of the other Temur cards. While he may not have a significant impact on Standard he does exactly what you want for a five mana creature in Limited.
Avalanche Tusker: This guy is close to being very good, but I have a feeling he won't see much play when competing with cards like Savage Knuckleblade in Standard.
Sagu Mauler: Okay so this card is blue/green which isn't strictly Temur. While Sagu Mauler could be played in a Sultai deck, playing Rattleclaw Mystic into Sagu Mauler seems pretty sweet. Playing Sagu Mauler alongside Rattleclaw Mystic also means your opponent has to guess which card you play as a morph. I have a feeling that spot removal will be more prevalent than mass removal in this format, so that leads to the thought that a large hexproof creature may be very difficult for some decks to deal with. Also, the idea of playing Sagu Mauler as a morph and if your opponent does play Elspeth, Sun's Champion you can un-morph him and attack the Elspeth, Sun's Champion, makes him less vulnerable.
Alright I am going to combine these thoughts into a rough decklist, though it isn't a finished product. Here is a first take on Temur:DECKID=1213490
I am not going to go too into specific card choices too much as I already explained what I thought of a number of cards, and this list is somewhat similar to the straight red/green list I posted last week. I don't like playing Mana Confluence but there are two copies because of how important it is to have all three colors of mana. It's also important to play Temple of Epiphany rather than Temple of Mystery, because all of the green sources other than Temple of Abandon want to be able to cast Elvish Mystic on the first turn.
As I already stated this deck attempts to make Temur Ascendancy work but I certainly could understand cutting Temur Ascendancy and adding more planeswalkers. As it is this deck does have a bunch of threats and the basic idea of Temur is to have a bunch of large fatties that are very difficult to deal with.
So moving on from Temur it's time to dig into the Jeskai clan (blue/white/red). Jeskai provides aggressive and controlling elements, such as a variety of removal plus high quality creatures.
Narset, Enlightened Master: When grasping the concept behind Jeskai I like to think about the UWR Control deck with Geist of Saint Traft in Modern. Narset, Enlightened Master fills a similar role in Standard to what Geist of Saint Traft does for that deck in modern. This card does not want to be played alongside too many other creatures so as to make the deck as spell dense as possible. That doesn't mean you can't play other threats though, as flipping an Elspeth, Sun's Champion off this guy seems pretty darn good. When playing this card it is important to be aware of which spells are very good reveals when he attacks, like Elspeth, Sun's Champion and which aren't good reveals, like Dissolve.
Sage of the Inward Eye, Flying Crane Technique, and Efreet Weaponspeaker: These cards are simply limited bombs but I don't expect they will see a ton of play in Standard.
Mantis Rider: I have heard this creature being compared to Lightning Angel quite a bit, and it certainly is a very similar card. In exchange for a single point of toughness it costs one less mana than Lightning Angel did. This does not make it strictly better than Lightning Angel with cards like Bile Blight and Lightning Strike floating around, but the card is definitely good. How good it is and where it will fit in the new Standard format remains to be seen. I will say that it's hard to ignore a three mana 3/3 flyer with haste though.
Mindswipe: This card isn't strictly Jeskai but I could also see Jeskai moving in the direction of burn, which would make this card quite good. Mindswipe is a difficult card to evaluate because it's hard to see exactly where it could thrive. In a pure control deck I find myself wishing Syncopate was still in the format, but Mindswipe can take planeswalkers out unexpectedly.
Jeskai Charm: Jeskai Charm doesn't disappoint, and can be played in a number of different types of blue/white/ red shells. The first mode of putting a creature on top of its owner's library is perhaps the strongest of the modes. This type of effect can be good in any archetype, and responding to a fetchland by putting a creature on top of your opponent's library seems especially strong. As I mentioned before the idea of Jeskai Burn may catch on, and this is where I see the mode of dealing four damage to an opponent being the best. With that being said in any aggressive deck dealing four damage can finish a game, and this is also a good way of dealing damage to an opposing planeswalker. The last mode I anticipate will be used the least, but it could be relevant in any type of small creature deck, especially one that makes tokens.
It does seem that Jeskai presents a variety of different types of strategies. Personally I would like to see Narset, Enlightened Master end up being good so here is a deck built around her.
There are certainly a lot of different cards in this list. Part of the reason for that is to try a variety of spells out and figure out which ones seem like the best in the deck, but I also like having many different types of removal. One of the issues with control is managing the mana curve. It seems that there are a bunch of good controlling expensive cards, but there are only a handful of high quality cheap removal spells. I like having the 12 Temples as they provide some late game advantages, plus you don't need to use much mana in the early game, so playing a land that comes into play tapped isn't a huge deal. This concept is exciting, so hopefully I get the chance to play some more games with the deck, to provide a better understanding of whether Narset Control could be a real player in Standard.
Thanks for reading,