Only 25% of Khans of Tarkir has been revealed so far and the set already looks awesome! Fetchlands are clearly the big story of the set, but there are also lots of interesting cards that synergize with existing cards. Today I'd like to share my initial ideas for each of the five wedges, including complete decklists with sideboards for each. Of course these lists are going to change as more cards are revealed, but they should hopefully start to give you some ideas about what you want to play in Standard next month. Post-rotation is always the most fun time for Standard since nearly every deck is brand new!
Let's start with my favorite one:
Mardu seems to be the wedge that wants to beat down the hardest. Red has a few decent options as one-drops (Firedrinker Satyr and Foundry Street Denizen), but black and white have the two best ones in the wedge.
At two-mana there aren't a lot of great options outside of Underworld Coinsmith. There is Mardu Skullhunter, which may be good enough, but I just stuck with the Coinsmith. He helps us gain some life from all our enchantments and he provides double devotion for Athreos in addition to having a solid ability that affords us a bit of reach. I suppose Pain Seer is also an option, though maybe a bit too painful in this build.
I decided to include a miser's Spirit Bonds because it works great with the one-drops when you draw them out of sequence or when you hit a bottleneck in the curve. With the amount of three-drops in the deck, I figured we would be playing back-to-back three-drops a lot, so Spirit Bonds would allow us to get extra value out of the second one. And with all the anthem effects in the deck, we can make good use of the Spirit Tokens.
At three mana is where the deck really starts to take off. Mardu Ascendancy provides Goblin Tokens to pump Goblin Rabblemaster, which gives us even more tokens to pump with our anthems (Spear of Heliod, Dictate of Heliod, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and sideboard Ajani Steadfast). Brimaz also gives us additional tokens, as does Sorin.
Athreos is a powerful creature by himself, but he also works well in the deck with each of his abilities. He forces the opponent to lose life whenever our creatures die, which is great since we're an aggressive deck. Or if they give us our creature back, we can replay it and attack again to keep making tokens with the Mardu Ascendancy, not to mention if we have Spirit Bonds out too.
Banishing Light is our all-purpose removal spell that also provides devotion for Athreos.
Zurgo Helmsmasher and Wingmate Roc seem really good in this deck, but Dictate of Heliod is the actual best card imaginable for this deck and we don't want too many five-drops. So I stuck with just one of each to test out and see how they do.
I am definitely fond of the magical cats, and Abzan appears to be the litter box wedge. We get Fleecemane Lion, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Ajani Steadfast, and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Meow!
Abzan provides a number of support cards for the cats. Since both Ajani planeswalkers put +1/+1 counters on creatures, they combo with the Elephant in the room: Ivorytusk Fortress. And when we curve into Anafenza, the Foremost we can start putting +1/+1 counters on our creatures every time she attacks too!
We have quite a few options in this wedge for good removal. I went with Banishing Light and Utter End since they are the most versatile and because we want to be playing threats early and then removal late anyway, so costing three and four mana is not really a problem for us as we should have that much mana by the time we want to start playing removal spells.
In addition to these six removal spells, we also have two Polukranos, World Eater since they are large, they kill stuff, and they get untapped by the Elephant once monstrous. We also have Elspeth, Sun's Champion, which can kill stuff and which works especially well with Ajani Steadfast as the latter can accelerate her into her ultimate.
Abzan Ascendancy seems great in this deck. On the one hand it pumps our team, much like a Spear of Heliod would. And on the other hand it acts as a preemptive answer to End Hostilities. They wrath us and we get a bunch of Spirit Tokens. We then play an Ajani to pump our team, or another Ascendancy, and likely kill them immediately.
[Aside: I kept typing 'Azban Ascension' instead of 'Abzan Ascendancy'. What would that even be anyway? Like, a Ghazban Ogre that starts copying all your spells when it gets two quest counters??]
Anyay, the deck comes out rather fast with all its acceleration (Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid). It's a pseudo-ramp deck that is not as reliant on its ramp spells as the RUG wedge, but it can also make good use of them when it draws too many (by giving them +1/+1 counters or monstrous'ing its creatures).
Speaking of the RUG wedge...
So far it seems pretty clear that the RUG wedge wants to ramp into large creatures as quickly as possible. It has two premium accelerants that outclass even Sylvan Caryatid when it comes to ramping into boom booms: Generator Servant and Rattleclaw Mystic.
Generator Servant ramps us from two mana to five mana, and it also gives the creature(s) haste. Stormbreath Dragon already has haste, but the six-drops don't, and they can come down on turn three off an Elvish Mystic + Generator Servant or on turn four with just the elemental. Rattleclaw Mystic can accelerate us from two to four mana if cast on the second turn, or it can ramp us from three to six mana if we morph it. Between 12 total copies of these three accelerants, we're likely to have one of our six-drops on the battlefield by the fourth turn, and there is a good chance it will already be attacking too.
Speaking of attacking, Generator Servant is not our only way to grant our monsters haste. Temur Ascendancy also does that while drawing us a card in the process. We play 16 creatures that draw a card off the Ascendancy when we play them, and while haste is not cumulative, the card draw part of the Ascendancy is. So if we have two on the battlefield, we can start "going off" by drawing into more boom booms, not unlike the scenario created by Garruk, Caller of Beasts.
While Courser of Kruphix doesn't draw us a card off the Ascendancy, it does help to make sure we continue drawing gasoline. If a land is on top, then we play it off the centaur. If instead it's a card we want to draw, then great, we leave it there! But if it's not a land and not a card we want (e.g. a mana producing creature), then we have eight temples and four Wooded Foothills to get it off the top of our library. Courser of Kruphix is one of the most improved cards in Standard with the printing of fetch lands, and it was already one of the best beforehand!
Since we really want to max out on threats to trigger the ascendancy, I opted to run the removal spells in the sideboard. To compensate for this, I decided to play Polukranos and Soul of Shandalar as two of our big threats since they can each kill stuff with their activated abilities.
Sagu Mauler seems great against any of the removal spell decks. How do you kill it? I expect him to dominate most combat situations while dodging most removal spells. Hence I made him the prime target to ramp into in this deck.
Golgari Dredge was a big thing for a while in Standard, even amidst all the powerhouse decks that are now rotating. While dredge did lose some important cards with rotation, it also gained some big ones in Khans of Tarkir.
Sultai Charm [you don't want to know how many times I keep trying to call it 'Soltari Charm'] is a removal/utility spell that can also fill up our graveyard while digging for whatever we're looking for. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is essentially the lynchpin of the deck since she continually fills up our graveyard. Jace, the Living Guildpact can also add cards to our yard while sifting, and can bounce a problematic permanent for a turn as well.
In addition to the abovementioned cards, we also have Satyr Wayfinder and Commune with the Gods to Sift while filling up our graveyard.
So what then can we do with all these cards in our graveyard?
I'm glad you asked. We can exile creatures to make snakes with Pharika, God of Affliction. Or we can bring the creatures back with Whip of Erebos. Or if we milled a Soul of Innistrad we can activate his ability from the graveyard to return three creatures to our hand. Or when all else fails, we can delve a Necropolis Fiend onto the battlefield for cheap.
Since we are otherwise light on removal, I made Hero's Downfall the last addition to the deck.
The other four decks are aggressive or midrange decks, each of which looks to establish a board presence and start attacking the opponent with creatures. The Jeskai wedge looks like the most controlling wedge, the one least interested in establishing a board presence. Instead it has the tools to play control rather well.
To start off, it has the two best board sweepers in the format: End Hostilities and Anger of the Gods. Secondly, it has some of the best win conditions in the format, many of which double as removal spells: Keranos, God of Storms, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Ok, I pretty much just want to jam Brimaz into every deck, but I figure I'm justified here since he survives Anger of the Gods.
You also have good removal spells: Banishing Light and Last Breath main, Magma Spray and Reprisal in the board. In addition to board sweepers, finishers, and removal, you also have card-draw (Divination, Jace's Ingenuity) and counters (Dissipate, Dissolve, Negate). You're also better equipped to gain advantage from temples than any other deck since the tempo loss is comparatively trivial for this deck.Conclusion
Hopefully these lists start to get you thinking about what post-rotation Standard will look like once Khans of Tarkir becomes legal. As more and more cards from Khans get revealed, these lists should become even stronger and more refined. And of course there will be other non-wedge viable decks in Standard. These are just the ones that seem most likely to come together and are therefore worth exploring at this point.
Which wedge are you most looking forward to?
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter