Hello and welcome back to another set review here on TCGplayer.com! Every new Magic: The Gathering release brings with it hundreds of new cards to get our hands on. But with so many new things to digest, what cards should you actually be looking to play in your Draft or Standard deck? Over the next five days we will be bringing you a card-by-card breakdown from all of Khans of Tarkir. This includes each color and each wedge in all of its glory.

We will be going through and giving each card a series of ratings. One will rate just how strong the card is in Constructed. This accounts for a lot of Standard, but also older formats such as Modern and Legacy too. Beyond that there will be a pair of ratings for Limited. One of these will evaluate the card in a Draft environment while the other will look at Sealed. Often these numbers will be the same, but sometimes there are meaningful differences there.

Of course all of these ratings wouldn't mean anything without some scales to explain them. Below you will find the Constructed and Limited scales I will be using:


Constructed

5: Fives are ever-present cards that heavily warp a format or see heavy play across multiple formats. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Deathrite Shaman, and Tarmogoyf are good examples of fives.

4: These cards tend to have support roles across multiple formats or be tier one cards in at least one. Spell Pierce is an example of the former while Thragtusk is an example of the latter. I expect to rate a lot of things as fours that are actually fives and vice versa while I feel out this new system but in both cases, these are going to be highly desired cards.

3: These are the bread and butter cards of a set, usually doing all of the essential things needed for a format, but doing them at a good rate. Cards like Oblivion Ring, Izzet Charm, or Diregraf Ghoul would be found here.

2: These cards are generally much more restrictive in use and application than a three, but they serve a similar purpose. You will see more sideboard or niche cards, like Skullcrack, Heartless Summoning, or Gladecover Scout.

1: These are not going to see much play, but they have an outside chance. These tend to be weak or narrow sideboard options or extremely narrow main deck cards. Most ones will not ever make it into a winning list, but they have potential to do so.

0: These are unplayable in Constructed regardless of context. These tend to be the cards designed to balance Limited, like Grizzly Bear or Siege Mastodon or are narrow with a poor output, like Artificer's Hex.

*Any card that gets an X.5 rating just means I can see it falling to either side of the equation given the right metagame or environment.


Limited

The Limited scale used language such as "I draft this over..." but it applies to Sealed in a very similar manner. Essentially, for Sealed you would read it as "I play this over..." instead. So for a five in Sealed, you would play that card in your deck 100% of the time.

5: I will take and play this card over everything. Always. Examples: Umezawa's Jitte and Library of Alexandria.

4.: I will take and play this over everything in its same colors and will heavily consider splashing it or switching colors as a result of drafting this or having it in my pool. Incredibly powerful cards that are more difficult to cast will generally get a four or four and a half. Examples: Fireball and Gideon Jura.

3: I will first pick this and take it over most commons/uncommons in its color. These are generally the baseline best commons in a set for each color, like removal, looters, and efficient creatures. Examples: Lightning Strike and Merfolk Looter

2: I will draft and play these but do not value them highly. These are the typical fifth-eighth picks that generally are the backbone of decks but do not do anything fancy. Inefficient removal and combat tricks tend to hover in the two and a half area as well. Examples: Hill Giant and Divine Verdict.

1: I generally do not want to pick these highly or play them in my main deck. These cards are either bad or very niche and only go in specific strategies. In either case, there is a good chance these cards wheel when seen anywhere near the front end of a pack and very little value should be placed on these cards early. Reasonable sideboard cards can be found here, so you should not discount these entirely Examples: Demolish and Merfolk Spy

0: These are cards that have no value and should not be played in 99.9% of situations. If you take one of these, you had better know what you are getting yourself into. Examples: Progenitus and Sway of the Stars.

Act of Treason

Constructed: 1.5

This is always an option for the aggressive red decks in a format although it just so happens that there tends to be better options available, such as Mark of Mutiny. In this case, there is a morph creature doing the same thing that we will check out later, but I still think this is fine.

Draft: 2
Sealed: 1.5

It is a little harder to find a deck that can use Act of Treason properly in Sealed so it gets a mark down as a result, but this card varies from good to gamebreaking in the right deck. If you have enough sacrifice outlets than this becomes a hard removal spell which is one direction. The other direction is to use this as a very potent burn spell in aggressive decks. Both will see play.

Ainok Tracker

Constructed: 0

I hope this needs no explanation for why it is a poor Constructed option, although everyone probably needs an explanation on how to pronounce this name.

Draft: 1
Sealed: 1.5

An overall underwhelming creature. Its biggest strength is being able to take down things out of morph status but that still costs five mana and the opponent will know something is up. Slightly better in Sealed where the morph game happens much more often.

Arc Lightning

Constructed: 1.5

While this is not the most powerful spell in the world, it is strong against a metagame where a lot of X/1 creatures are hanging out. Obviously a control deck will turn to Anger of the Gods or something similar, but if you are a deck playing your own small creatures, this is much more appealing.

Draft: 3.5
Sealed: 3.5

You won't often get a three-for-one with this, but even just killing a morph and pinging something is solid. The ability to scale up and take down three toughness things in the late game makes this a fine and safe early pick.

Arrow Storm

Constructed: 0

Five mana is just too much mana to spend on a burn spell this straightforward. Five damage is fine but not worth this investment. If this were eight damage or something, maybe we would have a discussion.

Draft: 2.5
Sealed: 2.5

While expensive, this is a pretty reliable removal spell as not too many things are walking around with more than five toughness. This is a sorcery, so setting it up can be difficult, but the four damage will generally be enough as is.

Ashcloud Phoenix

Constructed: 3

This is one of my favorite phoenix designs I have seen. You are pretty heavily incentivized to cast this for four mana the first time around, but it still has a relevant morph interaction. The unmorph cost of six is hefty, but it will come into play in long games.

Draft: 4
Sealed: 4

You need to kill this twice within usually a one turn window or else it will continue to Wreak Havoc in the skies. If it had any extra toughness it would be a four and a half as it is just so annoying to play against.

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Barrage of Boulders

Constructed: 0

Anger of the Gods or the aforementioned Arc Lightning are just going to be better options than this. The ferocious ability is rather weak and overlaps with Temur Charm quite a bit otherwise.

Draft: 1.5
Sealed: 1.5

Falter is a pretty big impact to have in your deck for late game situations or in extremely aggressive hands. Dealing one damage will occasionally be a big deal, especially post combat to take down things that thought they would live, but this is still a card I am happy having in my board most of the time.

Bloodfire Expert

Constructed: 0

This one is a bit too expensive and weak on the backside to really impress me. With evasion he would be a legitimate contender though.

Draft: 2
Sealed: 1.5

This guy is good at trading up when he blocks as he can reasonable take down four and five toughness attackers. On offense, you really need to Clear a Path for this first or else it is likely to just be eaten by whatever blocker is available.

Bloodfire Mentor

Constructed: 0

A wall looter is something that would likely see play but the activation would need to be free and you would need to be looking at like a two mana 0/4 or something. Nice try though, Mr. Mentor!

Draft: 2
Sealed: 2.5

I really like defensive creatures that offer something while they defend. Looting a great ability to have on such a resilient creature and this can block on any turn that you don't have mana or don't wish to loot. The two color requirement hurts it a bit, but the mana fixing should be good enough to solve that.

Bring Low

Constructed: 0

Even if every creature in Standard had a +1/+1 counter on it, this would be utterly unplayable. It is just too expensive and too narrow.

Draft: 2
Sealed: 2

This is unfortunately not the most exciting card when the opposing creature does not have a +1/+1 counter on it. That said, it is an instant and there is a decent number of counters and counter producing things running around. I would probably never cut the first copy of this, but could see cutting further copies.

Burn Away

Constructed: 0

We just seem to be increasing the cost of these burn spells by more and more and they continue to get worse. No one wants their graveyard hate spell contingent on resolving a five mana spell that needs to kill a creature.

Draft: 2-2.5
Sealed: 2.5-3

This is more reliable than Bring Low but it is also more expensive, which is definitely worth mentioning. This attacks a specific wedge just like Bring Low does but if this actually triggers, it can be devastating for a Sultai opponent.

Canyon Lurkers

Constructed: 0

Spending five, or seven, or even four mana on a 5/2 vanilla creature, no matter how optimistic you want to be about morph, is just not even close to Constructed standards.

Draft: 1
Sealed: 1

If this did not have morph, it would be half a point as a 5/2 creature is just so awkward in a format with morph running around. This unmorphs for four mana and then still trades with an unmorphed guy. It does trigger ferocious stuff, so it has some purpose, but I would greatly prefer never having to play this dude.

Crater's Claws

Constructed: 1

Blaze is not the most appealing card in Constructed and while this clearly has some upside over it, that upside is conditional and weakest when you are behind, which hurts this a lot. I still think the card will see a little play in Temur decks, but it is no Demonfire.

Draft: 4.5
Sealed: 4.5-5

I would definitely at least considering splashing this every single time in Sealed as the format allows for that so easily, making this almost a true five there. In Draft, if I opened this in pack three and I had a sick Sultai deck or something, I would gladly ignore it, but the effect in Sealed is just so strong and the fixing so available.

Dragon Grip

Constructed: 0

This is a very small output, even assuming flash. I cannot see many decks willing to spend a full three mana on a +2/+0 and first strike aura, considering how painful most auras are in Constructed as it is.

Draft: 1
Sealed: 1.5

If you are able to flash this out, it is a pretty strong trick that will stick around but you are still weak to any two-for-one potential from an opponent with their own removal or combat trick. I like this triggering prowess more than anything else.

Dragon-Style Twins

Constructed: 1

This is a very powerful card even if it happens to be a bit clunky. Imagine this with haste or hexproof for example. Plus, as Wescoe pointed out, this technically can kill an opponent using just one other card in the set, can you figure out which one?

Draft: 3
Sealed: 3

Double strike is a pretty powerful ability to possess in Limited but it also means this will be the target of some unwanted attention from the opponent. If you can untap with this and start attacking, it creates for very beneficial attack steps.

Goblinslide

Constructed: 1.5

This seems like it could be a really strong card to build around in some respects. Spending one additional mana to create tokens over and over again is very similar to Young Pyromancer except this is much harder to deal with.

Draft: 1.5-2
Sealed: 1

You cannot really run a ton of noncreature spells in Limited lest you risk just having a bad deck. There are some noncreature spells that create creatures, but ultimately, this is going to trigger on between six and 13 cards in your deck. While that isn't bad, it does mean it will be hard for this type of card to win you the game unless you have three or more copies of it.

Horde Ambusher

Constructed: 0.5

I don't think aggressive red decks will need or want to turn to this, but I have seen worse creatures see play before and the drawback on this is basically not a thing.

Draft: 2.5
Sealed: 1.5

While this is not a very good defensive creature (and I personally find that drawback text unnecessary), it is a very good offensive one. Aggressive decks will love the versatility here even if control decks will not be impressed.

Hordeling Outburst

Constructed: 2.5

This is a very potent three tokens for three mana which is certainly worth it. Timely Reinforcements was the last time we have seen this level of value for three mana and there are enough anthems running around that I fully expect this to be popular in multiple aggressive archetypes.

Draft: 2.5-3
Sealed: 2.5-3

Three 1/1s will not be as impressive on offensive without something helping them out, but there is such a higher chance for abuse than a Nessian Courser can ever provide. Mardu decks look like they will enjoy populating the board with tokens though.

Howl of the Horde

Constructed: 1.5

I am giving this a glimmer of hope because I can see it doing some things, even if it has not been the most popular card from Khans. This seems like it can obviously lead to some combo situations, but even in an aggressive burn deck it seems like it might be strong.

Draft: 1.5-3
Sealed: 2-3.5

Everything about this card is going to depend on the other cards in your deck. If you have six or seven removal spells then this just acts like a double removal spell which is obviously insane. If you have only a few spells though, you should probably let this keep going around the table. Very splashable though.

Jeering Instigator

Constructed: 2

This feels stronger than Act of Treason does, at least in terms of a main deck card. I like that it can be a 2/1 for two if need be, but for a six mana investment across two turns you are likely swinging an entire turn around. People will likely see this morph coming though, so beware.

Draft: 3.5
Sealed: 3.5

Act of Treason is strong, but sometimes it can be difficult to justify as you might not get a card of value back. This always gives you that by leaving a body behind and in a tough spot you can run this out on turn two as well.

Leaping Master

Constructed: 0

A rather unexciting 2/1 for two mana that requires three mana to turn into another rather unexciting 2/1 for two... Hmm...

Draft: 1.5
Sealed: 1.5-2

This is nice in that it is a relevant two-drop that keeps relevancy through the later stages of the game due to evasion. Not a warrior though, which would have been nice.

Mardu Blazebringer

Constructed: 0.5

I could see this card being an interesting early defensive option that lives through Anger of the Gods. Outside of that though, he will probably not be a card.

Draft: 2
Sealed: 1.5

Again, I like this as a defensive option and as a rather cheap way to enable your ferocious abilities. Most people will not want to throw away any creature that cost as much or more than this, but two-drops are likely to keep attacking into this, so beware!

Mardu Heart-Piercer

Constructed: 0.5

I think that if you manage to raid this out every time, it is an interesting option in a world where most of the creatures are small. That would put this into the sideboard space for aggressive/midrange decks. Outside of that, this is probably just a little too small.

Draft: 3.5
Sealed: 3.5

One of the better removal spells you can get your hands on. A 2/3 creature is not the worst as it can contribute meaningfully to most combat steps and a Shock is a very real upside that will usually generate card advantage. Attacking might take a little set up, but should be something most decks have no problem achieving.

Mardu Warshrieker

Constructed: 0.5

I don't want to discount this guy altogether because he is able to produce mana and fix mana, which is powerful. Most people would play a one mana 3/3, but how often does this actually become that? This into Mardu Charm is a pretty nice turn four though.

Draft: 2.5
Sealed: 2.5

Hill Giants are always welcome round here and this one even gives you a nice discount back. The bigger thing here is actually that this can mana fix for you within your mardu deck, which is quite nice.

Monastery Swiftspear

Constructed: 1.5

This card seems pretty good to me in much the same way that Akroan Crusader did and continues to do so. In fact, the two play really well together so I would expect Tom Ross to feature this in a deck in the near future.

Draft: 1.5-2.5
Sealed: 1

In Sealed, you are much less likely to have an aggressive deck that actually wants to be playing this. In Draft, chances are good that you can build a nice little prowess deck and surprise an opponent with one or two of these on your big prowess turn for a huge alpha attack.

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

Constructed: 3

While I acknowledge that Sarkhan is obviously a very powerful card, I do think he has been slightly overhyped. His middle ability is very bad at protecting him most of the time as it drops the loyalty so low and his first ability leaves him vulnerable to an established board. Having a four power haste creature is good enough much of the time, but I view this guy along the lines of Koth in terms of playability.

Draft: 4.5
Sealed: 4.5

Obviously when a card can both become a 4/4 flying creature and also shoot things for four damage you should probably be slamming it in Limited. Enjoy the mythic.

Shatter

Constructed: 0.5

Shatter has been outdone quite a few times not in strictly better versions, so it is hard to get excited by it these days. That said, if no better options exist in the format, it might see occasional play.

Draft: 0.5
Sealed: 0.5

Just a sideboard card that you should 100% never have maindeck. This format is not actually full of a ton of artifacts so just bring this in when you see a key one or a deck that contains a ton of banners.

Summit Prowler

Constructed: 0

This guy has been lurking around Standard for years taking on different names each and every time and the card is just not impressive in a format where the best of the best see play.

Draft: 2.5
Sealed: 2.5

This is a pretty big body to drop on turn four assuming you can pay for the double red cost. This triggers ferocious abilities and is perfectly fine on its own making it a nice pick up in the mid pack.

Swift Kick

Constructed: 0

While fighting at instant speed is a lot more appealing than sorcery speed fighting, spending four mana on either is not very exciting.

Draft: 2-2.5
Sealed: 2-2.5

This is a bit weaker than Hunt the Weak as your creature doesn't gain that extra toughness to potentially live through a fight. That said, instant speed is a big upgrade so this is still very playable but you probably don't want too many of these.

Tormenting Voice

Constructed: 1

While this is not particularly strong or flashy, it does offer a pretty unique effect for a red deck these days. While we have seen similar effects in the past, this does not ask for anything random to occur, meaning a red deck can actually sculpt a game plan using this.

Draft: 1
Sealed: 1

This is okay as a delve enabler or to trigger prowess but it does not actually generate an advantage on its own other than a slight bit of card selection. If this is in a deck it is likely going to either be really good or stand out as being bad.

Trumpet Blast

Constructed: 1

Any type of instant speed anthem effect has a chance at seeing play when tokens are as good as they are looking in Standard right now. Three mana is acceptable for this effect so it might see a little play here and there.

Draft: 1.5-2
Sealed:1

Much better in aggressive strategies that can set this up well. There are alternatives to this in white and Abzan, so this will not always be necessary, but it is strong with any of the token heavy strategies.

Valley Dasher

Constructed: 0.5

A two power haste creature for two mana has a small chance at seeing some play now that Ash Zealot is gone. If this had a more favorable creature type like warrior or goblin my hopes would be a little more secure.

Draft: 1.5
Sealed: 0.5-1

This is a nice aggressive two-drop but it is not a nice two-drop for just any deck. You can always play this in your second mainphase to gain one turn of reprieve, but it will be getting in there sooner or later so you better be prepared to get in there along with it.

War-Name Aspirant

Constructed: 2.5

This seems like a pretty fantastic early game play out of red decks to replace the loss of Ash Zealot and Burning Tree Emissary. A three power creature is already very nice but this one comes with upside instead of downside like Gore-House Chainwalker.

Draft: 2.5
Sealed: 2.5

One of the better two-drops you can assemble on turn two. This is not going to get chump blocked, although that is less of a concern in Limited. Just having three power is enough for me though.


Mardu

Ankle Shanker

Constructed: 1

This is a very unique effect so I will leave the door open for it a bit even if I have no idea what to do with this just yet. In a token strategy, the ability to get in without losing creatures is nice, but I wonder if Iroas is just better.

Draft: 4
Sealed: 4

If it were not for this guy being sort of difficult to cast in any non Mardu deck and his lackluster size, he could easily be even higher as it is very difficult to win a game where this is unchecked. That first attack step might be all that is necessary to just win as well, giving you little window to answer this.

Butcher of the Horde

Constructed: 3

This should be a rather big card in Standard for quite a while although I do not think it really has the raw power to transition over into older formats necessarily. This reminds me of Demigod of Revenge quite a bit and it should be showcased in all sorts of token and midrange strategies in Standard.

Draft: 4.5
Sealed: 4.5

This and Ankle Shanker both win games but this needs less help and dies to less things. Granted, the all-in on a single turn aspect is less impressive here, but I still think this is overall the safer pick. (Not that you should ever have to decide between the two.)

Chief of the Edge

Constructed: 1.5

The warrior tribe will need to get a little stronger before this is a serious contender, but it looks pretty impressive on paper as a 3/2 that then goes ahead and pumps your guys for only two mana. I would be surprised if this sees no play before it rotates.

Draft: 3
Sealed: 2.5

This is a top notch lord that will get some beats in early if you have the ability to actually cast it on turn two. Even when it finally stops being relevant in combat itself, it is able to pump up the rest of your warriors while it sits back and enjoys a massage, or whatever it is that inactive lords do.

Crackling Doom

Constructed: 3

This is a pretty spicy edict, especially in the context of a world that is actively playing three color decks. If you are casting Mardu Charm, you can cast this, which is quite nice considering how strong this is. This is a lot more than an edict as you are getting their biggest guy each time which is much better for you. The couple of damage is nice and might pick off a Walker here and there but you are really playing this as a great way to get rid of hexproof guys and the like.

Draft: 3.5
Sealed: 3.5

A solid removal spell all around. If you opponent has a couple of guys tied for the biggest, this gets a little weaker so you cannot just hold it forever in security, but more often than not you will be nabbing the creature you want to be.

Mardu Ascendancy

Constructed: 2

The first ability on this is relatively powerful in that it allows you to limit overextending but still add damage to the field. The second ability might not seem as appealing, but with cards like Anger of the Gods seeing a lot more play, that ability can save you quite often.

Draft: 3.5
Sealed: 3.5

This is pretty nice in Limited although the tokens will end up getting blocked most of the time. Having a seal of +0/+3 sitting out is much nicer in Limited than Constructed though so this is something I would actively look to have in my deck. Keep in mind that this does not work with tokens though.

Mardu Charm

Constructed: 3.5

This is one of the two strongest charms in my opinion up there with Abzan Charm. I love that this takes care of basically every card type with an instant speed Flame Slash, some dorks to attack a planeswalker, or a Duress to take out just about everything. Because of the versatility here, it feels like a card you can easily run four copies of and be happy.

Draft: 3.5
Sealed: 3.5

Great removal for creatures and a great way to head off a bomb you might know that is coming. I would expect the first two modes on this to be used dramatically more than the third, but they are all pretty good.

Mardu Roughrider

Constructed: 0

This card was pretty clearly designed as a Limited incentive as it brings a trigger that is suspect at best in Constructed and has the stats of a card that costs two less should it actually wish to see play.

Draft: 2
Sealed: 2.5

This is a rather big creature that will dominate the ground for a turn or two before bigger game comes out. His can't block trigger is great if you are playing this at the top of your curve as you now have an easier alpha attack to set up. Probably not worth splashing most of the time though.

Ponyback Brigade

Constructed: 0.5

This does not seem quite up to Constructed standards, but there is a good chance I would have said that about Cloudgoat Ranger the first time too. This does put a lot of power into play on turn five off of the morph, so you never know.

Draft: 3.5
Sealed: 3.5-4

One of the strongest nonevasive common creatures you will find in the whole set, This thing litters the board with a lot of bodies that Mardu has no trouble finding uses for. Even on the surface this is a pretty strong deal and morph just increases your available options with the card.

Zurgo Helmsmasher

Constructed: 1

This guy is probably good enough for some play out of the board against control but the fact that it does not have trample makes it pretty bad against the various aggro decks packing Rabblemaster and whatnot. Even Sylvan Caryatid means this is not likely to be lethal for a few turns so it might just be too unreliable.

Draft: 4
Sealed: 4

Being indestructible on your turn means that this is very likely to get in a hit the first turn it attacks or at the very worst be chump blocked. It is rather weak to removal on an opponent's turn but if you have applied enough pressure through aggression already, their resources for dealing with this should be spread thin.


Wrap Up

Well Mardu are quite fun, aren't they? I am a big lover of tokens and this clan seems to know how to deliver on that front. There are so many solid anthem effects available right now too that I find it hard to not just pick tokens and play it myself.

Anger of the Gods is a real threat though so it is nice to see some answers in the form of Mardu Charm and Mardu Ascendancy. I think that in general, this wedge will be one of the stronger ones for both Constructed and Limited so long as you can find a source of card advantage and for the right price, the army in a can approach seems to be working fine.

Tomorrow we will be back with all of the white cards from Khans of Tarkir as well as those Abzan guys and the junk they have going on. We will also cover the lands from Khans as well, so come back then for even more savagery. Thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--