People seem to love Khans of Tarkir limited and I cannot blame them. My favorite Draft format of all time was Shards of Alara block (full block) and Khans is the closest we have gotten back to that world. The way you draft the set is a little different due to a restructuring of the mana fixing from design's side, but many of the lessons learned from Shards do carry over.
Sealed is quite different than Draft in this format in that there is a more consistent set of cards in front of you. When you can rely on having a certain number of mana fixers and a certain number of morphs, you can actually go into a Sealed tournament with a game plan that is going to apply in the middle 90% of pools. Sometimes you will have an outlier, but planning for those is difficult regardless as you never know what extreme might show its head.
So, in order to understand these consistencies, especially those that are more unique to this particular format, let us first identify them.All the Mana
Because there are 10 common dual lands in the format along with five uncommon trilands and five more rare fetches, the opportunity for fixing is very present. Usually, the way this breaks down is an average of about one common dual land per pack while the trilands and fetchlands obviously show up less frequently. That said, not finding at least one triland in your six packs would be more rare than not.
And remember that plenty of packs are going to have two dual lands in them just due to the print run. While I have no hard data to support this claim, I would assume that the number of two-dual packs are higher than the number of packs with no dual land in them at all, although those numbers are probably close regardless.
When I have looked at the pools of friends and teammates, I have generally viewed any pool with five or six total fixers as being on the light side with seven or eight fixers being normal and any more than eight being exceptional. What does Three Colorless Buy these Days?
Morphs are one of the most important aspects of the format. In their own ways, morphs provide mana fixing, curve consistency, and relevant filler at all points in the game. Because of this, the number of morphs you have and, more importantly, what those morphs are, can end up making or breaking your Sealed pool.
Generally speaking, going into other colors is reserved for bombs and removal because those are the types of cards that have an impact later on in the game when you have finally drawn your fixing. Morphs allow you to cheat the system by giving you a reasonable 2/2 body early on in a sort of layaway plan that you can finish paying off much later and still have gotten full value.Gold Means Good
The last point I wanted to bring up is that in a multicolor set like this, generally the actual multicolor cards are going to be the strongest. If you look at any of the charms or the wedge-aligned morph creatures you can see exactly what I am talking about. Obviously there is going to be some strong single color cards, but in order to take full advantage of Khans of Tarkir limited, you need to be playing multicolored stuff.Adding It Up
While I hinted at what ways to best abuse these traits of Khans Sealed, if you have not caught on by now, the more colors the better, in my opinion. I am actually a fan of this for both Draft and Sealed but because they are built so differently, I wanted to focus on Sealed for now. Also, in Draft there will often be alternatives that at least hold water, such as extremely aggressive two-color decks, or gimmicky build-around decks, such as delve, but in Sealed, those decks come up very, very rarely and are usually missing key pieces even when they do.
In order to build a four or five color deck, you really only need to rely on the mana fixing you have, which you can usually evaluate and summarize in just a minute or two. If you hit the minimum threshold of at least five fixers, you should heavily consider being at least four colors and if you hit the upper end of fixing, such as eight or more lands, you really need to have a very good reason to not be playing four or five colors in my opinion.
Remember that we just discussed that the format has some natural checks and balances to allow for this many colors to be played and the incentives are there because the power level is there. While your morph management and mana fixing constantly needs to be taken into consideration, you very quickly develop a feel for those sorts of things after building enough four and five color control decks.Four Versus Five
I have been saying four or five colors in most of my references and I wanted to explain exactly when you are going to go four colors instead of five. Realistically, the power level of a five color deck is going to be stronger. Even if all you pick up is a Charm and a common morph creature, if your mana can afford it, you are likely upgrading in a big way. Sultai Charm over Smite the Monstrous and Abomination of Gudul over Salt Road Patrol are meaningful upgrades.
Of course, I note that your mana has to cooperate here. If you have a lower number of mana fixers than you would like, sometimes you are going to have to stick to four colors. Imagine in the above scenario that you had zero lands that touched black and would therefore need to run about three Swamps to successfully splash those two cards. Now you are weakening the overall consistency of your deck in such a way that the power gained is not actually all upside.
In rare cases, you will have plenty of total mana fixing lands, but they will simply not cooperate. Taken to an extreme, imagine having nine copies of a green/white dual land. Your green/white deck is going to be very consistent and you can probably throw three or four basics of some other color in for a splash and be just fine. Once you try to make that mana work for five colors though, you have nine duals and then like three of each other basic, which is a bit sketchy.
Obviously the above example is beyond extreme though and you are more likely to have your lands restricted within three or four colors, which still allows for rather easy access to a four color manabase. Four colors allows you to gain the power from two different wedges that you would not get to do if you stuck to just three colors.The Rule of 5
One of the hidden rules when building a five color deck, or any deck for that matter, is just how important five is in the format. This is most apparent with the unmorph costs that were designed into the set. Five mana is the point at which a morphed creature can unmorph and actually take out an opposing face down creature. If you spend less than five mana to unmorph your creature, it is either going to have less than two power or less than three toughness.
Because of this, being on the play is something I strongly suggest. I know that most people see a heavy colored deck and they want to go on the draw to make their land drops and hit their colors, but there are other ways to get that desired effect and there is basically no other way to get to five mana before your opponent (Rattleclaw blah blah...). Being able to start attacking your morphed creatures into your opponent's with immunity first is huge. It grants you the edge in the race and makes your opponent search for a way to stop the incoming damage. Being on the play can put you in complete control of a game in Khans limited.
Additionally, five toughness is the magical number on defense which also makes it the magical number on offense. While there are a few creatures packing an even bigger backside, generally five toughness is going to be the point that your late game offensive creatures need to be able to Breakthrough. In general, if you are ever trying to evaluate a creature in this format and you are unsure of how good it might be, check its stats.
A creature like Glacial Stalker might seem pretty weak but the five toughness is so clutch and having four power means he beats up on all of the other cards that people are content running at the top of their curve. A card like Archers' Parapet is actually highly desired in five color decks just because it costs less than three mana and again has five toughness, which transitions you into the late game nicely.
If your morph creature flips over and doesn't have five power or five toughness, there needs to be a very good reason. Abzan Guide is a very solid card despite not meeting this criteria due to the strength of lifelink. Abomination of Gudul is maybe the best five color morph despite not getting there but it picks up evasion and a very nice loot ability. Meanwhile, a card like Ainok Tracker is firmly unplayable in my mind because when it unmorphs and your opponent's creature unmorphs, you are going to lose that fight.One Extra Land
As I mentioned earlier, I think going on the play in this format offers too big of a reward to pass up. You are still playing a five color deck though which means being on the play comes with some risks. To help counteract this, I would advocate playing 18 lands by default or even 19 should you have a higher curve.
Remember that morphed creatures are going to get you through the early game, but you absolutely want to be flipping, or at least representing the flip, of those creature on turn five. If you cannot do that because you only have three or four lands in play, you have essentially thrown out the big advantage that being on the play offers in this format.
By playing an extra land, you gain a little more wiggle room in regards to your color distribution, which will be helpful a lot more often than you think. The aid in hitting you 5th land by turn five is also nice. If you are ever considering a Banner in your five color deck, instead don't and just run an additional land. Taking your turn three off to fix your mana instead of playing a morph is such a negative play for the deck that you just would rather not have the option. Additionally, a Banner plus one land or two lands is often a questionable keep whereas two or three lands would be an easy keep.Free is Good
Because morphs and mana are so important to how the format plays out, one of the few ways you can outplay opponents and gain card advantage early is through clever use of the free unmorph creatures. Dragon's Eye Savants is my favorite card in the set just due to the number of Bring Low or Debilitating Injuries you see cast on this only for it to gain value two-fold and then stick around to continue doing more from there.
Ruthless Ripper is probably the card with the next most value here followed by Temur Charger, although all of the cycle is very playable and fun to have in your heavy morph deck.Wrap Up
I prefer to be playing all five colors whenever the conditions allow me to in this format. In Sealed that translates to nearly every time whereas in Draft you need to be a little more aware of what is going on and understanding which sacrifices to make and which to pass up. I just think the strategy offers too many strong incentives for very little downside if you are actually willing to learn the nuances.
As the PTQ season grinds on, I wish anyone traveling the best of luck. Limited can be a tough one to feel like you have an advantage in, but Khans offers that to anyone willing to learn it. Thanks for reading!