For every new set release I like to list ten of the cards I don't think are getting enough attention. Cards that I think should be getting a little more attention. Or maybe they're just the cards that I, personally, am really excited to brew with. (It seems like that sometimes.) So maybe we're talking about cards I'm excited to brew with rather that cards that are specifically "sleepers," per se.
As I often mention, sometimes I'm way off and sometimes I'm right on the nose with these articles, but either way, the thing I try hardest to accomplish is to provide you guys with a perspective on some cards that you might not have initially had. Maybe you'll see a card in a new light, or discover an application you might not have thought of, and if so, then I consider my work a success.
If you're looking for a list of the Top 10 Khans of Tarkir cards you're in the wrong place. You will find no Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, or Rattleclaw Mystic, or fetchlands here. Only some of the unsung heroes of the set that I would personally like to brew with based on the merit I see them possessing.
Without further ado...let's begin!
10. Empty the Pits
The only reason this card is my number ten (which has happened before in past Sleeper articles) is that I'm not even sure if it is a sleeper. When Empty the Pits was first revealed it wasn't really that exciting because everyone ended up focusing on its mana cost, but people seem to slowly be catching on. I immediately ended up comparing this thing to Cruel Ultimatum. No, they don't do the same thing textually, but they do the same thing in terms of the game: they both single-handedly win it. This card has the ability to define an archetype or simply supplement an existing archetype that has the resources to cast it. I guarantee that you will lose to a very unexpected Empty the Pits (at instant speed) at some point in the coming Standard format, you mark my words.
9. Pearl Lake Ancient
When I first saw this I thought it was pretty meh. Then I asked myself how I would ever beat it if I were playing against it. It can't be countered, it has flash, and it can simply be bounced when an opponent tries to kill it. I made the comparison to AEtherling on our Facebook page, and while that may be a bit of a stretch, I can definitely see this guy making the top end of future control decks. While AEtherling did have evasion, control decks are usually great at making sure the opponent doesn't actually have any or many creatures to block with in the first place. We also typically only cast AEtherling when we had seven mana available in order to protect him, so the casting cost shouldn't be much of an issue. I don't know if returning three lands is going to be too prohibitive to use with any regularity, but this card has a lot of abilities that have been found on some very powerful creatures.
8. Villainous Wealth
I like this card a lot, but of course I would what with it being a BUG Genesis Wave for the opposing player. But that comes with some drawbacks. When we play Genesis Wave we basically know what we're going to hit and we have the capability of building our deck around it. With Villainous Wealth, we have no idea! But that kind of makes it a little cooler as well. I know at the Prerelease that my opponent cast this against me three times in three games. I was playing Sultai however and when he cast Villainous Wealth for seven he would actually whiff on most of my cards as so many cost eight or more thanks to delve. I feel like the only inherently bad matchup this card will have is against control, as they have so few threats and permanents, but it could be real sweet against everything else.
7. Trail of Mystery
This card is interesting to me, and I could definitely see it getting zero play. But it's such a strong ability that I'm hoping. There is already a handful of competitive morphs and with another card on this list (the next one to be exact), there could be a competitive Standard deck to find. Being able to essentially "draw a card" every time you play a morph creature is pretty huge, especially when you want as much mana as possible to flip the creatures over. Things like Sagu Mauler, Ashcloud Phoenix, Jeering Instigator, Icefeather Aven, and Rattleclaw Mystic are all perfectly playable morph creatures that could see play in Standard at one point or another. The Temur morph deck could also utilize Secret Plans allowing us to draw even more cards. All in all I see the makings of a pretty sweet engine, but I'll be the first to admit that we might not be entirely there yet.
6. Ghostfire Blade
While we immediately associate this card with the brand new morphs we've received in Khans of Tarkir, not many people are talking about the applications that Ghostfire Blade has with artifact creatures. When we look at it in that context, Ghostfire Blade becomes a better Bonesplitter that grants our target toughness as well. In a standard format that has the potential to house an artifact deck with the likes of Ensoul Artifact, Ornithopter, Shrapnel Blast, and the like, this could be another very useful piece in the puzzle. It's also another great one mana spell that we can simply turn into a 5/5 or use to deal five damage with in the late game. Or we can attack with our 2/4 Ornithopter on turn two. Ghostfire Blade seems to have a lot of potential for not a very hefty cost, and it even slides directly into the morph deck that we were just talking about at number seven.
5. Thousand Winds
At the very least we have a 5/6 flier for six mana, which is nothing to sneeze at. 5/6 fliers have been winning games for ages, and just because the power level of Magic has risen doesn't mean that they're no longer in fashion. But we're not looking at hard casting this guy in my perfect scenario. Not only does this guy go great into the morph deck that I'm trying to sell you guys on, but it's also a one-sided Evacuation. (Okay, that second part is the real selling point.) Basically we're looking to fill the role of AEtherling in the new Standard format. While we have Elspeth, Sun's Champion, we also have a new sweeper that costs five instead of four. I can definitely see a move proactive control archetype develop where cards like Thousand Winds and Pearl Lake Ancient become these really useful, really hard to deal with threats to end games with.
4. Sagu Mauler
Sagu Mauler was a card that immediately stood out for me. Then I realized that it seemed pretty basic. Then I realized that nearly every creature with hexproof in the past two years has seen some amount of play and that a 6/6 trampler might be the largest we've ever seen. I guess Plated Slagwurm beats this guy, but not in cost and not in being able to actually get damage in, and not in the past...ten years. Think about this guy across the table from you; how do you actually deal with him? What if they play two? Sagu Mauler seems like an insane threat that could see a ton of play in the midrange decks or again, heck, in the control decks if we're going Bant or Temur. The fact that all of the latter clan's ferocious cards combo with him is just a bonus. (He also fits into our morph deck!)
3. Ashcloud Phoenix
I wasn't really sold on this guy at first. He was a flying red creature with four power that didn't have haste? Weird, right? But then I realized in the late game...this guy is nearly unbeatable. You see, for those that don't know, you can't respond to morph. What I mean is that the morph ability doesn't use the stack, so if someone says "unmorph my Ashcloud Phoenix," it's going to happen and you don't get a chance to stop it. It's similar to playing a land. It just happens and that's that. So, granted that the deck playing Ashcloud Phoenix has enough mana, this guy is going to be incredibly hard to Remove outside of something like an Utter End. Of course you could always just play it in the midrange or aggro deck as well and be completely content with the two-for-one you'll receive upon an opponent killing it. Either way seems fine by me. (Also going into our morph deck! I'm seeing a trend...)
Whenever I see a multicolor instant X spell I immediately compare it to Sphinx's Revelation now. While this is of course no Sphinx's Revelation, it is a pretty powerful spell. There's going to come a point in games, especially with control decks, where this is going to be a Syncopate, except instead of exiling the card, you're going to be able to kill a planeswalker or, I dunno, win the game. In the late game this not only stops a game-changing threat, but it can also deal a significant amount of damage, and there's not much that can be done about it. One of the upsides of Mindswipe is that even if they pay the mana, allowing their spell to resolve, the damage is still dealt. This is fantastic as it allows Mindswipe to always be an instant speed Fireball whether or not we actually care about the spell our opponent is casting.
1. Dig Through Time
Ah, my favorite on the list. When I first saw this card I thought it was good, but a little restrictive. The casting cost was very high after all. Then I played with delve (and Sultai) at the Prerelease and realized how easy it was to fill my graveyard. Then I realized that this was an instant. While the cards Dig Through Time reveals don't go into the graveyard to fuel future delve cards (which might be too good, to be honest), being able to pick two cards out of the top seven is pretty much like a Demonic Tutor. You might as well be searching your entire deck! This card reminds me a lot of Forbidden Alchemy, only with twice the effect, which was actually good enough on its own and I imagine most of the time this is going to cost four mana or less.
Whew. And that's that. Khans of Tarkir is an interesting set. Khans is a super exciting set, and there are a ton of powerful cards that do some very unique things, which means there are sure to be brand new archetypes and strategies that are tried in the coming weeks and months. This is why I left things like the Ascendancies off the list, simply because they all seem to have some degree of playability.
I know some of you are going to assuredly disagree with some of these picks, and maybe some of you are going think a few of my choices aren't sleepers. After all, we can't always agree, and if we did, what would the point of trying to provide new information? I would never be able to convince you of something since we would already be predisposed to agreeing with one another!
Anyway, I hope I've given you some things to think about and maybe you've seen some of these cards in a new light. Maybe comparing them to older cards might have helped, or maybe you just think they're all junk! Either way, thanks for reading and hopefully we can discuss some things in the comment section.
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