Khans of Tarkir has been legal in Standard for almost a week now and I'm really enjoying this new format. Just like with Return to Ravnica block, Khans provides us with tons of options for deckbuilding with all of the multicolored cards and manafixing available. With the Pro Tour only about a week away, I'm really excited to test and learn about this new format but unfortunately I can't reveal what I'm playing just yet. Today I'm going to talk about some high impact sideboard cards and what they're best used for. Here are my Top 10 sideboard cards for Khans of Tarkir Standard.
10. Coordinated Assault
Coordinated Assault was one of my favorite limited cards for Theros block and even made an appearance in Constructed in heroic-based decks. It may look like an easy maindeck card but I think its applications are only useful in creature-on-creature mirror matches. This spell deals two damage against most opponents and two damage really isn't good enough. Compare this card to Titan's Strength which deals an additional damage and allows you to scry. In most cases, Titan's Strength is strictly better.
Coordinated Assault shines in red mirror matches. Consider a Mardu Aggro mirror. You're playing a bunch of 2/1 creatures and removal spells. It's pretty hard to get anything more than a one-for-one out of any of your creatures and spells, and Coordinated Assault allows you to kill two of your opponent's creatures in combat and is actually capable of dealing a lot more than two damage. Coordinated Assault also works really well with prowess creatures like Seeker of the Way and Monastery Swiftspear and that's a total of seven points of first strike damage if those are your targets.
I loved the reprinting of Reprisal back in Journey into Nyx but it never really made an appearance in Standard decks. I think that's going to change with Khans. There are so many big, cheap creatures that are seeing play right now and many of them have activated abilities which makes Reprisal a huge blowout at instant speed. Savage Knuckleblade, Polukranos, World Eater, and Butcher of the Horde are just a few that have resource intensive activated abilities, whether it's a hefty mana requirement or sacrificing creatures. Siege Rhino is seeing play everywhere and even Surrak Dragonclaw is making appearances in midrange decks. Two mana removal spells are hard to come by these days, and Reprisal has enough targets in Standard to be playable in any white sideboard.
Mass Removal is much harder to come by now. We have End Hostilities, which is great, but besides that, we are looking at Anger of the Gods and Drown in Sorrow. Mardu Tokens and red-based aggro are popular decks but they are nowhere near as fast as the aggro decks before Khans was released. The aggressive creatures are overall smaller than before. We lost most of the haste creatures and the 2/2s for one and two mana, and now we are relying on our slower creatures like Goblin Rabblemaster and Stormbreath Dragon to get the job done. Additionally, three color aggro decks are forced to play lands that come into play tapped, making those decks slower as well. AEtherspouts can be a huge blowout against these aggro decks that are trying to swarm the board with tokens and small creatures and with the format slowing down, five mana isn't too much to ask for.
AEtherspouts saw play in some lower tier decks like BUG Control but it just wasn't strong enough to make an impact. I think AEtherspouts has gotten much stronger with Khans because it's one of the few mass removal spells in the format and it's an instant. More importantly, it's a huge blowout against Mardu Ascendancy, a powerful spell that blanks mass removal effects like Anger of the Gods and Drown in Sorrow. I think blue-based control will start to adapt AEtherspouts in their sideboards especially once players realize that End Hostilities is not enough and cheap spot removal is hard to come by.
7. Reclamation Sage
I have always liked creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects, especially in green decks. Card advantage is often hard to come by in green. Green decks can run out of gas very quickly, so a card like Reclamation Sage can do quite a lot. Plus, there are lots of targets for its ability in Standard right now.
Most of the new Ascendancies are seeing play and there are plenty of enchantment creatures that you can target with Reclamation Sage such as Courser of Kruphix, Doomwake Giant, Brain Maggot, and Eidolon of Blossoms. Banishing Light and Suspension Field are really good against green devotion and being able to kill one of these enchantments and get your creature back and increase you devotion count is really good.
Green decks often suffer from having no way to interact with combo decks but in this Standard format all of the combo decks rely on artifacts or enchantments. Jeskai Ascendancy is the main combo deck that is seeing play right now but you never know when you're going to run into a player with an Ensoul Artifact or Altar of the Brood deck. You can even Chord of Calling for this guy or search it up with something like Yisan, the Wanderer Bard.
6. Harness by Force
Harness by Force was actually in my original sideboard of my Rabble Red deck for Pro Tour Magic 2015, but it was cut because there just weren't enough good targets for it and it wasn't a game-winning card. If you are spending six mana for a spell in your red deck, it better win the game for you. Harness by Force is definitely capable of doing that in this new format.
As I've said earlier, creatures are bigger and more expensive. Usually a four or five mana creature will stabilize against a red deck, and Harness by Force can break up that stalemate. Most aggressive red decks such as Jeskai Burn or Mardu Aggro are playing enough lands where you will actually be able to pay the strive cost once. You're going to win a game where you steal two creatures in one turn the majority of the time.
I was watching the SCG: New Jersey Open coverage over the weekend and I was able to witness just how good a Harness by Force can be. Things were looking bad for the red player. He had an army of creatures but the opponent had a couple of Siege Rhinos in play. The opponent had just cast a Sorin, Solemn Visitor and used his plus ability, meaning that the Rhinos were 5/5s with lifelink during the red player's turn. The red player untapped, played a sixth land, and Harnessed both of the Rhinos, attacking for ten damage with the Rhinos alone. With the other four creature he had in play it was more than lethal and certainly a blowout.
5. Phyrexian Revoker
When I first started playing this format I saw a lot of Phyrexian Revokers running around and I didn't really understand why. Sure, he does a great job of shutting down Planeswalkers but his fragile body can't stand up to a single removal spell. I was playing Esper Control and while opponents were casting Revokers on my Ashiok and Elspeth, I would easily kill it that turn and still be able to use my Planeswalker.
As I played more of the format, I began to realize just how good Revoker can be. I was so focused on his ability to lock down Planeswalkers that I didn't realize what other activated abilities existed in Standard. There is a big mana combo deck that uses Jeskai Ascendancy along with a mana creature such as Kiora's Follower or Sylvan Caryatid, and that deck plays barely any ways to stop Phyrexian Revoker. Additionally, green-based decks play creatures with activated abilities like Polukranos and Savage Knuckleblade. Revoker can also shut down the activated ability of Mardu Ascendancy allowing you to block all of their creatures and not get blown out in combat by the +0/+3.
I think Phyrexian Revoker is a great card, but I wouldn't rely on this guy to beat decks that are trying to win with powerful Planeswalkers. Decks like those are playing tons of removal in order to protect their permanents, and Revoker is unlikely to stop them for even a turn. This guy is great against the decks that are trying to do tricky things with their creatures and I think Revoker is worth a slot in most removal-light sideboards.
4. Deflecting Palm
I've been really impressed with the Jeskai and Boros Burn decks that have been popping up recently. They are really powerful but suffer from a painful manabase. Sometimes they aren't even fast enough to burn the opponent out, but I think Deflecting Palm can change all that. Deflecting Palm seems like a weak effect; all it does it prevent one instance of damage, but it is actually a two mana burn spell in disguise.
Playing Deflecting Palm in the burn mirror allows you to have access to additional copies of your four damage burn spells like Jeskai Charm and Stoke the Flames for only two mana. You are likely going to be racing against these decks and being able to counter one spell while dealing four damage of your own is definitely something that will break the mirror match wide open.
Decks like these often have a hard time against big green decks. The burn spells usually only deal two to four damage and you can't kill something like a Polukranos or an Arbor Colossus. Deflecting Palm allows you to stop damage for one turn and the damage it deals back to the opponent can greatly help you when racing. I think this card is really good in these decks and will be very hard for most opponents to play around.
3. Circle of Flame
I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of horrible comments for this one but think about all of the strategies that this card shuts down. Both Monored and Monoblack Aggro are full of X/1 creatures and neither deck has a way to Remove Circle of Flame. The card also stops a Rabblemaster cold. These decks can't even really play around it because their entire strategy involves attacking with creatures. Monoblack can eventually bestow a card onto one of their X/1s, effectively getting around the Circle of Flame, but by the time they can do that you likely have found an answer to the creature they bestow onto.
One card that Circle of Flame doesn't stop is Mardu Ascendancy. Your opponent will be able to attack and get goblins, but once the Circle of Flame trigger is on the stack they can sac the Ascendancy to stop the one damage. It's something that will only happen for a turn so if you are able to survive that attack, Circle of Flame should be able to shut them down until another Mardu Ascendancy hits the battlefield. This card does have some serious potential and is worthy of a sideboard slot in a deck that has a hard time against an aggressive strategy.
2. Stubborn Denial
On paper Stubborn Denial looks like a weak Force Spike, but throw this in a Temur deck and you have yourself a hard counter. Green decks are going to be playing gigantic creatures and Stubborn Denial is capable of countering the cards that scare you the most: Removal spells and Planeswalkers. Stubborn Denial can be active as early as turn three with something like Savage Knuckleblade and a mana creature. Once your opponent tries to kill the Knuckleblade, you just cast Stubborn Denial. This counter is so cheap that even if you cast it on your turn, you will still have mana available to improve your board. This was not always the case if you were playing Dissolve or Negate.
1. Disdainful Stroke
Disdainful Stroke is by far my favorite new sideboard card for Khans of Tarkir Standard. I love it in control sideboards because it cheaply counters everything you care about. Disdainful Stroke counters Planeswalkers and big creatures and it even stops all of the Delve cards, even if they are cast for less than four mana.
Disdainful Stroke is comparable to Negate because most of the cards you care about that have a converted mana cost of four or more are noncreature spells, but having the option to counter a creature as well makes this spell very versatile. In the past Standard format, we had Negate and Gainsay as out two mana options. Negate could counter a Counterspell, a Sphinx's Revelation, or an Elspeth, but couldn't counter AEtherling. Gainsay could counter a Counterspell, Sphinx's Revelation, or AEtherling, but not an Elspeth. Now we have Disdainful Stroke, which can't counter a counter, but can take care of Elspeth or any other big finisher.
Overall it's a tough call whether we can say that Disdainful Stroke is better than Negate, but overall I think that the decks where you want Disdainful Stroke also play creatures with CMC of four of more. Take green midrange for example. Disdainful Stroke can counter Chandra, Garruk, Elspeth, and Nissa, but it can also counter Polukranos and Siege Rhino. Overall I've been very impressed by this card and it will make the cut in my control sideboards.Wrap Up
This may be my second week in a row with no Standard decklist, but I will have plenty after Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. I hope that this list has given you some insight on the Standard format and maybe even given you a new perspective or deck idea. The next two weeks will be pretty hectic for me with Grand Prix Orlando this weekend, an early flight to Hawaii on Monday, and wrapping it up with the Pro Tour the weekend after that. It should be an exciting couple of weeks! Thanks for reading.
Melissa DeTora@MelissaDeTora on twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook