Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Khans of Tarkir - Junior Varsity

So close, yet so far.
The rotation of Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are fast approaching. It feels like it was only yesterday that I was complaining about the super strong cards in this set, and how dominant they were in standard. Oh, wait, it was, because they still are. KTK rotating is going to shake up the format a whole shitload, and we'll have a great chance to try some brand new decks.

So today I'm gonna talk about some cards. These cards are like that one kid in high school that had an older brother who was good at Cross Country, so he ran on the team, but he was kind of fat and wasn't very good at running. He ran all four years, only to stay on JV all the way until he was a senior, where the coach let him run one race with Varsity, even though he sucked in that race, just so that he could get his letter and not kill himself. Also, that kid was me.

This is not the body of a distance runner.

These are the near-misses of Khans of Tarkir - cards with lots of potential that were just over-shadowed by their superior brethren. All of these cards share some common traits:
  1. A good amount of hype surrounding them - not exactly the biggest cards of the set that kids were flippin' tables over, but people were excited.
  2. They had very powerful abilities/stats. or a combination of the two at a bargain mana cost.
  3. Horrifyingly depressing showings in their standard lifetime. Like really - what happened, guys?
Seriously, some of these cards look just broke as fuck, yet they still managed to do absolutely nothing while in rotation. We're going to look at the five biggest offenders in Khans of Tarkir, and make fun of them a bit along the way.

Fifth most disappointing card:

So big, so many good keywords, and such terrible colors.
Despite the name, he did very little Mauling. I'm not saying Sagu Mauler was never played, but I always thought it would be a much more impressive finisher. A 6/6 tromple with hexproof is not easy to deal with. It rumbles with the biggest of them, and only falls to boardwipes. It seems like this would be a wonderful finisher for some decks, so what gives? Can't I just jam it in any deck with Green and Blue and be smug?

Welp, the deck with Green and Blue might actually the problem. Blue/Green just wasn't the best throughout all of Khans standard. For a short while there was a Sultai deck using Whip of Erebos and Sidisi, but the Mauler didn't really fit in there. Then by the time Dragons of Tarkir rolled out, with the additions of Megamorph and Manifest, some U/G and Bant morph decks showed up, but never really rocked the Sagu. Most of the Pro Tour "Megamorph" decks were just G/W goodstuff that happened to include Den Protectors and Deathmist Raptors*. And as for Temur - well, we'll get to that in a second. But Mauler is still a good threat for 1v1 games at the kitchen table. Boardwipes in multiplayer might keep him back, but he's safe from single-target removal.

*Sidenote: Can people stop naming decks with names that don't make any fucking sense? For example, check out this Red Deck wins list from MTGtop8.com. Huh that sure looks like Naya to me, you fuckin' goober. Name your deck better, shitlord.

Fourth worst card to have speculated upon at prerelease:

The day a 4/4 for three with these abilities can't be played is... well, the standard of Siege Rhino.
Oh, Knucks. I love him so much. Easily one of my favorite cards from KTK, if not the entire block. Seriously, look at this swole beast machine. First of all, a 4/4 for three mana. Bruh, that's so arousing. During Theros, this asshole could be dropped on turn TWO with a lucky hand. That's some big game, but there were just stronger cards to aim for, like Courser and then Polukranos. Then after Theros was gone, with Elvish Mystic out of the picture, surely a 4/4 on turn three is stronger than any other play? Like look at his god damn abilities: R for haste, so if you drop him late, he's still a threat, 2U to bounce and save him from removal, 2G to cultivate mass and dunk on nerds. It's everything I've ever wanted.

But poor poor Temur. Abzan was sitting pretty with their Rhino and their ridiculous suite of removal. Sultai was good, with a solid Khan, good removal, and plenty of card advantage. And Temur got this:

Look at me I'm shitty
Temur Charm might have single handedly made Temur bad. Three mana fight is OK, but it requires a big monster of your own, and is vulnerable to instant speed removal. Mana leak costs 1U traditionally, and it feels gross paying GUR for it. The last mode is an OK finisher, but in a world of Polukranos and Rhinos, it is not very good. Meanwhile Abzan and Sultai are straight destroying things or getting mad card draw. Poor Knucks was formidable in his own right, but just didn't have the team to make it to the finals. Outside of Standard, he's a pretty big dude. I have him in every single one of my Temur decks (which honestly, is like way too many. I need to diversify.)

Third shit-ass card that you probably have 50 of sitting in your trade binder:

An unstoppable killing force. Unless they have literally any kill spell.

Zurgo seems pretty dank on first glance. Five is a lot to pay, sure, but in a fairly fast beatdown deck, that's right when you want to drop your big finisher. He attacks for a ton, can't die to chumps, and even grows if they have the fuckin' nerve to try it. He certainly is the strongest warrior, right?

Nah mang he's shit. 90% of the time you drop Zurgo, the following scenario occurs:

"Swing for 7?" Dan asks with a smirk, as he turns his Zurgo Helmsmasher sideways.

"Yeah sure, I block with this goblin token," Gaige responds in a level voice.

Dan chuckles a bit as Gaige removes his token from the game, and takes his sweet time grabbing a die to set on Zurgo as a counter. He only has two more creatures, Dan thinks to himself. Three turn clock, baby.

"Alright pass," he says with an air of cool confidence.

"Cool. Untap, Upkeep, Draw. I Lightning Strike Zurgo?" Gaige asks.

Dan gently weeps.

And that's if your lucky. Typically it was "I play Zurgo." "Oh ok, I Abzan Charm it." Womp womp. He's still a big dude though, and can slap a ton of face to surprise your opponents. Warrior is also a fun creature type to build decks around, and there was a ton of support for the tribe in Khans block.

Second stupidest thing that almost worked but was embarrassing every time you tried:

TWO gigantic monsters onto the battlefield?! This can't go wrong!
Mill 8, reveal 6 lands, an Elvish Mystic, and a Temur Charm. That's how my See the Unwrittens go.

But anyways, See the Unwritten just never had good enough targets. To get maximum payoff for this, you want something that costs more than six mana, and want to have ferocious online so that you can get two of them. Sure there were some good targets in Hornet Queen, Arbor Collosus, etc in Theros, and then Khans block gave us DLord Atarka, which was huge.  But building your deck to have a critical mass of these to make sure you hit, PLUS being sure you have a 4 power monster in play wasn't terribly easy, so it often wasn't worth the payoff.

And then  Wizards prints the most Brobdingnagian creature type that would be the totally broken with this: Eldrazi Titans. And the jabronies make their useful abilities on cast. What dicks! Guess you'll just throw this in an EDH deck with a ton of expensive things and hope. You'll probably have better luck with it than I will.

The absolute Queen of Too Good To Be True:

Yes, I would love to cast a Howl of the Horde into triple Dig Through Time and get an Elspeth all for free.
The possibilities for Narset are sexy as fuck. The number of baller spells that Khans and the surrounding block had as targets for this were crazy good. Free planeswalkers, free burn, free card draw, free removal. All of it sounds delicious, right? And Jeskai was even a pretty competitive color combination!

But she just hung out, swinging her stick-thing and doing jack shit. I believe the big problem with Narset wasn't just that she cost a lot, although yes, six is a buttton for a 3/2, even if she has first strike and hexproof. I think the problem is that the decks who would really want her just couldn't afford to pay this much for a creature that did nothing the turn it hit. Ideally you'd want this in some kind of burn/control deck, right?

But too much burn, and she is an extremely expensive spell that you probably won't be able to cast, and more burn/agro creatures would help you to just close out the game. Too much control, and there's a very real chance you exile just lands and counterspells with her, which hurts a lot. Walking a delicate balance in the middle means your deck isn't optimized, and you're shitty.

Oh well. At least out of all of these other cards, she got a super broken EDH deck formed around her. Turns out you can just make your deck tons of super bust-o spells, and have her just cast a bunch of 8+ cost spells for free every turn. Hooray!


Think some of these cards were actually good? Well you're wrong fuck you. JK. You're probably right, and we'd love to hear you tell us how wrong we are, so leave a comment or send us a message using the form off to the right!


  1. Well, it wasn't that bad when you can see the unwritten the bees knees.

  2. It's weird to think that two more mana to remove the CDC restriction and dig two deeper makes Company bad... I guess sorcery speed hurts it pretty bad, too.

    1. I think being sorcery is the biggest deal. Reflector Mages at instant speed is just bonkers.