PV’s Playhouse – Khans of Tarkir First Impressions


In today’s article I’m going to analyze some of the cards from Khans of Tarkir that I think are particularly interesting and pinpoint their place in future Standard.

First, let me talk a bit about the new mechanics:

Outlast looks like a Limited mechanic to me; you don’t want to invest mana into an overcosted creature that needs more mana to have a relevant effect, especially when you can only use it as a sorcery and it has to stop attacking for the turn. I understand it works well with the +1/+1 counters theme from Abzan, but even still I have a hard time imagining one of those cards is going to be good. For evidence, look at Chronomaton, which is cheaper, colorless, and instant-speed, and still completely unplayable.

Raid is interesting and seems reasonably easy to trigger in most decks that want the effect, which means you can almost just consider the card with its raid status. You don’t care if it’s bad without it because you’ll have it most of the time. You just need to compare it to bloodthirst, which was already easy to trigger—this is likely easier, since you can now use it even if your creature was blocked (in lieu of not being able to use it with direct damage spells).

Ferocious is a bit weird and hard to evaluate. I suspect the playability of a ferocious card, unlike one with raid, will hinge heavily on its power if you cannot activate ferocious. If there is a good card that becomes better if you have a 4-power guy, then it’ll probably see play. If it’s a bad card that becomes great with ferocious, it likely won’t.

Prowess is an ability I don’t fully understand. It just seems so… bad! How often am I going to be casting spells, and how often am I going to have the +1/+1 matter? It just seems very much like an ability that should be put on one creature, and I see no point in having it in several. It gets even worse because, the more creatures with prowess you have, the less spells you have access to, which makes them all worse. And, on top of that, it looks very silly on a giant monster. I doubt this will be a relevant Constructed ability unless they print a very cheap double-striker or something with “double prowess.”

Delve is my favorite of the keywords and I’m glad it’s back. I really like the resource management factor that delve brings, especially if you have multiple of them so that removing a card has a real cost. I also like that it changes people’s decisions regarding blocking, spending removal spells, etc. How good delve is going to be is going to depend highly on the card, as well as a deck’s ability to fill its graveyard, so it’s very hard to say something about it, but I like the ability.

As for morph, well… 2/2 for 3 is not remotely playable, so the card likely has to either have good original stats and an “incidental morph that you might use,” or be really good. They seem to have shifted to utility morphs more than power morphs (such as Exalted Angel), which I like.


I think the new (old?) fetchlands are a great thing for Modern, and I’m glad they were reprinted because of that format. As Standard cards, though, I have to say I don’t think they fit the theme of the block very well. Playing fetchlands requires you to play a lot of basics, which is definitely not what you want to do if you’re playing a full three-colored deck. Of course we’ll still play them, because they’re the best we have, but dual lands would have been a lot better in this particular format. They do work with delve, though, so there’s that.

End Hostilities

The Block format was interesting, but was severely lacking a sweeper. Now we have one, but it costs five. More importantly, though, it can be countered. We’ve lived in a format with Supreme Verdict for so long that we’ve forgotten what it is to be able to counter a sweeper, but a sweeper is actually the most important card to counter for any aggressive deck. With Supreme Verdict gone, I have hopes for a new aggro-control deck to emerge, especially since by costing five it means you can establish a better board before you need to keep mana up for counterspells.

From a competitive player’s standpoint, I guess I like that this destroys bestow, since I am usually on the receiving end of bestow beats, but I dislike that it kind of ruins the whole point of playing bestow cards to begin with—the principle behind it is that I’m going to play something that is not going to leave me vulnerable to 2-for-1s, yet they keep printing cards like End Hostilities and Silence the Believers. If they wanted enchantments to die when the creature died, why not just print normal enchantments? Why not just not turn them into a creature?

Wingmate Roc

This is a mini-Broodmate Dragon if you can trigger raid, which I think is a very powerful effect. I would trade 2 points of power here for one mana for sure, and this even has a relevant ability to boot. The only issue is that the decks that are the most interested in a five-mana guy are the ones that are less likely to be attacking, so I don’t know if this will find a home, but if it does it’ll be a pretty good card.

Clever Impersonator

I don’t think this card is good enough to just jam in a normal deck, but, as far as clone variants, it’s definitely up there. It’s likely better than Metamorph in Pod decks (though not necessarily, since it’s almost uncastable), so it’s probably going to see play there if nowhere else. I would expect it to not see much play in Constructed, though I’m sure people are going to try.

Adamant Negation

I think this card is not good in Standard. There are very few cases where you’d want a Force Spike for spells, and I’d rather just have a Negate the great majority of the time, because the spells worth countering cost a lot of mana anyway.

To me, this card basically reads: “Counter target noncreature spell unless they pay 1. If you control Tarmogoyf, Batterskull or Tombstalker, counter it instead.” It could see play in Legacy, where you actually do want a Force Spike for spells sometimes, but my inclination is that Spell Pierce is better.

Bloodstained Brave

Creature – Human Warrior

Bloodstained Brave can’t block.

Raid — 1B: Return Bloodstained Brave from your graveyard to the battlefield. Activate this ability only if you attacked with a creature this turn.


This card is awesome and will definitely be a staple in any black aggro deck in Standard. I think it’s probably the best aggressive black one-drop we’ve ever seen (yeah I know this is a bunch of restrictions, but it’s still a great card).

Empty the Pits

I think this card is very interesting, but will not see much play. I think that BBBB is actually hard to get when you want to reliably hit three colors, even if you have access to Urborg, and the fact that they come into play tapped makes it a very bad defensive move. Perhaps it’s a decent sideboard one- or two-of for long matchups, but there are probably better options available.

Murderous Cut

I love this card. It’s so simple, yet so efficient; reminds me of Ghastly Demise. I think this hits the nail perfectly regarding what you want a delving card to be—you want a card that costs less in the late stages of the game. In the early game, you don’t need this to cost one—you don’t want to kill something very small with it. In the late game, however, when you do find a target, then this will be cheap, and you can play that plus another spell in the same turn. This does compete with Hero’s Downfall in Standard, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it won that competition in certain decks, and I think this might see play in more powered formats.

Jeering Instigator

This is my kind of 2-drop. One that you can play on turn two but also one that is not a dead topdeck early on. I wish this were a 2/2, since that’s so much better than 2/1, but it could still see play because Threaten is exactly the kind of ability that doesn’t always work but when it works it wins you the game, so it’s a great thing to have incidentally be put on a card.

Horde Ambusher

This is similar to Jeering Instigator, but more average; you get a better two-drop and a much easier morph for a smaller effect. I think it’s better than Goblin Shortcutter, since you can play it before you want to use the ability, whereas with Shortcutter you have to waste a lot of its power if you want to add some damage to the board in a turn where they have no guys (or weren’t planning on blocking anyway). There is, however, a big competition for red two-drops in this set. War-Name Aspirant is the best, but I’m not sure which of the other two is better, if any.

War-Name Aspirant

3/2 for 2 with a relevant ability? Sign me up! If you can have enough one casting cost creatures, this should be a staple in every aggressive red deck.

Rattleclaw Mystic

This card is interesting. A 2/1 for 2 that adds a couple of mana colors is on the brink of playability, and the morph thing means you can go from 3 mana to 6. This card will likely see play in RUG ramp variants.

Abzan Ascendancy

I’m a big fan. As a Glorious Anthem, it’s worse (though not strictly worse, since they can kill it and you still keep the counters), but the second ability is almost a card in itself (in fact, it used to be a card—cost 2WW). I like the fact that they combo very well with each other, since the second one will pump the tokens made by the first one, and it’s a way for you to increase your board position without committing more to a sweeper. I expect this card to see play in a “normal” deck, and there is definitely a chance it spawns an Aristocrats kind of deck where you abuse the ability with sacrifice effects.

Butcher of the Horde

This guy is pretty powerful. 5/4 for 4 is not what it used to be, but the effects are powerful if you have guys lying around that don’t mind being sacrificed. It does share two colors with Abzan Ascendancy, so perhaps this is your sac outlet!

Icefeather Aven

I like this card a lot. I have very fond memories of playing Gaea’s Skyfolk, which was just a UG flier for 2, and this guy is obviously miles better. We do live in a very different world, one where 2/2s fliers for 2 aren’t exactly good, and it’s very much at odds with what Temur is trying to do (which is play big guys), so I don’t think this will see play, but I’m glad it exists and it’s certainly a great Limited card.

Jeskai Ascendancy

Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn. Untap those creatures.

Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, you may draw a card. If you do, discard a card.


What a random assortment of abilities. I get it that your creatures get +1/+1, but why exactly do they untap? This would probably have been nicer if it just granted your guys “prowess.” Again, the issue with the Jeskai clan is that it wants you to have more creatures but it rewards you for casting spells, so which ones do you put in your deck? 18 of each and hope it works out?

The second part of this card, however, I like. I’m not sure there is a place for it—probably not—but the effect is very interesting and could be pretty powerful if you have some useless cards lying around.

Mardu Ascendancy

I’m also a fan of this one. Putting tokens into play when you attack is even better than putting them into play when your guys die, and it’s sort of a cumulative Glorious Anthem. The second effect is not as good, but still saves your guys from most red removal and could actually be relevant in combat. Also, just going to throw it out there that t1 Birds of Paradise, t2 Doran, the Siege Tower, t3 Mardu Ascendancy is 20 damage.


Interesting, but I think I’ll pass. There could conceivably be a deck that is interested in both those effects, but I can’t imagine what it is right now.

Rakshasa Deathdealer

Simple but elegant, I like it. It’s probably not better than Putrid Leech as a card, but Putrid Leech was very good, and the fact that you can both regenerate it and pump it as many times as you want makes it a very viable kill condition. When a card that costs two mana is good both early and late, I’m a fan.

Savage Knuckleblade

All the “new Woolly Thoctars” are pretty good, but I’m singling this out here because I think he’s the best. The ability to give it haste for one more mana really pushes it over the top and makes it especially adept at killing planeswalkers. This is almost a Morphling, except it’s a three-mana 4/4 instead of being a five-mana 3/3. As you know, I’m a fan of cards that are good both early and late, and this is one of those cards.

Sultai Ascendancy


Temur Ascendancy

Another Invasion-block flashback, this time from Fires of Yavimaya. This card is better than Fires, especially since we live in a world of under-costed beaters. I like that it keeps fueling itself so you never run out of gas, too. I would be shocked if this card did not see play.

Well, that’s what I have for today. I think the set is very interesting, and I can’t wait to see the rest of it. The cards are certainly powerful and will make an impact in Standard—one it surely needed—and now all that remains is seeing how easy it’ll be to actually cast your spells, because, though the wedges are limited to three colors, we certainly aren’t!

See you next week,


2 thoughts on “PV’s Playhouse – <i>Khans of Tarkir</i> First Impressions”

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