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My Top 40 Khans of Tarkir Cards (Part 1/2)

40 cards was hard to cut down to for a set of this size and function. The set is large at 254 - that's only like 15% of the total. We have had a focus on a multicolored theme the last few sets but not with three colors. A wedge set sounds like a package of door stoppers or some fancy salad. Probably the greatest thing that went down was the reprint of the fetch lands. But there is much to be found here beyond expensive lands.

I shall start this discussion by handing out some awards.
The award for:

Worst Counterspell Award -
Trap Essence
 photo TrapEssence_zpsc6f8add1.jpg
Curious but well designed card. Three specific colors of mana for a counterspell starts it lower than Cancel. Only targets creatures - well that makes it that much worse. But I do think the second part of this card - the Bolster like ability - Jund Charm/Dragonscale Boon is enough to make it a playable card. It at least fits the Temur clan quite well.

Silver Trophy: Stubborn Denial
 photo Stubborn Denial.jpg_zpsagwg4hrv.png
In many cases it's very limiting. But if it's common to have Ferocious, your opponent won't see this coming.

Best Morphling/AEtherling attempt Award -
Pearl Lake Ancient
 photo PearlLakeAncient_zps13cf9ec6.jpg
It always hurts when a big creature doesn't have trample. It's a pretty big casting cost for something that can be routinely chump blocked. But this guy thankfully has enough abilities to make up for those two drawbacks. Flash is probably the best thing about it followed by the ability to bounce it.
In a 1 vs 1 game this isn't going to happen too often, but it is likely the scariest thing on the board. Prowess isn't exactly a throwaway ability either. Add everything together and you have an effective Blue meanie even if it seems under-powered for a mythic.

Best Non-Fetch Land Land Award -
Frontier Bivouac
 photo Frontier Bivouac.jpg_zpsa3bjle7c.png
I'm sure they have printed 3 color lands before, but I don't feel like double checking that fact. 2 mana tap lands aren't considered playable without an ability. The scry lands, life lands and pain lands are all play worthy and necessary for this set to function. These seem to make the cut as well in 3+ color decks. Falling a turn behind isn't always the greatest, but for permanent mana fixing, it's hard to do much better.

Best Mahamoti Djinn attempt Award -
Thousand Winds
 photo ThousandWinds_zps6eccb3cc.jpg
This dude used to be one of my favorite creatures. The artwork was sweet and it was such good value even for 6 mana. Now we have some more decent artwork(Mahamoti is still better) on a card with a fairly powerful ability. This can do anything from clearing some chump blockers to flat out winning the game. Not quite Aetherspouts, but can be equally devastating.

Worst Grizzly Bear Award -
Master of Pearls
 photo Master of Pearls.jpg_zps8hucluy0.png
It's low value should be enough in most limited scenarios. It's high value is something like a Soul of Theros. I've played it quite a bit, but it's never quite as good as it seems. You might catch someone for a card and some extra life, which is good of course, but not over the top powerful.

Worst card that I like Award -
 photo Scaldkin.jpg_zps1mtbhw5j.png
I wanted to like this card so much. In reality it's the Admiral Ozzel of the Izzet realm. It's failed me for the last time. Bumbling as it is stupid. 4 blue mana typically gets you a 3/3 flier, or 3 mana for a 2/2. If it had that ratio it would be downright decent for a common. The 3 mana is just too much to hold open in most cases to truly be effective.

Worst Casting Cost Award -
Empty the Pits
 photo EmptythePits_zpsf53ff2cc.jpg
Delve makes casting costs much sillier than they might otherwise be. This casting cost is ludicrous. Imagine the dream - casting this to get 20 Zombies. Then poof watch them all blow up to Pyroclasm. Sweet art and flavor.

Silver Trophy:
 photo Necropolis Fiend.jpg_zpsaaef8b2n.png
9 mana for a 4/5 flier isn't exactly the next Drana, Bloodchief. Of course with a packed graveyard, it's almost as scary.

Worst Izzet Card Award (hint: they are all the worst)-
 photo Mindswipe.jpg_zpswy4rjgiv.png
I'm going to go on record and say I dislike the Izzet colors. Most cards are underpowered or over-costed. Literally everything is a combination of damage, control and card draw. This card has it's uses. If it could target a creature it would be much better. It's hard to keep that much mana open constantly for the second part to be worth much. It is essentially holding an expensive Power Sink.

Silver Trophy:
Master of the Way
 photo Master the Way.jpg_zpsqdszk4bz.png
Five mana and a sorcery to hit something for 6 and cycle itself? Sure? Five mana to hit something for 3 or 2, not really what dreams are made of.

Up Next:
Honorable Mentions:

Trail of Mystery
 photo TrailofMystery_zpsad6c3866.jpg
This card is fantastic under the right banner. Searching for a couple lands is a nice benefit and pumping your un-morphed creatures is great value for a two mana enchantment. It doesn't win you the game and you probably don't want too many but it's good value in the right deck.

Sage of the Inward Eye
 photo SageoftheInwardEye_zps89d0645e.jpg
Four mana for a 3/3 flier is on par for what a solid card is. Phantom Monster and Roc of Kher Ridges were the first. So for one more mana, you receive an extra point of toughness and the prowess off chance that all your creatures gain lifelink. If it wasn't evasive, it wouldn't make the cut. But repeatable life gain creates many problems in a one on one race.

Hardened Scales
 photo HardenedScales_zps7738524e.jpg
Limited in a general environment. But so is that beautiful Doubling Season. Outlast becomes really nice. Evolve becomes super nice. And Ajani becomes crazy nice.

The Final Countdown: (dananana)

40. Monastery Swiftspear
 photo Monastery Swiftspear.jpg_zpstj5ob4bp.png
There are claims he is better than Goblin Guide. Even if that isn't true, being in the discussion earns him praise. Maybe in Legacy it's really awesome but that's kind of an afterthought.

39. Duneblast
 photo Duneblast_zpsc48f546a.jpg
Seven mana is pricey for a board wipe. There are many board wipe cards with that casting cost with other great abilities that might not see the light of my eye typically. It is quite similar to the new Necromantic Selection or maybe Violent Ultimatum. I don't care, I will always play this in an Abzan deck.

38. Villainous Wealth
 photo VillainousWealth_zpsad147284.jpg
I don't know where exactly I stand on this currently. I love it in theory. In practice I'm not so sure. 4 to dig through 1 card isn't good. 6 mana to dig through 3 cards is okay, but you may get very little even for that investment. Lots of mana equals a fantastic card.

37. Bloodsoaked Champion
 photo BloodsoakedChampion_zps1d1bbabe.jpg
Not being able to block knocks it down from being pretty neat to being more of a niche card. It triggers Raid without any fear. Unfortunately to get the Warrior back again you do have to Raid with fear. Black doesn't get 2/1s for 1 often, but it's ability does make up for it's drawback.

36. Murderous Cut
 photo MurderousCut_zps416be9a6.jpg
I want to like this straight up more than Murder or Doomblade. But I'm not so sure that is the case. Sure in this set, you take what you can. If you will have many Delve targets, buy all means this card is an Allstar. But it isn't in the same conversation as Hero's Downfall or even Reality Shift/Radiant Purge.

35. Kheru Lich Lord
 photo KheruLichLord_zps240dd867.jpg
More cards I'm torn on. 6 mana for a 4/4 is barely worth the time - and it will likely be completely outclassed by the time you cast it. However it's got an ability which reminds me of some of the newer elder dragons - Teneb, the Harvester for example. You definitely need a large graveyard full of fatties which isn't always the easiest thing to set up. Paying 3 for this ability is okay but it's a large investment to get back a piddly Bloodfire Mentor. On the other hand if you can get a Bear's Companion or something, it's killer sweet.

34. Ivorytusk Fortress
 photo IvorytuskFortress_zps948a7dce.jpg
This thing is a house, literally. There is only one card in the last 3 sets that can straight up punch through this thing(Zurgo). If it weren't in the right colors or were merely a 5/7 for 5 mana it probably wouldn't have made the cut. Giving Vigilance to all your creatures is nice, not just that. It allows you to Outlast without worry of blocking being an issue. It just works really well with what Abzan does.

33. Kheru Spellsnatcher
 photo Kheru Spellsnatcher.jpg_zpsbf5rnkdd.png
A rare blue Hill Giant wouldn't be worth the cardboard it's printed on. Morph helps turn this into a game changer. The issue of course is holding onto 6 mana while your opponent plays smaller cards and smashes you to death with them. I used this on Duneblast to win a game once. That should be the goal, but it really is more of a niche card.

32. Avalanche Tusker
 photo AvalancheTusker_zpsd978248c.jpg
I love this tusker at first glance. But the more I look at him, the less I think he is a game changer. Five mana is really one too many for this to be a great card. Four toughness is low for something that has to be blocked. You might get a profit on this card, but no Haste or Trample means it can be answered relatively quickly without a great amount of work.

31. Rakshasa Deathdealer
 photo Rakshasa Deathdealer.jpg_zpsqszlwmhl.png
A grizzly bear start is average. Adding regenerating? Pretty decent, but not much more than Drudge Skeleton. Two mana to pump it +2/+2 is pretty important then. Now we have a regening Nantuko Shade. Might be worth too much mana to be excellent, but it's also a finisher so it has to be taken seriously which equals card advantage.

30. Herald of Anafenza
 photo Herald of Anafenza.jpg_zps0gand1dt.png
I'm not a huge fan of Outlast as a competitive mechanic. Losing your creature and some mana for a turn to simply give it a counter is only going to work in slower games. A decent aggro deck will tear you apart before Ainok Bond-Kin can become an issue. The Herald is different. It creates baby warriors while getting larger. This can be huge, especially against the aforementioned aggro decks. It's basically a Chronomaton with more upside.

29. Rattleclaw Mystic
 photo Rattleclaw Mystic.jpg_zpsvlksjba5.png
I was impressed at first, then came down on it, but now I'm back up on the Mystic wagon. This is for the mere reason of ramping. You ramp from 3 to 6 mana on turn 4. If that isn't a terrifying thought than you haven't played long enough.

28. Grim Haruspex
 photo GrimHaruspex_zps5988a080.jpg
One of my personal favorite cards in this set. I know it won't any games single-handedly for you, but neither will Underworld Connections. It turns most of your opponents removal into a 2-1 or turns this dark wizard into a Spellskite essentially(as it must die). Both are good results for your three mana. And you can draw a card in a surprise morph. Black also gets more draw power in this set with Bitter Revelation. The cheap morph cost is a boon.

27. Sagu Mauler
 photo SaguMauler_zps0d519f0a.jpg
It's quite beastly, no pun intended(what's a pun?). A 6/6 for 6 wouldn't exactly be playable without grand abilities. Trample? Now we have a borderline playable probably top of the curve fattie. Hexproof is nice and insures it won't die to common removal. It still might just be above average if it weren't for that morph ability in combination of Hexproof. This allows you to more than often survive combat once and probably take out at least one card creating some nice card advantage.

26. Charms
The first cycle of these were horrendous:
 photo Ivory Charm_zps2jqfkhha.jpg

Then they were too good:
Bant Charm and Esper Charm
 photo Bant Charm_zps4qljqzhv.jpg photo Esper Charm_zps1w7zhcj8.jpg

I love all the charms in this set. The charms used to be so bad(I want to burn all my Ivory Charms) - Misery Charm for example might be the worst one printed. These cost three colors, but are three times as helpful in most cases. I don't think they are as good as the Return to Ravinca charms - due to the cost restriction - we all know Boros Charm, Izzet Charm and Golgari Charm have great abilities.

Abzan Charm
 photo AbzanCharm_zps472f623a.jpg
My favorite charm. Exiling a creature for three mana will always be value. I don't care about the power restriction. Draw power? Yes, please. Not the greatest draw spell, but will give you an Instant Divination in a pinch. Two counters seems like the weakest ability of the three but as a combat trick it can give you value.

Sultai Charm
 photo SultaiCharm_zps872c964c.jpg
A little trickier this one, but my second favorite. Naturalize is always sideboard only in competitive draft. The limit for monocolored is worse than the drawback on Abzan Charm. Discarding a card is a very Sultai thing - which wouldn't work for other clans(that flavor thing again).

Temur Charm
 photo TemurCharm_zps37efc7ad.jpg
Pit-fighting is usually solid for two mana. Mana Leak is usually solid for two mana. And uh, that Hero of Oxid Ridge like ability would be solid for two mana. Put them all together and it's a nice card. This set is very flavorful and I'm impressed how well it goes together(a la Theros, Scars), quite unlike Gatecrash/Dragon's Maze.

Mardu Charm
 photo MarduCharm_zpse9d7fba8.jpg
We start out with a Flameslash which is decent as an instant. Then a Raise the Alarm with the addition of First Strike. Finally a Duress which is also a one mana Sorcery. These aren't bad abilities, just over-costed for Mardu is trying to do.

Jeskai Charm
 photo JeskaiCharm_zps0c2ee867.jpg
This Jeskai one is more of a finisher - direct damage doesn't help too much. Creature pump and lifelink is good in a pinch. It's quite similar to Azorius Charm actually. The Griptide ability is probably the most helpful as it denies a draw step.

25. Ankle Shanker
 photo AnkleShanker_zps4a17f218.jpg
I've fallen quite a bit on Ankle Shanker since I first saw this card. Haste is definitely important, especially if you can only get one attack in. It's a very powerful affect and even gives himself the ability as well. It works well with tokens and is a goblin. Also requires at least 3 creatures to block it successfully. Issue is that it is not scary alone. Top decking it after your army is gone is not good for a 5 drop.

24. Savage Knuckleblade
 photo SavageKnuckleblade_zpsa51aeb8a.jpg
The P/T per mana cost is a great start, I don't care if it's three colors in this set. Haste and bounciness ensure that it won't die easily and will keep coming back for more. I wish the Green or Blue abilities weren't as pricey or under-powered (in the green one's case, I would prefer Trample or no limit). Strong balanced and a warrior but not everything I am looking for though.

23. Zurgo Helmsmasher
 photo ZurgoHelmsmasher_zps0aba01e3.jpg
This thing is a beast and probably a fine commander(after writing this I was inspired to make him). Un-killable on your turn makes up for the fact that it won't be able to ever block. Haste is a good surprise to a weak board state. It's also got the Sengir Vampire ability which makes it even scarier. Works well with re-animator spells and perfect for Raid or Battalion triggers.

22. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
 photo Sidisi Brood Tyrant.jpg_zpsofobtkca.png
Many people like it both from competitive and casual aspects. It's not under-costed from a P/T alone. You must be playing many creatures to do work. This makes it much better in constructed then it would necessarily be in a draft. Milling yourself three in blue/black seems to be positive in this block.

21. Surrak Dragonclaw
 photo Surrak Dragonclaw.jpg_zpshm8qcyq1.png
I have dreams about how awesome this guy is. Undercurved as a mythic should be. Flash and Uncounterable are solid. Almost like a Split Second Blocker. Spirtual Successor to Spellbreaker Behemoth. Legendary which can be good or bad but being a Warrior grants him all those fun privileges. Granting trample to all other creatures is also quite Nylea of him.

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40. Gnat Miser

Since it doesn't really affect the battlefield, it's hard to rank it higher. But it has a great little ability on turn one(especially on the play) and it works well in multiples. 

39. Skyshroud Elite

It's an elvish Kird Ape! It doesn't have the pesky Mountain requirement and any decent deck is going to have a non basic land. If by rare chance your opponent is on the draw and waits to play their special lands, you are left with a pitiful 1/1. And it's ceiling is just a 2/3 so it's good, but not great.

38. Sakura-Tribe Scout/Skyshroud Ranger

I think doing it as an instant and then casting something large with flash would work, so the Scout might be strictly better than the ranger. Early game these things do work. Late game they do virtually nothing. 

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