Ah, Fall, Autumn, September. The smell of a a fresh new Magic the Gathering™ block is in the air. The spoilers are complete and the scramble to acquire and add new pieces to our Commander decks has begun. Welcome to my Top 10 Set Review of Khans of Tarkir. As always, I will only be reviewing NEW cards, not reprints, that are available in this large block wedge set. There is no denying however, that the best cards in the set are the five Allied Fetch Land reprints. This will dramatically drop the price of the Onslaught fetches so that the casual Commander player can now include them in his/her deck. For my full opinion on the reprint of fetches, please take a gander at my article entitled EDH Deck Tech – Impact of Fetch Land Reprints
As with my previous Top 10 set reviews, I will give my thoughts on which cards that I believe are the best Commander cards in Khans of Tarkir. For each card I will include a FOR ME… section to indicate how I would personally use the card in my existing or future decklists. By request of the readers, I have also cut the honorable mentions down to just four (4) cards.
Before we begin, and for reference, here is the list of my seventeen (17) EDH/Commander decks:
Wrexial, the Risen Deep
Uril, the Miststalker
Kaalia of the Vast
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Chainer, Dementia Master
Brago, King Eternal
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Tajic, Blade of the Legion
Lazav, Dimir Mastermind
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Muzzio, Visionary Architect
Jhoira of the Ghitu
*Grixis Specter Discard Tribal – Commander?
I will be adding the following cards that did NOT make the Top 10/Honorable mention list to a few of my decks. I think I may give Butcher of the Horde a try in Kaalia. Goblinslide and Hordeling Outburst will fit nicely into Purphoros and my Lazav deck will be building an Altar of the Brood into the Mill strategy.
I hope you enjoy the article. I welcome all feedback so please comment in the section below! Be sure to check back every once in a while for my other EDH articles and I am definitely looking forward to my Top 10 list for Commander 2014, due out in November!
Hardened Scales: If your Commander deck has a +1/+1 theme, then this card is an auto-include. As a one-drop, Hardened Scales provides too much value not to include. Ghave and Animar will dig this. Doubling Season, Avenger of Zendikar and Mikaeus, the Lunarch will reap the rewards of the Scales, as will most Ajani Planeswalkers and Hydras. There are also abilities that would flourish with the scales in play… Unleash, Dethrone, and Undying to name a few. Heck, there are so many cards that could benefit from an extra +1/+1 counter that I would recommend this article for further evaluation: Blog.MTGPrice – Hardened Scales. Great utility card!
Kheru Spellsnatcher: The Mighty Morphin’ Spellsnatcher is the creature version of Blue’s favorite spell-stealing counterspell, Spelljack. A lot of mana to hold up to morph this dude, but an epic moment when it happens.
Crackling Doom: If you look up you can see me hanging there… on the fence about Crackling Doom. Yep, this card seems really cool as it combines a Shock and a pseudo-Diabolic Edict effect for each opponent. It can also be tutored with Sunforger. I may playtest this in Kaalia and see what shakes.
See the Unwritten: So we all know how good Tooth and Nail is at busting a game wide open. Sometimes the sheer power of the entwine will end games. See the Unwritten is no Tooth and Nail, but with a little bit of luck or library manipulation, this could have a momentum shifting impact on the game state. Oh, and hello Worldly Tutor!
Enough of the “honorables”. You came here for a Top 10 List, so let’s get to it!
Top 10 Khans of Tarkir Cards for EDH Commander
#10 – Duneblast
One sided wrath effects are always good. Duneblast kinda fills this mold as it kills all creatures except for one. Although there are not a lot of Junk/Abzan commanders to choose from, I would assume that all of them would be running Duneblast. Casting this pre-combat phase and then swinging with Teneb, the Harvester to activate his ability seems fairly decent. In fact, out of the possible 5 commanders (Ghave, Karador, Doran, Teneb, Anafenza), I think Duneblast fits nicely into each and every one of them.
FOR ME… Since I have never played a White/Black/Green deck before I am kinda looking at this card from the outside looking in. However, with all of the graveyard recursion available in these colors along with 5 decent options to command such a deck I see no reason that
#9 – Villainous Wealth
Cards like Villainous Wealth are what create epic tales of Elder Dragon Highlander. It all boils down to what goodies lie waiting in the top cards of your opponent’s library? Throwing a high amount of mana into “X” would all but guarantee some game changing momentum into your favor. Heck, it is almost the equivalent of opening your buddies Christmas presents right in front of him. While he has to sit and watch.
The downside of Villainous Wealth is the extremely limited number of Commanders in the BUG or Sultai color combination . With that being said, I am sure Damia and Mimeoplasm players will be giving this card a go. In fact, five color good stuff or control may also want to try their hand at some villainous shenanigans. If this card was playable for more color combinations it would have definitely ranked higher on my list.
FOR ME… I do not have a Sultai EDH deck to try this card out and my Five Color Sliver deck has no room for it either. I will, however, clap in approval the first time I see it used at a kitchen table. Cool card.
Truth be told, I was all set to leave both of the Khans of Tarkir planeswalkers out of my Top 10 list. Sorin, Solemn Visitor can thank my friend Rudedog for altering my perception of Sorin’s abilities. Don’t get me wrong, I still find Sorin to be a bit boring and bland, but he does begin with 4 loyalty, can be played on turn 4 and has an ultimate that can be popped in just 3 turns. The +1 ability is great for a token deck to give all creatures +1/+0 and lifelink. The interesting part of this is the until your next turn phrase, meaning, that they retain the bonus on your opponents turn therefore providing enhanced lifelinking blockers. Sorin protects himself with his -2 by creating a 2/2 flying vampire token. This token is a vast improvement over Sorin, Lord of Innistrad who created non-flying vampires.
The ultimate creates a pool of havoc. By using the -6 ability, you get an emblem that reads: “At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, that player sacrifices a creature.” This could be crazy good against a majority of opponents, but could also backfire against your friends that have graveyard shenanigans. If you have buddies that play decks with Kokusho, the Evening Star or Dictate of Erebos then you may be receiving a “Thank You” card from them in the mail.
FOR ME… All-in-all, I still think Sorin warrants consideration in B/W or B/W/X builds. In fact, I may consider trying him in my Oloro deck sometime in the future. Of course, that $29.99 price tag needs to come down quite a bit before I even consider giving the Solemn Visitor a try.
#7 – Hooded Hydra
It is all about value in Commander and trotting onto the battlefield to the theme song “Valuetown” (in the style of Lipps Inc’s 1979 hit Funkytown) is Hooded Hydra. Board wipes, combat, destruction, and forced sacrifice are all ways that your green critters will find their way to the graveyard. This hydra sports an amount of +1/+1 counters (snake heads) equal to X () and can be a good beater in mid to late games. Where this creature shows its “value” is when it is sent 6 feet under. That is when the heads detach from the hydra body in the form of several 1/1 snakes equal to the amount of +1/+1 counters it had in its preexisting form.
When the Hooded Hydra dies, decks that use enter the battlefield effects will thoroughly enjoy the 1/1 reptiles. Several triggers from Cathars’ Crusade, Aura Shards and Purphoros, God of the Forge can turn the tide of an EDH match. Token decks are going to love this guy and there is also immediate synergy with Doubling Season and Hardened Scales. Finally, any deck that runs shenanigans that require sacrifice to pay for effects (Smokestack) will definitely be able to utilize the Hooded Hydra. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget Skullclamp and Ashnod’s Altar.
One more ability that I may have overlooked. The Hooded Hydra also has Morph. He can be put into play for colorless mana and then turned up for at anytime with five +1/+1 counters. This ability adds an interesting level of strategy and options to the multi-headed creature. I will be interested to see how it is exploited in commander decks.
FOR ME… Hooded Hydra will be getting a playtest in my son’s Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck. Being able to cast the Hydra, sacrifice it to Prossh, put a handful of 1/1 snake tokens onto the battlefield and then sacrifice them to Prosh too? Sounds like a great way to feed a this hungry dragon commander.
#6 – Surrak Dragonclaw
First off, this dude punches bears and that alone should give you a quick insight on how much the aggro Commander player is going to love this guy. He is a 6/6 beater for five mana. He cannot be countered. He has flash. When Surrak is in play he gives other creatures that player controls Trample AND they cannot be countered. For five mana! Even though Surrak Dragonclaw has blue in his color identity, this guy bleeds Green and Red. If you have ever played a Green/Red deck in the style of Timmy, I am sure there have been frustrating moments that your big bombs were countered or you overextended and watched your army face plant into the graveyard. The Temur Clan’s “Dragon Aspect” is that of Savagery. Surrak will lead an army of uncounterable, trampling savages to victory and protect them with counter magic and tide-turning spells like Cyclonic Rift.
Surrak Dragonclaw is also a premium choice to include as one of the 99 in decks like Animar, Soul of Elements and Maelstrom Wanderer where he can enhance creatures with trample and protect them from counterspells. At 5 mana and a buttload of abilities the Temur Khan will be a strong ally in all RUG Commander decks.
FOR ME… Surrak is the kind of commander that inspires me to build around. Pure aggro is still my favorite win condition and being able to play big Red and Green monsters and protect them with blue magic makes my inner-Timmy tingle. At the moment Surrak will be an idea in the back of my head as I am still finishing up two other decks. My trade binder is empty and my funds diminished, so maybe I’ll start with a budget version.
If Magic Commanders were cars, then it is time to trade in last year’s model (Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge) and pick up the new 2014 Akbahn Sedan, Narset, Enlightened Master. Although Jeleva and Narset’s abilities are slightly similar, Narset trumps the Grixis Vampire Wizard by triggering on attack instead of entering the battlefield. When declared as an attacker, the Enlightened Master exiles the top four cards of your library and allows you to cast them before end of turn without paying their mana cost.
How will the new Akbahn Kahn be abused and broken? The deck that I see being built is full of big fat sorceries that allow for extra turns and additional combat phases. As if Time Stretch and Relentless Assault aren’t painful enough, casting Reverberate and Twincast to copy these spells will make other players want gouge their eyes with a spoon as they watch this deck play out.
I won’t go into further detail, you get the picture. A well tuned Narset combo deck will make you wish that Nekusar was back at the table. For further insight on this combo machine I highly recommend this video: Commander Theory – Goldfishing Narset, Enlightened Master Commmander Deck
Honestly, I would be very interested in seeing a Narset deck that is not built around playing solitaire. If you have built a 75% deck or a “fun” version of Narset, I would love to take a look. Post a link to your deck in the comment section below!
FOR ME… I witnessed firsthand an organized mob of Island tappers trading for the intricate pieces of the Narset machine. Expect this commander to roll into your local game store… and there wont be just one!
#4 – Ugin’s Nexus
Sigh, the pain of extra turns in Commander/EDH is a long detailed history. For the player taking the extra turn it’s like a second day at the carnival that includes more cotton candy and kick ass rides. For the rest of the playgroup it’s time to check our phones, make a sandwich, mow the grass, write a book, or open the trade binders. Darn you blue guy! Worse yet, take a look at #5 on my list – Narset, Enlightened Master. She will be prevalent at local game stores soon. Be prepared and play Ugin’s Nexus! This artifact simply says “No” to any player wanting to take more than their fair share of turns in a Commander game.
In the world of Khans of Tarkir, Ugin’s Nexus can also grant access to the extra turn phenomenon to ALL players, no matter what colors they are playing. Possible ways of harnessing the extra turn ability from your own Nexus will include sacrifice effects such as Claws of Gix, Phyrexia’s Core or any type of destruction spell such as Reclamation Sage or Nevinyrral’s Disk.
Is there an infinite turn combo with Ugin’s Nexus?? Actually, yes. A three card combo CAN be pulled off by imprinting Ugin’s Nexus on a Prototype Portal and having a sac outlet available (such as Phyrexia’s Core). If you know of more shenanigans or combos including Ugin’s Nexus, I would love to hear them! Please comment in the section below.
FOR ME… A bad rash of “take an extra turn” is starting to form on my playgroup. The Nexus will be an immediate inclusion in my brand new Muzzio, Visionary Architect deck to thwart my friend’s attempts at taking extra turns. Of course, I have included the before mentioned Phyrexia’s Core and Prototype Portal in case I want to step out on the ledge of the extra turn epidemic.
#3 – End Hostilities
At first, End Hostilities may appear as “just another boardwipe” in a color that has several ways of mass destroying, tucking, and exiling creatures. A deeper analysis of this Khans 5 mana sorcery however, reveals an answer to a question that may have never been asked. Boardwipes may slow a deck down, but how do I stop the threat in its tracks? Several times we have seen Lightning Greaves, Sword of X and Y, a loaded Umezawe’s Jitte, or a stack of auras help juice up an attacker or voltron commander and simply apply beats to the whole table. A simple Day of Judgment has always been decent at stopping the aggression for a turn or two, but all too soon, the Voltron commander is back or another roided creature picks up a sword.
It is time to wipe the board of all creatures AND the Equipment and/or Auras attached to them. Put the Day of Judgment back into your trade binder and move up to the next level of destruction – End Hostilities. Of course, if you (like me) are the one that enjoys equipping your dudes with weapons and auras, this card is definitely not for us.
FOR ME… I play Uril, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Sigarda, and Tajic. All of whom enjoy the extra abilities and power that come along with auras and equipment. I cannot say I am overly excited about seeing this card wreck some of my favorite game plans, but I won’t have too many issues working around it. That being said, some of my white decks that do not rely on auras and equipment (Hanna, Oloro) may find themselves with a copy of End Hostilities to take down those that do!
#2 – Utter End
If Commander/EDH where a fashion show, the hot trend would have to be exile. Destroy is so last decade and all of the cool kids are exiling troublesome permanents now-a-days. Khans of Tarkir’s Utter End will exile any permanent on the board for , that’s really darn good! In the old days we had Vindicate. Vindicate is still awesome, but for one extra mana , the ability to exile rather than destroy, and to be able to cast at Instant Speed, I will take Utter End any day of the week. The only drawback of this powerful piece of spot removal is that it is Black AND White therefore limiting the number of decks it can be legally played in.
FOR ME… My Kaalia deck has underwent quite a change and now sports an increased focus on spells that can be cast with Sunforger. Utter End will find its way into my Kaalia deck to work with Sunforger and will also find its way into my Oloro Combo Deck as a piece of removal. If you have a Black/White deck, then Utter End is a must-have!
#1 – Clever Impersonator
If there is one card that is consistent among Top 10 Khans lists for EDH/Commander across the wires of the internet, it has to be Clever Impersonator residing in the #1 spot. Holy lord of the Clones. This card is dripping with more mouth wattering goodness than biscuits and gravy on a hungover Sunday morning. There is not a lot to discuss about the Clever Impersonator. When he comes into play, copy any permanent on the board. Any. Shroud, Hexproof? Doesn’t matter. The sky is the limit and the possibilities of permanents it can copy are endless. Need mana ramp? Copy a Gilded Lotus. Need card advantage? Copy Consecrated Sphinx. Want to manipulate your library? Copy Sylvan Library. Want an Eldrazi? Copy Kozilek, Butcher of Truth? Praetors got you down? Copy Sheoldred, Vorinclex, or Elesh Norn. Really digging that Garruk, Apex Predator? Copy him and then destroy their Garruk!
Clever Impersonator is arguably the best clone in the format. If you play blue, get this guy in your deck. The Impersonator is currently $9 on TCGPlayer.com (Low) and $12 on StarCityGames.com. Although the price may come down a little bit while Khans is in Standard, look for this guy to be a nice investment in the long term. I am okay with spending the $9 a piece on this card. If you can get your hands on a few foils? That is even more delicious.
FOR ME… Clone and copy effects have always been one of my favorite mechanics in Magic. Dating all the way back to the 1990s when I ran the original Clone. Thank you Wizards, thank you! The Impersonator will find an immediate home in my revised Wrexial the Risen Deep Copy/Steel Deck. I will also be sliding a copy (pun intended) of the Impersonator into my Brago, King Eternal Flicker deck for Blink/Flicker shenanigans. I will also be trying to get a copy for Hannah, Lazav, and just about every other blue deck I have. Oober goodness.
So there you have it folks, my Top 10 Khans of Tarkir Cards for EDH/Commander. What do you agree with? What didn’t you like? Please comment in the section below!
On to the next!