Ten Khans of Tarkir Cards to Watch Out For

Published: October 27, 2014

These ten cards have either made a splash in the competitive scene or simply have so much flavor that they can't be overlooked. All of them are worth considering when building any deck

  1. Mantis Rider

    Blue, Red, White... Flying, Vigilance, Haste... It just captures the very essence of what multicolored design is about in such a streamlined package. With a 3/3 body to boot!

    When it comes to design, the team at WotC often talk about the challenges of representing each color fairly on multicolored (particularly gold) cards. No other card does this as precisely as Mantis Rider.

  2. Clever Impersonator

    Simply put, this is the best clone that Magic: the Gathering has seen to date. You can argue if you want. But, the fact of the matter is, this is a clone that can enter the battlefield as any nonland permanent. That's a bird that's worth two in the bush. 

    Aside from the sheer versatility, there are some nasty combos with this card waiting to be realized. One such possibility is a combo with Pearl Lake Ancient. This card would be a 6/7 prowess creature with the ability to recall three lands to save him. Now, the ancient costs 7 and this card costs four. That means you can save one for defending and attack recklessly with the clone until disaster strikes. Then, you recall three lands and the clone. On your next turn, with only four mana, you play the Impersonator again and, if you feel like it, swing with your OTHER 6/7 creature. It's a great way to give jeskai some mid-late beatdown potential. And that's just a single combo thought of as I write this.

  3. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

    Well, it IS his homeworld after all. Let's tae a look at what this guy does...

    First off, he is the only dragon in the entire set, his +1 making him nothing short of an insane aggressor, much in line with the mardu philosophy from which he descends. Plus, he will trigger your Ferocious abilities if you do this before playing those cards

    For -3, he can deal that four damage to a specific creature. 4 is the critical number in this set. He will kill ferocious triggers and really, all but the most powerful creatures. For a quick spot removal, this ability is great. It can be used in a strict control deck but, since this ability is the only true control, he is more likely to clear the board of that one pesky blocker in an aggro assault.

    His ultimate emblem is pretty damn powerful if you're running an aggressive strategy which requires you to play your hand on the board and let tempo take over. Mardu and Jeskai have both seen lucky with this emblem and I imagine plenty of Temur builds would benefit as well. If you're running anything that relies on out-pacing your opponent, Sarkhan is the Dragon Man with the plan.

  4. Wingmate Roc

    Although five might seem a bit pricy for a 3/4 flier, this card fits perfectly into the mardu mechanic Raid. With the amount of mana fixing in this set, even his double white casting cost is actually very easy to splash.

    If you are running mardu specifically, his trigger should happen every time. You can even swing with a chumpy little goblin and that sacrifice will lead to two 3/4 fliers on the board. 

    The beauty here is that it can run in any of the common deck archetypes (aggro, midrange, control) as each has an outlet for making attacks that are not beneficial based on the board state, but rather based on the player's hand. The beauty of the raid mechanic on this card is that it's not situational. It's always beneficial to chump out a 2/2 vanilla or some other simple sacrificial fodder to net two 3/4 fliers. 

    The bottom line, this card is good.

  5. Crater's Claw

    I love when the artwork of Magic: the Gathering shows the scale of an event so clearly. Look at that guy down there. Even if he a shorty at only five-foot-nothing, that burst of lava is still twenty feet high. Combined with the fact that it's acting with some kind of control, this is just total flavor. Those three claws also solidify its position in the Temur clan and I understand now why they revere the dragon's claws and ferocity.

    From a mechanical standpoint, it's a standard fireball. I think fireball is one of the most well-designed and simple cards. It has turned many a game for the lucky burner. There have been decks that ramp into monster fireballs and decks that simply use it as a pinch burn to stop monster creatures. In standard, the added perk of ferocious means your creature who wasn't QUITE big enough to break their board in a mirror-ed matchup is now fueling you with a little bit more umph. The highest P/T combo in this set is 13, held by the two 6/7 creatures. That means your 5/4, or even your 6/7 who simply couldn't trade because of the neutralization of your opponent's 6/7, is now fueling you with an extra boost to crush the thing holding you back from victory. 

  6. Deflecting Palm

    Can we all take a pause for a moment and marvel at how brutal this is? "Deflecting" is actually in-apt for this card, as she is clearly shattering the man's hand with the force of his own punch. Look at Narset; she isn't even phased! This is just the enlightened master going about her day being untouchable and radically awesome.

    Mechanically, this is the counter to the above Fireball. Oh no, you burned me out! Oh wait, for two mana, I've reversed it and burned you out! This card gives the current aggro strategies a way to fight back against the stronger late-game decks and merits at least a spot in the sideboard, if not main deck.  There's also a lot of potential for modern shenanigans, but I digress...

  7. Icy Blast

    Remember the Titans? Frost titan was my favorite for a long time because of his ability to tap multiple creatures. The cost of tapping those creatures with this card is a mere one mana. And it can be any color at that! This is an ideal splash to help you beat through to the end or counter an attack.

    With the Ferocious trigger, those creatures have been effectively detained with the additional benefit of not being able to tap for outside effects. For a cost as low as 1U, you very probably will be able to flip a game and come back from that devastating beatdown to take the reins and win the match.

  8. Wooded Foothills

    Well, this and the rest of the allied fetchlands finally being reprinted for modern!  A lot of players have been waiting a long time for this cycle. Unfortunately, we still have to wait at least for one more set for the enemy fetchlands. As MaRo (I believe) stated, those designed in zendikar were world-specific and not able to be brought in to this set. But there is definitely a plan to bring function reprints of those back, to mitigate their cost in the secondary market. Still, that's going to be exciting for me and hopefully for some other nerds as well. 

  9. Despise

    It's no Surgical Extraction, but this New Phyrexia reprint brings the heat just as effectively in the current set.  With a plethora of ways to check your opponent's hand in advance, you can guarantee this simple one-drop doesn't go to waste. Beyond that, planeswalker removal is becoming common enough that players are starting to play around it (No card to my knowledge is specifically targetted at planeswalkers and no other card type). But, taking it out of their hand is excessively hard to prevent. Most of the counters in this set can't stop this card between their restrictions and it's low cost.

    Besides that, check out the flavor text. We don't know much of Sarkhan's time in his homeworld except for the battle which awakened his spark and saw Zurgo Helmsmasher left for dead. Being as how he is one to hold a grudge, having both artwork and flavor text to depict their reunion is rather exciting for me, flavor-wise.

  10. Ruthless Ripper

    Again, this and it's brethren in the cycle. The cost obscura for morph is something I have wanted to see for a long time. This cycle utilizes a single alteration to morph cost but it just makes so much sense and it has such... pinache. 

    Ruthless Ripper is definitely my favorite in the cycle though, since it allows for combat tricks. The rest of this cycle has some decent benefit when turned faceup, but she is the one who will reverse a possibly lethal attack and take out the attacker (and possibly attacking player!) Just think about it... You have a 2/2 colorless creature on the board and your opponent thinks "no matter what, it's still worth attacking." So he does. You respond by revealing Despise from your hand (with disdain), and you flip it over to reveal that Siege rhino has just succumbed to a 1/1 deathtoucher. To top it all off, the opponent has to lose two life! Shameful defeat is imminent for him now.

  11. Bonus: Savage Punch

    No need for a card description. Let's just remember how badass bear-punching is.

These are the cards that have particularly wowed me as a player, either for the flavor they contain or the mechanical fun or the sheer power of the card. What cards in Khans of Tarkir have blown you away?