First Thoughts On Khans Of Tarkir!

Bennie takes a break from his legendary musings to focus on the upcoming Standard format! He shares some new lists with you to get your creative juices flowing for KTK!

So wow-how ’bout them Khans of Tarkir spoilers? There seems to be no shortage of cards to get excited about! I know I write a lot about Commander
in my columns, and while I will certainly dive into building around some of the sweet new legends, today my mind is on figuring out what the new Standard
environment might look like after the rotation. With half the set spoiled, Khans is giving us all a lot to think about, and there’s nothing I like better
than brewing decks in a fresh new environment!

I want to take a moment and give a shout-out to R&D for the design on Ugin’s Nexus:

At first I thought this card was absolutely nuts and the perfect thing to put into my Chief Engineer deck until I realized that Trading Post was rotating
out so we didn’t have a good way to destroy artifacts for profit. Then I realized it was legendary, so I thought I could just run a playset of them and use
the second copy to destroy the first… but then actually reading the card I saw that the one that stayed in play would prevent me from taking advantage of
the extra turn the one that went to the graveyard would give me. So I had to sit back and scratch my head, laugh and appreciate the nice puzzle R&D put
onto this particular piece of cardboard. Bravo!

I think one key towards unlocking new Standard is to realize that there are a huge amount of powerful card choices starting at three mana, so much that
it’s a little easy to get carried away brewing around that stuff. That makes sense really; Khans is focused on five wedges — combinations of three mana —
so logically a lot of powerful cards designed to represent each clan will start at three mana. Add to that mix a few three mana must-plays that carry over
from the old Standard, such as Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Courser of Kruphix, and Hero’s Downfall, and yes-we have an embarrassment of riches at three.

But I think the key to figuring out the best things we can do for three and four mana is to plan out what we’re going to be doing on the first couple turns
to ensure we live long enough to take advantage of these powerful spells.

I went through all the cards in Theros Block, Magic 2015, and what we have so far in Khans and picked out the cards that seemed worth playing in the first
few turns of the game to see what sort of picture that painted for us.

Worthwhile things to do on turn 1:

Worthwhile things to do on turn 2:

What story is this telling us? To me it looks like black has the most powerful things to do in the first few turns of the game. Thoughtseize is a
cross-format powerhouse and has defined Standard since it was printed in Theros, and I don’t see that changing especially given how many powerful cards
there are that are going to be riding in people’s hands for much of any given game. The recently spoiled Bloodsoaked Champion is a stellar card, a
call-back to Gravecrawler for its ability to fearlessly apply pressure and allow recovery from board sweepers. What’s super-sweet about Bloodsoaked
Champion is that you can attack with him, and if he’s blocked and killed you can activate his raid ability to come back onto the battlefield since you
attacked this turn. Bloodsoaked Champion alongside Gnarled Scarhide and Tormented Hero gives potentially twelve turn 1 2/1 creatures, which is really
incredible for an aggressive deck.

At two mana we’re really missing all-star removal spells Doom Blade and Ultimate Price, and instead are given narrow removal spells Bile Blight and
Pharika’s Cure, both of which also push us heavy on black mana. It’s good to note that a recursive creature like Bloodsoaked Champion can combine with Bile
Blight to take down a 5 toughness creature that’s foolish enough to block, giving us the condition to use raid ability whether or not our opponent takes
the bait and blocks. So, block and kill the blocker with Bile Blight, or if they don’t you can use the mana instead to play Mardu Skullhunter, doing a fine
impression of an upgraded Ravenous Rats.

We know Sign in Blood is a good card and could certainly be worth doing on turn 2 after you’ve sent in your turn 1 attacker. Some of the other cards on the
list could be good depending on what sort of direction the deck goes.

Next on the list I think White looks like it’s got quite a few things it can do right off the bat, including Standard stalwart Soldier of the Pantheon who
gets plenty of new life in a format stuffed to the gills with gold Khans cards. White actually gets pretty decent removal too with the under-rated
Oppressive Rays and Last Breath. There are also some heroic guys if you want to lean aggressive, or Nyx-Fleece Ram and Wall of Essence if you want a more
defensive stance. If we want to pair up with green Sunblade Elf and Fleecemane Lion are battle-proven powerful cards.

Speaking of Green, it comes a close third with its mana acceleration: Elvish Mystic or Font of Fertility on turn 1, and sacrificing Font or playing Sylvan
Caryatid, Rattleclaw Mystic, or Voyaging Satyr on turn 2. If we’re playing with red even Satyr Hedonist might fit the bill alongside Generator Servant.
Satyr Wayfinder provides mana fixing and fodder for delve. Green also has some build-arounds like Hardened Scales and Trail of Mystery.

I put Red fourth because, even though there are a lot of cheap aggressive creatures, they get out-classed really, really fast and the removal spells do

Pulling up the rear is Blue, which is certainly not surprising. Vortex Elemental is something I’d completely forgotten about but might provide some decent
defense. Chief Engineer, Omenspeaker, and Sigiled Starfish are also solid defensive creatures that can help set up your mid-game plans. Dipping into Black
I’ve certainly found Disciple of Deceit to be a powerful card that just might do some silly things with Bloodsoaked Champion.

I have to admit to being very curious to try Disciple of Deceit in a deck with Bloodsoaked Champion, so that’s what I’ll explore first. I’ve had some
experience with inspire and one of the easiest ways to tap your creatures is to attack with it, which dovetails nicely with raid. Sadly playing Blue/Black
sticks us squarely in Sultai territory so other raid cards won’t be easy to come by, but that’s okay-Bloodsoaked Champion works great with the other
Bloodsoaked Champions you’re nabbing with Disciple of Deceit.

I thought about dipping into green for Sultai goodies (and maybe a Kiora’s Follower or two), but honestly the other cards I wanted in here crowded things
so much that I just went with straight Dimir.

This list is 58 cards as I’d also like to include two copies of the recently spoiled Grim Haruspex. The last time I played U/B Inspired I was impressed
with Daring Thief and was quite delighted trading away Goat tokens from Trading Post for my opponents’ best creatures. Sadly, Trading Post is rotating
away, and I wondered what I could play to give me trade fodder. My hunch is that Bloodsoaked Champion will be perfect in this role-he can’t block so my
inspire guys can still tap to attack, and if my opponent sends the Champion to attack me it’s pretty easy to block and kill it, putting it into my
graveyard to bring back again. He also makes a good “free” pitch to protect Prognostic Sphinx from targeted removal. Bloodsoaked Champion can also provide
a decent engine with Grim Haruspex, drawing you a card each time he dies. Overall I like what’s going on here, and there might even be another card or two
from Khans to push it to the next level!

I couldn’t leave Bloodsoaked Champion behind without building a deck around this beauty; have you seen Butcher of the Horde?

Man, talk about a giant beating! In those colors there are lots of ways to create tokens to feed the Butcher, but the very best way is with Bloodsoaked
Champion-sacrifice the Champion to the Butcher, attack (probably giving him lifelink), then pay the two mana raid ability to put the Champion back into
play and do it all over again. Check this out:

I know some people have been down on Sorin, Solemn Visitor, but I really like him a lot and think he does good work in this deck. That +1/+0 and lifelink
ability really helps push the aggressive nature of the deck while also recouping some of the life loss from the manabase. I’m not entirely sold on Ajani’s
Pridemate, but I’m figuring the dash of lifegain in the deck will occasionally make them really good.

Yeah, I know-that’s two decks with no green! Will the real Bennie Smith please step forward? Okay, here you go…

The inspiration for the next deck is the recently spoiled Villainous Wealth. Just take a look at that card-now that’s a heckuva mana sink! It’s
particularly nice when you see something sweet sitting on top of your opponent’s library thanks to their Courser of Kruphix.

So check this out:

Add three copies of Villainous Wealth and BOOM! Profit!

What’s kinda neat about Font of Fertility is you can either sac it off to accelerate and fix your mana, or if you’ve got a Nykthos in play it can just sit
there and provide an additional mana. You can even sacrifice it to reset the top of your deck with Courser of Kruphix, which is why I’ve got 4 Wooded
Foothills in the deck too, to help with card selection.

I’m giving Verdant Haven and Market Festival a try here both for acceleration and fixing but also to provide additional land targets for Voyaging Satyr.
Oh, and additional devotion too!

I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t be too hard to cast Villainous Wealth where X equals five or six, and I just cannot wait to see what sort of goodies you’ll be
able to nab right off the top of your opponent’s deck.

Polukranos, Nylea, and Hooded Hydra are all reasonably costed spells that also make for fantastic mana sinks; I’m particularly thrilled with Hooded Hydra
since it gives you some resistance to End Hostilities or other removal.

Another card that looks quite good that’s low on the curve is Rakshasa Deathdealer. He certainly requires a hefty dose of green and black, but lucky for us
we’ve got Temple of Malady, Llanowar Wastes, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to ease the mana. This time around I’m going to dip over into white for some
Abzan goodness:

I really like Abzan Charm, which provides a nice counterpoint to Bile Blight while also giving you some other options. I went with a 4/1 split between
Siege Rhino and Reaper of the Wilds because Siege Rhino doesn’t require any more mana once you cast it, and I like the trample in conjunction with Bile

So that’s it for this week, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! What new cards from Khans have you excited about Standard? Do you have any
suggestions for the decks I’ve presented today?

Have a great weekend!

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists):

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)