What Khans Of Tarkir Means For Modern

Ari Lax has a comprehensive list of the most important Modern cards from Magic’s latest set! Check out what you need to know before taking down the $5,000 Modern Premier IQ at #SCGNJ and #SCGINDY!

Multicolored sets are some of the most likely to have effects in Modern, if only because multicolored spells get built-in cost discounts that put them into
range of Eternal format playability.

Khans appears to be in the same vein as its predecessors. There are at least a dozen cards that will easily make the cut and another dozen that are at
least worth discussing.

Let’s get the big ones out of the way first: the fetchlands are the cards from Khans of Tarkir that will 100% see play in Modern. The discussion with these
is not an “if” or a “why”, but a “what changes?”

Overall, there are two categories where the allied color fetchlands will help out.

The first is decks that want more basics.

Hitting the first basic for Wild Nacatl is simple enough for fetchlands and shocklands, but what if you want all of your lands to be a certain type?

The card that immediately came to mind when I saw the Onslaught fetches were coming back was Vedalken Shackles. I had tested a Faeries deck for Pro Tour
Born of the Gods with the card, but there were difficulties with finding mana that worked with enough Islands to make Shackles worth it without taking a
million damage a game off Watery Graves.

Notice that Lee Shi Tian’s Blue Moon deck from Pro Tour Born of the Gods with very
similar mana requirements to Faeries was able to play Shackles due to Scalding Tarn.

Blood Moon is the other card that really pushes for basics in the format. Back when my Affinity sideboard had Blood Moon in it, I was bringing in the card
against U/W Midrange but not Jeskai Control. One of these decks had enough fetchlands to always have a Plains or Island against me. The other deck had
Seachrome Coast.

This mostly affects decks based around the non-red fetchlands, because fetching a Mountain with Blood Moon in play doesn’t matter. Polluted Delta means
Faeries has one less three cost threat it has to fight over, U/W can potentially exist as it can find basic Plains for Disenchant easier, and Zoo can find
basic Forest and Plains off the same fetchland to dodge Blood Moon.

On the flip side, this also means it is easier for something like Brian Kibler’s Grand Prix San Diego Naya deck to cast Blood Moon from a
favorable mana position.

Overall this means Blood Moon is worse as a way to prevent people from playing normal Magic, but better as a sideboarded hate card against people who are
pushing the line on what you can do with your mana in the format. This is probably a good change.

That said, this isn’t all upside for the fair blue mage. Choke is still a card.

The second is decks that want more life.

I kind of touched on this with Faeries and Vedalken Shackles, but having the right fetchlands is worth quite a bit in Modern. It probably costs 2-4 life a
game to not have the allied color fetchland for your two color deck and rely on fetches to find your mana.

This has meant that Zoo decks can’t really escape the full pain of a Tribal Flames manabase by switching to two colors. This meant Faeries had to play all
of the other non-basics and sometimes draw Darkslick Shores as its fourth land. This meant U/W decks going long had to play Seachrome Coast and Glacial
Fortress. This meant Goryo’s Vengeance often had one less Griselbrand activation. This meant Jund had to play more Inquisition of Kozilek and less
Thoughtseize and had to take a bunch of extra damage a game to play Anger of the Gods with Courser of Kruphix. This meant Grixis Control had to play funny
games with the manabase and make decisions about untapped mana versus life total versus manland counts.

The big fallout here is that Burn gets worse, or I guess more accurately more decks exist that can compete with Burn. The deck was on the upswing since the
printing of Eidolon of the Great Revel, and it definitely was a defining factor in the later days of the Modern season this year. It will still be good
moving forward, but it won’t edge quite as many things out of the way.

This is a new and unique effect for the mana cost in the format. It’s extremely unlikely this sees play over Wear // Tear or similar cards for now, but
there may be a future world where exiling an indestructible enchantment (a God), or one with a dies trigger on the cheap, matters.

Restoration Angel is likely better in the same role, but this definitely falls into the “doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt or Abrupt Decay and doesn’t have to
battle heads up against Tarmogoyf” family of reasonable threats. I can imagine this card seeing play in Pod, where the diversity is important relative to
the single additional Restoration Angel. The big incentive here would be resetting persist multiple times as opposed to just once and winning Tarmogoyf and
Restoration Angel sizing battles. This card also goes huge with Gavony Township, which might matter in racing scenarios.

Phyrexian Metamorph costs one less single blue mana when played without life loss and copies the most relevant card type: artifact.

There is exactly one card I want to copy with this card that I can’t with Metamorph: Karn Liberated. Eating their Karn and going to town on their hand and
Tron lands seems like a profitable exchange.

One of the reasons Storm is good is because the last thing you have to do is find the Storm spell. Everything you do up until you cast Grapeshot can be
focused on keeping the wheels turning. Adding extra mana upfront is not exciting. You also have the Nivmagus Elemental deck a la Gerry Thompson at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. That deck is looking for more than
a one-to-one ratio of spells to pump.

There are two prowess creatures I would consider having potential in Modern. The long shot is Jeskai Elder. The Looter ability means that it actually does
something beyond being your Storm-esque win condition, which is certainly a plus. I expect it to be too fragile and costly, but if it sees play somewhere I
wouldn’t be dumbfounded.

The one that is almost a lock to see play is Monastery Swiftspear, aka the other Goblin Guide. I’m not sure how many creatures Burn can get away with, but
this is certainly one I’m interested in playing. It seems really easy for this card to output six damage by turn 3 or 4, by turn 2 if cast on turn 1, and I
hope to never have to play Vexing Devil ever again as a result. It also seems on the surface like a good fit for Izzet Delver, but if you look closer, the
threats in that deck are there to carry a game on their own (Young Pyromancer, Delver of Secrets) or provide some kind of disruptive value (Snapcaster
Mage, Vendillion Clique). Monastery Swiftspear is just burst damage, and despite how awesome it seems to cast Gitaxian Probe with it in play I expect it
won’t fit into the Modern lists.

Legacy on the other hand… hello Price of Progress and Fireblast.

Spell Pierce has a fairly low metagame share in Modern right now, so the base effect of Force Spike a non-creature is not super exciting in the format. No
Wasteland, no Stifle means that people can actually get out of taxing counter range.

That basically means that this card is going to have to lean on the ferocious mode to see play. There are various Tarmogoyf + Scavenging Ooze decks that
might be able to enable it reliably, but those decks are more attrition decks and less play from ahead decks. You need your cards to be playable whether or
not you have a threat in play.

Kiki Pod plays Negate, but it doesn’t have enough four power creatures to play this card.

Affinity plays Spell Pierce and has Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager to make four power creatures to enable this card. This is the one existing deck
where Stubborn Denial might have legs, but I’m not super excited. One of the better parts of Spell Pierce is fighting Electrolyze, and against those decks
if you have a Ravager or Plating in play the game is likely just over already.

The one deck that doesn’t really exist that might benefit from Stubborn Denial is something like the very old Bant Hexproof deck. It really wasn’t a
Hexproof deck in the sense that Slippery Bogle makes one, but it happened to ride Geist of Saint Traft and Thrun, the Last Troll to victory alongside
things like Spectral Flight or Unstable Mutation. While it does sound like a bad Standard deck, an extra piece of good interaction is definitely a step in
the right direction towards making a fairer hexproof deck work.

Take it away Sam.

Notice how almost every delve card has to be considered. In terms of cost reduction mechanics, this one doesn’t ask for a lot. The ones not on the list are
poorly sized creatures (Sultai Scavenger, Shambling Attendants, Hooting Mandrils) or worse than existing options at the cost (Set Adrift versus Vapor

Then take a moment to realize Tombstalker has functionally changed. There used to be narrow cases where you would delve more than six cards to shrink a
Tarmogoyf. That no longer works.

Now for the cards.

Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise are the easy winners here. Modern has been really lacking in cheap card draw. There is a small amount of tension with
Snapcaster Mage, but that feels resolvable. Just leave the good cards to Snap and exile the extras. Dig will be especially important in Modern given how
good combo is in the format. Choose two of seven is much better than draw three when two of seven probably kills them.

Beyond just being good cards, these cards could precipitate a big change in the format. Without a good source of card advantage, the various blue decks
always struggled against Jund. Now that there are options to bury Jund in cards that don’t cost a million like Sphinx’s Revelation, it starts looking a lot
better to be on the Snapcaster Mage side of that fight. Treasure Cruise could easily be the next Ancestral Vision and redefine how fair deck mirrors work
in the format. If Deathrite Shaman was still around, managing delve cards would be easy, but we just have the fragile Scavenging Ooze now.

Dead Drop doesn’t play well into persist being one of the biggest mechanics of the format, but in future metagames it could be worth remembering. Double
sacrifice for three or four mana is easily doable and very powerful against creatures that actually die when you kill them.

Murderous Cut is not Dismember. One of the best parts of that card is being able to gun down Pod’s Birds of Paradise before they get to start pushing out
threats. It also isn’t a Slaughter Pact that lets you play freely against Deceiver Exarch combo decks. The card it will fight for space is likely
Terminate. Less color intensive and cheaper versus killing a Dark Confidant on turn 2 and not having Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant anti-synergy is an
interesting discussion, and I’m not quite sure what wins. That all said, I’m most interested in the card in non-Goyf decks that are looking for this kind
of effect. Christian Calcano played an interesting Esper Wizards deck a couple of years ago at Grand Prix Columbus, and while Murderous Cut still sucks
with Dark Confidant, that might be something you can ignore to upgrade from Path to Exile in your resource denial deck.

I really don’t see Necropolis Fiend going anywhere. Tombstalker hasn’t been a winner in the format, so you really need the post-delve activation to be good
for this to be worth it. The fact that it costs a bunch of mana and cards beyond getting it into play to kill things does not excite me in the slightest.
Also, if flipping Murderous Cut to Dark Confidant is bad, this is basically the nightmare scenario. Just because people have played Blightsteel Colossus,
Hit // Run, and Greater Gargadon alongside Bob doesn’t mean we want to keep doing so.

The actual problem on Empty the Pits isn’t getting enough cards in your graveyard to make that much power in Zombies. It is getting four Black mana into
play and actually having this card in your hand. Most of the Dredge shells we explored for Pro Tour Born of the Gods wanted to be all over the place on
colors for the fastest Vengevine mills, so Empty the Pits likely implies a completely new shell. There’s some natural synergy here with Life from the Loam
and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, so that is where I would start. That said, I kept feeling like every graveyard deck I played in Modern that wasn’t Storm was
just a slow and bad Storm, so you need to do something if your opponent plays Rest in Peace if you want to compete.

Become Immense creates some interesting options. The Infect decks in Modern currently play a lot of pump because it almost always takes two or three spells
to go lethal, but +6/+6 offers the ability to reduce that number to one or two. This in turn solves the current issue I have with Become Immense, which is
that the card only has enough fuel after you dump your pump spells. Instead of a list derivative of my Pro Tour Return to Ravnica list or Tom Ross’s latest
lists, we can look at Kelvin Chew’s list with cantrips.
Spending a mana to find a pump spell doesn’t make sense when you can play more identical copies, but if you are finding a unique card and generating future
mana it works. I don’t know if this is necessarily better, but it lets you push the deck down a more flexible and interactive route.

Goblin Electromancer should not be attacking. It usually dies if that happens. If you have the multiple Electromancers in play to cast Howl of the Horde
for one mana, you probably should have won anyways. Also note that neither Andrew Shrout’s or Jon Finkel’s Storm lists ran Increasing Vengeance at Pro Tour
Born of the Gods.

Tormenting Voice is much more promising. It doesn’t offer the same dig potential as Faithless Looting, but at the same time drawing and using multiples is
much more reasonable as it isn’t -1 card to cast. The cost change compared to Wild Guess is a big deal with Electromancer.

Four damage is not enough to kill things in Modern. By things I really mean Tarmogoyf.

Cool way to Ritual up a Titan, but dying to Lightning Bolt means I’m not exceptionally interested.

The token on death trigger is something we’ve seen on Pawn of Ulamog before. I’ve certainly had a list or two with that card, and the big issue is that it
just dies to Lightning Bolt. Abzan Ascendancy does not do that, but a lot of the support cards for the sacrifice style deck do so it may just not matter.

The removal plus card draw split is very powerful, but three power doesn’t cover a lot of the things you want to kill in Modern: Deceiver Exarch,
Kiki-Jiki, Dark Confidant. This is unlikely to see play in the flex removal slot over Maelstrom Pulse.

Bigger than Lightning Bolt. Plus a point.

Smaller than Tarmogoyf. Minus a point.

This card is probably considerable in and against Melira Pod (+1/+1 counters to cancel out persist), but given that Aven Mindcensor and Linvala, Keeper of
Silence beat other things, I’m skeptical. If you were ever considering a Loxodon Smiter this is likely better, but I think that was only a thing when I was
on the Tarmogoyf plan out of Kiki Pod.

Also worth noting that this doesn’t hold off a lot of the graveyard things other cards of this type do, like Snapcaster Mage and Past in Flames. It also
comes out under the first cycler or two of Living End. Aside from Persist, this really isn’t a great hate card.

Flying means it doesn’t have to fight Tarmogoyf, four toughness and four mana cost lives through Abrupt Decay and Lightning Bolt. I can definitely see this
card showing up. I’m not exactly sure what cards would see play around it because I haven’t worked on Mardu decks since before Return to Ravnica was legal,
but it definitely passes the minimum playability bar.

Another consideration for this card (and Anafenza) is that both fit in the Five Color Gold deck with Pillar of the Paruns, Ancient Ziggurat, Reflecting
Pool, and eight Mana Confluence or City of Brass. I know Brian Kibler tries to make that happen every other set, and another cluster of multicolored
threats might be just what it needs to fight the other fair decks.

Reasonable three mana flex removal spell that covers hexproof as well as Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant. Not likely to see significant play, but one or two
will show up from time to time.

This is very reminiscent of Intruder Alarm, a card that already has a niche combo deck in the format. This card also lets you filter cards on top of
chaining along untaps, so I guess my questions aren’t whether there is a combo, but A) is it valid to base your combo around a three cost permanent like
this and B) does redundancy exist to make it a reliable deck?

The Geist of Saint Traft decks have played Boros Charm in the past. The jump to three mana is a big deal, but having modes that interact more than
countering Pyroclasm certainly matters as well. Could easily see two copies making their way into those decks.

Dies horribly to Lightning Bolt. Next.

There’s the whole Doran combo kill with this card (Noble Hierarch, Doran, Mardu Ascendancy + sacrifice is a turn 3 kill), but my question is if you
actually want to cast the card if you don’t have a Doran in play. I would be okay with either answer of “Yes” or “I’m playing Treefolk Harbinger.” Also,
very interesting with Blood Artist and Gravecrawler style cards as it’s just more fodder.

Four damage is not a good number in Modern because, again, Tarmogoyf, and while instant speed Duress is really unique it doesn’t cut it at three mana.

This can be targeted by Goryo’s Vengeance. It likely isn’t good enough, but if you are trying to kill someone on turn 1 this is another card that can play
like Griselbrand.

Has to play weird timing games with Lightning Bolt, takes four mana to grow over Tarmogoyf. Not impressed.

Bigger than Lightning Bolt? Check.

Bigger than Tarmogoyf with a pump activation? Most likely. Check.

I still think Temur decks have bigger issues to address, such as “How do I kill creatures with more than three toughness,” but this joins the mix of
respectable three drop threats with Vendillion Clique.

Fails the Lightning Bolt test miserably, but it is worth noting that this card goes crazy with Mesmeric Orb. You also have Hedron Crab to trigger multiple
instances of the ability.

Not close, this is the best Khans Charm in Modern. Kills Tarmogoyf, Deceiver Exarch, Birthing Pod, Pyromancer Ascension at instant speed and has a card
draw mode. If Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time help give Sultai Midrange an edge in the format, this card will be the three mana flex removal spell of

Can kill a Tarmogoyf with another Tarmogoyf, but three mana counters really don’t have a place in Modern. Unlikely to go anywhere as none of the modes are
really good.

This has been brought up in the context of Affinity, but if I didn’t play Bonesplitter I won’t play this card. Also doesn’t even cheap equip to the best
target in the deck for it: Vault Skirge.

Looking at just the cards I named, Khans of Tarkir could easily bring us more Modern playables than all of Theros Block combined and could potentially be
as format-breaking as Return to Ravnica was. As the Modern Premier IQs travel the country with the Open Series, I look forward to seeing Khans shift the