One of the most popular archetypes was a BUG Midrange deck (now with 100% more Sultai) that featured Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix to set up the early game. A number of high level teams, including The Pantheon and Channel Fireball all played this deck.
The team I was on mostly all played a Naya Planeswalker list that utilized these two cards to pave the way for Xenagos, the Reveler and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. A number of other teams also played this archetype, including Andrea Mengucci, who crested into the top 8.
But that wasn't even it. Patrick Chapin won the tournament with an Abzan list featuring both of these two cards prominently, and G/B/x Constellation was another deck that ended up being quite popular at the event. I know I personally played against it, and there was a copy in the top 8 as well. G/B/x Constellation featured...well...you probably guessed it: Courser and Caryatid.
Throughout the tournament, you could really tell that Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid had completely defined the format. Some teams were even playing decks designed to prey on this. Twice, I played against a U/B Inspired deck that was good at really minimizing the impact of Courser. It had King Macar, the Gold Cursed to exile them, Daring Thief to steal them, and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver to control the top of their library and mess up their draw step with Courser.
While Courser and Caryatid were omnipresent in Block, they didn't end up dominating Standard nearly as much thanks in part to the presence of cards like Lifebane Zombie, Tidebinder Mage, and the synergy and explosive power of some of the mono-colored decks. Those decks are losing the bulk of their power as Return to Ravnica Block rotates out. To me, that signifies that we are about to hail new masters, the dynamic duo of Courser and Caryatid
M15 also helps perpetuate the Courser/Caryatid dynamic. Elvish Mystic is the perfect card to pair with these two cards to provide additional acceleration and the ability to play Courser of Kruphix on turn 2. Nissa, Worldwaker is a powerful planeswalker that naturally fits up the curve in any Courser/Caryatid deck.
All signs suggest that the upcoming Khans Standard is going to be a Courser/Caryatid world. A fetchland reprint only helps to further this dynamic. Fetchlands are great with Courser of Kruphix as you can use them to reset the top of your library when you're unhappy with what you would draw.
As a result, when I've been looking through the Khans of Tarkir spoiler, I've basically just been focusing on one thing and one thing only. "How does this card stack up alongside Courser/Caryatid, or can it compete against it?" With that mindset, let's take a look-see at some of these sweet Khans Spoilers and try to figure out whether some of these hot spanking new cards are going to break into Standard or bust harder than me at Thursday Night Bingo.
First of all, the art on this card is pretty awesome. You might think that's a moot point, but I'm not in the market to play with some ugly art cards. Everyone knows that Phyrexian Revoker sees Legacy play because of those googly eyes and not because it shuts down Sensei's Divining Top, Sneak Attack, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
I think we can also agree that the only reason Squire sees no play is because he's a bit homely. Stats-wise, he makes the cut. That leather helmet though.
So it comes as a great relief that Sidisi, Brood Tyrant looks cool, because the abilities are also pretty good. On its own, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is probably going to give you a 3/3 and a 2/2 for four mana. That's not a bad rate. That's roughly Huntmaster of the Fells level.
There is way more upside than that though. One of the best performing decks in Theros Block Constructed before Journey Into Nyx came around was a reanimator deck based around a Courser and Caryatid shell. This deck utilized Satyr Wayfinder and Commune with the Gods to dump cards in the graveyard and then used Whip of Erebos to bring them back. When the game went long enough, the Reanimator deck could simply hardcast their threats.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant not only seems like a perfect fit into that kind of deck, it seems like it might actually be good enough to completely define the archetype. For one, Sidisi's ability is going to trigger off of cards like Satyr Wayfinder and Commune with the Gods to provide extra 2/2s. Secondly, this army of 2/2s is going to be instrumental alongside Whip of Erebos and the lifelink ability to stay alive long enough to get the big stuff into play.
Lastly, delve is the returning mechanic for the Sultai wedge. If there are some powerful enough Delve cards (see Tombstalker) we could easily see cards like Sidisi become powerhouses to fuel Delve. I haven't seen a lot of talk about this card, but I definitely have my eye on it as one that could be quite a big hit.
I think Sarkhan is going to see a lot of play. We already know that a 4/4 haste flying creature for 3RR is good enough to see play. Stormbreath Dragon was a defining part of G/R and Jund Monsters in Standard this past year and was also a defining part of the Naya Planeswalker deck in Block Constructed.
Sarkhan offers roughly that same rate. It attacks for four in the air the same turn that Stormbreath Dragon does. Unmolested, Sarkhan can just be a Stormbreath Dragon if you want it to. Sarkhan also offers some additional upside at the cost of being a planeswalker. It may seem weird to say that he has the cost of being a planeswalker, but your opponent can't kill your Stormbreath Dragon by attacking with Polukranos. Sarkhan doesn't get off quite that easy.
However, the upside is quite good. For one, I really like that Sarkhan can completely invalidate Nissa. He comes down and kills her the turn you play him, and if he sticks around another turn, you can also use his -3 to slay the land that Nissa turned into a 4/4. I feel like that is going to be quite important in the new Standard format. Sarkhan's -3 ability also kills Courser of Kruphix and Stormbreath Dragon. I guess that settles it.
It is going to be quite interesting moving forward how people will end up deciding to play Sarkhan and Stormbreath Dragon. Both cards are very similar and at the same mana cost, but they each have upsides and drawbacks that the other does not. Stormbreath Dragon has protection from white and can't be attacked to death, but it is also locked in to only being a creature. Sarkhan doesn't have that advantage, but Sarkhan won't die to things like Sultai Charm, and he can kill opposing creatures when that effect is warranted.
Sarkhan also has an ultimate, but I don't think it's going to be terribly relevant except in a few fringe scenarios, much like Xenagos, the Reveler's ultimate. I except most Sarkhan decks are going to be the kind of decks that want to just cast one big card per turn.
I have mixed feelings about this card. First and foremost, I should note that Anafenza is basically just a better Loxodon Smiter. While Smiter had a few additional lines of text, it was generally rather rare that you blanked a counterspell or got to put it into play for free. Loxodon Smiter also didn't end up seeing a lot of play in the last Standard format.
One of the main reasons for this was actually Courser of Kruphix. Courser of Kruphix competes at the same mana cost as Anafenza (and Smiter before him), and the value Courser will generate over the course of the game is typically worth the power deduction.
With that being said, Anafenza actually offers up some powerful and relevant abilities. Being able to put a +1/+1 counter on another creature is quite fantastic if you have another creature to rumble into the red zone with Anafenza, but more often than not, you can still just put a counter on something like an Elvish Mystic or Sylvan Caryatid. While that may not seem exciting, it is actually fairly relevant in a lot of matchups. I have Boon Satyr'd Sylvan Caryatid more times than I would like to admit and in the process locked down my opponent.
Sometimes a big, hexproof defender is all you need.
Being able to lock out creatures from opposing graveyards not only hoses Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, weakens delve, and might also harm other Sultai cards, it also is a great clean answer to Whip of Erebos from Theros block. The existence of this card alone makes me scared to try to play a deck built around those cards.
I am not sure this card will ultimately have a home, as it tries to compete in the same space as Courser of Kruphix, and that sounds like quite the losing battle. However, it could eventually end up seeing play in the same way Loxodon Smiter has--as a top end fat creature in an Abzan aggro shell. It's a country 4/4 for three with upside. I'd be surprised if it just warms the bench all year.
Now this is a fun one. I think this card is a perfect fit in a Courser and Caryatid shell. The reason is that those decks are typically looking to ramp into powerful creatures. If you're playing Caryatid in your deck, you probably have some fat creatures in there, otherwise why even bother with ramp in the first place?
Temur Ascendancy is a great fit with things like Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon that are already likely to see some amount of play in a Courser/Caryatid shell anyway. I can also see Temur Ascendancy being an awesome card with Goblin Rabblemaster. Giving the Rabblemaster itself haste is no laughing matter. That card already does a gross amount of damage and accelerating the damage output to start at four damage is just a scary thought.
Polis Crusher is another great card to pair with Temur Ascendancy. It gets haste and draws a card, and protection from enchantments could be quite relevant if Banishing Light ends up being a big thing. Protection from Courser and the ability to destroy Courser when monstrous is already strong. We felt this card was so strong that we played it over Polukranos at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx.
I also feel like Temur Ascendancy could be a great card to pair with Genesis Hydra. You can put it into play off of Genesis Hydra, draw a card if the Hydra is big enough, and then also smash your opponent with it. Sounds like a pretty nifty interaction.
Temur Ascendancy also seems sweet with cards like Boon Satyr, Xenagos, God of Revels, and even something like Hour of Need to turn your useless mana creatures into big hasty flying threats that draw a card.
It may turn out that this card is too "cute" to really see any play, but I certainly am interested to give it a try and find out. It definitely has upside, that's for sure.
I feel like this card could see some play in a Naya or Abzan shell. While Courser of Kruphix usually isn't the best attacking creature, he can still typically swing into most boards and just bounce off whatever creatures they possess. You can also do things like suicide in an Elvish Mystic and then play this afterward. That's a Roc solid line.
Wingmate Roc basically feels like a mini Broodmate Dragon, and therefore, should not be ignored. I definitely think that Courser's ability to survive most creature tangles is a huge upside for this card. If you just play a Courser and then they play one, you can crash in, bounce off, and then follow it up with two 3/4 flying creatures, one which can gain a decent chunk of life.
One definite downside to Wingmate Roc, on the other hand, is that it can't block either Stormbreath Dragon or Sarkhan very well. Dragon has protection from white and Sarkhan is indestructible. Granted, you might be able to adequately race either of those cards with the lifegain ability on the main Roc, but it is still worth noting. Flying creatures that can't compete with Stormbreath Dragon might not be where you want to be.
I had an entire section dedicated to this card, but I didn't end up writing it down. Sorry!
So far, that's the extent of the cards that have really struck me as big boons to the whole Courser/Caryatid Standard format we could see ourselves in for the next year. However, I do want to point out a few other cards that I think could pair do some sweet things moving forward.
Goblin Rabblemaster could end up being the best card to come out of M15. I have seen a number of Legacy decks even start to adopt this card because of how quickly it spirals out of control and ends the game. Ankle Shanker is a fantastic follow up to Goblin Rabblemaster. It provides the same level of oomph as a Legion Loyalist. While not being able to trample over is certainly a downside, making your opponent simply unable to profitably block at all is nothing to scoff at.
Plus, the name. I'm gonna shank that ank.
I know this card isn't from Khans, but I wanted to point out that Ajani, Mentor of Heroes ability to distribute +1/+1 counters seems like it could be quite a powerful ability for an Abzan themed deck, as most of the Abzan cards care about +1/+1 counters. It is easy to forget this planeswalker exists, as it hasn't seen much play, but it could very well be a big hit moving forward.
What do you think? Are there any cards from Khans that you think are going to strike it rich in a Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid world, or do you think I'm overstating their power level? Are there any cards that break up this mold and punish people for playing these cards?