Other than the original Commander decks from 2011, we've never really had a concentrated look at wedge color cards. We've wanted this for an incredibly long time…
And now we've got it! Welcome our new Khans! This will obviously shake up Commander games and kitchen tables around the world. Casual Magic has a huge injection of cards to consider. With that comes a new injection of Khans card stock for your Commander decks.
Today I want to look at which cards from Khans of Tarkir that I like for my Commander Cube project. Then I'll spend the rest of the article detailing other changes that I've made, and finally, I'll leave you with how to access the updated Cube.
A Khan Among Them
What new cards from Khans will make the cut?
Obviously we'll begin with the leaders of the five clans - they give us another set of valuable wedge color Commanders to draft.
Tossing in those cards leads to another question: do I have the support for them? I can't just include them and then let them suck. It would be like having Kaalia of the Vast without dragons, angels or demons to drop. Let's look at them in reverse order:
Zurgo wants a nice, fast, aggro deck. Boros is the most aggressive color combination, chock full of aggressive creatures, including Serra Ascendant and Figure of Destiny. Black can play into that nicely enough. You can have a nice equipment themed deck too, along with your aggressive creatures. They'll make Zurgo even nastier since you can enable a fast Commander kill with him (just three hits will kill off a player due to Commander damage). Zurgo has the support already.
But what about Surrak? Surrak just wants a creature-heavy deck with enough bodies to find trample and uncounterable useful. No sense giving those abilities to creatures that aren't going to need it (such as Sakura-Tribe Elder, hardly a choice for either trample or being uncounterable). Surrak doesn't require a lot to work, and Gruul already has a lot of powerful options to consider. Surrak works as is.
Sidisi wants some self-mill and graveyard manipulation. I've been looking to add in a bit more for reanimation strategies, but we already have in cards like Extract from Darkness and Satyr Wayfinder. It needs a bit more to really push Sidisi into a comfortable position. With the changes I'm making today, I need to find some space for a little more self-milling action in Blue/Green/Black.
Narset plays very nicely with spells. That's great because one of my Izzet themes is playing sorceries and instants. Narset will adore that. We have some strong white spell-age too, but perhaps a bit too much in the sweeping removal department. Narset also will cast artifacts for free too, and we can dip into the artifact loving aspect of Azorius and add in some red love (such as Goblin Welder or Bosh, Iron Golem). Because of enchantment themes, we have a lot of enchantments that do stuff too and act as removal later on. You'd probably rather get Aura of Silence than an instant or sorcery, because you might not have a great target when Narset triggers. You can just wait until you do. Of all of the five additions, I think Narset is set up to be the nastiest, and therefore, needs the least help.
Because Anafenza is in the Ghave, Guru of Spores colors, we already have +1/+1 counter stuff here and there. We don't need to add in anything else, although perhaps one or two fun additions from Khans might shake things up a bit in the Abzan colors.
Coming into the set, and looking over my Cube, perhaps I have a spot for one or two counter enablers, plus a smattering of self-mill. But otherwise, we are looking good.
Now, we won't add in any three color cards unless they are legendary. No one drafts them unless they are running all three colors, and they go late (so people don't have to invest a high draft pick in order to grab a great card). That leaves a lot of potential cards on the sidelines. I also pulled morph from my Cube a while ago, and I'm not sure I want to put in the number of cards that it would take to work. So again, a lot of cards will be on the sidelines. But that's okay, because there are still a lot of potential cards to include in the set:
I have some early questions:
In my pushing of "spells matter" in Izzet, could either Goblinslide or Quiet Contemplation find a home? I really like both. Right now I have Eyes of the Watcher. Is one of these better? Should I find space for more than one?
Which is the better card: Vindicate or Utter End? I could swap one for the other. I recently pulled Unmake, or else that would have been the Utter End spot, but there's still the chance for the End to make the cut.
Sure, Crater's Claws is probably better than Fireball in some situations, but it has limited flexibility for card advantage and is often just a Blaze. Is it the better card overall? I doubt it. I'm also thinking about subbing in Devil's Play instead for the flashback enabling.
The Easy Changes:
Both cost four mana, the Revelation supports graveyard strategies and digs one card deeper, but yields one less card overall. It's a better role player, and that's what we want right now.
Mer-Ek Nightblade helps out Ghave, Anafenza as well as Marchesa, the Black Rose, and any Commander that has +1/+1 counters (Skullbriar, the Walking Grave; Grenzo, Dungeon Warden; Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter; Kresh the Bloodbraided; The Mimeoplasm; Vorosh, the Hunter; and Thraximundar.) As you can see from that list, the Nightblade is quite good in this format. I'm pulling the Exquisite Blood/Sanguine Bond combo from the Cube for better, more synergetic cards.
Goblinslide works with our Izzet and Jeskai strategies, and Crucible was a fun card that acknowledged the large dragon theme we were running. This is an easy swap. It also adds more ways to create tokens for the Jund creature sacrifice theme, so it plays nicely in that theme as well.
I'm just swapping one tempo enchantment for another type. The Contemplation has all of the value of Goblinslide with the sorcery/instant theme of its color combinations, as well as being cheap enough to fetch up with Zur the Enchanter.
As of right now, those are the only swaps I can make. (They are the only ones I can be sure that I'll own an extra copy.) Perhaps I can procure an extra Sarkhan later and toss him into the Cube as well.
I also want to make a non-Khans sub with these themes as well:
It gives the deck needed graveyard manipulation and is a much more playable card (although not as broken in some decks). The Planning works.
Now let's move to the other stuff!
A Change in Removal
I certainly enjoy Retribution of the Meek and Consume the Meek as a fun duet that expresses the different concepts of black and white. The problem is that neither are that strong - they are harder to build around. Doran decks value Retribution, but that's about it. So I've wanted to change these cards for a while.
My first choice was Drown in Sorrow for Consume the Meek. Sure, it moves from the instant Consume to a sorcery, but it drops in cost twice, gains scry, and is a repeat of Infest. I know how good that ability can be in this cube due to Massacre Wurm. There are a lot of dorks that Drown can clean out. Every time I flipped Consume, I asked if Drown would be preferred and almost unanimously I agreed that it would be. So we're swapping to Drown.
Meanwhile, I'm doing the opposite with Retribution. I'm increasing its cost into a general Wrath effect. I considered the four mana Day of Judgment, or the instant or scry Fated Retribution. I could also grab the odd but Doran-friendly Wave of Reckoning if I wanted to keep the synergy but increase the impact of the Retribution of the Meek. But I have an extra Terminus from the From the Vault set that just came out wanting to get played somewhere. This seems like as good a place as any!
Another removal issue was Nemesis Trap. Sure, six mana for an instant that exiles an attacker and ambushes with a token of that card can be a nice turn of the tables, but it's not really drafted highly - or played when it is. So I've replaced it with Sever the Bloodline. Sever is another token hoser in case someone has a lot of the same token out, and otherwise it's flashback-able sorcery exiling creature removal. That's just a better card for the cube.
Meanwhile, Dismember is almost never cast with Phyrexian mana. It's the same cost, and almost identical in effect to Sudden Death, which is just plain better. Hero's Downfall is a better card (and I picked up some extras) so I am subbing in a Downfall.
A Change in Equipment
One of the major issues with my cube has been the lack of high end equipment. I have one Sword of X and Y, some cheap stuff like Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots, and then Skullclamp and Jitte. It wasn't until recently that I enven added Loxodon Warhammer. So when I'm missing four different Swords or Batterskull, it matters. My equipment sub-theme is weakened. The Boros equipment deck is distressed.
So I used up some of my store credit here at SCG to pick up a few pieces of equipment to flex out the Cube more. I mean sure, I could make some of these changes to the online CubeTutor version, but I want to marry these as closely as possible.
Tutors and Reanimation
I also picked up an Enlightened Tutor finally. That helps a lot of archetypes out.
Let's make a two-card swap with it. I'm pulling Resurrection for the Tutor. This gives me a strong card. And I'm pulling Luminous Angel for Karmic Guide, I card I've been looking to sub in. The Guide works very well with flicker and self-bounce in a variety of archetypes, plus it can be reanimated in a Reanimation deck to bring back two folks, and you've got the flyer too.
I picked up an extra Tooth and Nail from Modern Masters a few days ago too. I wanted it badly. So it heads in for Primal Surge. However, this probably gives me one too many green-creature-into-play effects. I need to pull one, probably Pattern of Rebirth or Hibernation's End.
I'm tired of looking at Granite Shard. I'd like to find a better red-colored artifact. Something to wed to cards like Bosh, Iron Golem and Goblin Welder. The red Trigon of Rage is weaker. The Shrine of Burning Rage isn't that hot either. I already have Moltensteel Dragon, so I guess I could run…Slash Panther? Not really, this isn't Vintage. Rage Extractor makes no sense. I could push Vulshok Replica? There's just not a lot here.
So instead of running something that actively hurts my cube, let's move into a different direction entirely. This is my chance to add that Dragonmaster Outcast I've been eyeing since last article.
While on red, Torchling hasn't been that good. Perhaps I can sub in Avalanche Riders? Goblin Bombardment? Emrakul's Hatcher? Thermopod? I like having another sacrifice engine for Jund's many legendary creatures that like them, as well as a way to make some more fuel for the fire. Let's add in the Hatcher to spawn some more fuel.
I would like to add in some colorless token creature making and additional support for the Jund theme of fodder for sacrificing and perhaps a couple of triggers later on though.
More on Enchantments and Artifacts
Last time I discussed creating a greater opportunity for enchantment strategies to work. Then I added very little. So I wanted to massage that need a bit more today with a few changes. In head Enchantress's Presence and Eidolon of Blossoms. I pulled the underwhelming Holistic Wisdom, which is good, but players don't often understand it or want to exile their own cards if they do. Meanwhile, Mold Shambler is an adequate tool - six mana for a 3/3 that blows up a card a la Beast Within. But guess what - we have Beast Within, Reclamation Sage, Woodfall Primus, Acidic Slime, Indrik Stomphowler, Terastodon, Bane of Progress, and Viridian Zealot as my many ways of blowing up non-creature permanents in my stuff. And all of those are more synergetic to my deck as well. So the Shambler is just not making the cut anymore.
I picked up a spare Chromatic Lantern, and I have way too many graveyard hosers in my artifact section. So subbing out Scrabbling Claws and Phyrexian Furnace (which I figure are worse than Relic of Progenitus) seems to be the play. In heads another creature - Precursor Golem.
With these various changes, the cube is getting tighter and tighter. Khans provides a lot of great Commander options as well as some useful tools.
Cubetutor.com has the updated cube you can sort, look at the visual spoiler, and even draft. Just copy and paste this into your browser!
CubeTutor -http://cubetutor.com/viewcube/14274What do you think? What cards are you looking for in your own Cubes and Commander decks?