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By: gwyned, gwyned
Sep 30 2014 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

Khans of Tarkir has officially been released in paper, giving us our first journey into this world of ambitious warlords and cunning clans, all striving for supremacy in a plane dramatically shaped by the now absent dragons. While there's been a ton of great information about this new set, the purpose of this article is to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. This set introduces five new mechanics as well as the return of another after a long absence, so before reading this article, it might be helpful to brush up on these mechanics. In Part One, I took a look at the creatures and spells that make use of these mechanics. Then, in Part Two, I analyzed the four Common cycles as well as three Green Morph cards that I accidentally missed in my first article. Today, in Part Three, I will finish off my review of the Commons reprints and then the rest of the Commons in the set.

If you've read my previous set reviews, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as a "hit or myth" and discuss why I believe this card will or will not be relevant. My reasoning is simple: unlike in Limited, you will never have an instance where you have to prioritize one card over another in any meaningful way, and thus a letter grade is not that helpful in actual practice. I also make use of a third category - borderline - for those cards that aren't great, but might see some play in the right deck. Let's finish strong with the rest of the Khans of Tarkir Commons!

II. Reprints

Unlike it Limited where the value of a reprint varies from set to set depending on the exact environment, the value of these reprints haven't changed much since they last saw print. Indeed, most of these are from either Magic 2013 or Innistrad, and thus are returning to Standard Pauper after only a brief absence. Others, like Act of Treason, Cancel,  and Naturalize, never left the format at all. As such, my analysis of these cards will be briefer than usual. Note that I will also include functional reprints here as well.

1. Erase is typically only a Sideboard card, but as long as Bestow creatures are in the format, it will see plenty of play. With Keening Apparition rotating out, this is an easy replacement. It's cheap, Instant-speed, and gets around any Graveyard recursion as well. Revoke Existence is still around as well, but given the lack of relevant Artifacts this should be the Enchantment-hate of choice, and a strong argument for access to White.

Verdict: Hit - Instantly erasing Bestow creatures or other Auras is quite good. Give that man a raise!

2. Kill Shot is a functional reprint of Rebuke from Innistrad. White typically gets a variety of removal spells at Common with some sort of drawback, and in a format without Pacifism, this is as good as it gets. Its inability to target non-attacking creatures is made up for its otherwise unconditional nature. With Celestial Flare and Smite also rotating out, this is likely to become the removal spell of choice for White mages.

Verdict: Hit - One shot, one kill.

3. Smite the Monstrous should also see play thanks to the dominance of both Bestow and Heroic in the metagame. Even without relevant Ferocious cards at common, there will still be plenty of monstrous-sized creatures in play, and those will tend to be the ones you want to kill. This can also be a timely response to a strategy revolving around Prowess, allowing you to kill a creature that normally would be too small to target.

Verdict: Borderline - You're not a monster for main-decking this card; don't smite me if I'm wrong.

4. Cancel has always been borderline in Standard Pauper, and having double-blue in its mana cost could be a liability if wedge-colored decks become the norm. Disdainful Stroke (see below) will probably occupy Cancel's normal spot in the format, which is definitely another strike against it. And finally, with the Dimir Mill archetype all but dismantled with rotation, a full-on counter strategy probably isn't viable. For now, I don't see this making the cut.

Verdict: Borderline - I wouldn't rule it out entirely, but I would cancel any plans to throw this into just any deck.

5. Crippling Chill returns from Avacyn Restored, where it saw little if any play. Locking down a creature for two turns, and getting a card in the process, is decent value for 11, but its effect is still too temporary to be effective save in a very tempo oriented archetype. For the same cost, Frost Lynx is almost always better, as a 2/2 creature on the board is more relevant than drawing a random card from your deck.

Verdict: Myth - It chills me to say it, but Frost Lynx cripples any chance this card has to see play.

6. Weave Fate is almost a reprint of Inspiration, with the lack of a targeting option making it strictly worse. Given the utility of Instant speed card draw, this is arguably better than Divination in any Prowess deck, or even any Blue-based Control build. Just how good this is will depend on just how fast the metagame shapes up to be after rotation. But 4 mana is a lot for a card that doesn't directly affect the board, so I doubt this will be playable in just any Blue deck.

Verdict: Borderline - As fate would have it, this is merely playable rather than amazing.

7. Debilitating Injury is another near-reprint, this time of the excellent Dead Weight, which was one mana cheaper for the same card. With Pacifism and Quag Sickness rotating out and Stab Wound pushed back to Uncommon, this is probably the best Aura-based removal to fetch with Heliod's Pilgrim in that popular Orzhov build. It's certainly still playable at 11, but most of the time Black would probably prefer Pharika's Cure for this slot.

Verdict: Borderline - The extra mana adds insult to injury, but that isn't totally debilitating.

8. Dutiful Return is a functional reprint of March of the Returned, giving Black yet another way of returning multiple creatures at a time from the Graveyard. However, Font of Return will continue to be the go to pick for this effect, seeing as how it allows you to return up to three creatures for only an additional 11, and can be searched up for the aforementioned Heliod's Pilgrim as well. For that reason, this probably won't see play anytime soon.

Verdict: Myth - The dead dutifully march on, returning from one set to another.

9. Throttle, which reprises Lash of the Whip, makes one long for the days of Doom Blade at Common, or better yet Grasp of Darkness, which was a full 3 mana cheaper for this exact same effect! Instant speed hard removal has all but disappeared from Common, and this is about as good as we can expect in the format going forward. Grisly Spectacle proved to be decent to good, so I expect Throttle will make the cut in the absence of anything better.

Verdict: Borderline: With Wizards throttling back on Common Black removal, this is at least playable.

10. Act of Treason manages to survive rotation yet again, which is an impressive feat considering that this card first saw print as an Uncommon. With only a single sacrifice-outlet in the new format (that being Kheru Dreadmaw), there isn't any extra value you can squeeze out of this card. Typically, that means that this is just below the line for being playable in Standard Pauper. Even the aggressive RDW decks only occasionally play this is the Sideboard.

Verdict: Myth - It's no treason to hold this act back.

11. Shatter returns to the format after a long absence, but sadly doesn't find itself in a format where Artifacts are making much of an impact. Indeed, taking a look at the Artifacts that survived rotation, there could be whole tournaments where Shatter doesn't even have a single target in any of the viable decklists. Unless the next block has some sort of Artifact theme to it, Shatter is in for another long drought of being unplayable.

Verdict: Myth - I hate to shatter your dreams, but this isn't going to see play currently.

12. Summit Prowler is just Borderland Minotaur reborn. A vanilla 4/3 for 111 is decent in Limited, but generally not good enough for Standard Pauper. Red simply has better things to do with 4 mana, including Ill-Tempered Cyclops, which is better in nearly every aspect, trading a single point of Power both for an easier to cast mana cost, Trample, and Monstrosity, and even it didn't see that much play. As such, I don't think this is good enough.

Verdict: Myth - Some may prowl around for value here, but I don't this is it.

13. Tormenting Voice is a near-reprint of Wild Guess, now with only a single red in its casting cost. I am somewhat surprised that this doesn't see play, as this is a perfect way for Red to draw more gas and discard extra Lands. The most likely culprit is the fact that Red has been so aggressive of late that it simply doesn't have time to waste on cards that don't affect the board. If a more midrange Red deck can emerge, this might find a home there.

Verdict: Borderline - That little voice inside me torments me by ranting that this might see play.

14. Trumpet Blast is back just as Dynacharge leaves the format. While the RDW hasn't tried to take advantage of this kind of effect, a Boros or Mardu token build might be able to squeeze out enough value to make this playable, although it's arguable whether Inspired Charge would be the better choice. But outside of that particular archetype, I don't believe that Trumpet Blast will be good enough to see much play.

Verdict: Borderline - Don't sound the trumpets quite yet.

15. Awaken the Bear is a near-reprint of Predator's Strike, which at 11 was far better. Giant Growth was always marginal in Standard Pauper, but cards that add Trample for cheap have been much better. Given how easy it is right now to create some very large creatures, Trample is as strong as it ever has been, but 3 mana is a lot to play for this type of effect. Green hasn't seen much play lately either, which doesn't help matter any.

Verdict: Borderline - Bear with me as I awaken another pun.

16. Good ol' Naturalize. With the large Enchantment theme of Theros block, this card will continue to be playable simply as an Instant speed way of getting rid of Enchantments. 11 is a very reasonable cost to pay for this effect, which is probably why this card is included in almost every Limited format for the past few years. It doesn't seem like Khans of Tarkir makes this card any better, but that was already good enough to at least include in the Sideboard.

Verdict: Borderline - Nature will rize against you!

17. Scout the Borders is a near reprint of Grisly Salvage, forcing you to pay two colorless mana instead of one Black. With the addition of Delve to the format, adding cards into your Graveyard actually has synergy with some strategies, which is probably enough to make this playable in that type of deck. Assuming you can get some value of the discarded cards, this becomes equivalent to a Green Divination, which makes it just barely good enough.

Verdict: Borderline - The skirts the border between playable and not.

18. Tusked Colossodon marks the return of the classic Green creature Craw Wurm, returning after a long absence. It's gotten a bit tougher over the years, but is still as mean as ever. This will often be the biggest creature on the board, but it remains to be seen whether a big dumb vanilla Green fattie is good enough to make the cut. There just are too many ways for your opponent to neutralize this for it be considered a viable threat.

Verdict: Borderline - It may be colossal, but I'd take you to tusk for thinking that makes it good enough.

III. The Rest of the New Commons

1. Alabaster Kirin is a slight upgrade from Abbey Griffin, getting an extra point of Toughness for the same cost. Chapel Geist was a staple in most White Weenie builds, and while the extra mana cost matters, a flyer that can both attack into and block other 2/2 flyers is pretty good value, particularly in the mirror. In fact, 3 Toughness may prove to be more valuable than normal if the metagame includes a high number of Morph creatures played facedown during the first few turns. So, even though it's just a french vanilla creature, I predict that this should see play in most decks with access to White.

Verdict: Borderline - Al' give it a playable grade, but from what I'm kirin it's not amazing.

2. One of the hallmarks of White is its access to cheap combat tricks, and Defiant Strike is yet another in a long line of such cards. Giving a creature a measly 1 point boost in power is about as marginal as it gets, but at least this card is cheap and cycles, assuming it actually resolves. In many ways this is like an Instant speed Chosen by Heliod, but has even less of an effect on the board. While this is a nice cheap way to activate Prowess and Heroic, it just doesn't do enough to actually make the cut even in Standard Pauper. By definition, that makes this card a strike out.

Verdict: Myth - I defy you to play this card.

3. Feat of Resistance may finally dethrone Gods Willing as the best protection spell at Common in White. While it costs an additional mana, you trade in the one-time Scry effect for a permanent +1 / +1 counter. This gives you amazing value when played on a Heroic creature, and of course is also relevant for your Prowess creatures as well. Additionally, White has a couple cards that give additional bonuses to creatures with +1 / +1 counters, potentially giving this card even more synergy. This should be a premiere protection spell, and one that most decks with access to White will probably run.

Verdict: Hit - Don't resist the urge to include this in your deck.

4. Rush of Battle is our multi-target pump spell for White in the format, and is comparable to Inspired Charge its overall effect. However, the fact that this card is Sorcery speed makes it much worse. On the other hand, if you are running a large number of Warriors, giving your entire team Lifelink in addition to the +2 / +1 is quite strong. This could easily be a 20 point swing in Life between the damage dealt and the life you gain. Rush of Battle is also slightly easier to cast, which may matter if most decks are running three or more colors. It's a much smaller niche than Inspired Charge, but probably playable in the right deck.

Verdict: Borderline - Don't be in a rush to play this, but in the right deck in could totally turn the battle.

5. Siegecraft reminds me a lot of Knightly Valor, which for one additional mana gave the targeted creature only +2 / +2 but also generated a free 2/2 Knight token. Even with the reduction in the overall power level of removal in Standard Pauper, playing normal Auras is still typically a bad strategy, simply because it's so easy for your opponent to get a 2-for-1 out of it. I don't expect there to be much of a Hexproof strategy either, given that only 2 cards in the format have it. Overall then, I don't see a home for Siegecraft, which makes sense. Knightly Valor is probably better, and it saw almost no play.

Verdict: Myth - Even under siege, you should be able to craft a better gameplan.
 
6. We may never see an unconditional counter like Counterspell return to Standard, but Disdainful Stroke is about as good as counters can get, especially at Common. Two mana counters, especially those with only a single Blue mana, have traditionally been pretty solid in Standard Pauper. And while this is useless in a counterspell war, it has the flexibility of countering almost anything else that you would normally want to counter. With multiple options for Instant speed card draw, this forms another critical component of a Blue control deck. Dimir Mill may be gone, but this may be one of the key cards for a dominant Control build.

Verdict: Hit - Don't disdain its restriction; this can be a fatal stroke to your opponent's plans.

7. Singing Bell Strike is a great, flavorful name, but I don't think too much of it as a card. While Claustrophobia is no longer in the format, most of the time I would still prefer Encrust to this, simply because it never gives your opponent the chance to untap the creature and even turns off any activated abilities as well. Of course, getting this for only 11 is great value when compared to the staple Paralyzing Grasp. And 6 mana is expensive enough that your opponent won't be able to do much else. You could even play this on your own creatures, giving them pseudo-Vigilance or squeezing out another use of an activated ability. Even still, it's pretty meager.

Verdict: Borderline - I'd give this away for a song, but someone will probably find a way to make it strike home.

8. Taigan's Scheming is one of the more interesting card filtering spells to come into Standard Pauper in a while. At 11 it's certainly priced right, and the ability to filter through your top five cards is good value. It's worth noting though that you don't actually get to draw any of the cards you look at; you just get to discard the ones you don't want and replace the rest in any order. Unfortunately, that means you've essentially wasted a card to do this. Unless you are setup to take advantage of the cards you've dropped into your Graveyard, this isn't what you want to be doing.

Verdict: Myth - You might be able to scheme up a good use for this, but I don't think you'll gain that much.

9. So apparently we are now in a world where even Blue gets 2/1s for 11 now. Wetland Sambar is about as vanilla a creature as sees print, and as such this is not a card you want to be playing. In Limited, these types of cards are often necessary to fill out a deck. After all, it's at least a creature that attacks and blocks early. But even in a low-power Constructed format like Standard Pauper, you will always have better options than this. Perhaps if this was a Warrior it might see some fringe play, but without any synergy with the rest of the set, this is a card that should never see play.

Verdict: Myth - Leave this dripping wet on the sandbar.

10. Bitter Revelation looks like a Black Foresee, and that's high praise indeed. Or, alternately, you could think of it as similar to Forbidden Alchemy, but giving you two cards right away rather than waiting to activate Flashback. While you end up discarding the cards rather than shuffling them back into your Library, Black is in the best position to take advantage of dumping cards into the Graveyard, especially if you've got some expensive Delve cards to play. It's twice as expensive as Sign in Blood and draws you the same number of cards, but getting to see those extra two cards is probably worth the extra cost.

Verdict: Hit - It doesn't take divine revelation to know that this will see play. Don't be bitter.

11. Molting Snakeskin is an interesting Aura. It's cheap to cast, boosts the target creature's Power, and even gives you a way to sidestep the potential two-for-one of Auras by allowing you to Regenerate the creature, assuming that it survives the initial casting and that you keep 11 up. This has the effect of making the targeted creature good on both offense and defense, and with the threat of activation, it doesn't seem too hard to imagine getting a full card of value out of it. This seems like another potential tool in the kit for the Orzhov Heliod's Pilgrim deck, but it might see play in MonoBlack as well.

Verdict: Borderline - It certain isn't snake oil, so it molt see some play.

12. Rakshasa's Secret seems to be that this is essentially Mind Rot with an additional self-milling clause. Mind Rot is not a card that has seen much play, as there typically isn't enough reliable discard in the format to deprive your opponent of his best cards. While it is a two-for-one, your opponent can always choose their two worst cards. Of course, in Black, this will probably be better than Mind Rot in most cases, since you should have a way of getting some value out of the cards in the your Graveyard. But as it stands, I'm not sure that's enough reward to make this worth playing.

Verdict: Borderline - Here's my secret: this really isn't any better than Mind Rot.

13. Rise of the Serpent has a great name, but is nothing more than Sip of Hemlock with a slightly different secondary ability. Against a deck based around Outlast, getting the extra 1/1 Snake is nice, but it certainly isn't any reason to play this card. This is expensive and Sorcery speed removal, but at least it doesn't have any restrictions on it; for your six mana, you just kill the creature, period. While Grisly Spectacle was around, there wasn't need for Sip of Hemlock in the format. But now, with it gone, and without much in the way of cheaper options, this might just see some play. It's still way too expensive though to be desirable.

Verdict: Borderline - The serpent doesn't make playing this rite.

14. Rotting Mastodon gives you 10 points of Power and Toughness for 11, but distributes almost all of it into Toughness. This is only the second Common to ever have 8 points of Toughness (the other being Ulamog's Crusher), but that by itself doesn't mean this is a good card. Big dumb Green creatures haven't been much good in the format for a while, and this doesn't even have the advantage of having much in the way of Power. So while your opponent may struggle to actually get rid of it, it's not exactly the most relevant threat either. As such, I don't think this will see play.

Verdict: Myth - You mast let it rot.

15. Bring Low is another perfect example of how removal at Common has gotten so expensive. In this case, you're paying 11 for 3 points of damage, which is like a double cost Lightning Strike that can't target players. The additional 2 damage for creatures with +1 / +1 counters is decent I suppose, but still is a pretty inefficient for a burn spell. Bring Low seems particularly bad in a set that already has Arrow Storm at Common, which while Sorcery speed is going to be a better inclusion in your deck. I sincerely hope this doesn't signal that Red is losing cheap removal at Common in the same way that Black already has.

Verdict: Myth - Burn spells are finding a new low.

16. Swift Kick keeps one Instant speed Fight-effect in the format, although it is quite expensive at 11. The additional point of Power is basically just gravy, although it does help assure that the two creatures will at least trade. Of course, in that exact scenario, you are essentially two-for-one-ing yourself, which is a big price to pay to remove an opponent's creature. At Sorcery speed, this would probably be too expensive to see play. But at Instant speed, Fight allows you to turn combat to your advantage in so many different scenarios. That is probably the saving grace for this card in terms of playability.

Verdict: Borderline - I want to give this a swift kick to the curb, but it might not be that bad.


17. In researching this card, I was shocked that a card equivalent to Valley Dasher has never seen print before, at least not at Common. A 2/2 for 11 with Haste seems like the perfect two-drop for a highly aggressive Red deck, getting your offense off to a quick start. In such a strategy, you typically want to be turning your cards sideways every turn anyway, so the drawback isn't nearly as bad as it might seem. Obviously this won't fit into just any deck running Red, but the RDW archetype is typically somewhere between decent to good in the format, and this fits right into that archetype nicely.

Verdict: Borderline - I wouldn't dash out to buy 4 copies, but this will probably see some play.

18. Apparently the Grizzly Bears are big in this world! Alpine Grizzly is an interesting variant of that classic card, and has the distinction of improving upon the hyper-aggressive Regathan Firecat from Magic 2014. In a set with Ferocious, getting access to a 4 Power creature on Turn 3 shouldn't be overlooked. Interesting enough, this might actually be better in a Control build, simply because the boosted Power means that you can expect it to trade with more expensive creatures. Still, vanilla creatures are not how you win a game of Standard Pauper, so I don't have high expectations for this.

Verdict: Borderline - If this was suddenly taken away, I'll not pine for it.

19. Dragonscale Boon looks pretty poor when compared to Giant Growth, at least until you realize that the two +1 / +1 counters are permanent. As an Instant, this can be used as an expensive combat trick, but it probably even better as an end-of-turn play when your opponent is already tapped out. On the hand, untapping your creature, boosting its stats, and then blocking with it is also a pretty potent use of this in combat. Combined with White, this is also another way to turn on the Abzan creatures that bestow abilities on creatures with +1 / +1 counters. 11 seems like a lot to pay, but there is enough versatility here that I think it's worth consideration.

Verdict: Borderline - In the right deck, this boon could certainly tip the scales.

20. It seems like Elk are appearing everywhere these days, and Khans is no exception. Highland Game is a fairly marginal card as a 2/1 for 11, and the small amount of life you gain doesn't do much to improve on that. Over the past couple years, we've seen a slow but steady decline in creatures with powerful enters-the-battlefield type effects, and it seems there are also fewer and fewer ways to squeeze additional value out of them. Green has several solid options for 2 drop creatures, and as such I don't see enough here to push this to the front of the herd. As such, you should probably look elsewhere.

Verdict: Myth - The effect isn't high enough to make me game to play it.

21. Lens of Clarity is our final card for the set review, and despite not technically using a mechanic from the set, it's clearly thematically connected to it. It's cheap, and even if you're opponent doesn't control any Morphs, the ability to look at your top card is worth something. Problem is, even if your opponent is running multiple Morphs, I don't think this gives you enough value to be worth a card. If there was some value to be had by running Artifacts, this would certainly be a consideration. But if it Morphs you're worried about, you are probably better off trying to figure them out by intelligent play rather than relying on this artifact to give you that information.

Verdict: Myth - It seems clear to me that this isn't worth a card.

IV. Conclusion

So that's concludes my review of Khans of Tarkir for Standard Pauper. In closing, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. With Khans of Tarkir releasing, we will soon be starting a new season of MPDC, so now is a great time I encourage you to browse over to check out all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the #MPDC channel.

1 Comments

Really nice article series! by Mundisv at Wed, 10/01/2014 - 10:04
Mundisv's picture

Really nice article series! As usual, these reviews are both funny and informative. Also, I have completely overlooked Erase as a card when glancing over the spoiler, it could be very good considering its mana cost