Thursday, September 25, 2014

Khans of Tarkir EDH Set Review, Part 5: The Abzan Houses

Now we're down to the final clan, but that doesn't mean we're done. There are still quite a few unaligned cards to review after this. But for today, we get to talk about the Abzan.

The Abzan Houses

Finally, something to call the WBG wedge besides "Junk"! Though Abzan will now be the official name for the colors I expect many players will stick with the colloquial they're used to. Anywho, The Abzan dragon aspect is "Endurance".

Wrexial. Damia. Karador. Those are just three of the decks I currently have sleeved up that dread seeing this Legendary dreamwrecking peice of cardboard leading an opponent's deck.

Needless to say, I'm not a fan. The sad thing is, it'll get played, but it'll never be for the first ability, always the second. "I'm not playing this because it does anything cool, I'm playing it because it hoses your deck".

Lame. Shame, too because it had potential.

Good fit for Abzan. Addresses two of the weaknesses I mentioned above. Speeds up the slow Outlast ability a bit, and helps slightly with the folding-to-sweepers problem. Seems fairly playable in a variety of decks.

It's a tough call. If that last mode weren't so weak (usually), the strength of the other two modes would definitely edge out Sultai charm for the top spot. In a way, even despite myself, I do kinda think this might be the best. Exile is king among removal, and instant-speed Sign in Blood is quality.

Really, none of the charms are bad, but this one is pretty special.

Nevermind Abzan for a moment; this seems fun in U/G with a bunch of Evolve and Graft spells, Kraj, or Zegana.
Maybe a Jenara deck, too. But, in it's clan colors, it definitely could make Cathar's Crusade even more sick.

The activated ability is to clunky and slow, leaving this as just a large but generic flyer. A lot of cards in the Abzan do get more appealing when you start throwing cards like Cathar's Crusade and Doubling Season into the mix, and this would be pretty large indeed under those conditions, but it's better to run creatures that don't NEED those helper enchantments to not suck

An extremely nerfed Seedborn Muse with a larger body is not very compelling, when you could just actually run the Muse herself. Not untapping lands is just a huge dealbreaker in my opinion.

This would make a lot more sense if Outlast was useable at Instant speed, but given that it's Sorcery speed only, I find this even harder to understand.

Bearing some similarities to Rhys the Redeemed, I think we can safely say people are going to want to give this a go. Probably especially in Rhys decks. But he lacks a lot of Rhy's charm: namely, that he's not a Legend and therefore much easier to kill and keep killed.

Two ways to look at this. One, you could compare it to Kokusho who clearly trumps this guy, save for the aggro mana cost. Or, two, you can compare it to Loxodon Heirarch, in which case it suddenly looks pretty darn sexy. If anyone is still running Stupid Elephant in their Karador decks at this point, I think it's time to make way for Stupid Rhino instead.

I'm thinking Vish Kal players will be doing merry little dances over this. Probably playable in just about any deck where the general comes into play with or amasses lots of counters. Skullbriar? Ghave? Mimeoplasm? All possibilities.

Obligatory mention of Cathar's Crusade #84...

THE most obligatory must-run for any Abzan deck, but also a tremendously exciting card for those U/G decks I mentioned.

Ghave probably doesn't care too much about 1 extra counter now and then. But Marath, though... this is pretty much the best T1 play a Marath player could wish for.

I'm gonna need a few of these.

I'll admit, I'm a bit of a snob. I tend to turn my nose up at sweepers that cost this much mana, unless they're Decree of Pain. And in most decks that could run this, I'd pick Decree over this almost every time. Failing that, I might pick Rout because it's only 7 if you're doing it at Instant speed which is worth it.

But... this just seems tailor-made for Karador. It just fits so perfectly... kill everything but Karador, begin reanimating immediately. Start by reanimating that Eternal Witness to get this back. Win slowly via general damage 3 points at a time. Oh yeah, baby, let the grindy long game begin!

Could almost see this in Derevi alongside the trusty Gavony Township. But without Township this is probably pretty weak. Jenara, then maybe? Dunno.

Oh, wait, I know! Cathar's Crusade! LOL I'm a genius!

Khans of Tarkir EDH Set Review, Part 2: The Jeskai Way

Welcome back folks. Here's part two of our EDH Set Review for the colorful and epic Khans of Tarkir.

The Jeskai Way

Today, we look at the Jeskai, the URW clan. The Jeskai clan's dragon aspect is "Cunning", and their signature mechanic is "Prowess", which gives your creatures a small size boost for each non-creature spell you play.

I'm definitely not sold on the idea of a dedicated Prowess deck working in EDH, but with the right mix of credible threats and solid support cards, anything is possible. The problem is getting the balance right. Too many creatures and not enough spells, and your guys will be outclassed and ineffective. Also, you tend to want to cast lots of spells all at once, which means you need cheap spells, many of which are likely to be similarly underwhelming in EDH.

The Jeskai strategy is aggressive, like the Mardu, but unlike the Mardu they have a good deal more finesse. Sometimes they can just set up one Prowess guy and use a steady stream of buffs and support spells to make that one guy a threat. Or they can slowly amass a number of Prowess guys and wait until the have critical mass - then unload in a flurry of spell casting and hope to overwhelm an opponent with lots of Prowess buffs.

This too has some serious weaknesses in EDH. Again, the high life totals, multiple opponents, and ubiquitous sweeprs all work heavily against the Jeskai plan. But the clan's support cards nonetheless make a compelling argument for a UWR aggro deck that is far less centered on the Prowess mechanic. There does appear to be potential for a whole new UWR paradigm than the previous Legends allowed for, which is great.

Narset, the Khan of the Jeskai, definitely packs a mean punch. Casting up to four non-creature spells for free is pretty awesome, and two relevant keywords to help her survive combat is just gravy. That said, Hexproof can be an annoyance, and victims of Uril the Miststalker will probably shudder to see Narset across the table.

But I think she enables her clan's strategy nicely, or just opens up a whole new style of deck for URW. She's definitely a long way from either Zedruu, Ruhan or Numot. I'm anxious to see what people do with her - it might be awesome, or it might be awful, but at least it'll be new.

This is one of the cards I was talking about when I said the Jeskai could probably enable a good aggro deck for these colors. It also doubles the effectiveness of Prowess, which makes that ability slightly more buyable, though I'm still not convinced that's the right way to go for EDH.

Also seems to be a good way to dig for combo pieces if that's your thing. Or whatever it is you need... just dig, dig, dig.

I'm a big fan so far.

This one feels rather weak to me, but maybe it's just the bad Lava Axe mode that really bugs me. The third mode feels awfully redundant with some of the other clan's support spells, but it does interact nicely with Prowess and the Ascendency. The not-quite-tuck mode is also nice, but not as thrilling as the some of the other charms' destroy or exile effects.

This feels like it would do way more in a Mardu deck, but I can see why the felt it might help the Jeskia. Flavor-wise it's clearly Jeskai. Overall, it's pretty underwhelming for EDH purposes, but you might see it pop up now and again.

Usually I'd avoid removal this expensive and conditional, but since Consecrated Sphinx is a thing, I imagine we'll see those two paired up once in a while.

I'm not sure if this is slightly better or slightly worse than Lightning Angel. Maybe it's neither, just slightly different. Alas, Lightning Angel was never really good enough for EDH, but maybe this guy and the Angel have a descent shot in that hypothetical URW aggro deck I'm hoping this block will enable.

I went up against this at the Prerelease, and I think it's definitely got game. I ended up beating it, but man did it make life difficult for me for a while. Anyway, I can see this popping up in all manner of Zedruu or Grand Arbiter decks. Nekusar for sure. Basically anything light on creatures and needing some defense.

Yeesh, that's pretty costly, but it probably has to be to remain an Instant. I'd like it better as a cheaper Sorcery, but I do understand that it is designed to be used both offensively and defensively. On the D, it's gonna be such a blowout, but most people will only walk into this once. After that, they're gonna see that six mana up as a big warning sign.

Anyway, my gut tells me this is bad, but it'll probably get played regardless. Probably even by me.

Well, honestly, I'm glad this ain't in the same league as Curse of the Swine, Aetherize and Cyclonic Rift. The era of blue somehow getting the best sweepers is hopefully over. Don't get me wrong I love Blue, and I love Rift in particular, but those all feel like cheating to me. This seems fair, but because those other, cheatier things already exist, this guy probably is a little too fair to get much play.

My friends and I were really pissed off and a little confused as to why this card doesn't have Prowess. Then I realized something: All of the clan keywords only appear on mono-colored cards! Prowess, for instances, only appears on mono-red, mono-blue or mono-white cards, The multicolor cards are all there to support, enable or enhance the mechanic or strategy.

That realization made this care make way more sense, but it didn't make it any less bad.

This doesn't have the Jeskai watermark, but is another one where the clan it should belong to seems clear.

Anyway, this is one hell of a Sunforger target. The only thing I don't like is that Palm does the damage, rather than the original source, so suprise General Damage wins off someone else's general won't happen.

Talk to the hand, bitch!

Man, I love me some double strike! Unlike most Prowess creatures, these twins don't need all that many spells to become legitimate threats. Throw a Madcap Skills on 'em and then just start bouncing or burning anything else that gets in their way. Definitely one of my favorite Jeskai cards, and I'm hoping they'll prove adequate as a wincon in my Melek deck.

A slightly beefier Izzet Chronarch that can also get back Planeswalkers, Enchantments and Artifacts? This will probably wind up in just about every deck that can play it. Definitely staple-worthy, though the color restrictions will keep it in limited to fewer decks.

Another one that doesn't have the Jeskai watermark, but as a mirror to the blue enchantment above, this seems like it belongs here. The goblin token does pull it slightly to Mardu though. At any rate, it seems like a good addition to spell-heavy Jeskai decks, as it can generate threats without diluting the deck with too many actual creatures.

Nothing about this creature makes any sense. Does this giant sea monster know kung fu? I don't understand. The flavor makes no sense, the abilities are just a random mess of stuff that doesn't seem to belong together. Why is is it 6/7 and not 6/6 or 7/7? So many questions... I can't even tell you if it's good or bad or what because I just can't figure out what this card does.

Khans of Tarkir EDH Set Review, Part 4: The Sultai Brood

Thing seem to be progressing nicely, so let's keep going, shall we? This is part 4 of our set review for Khans of Tarkir and this time we're examining the...

The Sultai Brood

These snakey bastards are the Sulta, the BGU clan. Thier dragon aspect is "Ruthlessness", and their mechanic is a returning Future Sight mechanic: Delve. Like the Golgari's Dredge, Delve is a graveyard mechanic, which allows you to spend cards in the graveyard like mana to make your Delve spells cheaper.

I have a pretty strong dislike of Delve, unfortunately. I'd probably like the Sultai more than the Temur if it weren't for this fact, because Black, Green and Blue are the three strongest colors in EDH, and do everything I like to do best - ramp, draw cards and kill stuff. It's also the best color scheme for decks that want to exploit their own graveyards or everyone else's, which is among my favorite strategies.

Which gets to the crux of my issue with Delve. I generally don't ever want to exile my own cards from my own graveyard! I'm not done with those! I mean think about this - the other big Sultai thing is self-milling, which obviously enables Delve, right? So, I mill a bunch of my own cards, and then what? A) I can either exile 6 to 8 of those cards to cheaply cast a spell that says "Draw three cards" or "Destroy target creature" or maybe get a vanilla 4/4 for only 1 mana. Or, B) I can cast one of about a million Zombify variants and get back a big, scary monster from the graveyard. Or, C) I can cast Living Death and get back ALL the big, scary monsters.

So that's my issue with Delve. Most of the Delve spells are very generic, plain spells with inflated costs, and are only playable if you actually Delve to pay for them, which I don't want to do because I can promise you that 99.9999% of the time, whatever I'm exiling to help pay for my Delve spell is about a thousand times more powerful and fun than the Delve spell I'm trying to cast.

Other than Delve, though, I still really like the Sultai. The have snake people, zombies, and even an undead monkey! Their self-mill support cards will definitely enable some awesome things, even if those things have nothing to do with Delve. Dredge? Sure. Reanimation? Definitely. But Delve? I'll pass, thanks.

Sidisi is basically half a Grave Titan that also enables graveyard abuse. The only real downside is that she's really not well equipped to survive more than a couple of forays into the red zone. A 3/3 with no evasion, no combat keywords, no protection? Not gonna live long most of the time.

Fortunately, she's in great colors for control, so you can probably just kill whatever threatens to get in her way. We'll definitely be seeing Sidisi at the helm of decks built to abuse the graveyard in any number of ways. She's well worth the effort it'll take to make her stick.

Yes, I have the same complaint as everyone else: I don't like that this doesn't have two abilities like the other 4 cards in this cycle. What really gets is me is that there is no "creatures you control" aspect, which is another thing the other four cards share in common. 

That said, I think it's good enough to play anyways. I mean, sure it doesn't compete with Sylvan Library in some decks, or Phyrexian Arena in others, but it's still a pretty powerful way to smooth out your draws and enable graveyard tricks at the same time. 

This is probably my favorite of the charms. All three modes are likely to be useful in a wide range of scenarios in all sorts of metagames. None of the modes are extremely powerful, but none are bad either. Well rounded and unlikely to ever be a dead draw.

He's kind of like a mini Savage Knuckleblade. Which means he's pretty terrible in EDH, but probably a solid contender in other formats. Clearly this is just a card that was not designed for us. Moving on then...

Fun design, and gives you some resilience to Wrath effects. Definitely playable in the format. I can see this getting decent mileage in ramp/big mana decks - at least those that eschew the easy-mode Genesis Wave wins. I also like the morph ability. 

Obviously designed to entice and reward you for playing Delve spells, but as far as rewards go, a big generic beatstick with no other abilities is not going to cut it. 

Creatures need to do something besides "be big" and "attack" to matter in this format. Otherwise they just get chumped all day and then die to a sweeper. Also, their just kinda boring.

Case in point, this creature will likely never attack more than once per game, if at all, but is still likely to be way more relevant and worthwhile than the Vizer above.  Why? Cause drawing cards is friggin’ awesome! Of course he’s not that great in token decks, but still... Replacing your dead guys with new cards is a great way to stay in the game for the long-haul. Morph kinda feels randomly tacked-on here, but whatever, we'll take it.

Kind of expensive for what it does. You can probably do this on a Sorcery for like two mana. But if you want to recur or blink the guy to get the effect multiple times, that seems reasonable. I feel pretty ambivalent about this guy, but I suspect he might be better than he looks in the right decks.

This is the one Delve spell I might be willing to play. The effect is pretty strong, especially at Instant speed, and you don't really need to delve the full 6 before this is cheap enough to be well worth it. If i'm casting this for 4 actual mana, I'm probably pretty happy with that.

I appreciate what this is trying to do, and I will concede that in some decks it will do that thing quite admirably, but of all my decks that could or would make use of this… well, frankly, I'd rather just go with something like Rise of the Dark Realms or even Army of the Damned.

Well, folks, we have a winner here. Sure it’s limited by is trip-color Identity, but a Genesis Wave that hits your opponents and lacks the permanents-only restriction should win you all kinds of games, at least in 1v1. In multiplayer, it’s a lot more fair, and a lot less likely to just auto-win, but whomever you target is still likely to hold a grudge. It’s definitely one of the most blatantly powerful cards in the set, either way. Easily one of my favorite cards in the set.

Ugh. There are plenty of ways to kill things that don't suck. Visara. Kagemaro. Phyrexian Plagelord. Shriekmaw. Duplicant. The list goes on, and 99% of them are just flat out better than this guy.

I think I said something earlier about leaving six mana open being a good way to telegraph a trap. Still, a Spelljack morph is going to make a lot of people happy, so expect to be running headlong into this guy from time to time. Just don't be the fool who falls for the same trick twice, okay?

:D Ahhhahahahahaha very funny Wizards, now where’s the REAL card that goes here?

I feel like this guy could have cost 5 and been perfectly fair and not overpowered. Definitely digging the Unearth-on-crack ability, even if I have to overpay for a mediocre body. Seems fun enough to play even when their might be stronger similar options.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Khans of Tarkir EDH Set Review, Part 3: The Temur Frontier

Hello, again. Our journey through Tarkir continues; this time we're visiting the frozen wastes of the Temur.

The Temur Frontier

The Temur clan, GUR, are probably my favorite clan. Their dragon aspect is "Savagery" and at a glance they appear to be the most "Timmy"-oriented of the five clans. Their mechanic is Ferocious, which tacks on a bonus to your spells or creatures if you control a creature with 4 or greater power. It's a lot like Raid, actually, just with a different condition for turning it on.

Ferocious is very workable in EDH because simply controlling a 4-power creature is an extremely common occurrence in the format. But there aren't a particularly high number of cards with the keyword that you'd really want to play, so as of yet the idea of a Ferocious deck is mostly just "any deck with a lot of large dudes and a couple of the better Ferocious cards jammed in".

But the Temur strategy as a whole is deeper than simply ramping into fatties. A lot of the support for the clan comes in the form of tempo cards - bounce and removal, for one thing. Also, the clan uses morph to great effect, as a way of cheating into play it's larger creatures, and sometimes turning on Ferocious by surprise. There's also a bit of countermagic native to the Temur.

So it's really more about tempo and keeping your opponent off their early game, then later smashing face with beefcakes. It's definitely not the Spike-iest clan, no sir, but they aren't as dumb as they look either.Overall the clan seems viable enough in EDH. They have a range of early to mid game plays that all lead up to a big end game finale. The color scheme was already popular and well-proven in the format.

So apparently this guy chopped a bear in half and got made Khan of the Temur for his troubles. Then he decided to wear the bear as clothes in case anyone forgot what a badass mofo he is.

As a card, specifically as a potential general, he's not that exciting or interesting. He's good, yeah. Beefy stats and like 19 random upside abilities, for like barely any mana. But he doesn't really do much, and is kind of a big, dumb Timmy general.

But that's good - GUR already has absurdly powerful options, so they need a low-key guy so fans of the colors can play decks that don't draw immediate hate and fear.

I kinda like him.

This is definitely my favorite of this cycle. Mass haste and card draw? Done. It just speeds things up nicely. Attack faster, draw more things, wash, rinse, repeat.

Seems particularly absurd in Animar decks.

I only wish I could play this in more decks. Can you imagine it in Mayael?

Sadly, not my favorite of the charm cycle, but definitely a very playable one. The fight mode is decent removal, as you're likely to be playing large guys. Mana leak gets pretty weak in the late game, but as an early tempo play it's fine. And the last mode make sure token hordes don't get in the way of your beef. Very solid.

This is no Noble Hierarch, that's for sure. But it's still very good. He can certainly help power out a ridiculously early Maelstrom Wanderer, and is probably no slouch in Riku either. Animar will love him because Morph interacts so well with him. Turn 4 Intet seems like a play you'd want to make once in a while.

Yeah, I usually poo-poo mana dorks in EDH, because of the Wrath thing and all, but this dude is worth making an exception.

Meh. I generally don't like these types of X-mana burn spells unless they're mass-burn or just really bonkers powerful. This doesn't seem very good at all. If it said "X times 2" instead, I'd play it, but that probably isn't close to printable in Standard.

To be blunt, this is not good enough for the average EDH deck, but you just know you're gonna play it anyway for flavor and awesome reasons. It's up there with Goblins on a Pony. It's just going to be fun to play, and worth mad style points, regardless of how good it actually is.

I do wish it were Naya colors simply because it'd be a fine addition to my Marath deck, but alas... However, being in blue does make it one of the least lame and most badass things you could ever pair with Deadeye Navigator.

I so have to do that.


Even then it's still be middling at best. This is yet another card I really want to be good enough, and will probably try to pretend it is for a while, but I know it'll disappoint me in the end.

Jeez, with that artwork, this is so getting played. People will put this in their decks without even reading the text. But, it's not a strictly terrible card. It can pretty effectively kill most anything that needs killin'. And you get to make jokes about punching bears in the face while you do it.

God, that art. Best. Card. Ever.

Sure, this is way more fair than Tooth and Nail, but in the kinds of decks that you'll likely play this in, you'll generally be happy with whatever two random dorks you find in the top eight, and for six mana, it'll feel like a real bargain. This one got "staple" written all over it.

I'd rather see mythics like this than easy-mode spells like Craterhoof Behemoth and Primal Surge. Good job on this one, WotC. Keep it up.

I don't know that he'll be all that great in EDH... probably not. But he's damn good in Limited, and easily my favorite morph creature in the set.

Anything that grants Indestructible is worth at least a passing glance, but really all I wanted to say about this one is that I really, really want to see someone target their Phyrexian Obliterator with it. Just once. C'mon folks, make it happen!

Not feeling this one - awkward casting cost, targeting restriction, and the "bonus" is just a marginal bump to one of your creatures - if you control any. There are no shortage of great counterspell options out there that put this to shame.

I mean, sure, it's a big fat "duh" in Animar where those two counters may really matter, but everywhere else, it's a big fat dud.

This seems perfectly fine, in a vacuum. The effect is desirable and the cost is workable. But I feel like there have to be some other options out there that are just better. That it's an Instant, really, is the only thing saving it. Otherwise it'd be a mediocre uncommon.
He's big, he's cheap, and he's got a lot of abilities. But he's definitely meant more for normal constructed play. He might come down early enough to bully people for a couple of turns, but then he quickly gets obsoleted by bigger, scarier things.

Then again, a 6/6 is formidable. It just costs too much to maintain that stature. I say trade him to Standard players, if he takes off. You've got better options.