Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Khans of Tarkir EDH Set Review, Part 1: The Mardu Horde

You know what time it is, folks. Yup, that's right. It's time for another Command Zone EDH Set review. Khans of Tarkir is our wedge-themed set, something avid EDH fans have been clamoring for since, well, pretty much the day after Shards of Alara was revealed.

Luckily Khans appears to deliver a lot of what we'd expect from a "Wedge" set, without feeling like a color-shifted rehash of Alara. It is pretty epic and flavorful-looking, at least. Let's hope it plays as awesome as it looks!

The Mardu Horde

Up first, we've got the Mardu, the WBR clan. The Mardu clan's dragon aspect is "Speed", and their signature mechanic is "Raid", which gives your spells and creatures rewards for attacking before you cast them.

For EDH purposes, Raid doesn't seem to be a widely playable mechanic, but some individual spells will certainly make the cut. Many of the creatures and effects lack the kind of impact that make for a solid EDH card, and leaning too heavily on Raid may wind up forcing you to make unfavorable attacks just to get the most bang out of your spells.

Overall, the Mardu strategy seems to focus on naked aggression and overwhelming your opponents with masses of small creatures. This strategy is traditionally weak in EDH, given the format's high starting life, tendency toward multiplayer, and prevelance towards gratuitous amounts of board-sweeping. It also lacks access to strong ramp options, and is somewhat limited in the card drawing department.

That's not to say the Mardu Horde can't work in EDH. They definitely have potential to be explosive. The challenge is to find a way to also make the resilient when the need to be, and add some long-game reach to their basic game plan.

I believe the Mardu can be viable, but the may take a bit more effort to make them work than the other clans.

Zurgo is the Khan of the Mardu clan - their leader. And as befitting of the aggro clan, Zurgo definitely wants to smash into the red zone with all abandon. The downside is, he's pretty easy to kill when it's NOT your turn, but in combat, he's nigh invincible. Just watch out for -X/-X effects, and dudes with Wither, and you'll be fine.

Zurgo could be a bit of a pain-in-the-butt as a Voltron general. Uril's Hexproof is far more annoying that Zurgo's conditional Indestructible will likely be, but nonetheless seems capable of hard-to-stop one shot kills. Heck, he's a three-turn clock by himself, and chumping only makes him stronger! Mostly, though, he's a nice departure from Kaalia.

Probably not the most effective Ascendency in the cycle, given how often that 1/1 Goblin is going be largely irrelevant, but hey, it's free! Who can say no to free goblins, especially in an all-out aggro deck?

The sac effect is even less likely to be super-relevant: +3 on the backside isn't going to stop most sweepers from killing your dudes, but you never know...

Four damage to a creature is not bad - Flametongue Kavu continues to be a reliable removal option for Red mages even today - but it's not stellar either. The other two modes are mostly going to be downright terrible in EDH. Overall this just barely makes my "playable" list and in most decks would probably constantly be on the short list for possible replacement. Expect this to underperform compared to the other charms.

Overall, this isn't really an EDH card, but it feels appropriate for a "stock" Mardu Horde deck. More importantly it's definitely going into a whole bunch of Krenko and Purphoros lists.

I'd love to see something a little more clever and original, but sometimes the obvious uses are the best uses.
Sure, on the surface, a 2/2 for five mana that isn't guaranteed to have any board impact might feel like a raw deal, but I think this guy is pretty effective at making an aggro/weenie rush deck perform. Deathtouch and first strike are a potent combination and I don't think we've seen them en masse like this before. He definitely makes blocking a nightmare for the defending player.

This doesn't bear the Mardu watermark, but it definitely feels more Mardu than Abzan or Sultai, so I'm throwing it in. Aggro decks need tend to need this kind of persistent card draw to keep of the pressure and recover from sweepers.

The trouble is, it's limited to Warrior-heavy decks, and I'm not sure how many of those are out there - and how many have Black in their CI?

This one is very, very iffy because most EDH decks don't run a whole lot of CMC 2-or-less creatures, but getting back your Serra Ascendent after it runs into a surprise Winged Coatl or whathaveyou is a nice thought. It also has some potential in my Derevi build, which has an high number of valid targets for this, but even then I'm not sure it's going to really be good enough.

This guy clear got his name because he butcher's his own Horde-mates, but has managed a really nice PR spin on it. Sure, I'll go kill that guy for you, but lemme much on this goblin for some energy first. Okay... sure.

Being a demon in these colors, Kaalia is the obvious first thought. He's not exciting there, by any stretch, but hey, you can actually cast this guy in the even Kaalia gets shut out, and once in play he can eat Kaalia in response to a tuck effect or control magic effect.

Goblins riding on a pony. Like, four of them. On one pony. How do you not play this card, given the option? A bit expensive, really, but for a common, not terrible. But it's worth way more in style points and hilarity than power level.

I really wish this was a Temur card so it'd have Ferocious instead of Raid as it's condition for getting the bonus, but hey, throwing a random Wood Elf or Goblin Token to it's doom is a fair price to pay. At any rate, Fork-ing something twice for only three mana is a huge deal. Definitely going to see some play.

I feel like this is much more appropriate for 60-card formats, but as a way for Mardu decks to deal with problems like Avacyn, it'll likely suffice.

Also a valid Sunforger target, something that always catches my attention.

This little bird and an Archangel of Thune. That's my dream. I also like this for Populate shenanigans, so I'm eyeing this for my Marath deck, which has a bit of a Populate thing going on.

It's certainly not going to tear up the format, but it has some nice applications. It'll get played, but probably not widely so.

This is definitely the better half of this duo. With this lady and her Scale counterpart, I kinda want to make a W/B Warrior tribal deck now.

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