Hidden Gems in Khans

July 25, 2018

For the last weeks we have all been trying to break Khans of Tarkir, either as preparation for Pro Tour Hawaii or setting up the GPs to come. I cannot start to express how pleasant it has been, how exciting the format is and how much fun we’ve been having throughout the entire process. GP Orlando just finished and, overall, I have the feeling that no one knows yet exactly where the format will end. Pick orders are still fuzzy at best, given the eternal debate on multicolour sets on how to prioritize fixing and where to pick your winners.
I have been fairly successful on this period, netting a couple of reasonably large tournaments and doing fairly well online. My intention with this article is not to go through the obvious value or the ranking of what are the resources we have on our pool. For that, I strongly invite you to read the following articles, here, at MTG Madness, by some of our all-time greats:

-Khans of Tarkir Impressions – Alessandro Lippi
-Khans of Tarkir: Temur, Abzan and Extras
-Khans of Tarkir: Sultai, Jeskai and Mardu
-Khans of Tarkir Analysis – Green
-Khans of Tarkir Analysis – Red
-Khans of Tarkir Analysis – Black
-Khans of Tarkir Analysis – Blue
-Khans of Tarkir Analysis – White

My intention is to go through some cards that, for one reason or another, I prioritize higher than most of the players on either our test group or overall at competitive level. And which other way to start than by identifying my traditional p1p1, Sultai Scavenger.

They say that delve cards don’t go well in multiples, and they might be right, but my experience with the format tells me a 3/3 flier is a good thing, like Belgian chocolate. Obviously the second one won’t be as good, but the situation stands to reason: while traditionally, even on non-delve strategies, you will commonly deploy this bloke on turns 3 to 4, the fact is that it stacks up nicely on the following turns, even if for nearly full cost. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I stated that 70% of my wins come from abusing the nerfy-looking flier – and independently of anything else, I will keep on picking highly what wins me games the most often.
Sultai Scavenger, on top of being a 3/3 flier, is a warrior, which stacks up nicely on what I consider to be the most powerful strategy on the format – the WBx Warriors – where a card as harmless looking as Raiders’ Spoils, or a low-pick common like Rush of Battle become houses.
When unavailable, or not obscured by bombs, one of the following stands traditionally as a fine first pick (again, not going through the obvious cards here – focusing on what I might be doing differently that may prove useful for you on the short term future):

You will notice that I rarely take multi-coloured cards on first picks, which I believe to be correct in Khans draft. My traditional sequence goes from value/reasonable mono-coloured spells (picks 1 and 2, same colour if possible) to fixing (picks 2 through infinity and beyond) and moving into a colour as deemed reasonable. It happens both ways: that I pick a colour, start stacking fixing for other colours and prioritizing then the spells on those colours and, in alternative, that I p1 one colour, p2 another and start getting the fixing straight for the remainder of pack 1.
Regarding Hooting Mandrills and Debilitating Injury, I see them both at a reasonable same power level, with priority to the latter. While Injury is very often a removal spell for a morph that doubles as a let-me-see-what-you’re-on, Mandrills is a big lad that enters early even on non-delve strategies. Also, I am comfortable with both Abzan and Mardu as far as clans go and I did win last weekend a reasonably high-staked event running Selesnya Aggro:

Even if traditionally, my draft decks end up more often like this:

All of that said, I would like to share with you what I believe are the top 5 most underestimated cards in the format, by pick order (after all, that’s probably why you’re here, isn’t it?) and those are (drum roll):
Roar of Challenge
Bellowing Saddlebrute / Glacial Stalker
Archers’ Parapet
War Behemoth
Act of Treason

Speaking about how Roar of Challenge is good is remembering all the formats in which board stalls were a thing and while it has been historically known that lure effects can be powerful, the fact that you’re able to set up a one-swing-win happens more commonly than expected. In alternative, it actually happens that even if you’re not winning, you’re taking down your selection of 2 to 3 creatures your opponent controls (not unthinkable on green strategies), which seems like tremendous amount of value. Debunking the myth that this is a “win more” card, I can attest to the amount of times this card actually turned everything around, besides being a great set up trick – during the finals of a local GPT, I ended up having to rely on an 11-turn planning strategy to take down a game that would be unwinnable otherwise.
The reason why I grouped Bellowing Saddlebrute and Glacial Stalker is due to their power toughness of 4/5. On a format where 2/5s are considered a reasonably decent defence, more often than not a 4/5 will not only stabilize your board but highly threaten your opponent’s life total. More and more I feel like this is not a format for durdling – despite the strong displays of power that a well-tuned sultai deck can present, I have been slowly convinced that the practical approach is often times more successful. And that’s what these blokes are: all business. Also according to this line of thought, I defend the usage of a War Behemoth as a morph creature that, on a very practical level, ends up eating your opponent’s best trick/removal and/or your opponent’s attacker + trick. The potential for two for one + getting one to two extra turns of stall, for me, justify the inclusion of a one of, even if from the sideboard.
Archers’ Parapet is a wall with a big butt that pings. Somehow this hasn’t attracted as many players as it should have, especially when your deck relies on a couple win conditions and is more heavily focused on an attrition battle.
Act of Treason is the card that I believe makes Jeskai Aggro a decent strategy in limited. Jeskai has the tools to set up a lightning fast stream of damage to your face but, often times, doesn’t manage to deal that last punch. Act of Treason acts superbly as a Prowess trigger + take your big guy to finish. That is also the reason why I often include a miser Barrage of Boulders on my red-based limited aggro decks, as I am of the opinion that all those do require a manner, set up in deck construction, to deliver that last punch.
And that is it from me today. I hope this has been both beneficial and entertaining for you. In the meantime, if there’s something I overlooked, you can always reach me through Facebook or Twitter (@mtghal). I’ll be happy to hear about your hidden gems!
Until then, happy slinging!

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