Raging Levine – Khans of Tarkir Commander Set Review

Hey folks! It’s Khans of Tarkir time, isn’t it? This set is one of the best I’ve seen in years for Commander. Cool legendary creatures, interesting multicolor cards, and above all, fetchlands for the masses! There’s more to say about this set—a ton more, in fact—so I want to make sure I give you a nice set review. I won’t be rating the cards with numbers—I’m not LSV, so you don’t care if I think the cards are good in tournaments. (Although, I did just go X-0 and draw in the last round of my local prerelease…) Instead, I’ll be talking about synergies, decks that want cards, and decks that will come about because of new cards—usually new commanders. Let’s get to work!

First, I want to talk about morph creatures. Long have I dreamt of an Ixidor, Reality Sculptor deck. Before Khans of Tarkir, there were 36 blue morph creatures. (Whip-Spine Drake doesn’t count—you can probably see why.) Adding colorless morphs, we got to 39. Now, with Khans in the mix, we have a full 46 morph creatures available to our Ixidor deck. We are so incredibly close to being able to play an Ixidor deck with only lands and 3-mana 2/2s. The dream is real. As long as Fate Reforged and “Louie” (the third set) have morph creatures too, we’ll be able to get there. I’m so excited. (I guess we can play Ixidron too, if we have to, but I’d really just like it to be Islands and morphs.)

Onward, though, to cards with names. (Morphs have no names!)

Sure, the anthem effect only kicks in the one time, but between that and the wrath insurance, this card looks good on the face of it. However, the Abzan decks that want this kind of effect are likely to be making lots of tokens already, so this might not be terribly strong.

Let me take a moment to discuss all the Outlast lords. Obviously they’ll be differently useful based on what ability you’re getting, but I honestly think the green ones will see the most use. They give some redundancy with cards that already exist in Simic decks that depend on +1/+1 counters. I could see Experiment Kraj making use of the green ones, for example, while Skullbriar decks will certainly want both green and black ones. The white ones will probably be the hardest to use.

While I don’t see the third mode being incredible, the utility of having instant-speed Sign in Blood or being able to exile a large creature (the most important ones, usually) at any time could easily be worth carrying this in a Doran deck or similar.

If you can vomit a lot of permanents onto the table and mill everyone, more power to you, but I don’t see this being useful outside of some really weird infinite combos.

This won’t be displacing Doran any time soon. It can’t pump itself, it can only pump one other creature, and graveyard hate effects are certainly not in short supply. I wish I could be more excited about this one, but my hopes are not that high.

Now this is insanity I can get behind! First strike and deathtouch is everyone’s favorite combo, and when red cards like Inferno Titan can reach out and torch your opponents’ creatures when they attack, you can get a lot of mileage out of deathtouch. Bonus points apply if your creatures have trample! You should make sure to smash some helms with this, if you know what I mean.

This is pretty mediocre, to be honest. If you want recursive threats, you could do a lot better.

Oh good, a Craw Wurm with pseudo-Provoke. Not everything can be great. See you in Limited, buddy!

It’s nice to see the Refuges from Zendikar back – more multicolor lands mean that players of all budgets can play crazy 5-color decks! It’s also nice that these come in allied- and enemy-color varieties.

While I don’t think this is much of a friend for Kaalia of the Vast, I think that in any Aristocrats-style deck that enjoys sacrificing creatures (perhaps ones you don’t own!) Butcher of the Horde will find a good home. Tariel could be a good Commander to make friends with the Butcher, as could Oros. Zurgo is also a reasonable choice, but I think Tariel and Oros have more synergy to offer.

This will likely be one of the breakout Commander cards from the set. Any deck that wants to abuse copy effects (which usually means ETB effects) will be playing this. The difference between 3 and 4 mana that matters so much in competitive formats will probably not matter so much in Commander, meaning that this can live happily alongside Phyrexian Metamorph.

If you are in an environment where everyone plays huge haymaker creatures, this could be okay, but I don’t see it making much of a splash.

A pretty standard card selection spell, all things considered. A lot of these types of spells are judgment calls – if you don’t use your graveyard a lot or if you like to respond to people eating/abusing your graveyard, this could be useful. The defensive applications of instants with Delve are not to be overlooked!

#HOOF. If you like repeatable overrun effects, put someone big on this throne and watch your opponents cower in fear. Putting something 5/5 or larger on the throne should be sufficient to win most games assuming you have a decent board presence. Get excited about this card; it’s going to be good.

The dragon style will be strong as long as you have enough noncreature spells – this should be useful in decks featuring Commanders like Narset, Melek, Intet, and so on. Of course, you could cast a lot of spells and feed them to something like Nivmagus Elemental to make a very strong attack…

What’s better than Divine Reckoning? This, of course – assuming you can pay for it! Pick your own creature, or get weird and let someone else keep something. (Don’t let someone else keep something.) Decks like Karador and Doran that enjoy large, recursive threats should shine with this card.

You’re going to need quite the graveyard to make this better than Army of the Damned – 8 mana gets you 2 Zombies, not 13 – so I’d call this a miss.

Another wrath effect in a sea of wrath effects. If your playgroup is literally Theros or Mirrodin, this could be useful.

It’s no Titanic Ultimatum, but it should finish out a game. I’d rather cast Insurrection most of the time.

Hooray! Tri-lands! I’m really glad the wedges are finally getting what they deserve.

There are a lot of black cards like this, which is good – it means there will be a spot for this as a redundant engine card in already-existing decks. Put this next to your Harvester of Souls and start sacrificing creatures – maybe Shirei will have something to say about this? Or perhaps Butcher of the Horde will get involved?

Toby Elliott could not stop talking about this card and Skullbriar, and now neither can I. Ghave also deserves mention, as do the Spike creatures, Evolve creatures, and Experiment Kraj. (This card also got me talking with other locals about a Skullbriar deck that simply tries to put as many different kinds of counters on Skullbriar as possible, but that’s an article for another day…)

Doubling Season, anyone? I can’t wait to see this in a Rhys the Redeemed, Hazezon Tamar, Rith, or Ghave deck. This card is going to show up, both in Commander and in “one-drop cubes” around the world. (I know of two!)

It’s going to take a critical mass of +1/+1 counters – or a TON of mana – to make this good.

Say what’s up to the new Deranged Hermit! Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – I definitely think this card is good, though. Be careful when you morph it, though – you will definitely lose the upside of this a lot of the time, because everyone knows morphs are scary.

I like how this plays against counterspells, and I also like how easy it is to trigger the version of this spell that makes two copies of something. If this doesn’t see some serious play, I’ll be thoroughly shocked.

I’m struggling to see the +1/+1 counter deck in my mind that includes all three of these colors. If you find it, though, you should play this card.

The +1/+1 probably isn’t as relevant as the rest of the card. This could easily be a very combolicious card. In fact, I’ve already heard of some really janky Standard combos with it, so if you want to play cards like Talrand and Guttersnipe with this in Commander, I think you’ll be doing something good.

Bizarro Sedris is a fine card, but the random aspect is a bit off-putting. You’re going to have to stack your graveyard with some serious heavy hitters (or one heavy hitter at a time) to make this card work for you.

I think many blue decks will be interested in Mr. Spelljack. For a blue card, this is a pretty blunt instrument – I don’t have much to say other than “Yes, please!”

OH HEY WHAT’S UNDER HERE

This is the card that Launched a thousand Fleets. I’m not as keen on the sacrifice plan, but getting a big pile of attacking creatures seems great for any deck that wants to play, say, Blood Artist.

I don’t really understand this card from a flavor standpoint – are they magic pearls? Does he hand them out to throw at people? Shouldn’t it just give flanking or something? I mean, obviously that’s not possible, but we can dream.

I think Enter the Infinite + Master the Way is worth mentioning. Perhaps with some Howl of the Horde involved. Let’s make this happen.

I wish this card was like Floral Spuzzem and could think for itself. I’m just going to attack you with… hey! Wait! Where are you going? Um… okay. I hope it comes back.

I’m pretty sold on this card because I opened a foil at the prerelease. That being said, this is an X-spell that requires an opponent to cast something in order for you to use it. Generally, when one half of this spell matters, the other one won’t matter as much. But I have a foil one, so obviously this card is amazing.

This is going to be “Destroy target creature” for B very frequently. Point removal is something you need in long multiplayer games. Play this card.

Didn’t we do this already?

As long as you can keep filling your graveyard using cards like Mirror-Mad Phantasm, Jace, Memory Adept, and so on, I think this ought to be fairly good. I’m sure The Mimeoplasm will be interested in copying this!

Oh good. Magic needed an unkillable Loch Ness Monster. I’m sure the prowess ability on this card matters at all. Seriously, though, this is going to be very hard to kill. Blue decks in need of finishers who are concerned about their other win conditions getting countered, Jester’s Capped, or otherwise disappeared should look at this.

This can get big in a hurry under the right circumstances, but it won’t have trample or flying. It’s going to need some help, but a timely Relic of Progenitus could make this an enormous threat. The Mimeoplasm tends to exile quite a few cards from graveyards, as it happens.

Who cut the wings off my Simic Sky Swallower, and why does it look like a weird, amorphous blob?

Do you want to punch your opponent? If so, I guess this is the best thing you can really hope to do without getting the boot from your local store or playgroup. If your opponent is Level 3 judge Paul “Bearz” Baranay, then I guess you might get to fight him if you cast this. From the art, it looks like you’re already winning.

Tooth and Nail this is not, but for those who prefer a more civilized game of Commander, this could sit alongside Summoning Trap in the “I’m so glad I just cast Congregation at Dawn” theme deck. This card is okay if you don’t get Ferocious going, but it’s just so much better otherwise. For best results, make sure to stack your deck. (With spells and abilities! Not with cheating!) I cannot wait to pair Ferocious cards with Mayael and all the 5-power Naya stuff and watch interactions fall just short of happening.

This is a fairly slow self-mill source. If the second ability was worded more favorably and gave us a Zombie for each creature card milled, that would be one thing, but I don’t honestly see this being anything but underwhelming.

Syphon Soul this ain’t. It seems like a great way to get full table aggro without the part where you get out of kill range. Leave this to the 2-player, 20-life crowd, I think.

I think you misspelled “Sylvan Library” and spilled ink over all of the good parts.

Were it not for this card’s versatility in what it destroys, I wouldn’t mention it. That being said, it’s not that good, but having a card that can destroy multiple types of permanents is often useful, so I wouldn’t write it off entirely.

Move over, Ruric Thar. No, not out of the deck – just let your new buddy into the command zone. Those pesky blue players won’t know what hit them – oh, and now we’re also pesky blue players. Trampling Pearl Lake Ancient ahoy!

So if I have this and Where Ancients Tread in play, I might sometimes draw a card but not deal five damage. Awkwardness aside, I’m sure this will see a lot of play in decks featuring Surrak, Animar, or Riku (assuming the Riku deck is the creature version and not the storm version.)

If there were any more winds, this card would have been in Arabian Nights, and then it would be terrible! Seriously, though, if you can’t Sunblast ‘em, you might as well bounce ‘em. Blue is good enough at tapping creatures (and keeping them tapped) that this could easily be good outside of circumstances where big attacks are taking place, but more often than not this will be unmorphed during Declare Attackers.

Karn, Silver Golem players, rejoice – your life gain engine has arrived!

This card won’t be a standout, but it will go in my upcoming “I’m On a Boat” theme deck. It’s unfortunate that I’m making this deck about six years too late, but you’ll laugh when you see Andy Samberg and T-Pain altered onto this card.

While not a strict upgrade from Vindicate due to an increased cost and the inability to remove problem lands like Maze of Ith, this card is going to be seeing tons of play. Exiling nonlands at instant speed is fantastic.

I cannot wait to cast this. Sometimes I get very tired of my spells and want to cast everyone else’s things. Obviously this is very hit or miss, but I’m happy to fire off the Genesis Experiment with anyone’s library – as long as the value of X we choose is significantly large, we should be able to get some villainous value.

If you like the populate mechanic, I think this might be your new wingman. Er, wingmate. It’s no Broodmate Dragon, but as long as you attack with something, it approximates it while also giving you life when you turn it sideways. Trostani, meet your new Eyes in the Skies.

A proud member of the Three Hit Club, (founding member: Lady Orca) Zurgo is indestructible at all the right times. Except when it’s not your turn. Which is most of the time. If you really like the Mardu wedge, I’m sure you’ll have fun with this, but trading white for blue and playing Thraximundar is probably “better.” (Of course, more fun is actually what’s better.)

Okay! That’s it for me this week. Join me next time for an article that won’t be about a particular Commander!

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