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Khans of Tarkir Limited Set Review – Abzan

If you missed my previous Limited reviews for Khans, check them out:

Khans of Tarkir Limited Set Review – Mardu
Khans of Tarkir Limited Set Review – Jeskai
Khans of Tarkir Limited Set Review – Sultai
Khans of Tarkir Limited Set Review – Temur

5.0: The best of the best. (Pack RatUmezawa’s JitteGideon Jura)

4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Polukranos, World EaterHypersonic Dragon)

4.0: Good rare or top tier uncommon. (Phalanx LeaderVitu-Ghazi GuildmageChaos Imps)

3.5: Top tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning StrikeNimbus NaiadDreg Mangler)

3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Leafcrown DryadEssence Scatter)

2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Borderland MinotaurDead Reveler)

2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Savage SurgeOmenspeakerArmory Guard)

1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Pillarfield OxTenement Crasher)

1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Lost in a LabyrinthPay No Heed)

0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Survey the WreckageCelestial Purge)

0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the CityPyxis of Pandemonium)

Multicolored

Abzan Ascendancy

Limited: 4.5

Even just the first part is a formidable card, and it’s not even the best ability! The second part is incredibly hard to beat in a long game, and if you just have a mass of creatures, any creatures, you are probably going to win. This doesn’t kill you as quickly as Spirit Bonds, but it certainly costs less mana, and being able to play this whenever you draw it and have it do a ton instantly is huge. Getting two or three +1/+1 counters and more than five fliers out of this doesn’t seem unrealistic, and that’s an incredible amount of value for only three mana.

Abzan Charm

Limited: 4.0

All three modes of this are awesome, as they all do exactly the sorts of things you want in Limited. I’m actually sad that I won’t be drawing many cards off this, because it’s unlikely that two random cards are better than a sick removal spell or a blowout combat trick. Having the option is still nice, because sometimes you just need to hit your land drops, but Abzan Charm is so strong that you don’t even want to use it most of the time. That’s a good problem to have, and this seems like the best Charm in every format.

Abzan Guide

Limited: 3.0

A 4/4 lifelinker is exactly the kind of card that helps make up for being a little behind, though it’s not so fantastic that this is much better than many of the other expensive morphs in the set. Exalted Angel this is not, though that’s probably a good thing.

Anafenza, the Foremost

Limited: 4.0

Even a 4/4 for three by itself would be noteworthy, and Anafenza does a lot more than that. Making another creature bigger is a nice upgrade, and it doesn’t even have to be attacking, just tapped, which is clearly a nod to outlast. The last ability is mostly trinket text, but making delve cards and any raise deads a little worse is all upside.

Armament Corps

Limited: 3.5

At the very least this is a 5-mana 6/6, which is a good place to start. I suspect that it will usually come in as a 4/4, just because giving counters to something that can attack is like having free haste, and can actually result in more than just 1-2 extra damage if you make it so a 3/3 can attack past a 4/4 (you now deal 5 instead of 0). The combination of flexibility and power makes me a big fan of this card, and it working with the other outlast creatures that give keywords is a very relevant upside.

Duneblast

Limited: 4.5

There’s a very real chance that seven is enough that this is closer to a 4 than a 4.5, but what the card does is so powerful that I’d rather overshoot. It is all the good parts about a wrath plus the ability to keep your best creature, which is a huge upgrade. Now you can hold the ground with one or two decently-sized creatures, which does the double duty of making your opponent overcommit and lulling them into thinking you don’t have a sweeper (assuming they don’t know you have this in your deck). That leads to way bigger blowouts than normal wraths, especially once you add in the fact that you get to attack with whatever creature you are left with. Even once your opponent does know about this, it isn’t like they can slowroll all their good creatures once you have something like a 5/5 in play. Seven is a lot of mana, but this seems like it will win you the game so often that I’m willing to look past my natural bias against 7-drops.

Ivorytusk Fortress

Limited: 3.5

The rating for this is mostly predicated on its power and toughness, which is a solid couple points above what you usually get for five mana. The ability is nice, but I don’t think it’s a huge deal just because of how little you need defense when you have a 5/7 rampaging on the board to begin with. If you could use outlast creatures twice, that’d be one thing, but getting free blocks isn’t insane. Still, this is a 5/7 for 5, and as such you will always be happy to play this when you are in these colors.

Kin-Tree Invocation

Limited: 2.5

While this is going to be a 3/3 or greater most of the time, it isn’t ever a 2-drop and usually won’t get cast until at least turn four. That, plus the need to have another creature in play to cast this (and the vulnerability to removal if you have just one other creature) makes this a solid but not mandatory play. It will be big often enough that most Abzan decks will want it, but a creature-light or top-heavy deck wood rather have a random morph.

Siege Rhino

Limited: 4.5

Abzan just has the lion’s share of insane gold cards this time around (while Sultai was stuck with just the tiger’s share). Siege Rhino is amazing at almost any point in the game, whether you are behind or ahead, and can come out early enough to just crush the opponent if they have a slow draw. Cheap cards that swing games from either position and have a lot of power are the best of the best, and the only real complaint about Rhino is that its power level falls off in the lategame if both players are at high life totals. That’s not going to be very many games, and this ticks all the boxes I’m looking for in a windmill-slam first pick.

Green

Alpine Grizzly

Limited: 3.0

While I don’t like that this trades for morphs, it’s still trading 3 mana for 3 mana, and if your opponent ever misses a drop or you have a removal spell, this does a lot of damage. It also plays good defense, as it can easily trade up if your opponent sends in the wrong four- or five-drop.

Archer’s Parapet

Limited: 2.0

Stopping an attacker and providing a fairly relentless clock is not a bad deal, though it is only of interest to decks that want to stop attackers to begin with. I don’t think most aggressive decks want this kind of evasive damage, even if it is hard to stop. It’s also a respectable sideboard card if your opponent’s finishers line up at 4 or less power, which isn’t going to be the most uncommon of scenarios.

Awaken the Bear

Limited: 2.5

Trample is not quite worth the two additional mana on top of Giant Growth, which makes this fit more in the finisher slot than most tricks. It still lets your 3-drop beat theirs, but wastes your turn while doing so, and I’d rather be able to play another creature than have them lose three life. Still, you have to play the tricks you have access to, and this is a reasonable enough choice. It does get pretty good in the late game, and can deal 7+ damage fairly easily, so I’m willing the bear the cost of it being mediocre in the early game.

Become Immense

Limited: 2.0

Casting this for one mana does sound like an immense beating, but this is still near the bottom of the list of delve cards I’m looking to run. It’s a swingy effect, and better suited for a beatdown deck rather than in the standard Sultai control deck.

Dragonscale Boon

Limited: 2.5

This is an absolute beating if it works, and the more aggressive you are, the more likely your opponent is going to have to block when you have all your mana up. On the flip side, how well you play around this card is going to be one of the more important tests in Limited. If your opponent has no play on turn 4, 5, or 6, and has a tapped creature, think long and hard about blindly attacking. If you don’t attack, your opponent can just run this out for the bonus in order to use their mana, but that’s a lot less bad for you than getting ambushed. This also grants keywords if you have the right outlast creatures hanging around, which is definitely not irrelevant.

Feed the Clan

Limited: 0.5

I don’t care how hungry the clan is, I’m not feeding it. I might sideboard this in if I think I’ll get hungry game 2, but only if my opponent was also incredibly aggressive (and even then, most likely not).

Hardened Scales

Limited: 1.0

While this does scale nicely the more outlast you have, it also is a bit too much of a win-more for me to really get behind it.

Heir of the Wilds

Limited: 3.5

A two-mana 2/2 deathtouch is already a great deal, and the potential to get giant is a very solid bonus. It’s even possible to get this to a 4/4, at which point it grows itself even if your other giant monsters die.

Highland Game

Limited: 2.5

Two free life is a big game, and most decks are on the hunt for 2-drops to begin with. I don’t know how much green decks care, but the little extra defense this plays can’t hurt its chances.

Hooded Hydra

Limited: 4.0

This is a versatile card, and the power level matches the versatility, which is good news for Hydra fans. The only X I’d recommend against is X=1, but every other number is pretty easy to justify. I’d probably only play it at X=2 if I was desperate, but X=3 and greater is just an awesome deal. Morphing it can be good times too, though I’d be a little worried about this dying for no value if you go that route. You don’t need to pull off a huge ambush to make this great, as the card is very powerful and hard to stop regardless.

Hooting Mandrills

Limited: 3.0

Casting this for four mana isn’t hard to do at all, and that’s a great deal. Granted, it might not be on turn four that you do that, but mana efficiency still matters in the later turns, and every now and then you can swing casting this thing for one or two mana and playing two big threats on the same turn.

Incremental Growth

Limited: 3.5

While this is no Incremental Blight (oh boy was that a card), it is a permanent Overrun that happens to combine perfectly with many of the outlast creatures. You need a decent amount of creatures to make this work, but that isn’t a huge challenge.

Kin-Tree Warden

Limited: 3.0

Unless you are setting up a raid or have the turn five Incremental Growth, I imagine this will hit the battlefield face-down most of the time. The morph cost is very cheap, and flipping this in response to a removal spell is a solid play.

Longshot Squad

Limited: 3.5

Normally you are a huge underdog if you need to hit a longshot to win, and I suppose these guys just prove that point. I like a Hill Giant that grows into a spider, and I like it even more when it immediately starts making your other creatures better. Locking down the board plays right in to the outlast deck’s gameplan, and this is the perfect card for that.

Meandering Towershell

Limited: 3.5

It might not be the fastest attacker, but it gets there eventually. It’s also impossible to attack into, which lets you gum up the board pretty effectively until you decide to slowly and steadily win the race.

Naturalize

Limited: 0.5

This is natural sideboard material, as it has been most of the times it has shown up.

Pine Walker

Limited: 3.0

A five-mana 5/5 is a good deal on the face of things, and giving it morph and a very plausible way to ambush creatures makes this a solid addition to any deck.

Rattleclaw Mystic

Limited: 3.5

I’m not used to mana-fixers being rare, but that doesn’t change how good this is (just how often it shows up). It’s a great play on turn two, and if you really want to set up a sick turn four you can morph it instead. Either way, ramp + color fixing + a good morph ability equals a win.

Roar of Challenge

Limited: 2.0

Cards that require you to have a big creature in play are challenging to include in most decks, but this does provide enough power that I’m willing to do so. One mode is to force your opponent’s team into blocking your 6/6, letting you eat a bunch of creatures. The other, and more game-ending one, is to make your 1/1 challenge the enemy, which lets all your other creatures sneak past for lethal. Add those two modes together and you have one of the better situational cards around (though still not an auto-include by any means).

Sagu Archer

Limited: 3.0

This is good to just cast and good to morph, all while providing the defense that Sultai (and Abzan) seem to be looking for.

Savage Punch

Art: 5.0
Flavor: 5.0
Limited: 3.5

This is cheap, effective, and even lets you hit the opponent for a couple extra points of damage. Those plus the art make it a really hard card to pass up.

Scout the Borders

Limited: 1.5
Flavor Text: 3.5

The flavor text is such an absurd mockery of itself that I can’t help but like it, and the card itself is something I’ll often be interested in. I don’t think you end up playing this unless you are delving or have some ridiculous bombs to look for, which means that not every green deck is going to want it. Taking turn three off to improve your card quality is not something all decks want, and the format itself may be hostile to such shenanigans.

See the Unwritten

Limited: 1.5

If you can reliably get two creatures off this, I can see it, but my unwritten rule is to not play situational cards that don’t give you a big advantage when they work. If you are getting just one creature, you are paying six mana and taking a chance of missing in exchange for a creature that probably doesn’t even cost six mana. At two, you start getting into a spot where you are generating both mana and cards, and that I’m willing to try.

Seek the Horizon

Limited: 1.5

I like my slow card advantage, but this is slow even for me. Often you will immediately discard after casting this, and even if you don’t, spending turn four is a tough sell. Unless your deck is that low on fixing or has a ton of 7+ drops (why is everyone assuming that’s me?), you should seek greener pastures and/or more efficient cards.

Smoke Teller

Limited: 3.0

I assume almost every deck will want a 2/2 for 2 even if it doesn’t have a text box, especially a text box as anemic as this. It’s often not even worth spending two mana on, so this is a stats-driven card more than anything else.

Sultai Flayer

Limited: 3.0

The cross-section of decks that both don’t have any other 4-toughness creatures and don’t need a 3/4 for 4 has to be very small, and the fact that this somehow flays itself justifies it everywhere. It probably won’t trigger too many times, but just the once is already great.

Temur Charger

Limited: 3.0

You aren’t getting charged for morph here, as a 3/1 for 2 is a good card to begin with. Giving something trample and potentially trading up for no mana make this a solid addition to any deck.

Trail of Mystery

Limited: 1.5

I’m not sold on the morph deck, and giving me a basic land for every morph I play doesn’t quite get me there. Playing and flipping morphs to get +2/+2 is similarly uninspiring, so unless you manage to pick up a ton of cheap morphs, I don’t quite see this.

Tusked Colossodon

Limited: 1.5

Big, dorky creatures like the appropriately-named “Tusked Colossodon” are at a disadvantage in a format filled to the brim with morphs. Why play a medium-rate 6-drop when you can play cards of similar stats that also have morph? Sometimes the answer is necessity, of course, but if you have the option I don’t think this is the first card you’d pick.

Tuskguard Captain

Limited: 3.5

Giving trample isn’t the biggest bonus I’ve ever heard of, but a 2/3 for three that grows for just one green mana is a strong card already.

Windstorm

Limited: 0.5

There aren’t enough fliers to justify maindecking this, especially given how many good reach creatures there are running around.

Woolly Loxodon

Limited: 3.0

See, this is exactly the kind of card that makes Horned Qumuladon (or whatever the vanilla dork is) a measure of last resort. This is bigger and can be cast on turn three, all while offering the potential for favorable combats via unmorphing. I love mechanics that make your cards flexible, especially ones that let you play a ton of 7-drops without being overly punished.

Top 5 Green Commons:

Smoke Teller
Sagu Archer
Hooting Mandrills
Savage Punch
Longshot Squad

Green has a lot of long-game power between the reach and outlast creatures, and the multiple fight effects and pump spells help it be a little trickier than it would otherwise be. It looks to be a little better at defense than offense, but there are a few aggressive cards, making green perhaps one of the more flexible colors (especially given that a lot of its cards work in either deck).

I’ll finish things off tomorrow with the rest of the cards, and talk a little about what the format will look like.

LSV

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