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The Top Ten Cards of Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy, Magic Culture, Modern, Standard, Vintage

The Top Ten Cards of Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

It’s nearing that time again, folks! In a bit less than a month’s time, we’ll be seeing a new block coming into constructed Magic. That means it’s rotation time. With the new rotation method for Standard finally catching up to the format, that means we’re getting rid of some of our favorite cards about six months sooner than we would have had to in the old rotation cycle.

While a lot of people are excited to see Innistrad return, and I am eager to visit the plane for the first time, I am sad to see some of my Standard all-stars from the past 18 months go the way of the Courser. Khans block will have a special place in my heart for a long while. It was the major block that was released when I first came back to competitive Magic, and it also had strings that tied way back to my early career as an FNM hero, which began almost fifteen years ago.

From the pseudo-Lightning Angel reprint that was Mantis Rider and the Delve mechanic that first showed up in Future Sight to the ever-iconic Onslaught Fetchlands, Khans was a swell way for me to get back to my Magic roots. I’ll be a bit misty-eyed to know that some of these cards won’t see play ever again in a competitive constructed format. Alas, I can always suit up some of my Siege Rhino friends to jam some Abzan in Modern if I ever get the itch to revisit Khans.

I want to use this article to reminisce about some of the cards that are on their way out, and reveal my top 10 favorite cards of the last 18 months that are leaving us. Keep in mind this is my personal opinion, and these lenses through which I see the following cards are based merely on my personal experience with the cards. Your favorites might be different, but I think these are very important cards that are leaving us. The list is also in no particular order, so let’s Delve right into the list.

Honorable Mentions:

Disdainful Stroke – This card seemed to always find its way into my blue sideboards. And for good reason. While it may seem narrow, being able to hit important cards, and having it usually be useful late in the game means you didn’t really want it in your opening hand, which made it safe from cards like Duress or Thoughtseize in the early turns, while still being able to accomplish what it needed to when drawn before turn 4. To this day, it is seeing play in sideboards in decks like 4 Color Rally and Bant Company as well as maindecks in some Jeskai lists. With no suitable replacement outside of Negate, and no better counterspells at least for now, Stroke will be missed by most blue players.

Temur Battle Rage – By itself, this card is a little lackluster, but when paired with either a Titan’s Strength or Become Immense, or Prowess creatures, it becomes a very powerful effect. Being able to have a tiny little dude like a Monastery Swiftspear not only battle with a monstrous Siege Rhino, but kill it, attack through it, deal damage to your opponent, and still survive was a very dangerous thing in Standard. Whether seeing play in the W/R or Jeskai Heroic decks, to Atarka Red and Landfall, to U/R, Grixis, or Naya Prowess, this has been one of the focal points of creature combo decks since its printing last year.

10 – Delve Spells

When delve first showed up on Logic Knot and Tombstalker back in Future Sight, I don’t really remember them being played too much. I do know that Tombstalker was played in Legacy for a bit as a Gurmag Angler type threat, but in Standard, they weren’t too exciting. I could be wrong of course, it’s been a while. However these delve spells are busted. The spells I’m focusing here are Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Murderous Cut, Become Immense, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and Gurmag Angler. I played each of these to some success, some more than others.

Tasigur has been my favorite creature in Standard since he was printed. He plays the kind of midrangy game I like to play. He can brawl early on if needed before turn 4, and on turn 5, he comes down for like 1 mana, and allows you to keep mana up for him to draw you a card, or counter a spell, or interact with your opponent. Although thanks to Reflector Mage, he’s going out with a whimper, and not much of a bang.

Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise had bigger effects on the different Eternal formats, so much so that they were banned in Modern and Legacy, and restricted in Vintage. While not as powerful in Standard, drawing cards for very little mana is definitely a thing I love to do. I played Dig Through Time in the Jeskai deck pioneered by Kevin Jones, as well as the Esper Dragons deck, and Treasure Cruise most recently in the newer versions of Jeskai Black with Painful Truths as a focal point.

I won my first IQ with 4 Become Immense in my deck, and my Modern deck right now is Infect, in which I have the same amount of the same card.

Murderous Cut is just an efficient, unrestricted removal spell, and has been at least a one of in any deck I have played in this standard with black in it.

9 – Mantis Rider

As a huge fan of Lightning Angel when she was in Standard, I was ecstatic to be playing her for a third time. Jeskai was one of my favorite color combinations to play. I love Blue and Red cards, especially when they’re played together. White lets me play Mantis Rider, so it was a natural direction for me to take when looking for a clan to align with when Khans came out. While outclassed by the bigger, admittedly more successful Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider is, to this day, seeing play in Jeskai decks. He just got second place at GP Houston a couple of weeks ago. The tempo boost that the bug man provided will be missed, as having so much text and so many abilities on such a playable card is very powerful.

8 – Siege Rhino

I feel like this is obligatory. This guy led me to a bunch of things. My first PPTQ top 8, my first PPTQ second place finish, my first cash at a competitive REL event, and the first article that I wrote for this site. Hated by many, including myself, once I learned the path of the Rhino, I didn’t look back until Magic Origins. I even played the 8-Rhino Bring to Light deck when Battle for Zendikar was released. The memories with this guy are sweet, and much like actual real world Rhinos, they will be missed when they are gone.

7 – Charms

Modal spells are sweet. Giving me decisions when I cast a spell means that the likelihood of the spell being useful when I draw it is very appealing to me. Jeskai, Sultai, Abzan, Mardu, and Temur charms were all on different levels. While they were all popular at some point, like Mardu Charm being popular a while back when Josh Taylor was having success with his Mardu deck, Temur Charm seeing spots here and there whenever people were playing Temur, which in itself was rare, and Sultai seeing play when Sultai control was very popular, Jeskai and I think by far, Abzan, were the best of the bunch.

Even now, Abzan Charm is seeing play in the Mardu Green decks. Abzan I think clearly has the best modes of any of the charms. Being a draw spell outside of blue, being able to kill troublesome creatures, and acting as a pump spell to push through damage on even a trampling Siege Rhino made the card absurd at three mana. I played Abzan Charm the most, but I kept Jeskai Charm as a pet card. I was a huge fan of cards like Char when they were in Standard, and even though Jeskai Charm isn’t a creature removal spell as much as Char was, it could still get a troublesome creature off the battlefield if used in response to your opponent’s fetchland activation, and three mana for four damage is a good rate to melt domes.

6 – Soulfire Grand Master

The premier 2 drop in Standard before Oath of the Gatewatch, this one didn’t really become too popular until Magic Origins, when Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy allowed for Jeskai decks to have a critical mass of 2 CMC creatures to play with Ojutai’s Command. While a pretty good early drop in white spell-based decks, the ability to both gain life off of your red removal spells, especially those like Radiant Flames, as well as lock an opponent under a counterspell with the Grand Master’s buyback ability packed a lot of power into a bear.

While outclassed more recently with the large amount of three toughness creatures in the format, the Grand Master still allows decks like Dark Jeskai as well as fringe Mardu Green lists to run this card advantage engine and life gain machine.

5 – Monastery Swiftspear

Our Standard Goblin Guide for quite some time, this classy gal has seen play since day 1 of the Khans era. The synergy between the Swiftspear and like-minded red cards, from Lightning Stroke and Stoke the Flames to Titan’s Strength and Atarka’s Command truly shined before Oath of the Gatewatch was released. Again, Oath of the Gatewatch allowed for a ton of three toughness creatures that match up very well against Swiftspear, and that alone has left red decks in a worse position than they have been in the past, but the card is still seeing play in Modern and Legacy alike. That along with her being a 4 of in my Landfall deck that I loved so much back in its heyday gives her a clear spot in my top 10.

4 – Silumgar, the Drifting Death

The Ol’ Drifty D. Silumgar was a pet card of mine in both Blue/Black Control way back in the Theros M15 era, as well as in Esper Dragons. While not seeing play for quite some time, and never being a real all-star in the larger percentage of the meta, his low power to battle Crackling Doom, while also being untargetable by your opponent, tripling with his ability to kill Monk and Goblin tokens made him a very strong though admittedly not very quick clock in control decks.

3 – Rally the Ancestors

Like Siege Rhino, Rally the Ancestors at this point is one of those cards most people are happy to see go. I for one, even though this card showed me some success with multiple PPTQ top 8s, am happy to see it go. I feel like the Rally deck is very good, but for me, it’s not a ton of fun, so it puts me in the position of playing this deck to win, but I’m not enjoying it as much as I could if I was playing another deck, and this in turn makes me not see correct lines all the time.

Rally is strong, and it was my bane especially when Mogus’ Marauders was in the format, as I just lost to that deck all the time. While this may be my least favorite card on this list, it was very influential in both my Standard experience for a while, and the Standard play of many, many others.

2 – Wingmate Roc

Wingmate Roc. This card, let me tell you about this card. This card is a very good card, and has waxed and waned in popularity throughout its existence in standard. Now, I didn’t play this card a ton, but when I did, it was really, really good. The reason it is on this list though, is because a lot of people, including myself, forgot about this card until it was too late. There are many games I played where I thought I was fine, and I didn’t need to kill a Siege Rhino on turn 4, or I was in a good spot against an attacking Butcher of the Horde, just to see my opponent second main phase a couple of birds and Roc me. Not a card I particularly enjoyed playing with, but a card I respect and admire, and one that just sneaks up on a lot of people to this day.

1 – Fetchlands

Of course. Khans was best known for its mana. Not only did we have the wedge lands to provide us with three colors on one land, the fetchlands allowed us to just get whatever color we needed. From fueling powerful delve cards with Theros Standard, to powering up Modern-esque mana bases and allowing for four color decks to be the norm in BFZ Standard, and finally allowing us humans to play with all of the fetchlands in Modern, the premier cards overall from the block, and a real boost to the value of Standard players’ collections. The fetchlands will be missed most of all, as we are most likely going to go from greedy four color decks to “normal” two/two and a splash color decks.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this walk down memory lane with me. Khans and Fate Reforged will be missed by me, they brought a ton of really fun cards to play with, and some really cool mechanics as well. While some of us are happy to see these cards go, others will be wearing black for a little while as the last of the Rhinos see their way out of Standard.

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