Commanders of Tarkir
With the release of Khans of Tarkir, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the new cards and list out some of my favorites for multiplayer and Commander games (with multiplayer Commander being one of my favorite casual formats)
Needless to say, Khans of Tarkir is a pretty solid set. It’s going to be fun for Limited (sealed and draft) and there are plenty of cards that will be Standard staples. Even better though are some of the cards that are desirable for Modern, Vintage and Legacy — most notably the fetch lands. Now the cards I will discuss are not always going to be “great” cards, but they should be fun to play.
That said, our focus here is Commander and some of the fun new cards that Khans has to offer. Let’s start with the Khans themselves. Each one is a legendary creature with a wedge colour identity.
If you have some of the original 2011 commander decks, you probably have a few wedge-colour commanders on hand. If you don’t though, these guys allow you to build wedge colour decks. That’s not to say they are the best at what they do. I’m going to discuss each of them, but not all of them make particularly strong commanders.
Anafenza, the Foremost (White/Green/Black)
Anafenza is a fairly beefy creature at only three mana and she brings some graveyard hate with her. She doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong commander to me — even in the limited pool of W/G/B commanders — but she’s functional.
Narset, Enlightened Master (Blue/Red/White)
Narset is a different story entirely and probably my favorite commander candidate from this set. When she attacks, you get to exile the top four cards form your library and cast any non-creature cards exiled this way. With some scrying and some clever deck manipulation you could have her firing off a cascade of brutal spells each turn. She should be a lot of chaotic fun which is when commander shines.
Sidisi, the Blood Tirant (Black/Blue/Green)
Sidisi wants you to manipulate your graveyard and the blue and green colours in her wedge will serve that purpose well. When she enters the battlefield or attacks you will be tossing cards in your graveyard. She can build you an army of 2/2s. The problem is, Sidisi herself is only a 3/3 so you may need to lean on your blue if you want to use her to mill yourself.
Surrack Dragonclaw (Green/Red/Blue)
Another fun colour combination, Surrack allows your deck to build around big creatures and the blue and red provide lots of additional flexibility including card draw, control and direct damage. Surrack himself makes is a pretty beefy 6/6 for 5 mana with the additional benefits of being able to flip him in play at instant speed. He’s cannot be countered and makes it so that your creatures cannot be countered and gives all other creatures you control trample. He’s a lot of fun.
Zurgo Helmsmasher (Red/White/Black)
I love the Red/White/Black colour wedge. You get so much great removal and a good range of permanents to boot. Zurgo himself hits big and can get bigger. He’s a decent beat stick, though unlike his peers he doesn’t bring much to the table other than his brawn.
Planeswalkers are generally fun cards to play in commander but the Khans of Tarkir planeswalkers are both playable yet wonderfully subtle. They aren’t bonkers and yet they are unquestionably useful. Their ultimates will not end the game, so they may not be as readily targeted as most other planeswalkers.
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
All of Sarkhan’s abilities are good. He comes down at 4 loyalty which is pretty solid. You can then make him a 4/4 indestructible dragon or hit another creature for four. Both are fairly good. His ultimate will only draw you cards, which is solid but again, not bonkers. There is certainly some fun to be had with him though. As a planeswalker he won’t be hit by “destroy all creatures” effects. As an indestructible dragon, he’s equally immune to board wipes. You can clear a path for him and swing out for a solid hit.
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Sorin isn’t scary at first. His +1 gives +1/+0 and lifelink to your creatures. His -2 makes a 2/2 vampire with flying. Even his ultimate will only generate an emblem that has your opponents sacrificing a creature each turn. None of it seems that great and he’s not nearly as soil-your-pants scary as Sorin Markov but that may allow you to sit and enjoy his abilities for a good long while steadily gaining life, chipping away with extra damage and whiddling away your opponents creatures. Once you have the emblem in play, you may be able to board wipe and cripple your opponent’s ability to bounce back.
Ashcloud Phoenix – A decent Phoenix that is resistant to removal and does damage when morphed. Sure, the morph isn’t cheap, but in an environment filled with board wipes and other forms of removal, it’s a welcomed sight.
Hooded Hydra – A fantastic hydra that should do very well in casual multiplayer commander. You’ll likely play him as a big beater, and when he bites it you’ll have an army of snakes to get around your opponent’s defenses. This means he’s also that much more resistant to removal and board wipes.
Clever Impersonator – This guy is a “must include” for me in any blue deck. An amazing clone that copies any nonland permanent. This thing is just amazing. He will always be a copy of the best thing on the board. Planeswalker, enchantment, artifact, creature — you will have a copy of the best thing on the board. If you can retrigger his enter the battlefield effect, you can continuously ensure you have a copy of the best thing out there.
Master the Way – There are plenty of ways to fill your hand in commander. Throwing that in your opponent’s face just makes a full hand that much sweeter.
Wingmate Roc – The life gain ability alone makes this an interesting creature.
Bitter Revalations – You scry, you draw cards, you set up your graveyard. 4 mana is nothing for commander, nor is two life.
Villainous Wealth – With the mana available in commander, it should be no issue for a player to mill their opponents and play a large number of their instants and sorceries. The downside to the card is the requirement that you commit to a minimum of blue, green and black. If you are not playing that colour wedge or a five colour commander, this card is an easy pass.
Duneblast — You get to keep your best creature and destroy everything else. The only downside is the three colour requirement. Only decks of this wedge or five colour decks would even consider it.
Howl of the Horde — You play big spells in commander. Copying a big spell is fun and doing it twice is even better.
End Hostilities — A board wipe that will also wipe out bestowed creatures and equipment.
Deflecting Palm – When someone suddenly throws a massive chunk of damage at your face, you can toss it right back. It’s a bit situational – possibly too situational – but it is hard not to resist redirecting damage from a powerful commander or a huge direct damage spell.
Abzan Charm – The charms are all fantastic, but this one stands out. Choose one of awesome removal, great card draw and decent combat trick. The most flexible and useful of the charms (and they are all pretty good!). As with most of the better cards in this set though, the card requires a commitment to either a commander of this colour wedge or a five colour commander.
Utter End – Instant speed Vindicate.
Empty the Pits – A fun card that could be made quite powerful in commander with a full graveyard and sufficient mana.
Crackling Doom – This wonderful card will, at instant speed, likely get rid of the biggest threat each of your opponents possess and for only three mana. The bigger the multiplayer game, the bigger the value you’ll get out of this card! Downside – those three mana are of different colours.
Artifacts & Enchantments
Hardened Scales – This is such a good card if you are playing a number of tricks that add +1/+1 counters.
Temur Ascendency – The Ascendency cards are all pretty decent, but the Temur Ascendency plays wonderfully with its colours and gives you card advantage. If you can play the colours, you’re probably going to have some big creatures anyway.
Altar of the Brood – You may need to work this one but it could get out of hand. Mill your opponents with your own creatures. I can imagine some folks will find crazy combos with this one.
Dragon Throne of Tarkir – This is pricey, but it’s commander we’re talking about. Green in particular should have a horribly good time putting their most monstrous critter on the throne and then trouncing their foes!
Ungin’s Nexus – Protection from those pesky extra turns your opponents may try to play (or combo). It also means a board wipe that hits artifiacts could be your best friend.
Wedge Tri-Lands and Fetch Lands are both amazing for commander. The entire set though is full of colour fixing opportunities, but these ones stand out.
Overall, Khans of Tarkir provides players with some nice new commanders that follow the wedge colour identities along with plenty of new options for mana fixing. There are some artifacts that fit well in the format along with some very playable planeswalkers. .The downside is the number of really nice cards that require you to be playing a commander with one of the wedge colour identities or a five colour commander. The options are appreciated though.