Khans of Tarkir: Playing to your Weaknesses – Red
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.
As for my rating system, I’ll merely state if it’s a high, medium, or low pick in draft. HIGH means that you should take it as soon as you see it (if it’s in your colors of course). HIGH picks won’t come around the table a second time. MEDIUM picks are cards that have good synergies with other cards and are great at filling your mana curve or acting as role players. These cards might come around a 2nd time if you pass on them, so if there is another card that ranks higher, take that one and wait for this to come back. LOW picks are cards that are leftovers. Maybe you need a 23rd card for your deck to round things out – THAT’S what a LOW pick is. You can take these ratings to mean the same for sealed as well. )
Red is our next color, so lets see how they fit into various strategies in Khans of Tarkir Limited.
You might as well consider this a 3/2 that can’t be blocked by tokens. In sealed and draft, most of the time you’ll be dropping her after attacking. There will be a few occasions where you want a 2 drop in order to curve out, but pretty much any time after turn 2 there’s a good chance she’ll be stronger coming into play. She’s also good against walls and wall-like creatures that have high toughness but no power. I see War-Name Aspirant performing best in Mardu decks due to her aggressive cost. She would be fine in a Temur or Jeskai deck as well, but I think Mardu would appreciate her the most because of her semi-evasion. You should keep in mind that there are VERY few one drops in this format. At Uncommon and Common there are a total of 7 one drops and most of those are in white. I still think she is an alright card though, and if I was playing Jeskai or Mardu in draft/sealed I’d put her in my deck. I’d say she’s a 5th-6th pick if you’re going for an aggressive deck.
This card has COMBO written all over it. If you look at the casting cost of the mono colored creatures in Khans, you’ll see that there are very few double mana symbols in this set. Mardu Warshrieker basically lets you play almost any 3 drop in White, Black, or Red. An example would be to attack, play the Warshrieker, get 3 mana, then play a Mardu Hordechief and get a 1/1 warrior token. While there are only 11 cards at Uncommon and Common for 3 mana, this also lets you play any morph card you want after your second phase for free as well! Great value if you ask me. Getting a free Mardu Charm or Mardu Ascendancy after attacking isn’t bad either. I think he’ll be much better in draft than sealed because you can build around his ability and fill your deck with 3-4 mana cards in Mardu colors to play for free after battle. In the second and third packs of draft, I’d take him very highly. In the first pack I also think he’s worth considering as a high pick too. Not a first pick, but not something I’d let pass around the table.
RATING: High to Medium
Mardu Heart Piercer is a great way to finish off a reeling creature after battle. Attack with your 2 power creature and let them block with a 4 toughness creature so you can kill it after battle, or take out any morphed card on the battlefield after you attack. The 2/3 body for 4 mana is so-so, but you have to consider this Shock ability adds another mana onto it. Mardu Heart Piercer will be a good roleplayer in both Jeskai and Mardu decks to help push damage through and keep pressure on your enemies. It’s not an early pick in draft or completely necessary in your sealed deck if you have something better. It’s a good compliment to what you already have, but I wouldn’t feel too bad about cutting it from my 23 card deck either.
One card, 3 creatures, 3 mana. This has value written all over it. I don’t care if they are only 1/1 goblins. You put 3 bodies onto the battlefield with one card, and when you consider the synergy with cards like Butcher of the Horde, Jeskai Ascendancy, and power ups such as Raiders’ Spoils, this becomes a pretty good card. It would be a useful card in just about any red deck you could make so I would take it somewhat early in draft. The double red cost could be a problem if you’re only splashing red in your deck however. It would be a lot more valuable in Jeskai and Mardu colors than Temur.
RATING: High to Medium
A 2/2 “bear” or a great way to push damage through and activate your Raid ability. You attack as a morphed creature, reveal a red card, make their big creature unable to block, then play the shown red card after battle. Seems easy enough. It’s a cute combat trick. I think building a deck with a good curve is going to be important during this block, and therefore I think a card like this is necessary for your deck. Just as with the other cards I’ve talked about so far, Horde Ambusher will probably perform the best in Jeskai and Mardu aggro. It’s not too powerful on it’s own though, so I’d probably leave this until later in the draft. As for sealed, this is one of those cards I would put in the last 3 slots in my deck if I had nothing better. If I had enough creatures already I would probably cut it for a better spell if I had it.
RATING: Medium to Low
Red is full of combat tricks this time around, but its removal absolutely sucks. You get 1 spell at 3 mana, one at 4, and two at 5 mana. The reason I would recommend this one is because it has the best cost at the best speed. The 3 mana spell (Arc Lightning) is sorcery speed for 3, while Burn Away is a 5 mana instant. Burn Away does kill just about everything and you’ll probably want to play that too, but Bring Low is slightly easier to cast and punishes Abzan decks which I think you’ll see a lot of in Khans limited. I guess you can only reprint 2 mana burn spells such as Lightning Strike so many times . . . If it looks like your deck is in dire need of some removal, take this card. Otherwise, you might be better off playing more aggressive combat tricks.
RATING: Medium to Low
Perhaps this is better than Bring Low after all. If you’re going to play any type of red removal, you’ll probably want something that can kill a large number of creatures. Four toughness is going to be really important in this set, and having something that can take out their clan colored creatures will be useful. If I was going to play any burn in my deck, it would probably be Arrow Storm. As you can see, it has Raid on it as well. Five damage will cover over 85% of the creatures in the format, so the flexibility makes this burn spell one of the best in limited. I would take this as my 6th or 7th pick in draft, and in sealed I think it deserves a spot and shouldn’t be cut.
Arc Lightning is your most efficient form of red removal in Khans of Tarkir. For 3 mana you can deal 3 damage any which way you please, which is good for just about any strategy. For Temur, you can take out those pesky token creatures that keep blocking your 4/4 and 5/5 creatures, for Mardu you can finish off an opponent’s creatures after attacking to clear the board for more attackers, and in Jeskai you can pump up all your creatures with Prowess while at the same time giving your opponent some very difficult blocking assignments to decide. Out of all of the red removal in this set, this one will probably be drafted the highest due to its versatility and efficiency. It will also be a good card in sealed, just as Cone of Flame was in M15.
RATING: High to Medium
Other Cards that Might See Play
- Bloodfire Expert – low cost, decent power, plus gets pumped up whenever you play a spell. You’ll see this played in a few decks.
- Burn Away – Kills just about everything in the format, but costs 5 mana. If the format turns out to be slow enough, this might just be worth playing and drafting.
- Canyon Lurkers – Possibly 5/2 for 4 mana if you unmorph it. Otherwise, it’s very vanilla. Solid power, but trades with everything that blocks it.
- Goblin Slide – If you have a decent amount of planeswalkers, spells, enchantments, and artifacts, you might get some good value out of this and make a few 1/1 tokens. Not sure if it will be worth playing in your deck though.
- Trumpet Blast – really good in Jeskai decks, might not be bad in Mardu ones either.
Coming up Next
Red seems to be a decent color. It has a lot of good cards for aggressive Jeskai builds as well as Mardu, but where it fails is removal. If you’re looking for control cards, you won’t find them here. After 4 articles, I think white is the strongest, followed by black and red. I say this because white has aggressive creatures and targetable removal (with some restrictions of course), and black has no strings removal as well as some aggressively costed creatures. I don’t feel that red has that many cards it can offer to Temur decks aside from removal spells like Burn Away or Arc Lightning. Yes red will fill the spots in a curve well, but it won’t be the strong color in Temur decks. They are going to get the majority of their power from green cards I think.
Speaking of which, I’ll be covering green next after my trip to Nagano with the family. I’ll be back Saturday night and will be playing a late release then. Be sure to check back on Sunday morning if you’re viewing the site from North America, as I should have that article done by Sunday evening in Japan. I’m sorry I didn’t have the time to get through all the colors before the pre-release, but hopefully what I’ve given you so far has pointed you in the right direction! Mardu and Abzan look strong, and following them I’d go with Temur. Jeskai has been growing on me, but I still don’t know about Sultai. Guess I’ll have to wait until after the pre-release to see how they do! Thanks for reading!