Khans of Tarkir: Playing to Your Weaknesses – Green
(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. )
I’m back from my day trip to Nagano. I ate tons of good food, drove through the country side a lot, and hung out with my wife’s family. It was fun but I really missed playing MTG and was thinking about it as soon as I came home. I was able to play 2 times on Sunday at the pre-release and learned a lot about certain strategies and card synergies, but for the most part it hasn’t changed what I said before about the cards I’ve already talked about. Today I’ll be doing Green, and then I’ll be following it up with the rest of the cards on Monday/Tuesday. Let’s take a look at what green has in store for us in limited!
Green’s got a lot of fun morph creatures. Wooly Loxodon is especially fun to play with. What I love about morph creatures is that you can really put your opponents in a difficult situation. They don’t know if it’s a 2/2 creature waiting under the morph, or a giant guy like this. Wooly Loxodon is basically a vanilla creature, but most of the time you’ll be casting him for his morph cost of 3 then flipping him at 6. In a slower format, this guy can dominate a board. he blocks everything, and is very hard to kill. If I was playing Abzan, Temur, or Sultai, I would definitely consider playing him. His morph cost makes him very easy to splash and his raw power will go a long way in any deck. In a sealed deck he will be a great finisher. For draft I would take him around my 4th-5th pick to give my deck some extra power. This format is all about the big finishers, and I’d hate to be without one.
One thing I learned from the pre-release was that Outlast was a pretty strong mechanic in sealed. Between black, green, and white you can give your creatures with counters a variety of cool abilities. On top of that, gaining a +1/+1 counter each turn can easily make him the biggest creature on the table if he isn’t taken care of. Trample isn’t as useful as flying or first strike, but it’s still better than nothing. The outlast cost is also cheap for Tuskguard Captain. He’s great for filling out your curve in sealed as well. In draft, he comes a bit more useful I think. I’m sure that GBW Outlast will be an archetype. While I don’t think I’d draft him first if there were other Outlast cards such as the ones that give flying, first strike, and death touch, if I had some of the archetype’s cards collected in my first pack I would take it highly in pack 2 and 3. Otherwise I would take him later on.
I don’t think you’ll be using Temur Charger’s morph ability too much, but for 2 mana you get 3 power which is great early on in the game. Khans limited is NOT a fast format, therefore I think 3 points of damage early on is very good. It also helps to push your curve down so that you can play something each turn. I see this as an aggressive two drop, and nothing more. It works in every green deck and if your curve is starting to look high then take this to lower it. It’s not a high pick in draft, so take it later on. This would be a strong contender to fill one of the last spots in my sealed/draft deck.
RATING: Medium to Low
Outside of Abzan’s multicolor creatures, the ‘forge’ lands, and white, there aren’t that many ways to gain life in Khans limited. I feel like life gain can totally change the course of the game. It allows you to take 6 damage from a Surrak Dragonclaw a few times while allowing you to put pressure on your opponent instead of keeping blockers back. Green and multicolor have the highest density of 4 toughness or higher cards so this would be best in a deck with a few large morph and gold cards. Abzan’s ability to give creatures counters will make those colors the best fit for Sultai Flayer, but Temur and Sultai might not be bad if you have a large number of green cards. The 3/4 is decent and I think it’s playable in sealed, but it would be a later pick in draft. I wouldn’t really consider it a role player, but the life bonus can give you just the edge you need in a longer game.
Besides having an awesome picture, Savage Punch is a nice upgrade from Hunt the Weak in M15 limited. It’s much easier to cast and the +2/+2 bonus if you control a creature with power 4 or greater lets you take out much bigger enemies. This was great in conjunction with cards like Bear’s Companion or Abzan Guide (both of which I used at the pre-release). It works best in Temur and Abzan colors and their large creatures. It’s much needed removal for green in limited, but also acts as a power boost when attacking if you activate the ferocious. No better way to end a game than to take out their big blocker they left back after attacking, then swinging for 6 or more damage. In sealed I think you want to play it, and in draft it’s not bad either. Take it high in draft if you’re playing with a lot of 4+ power creatures, but otherwise leave it until until later. If you can get your hands on white or blacks superior removal, do that first. Savage Punch will fill the gap if you have nothing else.
This has combat trick written all over it. Whenever you Morph a creature, you get to untap it. It lets you attack for two, then when they attack the next turn your huge creature morphs and untaps to block it. It’s easy to make him work in draft if you have the ability to pick and chose which morph cards to take. I’d personally take some fatties like Wooly Loxodon and any of the big Temur or Abzan multicolor morphers like Sagu Mauler and Abzan Guide. Pine Walker’s morph cost is easily played in a 3 color deck as well. I like it in draft, maybe even enough to take it around pick 5 because of both its power level and ability. While he won’t be as strong in a sealed deck unless you have a lot of big morph cards, he’s still highly playable.
RATING: High to Medium
Without a card like Hero’s Downfall or Doom Blade in the set, enchantments and sorceries like Incremental Growth can shine. It’s like the Cone of Flame of counters. This is a great card to have in Abzan decks alongside outlast cards. You can spend turns 2-4 casting three of the Outlast “captains” then on turn 5 activate all of their abilities at the same time and swing for A LOT of damage. While Abzan will be the deck you want this in, I could also see using it as my 23rd card in a Sultai or Temur build. If you’re playing an aggressive deck with a curve that has a lot of 2, 3, and 4 drops that is lacking a good finisher, I could consider playing this. I’d take it towards the middle of the pack if I was playing Abzan, but otherwise I would probably take it later. It can be really good in the right circumstances, but otherwise it’s just a decent pump spell.
RATING: Medium to Low
I had a chance to use Hooting Mandrills in both of my pre-releases and I really like the Delve mechanic attached to them. In my opinion, 6 mana for a 4/4 trample is borderline playable, but if you add in that you can play this at 4 mana or less? That’s just great. If you were to play a Taigam’s Scheming on turn 2 and dump 4 of those 5 cards into the graveyard, you could play this for a green mana on turn 3. Later in the game you can take advantage of his ability by leaving mana open for another creature or spell. He’s really strong in a Sultai based deck along with cards like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Outside of Sultai, he still isn’t bad. Abzan tends to be slower and doesn’t put cards into the graveyard as quickly to take advantage of them, but I think it’s worth playing in any green deck. I think you can realistically cast this on turn 4 most of the time. Hooting Mandrills will be strong picks in draft and worth playing in your sealed deck.
Aggressive, a good blocker, and easy to cast. Heir of the Wilds fills the much needed 2 casting cost spot on your curve and puts up a wall against quicker decks like Mardu aggro. Most decks will be playing their tap in lands and playing very slowly, but an aggressive Mardu or Abzan deck can totally take over the game if you’re not careful. He’s not a first pick in draft, but I would probably take him early. If I took some big creatures for picks 1-3, he would make a good pick 4. Whichever green deck you’re playing, take him. He’s a roleplayer, stopping your opponent when you need to and pushing damage through when you don’t need him to.
RATING: High to Medium
I like Longshot Squad a lot more than Tuskguard Captain. I find giving your creatures with counters reach is a lot more useful than trample. Four mana for 3 power is alright, but just like all the other Outlast cards, all it takes is a few turns for him to get out of control. He’s a solid playable and would be fine in any green deck in the 4 spot. I’d draft him somewhat early I think, and would do it over any of the other green Outlast cards (or black ones for that matter).
For some reason I really like these combat tricks, especially with the Abzan Outlast mechanic. If you’re playing a deck with a few of the Outlast cards, this card becomes a lot stronger. Suddenly untapping your creature, giving it 2 counters plus a variety of Outlast abilities, and blocking gives you a sudden swing in tempo. Of course it would be good in Abzan (if you you didn’t get any strong removal), but I think Temur would benefit from it as well. Temur wants to be aggressive, and this lets you play both defense and offense. By all means, take good black, red, and white removal first, but otherwise don’t forget how powerful Heroic mechanics were in Theros block. I would definitely play it in an Outlast draft deck, but Dragonscale Boon isn’t a bad choice in that 23rd card slot in any other sealed or draft deck.
RATING: Medium to Low
Four power for 3 mana, I’ll take it. Good on the curve, easy to play . . . trades with a lot of stuff. He makes you rethink the term “bear” (a 2/2 creature with no abilities).
Other Cards That Might See Play
- Highland Game – It gets out early and can deal some damage, and when it trades with another creature you get 2 life from the encounter. Solid card.
- Seek the Horizon – If your mana fixing is bad and you didn’t get any Banners to help, this card becomes really important. Probably better in sealed than in draft though.
- Tusked Colossodon – Big creature, big body. A finisher/beater if you don’t have any other.
Coming Up Next
With that green is finished which means all that’s left is Multicolor, lands, and artifacts (the last two which I’ll touch briefly upon in my next article). Green brings all the power to Sultai, Temur, and Abzan decks. It’s one of the main colors of Khans limited and will important in long games where the player with the bigger creature wins. From my pre-release experience I can say that both Sultai and Abzan are stronger than Temur in limited. They all have the big green creatures, but Abzan gives you double the removal spells in white and black along with Outlast, while Sultai lets you get great card advantage and access to tempo spells. A good Temur will lose more than 50% of the time to a good Sultai or Abzan deck in my opinion.
I want to thank you all again for being patient for this article. Friday is the start of Khans of Tarkir standard and booster drafts, so I hope you the info helps you take down a few tournaments! Look for the last article tomorrow sometime!