Khans of Commander

Posted in Command Tower on September 25, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Whether you rocked it at a Prerelease last weekend or you're looking forward to finally getting your hands on it, Khans of Tarkir is upon us in all its glory.

Dragon Throne of Tarkir | Art by Daarken

I had a great time at the Prerelease I attended, getting to jam plenty of games with an Abzan pack that gave me a fair Mardu deck (with Ivorytusk Fortress and Abzan Guide giving me some Abzan-exclusive flavor in it). Prereleases are among my favorite events to play in, and I'm already looking forward to the new year, when I'll have the chance again.

With the first impressions behind us, and more than a week to mull over all the new options available, it's time to turn our eyes to the future and figure out what we're going to add to our Commander decks.

The Community Marches

There was plenty of feedback when I asked everyone to share their first Khans of Tarkirupdates and excitement, starting with new commanders and their decks. Narset, Enlightened Master is one a few you talked about, and Jamie's is one example of taking it to the extreme:

My choice is Narset, Enlightened Master. In my playgroup, I tend to see a lot of decks that heavily revolve around enter-the-battlefield creatures recurring to get their effects over and over again, and while this is effective, it gets really stale to see all the time. But Narset is the perfect commander for a deck concept I'd been floating around for some time—Creatureless Commander! One commander, 99 lands and spells. Given that the obvious build was some sort of combo deck (which doesn't seem terribly fun to play against), I decided to go with creature tokens as a major theme, picking up populate from the white half of Selesnya for synergy with the spells that generate a variety of tokens.

There was some interesting synergy with Narset that I discovered as well—Soothsaying for lots of topdeck manipulation. The only downside is that X spells and spells that target things that might not be around are kind of awkward, although modal spells are great in this mode—as well as spells with additional riders, which can still be paid for off of Narset! Planeswalkers work well with her as value engines, especially the ones that generate tokens, which works well with the rest of the deck.

Jamie's Narset

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Narset, Enlightened Master
Creature (1)
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
99 Cards

Do you like free stuff? With the right attention to detail and deck construction, it's a question Jamie gets to answer emphatically. By using token-making spells to build a non-Narset presence on the battlefield, as well as an array of Planeswalker allies, Jamie's deck is the depth of the opportunity Narset provides.

I mean, who doesn't want to play with Caribou Range?

I meant Howl of the Horde. Yeah.

Howl of the Horde is a card that is going to inspire so many strange attacks in the coming years I can't wait until people jump to attention when the red deck makes what appears to be an awful attack only to not have a combat trick to save its guy.

Raid is a mechanic I love in Commander for the same reasons I love it in Limited: getting players to attack is a good thing, and the more raid there is to nudge everyone into aggression, the faster games will play out. Howl of the Horde multiplies this by doing something big and splashy after pushing out the requisite attack. Syd explained it well:

My personal strategy for Commander is half-political, half-power. Basically, I aim to hang in the middle of the pack, team up with others to take down The Threat, and then repeat until I can just win, preferably out of nowhere before anyone realizes what's happening. To this end, I'm most excited about the elbow-drop-type cards, the ones that can make the next five minutes really, really scary.

The Khans of Tarkir card that best fits my style (and my colors) would be Howl of the Horde. As a red player in Commander, being able to get the most mileage out of my cards is key, given just how many hoops red has to jump through to refill its hand. Howl is perfect for this, given that it lets the spells you do cast land with that much more impact. Just for a generic idea, there's Howl of the Horde into Chaos Warp. Two or three Chaos Warps all at once? You can cripple someone's board position with that kind of power, and yet it won't attract too much heat if you aim it right.

For more deck-specific combos, Howl of the Horde doubling an entwined Savage Beating would make attack combos like Lovisa Coldeyes/Nacatl War-Pride or Deus of Calamity/Stonebrow, Krosan Hero exponentially more dangerous. Post-combat, there's always the Hail-Mary-slam of tripled Tooth and Nail, or the sheer value of tripling Regrowth or even Vengeful Rebirth (and those can even return Howl to your hand!). Tripling a Decimate or Into the Core yields a pseudo-wipe. At bare minimum, doubling or tripling Skyshroud Claim or Peregrination helps set up future slams. Support-wise, the draw in the deck makes all of that easier to find, while Bear Umbra and Nature's Will make them easier to land.

Syd's Radha

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Radha, Heir to Keld
Planeswalker (1)
1 Domri Rade
99 Cards

Boom goes the dynamite! (I don't think I'll ever get tired to writing that.) I've seen a few Radha, Heir to Keld decks in my years, and I've always been surprised by their ability to use mana well. With a deck that wants to attack every turn it can, anything with raid gets a nice bump in power when you can assume it's always on.

Even in decks without regular attacks, if sending in a token to take one for the team can turn on Howl of the Raid, it's likely worth it anyway.

Speaking of attacks, one deck that I'm having a ton of fun playing around with is my "new" Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck. The gimmick of mine is that I'm just nudging and changing it based on what I find: cards from my Prerelease and any drafts with Khans of Tarkir , from trading with my local game store or other players, and from any packs I decide to crack are all eligible choices.

But that doesn't mean I'm ignoring targets. There are plenty I'm keeping my eyes open for, and Alma highlights one that is available at the release events this weekend:

I'm most excited for Hooded Hydra and Dragon Throne of Tarkir for my Prossh deck.

Hooded Hydra because it gives Prossh even more tokens to work with and it scales very well. I just imagine it exploding into dozens of snakes. Dragon Throne of Tarkir because it can make Prossh just sit back and let the tokens do the attacking for him. Attack with some tiny tokens, sacrifice the blocked ones to Prossh, and then pump the remaining ones with the Throne attached to Prossh. Such a wonderful interaction between the two.

Alma's Prossh

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Prossh, Skyraider of Kher
99 Cards

While it's a fair departure from where my Prossh deck is now, getting ideas to work with is always welcome. Cards like Hooded Hydra will always be welcome, as anything that leaves creatures behind when it dies is an instant synergy with Prossh—and justifies the trading for Thragtusk I found last weekend.

But it's the Dragon Throne of Tarkir that delights me the most. As Alma pointed out, sitting back on Prossh and attacking with a token army is a situation nobody wants to face down, and Prossh's ability to turn blocked dudes into unblocked damage through the Throne is a clever combination I didn't see until now.

Sometimes my cat joins in my random cackles of glee.

The Rest of the Rabble

There are many more cards in Khans of Tarkir I can't wait to try out:

I hope you find your favorite new toys soon.

This week's question shifts the dial in a different direction: What is the one all-star card you'll never cut from a Commander deck (besides the commander)?

  • Feedback via email
  • 300-word limit to explain which card and why
  • Sample decklist or list of cards is requested (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

Join us next week when we eschew blue for our benefit. See you then!

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