Clash of Clans

Posted in Top Decks on September 26, 2014

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

As part of doing my set reviews for Khans of Tarkir (you can find the most recent ones here), I've gotten to take a look at every card in the set with an eye to Constructed. Most importantly, I've considered what impact they will have on Standard, and started to think about what decks might make up the metagame. Given that Khans is a clan-based set (even the name gives it away), I figure a good way to start is by looking at what each clan is doing and what I'm interested in building from each one. Note that I'm not claiming this is the best deck from each clan, but it's the deck that I find most interesting and that I think represents the clan well.

Abzan is the clan I've enjoyed playing with the most, and I picked it for both the Prerelease flights I played in. I played with a lot of Loxodon Hierarchs at a lot of Pro Tours, so it's no surprise that I naturally gravitate toward Siege Rhino (which actually was my promo rare for one of the flights).

The cards I like most from Abzan heavily lean toward a more midrange strategy:

All I want to do with an Abzan deck is play value card after value card. And the combination of Siege Rhino, Sylvan Caryatid, and Courser of Kruphix will likely allow me to do so. Speaking of Courser + Caryatid, I would be prepared to see a lot of revealed cards over the next year. Courser is the hands-down best card in Standard right now, and if you're playing green and not playing Courser, you have some explaining to do.

My first look at Abzan midrange:

Abzan Midrange

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As with most Abzan decks, this at least starts very close to where the deck Patrick Chapin used to win Pro Tour  Journey into Nyx left off. There's just no reason to not look at previous successful decks when building new ones, and Chapin certainly had the deck of that tournament. The Garruk is likely a little ambitious, but other than that it's a collection of efficient cards that keep racking up incremental value as the game goes on. It's not the deck with the best early game or late game in the format, but it's not really weak at any point. It has good plays from the start of the game to the finish, and that makes up for not being the absolute best at any point during. All of the early plays look pretty good in the late game, and aside from the Garruk (my one indulgence), there is only Elspeth sitting above four mana.

The disruption of Thoughtseize + removal + good blockers should let you survive just about anything, and that combination does wonders in clearing the path for your Rhinos, Lions, and Planeswalkers to eventually finish your opponent. Abzan Charm is fantastic here, as it kills problematic creatures, draws cards, and even lets your Coursers attack into your opponent's with no fear. This is the kind of deck that wants that card more than most, and it's no coincidence that Abzan Charm is perfect for the quintessential Abzan deck.

Even though Jeskai is the blue clan, the prowess keyword makes it attack a little too much for my tastes. I want my blue cards to draw me more blue cards, not give my creatures +1/+1, but we have to play the hand we're dealt.

Jeskai Aggro

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Besides wanting Young Pyromancer more than any other deck in history, this deck is looking to attack early and often, but to do so while being resilient to removal and having a ton of reach. No creatures in the deck gets blocked safely by Sylvan Caryatid except Goblin tokens, and between Jeskai Charm, Chained to the Rocks, and Ride Down, even Courser and Polukranos have to be wary when stepping into battle.

Between Jeskai Charm, Stoke the Flames, Lightning Strike, and Mantis Rider, this deck also has a lot of ways to sneak in damage when the board is stalled. Dealing 8–11 damage out of nowhere is not the hardest quest to complete, and the tokens do a great job of buying time once you are on the burn plan.

Monastery Swiftspear is the only clan representative, although it came bearing a grip of Jeskai Charms, and it does a good job of representing the clan indeed. Haste makes it relevant in many more board situations than it would be otherwise, and having 21 spells that trigger it makes it likely to hit for a good amount of damage. Part of the threat of the Swiftspear is implied, and every time your opponent declines to block with Caryatid, you've won a small victory.

On the other side of the spectrum from Monastery Swiftspear we have Pearl Lake Ancient, which I haven't been able to find a great home for yet. I suspect there will be one, and only mention it because of (a) how cool the card is and (b) how ridiculous it is that it has prowess. It's just an absurdly funny thing to have on the card, as it really doesn't impact its power level much at all. It does tie it to the Jeskai clan, and that is what I assume the main purpose is, but in terms of actual gameplay it really doesn't do much.

If I had to pick one Sultai card, just one, there's no doubt in my mind which it would be. It isn't the khan (although Sidisi is very powerful), it isn't the Charm, and it isn't even Villainous Wealth, as sweet as that looks.

The card I want to use the most is the most divine of all the Divinations. It actually makes me recall a card I've been casting a lot in Vintage, although Treasure Cruise is way less vulnerable to Mental Misstep:

So, what does it take to make a Cruise affordable? Good planning is key, and in this case Satyr Wayfinder is our travel agent. He draws us a land and makes the first Cruise three cheaper, and even in the cases where he misses on the land, at least the Cruise gets even easier to cast! Wayfinder also blocks, giving us time to cast Treasure Cruise and make use of the cards we find, which sounds like a good deal to me.

Sultai Leisure Cruise

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The first question you might ask (besides "How many cards drawn is too many??") is why Treasure Cruise is better than Dig Through Time. I'm actually not 100% sure it is, but I think it's the safer card to start with. Treasure Cruise draws more cards, even though it offers less selection. And in a deck that's trying to trade one-for-ones but doesn't particularly care which cards it draws, that might be better. This isn't really a synergy deck besides the delve aspect, and combining different creatures plus different removal spells ends up playing roughly the same. Costing less blue mana and more colorless mana is another advantage, and one that can be quite relevant. When you go nuts and mill a ton of cards, being able to cast delve cards for the minimum amount is important, because it lets you actually use the cards you draw right away.

Speaking of delve cards, it isn't clear that Murderous Cut should be left out. It's an incredibly efficient spell, and only the fear of running out of fuel prompted me to cut it. In a deck with fewer than four Treasure Cruises it is likely correct to run Cut, but I don't think this deck necessarily wants it.

All this deck wants to do is not die, after which it will hopefully just cruise to victory. Trading cards until you draw some extras is a time-honored tradition, and while Treasure Cruise is most certainly not Sphinx's Revelation, it is at least efficient enough that you can cast Cruise and cast another relevant spell in the same turn pretty easily. Casting a turn-five or -six Cruise is a real possibility. And if you have an early Sidisi, the Cruise may even cost one mana, at which point you are almost assuredly ahead of your opponent. There are a variety of ways this deck could try and end the game, so I wouldn't be surprised if that part of the deck changes frequently. I started with Prognostic Sphinx, Hornet Queen, and Sagu Mauler because of their resilience, but the raw power of Polukranos might be what the deck is actually looking for.

Despite Sultai being the black-based clan, Mardu has a very strong black deck in the works, as Bloodsoaked Champion is the stuff engines are made of. All Mardu wants to do is attack, which is somewhat at odds with the whole "being three colors" thing. The cards you get from the third color are powerful enough to justify the mana costs. Or at least they seem to be, initially.

Mardu Beatdown

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There are a lot of ways you could build this deck. Butcher of the Horde and Mardu Ascendancy push you toward a token theme, while all the black one-drops and raid cards reward you for being a no-holds-barred beatdown deck. This is a slight mix, with Butcher seeing play as the top of the curve without the deck having too many sacrifice synergies. There are definitely more to be found if that's the direction you want to go, but I think Butcher stands on its own well enough.

This deck has a surprising amount of card advantage, and between Mardu Skullhunter, Bloodsoaked Champion, and Gnarled Scarhide, it can fight against removal in a fairly efficient way. Blockers are its biggest weakness, but luckily there are a ton of disruptive elements and removal that help remove annoying blockers, sometimes even before they ever get cast. Butcher of the Horde also shines here, as situations where your ground guys are blanked give you the perfect opportunity to sacrifice them to make Butcher hasty and lifelinked, thus ensuring that you will win any sort of race.

Anger of the Gods is probably the most annoying card for this deck to face, but Mardu Ascendancy can solve that problem, and this deck could easily play more of them if that's what the metagame called for.

Temur is another clan that has many faces, all of them roaring. For this particular representation, I'm going to pick up where I left off a couple weeks ago, and continue tinkering with green devotion. I'm just a sucker for casting Chord of Calling and I can't really resist the opportunity to try it in a new format.

Mono-Temur Devotion

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This is barely a Nykthos deck anymore, but that doesn't mean it isn't sweet. It gets to play the part of beatdown while still having a powerful engine and a bunch of Planeswalkers to back up Savage Knuckleblade and Polukranos. The Chord of Callings let you play a bunch of awesome one-of targets, with Clever Impersonator being very high on the list of sweet things to tutor up. It is possible that Genesis Hydra is just the better X-spell, or even Crater's Claws, but I'm starting with Chord because nobody has the power to stop me.

Rattleclaw Mystic is a pretty sweet card for this deck, and I've been pretty impressed with its ability to ramp you a ton in draws where you don't have a bunch of other ramp. In a draw where your deck cooperates, you can play Mystic turn two and it acts like a Caryatid, which is all well and good. When your deck has no three-drop, sometimes just playing this and un-morphing it turn four to cast a six-drop is just awesome, and having that versatility is a nice tool. I also want to note that not all the green clans played four Courser and four Caryatid; examination of the Temur decklist will show that there are only three Caryatids present.

Another take on this deck is to use Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, something Reid Duke has advocated before, and something Josh Silvestri just wrote about a few days ago. Yisan plus Prophet of Kruphix seems like an awesome engine as well, and I like that green is spoiled for card-advantage engines these days. Between Yisan, Chord, and Genesis Hydra, I barely feel the loss of Garruk, Caller of Beasts, and all I can think of is how to get out Hornet Queen as soon as possible.

Uniting the Clans

One thing that all the clans have in common is that there are many decks contained within their colors. I've shown some examples of what is possible, but there is way more out there, waiting to be discovered. Each clan has a particular feel to it that will carry over to most of the decks, but even that is variable, and there are the cards for Mardu control or Abzan aggro, even if that's not what the clans naturally do. I'm looking forward to seeing what the clans bring to the table over the next few weeks, and hopefully we find something awesome enough to take the Pro Tour by storm.

LSV

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