Posted in GRAND PRIX SHANGHAI 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 5, 2014

By Chapman Sim

Tarkir is disarray and chaos. With five clans vying for your attention, this seems like a format that is rather difficult to decipher. You'll try to figure out which clan offers the best synergy, while a myriad of Morph creatures muddle the waters and cloud your judgement.

Welcome to Sarkhan Vol's hometown!

The concerns surrounding the manabase are legitimate. It's somewhat a multi-colored set after all, or can you do well enough by sticking to just two? Nobody is quite sure how many lands to run, and many players agree that there is a huge difference between 16, 17 and 18. Are the banners any good or are they borderline average? How high do you pick the dual-colored lands and the tri-colored lands? Heck, we don't even have consensus on whether it's better to play or draw in Sealed. Things will become even more complex in Booster Draft today as these issues continue to challenge everyone in the room.

Then there's the issue of speed. How fast is the format? Do you want to hop onto the driver's seat and be hyper-aggressive with a bunch of two drops in a world of threes and fives, or go over the top and stall the board with a bunch of defenders before letting your expensive, powerful cards take over the game? How good are tempo spells and combat tricks?

*migraine kicks in*

Where's a bottle of Xanax when I need one? Fortunately for me, now that the rosters for the World Magic Cup are set, it seemed like the best opportunity to pick the brains of the top Pros of some of the top countries in the region. What's everyone's take on Khans of Tarkir? I figured it would be a great idea to hear a little advice from the very best.

Kuo Tzu Ching has a little advice from the sidelines.

Let's start off with Kuo Tzu Ching, the World Magic Cup 2012 Champion and the National Champion of Chinese Taipei for three years running. Kuo feels that all five clans are pretty much even and there is no particular standout clan.

His strategy is to start off by sticking to an enemy color pair, before deciding which clan to jump into. For example, if you start off by picking only white and red cards at first, you have two paths to take, either Jeskai or Mardu. At worst, you have a two-colored deck without intense manafixing needs. On the other hand, if you pick only white and blue cards at first, you're stuck with only Jeskai as an option for a 3rd color. What happens if red cards don't come your way? You could wind up with a less-than-satisfactory deck considering there aren't any allied colored gold cards in the set.

Kuo also stresses that Morphs are really important and whomever reaches five mana first has a huge advantage. He feels that this format is very combat-centric, so he would be inclined to pick quality creatures over quality spells.

Han Bing, China's National Champ, knows what he is doing!

Han Bing, China's National Champion, was one of the three players to go undefeated yesterday. He feels that the power level of commons and uncommons are comparable, with no particular standout cards. He prefers stability over power and values manafixing lands highly, especially the cycle of tri-colored lands. "The correct tri-land is worth a first pick. It can win you more games than you can feel or imagine." In a previous Quick Questions interview, he has even cited Mardu Hordechief as the best common. This is proof that he prefers to stick to the basics, rather than greedy multi-colored cards that stretch the manabase. "At the end of the day, if you can't cast your spells and keep up with the tempo of the game as a result of manascrew, you're throwing a game away needlessly."

Lee Shi Tian suggests to never force an archetype.

Platinum Pro and Hong Kong National Champion Lee Shi Tian feels that it is best to keep your options open. He was feeling bummed that he failed to make Day 2, but still had a little to share about drafting Khans of Tarkir.

"As an experiment, I first picked Hardened Scales and tried to force Azban. I figured that with all the Outlast cards in the clan, it could work out. It also interacts well with underrated cards like Dragonscale Boon, Armament Corps and Swarm of Bloodflies, cards that I could pick up easily. In addition, Hardened Scales also works really well with Feat of Resistance, Incremental Growth and Azban Charm. I was wrong and the draft ended up a train-wreck. Nothing came my way. I don't think I will ever make the mistake of forcing a clan ever again and stick to reading the signals."

However, Lee reminds me that it's more difficult than usual to read the signals, especially if everyone chooses to adopt the same mentality. This paradox occurs when everyone chooses to pick single colored cards in an attempt to read the signals. Eventually, someone has to bite the bullet and commit. Also, a very interesting point to note is that, assuming every player picks a clan, everyone will have at least one overlapping color with each of your neighbors.

Kelvin Chew advises you to do your homework.

Kelvin Chew, Singapore's National Champion and Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Top 8 competitor, prefers to stick to the basics. He feels that just like any Limited Format, evasion is still exceptionally important.

"In Khans of Tarkir limited, sometimes there are standstills where neither player can attack profitably. You need some way to break through stalemates, like Icy Blast or Mystic of the Hidden Way. It's also a good idea make a list and memorize all the Morphs in the format, so you can make better decisions when attacking or blocking."

Last but not least, Japanese National Champ Yuuya Watanabe is agonizing over his first few picks as we speak. Perhaps we will check back in later with him to see how he is doing, seeing how he "usually" ends up winning the Grand Prix after scraping Day 2. "I don't really know how to draft yet. Nobody really knows. After all, this is the first Grand Prix using Khans of Tarkir."

Yuuya Watanabe is not quite sure how to tackle this format yet. Humility or being tight-lipped? =)