MTG: Pet Cards XVI, Khans Block

The best block of modern MTG history is the block with the single biggest structural mistake in it and it’s a structural mistake because there is basically no meaningful way to have course-corrected or changed it. Making this mistake was 100% reasonable in the way that Magic sets are crafted and in a way it’s good that the structure that bound Khans and ruined Tarkir died here. It was doomed before Tarkir was made, but it seems fitting perhaps that a design dragon – the needs of small sets to serve larger ones – was slain in the lands of Tarkir.

What I’m talking about is that Khans of Tarkir is, without a doubt, one of the best sets of modern Magic. It is one of the best worlds, and its cultures represent something we both haven’t had much of and were finally able to put conception to. In most faction sets, the factions include a few duds – most people can appreciate an element of a faction or two, but most people who like the MTG factions will like one or two of them. Tarkir howerver put this on its ass because all the factions are cool, and have something about them to recommend (except the Sultai, who make up for their moral and narrative failings with grotesque power). Tarkir was great and it was cool and it had this interesting post-apocalyptic feel thanks to the absence of Dragons, but it didn’t hurt for them. Without dragons, the game had to make do with other big things that crashed through defensive lines.

Then, the fiction told us, we went back in time (a bad sign) and changed things to bring back dragons. Which could have been cool, but it meant all those noble, interesting, exciting khans we met, and grew attached to were now all losers subservient to a bunch of dragons, who were also now emblematic of the death of The Thing We Liked.

How were Wizards to know that we’d love their Khans? How were they to know we’d like Khans way better than their dragons that sucked? Dragons are consistantly some of the highest-polling cards in the game!

What a loaded set. Setting aside the five charms, dual lands, and the assorted three-colour and enemy-colour power cards, there’s just tons of good cards in Khans of Tarkir, and most of them are pretty affordable. One of the mechanics is generally regarded as one of the most prominent and clear mistakes ever printed – Delve – and one of the clans, the Temur, had such an overwhelming presence in standard that they led to bannings.

Over a year after the Khans had rotated out of Standard.

Awkward.

Nonetheless, pet cards are the ones you find popping up in lists even if you don’t have a great reason for them to be there, and with that in mind, the Khans card I have absolutely played with the most even though I often don’t need it is:

I think part of what makes Stubborn Refusal so strong is the number and times of ways it kind of just works. It works as a defensive counterspell when you’re tapping low for big things, and if they don’t counterspell it, it can protect it from removal. In the late game when you’re riding a big threat to victory it absolutely protects what’s important, and it’s also easy to sneak past an opponent’s guard.

I don’t really see it as a good tool for putting on pressure, at least not moreso than other oldschool 1-mana counters like Force Spike.

Fate Reforged, probably the most troubled middle set of all time. It’s such a shame, this set wanted to do – and was doing – some incredibly cool stuff. The whole historical vision, the theme of choice, and the handful of creatures like Sandsteppe Outcast that have handy modes depending on what you need them to do, they’re all good. The cycle of tri-colour mythics and rares are all absolutely great, every last one of them, but I tend to find them all just a tiny bit awkward shaped. Torrent Elemental, for example, is a 3/5 unblockable, but that 5 toughness feels just a bit wrong. Brutal Hordechief makes me wonder, because they’re a 3/3, and somehow that feels weird for the cost and size.

It’s all beating around the bush anyway because Fate Reforged gave me one of the green cards I’ve played the most of any card in this entire exercise.

Bounce effects, a persistent threat, and a way to generate infinite mana with creatures like Wirewood Symbiote and Priest of Titania. Buyback on Evoke cards, untapping a big beater, all sorts of triggers – straight up, this is one of the best creatures of its type and it hits for 4.

The biggest bummer of the Sabertooth is that it’s not a particularly well-supported tribe in green but who cares?

I was a bit bummed out by Dragons because while there are a lot of cards I like in the set they’re almost all just a bit crap compared to where I want them to be. For a while Den Matriarch was my leader, or Ainok Survivalist, and maybe Stratus Dancer, too – though they’re both better in singleton formats where redundant versions of effects are desireable.

Then I got back to playing with an old friend.

Silumgar’s Command can’t quite do everything. It doesn’t create a threat – none of these Commands to (except Ojutai’s in some situations). But consistantly, Silumgar’s Command hits two things you wanted to hit and at a good price. Sometimes if your deck relies on barfing out a big threat like a dragon, you only need one turn of breathing room, and this card can usually buy you two.

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