Taking on Tarkir

This is your captain speaking. As we pull away from Theros, passing through M15, you can see Ravnica and is dual colored population disappear back into the mists for the second time. Ahead of us is the newly discovered land of Tarkir. The preview of Tarkir will start tonight at midnight and you’ll have full reign in another week. Among the attraction are the return of fetch lands, the return of morphing, and the return of a significant number of tri-colored cards.

OK. Let’s hit the breaks on this little trip. Tri-colored? Yes, we’ve had them before but am I the only one who is getting sick of Wizards trying to push us into cozy little boxes of what a multicolored deck should be like? With Ravnica, each of the 10 two colored pairs had a specific mechanic which defined them and which the cards were built around. Things aren’t quite as bad as that but with 31-32 of each color but 56 multicolored cards in Khans of Tarkir, it’s a bit unbalanced. And, like with Return to Ravnica, only half the triads are represented this set. This means that if you decide to use a 2 colored deck or one of the other triads (like blue-white-black which is a deck I recently tried out), you’re at a disadvantage to triad decks who have extra cards allocated to them already. I’m really ready to go back to sets with mostly single colored cards that have the flexibility to allow you to use whatever cards in ways you want. I’d also love to see a return to the “Here’s six packs to open for your pre-release” over the pre-packaged boxes with an ensured, playable, specific rare in terms of a promo and a confirmed random rare of a specific color. Sometimes picking based on the promo card can make a difference as opposed to it being totally random. We’ll see how this block goes but I’ll be a lot happier once we start on the 2 two set blocks per year.

Now, beyond my little rant, here’s what’s going on with the new set. One of the set mechanics is a return to morphing. This means you pay 3 colorless mana to cast a creature spell and place it face down. During this time, it’s considered a basic 2/2 creature. At any time, you can pay it’s morph cost and flip it over. At this time, it gets its color, actual power and toughness, and additional keywords. Some cards (mostly uncommons and rares) may also have a flip effect that happens when the card is morphed. You can still cast the card for its regular casting cost. The morph cost is usually 1-2 less than the casting cost which can be helpful if you’re strapped on mana. It also gives a little surprise when your opponent doesn’t know what the card really is.

There are a handful of other abilities added in.

  • Delve allows you to exile cards from your graveyard to reduce the cost of a spell by 1 colorless mana for each card exiled this way. Cards with delve tend to be way overpriced unless you are able to exile cards though.
  • Ferocious causes an effect to happen in certain situations if you have a creature in play with power 4 or greater.
  • Outlast allows you to tap the creature and pay a mana cost to put a +1/+1 counter on it. This is a sorcery though so cannot be activated as an option mid battle phase or during the opponent’s end step before you’d untap the mana you’ve used.
  • Prowess gives creatures a +1/+1 boost until end of turn if you’ve cast a non-creature spell. I’m not sure if this is added to try to draw away from overly creature heavy decks or what.
  • Raid gives a benefit to you if you cast the creature spell after having attacked that turn.

Unlike in Ravnica, these keywords are scattered across the colors and not limited to specific only to one clan.

Yes, I said it. More clans are back just as Ravnica’s are going away. The 5 for this set are Azban (white/black/green), Jeskai (blue/red/white), Mardu (red/white/black), Sultai (black/green/blue), and Temur (green/blue/red). If you want to play a different set of 3, you have to wait 3 months for cards for that set.

Now, in terms of land, there are 15 multi-lands this time. There are 5 lands that come in tapped, give you 1 life when they come in, and then tap for one of 2 colors. (Think gates that give one life when it comes into play.) There are 5 lands that you can tap, pay 1 life, and sacrifice to put one of 2 basic lands types in play. (The lands come in untapped and they can trigger for other dual lands that are labeled as a basic land type as well as the basic lands themselves.) Finally, there are 5 lands that come in tapped but can tap for the colors of one of this set’s guilds.

There are a lot of things going on in this set. I guess we’ll see how things actually work. Tonight at midnight is the first pre-release so that will be the first test.

[Update] They actually had multiple promo cards per clan which made it harder to predict what you’d get. That was also the rare from the pack so you only got 6 rares instead of the promo and the 6 rares from the packs like usual.

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