In a few, terminally long days, we’ll have our first opportunity to play with Khans of Tarkir.

I’m stoked! Playing with new cards is always fun, but the Fall release is always the most exciting one—it makes for a brand new Limited and Standard environment, plus it follows the usually less exciting third set and core set (both of which will be no more by this time next year). Khans of Tarkir looks to be a bit of a doozy—it’s jam-packed with complexity, colors, and choices. I wouldn’t fault anyone for feeling overwhelmed when they crack their prerelease packs. Accordingly, I’ve a few tips for this weekend, both for building your sealed pool and playing it.

Cruel Ultimatum

Check your Fixing!

It’s hard making the mana work for a three+ color deck. You can do the old 6/6/5 split of basic lands, but you’ll run the big risk of adding color screw to the possible pitfalls of mana screw and mana flood. Accordingly, after cracking your sealed pool, one of the first things you should do is look at your nonbasic lands and banners. This’ll give you a good sense of which and how many colors you can reliably play. You don’t need to build a deck to best fit your mana fixing, but you should absolutely keep fixing in mind when choosing your colors.

I can’t stress enough how important consistency is. Sure, sometimes you can get away with a greedy splash for a bomb (and sometimes you should splash that bomb). However, you run the real risk of piloting a greedy deck that may often be unable to cast any spells—why not play a consistent deck that can usually cast all of its spells (even if they’re a tad weaker)?

Finally, don’t be afraid to play additional lands. It’s okay to be a bit more flooded than usual if doing so allows you to cast your spells on time. Plus, you always, always want to get to three mana on turn three so that you can morph your creatures. And speaking of morph…

Spy Network

Know how Morph Works

Morph is great! It helps you smooth your curve and lets you play guessing games with your opponent. It’s also rather complicated. Here’s what you should know:

  • Morph doesn’t use the stack (it happens instantaneously and cannot be responded to). For example, if you turn your face down Abzan Guide face up and your opponent casts Bring Low on it, your Abzan Guide lives (with three damage marked on it). If your opponent says they’re doing it in response to you turning it face up, they’re technically incorrect—turning a face down creature face up cannot be responded to.
  • If we reverse the order and your opponent casts Bring Low on your face down Abzan Guide, you can respond by turning it face up. Again, you’ll have a live Abzan Guide with three damage marked on it.
  • You must reveal your face down cards when they leave the battlefield or when the game ends. This prevents players from cheating by playing cards face down that don’t have morph. If you accidentally make this mistake at prerelease, it shouldn’t get you disqualified (it’s not a competitive REL event), but it may get you a stern talking to/a warning. Please be careful and make sure that your opponents are careful, as well. We’re all here to have fun and play fairly.
  • You cannot shuffle your face down creatures. Your opponent has a right to know which morph card was played on turn two rather than turn three, which has damage marked on it, and so forth. You conceal their identity through their being face down and your actions, not by misrepresentation of the game state.
  • Morphed creatures are colorless, have no mana cost, and have no abilities. They are not legal targets for Sultai Charm. It doesn’t work.

Guided Passage


Folks have asked me which guild to choose for prerelease. I say play whatever excites you most—be it color combination, mechanic, bombs, or strategy. All five mechanics are fairly simple but reward synergy and strategy. If you want a small hint/brain dump of how to play ’em, here goes:

Raid makes cheaper creatures better (since they’ll turn raid on quickly) and Prowess makes cards like Defiant Strike better (since they become cantripping combat tricks). Feat of Resistance is obviously great with Outlast creatures (since they tend to power up +1/+1 counter-ed creatures), but it can also trigger Prowess and Ferocious (though it’s off-color for Temur). Delve and Prowess are more dangerous mechanics: the first Delve card you cast diminishes the graveyard for all subsequent cards (so only Delve as much as you need) and Prowess requires a fine balance between creatures and noncreature spells (if you have too many Prowess creatures but no spells, then Prowess does nothing and your creatures are comparably weak; if you have too many spells but few creatures, then your deck is, well, bad).

Jeskai Ascendacy

That’s all for this week, folks. Hope you have a phenomenal prerelease!

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and improviser, creating entire musicals from scratch every week. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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