Is it the end of the year already? When did that happen? Time flies when you are having fun. And even sometimes when you’re not. But slow or fast, the calendar is getting ready to switch over to 2015, and that means it is time to take stock of the fall Magic set. In keeping with my long-standing tradition, this week I run down my top ten cards from Khans of Tarkir limited.

As I explained last year, my ranking is holistic. These aren’t the ten most powerful cards, although some of them might make it onto such a list. These are my top ten, the cards I consider “best” based on whatever the hell “best” means. These are my favorites. That might mean cards I like to draft highly, or ones I like to pick up twelfth, or ones that I laugh at, or ones I have never played at all. For each I have my reasons, and I might even manage to explain them.

Here we go.

10. [casthaven]Mardu Warshrieker[/casthaven]

I love free mana. I’m not always the most eager to attack, and Khans isn’t a format where attacking all the time is the best or most effective idea. But you don’t have to attack all the time—just when it’s adventageous, say because you can get some valuable raid triggers. Like free mana. You know that feeling when you cast [casthaven]Murderous Cut[/casthaven] for one black? Casting [casthaven]Mardu Charm[/casthaven] for free off a Warshrieker feels pretty good too. And if you do happen to be in the market for attacking every turn until you win, adding a free morph to the board on turn four can really help seal the deal before your opponent can stabilize the game.

9. [casthaven]Tomb of the Spirit Dragon[/casthaven]

Have you ever seen this card in play? Anywhere? Like maybe someone put it in an Affinity deck to defend against burn decks? That seems questionable. In limited? Even if you were playing the all-morph deck and you needed to gain some life every turn to stay in the game, wouldn’t it be better most of the time to spend your mana flipping those morphs up and killing your opponent?

SpiritDragon

Four thousand attack sounds pretty good. Wait, what?

This land is obviously just a story card, and it’s essentially a blank in draft. You never have to even think about picking it. If it ends up in your deck, say because you won the last pick lottery, it takes no thought to leave it in your sideboard. If you know me, you know I like reducing the number of decisions I have to make. Khans is such a complex, decision-heavy set. Almost all cards can do something, and often you need to go deep to build a winning deck. Tomb of the Spirit Dragon will never make you think, though.

8. [casthaven]Venerable Lammasu[/casthaven]

Expensive finishers tend to be good in slow formats. Lammasu flies and does five damage a turn. It helped me win a PTQ. It’s not that easy to kill, either. Like I’ve said before, the Lammasu is not as good as [casthaven]Butcher of the Horde[/casthaven]; but it mostly does the same thing, is a little easier to pick up in a draft, and fits into most decks. Give it a chance.

7. [casthaven]Master the Way[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Prophetic Bolt[/casthaven] is an incredible card. Maybe you’ve played with it in Vintage Masters or in a cube. Or an Invasion block draft. [casthaven]Master the Way[/casthaven] isn’t quite the same card, but it does a reasonable impersonation. Removal and burn spells just aren’t that good anymore, so you take what you can get. It turns out sorceries are still playable even when instants are better.

6. [casthaven]Hooded Hydra[/casthaven]

I’ve never unmorphed a [casthaven]Hooded Hydra[/casthaven]. The one time I had it in my draft deck, I only drew it once, on turn infinity, and cast it for X=12. I feel like I’m missing out on the fun though. Like flipping it in response to [casthaven]End Hostilities[/casthaven]. Then there’s this:

hood hydra

I call it Paulie Walnuts, nacho eater.

That hoodie doesn’t look possible to wear, and maybe that’s the point. When you have it on, you constantly wait for the moment to slip into something more comfortable. Like a bunch of snakes. Hissssssssss.

5. [casthaven]Swarm of Bloodflies[/casthaven]

I really want to cast Duneblast keeping a [casthaven]Swarm of Bloodflies[/casthaven] alive. Such overkill! It would be the height of indulgence. Actually, that would be casting [casthaven]Duneblast[/casthaven] keeping alive Dragon-Style Twins. You know, for the prowess trigger. Maybe you could even delve away your casualties to [casthaven]Become Immense[/casthaven]. Here’s another wet dream: combo [casthaven]Swarm of Bloodflies[/casthaven] with [casthaven]Retribution of the Ancients[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Hardened Scales[/casthaven]. That gives you more time to play with your food.

4. [casthaven]Death Frenzy[/casthaven]

It’s not always good, but when it works it wins the game. Anyone can crush dreams with Duneblast. I dream about killing four small creatures with Death Frenzy. And gaining life. I was eliminated from cashing Grand Prix Orlando by a well-timed frenzy in round fourteen. So I feel like it owes me some wins, and I take every chance I can to redeem those chits. Also worth noting: [casthaven]Death Frenzy[/casthaven] blows [casthaven]Drown in Filth[/casthaven] out of the water in the guy-on-horseback-being-devoured competition. Not close.

3. [casthaven]Abzan Guide[/casthaven]

Wizards have a way of making sure that the important cards in a set get worthy art. When you see a new card previewed (perhaps in a couple weeks) and the art looks amazing and highly crafted, that’s a good sign the card is a powerhouse. Think [casthaven]Deathrite Shaman[/casthaven]. Or [casthaven]Abzan Guide[/casthaven]. I mean, look at that thing. I just knew it was going to be good, and sure enough.

giraffe2

Have you met my better half?

How many games have you lost because your opponent flipped a headless giraffe and started regaining all the life they’d lost? Too many, I bet. This card might not be as overwhelmingly flavorful as [casthaven]Fleshmad Steed[/casthaven], aka the best card ever, aka the card Matt Jones ripped in half during a side draft at Grand Prix Oklahoma City and the top half of which I found in the change pocket of my backpack as I was cleaning before my move to Denver last month. But Matt Jones would never rip apart the beauty that is [casthaven]Abzan Guide[/casthaven]. I can promise you that.

2.  [casthaven]Treasure Cruise[/casthaven]

Do I even need to explain myself here? Have you cast [casthaven]Treasure Cruise[/casthaven] for one mana? I did, in game three of round seven of my PTQ win, against Craig Krempels, and it clinched my first top eight.  I’ve gone on a few cruises in my day, but that one was the best. You can take a cruise almost anywhere. They even have Vintage Cruises for those who can afford it. Nothing beats playing broken cards in limited, though. Open a booster, see power, and pass it because it’s common and you plan to pick up yours a few packs down the road. You can tell that Wizards love us players, because every so often they let us play with cards like [casthaven]Treasure Cruise[/casthaven]. Don’t miss out.

1. [casthaven]Villainous Wealth[/casthaven]

All the money. All the fun. All the time. Sultai is the best clan, and here is its best card. Sure, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is stronger. [casthaven]Sultai Soothsayer[/casthaven] is more consistently awesome in limited. [casthaven]Abomination of Gudul[/casthaven] is a lot more flexible. But this card got the nickname Nemesis Wave. Beat that.

great wave

Woooooooooooooooooosh.

At the Standard PTQ out here in Denver last weekend, I got wealthed for X=18 by a sweet green-black devotion deck. I was 2-2 at the time and looking for a reason to drop and go home. But I stuck around and let my opponent resolve his Nemesis Wave. I think he got an Ashiok, two [casthaven]Hornet Queen[/casthaven]s, two [casthaven]Murderous Cut[/casthaven]s, a Hero’s Downfall, two [casthaven]Courser of Kruphix[/casthaven], and god knows what else. It was sublime. That’s how you know Magic is such an incredible game: one of my favorite moments of the last month was a game I lost. Good beats!

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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