Five Clans, Five Magic Decks for Khans of Tarkir

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Last week, Josh and I took you through our picks for the best and worst cards of Khans of Tarkir. There are a lot of interesting and powerful cards to craft some decks around, especially the three mana wedge ones. In keeping with the theme of the five clans, here are some Standard deck ideas to get you started this weekend when Khans of Tarkir releases. You can click on the clan symbols below to go to your favorite.

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Justin says: While the previous RW burn deck lost a bunch of its spells due to rotation, there’s still a decent shell remaining along with a few new cards to play with from Khans of Tarkir. This Jeskai burn deck is looking to go a little bigger than previous burn iterations, it’s less about trying to count to 20 as quickly as possible and more about using your burn to control the board and then finally go the face to finish off those last few points of life. Also keep in mind that although losing spells like [mtg_card=Boros Charm] and [mtg_card=Skullcrack] hurts, there’s going to be a lot more damage coming from pain and fetch lands now with fewer mono colored decks running around. Most every deck is essentially starting the game at 16-17 life now.

As mentioned, this deck is looking to go a little longer topping out with [mtg_card=Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker] or even [mtg_card=Keranos, God of Storms] and [mtg_card=Narset, Enlightened Master] out of the sideboard. The deck does have a fair amount of scry going on, so 24 should be a pretty safe number to balance colored sources and casting spells on time. The only lingering question with lands is whether or not this deck wants a full 12 tapped lands. It shouldn’t be too much of a sequencing issue, but the deck preforms best when it hit a [mtg_card=Goblin Rabblemaster] or [mtg_card=Mantis Rider] on turn three.

[mtg_card=Goblin Rabblemaster] represents one of the best clocks around right now, hitting for one, then six, then nine if unopposed, and it’s accumulating value along the way if it ever gets killed. And [mtg_card=Mantis Rider] gets to come down and start hitting for an evasive three damage a turn, and it’s really good at pressuring opposing planeswalkers. Not even [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion] looks that great against a [mtg_card=Mantis Rider] when head to head. Without having done a ton of playtesting, I suspect that casting a [mtg_card=Magma Jet] on turn two to dig for one of those or an untapped land to cast one will often be correct.

A lot of decks however will be chalked full of removal for these creatures, and they don’t get to recur like [mtg_card=Chandra’s Phoenix]. [mtg_card=Chandra, Pyromaster], [mtg_card=Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker], and [mtg_card=Dig Through Time] give the deck some ability to grind against these kind of decks. [mtg_card=Dig Through Time] is a great way to find those last few points of burn, and it’s a nice bit of [mtg_card=Thoughtseize] insurance. They either need to take [mtg_card=Dig Through Time] because it represents two really good cards or feed your delve.

Speaking of burn, the deck features 64 points of face crisping damage spells. Heck, every card in the deck sans [mtg_card=Dig Through Time] is in theory capable of hitting your opponent for damage the turn it is cast. That much reach can steal games you might not normally win otherwise provided you can sequence well and get yourself into the best odds of drawing your outs.

Sideboarding is a little hard for a largely unknown metagame, at this point, but I think there’s still a few things in general to prepare for and some cards I simply like overall. [mtg_card=Arc Lightning] augments the already strong mainboard against aggressive decks, which tend to feature prominently soon after rotation. That’s one reason I like this deck for at least the first few weeks while the format starts to shape out. It may turn out that some of the smaller burn spells need to get moved out for more mainboard answers to big threats like [mtg_card=Siege Rhino], but I expect to see more smaller aggro decks initially.

The rest of the board is mostly dedicated to either containing powerful things your opponent is doing or bringing in strong haymakers of your own. [mtg_card=Keranos, God of Storms] or [mtg_card=Narset, Enlightened Master] are perfectly capable of taking over a game, which is great to have around in any match-up where you’re both going to get down to top decking.

[mtg_card=Gainsay], along with most of its kin in the cycle, is a card I think most every sideboard should include as a one of. If the format is going to be heavy three colors, then these efficient color hating cards will hit a lot of targets over a big swath of decks. So it’s worth having one around. I might still even shave a card for [mtg_card=Glare of Heresy].

Mardu Aggro “Mardudes”

4x [mtg_card=Battlefield Forge], 4x [mtg_card=Caves of Koilos], 4x [mtg_card=Mana Confluence], 4x [mtg_card=Nomad Outpost], 4x [mtg_card=Temple of Silence]


1x [mtg_card=Ankle Shanker], 4x [mtg_card=Bloodsoaked Champion], 2x [mtg_card=Butcher of the Horde], 4x [mtg_card=Chief of the Edge], 4x [mtg_card=Chief of the Scale], 4x [mtg_card=Goblin Rabblemaster], 4x [mtg_card=Herald of Anafenza], 4x [mtg_card=Tormented Hero], 4x [mtg_card=War-Name Aspirant], 1x [mtg_card=Zurgo Helmsmasher]

Instants and Sorceries

2x [mtg_card=Crackling Doom], 2x [mtg_card=Mardu Charm]


2x [mtg_card=Mardu Ascendancy], 2x [mtg_card=Raider’s Spoils]



Josh says: Mardudes takes the prevalent Warrior tribe from Khans to create an aggressive build full of undercosted creatures and a handful of Warrior-based mechanics. Running only 20 lands, the curve focuses on 3-mana and less, but goes up to one-ofs for two 5CMC creatures [mtg_card=Ankle Shanker] and [mtg_card=Zurgo Helmsmasher] for surprise fun in cases of mana flood. The rest of the deck is mostly dedicated to flooding the board with little dudes, buffing them, and going to the face as fast as possible.

While Warriors are big in Khans, they’re slightly more sparse in the rest of Standard sets, but there are still a few with adequate power levels for our inclusion here. [mtg_card=Tormented Hero] won’t ever proc his Heroic ability, but he’s a 2/1 for one, and he’s a Warrior to boot, so he fits perfectly with our strategy. [mtg_card=Goblin Rabblemaster] is our other non-Khans creature inclusion, because he can be incredibly potent on his own, and he’s a Warrior, so he’ll synergize with the rest of the deck, while doing his own Gobliny thing.

Khans makes up the bulk of the deck, though, with [mtg_card=Bloodsoaked Champion] being the new annoyingly resilient [mtg_card=Gravecrawler]. Sacrificing him to [mtg_card=Butcher of the Horde] after attackers are declared, then resummoning him, sac’ing him again, and so on, lets you proc multiple keywords if necessary. [mtg_card=Chief of the Edge] helps us stay aggressive, and being a 3/2 for two mana, he’s decent enough on his own. Likewise, [mtg_card=Chief of the Scale] is a 2/3 for two, and makes your Warriors a bit tougher, in case you’re squared off against a deck full of little creatures like your own.

[mtg_card=Herald of Anafenza] is a powerhouse, making himself bigger and generating Warrior tokens every turn you have the spare mana. His tokens work well with [mtg_card=War-Name Aspirant], which wants creatures to have attacked before you play her. Curving out with creatures in this deck can be devastating against a slower build, but is easily thwarted by big creatures, which brings us to our spell selection.

While the damage on [mtg_card=Crackling Doom] isn’t that noteworthy, the sacrifice requirement makes it a fantastic inclusion. Reliably getting rid of your opponent’s biggest creature for three mana, with the minor upside of two damage to the face is a great way to stay ahead. [mtg_card=Mardu Charm] has a couple great modes for our deck, either dealing 4 damage to a problem creature or creating two 1/1 Warrior tokens, which get First Strike for the turn, allowing some favorable blocking.

I also included a pair of [mtg_card=Mardu Ascendancy] which not only pairs amazingly well with [mtg_card=Goblin Rabblemaster], but also serves as a way to protect your creatures in combat, should the need arise. Finally, [mtg_card=Raiders’ Spoils] gives us some bonus power on the board, while synergizing with our Warrior theme for card advantage. Keeping the pressure on by drawing extra cards and playing an abundance of little guys should help you in a longer grindier game.

As to the land base, I’m not sure what the correct approach here is. We want to be aggressive, so I avoided most of the tapped lands, excepting [mtg_card=Temple of Silence] and [mtg_card=Nomad Outpost]. The former gives us some Scry, which can help smooth out draws, while the latter fixes mana for the deck, and doesn’t hurt you in the process. Most of our other lands have the benefit of coming in untapped, but hurt you when you use them, which might not be a problem, as long as you’re the more aggressive deck, but could be an issue when you’re facing down something else that’s just whittling away your life total.

When you shuffle up, you’ll want to get as aggressive as possible as fast as you can. Your guys will likely be dwarfed by your opponent’s creatures fairly quickly, so you need to get as much early damage in as possible, before you start swarming over their beefier blockers to deliver the finishing blow. Card advantage will help during the swarming process, giving you more fodder to replace those you lost in the attack.

This isn’t going to be a competitive tournament deck, mind you. This is a fun tribal deck that you can enjoy casually with some friends. I’d advise you against taking it to anything more serious than an FNM, but the playtests I’ve done with it have proven to be remarkably fun, which is the essence of Magic for players like myself.

Sultai Midrange/Control

3x [mtg_card=Forest], 1x [mtg_card=Island], 1x [mtg_card=Mana Confluence], 4x [mtg_card=Opulent Palace], 4x [mtg_card=Polluted Delta], 3x [mtg_card=Swamp], 4x [mtg_card=Temple of Malady], 4x [mtg_card=Temple of Mystery], 1x [mtg_card=Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth]Creatures
4x [mtg_card=Courser of Kruphix], 3x [mtg_card=Polukranos, World Eater], 2x [mtg_card=Prognostic Sphinx], 4x [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid]Instants and Sorceries
4x [mtg_card=Bile Blight], 4x [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall], 4x [mtg_card=Sultai Charm], 4x [mtg_card=Thoughtseize]Planeswalkers
4x [mtg_card=Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver], 2x [mtg_card=Nissa, Worldwaker]Sideboard
2x [mtg_card=Disdainful Stroke], 3x [mtg_card=Drown in Sorrow], 1x [mtg_card=Gainsay], 1x [mtg_card=Garruk, Apex Predator], 2x [mtg_card=Negate], 3x [mtg_card=Nylea’s Disciple], 2x [mtg_card=Pharika’s Cure], 1x [mtg_card=Silence the Believers]


Justin says: If you hadn’t already notice, there are some changes happening to removal lately. With the rotation of [mtg_card=Supreme Verdict], this will be the first time in quite a while that a four mana wrath variant hasn’t be available for control mages. And while Khans offers [mtg_card=End Hostilities], the difference between four and five mana is a lot more significant than you might think. It’s not just wraths either; cheap one and two mana spot removal has become increasingly more constrained or restricted. What this means is that the traditional draw-go and sweeper control deck probably isn’t going to work well in the initial Khans metagame. I think what we traditionally think of as control decks are going to look more like midrange decks this season. Where those decks looked to get card advantage through larger impact spells, this deck is going to have to grind it out more incrementally.

This Sultai control list is very similar to the BUG decks that did well in the previous block constructed format. At its most basic level it’s looking to mix a few very important and powerful cards together, [mtg_card=Courser of Kruphix], [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid], [mtg_card=Thoughtseize], and [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall]. These cards have seen heavy play recently and are going to continue to define and shape the metagame going forward. [mtg_card=Thoughtseize] and [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall] likely need no explanation, but [mtg_card=Bile Blight] and [mtg_card=Sultai Charm] round out the spells. [mtg_card=Bile Blight] is basically the best two mana removal spell the colors have access to at the moment, and [mtg_card=Sultai Charm] is still one of my favorites in the cycle for just how versatile it is.

For lands, the deck is looking to curve up to a few expensive spells, but more importantly it has some pretty hefty color requirements, leaning on quite a bit of double black and green. 25 lands gives the deck 16 sources of green, 14 blue, and 17 black, and in an expected sweeper light metagame [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid] can be more reliably depended on to fix the mana further.

In addition to [mtg_card=Courser of Kruphix] and [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid], the deck is also running [mtg_card=Polukranos, World Eater] and [mtg_card=Prognostic Sphinx]. [mtg_card=Kiora, the Crashing Wave] was also a consideration in [mtg_card=Polukranos, World Eater]’s slot. I think the deck wants a few strong four drops to play off a T2 [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid]. Depending on if you expect more aggro, control, or midrange will likely swing the choice. I just went for the big guy for now. [mtg_card=Prognostic Sphinx] was a card that saw a lot of play in block as a way to fight against [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion] and other planeswalkers, but it was completely overshadowed in Standard as long as [mtg_card=Aetherling] was around.

The other threats are the planeswalkers, [mtg_card=Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver] and [mtg_card=Nissa, Worldwaker]. While [mtg_card=Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver] hasn’t really found a home so far, I think now is the perfect time for it. [mtg_card=Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver] does well enough when it can be protected and can start tossing out free creatures, but this didn’t really mesh well with the existing sweeper focused control decks. Not only is the deck running some decent blockers, but I expect this Khans Standard format to be more creature based than any recently. And unlike [mtg_card=Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver], [mtg_card=Nissa, Worldwaker] has just proven its power almost immediately. The rotation of shocklands means the untap forest ability is much less likely to be activated, but [mtg_card=Nissa, Worldwaker] is still a big threat that demands an answer.

There’s no getting around that the deck is a lot of awesome three mana spells, and that’s just not going to be fast enough against some of the aggro decks. So a lot of the sideboard space is given over to fighting against them. A full eight cards are largely targeted at those decks [mtg_card=Drown in Sorrow], [mtg_card=Nylea’s Disciple], and [mtg_card=Pharika’s Cure]. The remaining sideboard gives the deck a few flavor of counterspells, a nice one of in [mtg_card=Silence the Believers], and big old [mtg_card= Garruk, Apex Predator] to come in for grindy match-ups.

Temur[sic] the Lame


3x [mtg_card=Forest], 4x [mtg_card=Frontier Bivouac],
2x [mtg_card=Island], 1x [mtg_card=Mountain], 4x [mtg_card=Rugged Highlands], 4x [mtg_card=Swiftwater Cliffs], 4x [mtg_card=Thornwood Falls]


3x [mtg_card=Ashcloud Phoenix], 2x [mtg_card=Avalanche Tusker], 3x [mtg_card=Icefeather Aven], 2x [mtg_card=Jeering Instigator], 3x [mtg_card=Mistfire Weaver], 4x [mtg_card=Rattleclaw Mystic], 3x [mtg_card=Sagu Mauler], 4x [mtg_card=Savage Knuckleblade], 2x [mtg_card=Surrak Dragonclaw], 2x [mtg_card=Temur Charger]

Instants and Sorceries

2x [mtg_card=Disdainful Stroke], 2x [mtg_card=Temur Charm]


2x [mtg_card=Secret Plans], 2x [mtg_card=Temur Ascendancy], 2x [mtg_card=Trail of Mystery]

They didn’t have sideboards in the 14th century.


Josh says: This is a JonB-inspired deck. Apparently, there was a 14th century conqueror named Timur the Lame, who allegedly took an arrow in the leg and one in the hand trying to steal a sheep, hence Timur the Lame. Since his name is a homophone with the Temur clan, I thought it was prudent to make a theme deck in his honor.

The first thing you might notice is that many of the creatures in this deck are terrible. A 3/1 for two mana is rarely going to be worth playing. That is, of course, unless you’re deliberately using crippled creatures for your deck’s theme. We see a lot of creatures with one or two power, although they’re not all bad on their own.

The key to this deck not being as bad as its components is the Morph mechanic, which we’re trying to utilize through enchantments. [mtg_card=Trail of Mystery] acts as mana fixing and reliability (although not quite ramp), as well as serving to buff our creatures for combat shenanigans. [mtg_card=Secret Plans] lets us draw whenever we play a Morph creature face down, and given that most of our Morph guys are just as good as 2/2s as they are face up, this is usually a good plan.

[mtg_card=Rattleclaw Mystic] gives us some ramp to get into the bigger creatures faster, although even the bigger creatures are slightly undercosted for their size. Once we’re ready to start dropping fatties, we’ll want to get [mtg_card=Temur Ascendancy] out so we can draw off of them. This isn’t a bad early play if you’ve got nothing else to do, but it’s not going to do that much for you, since a 2/2 Haste for three still isn’t great.

[mtg_card=Temur Charm] is a solid counterspell as well as removal via the Fight mechanic. I like countering spells, so I threw in a couple of [mtg_card=Disdainful Stroke]s to stop big guys from hitting the board whilst I keep mana up for Morphing things.

It’s probably prudent to mention that this is not actually a Standard deck so much as a Khans block deck, because once I got to the lands without touching other sets, I decided that I may as well run with it.

This is again not a competitive level deck. It’s a fun theme deck that fits both the historical figure’s and the set’s theme of warlords and conquerors. If you’ve got a bad theme deck of your own with Khans, let us know in the forums!

Abzan Midrange

4x [mtg_card=Forest], 2x [mtg_card=Mana Confluence], 2x [mtg_card=Plains], 4x [mtg_card=Sandsteppe Citadel], 4x [mtg_card=Temple of Malady], 4x [mtg_card=Temple of Silence], 1x [mtg_card=Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth], 4x [mtg_card=Windswept Heath]Creatures
3x [mtg_card=Anafenza, the Foremost], 4x [mtg_card=Courser of Kruphix], 4x [mtg_card=Fleecemane Lion], 4x [mtg_card=Siege Rhino], 4x [mtg_card=Sylcan Caryatid]Instants and Sorceries
4x [mtg_card=Abzan Charm], 4x [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall], 2x [mtg_card=Utter End], 4x [mtg_card=Thoughtseize]Planeswalkers
2x [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion]Sideboard
1x [mtg_card=Abzan Ascendancy], 1x [mtg_card=Dark Betrayal], 1x [mtg_card=Deicide], 2x [mtg_card=Despise], 4x [mtg_card=Drown in Sorrow], 1x [mtg_card=Empty the Pits], 1x [mtg_card=Glare of Heresy], 2x [mtg_card=Nylea’s Disciple], 2x [mtg_card=Silence the Believers]


Justin says: Even before some initial non-sanctioned tournaments results started sprouting up this week, a lot of folks had Abzan Midrange pegged as the deck to beat initially. The construction is pretty simple, expand on the Block Constructed Pro Tour deck running [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid], [mtg_card=Courser of Kruphix], [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall], [mtg_card=Thoughtseize] and [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion]. It’s a midrange deck in the truest sense, playing the arguably the best spells available at every casting cost. If you’re a competitive player, it’s a deck that you either should be playing or be prepared to play against for the first several weeks of Standard.

Like the Sultai deck, there’s a lot of color hungry spells in the list along with some more expensive bombs to top off the curve. So 25 lands is the starting point, but since the deck does want to be a little faster to the board, and it has some additional lifegain to offset it, two [mtg_card=Mana Confluence] come into the mix. Don’t forget that with a [mtg_card=Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth] on the field you can tap these for black without taking damage.

For the spells slots, the deck really maximizes versatility. [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall] and [mtg_card=Thoughtseize] continue to do what they do best, and all three modes of [mtg_card=Abzan Charm] are useful. Most commonly you’ll probably use it to keep your hand full of threats with the second mode. And [mtg_card= Utter End] gets to serve as [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall] five and six, while occasionally dealing with another problematic permanent.

After the block staples, the creature farm gets filled in with [mtg_card=Anafenza, the Foremost], [mtg_card=Fleecemane Lion], and [mtg_card=Siege Rhino]. My verdict is still out a bit on [mtg_card=Anafenza, the Foremost], but it’s a card I want to try first. [mtg_card=Brimaz, King of Oreskos] could also fill this slot or just cutting her for more [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion]s. [mtg_card=Fleecemane Lion]’s stock has gone up quite a bit for me. In a world where two mana spot removal is really bad, beating down for three or playing a big brick wall is quite valuable. And [mtg_card=Fleecemane Lion] has a useful mana sink late in the game, which gets a lot more important with much fewer edicts in the format. Unless you’re playing against Mardu with [mtg_card=Crackling Doom], it’s pretty safe against everyone else.

[mtg_card=Siege Rhino] is the big star though. While it’s not quite as big as a few other creatures in the same slot, the big advantage that [mtg_card=Siege Rhino] offers is that the drain is a lasting effect on the game even if [mtg_card=Siege Rhino] instantly dies to removal. There’s even a non-zero number of games you’re going to steal by using [mtg_card=Siege Rhino] as a really terrible [mtg_card=Lava Spike].

And [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion] continues to just be her badass self. The card is just really good in a variety of boardstates. She can close out a game in four turns, along with stabilizing a board of either lots of small or big attackers. She’s slipped a little as better answers have become available, but she still forces them to have them.

The sideboard continues with the trend that I’ve previously established. There are still some strong responses to heavy aggro decks and a sprinkling of the color hating cycle. One card I’m interested to see in play is [mtg_card=Empty the Pits]. With less sweepers in the format, [mtg_card=Empty the Pits] just does some stupid things in long grindy match-ups. Cards like [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall] look really bad when you put multiple creatures into play from a single card. This seems like a great way to just end certain games.

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