Tabletop Review: Magic The Gathering Khans of Tarkir Set – Temur Avalanche Intro Deck

KoTMagic The Gathering Khans of Tarkir Set – Temur Avalanche Intro Deck
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Cost: $9.99
Release Date: 09/26/2014
Get it here: StarCityGames

I tend to prefer mono- or dual-color decks, but have recently become more interested in experimenting with different play styles, so when Wizards of the Coast kindly sent us a Khans of Tarkir – Temur Avalanche Intro Deck, which includes a standard 60-card deck and two 15-card booster packs, I jumped at the chance to review it. Generally speaking, this set takes advantage of the Morph ability, which allows you to play a creature as a vanilla 2/2 creature, later paying the cost to morph it into its more powerful counterpart later in the game. Given that this set focuses on higher-powered creatures with understandably higher mana costs, this is a nice way to surprise your opponents later on in the match. While Temur Avalanche is a three-color (GUR) deck, the entire set is themed on wedges, and in this particular case that means that the deck focuses on green and red and includes some limited blue.

So without further ado, here is the deck list:

Card Name Card Type Mana Cost Power/Toughness
2 Temur Banner Artifact 3 N/A
2 Alpine Grizzly Creature 2G 4/2
1 Avalanche Tusker Creature 2GUR 6/4
1 Bear’s Companion Creature 2GUR 2/2
2 Elvish Mystic Creature G 1/1
2 Glacial Stalker Creature 5U 4/5
2 Heir of the Wilds Creature 1G 2/2
1 Icefeather Aven Creature GU 6/7
1 Pine Walker Creature 3GG 5/5
2 Runeclaw Bear Creature 1G 2/2
2 Snowhorn Rider Creature 3GUR 5/5
2 Summit Prowler Creature 2RR 4/3
1 Thundering Giant Creature 3RR 4/3
1 Tusked Colossodon Creature 4GG 6/5
2 Wooly Loxodon Creature 5GG 6/7
1 Dragon Grip Enchantment 2R N/A
1 Force Away Instant 1U N/A
1 Icy Blast Instant XU N/A
1 Lightning Strike Instant 1R N/A
1 Stubborn Denial Instant U N/A
1 Temur Charm Instant GUR N/A
1 Titanic Growth Instant 1G N/A
1 Windstorm Instant XG N/A
1 Roar of Challenge Sorcery 2G N/A
2 Savage Punch Sorcery 1G N/A
8 Forest Land N/A N/A
2 Frontier Bivouac Land N/A N/A
5 Island Land N/A N/A
7 Mountain Land N/A N/A
1 Rugged Highlands Land N/A N/A
1 Swiftwater Cliffs Land N/A N/A
1 Thornwood Falls Land N/A N/A

The Intro Pack gives you 26 land cards, pretty standard for a three-color deck. Three of these cards are dual lands, and two additional cards tap for either green, blue, or red. The nice thing about these dual lands (Swiftwater Cliffs, Rugged Highlands, and Thornwood Falls) is that when you put them onto the battlefield, you gain a life, which is good if you’ve been taking a beating. Frontier Bivouac allows you to tap for green, blue, or red, which should help alleviate any anxiety you might have about playing a three-color deck. The sole artifact, Temur Banner, can also be tapped for another mana of any color, or sacrificed to draw a card. The max mana of each color, depending on how you tap the multi-color lands, is 15 green (one you take into account Elvish Mystic, described below), 10 blue, or 12 red mana on any given turn.

If you’re going to play this deck as is, however, mana might initially be a concern, especially against faster paced decks, but the deck does a decent job of trying to alleviate that anxiety. There is only one 1-mana creature card, the Elvish Mystic, but you get two copies of it. You can, however, tap the Elvish Mystic for an additional green mana when needed, which is good, because all of the creature cards that cost two mana (Icefeather Aven, Runeclaw Bear, and Heir of the Wilds) require green to put onto the battlefield. Runeclaw Bear is your standard, boring 2/2. Heir of the Wilds has Deathtouch, which is always a nice addition, and Ferocious, which gives you +1/+1 until the end of the turn if you control a creature with a power of 4 or greater. With this deck, that’s going to be pretty easy to get, assuming you can get the mana together. Icefeather Aven has Flying and Morph, where you can cast the card face down as a 2/2 for three mana of any color. This is a nice move in case you are missing a green or blue mana at the time and need to get something out there. Once you get the missing mana, you can flip the card over, giving it Flying and you the ability to return another target creature to its owner’s hand. Not a bad deal. Alpine Grizzly is your standard 4/2 for 2G, which, really, you could replace this with something else if you wanted. Summit Prowler is 2R for 4/3. Both of these are decent on their own, but especially useful to have out at the same time, as Heir of the Wilds to give it that boost, or any other card with Ferocious, for that matter.

Where you start to get into your more interesting creatures is at about 5 mana cost. It’s also where you need to be sure you have a variety of mana on the field. Bear’s Companion and Avalanche Tusker both require one of each color on the field as well as two of any other color, and Thundering Giant and Pine Walker require two red and two green, respectively, in addition to any three other mana cards. Bear’s Companion is only 2/2, but comes with a 4/4 green Bear creature token, which is nice, but it is amusing that the token is stronger than the card itself. Avalanche Tusker, the foil card for this set, forces the opponent to block with a creature of your choosing. This is nice until the opponent decides to add creatures to that block, but at 6/4, you’re likely to take at least one, probably two out, and a 2-for-1 trade isn’t too terrible. Pine Walker is a 5/5 that also has Morph, letting you play it for 3 and then turn it over for 4G, instead of playing it straight for 3GG. Additionally, whenever you turn Pine Walker face up, you’ll get to untap it, as well as any other creature that gets turned face up, which is quite a few cards in this deck. Thundering Giant is a 4/3 with haste. Tusked Colossodon is a standard 6/5 with nothing special added. Glacial Stalker is another Morphable creature, making it a little easier to cast while you try to find the limited number of blue lands (comparatively). Snowhorn Rider is also Morphable and has Trample, but in cost-comparison to some of the other cards in the deck, I think this would be a candidate for switching out. Finally, the most expensive card, Woolly Loxodon, is also Morphable.

While most of the creatures are higher cost cards requiring at least one specifically-colored land (many require multiple), many of these cards also feature Morph, which makes casting them a little easier while you try to find those specific lands. Additionally, there is an artifact and two low-cost creature cards that you can use to tap for extra mana, though the artifact costs 3 mana and Elvish Mystic requires you to have a green in the first place (which is, statistically speaking, the color you’ll most likely get if you have a land card). There are also cards that can help make attacking you while you have your weaker Morphed creature out look less appealing, like Dragon Grip (an enchantment) and Titanic Growth (an instant), which give +2/+0 and +4/+4, respectively. Dragon Grip proved itself to be fairly useless in my playtesting, as your more powerful creatures don’t really need the help, and that’s who you’re more likely to draw. I could see it being more useful earlier on in the game, though. Temur Charm allows you to either (a) give one of your creatures +1/+1, (b) counter a spell unless your opponent pays 3 mana, or (c) keep creatures with power 3 or less from blocking this turn. It’s not the best charm card out there, and could probably be switched out with something else if you really wanted, but it’s worth keeping in if you aren’t playing against another Temur deck, which tends to have a lot of higher powered creatures.

Dragon Grip can even be used as an Instant if you have a creature with power 4 out, thanks to Ferocious. Other cards with Ferocious include Savage Punch, which gives you +2/+2 on a creature until the end of the turn in addition to the standard use, which is you picking one of your creatures to go against an opponent’s creature of your choosing; Roar of Challenge, which gives a creature indestructable in addition to forcing all creatures able to block your target creature to do so; Force Away, which allows you to draw (and then discard) a card in addition to returning a target creature to its owner’s hand; Stubborn Denial, which allows you to counter a non-creature spell without the ability of the opponent to pay a mana to cancel that (only if Ferocious is allowed); and finally, Icy Blast, which allows you to tap X target creatures, and if Ferocious is enabled, those creatures will not untap during their controller’s next untap steps. That’ll sting. Lastly, if you’re trying to knock your opponent down a peg, you can use Lightning Strike to deal 3 damage to a target creature or player, or Windstorm, which will deal X damage to each creature with Flying. Out of these cards, Roar of Challenge is the least enticing, but in certain situations it could come in handy.

Overall, this isn’t a bad deck to play, but it can come with its challenges if the luck of the draw has a lack of mana in store for you. The Morph ability helps with that a bit, but 2/2 creatures are obviously less useful than 5/5 or even a 2/2 with Flying. The dual lands help to replenish some of your life, and there are a couple of them. If you can make it to late game, this deck will likely trample over your competition. With some decks, like the custom blue/black I initially played it against, you might not make it far enough, which really is unsurprising given it’s a custom deck rather than a standard Intro deck. Temur Avalanche did well enough against the mid-range Creep and Conquer deck, however, crushing it before I got down to 15 HP both times. This suggests to me that with a few modifications, possibly through the addition of a few lower-cost creatures to keep your opponent at bay while you bulk up your mana pool, it’s possible that this deck could make a few opponents squirm in pain. If you want to turn this into a dual-type deck, I recommend dropping blue as that seems to have had the least impact on the deck while I was playing it. You’ll lose a few good cards like Icefeather Aven, but most of the other cards will be easily replaceable.

For those who are interested, here are the cards that were in my two booster packs.

Card Name Card Type Mana Cost Power/Toughness
1 Jeksai Banner Artifact 3 N/A
1 Ainok Tracker Creature 5R 5/5
1 Armament Corps Creature 2WBG 4/4
1 Dragon’s Eye Savants Creature 1U 0/6
2 Kheru Dreadmaw Creature 4B 4/4
1 Kin-Tree Warden Creature G 1/1
1 Longshot Squad Creature 3G 3/3
1 Mardu Skullhunter Creature 1B 2/1
1 Ponyback Brigade Creature 3RWB 2/2
1 Scion of Glaciers Creature 2UU 2/5
1 Sidisi’s Pet Creature 3B 1/4
1 Sultai Soothsayer Creature 2BGU 2/5
1 Tuskguard Captain Creature 2G 2/3
1 Awaken the Bear Instant 2G N/A
1 Burn Away Instant 4R N/A
1 Cancel Instant 1UU N/A
1 Feat of Resistance Instant 1W N/A
1 Naturalize Instant 1G N/A
1 Swift Kick Instant 3R N/A
1 Trumpet Blast Instant 2R N/A
1 Weave Fate Instant 3U N/A
1 Barrage of Boulders Sorcery 2R N/A
1 Rush of Battle Sorcery 3W N/A
1 Bloodstained Mire Land N/A N/A
2 Blossoming Sands Land N/A N/A
1 Island Land N/A N/A
1 Plains Land N/A N/A
1 Polluted Delta Land N/A N/A

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