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Commander Review: Khans of Tarkir – Abzan Houses

November 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Commander/General Ideas, Review

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

“Home Sweet Home.”

Hello fellow EDH-ers and welcome to Tarkir. Today article is talking about the home plane of the Draconian Planeswalker Sarkhan Vol. A war torn world which is ruled by five clans and where Sarkhan’s favourite Dragons are all but extinct. The five clans now rule the plane and each admiring and respect one aspect of the long gone Dragons. Looking at the Khans of Tarkir set, it is actually a set which featured and give names to the Wedge colors; color combination which includes a color and two of its enemy colors; much as how the Alara block had done for the colors with their allied colors. The focus of each Wedge is a bit different in design for the set in that the Wedge is designed with a focus color for each clan with its allied color against the enemy color. Starting off the series of article, we are looking at the Abzan Houses, one of the five clans ruling the desert areas of Tarkir, who admires the ancient Dragons’ aspect of endurance, is clan of the color combination of White as focus color with Green against Black.


Outlasting the Odds

Abzan Ascendancy

A Family who fights together stays together.

The Abzan Houses, or more commonly referred as Abzan, are resilient Warriors that fight in tight-knit groups. The clan symbol is the scale of the Dragon. They are modeled after familial units to survive their harsh environment. Family is of utmost importance to them for they believe it is what kept them alive in the harsh surroundings. As such, referring to another clan members as “sister” or “brother” is a mark of high esteem, while ritual disowning is a grave matter to both parties. Disowning is a grave matter in the clan as not only are the disowned considered social outcasts; though they are still open to other life paths like wandering, adventuring or becoming Mercenaries; these individuals cannot be adopted by any families. They also lack a kin-tree and their Spirits become restless after death. Each family bears a kin-tree which the ancestors resided in and can be summoned to protect the family.


One family under one Tree

The Abzan families also adopt others into their family and do it commonly not only within the houses but also from other clans. They usually do this after decimating their enemies, taking in the orphans and adopt them as their own. These orphans are known as Krumar. Many Orcs entered Abzan this way. Despite having such adoption ways, the Abzan are still severely distrustful of outsiders. The only exception being the Ainok, humanoid Hound people, original inhabitants of the desert who had taught the Abzan how to survive in the inhospitable environment. The clan members are also adept war strategists, relying on disciplined troops, high fortification and ample resources. They would forego chasing losing enemies in order to maintain strategic ground. They also learned to exploit the desert to their advantage by leading the enemies into the shifting sands to finish their opponents without lifting a finger.

Krumar Bond-Kin

Defeating the Enemies, Accepting the Orphans of War.

Although the clan may look like a unified entity, they are in fact a web of families competing politically trying to form alliances while isolating the rivals. They do that for they knew all too well that disunity is to be avoided at all costs if they wish to survive. By design the Abzan Houses are loosely based on the Ottoman Turks. In my view, they operate very much like a Mafia family whereby family unity is top most important. Family betrayal is viewed as almost close to a capital penalty and is unforgivable in the clan. Family tradition is also of great importance to the Abzan as they practice Ancestors worshiping; and the Ancestors in return protects the family. In this regard, Abzan is pretty similar to the Orzhov for how they use necromancy.

The clan mechanic is called Outlast, a keyword activated ability which let the Creature tap to put +1/+1 counter on themselves; which reflects the endurance aspect of the Dragons perfectly. There are also some with triggered abilities which trigger from Outlast activation too. Also to further emphasized on the clan family theme, there are also cards which give bonus to Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.


The Foremost

The Khan of the clan was called Anafenza, a valiant woman who epitomized the unstoppable nature of the clan. Her past not all smooth sailing though. When she was younger, her family was betrayed to the Sultai, resulting in her having to watch her parents and uncle being slaughtered. She was rescued by Gvar, her Krumar cousin. They made their escape and eventually came to know that it’s her cousin, Oret who had betrayed all the information to the Sultai. Anafenza then spent the next several years building her reputation in Abzan until she was elected as Khan. During her coronation, she had it all planned to confront Oret with Gvar and publicly and spiritually disowned Oret from the family. She declared that Oret was no longer from her family and that she would kill him the next time they meet. Gvar on the other hand was acknowledged into the family as her brother and true family. Hence fore, Anafenza leads her army from the front, riding out with her chariot pulled by her prized Ibex goats. She mainly waged wars not to conquer but to maintain the trade routes that allowed the clan to function. She also done so to protect her people from the Sultai Brood and Mardu Horde.

Now with the history of the Abzan Khan done, let us look at the Khan stats.

Anafenza the Foremost

Card Name: Anafenza, the Foremost


Types: Legendary Creature – Human Soldier

Card Text: Whenever Anafenza, the Foremost attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on another target tapped creature you control.

If a creature card would be put into an opponent’s graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead.

P/T: 4/4

Looking basically just at the cc to P/T, Anafenza is actually a very efficient Creature. At 3cc for a 4/4, she is considered a very powerful powerhouse if not for the cc being all colored. Although not having the clan mechanic, Anafenza supports the clan in another way through her attack trigger. As Outlast requires the Creature to tap to activate. Anafenza’s attack trigger allows her to put the +1/+1 counter onto any Creature which had used Outlast. Furthermore, the trigger also enhance another attacker since attackers need to tap to attack as long as that attacker does not has Vigilance. Last but not least, the flavorful disowning trigger is a super anti-graveyard theme trigger. Showcasing her eventful coronation whereby she disowned her traitor cousin, Anafenza “disowned” your opponents’ Creatures physically and spiritually, literally cutting off the opponents’ Creatures from resting in peace and single-handedly stopping all graveyard recursion or retrieve on opponents’ side. While not a pleasant sight to see her opposite of me when I am playing a graveyard deck, I especially like how the ability flavorfully “disowned” opponents’ Creatures “physically and spiritually” by exiling them when they go to the graveyard from anywhere. This means that opponents’ Creatures are forever gone when they go to the graveyard regardless of how.


Sharing is Caring

A big part of Abzan clan is that they look out for each other. This is represent in how some of them give abilities to your other Creatures with +1/+1 counters on them. This can be further Exploit by using Creatures which entered the battlefield with +1/+1 counters; eg. Spikes and Creatures with Evolve or Graft. Some examples of such Creatures who give abilities to other Creatures with +1/+1 counters are as below.


Abzan Battle Priest


Gives Lifelink to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.

Abzan Falconer


Gives Flying to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.

Ainok Bond-Kin


Gives First Strike to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.

Bramblewood Paragon

Gives +1/+1 counter to your other Warriors when they entered the battlefield.

Gives Trample to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.

Cenn’s Tactician

W, T: Put +1/+1 counter on target Soldier.

Let your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them block an additional Creature.

Crowned Ceratok


Gives Trample to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.

Longshot Squad


Gives Reach to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.

Mer-Ek Nightblade


Gives Deathtouch to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.

Oona’s Blackguard


Gives +1/+1 counter to your other Rogue when they entered the battlefield.

Whenever your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them deal combat damage to a player, that player discards a card.

Tuskguard Captain


Gives Trample to all your Creatures with +1/+1 counter on them.


Longshot Squad

Teaching of one Skill to All.


Combing with the above Creatures, Anafenza can really change the game when she attacks as you put +1/+1 counter on your desired attackers. The downside to that attack trigger is that the Creature needs to be tapped in order to be a target. The most common way to do that would be to attack. An alternative is already mentioned in this article with the clan mechanic Outlast. If you are interested to abuse the attack trigger but not wanting to risk losing the Creature to attacking below are some other ways to tap a Creature without attacking.


Bramblesnap / Llanowar Behemoth / Topan Ascetic

Tap untapped Creature to get +1/+1 till end of turn.


Tap untapped Creature to untap target basic Land.

Field Surgeon

Tap untapped Creature to prevent next 1 damage this turn.

Glare of Subdual

Tap untapped Creature to tap target Artifact or Creature.

Selesnya Evangel

1, T, Tap untapped Creature: Get a 1/1 Green Saproling token.

Volrath’s Garden

2, Tap untapped Creature to gain 2 life.


Family Army

Anafenza, the Foremost

“You mess with me, You mess with my whole Family.”

Unity is the theme for the Abzan and Anafenza looks out for the clan with her many abilities. She is very cost effective as a Creature too given her low cc and high power and toughness. She is also a good foil against reanimation theme if it is running rampant in your play group. She can be quite a decent Commander using the ideals of the Abzan; getting +1/+1 counters with Outlast and gaining benefits from those counters. All in all Anafenza is a very decent Creature and is quite a worthy add to any Abzan EDH decks. However she does plays differently from how Abzan colors played previously with Commanders like Karador, Ghost Chieftain & Teneb, the Harvester, who are reanimator style, being more on attacking and foil on reanimation.

What do you think of the Abzan Khan? Is she any better than previous Abzan Commanders like Ghave, Guru of Spores; Karador, Ghost Chieftain; or Teneb, the Harvester? How else would you use her in your deck? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below. And so with that we come to the end for the Abzan and their Khan. Do stay tune for more Commander Review of Khans of Tarkir for the other clans and their Khans.


This is yours truly, Edward “Reaper King” Leong, signing off.



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  1. […] off the series, we look at the Abzan Houses of the past. They are pretty much the same in this timeline except the clan mechanic Outlast is […]

  2. […] Tarkir. For today article we are going to talk about the origin of the ideals for the Abzan clan. Back in the set Khans of Tarkir, we came to know that the Abzan admires the Dragon’s aspect of endurance. Embracing that aspect […]