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I Think I’m Turning Into a Dragon

Hi everyone, Adrian here.

While I’m no dragon-master like Mr. Kibler, I do love beating down with some dragons, and I’m sure some of you out there do too. Today I’m going to be discussing some standard brews and net decks focusing on a Dragon tribal theme. I think a good place to start is with Jeff Hoogland’s UR Dragons deck that helped him to finish 15th at the SCG Invitational in Richmond. There is a lot to like about this list, but how about we take a look at it before breaking it down.

Jeff Hoogland’s UR Dragons

Creatures (12)
Flamewake Phoenix
Icefall Regent
Stormbreath Dragon
Thunderbreak Regent
Lands (24)
Island
Mountain
Bloodstained Mire
Flooded Strand
Haven of the Spirit Dragon
Polluted Delta
Shivan Reef
Swiftwater Cliffs
Temple of Epiphany
Wooded Foothills

Spells (24)
AEtherspouts
Anticipate
Dig Through Time
Lightning Strike
Silumgar's Scorn
Stubborn Denial
Wild Slash
Crater's Claws
Roast

Sideboard (15)
Stormbreath Dragon
AEtherspouts
Disdainful Stroke
Dragonlord's Prerogative
Twin Bolt
Anger of the Gods
Roast
Haven of the Spirit Dragon

Let’s break this down a little; I’m going to start with my best friend from Theros block Stormbreath Dragon. This dragon is just awesome against any non-black deck, and even if they have access to cards like Hero’s Downfall or Murderous Cut, you can try to sculpt a game state such that you will get at least one hit in. The other “old” creature is Flamewake Phoenix, which I personally really like. A 2-power flying with haste is mostly going to be pretty good at getting lots of chip shots in, and with the progression of better creatures in standard, triggering ferocious is fairly easy (especially when all the dragons are at least 4 power in this format). Now for the new kids on the block, let’s start with what I think is the best dragon to come out of DTK; Thunderbreak Regent. At 5 mana this probably wouldn’t see much play when it has to compete against Stormbreath Dragon or Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, but at 4 mana I am quite happy to tap out against most opponents to slam this guy down. At the worst it gets countered, but so does everything else, but most likely it will either take control of the game or just becomes a 4 mana Lightning Bolt. Also if you ever get multiple on the battlefield the abilities do stack, and unless you get hit by a End Hostilities or Crux of Fate, you are probably going to win that game. The other new dragon addition is Icefall Regent, and while I never got to play with Dungeon Geists in standard  I have in MTGO cubes, and that card is very powerful. Not only do you get the same tempo boost that Dungeon Geists gave you, but for that extra mana you get one more point of power (which enables ferocious), and you also get the Frost Titan effect, which can also buy you time if your opponent is squeezed on mana. I think this is a really good mix of value creatures, but how do we survive to cast them and stabilise against the aggressive decks?

While standard contains a lot of very good aggressive 2-drops, the control decks had a hard time trying to keep up with an early onslaught. Lightning Strike and Wild Slash do a good job at keeping things from getting out of control early, but the two big blue cards that have been added are Anticipate and Silumgar’s Scorn. Silumgar’s Scorn is a ridiculously good card, since even a 2 mana Force Spike is usually good enough to gain a tempo advantage, but the ability to just become straight up Counterspell is amazing. I expect to see a lot more of this card in the future, often paired alongside Anticipate. Anticipate is the card the blue decks have been missing for a long time now. With standard decks now being built with numerous threats that demand very specific answers out of blue-based control decks, the control player would die quite often after drawing the wrong answers. Anticipate fixes this problem, and almost acts like a mini Dig Through Time in the first couple of turns so you can find the missing pieces depending on how the game is playing out. The last card I would like to briefly mention is Roast, which just has an awesome rate for what you pay. It just kills most things in standard such as Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and can straight up replace Stoke the Flames in non-token red decks. I expect we will start to see this as a 4-of in the 75 very soon.

If you want to take this deck in a slightly different path, by splashing black you can get access to powerful cards such as Dragonlord Kolaghan and Dragonlord Silumgar, in addition to all the black-based removal of Hero’s Downfall, Ultimate Price and even Crux of Fate (one-sided board wipe anyone?) Additionally if you have a lot of aggressive decks in your meta-game, there is still access to cards such as Anger of the Gods and even newcomer Draconic Roar as Lightning Strike 5-8. This deck looks pretty good, and if you are more biased towards a control gameplay style, this might just be the dragon deck for you.

The next two brews that I’ve had rattling around in my head both spawned in an effort to abuse the combination of Dragon Tempest and Descent of the Dragons. The combination of these two cards only requires you to sacrifice three creatures to straight up kill your opponent. I will admit that neither of these decks have undergone much playtesting, but I think they provide a good starting point for further tweaking.

The first of my two brews is a straight mono-red dragons deck. With the reprinting of Dragon Fodder, to go alongside both Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Rabblemaster as a way to produce a lot of tokens, which can then be used to feed our descending dragons. My list looks a bit like this.

Mono Red Dragon Brew

Creatures (18): (18)
Dragonlord's Servant
Flamewake Phoenix
Goblin Rabblemaster
Thunderbreak Regent
Stormbreath Dragon
Lands (23): (23)
19 Mountain
Haven of the Spirit Dragon
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Spells (19): (19)
Draconic Roar
Roast
Dragon Tempest
Dragon Fodder
Hordeling Outburst
Descent of the Dragons

As you can see this deck is pretty straight forward, use either Fodder, Outburst or Rabblemaster to get some goblin tokens on the field, then use them to feed the dragon horde. Breaking down the numbers, we start with two copies of Dragonlord’s Servant. Getting down a slightly faster Regent or Stormbreath always feels good, and at worst he is a goblin to buff Rabblemaster and also feeds the dragons in the late game (which is a great flavour win alone). Also as a 1/3 body, he does a good job of holding down the fort while you set up for the mid game. Now the 4 copies of Flamewake Phoenix may seem a little strange, but it synergises really well with Descent of the Dragons. Not only do you get in some early damage, but when it finally comes time to sacrifice your creatures, if you have seven mana you can eat you Phoenix as well and then bring it back at combat since your dragons trigger the ferocious ability for extra value. A full set of Goblin Rabblemaster is an easy include here. Both Fodder and Outburst can buff him up really quickly, you can just punish any opponent who stumbles with a three-colour manabase. Also when he finally bites the dust, you can use the goblin tokens he leaves behind as dragon food later. Now we arrive at a full playset of both Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon, which I don’t really need to explain why these cards are good. Also both provide two red devotion, for some value from our two copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The mana base is really straight forward, with both Haven of the Spirit Dragon and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx providing us with some additional value, although they are not very important in the grand scheme.

Moving onto the spells, two copies of Draconic Roar allows us to most of the time be able to get the extra value off it. Two copies of Roast are helpful to stabilise the board against those big dumb 5/5’s and 4/5’s that get in our way. A full playset of Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst really give us the ability to move from the early game to the mid game, where we can use a couple of goblins to chump block against the aggressive decks, and then feed our dragons when we move in for the kill. They also make one-for-one removal decks like Abzan look silly. The last two pieces are our combo kill, where we really want to be casting a Dragon Tempest into a Descent of the Dragons. The advantage is that you don’t really need Dragon Tempest early in the game, sure getting to ping 1 damage and giving your Thunderbreak Regent haste is nice, but you are mainly using it to just blow your opponent out in one hit.

There is quite a few ways you can build the sideboard depending on your meta game. Cards like Dragon Whisperer, Mardu Scout and Eidolon of the Great Revel allows you to change into a more aggressive build, while getting access to burn spells like Stoke the Flames, Wild Slash and Roast can really help against creature heavy metas.

My second brew is a bit more all in on the dragon plan, and lets us utilise some of the new cards to come out of DTK. Before I get into it, let’s look at the list.

ALL IN DRAGONS!!!

Creatures (26)
Elvish Mystic
Sylvan Caryatid
Shaman of Forgotten Ways
Thunderbreak Regent
Stormbreath Dragon
Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury
Dragonlord Kolaghan
Dragonlord Dromoka
Atarka, World Render
Dragonlord Atarka
Lands (24)
Mountain
Forest
Wooded Foothills
Shivan Reef
Yavimaya Coast
Mana Confluence
Haven of the Spirit Dragon

Spells (10)
Dragon Tempest
Sarkhan Unbroken
Descent of the Dragons

Ok get ready folks, we are going deep here. Let’s start the break down with the full 12 mana dorks, yes 12 mana dorks. Elvish Mystic is just the best mana acceleration in standard, and usually any deck that is playing it plays very different when they don’t have this guy on turn 1. Sylvan Caryatid lets us be a bit greedy with splashing a bunch of 1-of dragons, although its value as an early blocker has gotten much worse with cards like Fleecemane Lion, Rakshasa Deathdealer, Seeker of the Way and even Mardu Scout seeing lots of play, but still a very valuable asset to the game plan. Shaman of Forgotten Ways is a very nice addition from DTK, with the ability to produce two different colours of mana makes splashing any of the Dragonlords possible. I feel like he is not getting much love yet, but if there are any good 4-colour decks that start popping up, I would expect to see an increase in his stocks. Even the play of T1 elf into T2 shaman into T3 any six-drop in the format is just actually insane. So why do we play all these mana dorks? Well like the goblin token plan in the mono-red deck above, these creatures ramp us into a fast Descent of the Dragons, or can be used to get a bunch of our other dragons into play quickly.

Now let’s get down to the dragons of this deck. Again we want to be playing the best friends of Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon, and I imagine that there will be very few decks that will play one but not the other, so if you see one across from you beware of his buddy (dragons always hunt in packs). The advantage of running both Sylvan Caryatid and Shaman of Forgotten Ways (as well as Sarkhan Unbroken, which I’ll get to soon) makes splashing outside of red/green very easy to do. Gaining access to powerful dragons such as Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury, Dragonlord Kolaghan, Dragonlord Dromoka and even copies of either version of Silumgar make for a very dangerous and diverse threat base. The initial combination I have settled on is 1-ofs Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury, Dragonlord Kolaghan, Dragonlord Dromoka, Atarka, World Render and two copies of Dragonlord Atarka. Now since these are all legendary, having multiples of each is not what we want, except with Dragonlord Atarka, since we can still get value from the ETB effect. Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury provides us with some protection against board wipes with its Dash ability, and the dragon buff ability is nothing to laugh at with the number of dragons were are running (decreases the total of number of dragons we need on the field at a time). Dragonlord Kolaghan and Dragonlord Dromoka provide a good combo kill through a Sarkhan Unbroken ultimate, with Dragonlord Kolaghan giving all our dragons haste if we don’t have a Dragon Tempest, and Dragonlord Dromoka making sure our opponent can’t do anything about it. How often will we get to this situation is unknown, but it is nice to know that is always a route to victory if we are in a stalled game. Atarka, World Render giving our dragons double strike is also going to usually result in the death of our opponent, and if they only have one removal spell up, they will probably have to kill Atarka over the dragons that can attack, which is good news for us. Finally Dragonlord Atarka is an absolute death machine, cleans up your opponents board and leaves them with a giant problem. Even without becoming a reanimation style of deck, you will always be getting good value when this Dragonlord arrives to the party. The last dragon is Sarkhan Unbroken, who most of the time will just come down and make a 4/4 dragon. However if he gets to stick around, or if you have board control already and can start going straight up, getting extra mana and cards is awesome. Sarkhan also helps to fix our mana so we can splash these powerful dragons.

The mana base is actually pretty smooth, since we only need one green source to play any of our mana dorks, and double red is easily obtainable. The pain lands make sure we are able to play Sarkhan Unbroken, and the Mana Confluence and Haven of the Spirit Dragon make sure our splash dragons don’t get stuck in our hands most of the time.

As you can see though we have no ways to interact with what our opponents are doing, and are just hoping that what we are doing is bigger and better than them. So for sideboarding I would want a lot of interaction, some combination of Draconic Roar, Wild Slash and Roast to deal with creatures. Destructive Revelry also deserves a spot with the large number of enchantments in standard at the moment. I like some copies of Xenagos, the Reveler and Whisperwood Elemental against the control match ups, and newcomer Seismic Rupture which does a good job not killing our mana accelerants, while dealing with tokens and manifest creatures. If you wanted to go slightly deeper, getting access to Dragonlord Silumgar and Silumgar, the Drifting Death is also possible.

Anyway, I hope this has got the dragon blood in your veins pumping and eager to jam some dragons at a FNM or PPTQ sometime in the near future, I know I will be.

Until next time,

Adrian “when in doubt, just bash into the red zone” Emerson.

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