By Sebastian Hedberg
Sarkhan can finally soar with dragons and so can we in this final set of Khans, Dragons of Tarkir. This set is full of powerful cards in both limited and constructed and is the last of the three set cycles before we switch to the 2 set block format.
With a lot fun cards in this set we can’t start without talking about dragons. Dragons hold a special place in magic players hearts, but rarely do they reach power levels good enough to be played in constructed formats. This might change with the release of Dragons of Tarkir. A set so full of dragons, it is not hard to believe at least one will reach a top 8 somewhere.
With five powerful dragon elders being introduced, it is not hard to believe people are going to find homes for them in their decks. While all of them are powerful on paper I think some are more powerful than others in current standard. Below are my opinions on the five dragon elders and how they stack up against current format staples.
Atarka is just raw power and value. She is probably the most playable of all the dragons with decks such as G/R devotion, and R/G monsters easily fitting her into their game plan. 7 mana for a 8/8 trample, flyer that deals 5 damage spread out to creatures or planeswalkers is pure value. With the format casting spells such as Hornet Queen and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon it is not far from believable this is easily slammed on the board before turn 7. Even if killed, she still dealt 5 damage to the board probable taking a few things with her.
Dromoka looks great on paper but in current standard her abilities are easily dealt with. Not being able to be countered or opponents not being able to cast spells on your turn is powerful but most of the time is not going to be relevant. You cast Dromoka, probably using most or all of your mana knowing she won’t be countered and pass the turn. The opponent untaps and kills her with a 2 or 3 mana spell. You just spent 6 mana to cast her but they only spent 3 mana to kill her probably keeping up a counter or another kill spell to be cast on your next turn. This is probably going to be the most common scenario. Well what against red aggro or decks not running a ton of removal you ask. Well then she is going to be great but if you’re alive to cast her on turn 5 or 6 you’re probably already winning against a red deck and any other deck not running removal in current standard is probably not winning against most decks. Devotion is an exception but they often do not care about interacting with your board. They just build threats, and G/W devotion could easily fit Dromoka in as a mirror breaker.
Kolaghan, a 6/5 haste, flyer for 6 mana that also gives other creatures haste is good. Her second ability, dealing 10 damage if an opponent casts a creature or planeswalker with the same name as one in their graveyard sounds great but in reality had it said spell, not creature or planeswalker it would have been amazing. Because it limits the trigger to only two types of spells, but is still powerful against creature heavy decks. Mostly you just cast her as a 6/5 flying, haste creature with some upside.
I have mixed feelings about Ojutai. On one hand as a control player I feel that being hexproof when untapped and anticipate on a stick are great abilities, but a toughness of 4 has me worried. Any time you attack you either need to hold up mana for counterspells or you’re at the mercy of a format full of removal. Leaving him back as a blocker is good but he trades with Siege Rhinos which only cost 4 mana and took 3 life when it came out. Had it been a 5/5 or 4/5 he would probably be more playable. But as he stands now I feel too many spells kill him when you attempt to attack.
Silumgar has changed quite a bit from his old self. Losing 2 toughness and hexproof is important but so is his ability to take control of planeswalkers or creatures while he is on the board. He fits right into a control shell that can protect him when he is on the board. Unlike Ojutai he has enough toughness to block incoming rhinos and his deathtouch has many refusing to attack into him. Once he comes into play you can steal yourself a win condition and just leave him back to block. In reality these are just best case scenarios. In a world full of removal it can become expensive to hold up mana to protect him from a hero’s downfall or a radiant purge. He probably would only be cast as a game closer, and as an enabler for Silumgars Scorn.
Now that we have covered the 5 dragonlords, its time to cover a few cards I think are going to see standard play. This list is based of cards I am excited about and what a few people have told me they want to play.
The Dragon commands:
Instead of covering each command separately I am just simply going to list them in the order of playability and a short reason why.
Dromoka’s Command -Costing only one green and white pushes this card over the edge. It will almost always be a 2 for 1 and will easily see play. No ability is bad and almost always will find a target.
Atarka’s Command -This is a little fairer than Dromokas but at one red and green it is still powerful. Having a skullcrack effect with the other options in a standard of Siege Rhinos and G/W devotion is important.
Ojutai’s Command -This one is a little weird, but having draw-plus anything almost always means it’s playable. But its first ability is limited so most of the time its only going to have 3 things to do.
Silumgar’s Command -With so many cards streamlining control this will be at least a 1 of in any U/B control deck. Most of the time it will be a 2 for 1, but 5 mana is a lot to spend.
Kolaghan’s Command -Even though this is last it’s far from bad. All the effects have a relevant targets in standard and if mardu or R/B becomes a deck it might rise above the other commands.
Narset Transcendent -Control has needed a cheap planeswalker outside Ashiok for a while. She is that planeswalker and might push U/W or Esper control above U/B control. All her abilities are relevant and her starting loyalty of 6 is enough protection.
Sarkhan Unbroken -Sarkhan looks more standard playable then Narset, but at this moment needs to find deck to be played in. Temur has always struggled in standard, but with Sarkhan it might be able to win more.
Best of the rest:
Here are a few cards but far from all of the standard playable cards.
Anticipate – Finally control gets a good, cheap draw spell to filter through their decks. This card alone will reduce the amount of mana control decks run, letting you play more relevant spells.
Myth Realized – This card has a lot of potential and anything for 1 mana with this power level is going to be brewed around. This should fit in control or Jeskai easily, where non-creature spells are in abundance. If they kill it, they probably spent more than 1 mana so you still came out on top.
Silumgar’s Scorn – This card has potential in control decks willing to run some dragons. Anytime you got a 2 mana counter it has the potential to be broken. The dragon clause is important but still very doable as long as you run at least 3 dragons. In the first few turns people are going to be tapping out so it will probably resolve, and after that there is a large chance of you holding a dragon making it a straight counterspell.
There are many powerful cards not mentioned in this article, but as the new standard season gets going I will be covering individual decks and cards being played. Standard is already exciting and diverse and adding dragons to it can only make it better. For who doesn’t want to slam a dragon on the table and fly right over your opponent.