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Insider: Everything But the Dragons of Tarkir

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Spoiler season is here early this year thanks to the new set release schedule. We have half the cards in Dragons of Tarkir revealed now and there are some great new toys that we’ll be able to play within a few short weeks.

Wizards has designed this set around dragons and we sure do have a lot of the creature type flying around the set. The main issue is that dragons cost a lot of mana. Commander players are chomping at the bit for these cards to be released, but my confidence in the tournament playability of the creature type is staggeringly low.

The dragons on this plane rule the planet yet nearly all of them are outclassed by a no-name Stormbreath Dragon from Theros. If your goal is to make the impact of dragons felt, then we should have aggressively costed dragons to fight with in Standard. It’s sad to see all of the amazingly detailed characters sitting on the sidelines and generic underlings like Thunderbreak Regent hogging the spotlight.

I would much rather replace the generic Thunderbreak Regent and name it Kolaghan. We could even add another ability to the card since it needs to by mythic. As is, Dragonlord Kolaghan will almost certainly see no play in constructed magic and that’s a big let down. Hopefully we will see some lower mana costs on dragons from this set but so far all we have are dragons that can be in play hiding as a morph creature.

One way that we will get to interact with dragons earlier in the game is through the dragon trigger cards. There are a bunch of cards spoiled so far, like Scaleguard Sentinels or Silmgar's Scorn, that trigger if you reveal a dragon or have one in play. I think this is a great way to feel the flavor of dragons early in the game and I’m looking forward to seeing all the cards with this ability as well as playing them in Limited.

The focus of today will be on some of the exciting new tools we will be able to utilize in Standard in a couple weeks. I’ve yet to see a dragon that immediately jumps out as a constructed all-star, but there are definitely other cards in the set that do stand out. Let’s take a look at what the non-dragons of Tarkir have to offer us.

Shorecrasher Elemental

shorecrasherelemental

Price trajectory confirms that when [Shorecrasher Elemental was spoiled, players immediately began prepping Mono-Blue Devotion for its resurgence into the metagame. It’s funny how one card can be key to making a deck work. In this case, Shorecrasher is the lynch pin that will hold Mono-Blue together.

When Nightveil Specter graduated from Standard, his time in the limelight was over and he left his team without its star player. Freshman phenom Shorecrasher Elemental has a lot of hype surrounding him. Can he live up to it? Let’s take a look at what his team might look like for the coming season.

Even without his amazing abilities, Shorecrasher’s triple blue mana cost seems to be the missing piece of the puzzle. I didn’t think that we would get a triple blue card to pair with the devotion theme of Theros, but that is exactly what we got with this card. In addition, the mythic has great abilities. Basically we have a new version of Morphling in Standard and it immediately has a home in this deck.

Gudul Lurker is another new card that makes an appearance here as well. I think this is a fine one-cost creature to be playing. I’d prefer it was an elemental like Shorecrasher, Vaporkin, and Frost Walker, but we will have to make do with its megamorph ability.

Mono-Blue Devotion is back. This may not be the finalized list but it’s a great start. I would be happy to sleeve this up for the first FNM and see if it can sink or swim in the new metagame.

Dragon Whisperer

dragonwhisperer

Next up we have another card that could impact the devotion strategy that has been abandoned in favor of the more powerful cards from Khans block. Dragon Whisperer is everything a red deck wants.

Red decks typically want three things. The first and most important part is that it’s cheap. Most red decks are trying to go under their opponent and defeat them quickly. In order to do that, the red decks are build with extremely low mana curves.

Second on the list of desirable qualities is evasion. Most games devolve into longer affairs so as a backup plan, we need a way to end the game. Whisperer’s ability to fly for one mana makes it on pace with the type of card we’re looking for.

Finally, in an ideal world in addition to their cheap cost and evasiveness, we would have creatures that can function in the late game. Whisperer does this better than most cheap creatures that have ever been printed.

I doubt this card will be seeing Modern or Legacy play, but in terms of Standard, this card is top notch. It would have been a fine card if it had stopped at flying and two-mana firebreathing, but we also get the ability to call our dragon friends to join the fight!

Granted, if you have eight power on the board, most of the time you will be winning that game, but if not, making a 4/4 dragon each turn should certainly swing things in your favor. With how much the board can stall in Standard right now, situations could definitely come up where you need the formidable ability.

Deathmist Raptor

deathmistraptor

Next up we have a bizarre one. I get that Deathmist Raptor fits with the mechanics of the set, but I feel like this is a huge flavor fail. We have a mythic rare that is a lizard beast? And it has a generic name? What part of this card is mythic? I guess the ability is mythic feeling but the rest of the card is a big flop. I may be harping on the general makeup of this set like the flavor of this card and the always-large converted mana cost of dragons, but these are things that make it fun for players to play with the new cards.

I’m not saying the card is bad, far from it. Deathmist Raptor has lots of potential. I just think it should be a different creature type with a different name. What clan is it even from? It feels like Temur, but it doesn’t have four power. It could be Abzan but if so, it should be a warrior or something like that. This card definitely feels out of place.

Moving on, let me focus on the lizard beast’s positive traits. First of all, we have a three-mana 3/3. This is a fine stat-to-cost ratio and probably the minimum that we would accept for an aggressive card. We live in a world where we regularly get creatures with this stat line though and we’ve come to expect a bit more due to cards like Fleecemane Lion and Anafenza, the Foremost. Luckily the raptor gets the uncommonly seen deathtouch ability. Now, the fact that we have a 3/3 for three doesn’t matter as much because we can always trade up.

Just like with the Dragon Whisperer, I would accept the card if we were done talking there, but the card has more text. If it’s extremely late in the game, we could want to take advantage of the megamorph ability, but I think most of the time that ability won’t be used.

What we could take advantage of is the interaction with turning cards face up. If we have other cards that manifest, morph, or even megamorph, then after our creature dies, we can return it to play when we use one of the three abilities on another of our cards. This unfortunately requires that we play cards with those abilities but as we’ve seen recently, cards like Mastery of the Unseen can definitely make an impact in the meta. Deathmist Raptor could be very good especially in conjunction with Mastery.

Risen Executioner

risenexecutioner1

I want to take a moment and mention another strange mythic from the set. I don’t think we have enough tools to take advantage of the new zombie lord, Risen Excutioner, in Standard, but I think the card is quite good in general. If he could block, we could have seen him threatening to block forever in control decks, but thankfully cards like this can never block so we don’t have to worry about situations like that.

Analyzing this lord left me remembering how much I loved playing zombies in M15 drafts. Using cards like Necromancer's Stockpile was awesome and I wish zombies had a bit more support in Standard so that Risen Executioner could be part of the metagame.

My guess is that this is a plant for the next block so when this card drops low in price, start picking these up for casual players as well as specing on Magic Origins and Battle for Zendikar. We can already see that this card would pair well with the new Liliana, Defiant Necromancer and there could be more cards that will pair well with Risen Executioner also.

Atarka’s Command

atarkascommand1

The cheapest command is the one that has me the most interested so far. Atarka's Command may not be breaking the format anytime soon, but for a card that costs two mana to have this many abilities is mind blowing. Honestly, I could have seen this costing three mana easily, but at two, the card will be hard to pass up in those colors.

For four abilities, I don’t think it does anything particularly well. We shouldn’t complain about the low impact of the four abilities though because we are getting the best two for the situation we are in for a measly two mana. Okay, so we’ve covered the best part of the card being the pushed mana cost. Let’s talk about what the card actually does.

The first way I could see players casting this card is as a replacement for Skullcrack. We have to choose two modes to let us cast the burn staple, but Skullcrack is a Modern-playable card that saw lots of play in Standard so we know that choice is going to be good. We have a lot of lifegain floating around the metagame as well so choosing those two options might finish off some opponents.

The other two abilities are even more interesting. We have +1/+1 to all our creatures and they gain reach. Although that feels like two abilities in itself, we also get a fourth ability to play an extra land from our hand. No matter which abilities you choose, we have a lot of interesting combinations. If you have ever cast cards like Tower Defense, you know how good granting reach to your creatures can be but most often you will be choosing that mode for the mini-Overrun effect.

I’m not sure we want to have green mana alongside Hordeling Outburst, but Atarka's Command seems like it would pair well with a swarm of creatures in play. Choosing +1/+1 and no lifegain, or an extra three damage, seems like a great way to end the game in the early turns.

There are many ways to take advantage of this two-mana command and I look forward to creating interesting situations with it like end of turn playing my scry land so I can react to what my opponent did on their turn. Even the worst ability on the card still has applications.

Sarkhan Unbroken

sarkhanunbroken

Most players are excited to buy and cast Narset Transcentant, but Sarkhan Unbroken is much more my style. I’ve been casting Sarkhan since his first appearance, Sarkhan Vol, and loving every minute of it. With how he turned out, I know now that he’s unbroken, I’ll love casting him too.

Five mana for four loyalty is not the best situation to be in, but the +1 and -2 more than make up for the lower starting loyalty. Just like Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Sarkhan Unbroken’s most common sequence seems like it will be to make a 4/4 dragon on the first turn and then spend a turn getting an extra card and mana to work with, so you can follow up with another dragon. While it may be an obvious sequence, I think it’s definitely a powerful one.

The bigger question is what deck will play the newest version of Sarkhan. My guess is that we will see a resurgence in aggressive Temur Midrange decks with Sarkhan as the top of the curve alongside Stormbreath Dragon. With all these four-power creatures, we can also stick some main deck Stubborn Denials in the list for the best protection available.

Overall there are a lot of interesting cards coming out with the release of our newest set, Dragons of Tarkir. I’m excited to play with many of them and the ones I’ve talked about today are at the top of that list. What cards are you excited to play with from the new set? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Insider: Everything But the Dragons of Tarkir

    1. I do like her and she seems great but I’m not sure how effective a five mana tutor that you have to sac a dude will be. If she were a dollar, then I’d be on board. At $4, I’m a bit more hesitant. From a deck building standpoint I’m not sure how I would want to use her either so I don’t like throwing bad advice out there. She is good and foils should get pretty high so pick those up whenever possible. Do you see a direct home for her?

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