Dragons of Tarkir: Playing to your Weaknesses – Lands, Artifacts, and Multicolor Cards
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, I’ll merely state if it’s a high, medium, or low pick in draft. A HIGH pick means that you should take it as soon as you see it (if it’s in your colors of course). HIGH picks are bombs that won’t come around the table a second time. MEDIUM picks are cards that have good synergies with other cards and are great at filling your mana curve or acting as role players. These cards might come around a 2nd time if you pass on them, so if there is another card that ranks higher, take that one and wait for this to come back. LOW picks are cards that are the leftovers. Maybe you need a 23rd card for your deck to round things out – THAT’S what a LOW pick is. You can take these ratings to mean the same for sealed as well. )
We’ve reached the end of our journey finally. By now you probably have a few games of DTK/FRF limited under you belt. During the pre-release weekend I did pretty well for myself, and if you’re interested in how I did you can skip my picks and go to the end of the article to see the decks I built and my results. If you’d rather read the final article, then by all means continue down below. You can read my Fate Reforged Multicolor, Lands, and Artifact article here if you want.
A Quick Note on Lands
During the Dragons of Tarkir pre-release, some people tried to play 3 colors. Some succeeded wonderfully, some didn’t. It all came down to what Fate Reforged tap-in land you pulled, as well as if you had an Evolving Wilds. Wilds is going to be a key card in a lot of decks that want to splash a 3rd color for a powerful spell/creature, and so are whichever tap-in lands you get from the FRF booster packs. I expect regular sealed tournaments to have a higher chance of getting an on color tap land for your deck, and in draft you should put a lot of value on any tap in lands that come around the table. For both Evolving Wilds and those tap in lands, I’d say take them highly once your second color/splash is established. They are going to go fast, and I don’t think you’ll see them a second time around the table.
RATING: High-Medium (for both tap in lands and Wilds)
The first artifact, or artifacts that I’d like to talk about today are the monuments. For starters, they are a distinct upgrade over the banners from Khans of Tarkir. These guys are great for ramping into larger creatures or paying for megamorph effects early in the game, and later on they become a great beater in the air. If you get one in your colors you should definitely play it in your sealed deck, and just as with the tap-in lands, if its in your colors or your splash, pick it up quick. These are going to be pretty strong in limited I think.
I have a feeling this will be pretty good in sealed when you have 3 packs of DTK and 3 packs of FRF. I remember it being very easy to get 2-3 dragons at the FRF/KTK pre-release, and draft was similar as well. Worst case scenario its a 3/3 creature for 4, but once a dragon hits the battlefield he’ll be a very capable attacker. I consider this a high pick. I wouldn’t take it first, but I WOULD take it over a card in my color around my 3rd or 4th pick.
While it’s not really an artifact, it is colorless like them. I’d classify this as a solid beater that isn’t overly costed at 6. Its colorless/non artifact typing kind of reminds me of Eldrazi, but we all know that they’ll be back in Battle for Zendikar this fall in some way or form. I think you can’t go wrong for a 4/4 flyer in limited, and you’ll surely have your pick of them.
Most of the multicolor dragons in DTK are pretty good. However, some have a more immediate effect than others. My first recommendation is Swift Warkite. When you’re playing limited, you’re bound to have a curve that is heavy on 3 drop creatures, and possibly 2 as well. This could bring back an Anafenza, Alesha Who Smiles at death, Yasova, and a lot of other great 3 drops in a 2 or 3 color deck. With Mirror Mockery in a Grixis build, you could infinitely bring back a 3 casting cost or less creature. Sure the creature is given Dash and must got back to your hand at the end of your turn, but I still consider this better than having to exile the creature at the end of the turn.
My next suggestion is Cunning Breezedancer. While this won’t have an immediate effect, I think you’ll get more benefit out of it than the other dragons. While you won’t be running a lot of non-creature spells, the 5-7 that you do have will be enough to activate his ability from time to time. This makes him a great combat trick in and of himself, and causes your opponent to think hard about attacking into him or not, as well as blocking. UW was pretty popular at the pre-release and I would expect it to continue to be popular in limited. Blue gives you a lot of card advantage, and white has some good removal as well, such as Valorous Stance. Somewhat high pick in draft.
It was brought to my attention that you could possibly set off an infinite damage combo with him. The way you do it is make a copy of him (possibly with Mirror Mockery or Flamerush Rider), and then activate a Bolster spell or Megamorph something. The Bolster spell/Megamorph activates the dragon’s ability, which is then stacked on the copy. Once the copy gets its counter, it will then trigger the first one getting a counter, and the cycle will continue indefinitely. Anafenza, Dromoka Captain, Guardian Shield-Bearer . . . all are good, cheap sources for counters. While I don’t see this combo happening often, you might have a pool sometimes that makes this guy absolutely bonkers. In a dedicated GW Bolster draft deck, I think you can count on him easily becoming a 6/6 or 7/7 flyer.
Thank god there isn’t mana burn anymore. With Savage Ventmaw, we start getting into more situational abilities that can be really good or pointless. There are a few good good things with this guy’s ability though. If you’re playing GR, then you most definitely running some kind of morph/megamorph creatures, and he allows you to flip them over easily. It also lets you play a spell for free, leaving your mana open to react to an attack. I really wouldn’t complain if I could easily activate Dragon Whisperer’s Formidable ability or Commune with Lava for 4 with 6 free mana to cast those cards with. In the right pool, this ability can be pretty useful.
Probably the weakest of the 5 dragons because of how dependent its ability is on the Exploit mechanic. He might be hard to play in a weak UB sealed pool, but I think you could draft a pretty powerful Exploit deck with him at your top end. Playing cards like Palace Siege or Tasigur would work really well with him and that mechanic, effectively shutting down your opponent whenever they played a creature on an empty board. I would recommend him in a draft deck, but I think he wouldn’t be as powerful in a sealed deck. He’ll be in your 23 card deck because he’s a 4/4 flyer, but he could be so much better than that in the right circumstances.
Other Cards that Might See Play
- Stormrider Rig – Works really good with Dash cards.
- Ancestral Statue – I think there are enough good enter the battlefield effects to make him somewhat playable in a few types of decks.
The Wrap Up: How my Pre-release went
Friday at Midnight
I ended up going to 3 tournaments for Dragons of Tarkir pre-release: One at midnight on Friday, one on Saturday, and one on Sunday.
I wasn’t sure how popular the set was going to be with people, but there ended up being 65 players at the midnight event at Prinny Club Kanayama in Nagoya. I hadn’t finished my green limited review by that point, but I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do.
I wanted to play big creatures and turn them sideways.
These colors have traditionally been a safe bet during pre-releases for me because people haven’t learned the format yet and everybody is still figuring out the various synergies and combos. I can get the upper hand by playing fast and hitting hard. I went 3-0 and tied with about 10 people for first place (they only did 3 rounds and had 2 short tournaments).
My seeded pack came with an Atarka’s Command (foil), 2 Epic Confrontations, 2 Draconic Roar, Savage Ventmaw, and Temur Battle Rage to name a few. This ended up being a boon for my strategy, as most of my cards cost 4 to cast or more. There were a number of glass cannon creatures with high power but low toughness, but that didn’t matter. I was able to hold off my opponents in the first few turns then play a big threat on turn 4. There were a lot of Formidable effects in this deck and they were easily activated thanks to cards like Conifer Strider and Atarka Efreet. If I had to choose MVPs of the deck, I would say it was Stampeding Elk Herd and Temur Battle Rage. My creatures’ high power level ended up working really well with trample, and Temur Battle Rage was an absolute beating when it’s Ferocious activated giving me double strike AND trample.
I beat a UW/b deck 2-1 in round one. I initially mana flooded (always seems to happen when I first make a limited deck, no matter how much I shuffle!), but I one the next two games thanks to my 5 power creatures, Temur Battle Rage, and Epic Confrontation. In round 2, I faced off against a naya deck but was able to stop him early with Draconic Roar and push through his double strike enchantments to sneak in two straight wins (2-0). In my final match of this short tournament, I went 2-0 again against a GR/b deck, mostly thanks to timely removal that created tempo swings in my favor.
After seeing GR in action, I knew it was powerful but wanted to try something a little different. I picked GW this time wanting to get my hands on Dromoka’s Command but instead I managed to get a very balanced Abzan deck. It was another large event in which 50 players attended. Another reason for wanting to try out GW was to see if the Bolster mechanic could actually work. Could I play fast in the first part of the match and then use Bolster to help my deck go the distance against midrange decks? I wasn’t alone, there were another 10 people who also chose this combination.
I would say it works pretty well, but this deck largely succeeded thanks to the black cards I opened. I had some great removal in the form of Ultimate Price, Death Wind, 2 Pacifism, and the combat trick Inspiring Call. Having Tasigur was also a blessing. I was able to reuse my removal, bring creatures back, and there were very few ways to take him out unless they had black removal such as Ultimate Price themselves. Temur Sabertooth was an all star in this deck, and the Misthoof Kirin’s also played a pretty big role of attacking in the sky. I ended up 4-2 after 6 rounds, which was good enough for 15th place out of 50 people.
Right out of the gate I found that my deck had trouble against BR Dash. My opponent had tons of creatures he could play for cheap and quickly, and I didn’t have many ways to keep up. I did win one game thanks to Tasigur giving me tons of card advantage, but a mulligan to 5 in game 3 put me in a hole I couldn’t bounce back from. I played against a Sultai deck in round 2 and won 2-0 thanks to Tasigur and my big green creatures, but I lost to UW in round 3 (1-2). UW was one of the most popular colors at the pre-release, which about 18 people initially choosing Ojutai. The deck I played against had tons of bounce and counterspells, and was backed by card drawing engines such as Zephyr Scribe. I simply couldn’t play my cards fast enough to match him.
Things weren’t looking good at 1-2, but I drew timely removal against GR in round 4 to win 2-1, I beat BR 2-0 in round 5 thanks to Temur Sabertooth and Champion of Arashin gaining me life, and I finally beat a UW deck in round 6, 2-0. Temur Sabertooth managed to grind him down turn by turn, forcing him to block, and when he mulliganed to 5 in game 2 he couldn’t come back from it.
On Sunday I wanted to give one more deck a try. Ojutai again proved to be the most popular, followed by Atarka, but I wanted to go with BR. I chose Kolaghan and was a little underwhelmed at first. I didn’t really have that many bombs, and there were a lot fewer Dash cards than I had hoped. One thing the deck had going for it was that the curve was low. Most of my cards were either 2 or 3 mana to play, which means I could play them quickly. I also had a tap-in land in my colors and an Evolving Wilds. My removal was okay, but I had to approach this type of deck somewhat differently than I had the GW and GR one. BR was a lot more about combat tricks, and that’s why I was playing Butcher’s Glee over something like Douse in Gloom (which I had in my sideboard).
I was playing 4 plains in the deck, but I still had problems casting Anafenza, and I eventually dropped her in favor of Aven Sunstriker in round 4. I really wanted her to work though. She is great with a deck full of Dash creatures. Whenever they come into play somebody gets a +1/+1 counter, and if you play multiples you can sneak in a lot of extra damage. That only worked a few times though . . . I had a semi-warrior theme of sorts which was made somewhat powerful thanks to 2 Blood-Chin Ragers. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death was also a welcome card in my deck, and Thunderbreak Regent provided a lot of value. I ended up going 3-1 at this 25 person event.
In round 1 I played against a BRUTAL Silumgar deck. He had multiple Silumgar Sorcerers, a handful of black removal, and even Silumgar himself. I could never put any pressure on him and when I did later on, he’d just steal my finisher with Dragonlord Silumgar. I lost 1-2, and this lead into a bye in round 2. I won’t complain, as it put me at 1-1 and gave me time to eat lunch. In round 3 I faced one of the only other Kolaghan players in the room and beat him 2-1. The red creatures I had were able to put sufficient pressure on him in this match and after a few misplays with my removal in game 2, I was able to learn from my mistakes and use them effectively when it mattered. My hardest match of the weekend came in my final match on Sunday. I faced a UW deck again, and while he had good blockers, flyers, and a solid end game strategy, I managed to take out his Pristine Skywise dragon in game 2 thanks to my splash of white and Enduring Victory. He got stuck on mana in game 3 to hand me the victory.
Overall I would say that my limited choices were correct. I went 10-3 over 3 days. The pre-releases aren’t going to realistically depict how limited tournaments are going to play out because of they are weighted towards the new set now, but they do allow us to see various synergies and combos for the first time. If you have anything you’d like to add to this limited review after reading, please chime in below. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed reading it and put it to good use in this DTK/FRF limited season.
I’ll be taking a look at how the new Dragons of Tarkir cards will be affecting standard prices and other formats in my continuing series Bang for Your Buck later this week. I expect quite a few changes but you’ll have to come back later this week to read it and find out! I’ll also be continuing my Puca Pal articles about my adventures in the world of trading for value next week too. Hope to see you then!