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Commander Review: Dragons of Tarkir


Dragons of Tarkir is here and it's time to talk about how the new cards will impact Commander. The purpose of this review is to draw attention to the cards that I — an avid Commander player — am most excited to tinker with. Hopefully I can convince you to try some of them out!

Keep in mind that these are simply my favorite picks: certainly some of you folks will disagree with my opinions, and many more will point out dozens of cards that I glossed over. That's even better. Every single time I post one of these, the amazing feedback and discussions generated make me appreciate cards that I missed. I love the give and take: I hopefully inspire some of you, and you guys always inspire me. Let's get to it!

 

White

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This Anafenza intrigues me for two reasons. First off, she is a very efficient source of +1/+1 counters. Her casting cost is cheap and her triggered ability doesn't require you to pay mana. Two thumbs up from me. How to properly use these +1/+1 counters is the interesting part: I'm sure there are multiple ways, but the first thing that comes to mind is abusing the Persist mechanic. With a free sacrifice outlet, like Phyrexian Altar, and a Persist creature with toughness 2 or less (e.g. Kitchen Finks), you have a combo that generates infinite mana and life. Replace Finks with Glen Elendra Archmage and you have infinite countermagic, or end the game with Murderous Redcap and infinite burn. To take advantage of these, you'll probably want to put Anafenza as part of the 99 in a multicolor deck that has a sacrifice theme. I can think of Alesha, Who Smiles at Death and Karador, Ghost Chieftan as two generals that fit the bill.

The second reason I'm excited for her is a silly one: I'm working on a Kamigawa-flavored tribal Spirit EDH deck that needs more Spirits, and Anafenza fits wonderfully! 

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm usually not a fan of vanilla fatties, but this one is neat since it only costs 1 mana and it's not a creature until you want it to be, which helps its odds of survival. There's no evasion on this creature, so it probably won't be good at getting in for damage. It may be sweet to play this card early, let it passively grow, and then turn it into a creature when you want to sacrifice it: Greater Good, Disciple of Bolas, or Brion Stoutarm would get much value from a 10/10 or greater!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I like flexible, cheap, instant speed exile removal. That's a ton of good attributes jammed into one card. The restriction is a real one, but I love playing with Renounce the Guilds, so I'd be up for trying this out too.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Secure the Wastes drips value. It's an efficient token maker, but the instant speed is what really pushes it over the top. Having played the token strategy in my Budget Commander decks: Darien, King of Jank and Gahiji Tokens, I can tell you that a cycling Decree of Justice right before my turn and swinging for lethal was one of my best win conditions. This card isn't just a second Decree, it's a better one. Token lovers rejoice, this is the real deal!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sunscorch Regent is a mix of fatty, efficient +1/+1 counters, and lifegain. A deck that wants all three will love this card, but someone looking for just lifegain or +1/+1's may pass this for something with a lower casting cost. I think it's fine for lifegain decks, especially because it's another step to making Angelic Renewal sweet. This dragon and a combination of Soul Wardens and Shattered Angel, bam! 4/4 Angel tokens each turn!

 

Blue

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I mention this card only because if I didn't, someone would ask why, and then I'd respond that I don't like it. So there: I don't like this card. It costs 9-mana and is situational. Clone Legion has nothing on Rite of Replication. "But Narset, Enlightened Master!" Sorry, she can do much better. Hate away!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Opportunity with added bonus if you're running dragons. The bonus is nice, but I wouldn't run this because I'm running dragons, but rather because I want to run Opportunity, which itself is a sweet card.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A sweet card that is very abusable in Commander. Note that you don't have to deal combat damage to a player — just combat damage — so being chump blocked doesn't stop the trigger from happening. It's very good at casting a giant spell at a discount — Enter the Infinite, anyone? But you don't need to exile a giant spell to get value. Living Lore's body is its biggest asset. U/B/R decks have the best tools to abuse it, with Black adding reanimation and Red adding Haste. It can do serious work with Marchesa, the Black Rose, dying only to come back to do it again, or Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge, since she usually packs tons of splashy instants/sorceries. You can also take advantage of "copy, give haste, exile at end of turn" effects that red loves, like Feldon of the Third Path and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Value! A mere two-mana for a repeatable clone effect is sweet indeed. Not sure how best to abuse this card yet, but I'm sure some of you folks can think of devious combos with this.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

One-sided creature "wipes" are extremely powerful, especially in Blue. Great at resetting the board and killing tokens. As I mentioned with Living Lore, being a creature is a big asset to many decks that can abuse creatures, such as Marchesa, the Black Rose. I can see those decks loving Profaner of the Dead.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you like Willbender, you may also like this card. Same mana investment, situational benefit, not a wizard (sorry Azami), but better stats. I will run her in my Zedruu the Greathearted deck, where I can use her ability and then donate the body away to draw cards.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cards with free untap triggers always grab my attention. It makes me think of broken things like Earthcraft. I'm sure there's degenerate combos to abuse Zephyr Scribe, or at least there will be. Definitely a card to keep an eye on.

 

Black

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Not bad! I appreciate the option of killing opponents lategame with this. I still prefer Promise of Power, but if you want another big card draw spell in your Black deck, this is a strong choice.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm a fan of Black's giant creature wipes: Reiver Demon, Dread Cacodemon, Necromantic Selection, Plague Wind, etc. They all have their ups and downs, but in a Mono Black Control deck that generates tons of mana off Cabal Coffers and similar effects, the casting cost isn't a big obstacle. I also don't see the "five or more other creatures" clause to be restrictive; realistically, that's when you want to board wipe anyway. Not an issue for your traditional 4-player Commander games. I'd definitely recommend this for big mana decks.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm a big advocate for more graveyard removal in Commander. In this format, 99% of decks out there are using their graveyard as a resource to some degree, from graveyard-themed decks like Karador, Ghost Chieftan to the random White deck that runs Sun Titan for value. The problem (for me at least) is that most graveyard removal isn't sexy — they don't do any snazzy stuff other than exile graves. The best ones, like Relic of Progenitus, draw you a card at least. Boring.

Then we get this beauty. I love that it's a graveyard removal card that also does sweet things. At 7 mana, it's certainly too steep a cost, but I love the design.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sidisi, Undead Vizier is an amazing new inclusion to many creature-heavy Black decks. She's decent enough just casting her and eating a minion like Solemn Simulacrum, but the real power comes from abusing her with reanimation and bounce/blink effects. I've already mentioned her, but Marchesa, the Black Rose immediately comes to mind again. Honestly, tons of Black decks use reanimation tactics, so finding a deck to play new Sidisi won't be hard at all.

What I personally am most excited about is the fact that she's a zombie. One of my favorite deck happens to be a tribal zombie list, and the thought of casting Demonic Tutor for free with Rooftop Storm has me salivating!

 

Red

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

An alright way to upgrade an army of weenie tokens into something much more intimidating, while also dealing with the scariest enemy creatures at the same time. The real draw, however, is the Dragon subtype, which will make this more appealing in dragon tribal decks. Turning ten 1/1 tokens into 4/4 dragons with, say, Dragon Tempest in play is a stylish, yet also reasonable way to win.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I've never played with Rage Reflection, but if that's a card you like, you may also like Berserkers' Onslaught. If you're playing these type of cards you probably don't plan to be blocking much anyway.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

One of the best new cards for dragon tribal. The two triggered abilities are amazing, and the enchantment is only 2-mana! A must-have for dragon lovers.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I've recently mentioned this card in my Budget Melek article. In decks with bomby instants/sorceries, this card acts like a cheaper Red Plague Wind and Call to Mind combined, which is amazing. Melek, Izzet Paragon, Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourage, and others will love this card.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dragons are expensive. Most dragon tribal decks will focus on cheating the fatties into play, but you'll also want ramp to cast them the old-fashioned way. Dragonlord's Servant fits that role admirably, along with his bigger brother, Dragonspeaker Shaman.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dragon tribal decks got a sweet tutor.

 

Green

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A mix between Somberwald Sage and Biorhythmn makes for an interesting card. The latter card is banned in Commander, so Shaman of Forgotten Way's Formidable activation should catch your eye. I don't think it's unreasonable for Green decks to have both the creatures and the mana to activate it. Early on it's a worse Somberwald Sage, but with a built-in win condition so it should see more play.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Doran, the Siege Tower will like this enchantment as a backup to the general. That's about it.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This card has to be absurd, right? Cheat up to two creatures into play from your library, at instant speed, for only four mana?? What?! Granted, you'll need to run a ton of creatures with a mana cost 3 or less, which is a heavy restriciton (especially in Commander), but we do have ways to stack our library, such as Scroll Rack.

I dunno. I'm in awe of this card. Maybe in Standard, or Modern? Wow. I'm shocked it's sitting at only $4 as I type this.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Foe-Razer Regent makes me want to create a fight-heavy deck and call it Fight Club. I'd go on, but I'm not allowed to talk about it. I feel the casting cost is a bit too steep, or at least it should come with a bigger body like Gruul Ragebeast.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

+1/+1 counter decks are getting some very real support in DTK. I'm not sure how good this card will be in practice, but all my decks pack a ton of card draw, so I'm guessing this will be a very efficient source of counters. Perfect for Skullbriar, the Walking Grave and other +1/+1 counter decks.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Okay, THIS is the best new toy for +1/+1 counter decks. Card draw AND board resilience in the face of a board wipe, all for a very reasonable 3-mana. Excellent, excellent card. I can't wait to play this!

 

Multi-Color

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dragonlord Dromoka is Grand Abolisher attached to a battlecruiser body. That's good, but the casting cost is still pretty steep for a general. Dromoka may better serve as part of the 99, possibly amongst Captain Sisay's legendary posse when you need to flip off a Blue opponent.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cheap, flexible, and lots of chances for a nice 2-for-1. I expect the enchantment sacrifice and fight modes will be the most used. That's a lot of goodness for a mere 2 mana!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dragonlord Ojutai is a sweet card advantage engine that can works fine both as part of the 99 or as your general. He really wants vigilance, or you could just slap on Lightning Greaves instead. Not a particularly exciting card, nor game-breaking — just good value.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A deck packed with instants/sorceries and topdeck manipulation like Sensei's Divining Top and Scroll Rack will enjoy Narset Transcendant as a fair, but powerful value engine.

A Superfriends deck that plays her with Doubling Season out to immediately ultimate will have opponents flipping tables.

You know what you must do.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you are lucky enough to counter a spell and return a creature to play, then Ojutai's Command is very sweet. The other two modes though are kinda meh though.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Great for token decks, but unlike Ogre Battledriver, doesn't grant haste! No haste makes Boltwing Marauder significantly worse, but if you're already packing multiple sources of haste in your deck, it's a fine addition alongside the Battledriver.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

All modes are playable in Commander, making it a fine card at 3-mana.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Move over Bogardan Hellkite! Dragonloard Atarka is bigger and better. While she can be a general, I think her true calling is part of the 99 in fatty decks such as Mayael the Anima and, my favorite, Xenagos, God of Revels.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Holy balls. This beauty is savage value all by itself, but then there's its synergy with extra combat steps, most notable its infinite combo with Aggravated Assault. Xenagos, God of Revels decks just got even nastier.

By the way, if you haven't picked up a copy of Assault yet, do it sooner rather than later. The card spiked like crazy with the huge popularity of Narset, Enlightened Master, and now with Gruul players wanting it even more, you can be sure it'll keep skyrocketing up.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Finally, a good dragon tribal land! All multi-color tribal dragon decks will love this, especially Scion of the Ur-Dragon.

 

Top 5 Most Exciting Cards

  1. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
  2. Savage Ventmaw
  3. Sidisi, Undead Vizier
  4. Dragonlord Atarka
  5. Secure the Wastes

Anafenza and Ventmaw get the nod for enabling new infinite combos. I anticipate both will see a lot of play in decks like Karador, Ghost Chieftan and Xenagos, God of Revels that are looking for more easy win conditions.

Sidisi has the potential to see a lot of play all over the place. There are a ton of Black creature sacrifice decks out there: Karador, Ghost Chieftan, Marchesa, the Black Rose, Chainer, Dementia Master, the list goes on and on. Because of this, I think Sidisi will see the most play out of all the new cards.

Atarka should be replacing Bogardan Hellkite in every Gruul deck, most notably Xenagod.

Secure the Wastes is one of the most powerful new cards and will be a major player in token decks. I don't expect to see it too often, however, because token decks (at least on Magic Online) aren't too popular.

 

That's All, Folks!

Next up will be another Budget Commander article. I've been getting a few requests for a budget Scion of the Ur-Dragon list but I'm not satisfied with what I've got yet. Until that's sorted out, I'll have for you a different dragon-infused deck, possibly Jhoira of the Ghitu or an updated Xenagos, God of Revels.

Follow me on Twitter @BudgetCommander for notifications on when the next article is up, updates on future decks, and input for what to work on next. Thanks for reading!


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