I think Dragons of Tarkir is an extremely powerful set, and there are many cards that are going to be excellent in Standard and even in Modern. Many of those cards, like Thunderbreak Regent and Sidisi, are obviously good, so there is little point in talking about them. Today I want to talk about five cards that I think are quite good and have a lot of potential but that haven’t been explored as much, and I also want to talk about five cards that have been super hyped but are not very good.
#5 – Silumgar Sorcerer
I see a lot of Mono-Blue Devotion hype, and I think it might be justified if the RG hype is also real, since that deck has a lot of trouble with Master of Waves. Every list includes Shorecrasher Elemental and Stratus Dancer, but few include Silumgar Sorcerer, and I think that is a huge mistake.
Right now, we live in a world of big creatures—Dragons, Siege Rhinos, Whisperwood Elementals, Hornet Queens. We also live in a world where green and white (and to a lesser extent red) do a great job of stalling the ground, but are somewhat vulnerable to flying creatures. Silumgar Sorcerer is a flying creature that happens to deal with all those expensive dudes that people are going to play. If you have nothing else, then he can be a 2/1 flier flash or an Essence Scatter, neither of which is great for 1UU, but both of which are acceptable. Then he works wonders with Master of Waves tokens and other random 1- and 2-drops that you might play, such as Gudul Lurker or Hypnotic Siren. You can also play the Sorcerer with red/white token generators, or even a Jeskai shell, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a big player if those decks adopt a more heavy-blue base.
#4 – Ojutai Exemplars
Ojutai Examplers has a very respectable body and three super relevant abilities: it gets rid of your opponent’s biggest threat/blocker, it protects itself from spot removal (not sweepers unfortunately), and it lets you both race and beat cards like Whisperwood Elemental and Thunderbreak Regent in combat. All it asks is that you keep casting spells, which is hard but not impossible. It really works better with instants, but you can play any combination of Valorous Stance, Gods Willing, Secure the Wastes, Lightning Strike, Wild Slash, Anticipate, or Dig Through Time. The beauty of Ojutai Exemplars is that most of the time you don’t need to have the spell—the threat of a spell is enough. Are you going to point a Hero’s Downfall or block with your 4/4 when your opponent has 3 open mana? You likely aren’t, so I don’t even need to have anything for it to be good. I can see this guy in WR, UR, or WUR builds.
#3 – Atarka’s Command
I’ve seen people report that they tried Atarka’s Command and that it wasn’t very good. I think the reason that is happening is that they are playing it in the wrong deck and hoping to use the wrong modes.
Atarka’s Command is effectively a Skullcrack, but Skullcrack is generally not good enough to see play outside of a very dedicated burn deck. Ramping with it is valid sometimes, but that is not a good mode. If you’re trying to ramp, then do not play Atarka’s Command. If you have a deck with Thundermaw Hellkite and Crater’s Claws, chances are Atarka’s Command is not what you want. For this card to be good, you need to play it in a shell where the +1/+1 is actually relevant, so that you can attack with three guys and then deal an extra 6 damage, or perhaps 5 damage and eat a blocker. It’s perfect with Rabblemaster, since it gets a lot of damage through and it lets your Rabblemaster survive combat with cards like Seeker of the Way or Courser of Kruphix. 1- and 2-drops in general work very well with Atarka’s Command, and so do token generators like Hordeling Outburst and Dragon Fodder.
#2 – Deathmist Raptor
3/3 deathtouch for 3 is not a bad deal, but it’s not very exciting either. Deathmist Raptor is much more than that, however. The fact that it has deathtouch—and thus trades with everything—is the perfect complement to its return ability, and there will be decks that will simply be unable to beat a Deathmist Raptor that comes back two or three times.
There are plenty of good cards that enable Deathmist Raptor, since he works with both morph and manifest. Something like Rattleclaw Mystic does the trick, as do cards like Mastery of the Unseen, Whisperwood Elemental, Den Protector, and even other Deathmist Raptors. To make things even better, it costs 1GG, so it’s a good devotion enabler. You have to be careful not to play him in a deck that can’t really use a midrange body, but if you can, then he’s pretty good.
#1 – Dromoka’s Command
Dromoka’s Command is generally accepted to be a good card, so it’s weird to see it in an “underhyped” list, but I think it’s even better than people are giving it credit for. The default mode is instant-speed Hunt the Weak (a little bit better, since you don’t have to pump the guy that is fighting), which is actually quite decent at 2 mana. You wouldn’t play that card if that was all it did (you’d just play Setessan Tactics instead), but it wouldn’t be embarrassing to cast it.
The other two modes on Dromoka’s Command, however, are game-breaking. Each half of those modes is worth a card, and likely a card that costs more than two. If your opponent spends an entire turn casting Outpost Siege, you can destroy it for 2 mana—and fight one of their guys for free. This is huge, since you’re spending half as much mana as they are, to do more than they are doing. The “prevent damage” ability is also super powerful in the right spot, since it counters things like Stoke the Flames and Crater’s Claws.
People are playing Dromoka’s Command, but I don’t think they are playing it enough. This should be a 4-of in almost any Standard deck that can cast it.
#5 – Risen Executioner
The problem with Risen Executioner is that its abilities are very much at odds with each other. If I’m playing a deck that doesn’t have many creatures in the graveyard, it’s likely a control deck, and in that deck I really want to block. If I’m playing a deck that’s attacking, then I probably won’t be able to recast Risen Executioner. Even if I am, a 4/3 with no evasion gets brickwalled by cards like Siege Rhino, Hornet Queen, Whisperwood Elemental, tokens and so on.
There is probably one deck for Risen Executioner, and that’s a Zombies deck with Corpseweft. This way you can use the +1/+1 bonus to Zombies, which would actually make this guy worth casting, and you can control how expensive Risen Executioner is by removing cards from your graveyard. If this is not the shell you’re playing, then I wouldn’t bother.
#4 – Collected Company
People look at this card and think best-case scenario, but I think worst-case scenario and then I never want to play it. The problem with this card is that when it works, it’s not that good (you get at most a card and 2 mana, which is good but not fantastic), and when it doesn’t work it’s disastrous, since you just spent 4 mana doing nothing. For 4 mana these days you could play Polukranos. Are there even two 3-mana guys that together are better than Polukranos? I’m sure there is some combination, but it’s certainly not the average one. So you could hit the “jackpot” of two creatures and it could still be worse than just playing a reliable 4-mana spell.
Now I’m not saying this is unplayable, mind you—I think there are some decks in which it can be good—but those decks are very specific archetypes where almost every creature is a good hit. It doesn’t matter that you have 20 hits when 8 of them cost 1, you need to have a good amount of creatures worth hitting, so you can’t just jam this in decks that have guys.
#3 – Commune With Lava
This card is not good. The whole point of having an x-mana card-draw spell is that in the late game you draw a bunch of cards. With Commune with Lava, you will draw a bunch of cards, and then you’ll be forced to exile all but one or two of them. At this point, you aren’t playing Sphinx’s Revelation, you’re playing a 6-mana Impulse. If you’re casting this card for x=3, it costs 5 mana and it’s possibly worse than Anticipate, since you have to cast the card on the spot.
If you’re thinking of playing this in Storm, well, does Storm play Jace’s Ingenuity? Opportunity? Does it play Dig Through Time? Storm has very few lands, it caps at 2-3 most games. To cast a big end-of-turn Commune with Lava, you have to spend a bunch of Rituals, which is exactly what you’re hoping to hit. Casting this for x=2 costs 4 mana and it’s worse than Inspiration, and casting this for more uses up all your resources anyway, so you aren’t gaining anything.
#2 – Silkwrap
This card doesn’t seem great to me, since you generally don’t even want to kill the things it kills—which is the opposite of Suspension Field. The decks that could potentially want this already play red, and have better options in the form of Lightning Strike and Draconic Roar, which don’t kill Courser but do kill everything else at instant speed and also go to the face. For Silkwrap to be playable, you need a deck that doesn’t have red and a metagame that is heavily warped toward Mono-Red, and I don’t think this combination is going to show up right now.
#1 – Display of Dominance
This is a weird card to evaluate because it’s very metagame-dependent, but I’ve seen it hyped so much that I believe that even if it ends up being good it won’t be as good as people think. I’ve seen it compared to Pyroblast, and it’s just not that. To me, it’s more like an expensive Gods Willing that doesn’t scry, and that’s not a card I want to play. This card sells itself as versatile, but it really almost always has only one mode. Right now, the only permanent you can really remove is Ashiok. Ashiok is a very good card against you, but it’s not needed most of the time, and if Display of Dominance becomes prevalent, they will just cut Ashioks and you will have a very sub-optimal sideboard slot. Are you going to board it in against Whip of Erebos? Just boarding in enchantment removal seems better, as hitting their Coursers/Doomwake Giants is more likely than stopping their Downfalls. Unless there are a lot (and “a lot” is definitely more than 2) of blue/black planeswalkers going around in the same decks that have spot removal, I don’t see why you would play this.
Bonus: Sheltered Aerie
Most people who read this card assume it generates 2 mana, but it gives the ability to add 2—generating only one additional. It’s a very easy mistake to make, since it’s quite unique in this regard. I see this card in decks all the time, and I think it’s just because people don’t know what it actually does.
Well, that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed it, see you next week