Draft Guide – Blue/Black in Dragons of Tarkir

I’m very excited to bring you my new article series here on ChannelFireball. Each week I’ll look at an archetype of the current Limited format and dissect it to break down what a good deck looks like, how it functions, and what you should prioritize in your drafts to ensure a strong deck. I’ll show you some examples of decks I’ve drafted and examine why they fell short or succeeded.

Blue/Black Exploit

There are a couple different forms of this deck in DTK draft, but neither are particularly fast. The reason this color combination makes for a slower midrange or control shell is due to UB’s mechanic, exploit. Exploit requires a moderate amount of set-up cost, and consequently you won’t find yourself bashing your opponent over the head too quickly. Your goal with UB is to clog up the early to midgame and then win through evasive threats and bombs or via card advantage from exploit when paired with the correct enablers.

When UB is open in the DTK packs your deck will naturally tend toward the exploit theme since you have more incentive to draft around exploit when Silumgar Butchers and Gurmag Drowners are moving around the table later in the draft. On the surface, exploit will only give you an interesting split card—either you’ll get a reasonable creature or a reasonable spell effect.When you start to pair exploit with enablers like Palace Familiar, Jeskai Sage, and Sultai Emissary, however, your exploit creatures will start generating 2-for-1s and you can simply out-card-advantage the opponent in a long game.

The aim here is to balance the exploit creatures with the enablers with a slight bias to the exploit creatures since you won’t have access to them in the Fate Reforged pack. Silumgar Butcher loses a lot of value when you don’t have a good creature to sacrifice, and a deck made up entirely of Jeskai Sages will clearly be very low impact. As I mentioned, assembling these two pieces can take some time in-game, so your goal should be to survive to take advantage of the strong mid/late-game advantages you’ll get from exploit. Good defensive creatures like Typhoid Rats or Updraft Elemental as well as early-game answers like Defeat all work well to help reach that point

More often, exploit will take a secondary role in a midrange UB deck simply because it’s hard to get enough exploit creatures and enablers to make a full-on exploit deck. Your plan in this case is still to win later in the game since UB naturally has a lot of card advantage and strong creatures to take over.

Megamorph helps serve as this bridge from early to late game. Marsh Hulk specifically shines in the UB archetype since it provides a reasonable late-game body while also helping you survive when you simply cast it on 3 mana to trade. Belltoll Dragon and Acid-Spewer Dragon work even better, though they are of course harder to get at uncommon. The split-card nature of these cards allows you to play more powerful but expensive cards like Enhanced Awareness and Contradict that will pull UB ahead in the late game without sacrificing early-game consistency. With more dedicated late-game cards in UB it is harder to flood out, so you’ll want 18 lands to get to your more expensive cards on time.

Let’s take a look at some decks and I’ll grade each as a deck with the following scale:

A: Hits every mark of the archetype and has some extra power outside of the archetype itself (usually from strong rares and uncommons).
B: Reaches all the goals of the archetype and has a strong game plan that will lead to many wins. You should aim for this level when drafting (and hope that an A results).
C: There are some elements of the archetype in place, but there are some holes in the deck and it won’t be as streamlined.
D: The deck is more a pile of reasonable cards within its colors but doesn’t have a cohesive strategy.
F: A train wreck, the deck just doesn’t work on base, fundamental levels.

Deck #1

UB 0-1 (2) UB article deck 1

Deck Rating: B+

This deck features a strong curve that balances early enablers with the Gurmag Drowners for value later in the game. It also features powerful late-game threats, though it could use one more late-game card to really put pressure on the opponent when the deck takes over. Deadly Wanderings is a slight mismatch in this deck but was included as a powerful card when games aren’t going exactly as planned and combines very nicely with the Silumgar Monument. Lastly, the strong removal helps this deck reach the late game and deal with topdecked bombs.

Deck #2

UB 1-1 (2) UB article deck 2

Deck Rating: C-

On the surface this looks like a strong deck due to all its evasion and card selection but it’s not really what UB wants to be doing. The late game is entirely reliant on Ojutai Interceptor, and while there are tempo elements to help that plan work, there isn’t a way to reliably win in the air while also stopping the opponent’s game plan. Whisk Away and Aven Surveyor are the primary forms of interaction, and while Foul Renewal is a very good card, it is at its worst here in a deck of all tiny creatures. The deck doesn’t even play the 1 drafted Silumgar Butcher because it plays poorly with the rest of the deck though that may be a deck construction flaw due to the Butcher’s power level. We don’t quite reach the D range here but the deck comes close to a pile of cards that somewhat work together and merely hopes that everything will work out.

Deck #3

UB 1-1 UB article deck 3

Deck Rating: B+

From this deck we get to see many of UB’s elements take shape. Notice the glut of 6-drops which allows for a strong late game, while the Marsh Hulks and Acid-Spewer Dragon can come down early to block. Wandering Tombshell, Marang River Skeleton, and Typhoid Rats all work toward the late game, and there’s plenty of power to take over at that point. There’s a bit of a lack of early plays and catchall answers to push this deck into the A range, though Crux of Fate certainly helps, and this is a good example of what UB is trying to achieve.

Deck #4

UB 3-0 (2) UB article deck 4

Deck Rating: A

Here we have a bit of everything with an absolutely dominating late game. All the early drops help the deck survive, and Coat with Venom works well both attacking and blocking depending on the opponent’s development. The deck also makes strong use of CHewed Stone Retainers, and the 4/4 body is even more useful in an archetype that tends to have smaller creatures. Lotus Path Djinn has gotten even better with DTK because the megamorph creatures can’t as easily attack into it as KTK morphs could, and prowess has gotten better in general due to more spell creatures and rebound. Finally, Custodian of the Trove is a card I’ve been pleasantly surprised by and works very well in more controlling decks. This deck provides strong options at every point on the curve and has enough power to brawl with the opponent at any point in the game.

That’s all I have for you today. Hopefully this gives you an idea of where you want to take your UB deck next time you end up in that archetype. If I missed anything I’d love to see what you have to say in the comments!

I also stream most weekdays throughout the day at twitch.tv/nealoliver88. Check it out!

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