5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. Wingmate Roc.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater’s Claws.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Suspension Field.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger’s Guile.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium.)
Other Dragons of Tarkir Set Reviews
I don’t think it’s a reach to say that this lands on the high end of playable. A 3/4 for 4 with a good ability is a great deal, and having the megamorph option just adds to that. Common creatures almost never make it above a 3.0, but this is just too powerful and efficient for me to give it a lower rating.
If you want a 4/1 for three, this delivers, but the +1/+1 counter bonus won’t make a big impact. Assembling a combo that lets you trade for a flier is not a play I’m excited to make, though it’s not a drawback to have the option of doing so from time to time. Ferocious is gone, making it less important to have a 4-power creature, so this (and Gore Swine) are not as good as they would have been in the previous format.
While I would never maindeck a Naturalize, I like getting the effect for free. The body on this makes it playable already, and getting to blow up a card every couple games is a big upside. You can consider siding this out against opponents with no targets if the stats don’t line up well against their creatures, but I’d always start with this in my deck.
It takes a little bit of work to make this good, but when you put in that work, this card is powerful. Even ignoring the defender ability, an enchantment that lets you pay 2G to give your team +1/+1 is interesting, if a bit slow. Not every deck would want that, but some would.
It starts getting more interesting when you get to upgrade your defenders and 2/5s into monsters, though sadly Archer’s Parapet and Monastery Flock are no longer in the format. If this is naturally pumping 4-6 of your creatures, maybe allowing a defender to attack, and giving you the option to buff your entire team, I like the card. It seems worth trying to enable, though I would generally not want to play it in a deck that isn’t doing that(at leas t not in draft. In Sealed it might still be good).
A solid 2-drop that’s good in the late game is exactly what I’m looking for. This isn’t broken, but it is definitely a beast.
Avatar of the Resolute
Speaking of 2-drops that are good later, Avatar of the Resolute definitely qualifies. A 3/2 trample is good early, a 3/2 reach is good at just about any time, and a 3/2 that sometimes comes in as a 4/3 or 5/4 is awesome. You don’t need to do any work to make this a strong playable, and if you end up with some +1/+1 counters lying around, it becomes even better than that. I wouldn’t drastically alter how I draft based on this, though it is worth keeping in mind when decisions are close.
Circle of Elders
This is an interesting combination of decent stats and a decent ability, though neither are good enough to make the card exciting. A 2/4 vigilance is fine, and tapping for three mana will often be useful, if not critical due to the conditions under which it’s active. That all adds up to a decent filler card.
I’d want around 10 creatures that cost 3 or less before playing this, and even then you are only around 52% to get two of them (assuming you cast it with 30 cards remaining in your deck and 8 eligible creatures, or ratios similar to that). Paying 4 mana to get a creature that costs 3 or less is just not a good deal, so I’d pass on this with most decks. There’s also definitely a Three’s Company joke here too, if one were inclined to find it.
While I’d still rather play most megamorphs on 3, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with casting this instead. You don’t want too many cards that are weak in the late game, but a couple of these are always going to be fine.
Limited has made great strides in the last 20 years, and what would have once been an excellent early pick is now an unplayable maindeck card. People actually have creatures in their decks now, and this is just going to get blocked by your opponent’s worst creature. At best, this is a sideboard card against the all-removal control deck, though if you do have the turbo-bolster deck maybe you can try and power this up. I’m skeptical, but it’s a niche plan to keep in mind.
Josh Utter-Leyton’s favorite card in the set is an incredible one. This dominates the board on turn three and is relevant at any point in the game, all while essentially ignoring removal. You do need a good amount of manifest and megamorph cards, but once you have a Raptor it shouldn’t be hard to pick those up, and it isn’t like playing any of those cards is a sacrifice. This doesn’t stop fliers, but the fact that it is great on defense or offense while ignoring removal makes it a full-on bomb.
After Reddit user MoonE513 suggested the name “Maternal Witness” for this, I can’t help but use that whenever possible, so let’s start there. The card itself is quite good as well (not as good as the nickname, which is truly an A+), and gets better the better your deck is. Maternal Witness is a cheap evasion creature, and dodging smaller creatures is better than dodging bigger ones because of how much she pays you for bolstering or casting pump spells on her. The Regrowth ability is very powerful in the late game, and there’s no point where this is a bad card to draw.
Display of Dominance
This is the outlier in the cycle, as it will rarely even come in after sideboard. It doesn’t kill creatures, and using it as hexproof is not a very exciting effect.
I like when my 3-mana 3/2s have utility in the late game, and regeneration certainly counts. This attacks for decent damage, can force trades, and given enough time becomes a real annoyance to the opponent.
I’m not the biggest fan of expensive combat tricks, but Dromoka leaves behind such a generous gift that I can’t help but play this most of the time. Four counters is enough that even your smallest creature should win most fights, and you end up with a giant threat afterwards. Once your opponent knows about it you have to be much more careful, but I expect to get a very big advantage out of this in game one.
This is about as efficient as removal gets for green, and as such I expect to take it early and play it often. You will kill something that costs more than 2 mana and deal an extra point of damage most of the time, which is a great deal. The risk is that you get destroyed by pump spells and removal, so make sure to time this when your opponent is tapped out, if possible. This only costs 2 mana, so that should be pretty easy, though sometimes you have to run this out and hope.
As much as I want to cast 7-drops on turn five, I cannot claim that Vegetation is a card that most decks will play. You need to be interested in some serious ramp, and it takes a deck with a good high end to make this work. In Sealed it seems fantastic, because you can afford to take turn four off more often, and because it lets you splash a bunch of powerful off-color cards.
Speaking of 7-drops…
Foe-Razer Regent has a massive effect on the game, as it kills one of their creatures (4/4 or smaller) and immediately becomes a 6/7 once you pass the turn. That kind of swing in board presence makes this well worth the mana cost, and every now and then you will get bonus counters when you use other fight cards (though that is by no means necessary to make this card good).
In a defensive deck, this does exactly what you want it to do. It gums up the ground until you have things under control, at which point you have the option of attacking with it. That’s a solid deal for 2 mana, and I’d be happy playing this if I think I will have trouble surviving until I can cast my expensive cards. It certainly doesn’t belong in a beatdown deck, so don’t play this with the plan of attacking all that often.
This is a decent megamorph, a decent 2-drop, and a decent combat trick. It does none of those things extremely well, but the combination of all of them makes it a fine card in just about every deck.
I like trample the least of all of the abilities of this cycle, though the floor for how bad this can be is still high enough that it’s worth playing. It is a 4/4 flier, after all, and that plus the ability to play it on 3 makes it a fine card, if not one worth chasing.
If you have tons of ways to generate counters and your opponent has Crux of Fate or some other great sweeper, maybe you board this in. Otherwise it’s just too much work and too situational for too low a payoff.
In my experience, the ability of forcing creatures to block is much worse than it looks. By the time you are able to use it, your opponent can likely throw two creatures in the way of the Arynx, making it an expensive 1-for-1. It’s still playable, as 3/5 for 5 with upside is a card that justifies itself, I just won’t be taking it very highly.
There are some formats where cards like this are maindeckable. This is not one of them.
This card is very strange. It’s pseudo-mana acceleration, for one specific type of card, and it eventually flips into a 2/2 (though it’s a one-way process). In your opening hand, this can essentially be a 2-drop, as you play it turn one and flip it turn two, and later in the game it’s a random 2/2 easily enough. This can also let you play a creature face down on turn two, which is powerful. Add all that up and I think you get a card that’s playable if you have 6+ megamorphs and 8+ Forests.
Even though the set is literally called “Dragons,” this is not a maindeck card. The value of this type of card has plummeted recently, as the last couple iterations have been 4 or 5 mana instead of 2, though I’d still side this in if I saw 3 or more good targets. I’d maindeck this in Sealed, especially at the prerelease.
Press the Advantage
If you are attacking, this is a good way to end the game. It does require that you have creatures of reasonable size, but that’s made up for by the possibility of picking up a 2-for-1, which will happen some of the time.
I like the artwork, but the text box I’m less a fan of. If your opponent has a ton of combat tricks or Magmatic Chasms, you could think about it, then ultimately decide against siding it in. You thought about it though, that was good.
Salt Road Ambushers
A Hill Giant that can megamorph as a 4/4 is a good start, and giving all your other megamorphs and manifest creatures a sizable bonus is an even better finish. You can play this with zero other cards, as unlikely as that will be, and the normal case will have this working with at least 3-4 other cards in your deck.
Salt Road Quartermasters
Despite Marsh Hulk Sutcliffe’s insistence that this is basically Daghatar (it is not), this is a very strong card. A 3/3 for 3 is uncuttable already, and making combat math bad for your opponent is a good bonus.
I don’t like the numbers on this card a whole lot. Elite Scaleguard this is not, and I don’t relish the thought of playing the equivalent of a 5-mana 4/4. The counters having haste (by going on a creature already in play) makes this a little more interesting, though not enough to make me excited about playing this.
Any deck with 9+ Forests will be happy to play the base version of Sentinels, and once you have 3+ Dragons this becomes much stronger. A 2-mana 3/4 is very hard to deal with on turn two, and I wouldn’t mind taking this early once I had the Dragons to support it. The other way around is less good, as you can’t bank on picking up Dragons to enable this.
The Woolly Loxodon of the format is a little less impressive, due to a more expensive megamorph cost and slightly worse stats, but it’s still a workhorse. You aren’t cutting this, though you aren’t 3rd-picking it either.
Servant of the Scale
I don’t like this card by itself, and I certainly don’t like trying to combine other cards to make it “work.” Exploit is not an excuse either, and I highly advise against including this card in your deck. The only way I could ever see playing this is if my opponent has five or more 2/1s and I have no early plays, though I doubt that will ever come up during this format’s run.
Shaman of Forgotten Ways
Playing this on turn three is absurdly powerful. Your deck is almost guaranteed to be a majority creatures, and ramping out 6-drops on turn four is awesome. You can even play multiple smaller creatures, and no matter which way you go, Shaman of Forgotten Ways is going to put you very far ahead very quickly. Later in the game, you get the ability to cast Biorythm, which can be a valid way to end the game. I’m assuming your opponent has some creatures in play still, but activating this at the end of their turn is likely to drop their life total drastically, at which point you can set up a lethal attack. If you get one of these early, prioritize creatures over spells when it’s close, but you don’t have to do a ton of work to make this card fantastic.
Shape the Sands
As far as combat tricks go, this is pretty close to the bottom of the barrel. It isn’t aggressive at all, and giving a creature reach in order to block has not ever been that impressive. I mostly want this in my sideboard to combat burn spells, and past that I might board it in if I were soft to fliers.
Even if 3+ color decks are a thing, you are unlikely to have much competition for cards like this. Sheltered Aerie only nets you one additional mana, as the ability it grants can be used in lieu of the land’s original ability, not in addition to, and that makes this essentially a Banner without the ability to cycle, which is not a good place to be.
Sight of the Scalelords
I have trouble fathoming when this would be a sight worth seeing. It costs five mana and only pumps your large creatures, which does not seem like a recipe for success, or really anything less than miserable failure. Sorry Scalelords, you’re on your own this time.
Stampeding Elk Herd
Even in the land of megamorphs, five-mana 5/5s are a good deal. The trample ability is a nice bonus, and really the only criticism I have of this card is that you can’t take too many 5-drops or your deck gets too clunky. I am still picking this reasonably early, and will be happy to play it up until the point where I have four 5-drops that are better.
In order to make this worth it, you’d have to reliably get bolster 4 out of the deal, and even then it isn’t exciting until it’s bolster 5. That is unlikely to happen, and bolstering a bunch at sorcery speed is not where I want to be. I didn’t like Cached Defenses and this is only a touch better.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller
This is what I call a beatdown. Surrak is gigantic, and even without haste is a very threatening card. When you play him early, he dominates the board, and when you play him late he will usually get to attack right away. He even starts hasting your other creatures, making him a formidable threat indeed.
It is a dark day when black gets better combat tricks than green, but that’s where we are in this set. Tread Upon is a fine card, and will end plenty of games, but offers a small enough bonus that it’s very replaceable.
Top 5 Green Commons
There are really just two categories here, as the top two commons and the next three are in two distinct categories. The first two are awesome, and you will be happy taking them early, and the next three are all good, and pretty interchangeable (and it could easily end up in a different order based on what the format looks like). Green gets some high-quality removal and high-quality creatures, making it look like a good color for any strategy. As usual, it leans a little toward midrange/control, but getting a bunch of good 2- and 3-drops makes me think attacking could work too.
I’ll be finishing things off with multicolored, artifacts, and lands next, after which it’s prerelease time!