Dragons of Tarkir Modern Set Review, Part 1

It’s all but guaranteed that every new Magic set will shake up Standard and give us new tools to work with. However, we’re usually lucky if we can find even a single gem that might make its way into the non-rotating formats like Legacy and Modern. Dragons of Tarkir has a chance to break the mold, offering an astounding number of cards that could realistically see Modern play.

I’ve selected about two dozen cards that meet my bar of “Modern playable.” While I don’t necessarily predict a complete revolution of the format, it’s exciting to see so many cards that we’re likely to see sprinkled into tournament decks in the next few years. Some offer some great utility, others are upgrades to existing cards, and a handful might be game-breaking bombs if you can find the right matchups or circumstances for them.

The Commands

This cycle of cards looks to represent Dragons of Tarkir‘s greatest contribution to Modern. These cards are tremendously flexible, relatively powerful, and worth paying attention to in a format as diverse as Modern.

Of the five, Dromoka’s Command and Silumgar’s Command might fall just a bit below the bar of Modern playable. That said, they’re very close and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was proven wrong.

Dromoka’s Command

Dromoka’s Command is likely quite good in Standard, but a little bit underpowered and narrow by the standards of Modern. If it could kill artifacts in addition to enchantments, I’d be on board, but for now I’m unconvinced.

Silumgar’s Command

Silumgar’s Command is good, but compares unfavorably to Cryptic Command, although it is a bit easier to cast for some decks.

Ojutai’s Command

Ojutai’s Command does one thing that Cryptic Command cannot do, which is gain life. This is important for two reasons: First, Burn is one of the most popular decks in Modern, and Zoo and other aggressive strategies are ever present as well. Second, most blue decks play four Snapcaster Mages, so having even a single card that can provide a life gain effect will make a huge difference in a long game. Along those lines, once you get to seven or more mana, you can do some cool things by returning Snapcaster Mage from your graveyard to play! I’d look for Ojutai’s Command to become a one-of in slow UW decks with Snapcaster Mage, especially the ones that don’t have access to red for Lightning Helix.

Kolaghan’s Command

Kolaghan’s Command strikes a chord with me because it might be a good fit for my beloved Jund deck. Jund is a fiend for 2-for-1 card advantage of any kind, and Kolaghan’s Command has a number of ways to provide it. Destroying an artifact and Shocking a creature are both realistic ways to impact the board, ensuring that your card advantage spell won’t leave you too far behind in tempo. Against Affinity in particular, using these two modes together is likely to decimate them. It’s not quite as good as Ancient Grudge, but between its status as a possible maindeck card and its application in other matchups, it might be better use of a slot.

Returning a creature from your graveyard to your hand is excellent in grindy matchups like Abzan, Delver, or control. The creatures in Modern, like Tarmogoyf, are quite capable of dominating a game on their own. Finally, making your opponent discard a card isn’t stellar, but I quite like it as a “secondary mode” since it’s guaranteed to give value and will make sure Kolaghan’s Command is always a 2-for-1. Remember that you can use it in your opponent’s draw step at instant speed!

Atarka’s Command

Finally we come to Atarka’s Command, whose home in Modern is virtually guaranteed. Atarka’s Command can always simply be used as Skullcrack, which is an excellent card in Modern already. If you have an unblocked creature, you can combine the “3 damage” mode with the “pump your creatures” mode to make it into a Boros Charm (which is also an excellent card in Modern). The ceiling for Atarka’s Command is even higher as you might have multiple creatures attacking, or might use the pump to save your creatures (like Monastery Swiftspear from a Lightning Bolt), or kill opposing creatures in combat.

Skullcrack isn’t likely to go extinct, since some decks will still prefer the mono-red card, and others with want to play more than four copies of the effect. However, especially because so many Burn players opt to splash green for Destructive Revelry anyway, I expect to see a fair number of Atarka’s Commands in Modern.

Check back later this week when I cover some standalone cards which are capable of exciting things in Modern.

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