These are the top 9 cards I’m most interested to work with from Dragons of Tarkir. While I have them ranked by overall impact, the actual values may fluctuate once we have a metagame to sort it out. Just a quick note: I’ll be looking at what each card brings to the current decks in the format—rather than which cards have the greatest potential to spawn new archetypes.
#8 & 9: Secure the Wastes/Dragon Fodder
Both of these slide directly into Jeskai Tokens and potentially a straight RW token plan leaning on flooding the board. While Jeskai Ascendancy is a huge card to give up, it’s worth remembering that two-color mana bases are far superior and quad-Outpost Siege is a huge gain. Dragon Fodder is one of those easy additions where it helps minimize color commitments, maximize other synergy (Stoke and Rabblemaster specifically), and there’s practically no downgrade against competent opposition.
Secure the Wastes is often just going to be an instant setup card for Jeskai Ascendancy kill turns. Adding instant to Hordeling Outburst for an extra mana isn’t a great deal by any stretch, but being able to Decree of Justice it later in the game is worth a slot or two. I’d jam a pair to start with and see if your Jeskai Tokens deck really wants it over the cheaper enablers.
#7: Dragonlord Silumgar
A fatter Sower of Temptation that can also jack planeswalkers and minus them for immediate value. While this iteration of Silumgar is weak to removal, he’s got a powerful enough ability to be worth the risk. What I like about the investment in this Dragon over the others is that Silumgar can actually turn a game around. You invest a lot of mana in a vulnerable card, but the payoff is that you have a very worthy blocker and stole their best threat on the table. Borrowing a Tasigur or Stormbreath Dragon is potentially game-changing and haumphing a Sarkhan to kill an opposing creature definitely is.
#6: Shorecrasher Elemental
So this is what we get to try and reinvigorate Mono-Blue Devotion for a few months. This is quite the interesting card, one that wouldn’t have any real impact on the metagame except for what it does to enable Thassa, God of the Sea. Let’s cut to the chase regarding why we want to play this deck in the first place. Master of Waves is outright bad against half the metagame and hardly overpowering against the remainder. No, what’s scary is the return of Thassa, one of the best finishers for any aggressive strategy and one that also filters cards to keep the gas flowing.
I’ve built the deck with a heavy countermagic plan in mind, because I feel like it’s the best way to beat the midrange decks. They have to play spells to keep up with anemic beatdown, let alone Thassa. If they want to stall and play around countermagic it’ll be a glacial effort. Silumgar Sorcerer also may not have a good enough rate for Standard, but countering a 4- or 5-drop with it and netting UU for devotion isn’t bad at all. Honestly I think it may be a dollar and a 2-drop short of being viable, but I could see kicking it around.
#5: Dromoka’s Command
Nothing special to look at here, just good ol’ unbridled efficiency. All of the options have a valid place on the card and unlike some of the other Commands, pretty much every combination of abilities adds up to 2 mana. This seems perfect in GW Devotion as it beats Mastery of the Unseen in the mirror and both fight and +1/+1 can make combat difficult. Against other matches where Stoke the Flames is relevant, the Command can make life very awkward for your opponents.
#4: Blood-Chin Rager
This is one of the sneaky best additions to any deck from Dragons of Tarkir. It fits into the black Warriors decks perfectly by providing a single-colored 2-drop that gives your Warriors some useful evasion. It makes Chief of the Edge and your 1-drops better by default and Obelisk of Urd can still name Human or Warrior and cover the majority of your creatures. Obelisk and Blood-Chin in particular are besties because of how much damage you can force through as well as forcing awkward blocks against your removal.
This still might not make the deck strong enough to be a real presence, but Rager certainly helps at FNM against the Siege Rhino squad.
#3: Narset Transcendent
Narset is interesting because she’s UW Domri Rade and goes against what you want to do with Ojutai’s Command. You really want to run as few creatures as possible and the Command is just awful if you aren’t buying back a 2-drop with it. So you essentially rule that card out of the deck by going the Narset route. Is that a bad thing? Probably not. The next question is if you how heavily you want to invest in protecting her versus relying on her high loyalty count. Part of the reason to play her is because she likely won’t die to one attack, so jamming her onto your empty board and activating the plus ability isn’t unreasonable.
In this build I fully accept that I’m running the bare minimum of early-game interaction. Instead I’m assuming that slow creatures decks are the norm, so I only need to kill a threat or two to assure Narset is safe. Even if something happens to her, Dig and Anticipate find a second one. If they choose to instead flood the board and wipe you out before Narset matters, then End Hostilities and Elspeth do crowd control. A fourth sweeper may be in order simply because she’s so good when you keep board control.
Honestly, the rebound is probably the least interesting part about her unless you fire off a Dig Through Time with it. If you manage that fun combo, good luck losing that game. It’s a lot more powerful in Jeskai, since you can do fun things like Narset, minus, tap creatures to Stoke the Flames on the same turn or cast Treasure Cruise for a single mana. Of course the downside there is it competes with Jeskai Ascendancy, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Outpost Siege.
Narset is by no means some overpowered planeswalker you absolutely need to have a plan against. She’s in the same vein as Ashiok, Jace Beleren, and Jace, Memory Adept: ‘walkers that can generate some significant advantage over time but are bad against aggro.
#2: Dragon Whisperer
For anyone who was sad when Red Devotion lost Boros Reckoner and friends this may give you some hope. Not only does Dragon Whisperer go straight into that deck, but any mono-red plan willing to sink excess mana is going to love this creature. Thanks to Outpost Siege it’s very realistic to hit a stage of the game where the opponent is at 8-12 life and you have six or seven mana. She’s a very scary card against the decks that aren’t running black and while formidable will likely be an afterthought, activating it once or twice is almost assuredly game-ending.
I Anticipate that many of you had already anticipated what the most anticipated card for blue players is. As someone whose favorite decks include Faeries and Caw-Blade, I’m always interested when I see cheap card filtering. This is the closest card to Impulse we’ve had, and I’d rather compare it to that than Telling Time. More often than not I saw Telling Time leaving a card on top as a drawback rather than a benefit. I’d rather filter through my top three than be stuck putting one back. Remember, Ponder didn’t see a ton of play without fetches.
Anticipate digs deeper for a card with no restrictions attached than any other cheap filtering option in years. It also fills the gap left from Think Twice leaving the format, where you just wanted some cheap library manipulation either to help smooth early mana woes or do something when the opponent didn’t present a worthwhile threat to answer.
This is easily the slam dunk of the set and is only a common. It may not be Treasure-Cruise-strong, but this is a card Standard control and aggro-control decks really wanted to see. It also helps fringe players like the Jeskai Ascendancy Combo deck and is probably worthwhile in some slower Jeskai Midrange decks as well.
There are plenty of other cards from Dragons of Tarkir to talk about, Dragonlord Atarka and Sidisi, Undead Vizier being the two major standouts. However that’ll have to wait a week when we delve into rebuilding some older archetypes, Frontier Siege Ramp and Constellation Whip, with these in mind. Right now Dragons of Tarkir looks like it’ll follow in the footsteps of Fate Reforged and bring a lot of new potential playables to the table.
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