The Dragonlords rule Tarkir. A plane once inhabited by
wedge-aligned clans, the reforged timeline has developed ally-color clans
instead. However, that doesn’t mean the old ways are forgotten. Temur blood
flows through my veins, and this is the blood that I shed this weekend at Dragons of Tarkir Game Day. As always,
I like to share the deck I played and talk about how it came together. Here’s
the list I played this weekend:
Ooh, Sick Burn!
This deck has come a long way since I originally began
planning for it. A card I always wanted to make use of was Mindswipe, and I was
determined to build a CounterBurn deck just to do so (CounterBurn decks are
exactly what they sound like: lots of counterspells and burn spells.) Dragons of Tarkir gave us a ton of
great cards for this deck, like Silumgar’s Scorn and Draconic Roar, but they
also require Dragon support to be useful. I put together a Blue/Red list that
ended up in McArtor’s Mentions in this article by gavinverhey (It’s the Izzet
Dragon Time? deck.) I playtested that versions of the deck, but it kept coming
up short. I needed something a little more.
Balancing colors in a deck is a delicate affair. The more
colors you have, the stronger cards you can use and the more effects you can
brandish. However, the more colors you add, the harder it is to get those
colors. We’re in a Standard format that can healthily support wedge decks, so
adding Green wasn’t too difficult. I was just splashing, so it’s not like I
could need a ton of Green sources of mana anyway.
Why splash Green? Sarkhan Unbroken is a good card. The deck
was running Sarkhan, the Dagonspeaker; but he was just more of the same instead
of a supplement to the deck. Sarkhan Unbroken does a few things amazingly well
in the matchups I had problems with (the slow, grindy ones). First, he makes a
4/4 Dragon token. While the Dragonspeaker becomes a 4/4 Dragon, that doesn’t
help power Silumgar’s Scorn or Draconic Roar on an opponent’s turn. Sarkhan
Unbroken’s token also diversifies a single threat. An opponent has to use two
pieces of removal to stop it, one for Sarkhan and one for the token. Finally,
Sarkhan’s plus ability draws me cards in the late game to keep my removal,
counterspells, and Dragons flowing into my hand. Ultimately, Sarkhan Unbroken
was relegated to my sideboard for control matchups; I had better cards to run
against aggro decks.
Green also lets me run the excellent Temur Charm, which
is most often a counterspell. The fight mode lets any of my Dragons take out a
Siege Rhino, however. And the block prevention lets my Dragons push through Hornet
Queen and her token swarm. It’s a card that comes up big in lots of different
In a deck that’s looking to get opponents to 0 life ASAP,
Destructive Revelry is a great sideboard card against enchantment-heavy decks.
I knew that splashing Green would give me access to this tremendously useful
card (I ended up never seeing it in games where I sided it in.)
Finally, a singleton Dragonlord Atarka topped off the
deck’s curve. This deck almost never wants to play Atarka, but she is so
powerful and tempo-grabbing that it’s worth running into her every once in a
while. If the game has stalled long enough, it usually means Atarka will be
claiming a victim or two off of her enter-the-battlefield ability. In
retrospect, I maybe would have rather run a singleton Ætherspouts. One Atarka
was too many; I wish I could run a half of a card.
Well all that’s great, but how does this deck actually
work? There are some control cards like Silumgar’s Scorn and Dig Through Time,
some burn cards like Anger of the Gods and Roast, and some big fat fatty Dragons.
It seems like these things would all belong in three different decks, but they
work together as a cohesive, if frenetic, whole.
This is a control deck, but it isn’t. This is an aggro
deck, but it isn’t. This is a midrange deck, but only sort of. Tempo is the
theme tying this whole deck together, making this one of the most difficult to
play decks I’ve ever built. Timing is everything. When do you play like a
control deck? When do I become the beatdown? What role is this deck playing on
this turn vs. next turn? There are a lot of things to keep in mind when playing
this deck, and I highly recommend reading Reid Duke’s column on the mothership, Level One,
to get more details on these inquiries.
Anyway, what are the answers to these questions? In the
early stage of the game, this deck is a permission-based control deck. I want
to sit there and counter everything I can. I want to burn everything I don’t
counter. I want to make my opponent frustrated because they cannot get a card
to stick to the battlefield.
Suddenly, like a raging tempest, this deck switches into
an aggressive mode. Once my opponent’s hand is depleted and they run out of
threats, it’s my turn. Dragon after Dragon hits the battlefield. My opponent is
left reeling from the onslaught. Removing Thunderbreak Regent only brings them
close to death. Hero’s Downfall if you want; there’s just another Dragon coming
next turn. When to make this shift varies depending on the matchup and flow of
the game, but this is the shift this deck is designed to make. It’s a
passive-aggressive nightmare for any deck that isn’t flexible enough to keep
I ended the day fourth overall. Bad luck factored into a
few of my losses, mishandled tempo into the others. Like I said, this is a
difficult deck to play. I would have loved to have more time to tease out the intricacies
of sequencing. The games I won were rarely close. I raced some Siege Rhinos in
a close finish, but most victories were absolute. I got my fancy Thunderbreak Regent promo for Commander and opened a Dragonlord Atarka in my prize packs, so it was a great day through and through.
I hope you all had pleasant experiences on Game Day,
planeswalkers, and I hope Magic is
full of more pleasant experiences in the future.