It's already time to take a look at another set? Really? Wizards really keeps the new cards flowing this season, don't they? Now, let me get this out of the way first: Dragons of Tarkir isn't another Khans of Tarkir for Eternal formats. There's nothing even close to Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time in here, and in general, there are few cards with strong Eternal potential. There are a couple though, and speculating about those will be the first thing I'll end up doing today. There also are a lot of cards that have me thinking for other formats or some other musings I feel like sharing, so expect a long list of mentions and comments to round things out once I've dealt with the Eternal cards. Lots to talk about, so let's stop wasting time and get going!
Let's start with the one card from the set that I believe will have a really big effect on Legacy:
This card is pretty deep, and I could see it play a major role in a number of decks. Played on turn 1, Myth Realized plays out a lot like a Monastery Swiftspear that trades the ability to deal an extra point per attack in so that the prowess triggers don't wear off at the end of turn. If you think back to how easy it was to make Swiftspear repeatedly attack for three or even four damage in U/R Delver before even casting Treasure Cruise, you should easily agree that, played on turn 1, this easily has the potential to come in for five or more damage starting turn 3. That kind of sequence overtakes Delver of Secrets for damage output on turn 4 already.
So the first role Myth Realized can fill is that of Delvers five to eight, and it can do so on a similar power level with a few different strengths and weaknesses. Concerning advantages, this is less random than Delver (not relying on the top of your library being what you want), can only be bolted if you're fine with it (just don't activate it before it has the fourth counter), usually ignores sorcery speed sweepers, and will actually clock a lot harder when things go according to plan. As for disadvantages, it costs mana to attack with (pretty big given on how tight a curve Delver strategies operate on in the earlygame), it's more likely to be stopped by removal before getting in damage (given that you're likely to wait until turn 3 to activate it, thereby allowing the opponent to prepare), and it's an even worse topdeck when empty-handed. In short, this card should be about as good as Delver in a blue-based tempo strategy, and we all know how busted Delver has turned out to be. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw something along these lines taking names in Legacy events in the near future:
The fact that this is so much harder to deal with than Delver of Secrets, ignores your own sweepers, and can go much bigger means it has the potential to play a very different role too - that of a mana efficient, earlygame-relevant finisher for control decks that operate similar to my Golddigger deck. It gives a deck like that a secondary gameplan of going early beatdown (especially to kill something like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Liliana of the Veil), will often be able to end things in just two or three swings in the lategame if it has been sitting in play for a couple of turns (having a single spare mana lying around to set it up while defending shouldn't be that hard to do), and gives you a convenient way to take some advantage of unused mana after you've kept up to react on your opponent's turn. Maybe an Esper version of Golddigger influenced by the Dig Through Time shell I developed for the Dragon deck?
In fact, it's decent enough in all of these roles that I could also see it making its way into Miracles if that deck had any room for finishers, though Entreat the Angels is powerful enough that I have my doubts it's worth the maindeck space. It might be worth it in the sideboard either way depending on how high the power level turns out to be in the end and how prevalent planeswalkers end up being, especially given how awesome it is with two Tops turning mana into more counters on your turn.
The other card with definite Eternal potential, though I'm a lot less sure it has a home somewhere, is:
The reason I think this has potential is that I'd have loved to have access to this in CAB Jace in what I now kind of already have to call "back in the day." That deck was looking for a low colored mana commitment instant to win the game with for Cunning Wish purposes, and this would definitely have qualified. Lingering Souls has proven how good getting a bunch of 1/1s for a single card can be, and the upper end of this is actually stronger than Souls. What holds it back is that there is no current deck I can think of that is actually in the market for this kind of finisher. However, I've felt for a while that there could be a B/W tokens list out there with the potential to be a player, and maybe this is what the deck was missing to finally become an option. Something roughly along these lines in spite of the curve issues maybe?
This is large enough for a three mana play that contains two colorless mana that it might be interesting for Dragon Stompy-style strategies. Between this and Goblin Rabblemaster, you have two three-mana threats that are going to end the game really fast if unanswered, and ensuring the unanswered part is what Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere are for, after all.
I honestly doubt this is good enough (just looking at Silverblade Paladin), but this has a couple of advantages (like not having to stay in play to make the first attack work), and Mirran Crusader has seen a modest amount of Legacy play so I wouldn't completely count it out in the blind.
I'm not mentioning this for the card it is - though white getting Smother is interesting for other formats--but because between this, Journey to Nowhere, and Chained to the Rocks, there might be the beginnings of a different kind of Enchantress deck here. Once we have enough removal spells that also happen to be Enchantments, it could easily become possible to build an Enchantress deck that can play a much more normal control game than traditional prison Enchantress strategies that mostly had to rely on finally resolving an expensive permanent to really deal with the board, something that isn't easy to do against Dazes and Delvers.
Heck, this might even be another home for Myth Realized now that I think about it…
I only mention this one for completeness' sake as it's yet another option to deal with True-Name Nemesis and Young Pyromancer. As to who might want it, decks with enough easily sacrificed 1/1s come to mind (Veteran Explorer, Lingering Souls).
This is mainly relevant for Modern, but it has some minor Legacy implications. Combust already filled this role to a certain extent, but this is an even cheaper uncounterable answer to Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch in Modern. Having to keep up R instead of 1R is a huge difference. It's also a decent tool to fight Delver itself in Legacy for decks that are particularly vulnerable to it (also hits Stoneforge Mystic against Jeskai and most hate bears for combo decks like Storm that would kind of enjoy having an easy way to get rid of Delvers' clock, though I'm still not sure it'd be worth boarding in against anything but Jeskai and its Meddling Mages).
Onto More General Observations
As I said, there isn't too much in here with obvious Eternal applications, and yet there are a lot of cards I have at least a few words to say about. These comments will range from game philosophical and design related comments to formats that aren't my forte', but I hope you'll enjoy them anyway.
No, this isn't a good card. Still I can't help but love it for some reason. It even had me laughing when I saw it in the spoiler. Also a clear sign how creature design has evolved given that it's still a Savannah Lions with an upside (you'll just have to believe me that Savannah Lions was a Constructed card at some point).
Somehow this card really drove home to me that Wizards is trying to fix the issues of Auras in the same way they've made creatures in the game's preeminent card type: turning them into spells in addition to their usual effect. I realize that this has been going on for a while now, but for some reason this card was what really opened my eyes to it.
This whole cycle of two mana morphs with really decent flip triggers would be awesome for Eternal formats if only they hadn't changed the errata on Illusionary Mask away from the "flip at will" wording. Something to look out for in the future!
This whole cycle is my pick for worst designed feature of Dragons of Tarkir. I get that the dragon set is supposed to have a ton of Limited-viable Dragons and that making a Megamorph (terrible name, by the way, sounds far too much like children's anime) Dragon cycle was rather obvious, but these are exactly what Dragons should not be. The impact on first look - a 3/3 flyer for six? Ugh - is just too off-putting to my mind. Dragons are supposed to be awesome huge flyers, not overcosted Hill Giants with some keywords and an even more expensive morph ability. Thoroughly unappealing design.
Now, this is obviously irrelevant for Legacy and Vintage, seeing as it's a strictly worse Impulse (in the actual sense even - I can't construct a scenario where looking at one less card is a net positive), and Impulse isn't seeing any play between Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain. However, for Modern and Standard, getting this kind of library manipulation is actually quite remarkable. Impulse, even for three cards, is quite a powerful card and especially good if you are trying to either assemble a combo (hey, Splinter Twin) or match the correct narrow answers to the fitting threats (hey, Standard control decks).
Another just strictly worse version of an old staple - Dismiss this time. I'm not sure if there's any chance of a five mana counterspell seeing play in Standard (drawing a card is a nice pay off, but I could be three for one-ing with Jace's Ingenuity too), but I'll be following this card's run in Standard with interest. After all, if it turns out not to be playable, it might be a sign that Dismiss and similar cards could be fine to print for modern Standard straight up, which would be awesome.
This is a pretty awesome deal if you manage to exile Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time. Not only do you get a four mana 8/8 (which I hope is still a playable card in Standard), but you also get to draw some more cards or eat chump blockers if the 8/8 racing isn't likely to be good enough.
I've played some Hearthstone in the past, and one card that's really good in that game is a two mana 2/1 that draws a card when it dies. I like that R&D has started to seriously explore that design space between these and Jeskai Sage, as I think it's a pretty fun way to help make creatures palatable to players that like the kinds of things I do.
Wizards has kept the devotion strategies other than green in check for Standard since Khans of Tarkir by keeping enough decent enablers away from them. It looks to me like they've decided to allow a potential last hurrah for at least blue devotion now with these new tools. Profaner of the Dead in particular has the potential to be a totally busted tool by Exploting either a pumped Shorecrasher Elemental or a Thassa to clear up the opponent's whole board and enable a lethal alpha strike.
Force Spike is actually a rather powerful effect in Standard already because curves go so high, and once you have five or six Dragons in your deck - which, fittingly enough, might all be different versions of Silumgar - this is rather likely to upgrade to Counterspell on a regular basis. Counterspell is awesome so I fully approve of this card.
I already mentioned how Wizards seems to give non-green devotion strategies some tools to work with before they rotate out in fall, and these do for black devotion what Profaner of the Dead and friends do for blue. If this plays out, we probably end with something more aggressive than last Standard's black devotion deck - Blood-Chin Fanatic and Gray Merchant of Asphodel make for a lot of reach in a black aggressive midrange strategy after all.
This seems excellent for U/B Control in Standard. You already want to kill all opposing threats, making Edict effects decent and lifegain is something the deck was lacking already. Given that Silumgar's Scorn already gives us incentive to make our finishers Silumgars, this fits right into the deck.
I have to assume the pay off on this in an aggressive deck is high enough in Standard to make this at least a consideration. Five power for three mana is a lot. In fact, if there's finally a working version of Demon Stompy, this would fit right in.
A red faux Braingeyser is neat if far too weak for play outside of Standard (where I assume Outpost Siege is just better). I simply love that WotC has found a mechanic to give red card advantage tools that truly feel red. Good work, now it's time to look at white and black, guys!
If you have enough Dragons in your deck, this is pretty busted for an aggressive red deck (similar to Searing Blaze).
Well, I had blue and black. Here's the red one. The higher end of the curve was already there for red devotion and now between this, Eidolon of the Great Revel, and Mardu Scout, we have enough two-drops to get going in the first place.
Don't undervalue this for Standard Mono-Red. With Dash, this is essentially a buyback Fireball to the face on an empty board or one with only sorcery interaction being likely.
So Fire is finally a card on its own, huh? It's taken a while.
Clearly a must-include in Standard Mono-Red. In fact, it might actually be good enough for Modern or Legacy Burn as a 2/2 for one that has haste later in the game.
So this is Doran as an enchantment that has great synergy with Sylvan Caryatid, Wall of Roots, Wall of Blossoms, and Wall of Omens, all good cards in themselves. I'm somewhat doubtful that this is a Eternal/Modern viable strategy yet, but these kinds of cards are something to keep in mind given that there are already a number of cards I wouldn't be embarrassed to play anyway to enable with it.
I love this card, even though I'm likely never playing with it myself. It's a lot like a green Fact or Fiction that's significantly better than the blue instant if it works at full capacity seeing as it also "casts" the drawn cards for free. This needs a deck very much built around it, and I don't feel like I've gotten a good enough handle on it to provide a list. That being said, Eternal Witness, Dark Confidant, Kitchen Finks, Tarmogoyf, and Knight of the Reliquary are all eligible targets so I'd be surprised if there wasn't some way to get this to work. Of note: Congregation at Dawn can always make sure this'll hit twice, and if you can figure out some game-winning combo to put into play with Collected Company, that might even prove awesome. I haven't yet though. The closest I've come is searching for Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Kitchen Finks, and Viscera Seer during the opponent's end step. Drawing the Seer allows you to gain as much life as you want and scry into a Murderous Redcap for five mana. Maybe that's good enough already?
These effects that cheapen some core block mechanic have never been good enough as far as I remember, but given that there are three decent cheap enchantments to take advantage of and the rich amount of naturally decent morph creatures in Dragons of Tarkir, the Morph deck might actually be a thing in Standard. If that's the case, Obscuring Aether will be awesome in it.
Yet another interesting design ruined by Tarmogoyf existing as it doesn't look like there are enough cheap dragons to enable this in Standard in a deck that wants a two mana 3/4, though it might turn out to be good enough as a curve filler akin to Fleecemane Lion in G/W Devotion. It does represent two green devotion, after all.
A four mana 5/4 haste is a strong proposition in and of itself, and given that this provides five of the necessary eight power all by itself, it really isn't too tough to make Surrak that card - and afterwards your Whisperwoods and Polukranos will be able to take advantage too. I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be extremely powerful in Standard.
Well, Skullcrack 5-8 might interest Modern Burn, especially given that the pump ability might mean an extra point or two when you don't need to stop lifegain, making this better than Skullcrack as long as you have the green mana anyway.
So this is basically a seven-toughness Baneslayer Angel that can't be countered and makes your turns safe? I expect to see this in Standard for sure, as the power level seems pretty absurd as long as you've bled out opposing removal with Siege Rhinos and Surraks. It even forces opponents to spend mana on their turn on removal even if it does get dealt with as soon as possible, often either messing up a Jace's Ingenuity turn.
The swing this produces against no removal in Standard is just insane given what creatures look like lately. I wouldn't be surprised if this saw a lot of play, especially if the U/B Control decks turn towards enabling the "reveal a dragon" spells I already talked about.
I'd argue this is the best Command for current Standard. It's cheap, and I've already been wondering why people don't play maindeck Enchantment removal given that almost any deck will give you targets. The counter plus fight mode is decent removal for G/W already.
Unsurprisingly, I really like the looks of this one, what with it pushing you towards playing as many spells as possible and drawing cards. Sadly, for Legacy, all that needs to be said about this are four words: Jace, the Mind Sculptor. However, I think this might be the four-mana control planeswalker Modern has been looking for. Sure, traditionally planeswalkers that can't protect themselves are unlikely to see play, but seven loyalty counts as a pretty decent way to protect itself in my book. The plus one will likely draw a card every other turn in decks that want it, and the minus ability is quite powerful with Lightning Helix, Supreme Verdict, and any form of actual draw spell.
Hey, Pristine Angel 2.0. When that card was around, it didn't see any play that I remember, but then Psychatog and much cheaper removal were part of Standard at that point, so today might be very different. I actually think this - or Ojutai Examplars, depending on if you want the Dragon card type, which is why you're seeing it above in addition to the Skywise - might be better finishers for a U/W/X control deck in Standard than Ojutai itself, especially one that omits sweepers for a lot of instant speed one-for-one interaction.
Obviously a very good card, I particularly like how the plus one ability gives you a little of everything you need to get ahead in the game (mana and cards).
Adrian Sullivan played Azorius Keyrune in his U/W Sphinx's Revelation deck, and these are actually reasonably close to Celestial Colonnade in functionality that I wouldn't be surprised if these become common inclusions in Standard U/W and U/B control decks, especially given that they allow us to ramp perfectly into the turn 4 sweeper of old in spite of said sweeper now costing five mana.
So Aeolipile really is too good for Magic now. For shame.
This is interesting because it means you could play a sixteen fetchland eight-to-nine real lands manabase in allied colors in Standard at this point and have decent fixing and delve enabling both built into your manabase. Definitely something to keep in mind.
All the Dragons
Well, I guess there was a lot I wanted to say about Dragons of Tarkir in spite of it being reasonably low on Eternal relevant cards. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the way the set looks, and I really like some of the designs, though it's still a far cry from being as awesome as Khans of Tarkir. They can't really do something awesome such as finally printing and really pushing delve every set though, so I won't make that my barrier for being happy with how a set looks.
Instead, what I hope to see in new sets are a couple of cards for us Eternal players to think about, some interesting open ended design, and some sweet, flexible cards sprinkled with decent to awesome flavor - and that's something Dragons of Tarkir definitely delivers on. In short, Dragons isn't the most awesome set ever, but it is one I'm very much going to enjoy. I just hope Wizards design and R&D will keep going on this level for the foreseeable future, and we should have a grand old time playing this game we love.