You would think that not much could have changed since my last article on Tuesday. Two days isn't really enough time to make new and bold statements about a premature format, but in my eyes everything has been flipped on its head. This was enough time for me to record five set reviews with Evan Erwin as well as record multiple Versus Videos with Brain Braun-Duin and Todd Anderson. This mountain of content came with an even larger amount of preparation, and in this time I have been able to theory craft my way into not stumbling all over the place when I talk about the new 264 cards that have come out of Dragons of Tarkir. The future is bright, my dear friends, and it is time to find homes for all of our new toys!
One of the most important things I have learned in the last couple days is that most of the cards in Dragons of Tarkir are role players. The main haymakers in the format are not going to change. We already have well-oiled machines that don't need a complete overhaul, but they could use some big upgrades.
None more apparent than Abzan Midrange.
With only three new cards in the entire 75 you would think things wouldn't be changing that significantly. That's until you realize how unbelievable Thoughtseize and Duress are when followed up by Tasigur, the Golden Fang. This is exactly what Abzan Midrange needed to have a great matchup against control decks. People keep saying the days of control dominating the format are finally here, but it seems like people have forgotten how seven to eight hand disruption spells can put a damper on trying to get to a lategame. Control sure can live off the top of the deck, but not as reliably as Abzan can. Read the Bones, Abzan Charm, Courser of Kruphix, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang all give this deck a reliable way of gaining card advantage while Thoughtseize and Duress do their best Reggie White impression.
Ultimate Price is also a great pick up for this deck. I always liked playing with a Murderous Cut in this deck but only because I wanted another cheap removal spell in the later turns. I still get that, but it is also a two-drop this deck desperately needed!
Here, we have Dromoka's Command. I'm going to have to rehash the discussion on this card since my evaluations of it have changed. Originally I wanted to build decks around playing four in the maindeck, but I just don't think this card is good enough for that. After some games, I realized this is just the best Erase replacement out there. This card is perfect for the R/W Aggro matchup but not much outside of that. It can protect you from burn spells in the lategame, save a Courser of Kruphix from Stoke the Flames in more ways than one, and last but not least, kill Goblin Rabblemaster and Chained to the Rocks. I have high hopes for this card to be good in the situations I want it to be, but I don't expect this card to do much heavy lifting outside of where I want it.
One command I do have high hopes for is the only one I haven't seen people talk much about.
Pure two-for-ones are difficult to come by in Standard and often become premium spells due to this fact. Most of them take the form of proactive cards, which may have been the reason for this card being disguised so well. So what does Kolaghan's Command actually do?
Well it's a three-drop that only gets cast on turn 3 against aggressive decks. One's where your opponent has creatures like Seeker of the Way, Soulfire Grand Master, Foundry Street Denizen, Elvish Mystic, or Goblin Rabblemaster. In these situations you will be using the fourth mode to kill a creature and end up snagging a free card from their hand in the process. Cards add up extremely fast in this format, and making an opponent discard a card in the early turns while clearing their board in the process should prove to be really good.
Kolaghan's Command also has some serious implications in matchups where they don't have access to early creatures. It's going to help a Mardu deck bridge the gap between removal and creatures. If you take control decks out of the mix, Standard is all about playing a healthy mix of creatures and removal spells. Sometimes you draw too many of one or the other, but for the most part you need to have plenty of each. Kolaghan's Command helps by being removal in the early turns while having the ability to return a Butcher of the Horde in the lategame back to your hand. Sometimes it will even be able to snag the removal spell waiting for it from their hand. Talk about a cosmic joke.
So what about when we jump on the tracks and head down to Magical Christmas Land? This card has the potential to do some messed up things with Soulfire Grand Master. With access to seven mana, you will be able to threaten to discard lock them by casting this on their draw step. The only thing that gets them out of this is a removal spell, but you will be able to do it one last time and return the Soulfire Grand Master to your hand if you want to. The options are really limitless.
The Shatter effect on this card isn't even that bad when you consider the fact that Whip of Erebos has always been the best strategy against traditional Mardu decks. Now I don't know how popular Whip of Erebos is going to be these days, but it has had sparingly decent results over the course of its existence.
This doesn't look like any Mardu deck that's been on the market before. Kolaghan's Command breathes new light into the decaying archetype by allowing it to take on a whole new gameplan in sideboard games. Against control, Kolaghan's Command will allow the deck to gain card advantage by returning a Goblin Rabblemaster while forcing them to discard. This allows us to be much more attrition-based against them, which is why we are complementing the card with additional hand disruption. We will be using this card against other R/W creature-based decks to give us a little bit more attrition to complement the Outpost Sieges. Either way, it will be a huge asset in sideboard games when everything slows down a little bit.
Moving forward, we have another deck that has also lost its place in the spotlight in the past couple months. Jeskai Tokens has went from one of the most powerful and popular decks to almost being non-existent. I don't entirely know the reason for its disappearance as of late, but I can assure you that this set is filled with cards happily willing to try to give it another chance.
Everyone is talking about how great this card is going to be in control shells. While I don't doubt this to be true, I am curious why this card hasn't been discussed in a Jeskai Tokens shell. Anticipate feels like the type of card that will perform much better in a more tempo-based deck that is always looking for something specific than in a reactive deck filled with removal spells. This is not card advantage, it's card filtering. After all, control decks never looked to Ponder when it was in Standard which leads me to believe this will end up being a bust in future control shells.
Narset is another card that has control players freaking out, but I figure it to be higher impact in a tempo-based deck. The idea of having a steady stream of cards coming in while controlling a game sounds like something I would sign up for, but every list I have seen showcasing this card looks unimaginative and lackluster. I would much rather play Narset Transcendent in a deck that can protect it in some way while also having proactive reasons to activate its second ability.
The maindeck has not changed much from previous days. Yuuya Watanabe recently shocked the world with his innovative take on this deck with Citadel Siege at Grand Prix Miami, but I think the days of playing that card are already behind us due to the fact that so many people are going to be playing Dromoka's Command and control decks. I would much rather go back to the roots and simply play Anticipate over some of the commonly useless burn spells.
The sideboard is where things get interesting. Jeskai Ascendancy is often times strong enough on its own to win a game, but it becomes the victim of every spell your opponent has to target it. This is when Narset Transcendent comes in to save the day and continue the trail of card advantage. Hero's Downfall is actively bad in this matchup, which makes Glare of Heresy one of the only ways to get this card off the board once it resolves.
Secure the Wastes is another card people have been talking about but misplacing it in the maindeck. This card has the potential to be one of the most powerful cards out of this set, but not in a game 1 environment. I have to sound like a broken record by now, but there is a major difference between how a game 1 plays out and how it changes once sideboards get into the mix. Games slow down since both players have more efficient removal. This is the perfect time for a card like this to come down at the end of a turn and become lethal with a Jeskai Ascendancy that was being sandbagged for this exact situation. Move over Elspeth, Sun's Champion, we have a combo finish again!
Last on my list are two cards I sadly can't find homes for. I keep searching and searching, but the realtors are just non-responsive.
Sarkhan Unbroken feels like it should be a very well-positioned card as long as Crackling Doom isn't highly played, yet all of the lists I put it in feel either too fast for it, or too slow. Cards like Sarkhan Unbroken want to be surrounded by removal spells, but the last time I checked Temur Control doesn't seem like the type of thing I want to take up against Abzan Midrange or U/B Control. The advantages you get by being a control deck come from the premium removal spells you have access to, like Hero's Downfall and Thoughtseize. Without them, you are forced to take a much more aggressive role against decks with planeswalkers and other controlling elements.
Once we go down the path of adding Savage Knuckleblade and mana creatures into the mix, we find ourselves not having enough room for the removal spells needed to protect Sarkhan Unbroken. You always think you can block Goblin Rabblemaster in theory, but in reality your face is often the last line of defense.
It might be that I have not tested enough with Sarkhan, but I am having a difficult time finding the right shell. I just fear that it might be out there and will take me by surprise at the Season One Invitational next weekend. I can assure you that this card is a high priority for understanding in the next week.
Deathmist Raptor also feels like an absolutely amazing creature that needs a home. I've heard such polarizing views on it, which is hilarious to me since it shows just how spoiled we have become. Raptor seems amazing in any shell that can play Rattleclaw Mystic or Whisperwood Elemental. It might not stand tall against a deck like G/W Devotion, but the annoying side of constantly coming back might be enough for it to be included into the deck itself. Maybe this is just the replacement for Fleecemane Lion? You might not have any other morphs to go along with Deathmist Raptor, but it will trigger off of any Manifest that gets flipped up. This will, of course, happen if you watched any of Grand Prix Miami coverage.
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Genesis Hydra
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 1 Temur Sabertooth
- 4 Voyaging Satyr
- 4 Whisperwood Elemental
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
Who knows if this deck is going to be good enough to continue to be a contender, but I won't be one to ignore it. Grand Prix Miami might have been the easiest Grand Prix I ever played in, with me conceding the last round to let my brother qualify for the Pro Tour. It might have a difficult time dealing with Mantis Rider, but they have to be flying first. I don't actually know how well-positioned those insects will be now that dragons have taken over the airways.
I hope everyone has fun this weekend cracking packs filled with dragons. I know I will be enjoying myself here in Roanoke at the StarCity Game Center. Join me next week when I do battle against those other newbs in the Versus Videos and bring you more information gained as I work diligently to keep up the front that I am still good at this game!