Dragons of Tarkir is finally here!
As a Dragon aficionado, I can say that I am quite thrilled for what the new set has to offer, and while it was love at first sight with cards like the new Elder Dragons and Thunderbreak Regent, I have to say that the card that I am the most excited for is Dromoka's Command.
If we learned anything from the charm cycle that was in Return to Ravnica, it was that having such flexibility for only two mana can be extremely powerful. Much like this cycle, we see the command cycle give a nod to the powerful cycle of cards from Lorwyn with the same surname.
Dromoka's and Atarka's Commands are both only two mana, and I think that they are going to be huge role players as this new Standard format shapes up. I don't see them getting any worse since new sets will come out and old ones will rotate. It's not like they're going to stop printing creatures to use Dromoka's Command with, or burn spells to pair with Atarka's Command.
With Dromoka's Command being so obviously powerful, I'm sure a lot of people are going to be talking about it. Trying to analyze just how good it is or why the card is good isn't something that I'm interested in since we already know that it's going to be great, so I've been trying to find decks for it.
To do that it's important to note that two of the most commonly used modes require that we have creatures in play. I guess it's a good thing that green and white rarely lacks really good creatures. Which ones to use is the question, and do we stay pure G/W?
One of the main reasons to move into a third color when you are base G/W is for removal, but do we need that now? Dromoka's Command can also be our removal with the fight mode, and we also have Valorous Stance.
With all of this in mind, I took a trip through Gatherer to see if there were any creatures or synergies that caught my eye. I remember looking at the Dragons of Tarkir spoilers as they were coming out and lamenting at the fact that Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit wasn't a Warrior to wombo-combo with Arashin Foremost, but I did notice that there were a lot of sweet Warriors in G/W already.
These are all super awesome Warriors that we get to take advantage of the "enters the battlefield" and "when this creature attacks" trigger on Arashin Foremost.
Here is what my first rough draft of a G/W Warriors deck looks like:
One thing that I've started to recognize recently is that when cards are super busted in Limited, they probably have Standard applications too. High Sentinels of Arashin was awesome in the sideboard of our G/W deck at GP Miami, and recently BBD has been putting a hurting on us in the Versus Videos with Citadel Siege, and it seems real sweet in this deck. Pumping our team to make fighting with Dromoka's Command profitable is sweet, but it also grows our creatures out of burn range, lets us attack through high toughness creatures, and helps turn on formidable with Surrak, the Hunt Caller - he is a Warrior in case you missed it.
Any creature on turns 1 and/or 2 along with an Arashin Foremost and a Surrak on turn 4 gives us a hasty 5/4 double striker. Now that's a lot of damage.
We don't have a very high curve here, but I still like having 24 lands. Warden of the First Tree and Sunblade Elf both give us something to do with our mana in the mid and lategame, and getting to a point where we can cast multiple creatures in a turn to try and get formidable with Surrak is pretty sweet too. Boon Satyr also gives us stuff to do with our mana, and even though it's not a Warrior, the flexibility on casting cost and having flash make it worthwhile to play a few.
Honestly, this is just scratching the surface with G/W, and it might be better to just play more robust creatures like Fleecemane Lion and Deathmist Raptor. All I know is that Dromoka's Command is great, and finding the best deck that uses it will likely be the key to unlocking the format. If we go away from the Warrior theme, we can also play the new Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, which seems great along with Surrak. In fact, we don't even need another creature to trigger his formidable since the bolster onto the Anafenza herself will give us eight total power on the battlefield.
Keeping ourselves low to the ground is definitely the direction that I want to go, and one of the cards that I think goes well with the strategy is Collected Company. While it might not be as impressive in the Warrior strategy, imagine casting Collected Company after your opponent has cast End Hostilities and putting Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Brimaz, King of Oreskos into play. Or even something as simple as Fleecemane Lion and Boon Satyr. I really like this card against the control strategies and could even see it finding a spot for maindeck play. Man, I sure do wish we had Banisher Priest!
Dromoka's Command also gives us maindeck enchantment removal with the "target player sacrifices an enchantment" mode, which is something we really haven't had before. The G/W Aggro decks of the past have had to lean on cards like Oblivion Ring/Banishing Light to handle troublesome permanents, and since most troublesome permanents right now are enchantments, Dromoka's Command works wonders. There are going to be turns where we get to go "you sacrifice an enchantment (killing a Courser of Kruphix), and my creature fights your other creature and lives" and then swing in for some damage, all while still holding onto a Valorous Stance for that Siege Rhino or Whisperwood Elemental that's likely coming. We also have to keep in mind that Mastery of the Unseen is still a card, likely one of the most powerful cards in all of Standard - one which we now have a maindeck answer to.
The mode on Dromoka's Command that's going to be least used is probably the first one, which prevents all damage from an instant or sorcery. This is pretty niche, but there will be times where we get to save a creature from something like Stoke the Flames, which will be great, but we might even get to live the dream and stop an Anger of the Gods with a little value sprinkled on top from one of the other three modes.
Sideboard cards that I would probably be looking into for almost any G/W deck would be the following:
The other Command that I'm excited for is Atarka's Command. While I think this card is going to make an even bigger splash in Modern Burn than it will in Standard, I really like how it can fit into an aggressive Mono-Red deck on a splash as a way to stop some lifegain from happening but mostly being a Lava Spike plus anthem effect for your team. Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Rabblemaster are both already great cards, but if we have an anthem effect for them, we can get in a lot of damage in a turn.
Here's what I'm thinking.
Dragon Fodder might just be better than Mardu Scout since it interacts so favorably with Foundry Street Denizen, and the Temple of Abandon might just be terrible since we don't want any lands entering the battlefield tapped to slow us down. We're also down to only eight of our one-drops while still having eight of our three-drops, which might be wrong.
This is definitely something that I'm going to be working on as we lead up to the Season One Invitational since the hyper-aggressive Mono-Red decks tend to be ignored a bit when a new set first comes out. They are always there, and people always think or say "hey this could be good in Mono-Red," but they don't really give it too much mind.
The one thing that I really like about adding Atarka's Command is that it's completely feasible to just burn our opponents out. We don't quite have as much burn as was available during the Boros Charm and Warleader's Helix-fueled R/W Burn days, but with Wild Slash, Lightning Strike, Stoke the Flames, Searing Blood, and now Atarka's Command, we've got a lot of dome-damage at our disposal.
The last card that has me itching to get into some Dragons of Tarkir-fueled Standard is Thunderbreak Regent.
As much as I have loved Ashcloud Phoenix, Polukranos, World Eater, and Shaman of the Great Hunt, I think that Thunderbreak Regent is exactly what the G/R Aggro deck needed. Fitting nicely along the curve sandwiched between Flamewake Phoenix and Stormbreath Dragon, I really like what Thunderbreak Regent can bring to the table.
In my last iteration of G/R Aggro, we had to lean on Lightning Strike and Wild Slash to interact with our opponent early while having Crater's Claws pull double duty handing the beefier threats like Siege Rhino while also being able to go to the face. While there were games that Lightning Strike actually did damage to my opponent, it was embarrassingly rare. Not anymore! Now we have a removal spell that can interact with a Goblin Rabblemaster or Soulfire Grand Master that also interacts with Mantis Rider and Siege Rhino
Not being able to deal damage to our opponents directly is a bit of a downside, but it will greatly free up our Crater's Claws to fireball our opponent a bit more often.
We still have the struggle between Elvish Mystic and Flamewake Phoenix, but as I learned playing the deck before, they are great cards even when you have them and they don't interact in the best possible way, but then there are games where you get to Phoenix on turn 2 and it's not even close.
Here we are trying to just be as aggressive as possible, and while Thunderbreak Regent doesn't have the same defensive capabilities that Ashcloud Phoenix did, with Roast we are going to be getting in much more damage that we were previously, which makes the trigger on Thunderbreak Regent pretty relevant. I can imagine games where our opponent has to play a tapped land or just doesn't have an answer for the Regent right away, and then we get to slam a Stormbreath Dragon. Now if they want to stop us from going monstrous with the Stormbreath Dragon, they have to take the extra damage, and then still have to deal with the Regent and take some more damage.
For those of you who are going to try and build a sideboard for this, one thing that I do want to point out is that I learned that I liked Chandra, Pyromaster better than Outpost Siege in the sideboard of this deck. We are much more aggressive with our attacks than R/W Aggro is, and we also aren't filled with cheap spells to take advantage of the extra card every turn. The flexibility that Chandra, Pyromaster gives us with her +1 allows us to get in much needed damage, and sometimes fogging can be extremely relevant. She's also great against Hordeling Outburst, which is a difficult card at times.
The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind with Dragons of Tarkir is the plethora of two-mana removal spells. Patrick Chapin pointed it out in his article this week, and it's very true. We are coming to a crux in Standard. Being hyper-efficient is going to be the name of the game since now just about everyone has two-mana ways to catch back up, which will lead to earlier double-spell turns, which leads to much more interaction. Decks have to be built with this in mind so that they can take advantage of this. It didn't feel too bad to have your three, four, or five mana threat killed before because all (most) of the answers were three, four, or five mana, but now when they can be removed for just two mana, it will definitely change things.
May you all have fun at your local Prerelease and hopefully open a bunch of Elder Dragons. Do you think you can beat a Dragonlord Dromoka? I'm betting no one can.