Last weekend I took G/R Dragons out for one last hurrah and fell just short at #SCGBALT. After losing a rough one to eventual winner Andrew Boswell in round fourteen, I was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a Stormbreath Dragon against Season One Points Leader Jim Davis. Patrick Sullivan was sitting next to me watching the match, and when it was all said and done he asked me:
“Do you ever get tired of that? The game is close or you're ahead a little or behind a little and then BAM! right off the top Stormbreath Dragon.”
We all laughed a bit, Jim exclaiming how much he hates Stormbreath, and me telling Patrik that no, somehow it just doesn't ever get old.
Things change though. And we are coming into some changes that are making me question my beloved Dragons archetype. We are currently in the midst of spoiler season for Magic Origins, and while I'm excited and all hyped up for a lot of cards, there's one in particular that I think I'm going to end up on the wrong side quite often:
I'll get into some cards that I'm excited to play here in a bit, but first I want to talk about a card that I feel like I'm going to hate seeing just as much as I did Sphinx's Revelation. I'm not saying that Languish is as good as Sphinx's Revelation, I'm just saying that the card itself is a huge beating against the types of decks and creatures that I like to play.
Languish may singlehandedly force me into a third color for my Dragons.
Over the past couple of months I have been gravitating back to different builds of G/R Dragons. I have strayed a bit, with Jeskai Tokens, Bant Heroic, Abzan Aggro, and G/R Devotion, but I always find myself coming back to Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon.
There are quite a few different directions you can take your G/R deck right now, and we even get some more sweet options in Magic Origins, but they all just get demolished by Languish. All of our mana accelerants, all the different two-drops that we can play (Heir of the Wilds, Den Protector), all the different three-drops we can play (Deathmist Raptor, Goblin Rabblemaster, Courser of Kruphix); all of these creatures get swept away by the four-mana Languish. That's not all though – Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon also have only four toughness, so they get caught up in the mix too.
We do have some cards that are great against sweepers, like Xenagos, the Reveler, but the main issue is that now they are back to a four mana sweeper, which completely changes the tempo of the games. Without fearing a sweeper on four, we were able to play our game in such a way as to try and punch through as much damage as possible before the sweeper, then mop up the rest with some hasty Dragons.
In previous formats, we had something like Rakdos's Return to punish our opponents the turn after they had to tap out to Wrath us, and we even got to keep Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler in play when it happened. But with the cards currently available to us, I think that the best course of action is going to be Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector. One of the best things that we can do the turn after a Languish is to play a Den Protector face-down and rebuy something while getting back a Deathmist Raptor.
We can also look to some X/5 creatures that haven't really been seeing play. If Languish is going to shape the format the way that I think that it's going to, then being a step ahead of the curve at the start is going to have some nice payoffs.
There really aren't too many options for this route, but Polukranos, World Eater and Reaper of the Wilds have both seen plenty of play in these types of decks before. Being able to dodge Mizzium Mortars used to be very important, and we may just be back to that same type of mentality.
Enough of talking about the obvious stand-out of Magic Origins though. I want to highlight my favorite card so far, especially since it hasn't seemed to get enough hype.
This card is great, but let's get the obvious out of the way. It's not Char - it's not an Instant and it costs 1RR instead of 2R.
Okay. Now that that's out of the way, let's focus on just what the card is going to do for us - kill our opponents and kill them much quicker than what we're used to.
Four damage for three mana is very good, and even moreso right now. Everyone is so caught up on the “It doesn't kill Siege Rhino blah blah blah” that they are missing the fact that this is a burn spell that goes to the dome and can kill Courser of Kruphix at an acceptable rate.
That's pretty huge.
But we don't even have to stop there. It's obvious to try and slot it into an aggressive Mono-Red deck, but I'm more excited about re-buying this thing with Den Protector.
Four you, re-buy end of turn, four you again and attack for three.
Be still my beating heart.
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 3 Den Protector
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Thunderbreak Regent
- 1 Polukranos, World Eater
This is more of a midrange G/R Dragons type deck, but there are other possibilities too. We can try to go a little lower to the ground and top things off with Shaman of the Great Hunt. This card saw play previously, but at the time Wild Slash was played at a premium which hurt the Shaman greatly. Sadly, with Goblin Piledriver coming back and there being a plethora of awesome Elves available, we might be back in a world where Wild Slash is seeing play again.
I'm also interested in a burn-based deck. With Exquisite Firecraft, we now have a whole bunch of sweet burn spells at our fingertips.
Pyromancer's Goggles might be a little too cute here, but I really like the idea of trying to be a full-on pyromancer. We are already flipping Chandra and using Satyr Firedancer to kill our opponents' creatures while burning them out, why not go the whole way and see what happens?
With 60 points of burn in the deck, we aren't short of ways to deal damage. Outpost Siege might want to be in there somewhere, but I'm a sucker for a sweet card like Pyromancer's Goggles. One card that sticks out to me is Abbot of Keral Keep. It's pretty interesting, and I wish that it had haste so that we could take advantage of the card we get to play off the top when it enters the battlefield along with its Prowess, but it's still a pretty unique way to gain some advantage. If we get to untap with it, then we can do some damage (much like Monastery Swiftspear).
The other card that I'm excited about in Origins is Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Patrick Chapin did a pretty good job talking about Nissa in his column earlier this week, so I recommend that you check that out.
It's been pointed out that the opportunity cost for Nissa is quite low, which is true, and the upside is quite high, which is also true, but I feel like we are only scratching the surface. I believe that Nissa, Vastwood Seer is going to end up being the best card in the set. She adds a new element to many different decks that can play her.
An aggressive Elves deck? She fits right in. Borderland Ranger that turns into an amazing planeswalker for only three mana? She's great! Being three mana, she can be found with Collected Company and can be curved into on turn two. Our opponents will likely want to get her off the table before we can transform her, which frees up removal from our other creatures. She is also an Elf, which helps for the tribal synergy that's present in Magic Origins.
Midrange green deck? She fits right in! These types of decks are usually quite mana hungry, and want to get to the point that they are casting multiple spells per turn. Borderland Ranger is great here, especially since it can attack against control opponents and block against aggressive opponents. Once we get into the mid- to late-game, she is a great planeswalker. Again, all for only three mana.
A control deck? She fits in here too. Control decks are always looking for cards that can play a role in both the early and late game, and she does just that. Control players want lands to cast their spells. Sadly, Basic Land – Forest isn't the best land when you are likely casting Dissolve and Dig Through Time, but it'll do in a pinch. Where I really like Nissa here is in the late game. Similar to how the control decks used to use Tarmogoyf as a finisher that could do things in the early and late game, Nissa can fit in the same role. Once flipped, Nissa can provide card advantage and/or a threat and can even build to a game-ending ultimate.
Attack for 36. Oh, you're dead? Sweet.
I can imagine some turns with Nissa in your deck where you cast her on six lands, go get a land, play it to flip her, and then cast a four-mana spell like Collected Company or Thunderbreak Regent. It's also been pointed out that she has some resilience while flipping. Since she will trigger anytime a land enters the battlefield under your control and you have seven or more, if you have a fetchland in play when you play your seventh land, you can fetch in response to a removal spell when you try to transform her.
I think that there might even be room for a bigger G/R deck. Not quite Devotion, but something looking to take advantage of Deathmist Raptor + Den Protector along with Nissa, some removal like Exquisite Firecraft, and Dragons topping it out. We even have a reprint of Gaea's Revenge to pummel our control opponents – they may be hellbent on trying to say “No” to whatever we're doing, but they can't say no to that beating.
With Gnarlroot Trapper in, and Elvish Mystic likely out, I think that I want to try and focus on what the best Elvish Mystic deck is going to be while it's still in Standard. I think Mystic goes hand-in-hand with Nissa and I can't wait to start brewing and jamming decks.
With the Fourth of July this weekend and no Open Series to attend, I plan on resting up a bit and trying to hit at least one IQ over the weekend. The race for the Season Three Points Leader is heating up, and I'm going to make a run at it. I won't be able to hit Chicago, but I will be at every other Open Series event this season, and will be hitting the Summer Regional Championships as well.
I may not be on Dragons, but I can say that me and my Elvish Mystics are coming for all the Open Series Points!