The Quickening

Posted in Serious Fun on April 29, 2003

By Anthony Alongi

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Dragons have never been easy to cast, have they? Nor are they getting any cheaper any time soon. (Five of the costs above represent existing Dragons; three are on their way.) We pay two prices for having Dragons in the Magic game. First, they're almost always rare. (Nitpicker fodder: Dragon Whelp is uncommon and Nalathni Dragon is promotional.)

The second cost we pay is, well, the cost. The upper right-hand corner of a Dragon card always looks like two or three more reasonably costed cards crashed in the middle of a printing run. For every time a player hard casts a Dragon, two or three less-patient players bring one out through a Sneak Attack, a Miraculous Recovery, an Oath of Druids, a Living Death, or a Show and Tell. Quite simply, Dragons cost too much. Even in casual play, we die all the time with the darn things in our hand. Why, oh why, didn't we just play something simple, like a . . . oh, I don't know, like a Barbarian?

 

Dragonspeaker Shaman

Well. There it is.

Before we get onto the topic of how sick this thing is in multiples, let's look at the situation if you only manage to get one out in play. The Dragonspeaker Shaman

  • is a perfectly reasonable 2/2 for 3 mana;
  • gives you Rorix Bladewing or Shivan Dragon on turn four;
  • gives you Shivan Hellkite on turn five;
  • gives you Vampiric Dragon or three Fledgling Dragons on turn six (I mean, give yourself some time to get threshold, am I right?);
  • feels superior to Urza's Incubator in Dragon decks, as it attacks and blocks (which is what a Dragon deck kinda wants to do); and
  • gives you one of the few nonrare cards you're probably going to play in the deck, because this thing just screams at you to use every single copy of a Dragon you've got in your collection.

Let's get right to the first deck, okay?

DragonsBehavingBadly.deq

Tortured Existence is nice because you can more easily keep a Dragon in your hand to amplify Kilnmouth Dragon. And it's really all the recursion this deck needs. Of all the creatures, Balthor the Defiled fits least well in this deck. But as they say: stay tuned. A suitable replacement cometh.

DRAGONSPEAKING DOUBLE

One of the reasons I put Cauldron Dance in the deck above was because I just thought it was cute to have two Dragonspeaker Shamans out at once -- Two-Headed Dragon would cost , Catacomb Dragon, and so on. Naturally, when you add the cost of Cauldron Dance, that's a whole lot of movin' around just for the heck of it. But no matter. Sometime, someplace, someone is going to have at least two Dragonspeaker Shamans in play. What would this mean? And more importantly, how do I become that player?

Here are some implications of having two Shamans in play that are fun to think about:

SPEAKING FASTER THAN YOUR GROUP CAN FOLLOW

Given this card and the other Dragon chew toys in the Scourge set, it's safe to say that somebody in your group is going to build, revise, refresh, or otherwise sport a Dragon deck in the near future. In fact, there could easily be two or three such decks in a game at the same time. What to do?

Build your own if you like. But as a service during Dragon Week here at MagicTheGathering.com, may I also suggest a little metagame action? Anticipate the horrific spectacle of multiple large, flying lizards flinging themselves at each other, and be ready with the countergame.

We did Mirage week just a little while ago, so these names might sound familiar to you: Hivis of the Scale and Rashida Scalebane.

SomewhereElseThereBeDragons.deq

There are a couple other Scourge goodies listed there, but your going to have to wait a while to find out what they do. One card at a time here, people!

I've tried to make the deck rigorous enough against non-Dragon decks -- you can use Ghitu War Cry as offense or as a preparatory pump for a Topple, Radiant's Judgment, or Intrepid Hero. Commander Eesha is good in any white deck, and the Lawbringers don't just have to kill red Dragons, right?

If the Dragon-speaking Barbarians come down fast and furious, this deck has the right mana for Goblin Legionnaires, which come out faster and kill those uncultured accelerators.

A splash of blue for stuff like Imagecrafter or Unnatural Selection would make this deck more universal (and, of course, all the spells harder to cast).

Whether you decide to stop your opponents' Dragons with tricks like these, or just generate your own firebreathing army -- good luck! These Dragons aren't the easiest creatures to manage, whichever side of the board they're on. They are, however, putting on their running shoes.

BONUS FEATURE: PALM TREE TAG FOLLOW-UP

In my Mirage Week article, I had the message boards jumping with ideas off of 15 different Mirage rares. Today, we'll cover two of the questions I asked, and the answers that showed up on those boards. (The deadline for this contest has passed.)

Only slight edits for syntax on these.

MIST DRAGON'S BUMPY RIDES

The idea here was to hear true stories about Mist Dragons that had to either gain and/or lose flying twice in a given turn.

From Programmerman:

Opponent at four life, me at one. He has Rod of Ruin (tapped), plenty of lands, one ground blocker, Predator, Flagship, and two cards in hand. Attack, jump to get around the blocker. Predator comes after it. I bring it back down low. The rules take care of the Predator's threat, I send him back up. Twice after that, Wind Shear forced it back down until the resolution. So, up, Predator, down, up, Wind Shear, down, up, Wind Shear, down, up. That's three downs and four ups. That fits the requirements, right?

Um, it sure does.

From CaptainSpacePony, a similar Wind Shear moment – but this one happened at a tournament (Mirage block draft):

Third game, I gleefully dropped a second turn River Boa, leaving my opponent feeling very dejected. On his fourth turn, fearing another loss to the sneaky snake, he cast Polymorph only to reveal my greatest card – the Mist Dragon! A few turns later, he is at 4 life. I pay 0 to give the dragon flying and attack. He casts (now we'd say "plays") Wind Shear. With bad weather on the horizon, I pay 0 to remove the flying ability from the dragon. Once the shearing storm had passed, the dragon again took to the air to vanquish the enemy planeswalker.

And wouldn't you know it? Another tournament entry, from Bobbyvan:

I had an opponent with Femeref Archers. I attack with a non-flying Mist Dragon. He plays Flash for a Sandbar Crocodile. I activate Mist Dragon's ability. He activates the Archer's ability targeting the dragon. [AA presumes here that he grounded the Dragon in response, then lifted it up again before the Crocodile could block. What follows would be post-combat, since Undo is a sorcery.] I then Undo my Floodgate and his crocodile.

He asked why didn't I just Undo both of his creatures. I said I wanted to have a use for the dragon's ability.

TWO-MANA GRIFFIN

This was the most popular feature – and I figured it would be, given my history with Special Sauce cards back in my early Casual Fridays days. There were countless ideas, across multiple colors.

For this post, I chose three that seemed, well, the "zubiest." (You all know what I mean.) They're elegant cards, all tending within white given what griffins currently are, and I'm sure they'll reinforce to Wizards staff just how clever some readers can be.

Be aware that—legally—card ideas, like anything else posted on the boards, are shared property between Wizards and the poster. If you don't want your ideas mentioned here, let me know and I'll have them taken down.

By the way, I also like the multiple submissions that reduced Griffins' costs – but they were similar enough that I didn't want to give just one zuby fellow credit.

From Mystyc:

Daru Griffin

Creature - Griffin
2/1
Flying
Daru Griffin blocks if able.
The Mirari's power left not even the Aven untouched.

A nice white turn on "attacks if able." Notice that sometimes, the two mean the same thing! Not bad at all. From Ertai98:

Fledgling Griffin

Creature - Griffin
2/2
: Fledgling Griffin gains flying
: Fledgling Griffin gains first strike

Nifty to see a good white weenie ('tis the season, it appears) that has an interesting implication for mana use in subsequent turns. In casual play, nice little signals to the board, aggressive but appropriate in scale for a second turn play. From MrJohnson:

Wily Ancestor

Creature - Griffin Spirit
0/2
Flying
When Wily Ancestor attacks, all creatures gain protection from instants until end of turn.

I'm not sure if it would need a slight change to make sure people couldn't respond to its ability with an instant. In any case, the idea is really nice – no surprises during combat! Hand to Hand was always an underrated card in multiplayer, I thought, and this has echoes of it…in a way that's nice for white.

In addition, I appreciate the work that folks like Skyshroud7 (full card mock-up) and ereinion ("zubier griffon" condition!) put into their posts. (Even a certain board moderator's suggestion of "bands with other" had me smiling.) All in all, a good time!

Thanks to all who participated. More bonus features next week!

BEFORE YOU EMAIL

Some email tips. I'm trying to sound patient here, because I do love reader email. Let me know how I do with the patience thing…

First, the Multi-Lab lines are closed. Please stop sending deck help requests. I got way too many emails this past week from people who told me they just read my latest article (?!), and were so excited that I would help them! I asked them to read that article again, of course. All slow like. Naturally, some people who are learning English can get confused, and that's cool. But too many of you, I suspect, are just Americans (or fine friends in other English-speaking countries), reading what you want to see.

I did appreciate those of you who did seem to read the article. But several dozen of you suggested that you could be the "sole exception" to the hiatus. If you don't want me to be terrified of ever opening up the lines again, please respect my wishes. Thank you.

Second, Palm Tree Tag is over. I'm just posting results for the next few weeks. You can, of course, continue to talk about this stuff on the boards for as long as you like; but the whole point was to keep the discussion up there, where you guys could share ideas with each other. I'm using what I have in hand, and not any new posts, for bonus features. Just so you know.

Third, please bear in mind that I am not Wizards staff and have no say in what cards get designed, developed, packaged, or drafted in your packs. Nor will I relay messages to people at Wizards. "Dammit Jim, I'm a writer, not a courier."

Fourth, I have no advice for you on what to play in your next tournament.

So do I not want you folks to write to me at all? Don't be silly. Write to me about anything else Magic-like. Tell me about an interesting format your group just played. Share a cool play that happened. Ask a question about how some rules get resolved in multiplayer. Tell me if Welkin Hawk is good beats, or wallpaper-in-waiting. Tell me how much cooler I am than Rosewater (and I am cooler, so I already know this…but I don't mind hearing it again. Neither does Mark, come to think of it. Cc him. No, seriously, don't…)

Whatever you want to tell me, I look forward to hearing from you.

Anthony may be reached at seriousfun@wizards.com.

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