The Pecking Order of Dragons (of Tarkir)

Posted in Command Tower on April 9, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Whether you're physically carrying a suitcase of decks or avidly cranking out drafts online, Dragons of Tarkir is finally here in all its incarnations.

Fate Forgotten | Art by Cliff Childs

While large tournaments and the Pro Tour this weekend look to define Standard for the next few months, it's the tables off to the sides everywhere else—homes, local game stores, and even Grand Prix—where the rest of the set will make its showing.

Commander, as an Eternal format, is more comparable to Legacy and Modern in how new cards shake things up: It's hard to dislodge the best and broken of yesterday from decks. But unlike other ways to play, with nearly every card in Magic, Commander encourages variety and experimentation with its restrictions.

Insert my favorite Mark Rosewater quote here.


Look at the Size of that Fella!

Going through my own decks leads to plenty of small changes, and it's been exciting to see the synergies and massaging the newest cards provide:

Of course, these are just my modest tweaks. Some of you enjoyed cards far more, like Frank and Foe-Razer Regent:

Following the preview of Dragons of Tarkir, one of them stood out to me: Foe-Razer Regent. I had been toying with the idea of building a Gruul Fighting deck for a while, and this Dragon solidified it. I chose to go a path that allowed me several routes of victory, through commander damage, pure power or even infinite combo. Several other previews from Dragons of Tarkir turned the deck to have a small Dragon focus. Right now I have this list drafted up.

The deck is built around the standard green ramp into big things play style, with red providing me with draw power, grants haste and a few additional combat tricks. I chose to avoid one-of fight cards and instead focus on repeatable effects. In addition to fight effects, there are various other effects that involve entering the battlefield and damaging something. The commander was already set in stone; Atarka, World Render, both for it's high power and it's ability to come out and utterly destroy one opponent in one go.

So here I present: Atarka's Fight Circus.

Frank's Atarka Fight Circus

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Atarka, World Render
Instant (2)
1 Sarkhan's Triumph 1 Krosan Grip
99 Cards

After seeing what Foe-Razer Regent could do in Limited, I'm not surprised to see it as part of a deck that takes the Dragons side of Frontier Siege to its natural conclusion. Flying power and ways to clear the path are already solid routes to Commander victory, but doing it with red and green feels strange.

The Gruul and Atarka's brood aren't known for subtlety, but aerial death in red-green is still a bit startling. Fear is exactly what those Dragons feed on (aside from everything else that is).

Another draft deck-dependent Dragon that impressed me was Enduring Scalelord, and Jim didn't miss the opportunity either:

When I first started building around Ghave, Guru of Spores with the initial Commander release, I knew I wanted to focus on one of his two abilities. I'd seen a lot of green-white token decks and adding black to the mix didn't seem interesting enough for me. I had also seen green decks with +1/+1 counters before… but mostly in an annoyingly Simic way. Using counters in green with black and white support was what I decided to take a shot on.

My focus on +1/+1 counters paid off when Khans of Tarkir brought the Abzan and their outlast ability. Getting cards in all three colors that cared about +1/+1 counters was the Christmas Ghave had been waiting for! You want flying? Try Abzan Falconer. You wanna untap all your creatures on everyone else's turn? Ivorytusk Fortress. A little low on life? Abzan Battle Priest is there to pick you up. So many fun new toys!

Dragons of Tarkir brings one more +1/+1 counter creature in the mix I can't wait to try out: Enduring Scalelord. Just like its uncommon kin, Juniper Order Ranger, Enduring Scalelord is a game changer with Ghave. A huge, flying, +1/+1 counter stockpile that can end games on its own or help to amass a Saproling army. Whether it's enchantments like Abzan Ascendancy and Citadel Siege or creatures like Vigor and Necropolis Regent, boosting my other creatures only makes this Dragon nastier!

Jim's Ghave, Guru of +1/+1 Counters

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Ghave, Guru of Spores
Planeswalker (1)
1 Garruk, Apex Predator
99 Cards

Fun Fact: I have a stamped, foil version of Abzan Ascendancy from Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Reviving Ghave, Guru of Spores into a +1/+1 counter celebration is on my horizon, and Jim's laid down some serious groundwork for anyone else planning the same.

Cards like Citadel Siege and Juniper Order Ranger are powerful in conjunction with ways to make +1/+1 counters into other things, and the idea of keeping Kitchen Finks around forever amuses me enough to look longingly at Modern every now and then.

It may also be that one of my favorite reanimation spells of all time is Vigor Mortis and it fits this theme perfectly.


The Rest of the Roost

We're just beginning to plumb the depths of Dragons of Tarkir, and I wanted to take a moment to call out how rich the set is for Commander:

There's even more packed into the set that I didn't need to touch on—you'll discover it soon enough!


This week's question is for those that carry those suitcases of decks around: Which Commander deck did you have the most fun building, and why?

  • Feedback via email, in English
  • 300 word limit to explain the card and why you never use it as the commander
  • Sample decklist (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

I'm about to embark on my own adventure, trying out new decks and ideas, and hearing about your best adventures sounds like a phenomenal way to get me started on the right path.

Join us next week when we look for the legends hidden beneath the surface. See you then!

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