It's Raining Dragons

Posted in From the Lab on March 2, 2015

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Art by Willian Murai

Welcome, laboratorians! It is a very special day here on DailyMTG. Today we're kicking off previews for Dragons of Tarkir, and I've got a card that's sure to find its way into Dragon tribal decks everywhere. Feast your eyes upon Dragon Tempest.

This card does a lot for just two mana. Giving your Dragons haste is pretty good by itself, with comparable cards—such as Fervor—usually appearing at three mana. However, it's the second ability that really stands out. Once you get a few dragons on the battlefield, you can start tossing around some major damage every time you cast another one. Of course, this is From the Lab, and a regular old Dragon tribal deck isn't quite my style. Fortunately, Dragon Tempest seems like a pretty decent win condition for a combo deck as well.


Growing Snapdragons

The key to creating an infinite loop is converting resources. Dragon Tempest converts Dragons into damage. In order to close the loop, you need to find a way to convert damage into more Dragons. The solution was clear to me at once. First of all, Conspiracy can turn all your creatures into Dragons. Now you just need a way to convert damage into creatures, and there are plenty of ways to do that.

I've used cards like Broodhatch Nantuko and Saber Ants before, but those require a way to make them indestructible so they don't die to the first trigger. Therefore, I turned to Sprouting Phytohydra. This Plant Hydra has one key difference from the other options: Its tokens can make tokens. Instead of aiming all the damage at one creature, you can damage each token instead.

So, here's how it works. First, you'll need Dragon Tempest on the battlefield, along with Conspiracy naming Dragon. Then cast Sprouting Phytohydra. Dragon Tempest will trigger for 1 damage. Aim that at the Phytohydra, which will copy itself. That triggers Dragon Tempest for 2. That will kill the token copy, but you'll get a replacement from the Plant Hydra's ability, allowing you to repeat the process. Of course, there's one problem with this. It doesn't actually get you anywhere. Each iteration resets the board to its original state, so you'll need a way to get some value out of the loop.

At first I considered turning to a card like Blood Artist. Then I realized that the solution was already in the deck. Simply cast a second copy of Dragon Tempest and you can aim the extra damage trigger at your opponent each time. You can also substitute one or both copies of Dragon Tempest with Scourge of Valkas. Although it costs far more mana and is more vulnerable to removal, the Scourge has the same ability as the enchantment.

Worldly Tutor can find either Sprouting Phytohydra or Scourge of Valkas, getting whichever piece of the combo you're missing into your hand. If you need Conspiracy or Dragon Tempest, you'll have to turn to the more costly Diabolic Tutor.

Many of the potential combo pieces in this deck cost five mana, so I wanted a way to cast them more quickly. Cultivate seemed like a solid option. You can cast it on turn three, and it will guarantee that you have five mana on turn four even if you didn't have a land in hand. Fertile Ground and Trace of Abundance come down a turn earlier, and can give you any color of mana you might need. If cast after turn two, they also have a net cost of just one mana. I've also included Go for the Throat to allow you to dispatch any powerful creatures you might run into.

Sprouting Hydra, Hidden Dragon


They're Dragons, I Promise

To contrast with the first deck, I wanted my second Dragon Tempest deck to win the game without creating an infinite loop. This is actually surprisingly easy if you employ a few type-changing tricks again. If all your creatures are Dragons, five creatures entering the battlefield simultaneously will trigger Dragon Tempest five times for a total of 25 damage.

This time I turned to blue to make the type-changing happen. Xenograft works just as well as Conspiracy in this case, and costs the same amount of mana. On the other hand, blue also provides a more interesting option: Artificial Evolution. Instead of changing the type of the tokens when they're on the battlefield, you can hack into the spell that creates them, forcing it to make Dragons instead. If you like, you can even alter Dragon Tempest to care about a different creature type altogether, such as Saprolings or Insects.

Making five tokens isn't too hard, but I wanted to be sure to have an efficient way of doing it. The obvious choice would be an X spell, but that would cost seven mana total. Instead. I turned to Saproling Burst. For five mana, it can make up to six 1/1 tokens, albeit rather briefly. Now, these don't enter the battlefield at the same time, but with a bit of stack wrangling you can get the same effect. Simply activate Saproling Burst again in response to each Dragon Tempest trigger, and all the tokens will be on the battlefield by the time the ability resolves and checks how many Dragons you control.

I always like having backup systems in place, and this deck has plenty of them. Xenograft and Artificial Evolution already provide one piece of redundancy, and Scourge of Valkas can make another appearance to back up Dragon Tempest. Saproling Burst's understudy will be One Dozen Eyes, which just so happens to produce exactly five tokens, and still comes in one mana cheaper than most token-making X spells.

To help you survive long enough to get this combo together, I decided to include the double threat of Mana Leak and Rune Snag. With color-intensive cards like Scourge of Valkas in the deck, I wanted to avoid a double-blue casting cost. Although not quite as effective later in the game as something like Dissipate, the early game is when you want to be casting these anyway. I also included four copies of Flame Slash to help you deal with any creatures you don't have a counterspell for. Killing a 4-toughness creature for just one mana is a pretty sweet deal, and will leave you with plenty left for that Mana Leak.

TokenTempest


Good Things Come in Small Packages

They also come to those who wait, but you shouldn't wait too much longer to build a deck for the challenge I issued last week. The deadline for submissions is next Monday, so you'd best get working if you haven't sent one in yet. I've already received several interesting decks, but I'm always hungry for more new ideas. So think small, and see if you can come up with something truly unique. Also, don't forget to come back next week, when I'll be showing off another brand new Dragons of Tarkir preview. See ya!

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