Welcome to the second straight week of Dragons of Tarkir previews!
As you've no doubt noticed by now there are a lot of Dragons in Dragons of Tarkir. Everyone loves Dragons, and we get a billion of them to play around with in this new set. For Constructed players, this is all fine and dandy; they have access to as many dual lands, fetch lands, scry lands, and tri-lands as they wish.
For us 40-card folk, we have to work a little harder. They don't call it Limited for nothin'.
Dragons tend to follow a pattern. They are powerful, expensive to cast, and sometimes are multicolored. This can prove problematic for Limited, as you'll want to first-pick your sweet rare Dragon most of the time. But then you have to worry about actually getting the thing on the battlefield.
Worry no longer.
Today I have a full cycle of five tools that help on all Dragon-casting fronts. In fact, they are even named after actual dragons!
Take a look, and then we'll discuss:
This type of card is colloquially called a "mana rock." Mana rocks are artifacts that generate mana. They are helpful because you can cast them for colorless mana but then use them to generate multiple colors of mana. This results in the combined effect of both "ramping" up your mana in amount as well as "fixing" the colors of your mana. Pretty handy items to have around to be sure.
This particular set of Monuments are named after the five new (very old?) Elder Dragons from this set. As such, they generate the corresponding colors of mana for each of the dragonlords. Making two different colors of mana means that you can use them in decks that only need those colors, or as a way to splash for another color.
As you can see, there is even more text in the rules box, and it's quite important:
If you make it all the way to six lands plus a Monument, you can temporarily turn the Monument into a rusty, creaky, version of its former Dragon self. They are all the same in this way: they become 4/4 flying artifact Dragons until end of turn. This looks pretty expensive on paper (because it is) but the result can be profound.
You can turn the Monument into a game finisher if you have your opponent close to dead. You can also turn it into the threat of a very large blocker in the event that you get flooded out a bit and don't have anything else to do with the mana.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to turning these Monuments back into Dragons.
First, it costs a lot of mana, and is a temporary effect. This usually means that you are better off casting actual creatures that affect the board before you start dumping mana into a Monument.
Second, if you are using a Monument to help splash a color, it's unlikely that you'll be able to activate it in most scenarios. Since splashes often only contain two or three sources of the extra color, you'll need to have drawn the Monument and an additional splash mana source as well. It will happen sometimes, but just remember when you put this in your deck that if it's for a splash color, you aren't as likely to turn it into a robo-Dragon.
Third, using these on defense can get pretty interesting. Say you are in a late-game situation where your opponent has a 3/4 creature and you have a Monument and the six lands needed to activate it. You pass the turn, and your opponent doesn't attack for fear of you animating and then blocking with your 4/4 flying Dragon. This is where things get kind of cool: you can now cast instant-speed spells if you have them.
You are using a concept we have talked about before called "threat of activation" to get an advantage. Simply because you could activate the Monument, your opponent didn't attack. Now try to punish your opponent by using that mana to kill creatures or draw some cards or something else equally awesome.
Fourth (and this won't come up often), you can use the mana from the Monument to activate itself. This is the kind of thing that pops up in weird scenarios where your opponent has a spell that makes you sacrifice a creature, but you don't want to sacrifice any of your actual creatures. If you have five mana and the Monument, you can tap all of them, activate the Monument (yes, it's tapped) and then sacrifice it. Again, not a common thing, but something you'll be glad you are aware of when it does come up.
Silumgar Monument | Art by Daniel Ljunggren
We've all been there. You drew a few too many lands to be really happy about. In Limited, it's useful to have cards in your deck that can act as "mana sinks." In other words, a place to put your excess mana where you can still get some value out of it. These Monuments do a great job of sucking up that mana for a solid effect.
The cool part about this type of mana sink is that it pulls double duty. You'll play it in the early game to get the ramp and fixing going, but if you draw too many lands late game at least you have a big, bad, stonework Dragon to wake up for a turn or two. Many types of mana sink cards are just effectively expensive spells that have a big impact on the late game. These Monuments have a practical impact on the midgame, and a reasonable impact on the late game.
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie
So what is the downside to playing cards like this? After all, they are colorless, relatively cheap, help your mana in two ways, and even give you a place to dump all that mana later.
Simply put: it's a tempo thing.
As we have discussed before in this column, Limited Magic is all about board state. And in Limited, that means creatures. Playing creatures from your hand is the most important thing you can do to inch yourself closer to a victory.
Every turn you don't play a creature, or kill a creature, or do something to interact with creatures, you start to fall behind. And as it turns out, turn three in a game of Limited is an important one. This is where your board really starts getting good. If you spend that mana and time to cast a Monument, you could fall behind.
The key is to have something lined up to get you caught back up again. Ideally, you untap on turn four and play a five-drop creature that outranks your opponent's creatures.
And then maybe a Dragon.
One trick you can use to ease the pain associated with losing tempo is to play a regular creature on turn three. On turn four, you play the Monument and then a two-drop using your land and your Monument. If you have a hand that accommodates it, this is a pretty ideal curve in many scenarios.
The time you'll really feel the pain is when you are on the draw. If your opponent has a two-drop, three-drop, four-drop curve and your only play is a turn-three Monument, you could be in serious trouble.
Ojutai Monument | Art by Daniel Ljunggren
These dragon-themed Dragon-enablers are well-rounded, useful tools for the right deck. An aggressive deck doesn't have much interest in this kind of card. Frankly, it would usually be quite pleased to see its opponent play one. But a slower, more controlling deck will find use for a Monument pretty often. Especially if it has a big nasty Dragon to cast or wants to splash around for some expensive spells.
This will make the colors that end up being more controlling more likely to want a Monument. Generally that means that Silumgar Monument and Ojutai Monument would be the most sought after of the Monuments. But hey, one Dragon can shift that around.
Also note that these are all uncommon. If you feel like your deck really needs some fixing, mana ramping, and mana sinking action, you may not want to wait too long to pick up one of these.
Until next week!