Connecting with Dragons

Posted in Perilous Research on April 2, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. We're just hours away from the Magic Online Prerelease events for Dragons of Tarkir. Soon, we'll have the opportunity to send some freshly minted digital Dragons into the red zone on Magic Online.

Today, in preparation for next weekend's Pro Tour, I'd like to talk about Standard with Dragons of Tarkir. I had the opportunity to play in a Invitational Qualifier at Clarkson's Corner in Scarsdale, New York, last Sunday. Let's talk about my first foray into the new Standard and make some predictions for next weekend's Pro Tour.

I made a Facebook post early last Sunday, where I asked the following: "Who's trying to play some Magic today?"

A few minutes later, my friend, Arthur Lolos, called and told me there was a Standard tournament that he and some friends were going to. I just needed a deck for the new Standard.

Dragonlord Ojutai | Art by Chase Stone

Arthur loaned me a Blue-Black Control deck, and I made some changes. I wanted to try Dragonlord Ojutai as a win condition in the control deck. This, in conjunction with a lot of versatile countermagic like Silumgar's Scorn and Dissolve, would be a great way to put a quick clock on opponents while continuing to bury them in card advantage. By adding Dragonlord Ojutai to the Blue-Black Control deck, I eliminated the need for clunky win conditions like Pearl Lake Ancient and fixed the deck's issues with finishing a match within a round's allotted time limit. I didn't need to play excessive card draw because the Dragonlord functions as a resource engine and a win condition at the same time.

Also, the presence of Dragons meant that I could use Foul-Tongue Invocation to deal with indestructible Fleecemane Lions, Ojutai Exemplars, heroic strategies, and I'd have a better plan than Radiant Fountain against the aggressive Red decks. The Dragons also let me play with Silumgar's Scorn, a new Counterspell with mixed reviews. I wanted to try Silumgar's Scorn for myself before passing judgment.

I had absolutely no idea what I might be playing against and I wanted to give my deck the tools to beat everything, especially in the second and third games. I mulled over the card numbers, and this is the deck I ended up playing:

Jacob Van Lunen's UB Control Splashing Dragonlord Ojutai

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We got to Clarkson's Corner with enough extra time to trade for the cards we needed from Dragons of Tarkir. We had a bunch of stuff from our Prerelease spoils and we were able to help others complete their decks while also finishing off our own. The store had plenty of space and the staff was friendly and knowledgeable.

I played against a White-Blue Midrange deck in the first round. His deck had some cool interactions and utilized Ojutai Exemplars to their fullest potential. Luckily for me, I had Foul-Tongue Invocation and Crux of Fate to battle my way through a resolved copy of the exceptionally resilient 4/4 mythic rare.

The next round would prove to be more difficult. Ashok Gandhi Chitturi has gone 8-1 on Day One at pretty much every East Coast Grand Prix in recent memory. Chitturi always builds unique decks that catch formats unprepared, and this tournament was no exception. His Green-White Aggro deck with Deathmist Raptor, Den Protector, and post-sideboard Mastery of the Unseen proved too resilient for my control deck. I managed to win one game where I played Dragonlord Ojutai on turn five, but his deck was better tuned and he played well enough to overcome me in the other two games.

In the third round, Arthus Lolos, the friend that loaned me my deck, tried to best me with an aggressive Red deck that had done well at the Invitational. Lolos drew quite a few lands and I was able to win a matchup that seemed very difficult for my deck. The life gain from Foul-Tongue Invocation proved itself to be necessary when winning both games.

Foul-Tongue Invocation | Art by Daarken

My fourth round was an unfortunate matchup for my opponent, who was playing Green Devotion. I was able to find Crux of Fate in the first game and Perilous Vault in the second to easily establish control before winning the game with Dragonlord Ojutai.

After looking at the standings, my fifth round opponent and I agreed to draw into the Top 8.

I was paired against Ashok Ghandhi Chitturi again in the quarterfinals and decided to scoop the match because I knew how much he wanted to play in the next Invitational. I had a great day playing Magic and I wanted to see what other decks were in the Top 8!

The Top 8 was filled with exciting new strategies made possible by Dragons of Tarkir. One of those was a White-Blue Control deck with Narset Transcendent. The deck aimed to control the game with countermagic and cards like Silkwrap and Banishing Light before taking over with Planeswalkers like Narset Transcendent, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

Next up was a Sultai Whip of Erebos deck featuring Sidisi, Undead Vizier. There was also a Mardu deck with Myth Realized, Thunderbreak Regent, and tons of removal and card advantage.

Among one of the more unique options was a Collected Company Temur deck that used the powerful new instant to drop cards like Savage Knuckleblade and Goblin Rabblemaster into play. At one point, I saw an end step Collected Company find two copies of Goblin Rabblemaster, which fueled an attack for 12 on the turn following a board sweeper.

There were also two Abzan decks. One was more midrange, while the other was aggressive.

A few points about Ashok's Green-White deck. The deck was aggressive, with inexpensive creatures like Warden of the First Tree, Fleecemane Lion, and Heir of the Wilds. Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor gave the deck a strong late-game angle; and the ability to return Gods Willing, Dromoka's Command, and Valorous Stance from the graveyard proved very powerful in the deck. Den Protector played nicely with Boon Satyr to make a very large creature that couldn't be blocked, and Gods Willing alongside Valorous Stance ensured it would continue to connect. This deck went on to win the event.

Den Protector | Art by Viktor Titov

It was a great day of Magic, and I was happy about the wide range of decks that were available and successful in the new Standard environment.

My deck felt very strong. I never lost a game when I connected with Dragonlord Ojutai. Silumgar's Scorn was amazing all day. I was underwhelmed with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver out of my sideboard, but the rest of the cards felt justified and strong for the archetype. I wouldn't be surprised if Blue-Black Control strategies with Dragonlord Ojutai were the Standard control decks of choice in a few weeks.

The vast majority of the players at Clarkson's Corner had chosen to play at least some number of cards from Dragons of Tarkir. Multiple players that played the most successful Red deck from the Invitational all found themselves eliminated by the third round, proving that the format is still in its infancy and that local metagame preparation will remain important in the next few months.

Next week, we'll finally have access to Magic Online data for the new Standard. With this information, we should be able to put together a more complete understanding of the format as we approach the Pro Tour.

Don't miss your opportunity to be among the very first to play with Dragons of Tarkir on Magic Online. Prerelease events start tomorrow morning, and continue through to Monday morning. Playing with a new set online gives us the ability to train for local events with a comparatively high level of competition.

The best way to learn is through experience, and there's no way to get more games in than playing Magic Online!

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