Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Limited Primer

Posted in Perilous Research on April 9, 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 Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. The Pro Tour is the biggest show in all of Magic. The best players in the world travel to a single location to battle their way through six rounds of Limited and ten rounds of Constructed before the event cuts to the Top 8. The Pro Tour merges the greatest talent in the game with the newest and most exciting formats. This weekend, players will be playing Standard and Dragons of Tarkir-Fate Reforged Draft.

The new Standard format is quietly evolving as the highest profile teams and individuals forge their weapons for the big show.

Solving the new draft format is a much more inclusive endeavor. Everyone has the opportunity to draft as much as they'd like on Magic Online and knowledge is readily available if players are willing to learn from mistakes and scrutinize accepted pick orders.

Today, we'll be discussing Dragons of Tarkir-Fate Reforged Draft in an effort to better prepare ourselves for this weekend's festivities.

Colors and Roles

The new Draft format gives us a lot of room for creativity. I've had a great deal of success with decks that range from frothing-at-the-mouth-aggressive to thoughtfully-grinding-every-ounce-of-value-control. It's important to identify which colors best accomplish which goals if we want to build our deck optimally. Let's take a look at each color and discuss the roles played therein:


White is the best aggressive color in Dragons of Tarkir. The early creatures are good at trading with things that cost more mana and the more expensive creatures tend to have flying. When drafting the white deck, it's important to embrace and aggressive stance if you want to be successful. Indiscriminate removal spells like Pacifism and Reach of Shadows are always good, but they play especially well with white cards. It's easy for a single copy of Aerie Bowmasters to ruin your day, so having removal spells for the opponent's trump cards is exceptionally important for aggressive strategies in the new draft format.

The major issue with white in this format is that both black and green decks are naturally strong against you, especially once they get to the second and third game where they can sideboard appropriately. Red decks may have Twin Bolt, or more than one copy, and it's often difficult to play optimally without offering up a cheap and easy two-for-one. Still, cards like Pacifism and Misthoof Kirin are good enough to take first pick and it'll be hard to pass up that kind of quality.

My Favorite Commons:

My Favorite Uncommon:


Dragons of Tarkir-Fate Reforged Draft gives blue two very unique and different identities. There are tempo-oriented blue strategies that usually play sixteen or more creatures, with cards like Will of the Naga and Taigam's Strike. Those decks are usually white or red and tend to dip into blue for evasion and tempo swings that end the game. Then there are midrange and control decks that seek to grind games out over a long period of time.

Youthful Scholar is quickly becoming one of my favorite uncommon cards in Dragons of Tarkir. The card is a nightmare for both white and red decks that are plagued with a lot of lower toughness, usually trading with a creature and drawing two cards for a nice three-for-one exchange rate. The card obviously combines nicely with the exploit mechanic too. I've always loved a Surveilling Sprite and this card feels like they sewed a pair together.

Ojutai's Summons is very strong, providing 4 points of power and toughness in the air for five mana. The card tends to be at its best against decks that lack flyers and, instead, rely on removal to control the air. It's always quite good.

My Favorite Commons:

My Favorite Uncommon:


Black is very good at killing things in the newest Limited format. The color is a tremendous boon to control decks and aggro decks alike. Cards like Vulturous Aven and Dutiful Attendant ensure a constant stream of card advantage while cards like Ukud Cobra provide nearly impenetrable defenses. I've had a lot of success with black cards and it's mostly because of the powerful synergies available for the strategy. The power level of instant-speed removal has been dramatically improved in Dragons of Tarkir, and it's allowing black drafters to play traditional, card advantage-driven Limited strategies.

Flatten is really quite incredible. We're getting a hell of a deal for four mana with this card and it combines well with the natural card advantage we'll be producing simply by picking the cards that get passed to us. Vulturous Aven is my second-favorite card to play with in this format behind Youthful Scholar from a "fun" perspective.

Black is great for control decks and is usually well served to be playing a lot of deathtouch bodies to work well with Dutiful Attendant and removal that can be used to decimate combat tricks or deal with evasive bodies on the other side of the table.

My Favorite Commons:

My Favorites Uncommons:


Red has a great removal package. Twin Bolt punishes a lot of decks, especially the most aggressive strategies. Twin Bolt, by itself, makes red a solid inclusion for a more controlling strategy. The creatures tend to be very strong and picking a few copies of Warbringer early can lead to some absolutely ridiculous dash strategies that end games in the blink of an eye.

Atarka Efreet is another card that punishes 1 toughness cards from the opponent, and often in an impressive fashion. I've found this card to go quite a bit later than I expected it would and I can't say I've ever been unhappy to have it in my deck. Summit Prowler is a lot better these days than it was in Khans of Tarkir. The card becomes easy to cast in two color decks and matches up nicely against a format with a lot of 2/4s, 2/3s, and 2/2s; there tends to be enough strong instant speed removal to punish opponents that try to double-block. I also tend to wonder if anyone has bothered to read Stormcrag Elemental before letting it table back to me. The card is tremendously strong at every stage of the game, think about it like a slightly better Woolly Loxodon.

My Favorite Commons:

My Favorite Uncommon:


Green is in a very good place in the new Draft format. The color's basic creature suite lets us play an aggressive or controlling game while punishing the aggressive decks. There are a lot of situations where the green deck puts itself into a dominant position right out of the gates. I've already witnessed multiple games won by the power of a Dragon-boosted Scaleguard Sentinels on the second turn.

Even the green commons are quite strong. Epic Confrontation seems to be significantly stronger than Savage Punch after initial testing. In fact, it might even be the second best common removal spell in the set behind Pacifism! Aerie Bowmasters matches up well against a huge portion of the format's creatures. It's pretty nice when a four-mana common creature has the ability to invalidate more than half of your opponents' white-blue decks.

It's important to note that Press the Advantage, a card that would be very strong in a lot of recent Limited formats, is actually very deck dependent. As a green player, it's hard to develop properly while having time to set this up with any sort of efficiency.

My Favorite Commons:

My Favorite Uncommon:

Nice Removal!

Dragons of Tarkir drastically improves the instant-speed removal spells we're seeing at the common and uncommon level. This means a lot of things for the Limited format. The first and most obvious assumption is that pump spells and combat tricks are worse, and this generally holds true, though they're still very playable and quite strong in a lot of decks. Our instant-speed removal spells may just seem like point-and-click answers, but prudent use of them has proven invaluable to me as I've two-for-oned opponents while establishing a strong tempo advantage. Lets discuss some examples of how we can use our instant-speed removal to its fullest potential.

We attack our Stampeding Elk Herd into a pair of Summit Prowlers on the opponent's side of the table. Our opponent is going to block with both of his or her 4/3s a reasonable portion of the time. We can use our removal spell to destroy one Summit Prowler once blockers have been declared. In doing so, we've just used a single card to deal with two of our opponent's cards. In this case, those two cards were both 4/3s that were already on the battlefield.

All of our lands are tapped. Our opponent attacks with Alesha's Vanguard into our Aerie Bowmasters. Surely our opponent has some type of pump spell. We take the damage and make sure to leave available mana for our instant-speed removal on the next turn. The next turn, our opponent follows through and attacks his 3/3 into our 3/4 again. We block, our opponent uses a pump spell. We use our instant-speed removal spell and pick up two cards that our opponent already paid mana for with one inexpensive spell.

Our opponent has Blood-Chin Rager to create a position favorable for attacking. We can wait until our opponent's whole team is in the red zone, kill the Blood-Chin Rager, and clean up with our blocks. We're probably trading our one instant-speed removal spell for many of the opponent's cards in this situation.

Sometimes we'll be forced to use removal aggressively because of a game's texture, but it's important that we're able to get maximum value out of our removal if a game is close.

The strength of removal means that we should always be attacking with everything that isn't a chump attack (excluding some situations involving regenerate or deathtouch) when our raw on-board damage outraces that of the opponent. The presence of powerful instant-speed removal strongly discourages opponents from double-blocking in most scenarios.

The new Limited format encourages a lot of thoughtful strategies and tends to play very well. There are constantly drafts firing on Magic Online! Next week, we'll have access to Standard results from Magic Online and Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. We'll be attempting to put that information together for a more full understanding of the current Standard metagame.

Don't miss all the action at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir! The best players from around the world have arrived in Brussels and are prepared to make their mark on Standard and Dragons of Tarkir-Fate Reforged Limited. All of the action will be streamed live and text coverage will comb the tournament floor for stories, tech, and new decks!

Knowledge is power!

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