Elder Dragon Support

Posted in Serious Fun on April 7, 2015

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

As our dragons age, they start to need more support. Sometimes it is just another dragon to raze that one piece of countryside those old eyes missed, other times they just lounge on a throne and need others to do everything for them. Elder dragons can need some support. In fact, it isn't just the elderly dragons that can use a helping hand. Every dragon can sometimes find themselves down on their luck. We can help.

Rather than look at the dragons themselves during Dragon Week, I thought we could look at some of the cards that allow dragons to be all they can be, no matter how elderly or downtrodden they are.

Dragonlord Silumgar | Art by Steven Belledin

The downside to playing all kinds of cool Dragons tends to be the cost. Dragons tend to cost six or more mana, and many of them are looking for multiple colors. Dragon Arch takes your color concerns and tosses them aside. For only two mana, all your multicolored Dragons, and any other multicolored creatures for that matter, move smoothly from your hand to the battlefield. Belbe's Portal focuses on a specific creature type and costs one more mana to use, but it handles your single color Dragons as well.

While it is tempting to use these cards so you can skimp on your mana base, please don't. I used these cards when my selection of nonbasic lands was poor, and often paid the price. These cards are expensive to cast themselves, and you really don't want them stranded in your hand along with other expensive cards…like Dragons. It is best to use these cards to supplement your lands. They can help with mana when you need them to, and sometimes they can let you double up, playing two Dragons in one turn!

Players who are new to using these cards often don't realize the hidden benefit these cards offer: they give your Dragons flash! You can put a surprise Dragon onto the battlefield as an emergency defender. You can play it at the end of your opponent's turn to give your Dragon quasi-haste.

If your Dragons stopped costing six or seven mana and started to cost only four or five, your options would go way up. Getting powerful, flying Dragons out earlier is a valuable thing. Having a way to open up your mana so you can protect your Dragons with other spells sounds like a good thing too. The Shaman and Incubator reduce Dragon costs by two while the cheaper Servant reduces Dragon costs by one.

I like the Incubator in particular, just because it isn't a creature. Artifacts don't tend to be too difficult to handle. But creatures can get swept up in mass removal, but artifacts tend to get hit that way less often.

Once your playgroup understands the value these creatures offer, expect to see them destroyed early and often. I rarely enjoy seeing my creatures get killed, but when someone uses a removal spell to kill off a dragon enabler, I know it is one less kill spell for the Dragons themselves. It brings a little joy to my heart knowing the Dragonspeaker Shaman took one for the team!

When it comes to dragons, the best thing is MOAR DRAGONS! Dragonmaster Outcast gives you free Dragons! This one-mana, 1/1 creature gives you a 5/5 Dragon token on each of your upkeeps. All you have to do is control six or more lands. You don't have to tap them or sacrifice them, you just have to have them! You can use those six lands to cast another Dragon! Or another Dragonmaster Outcast! TWO 5/5 Dragon tokens per turn![1]

Beyond the obvious benefit of a 5/5 Dragon, there are so many cards in Dragons of Tarkir that get better when you have a Dragon, or multiple Dragons on the battlefield. Getting a 5/5 Dragon on each of your upkeeps let you do a lot of things far more easily than paying for a Dragon each turn.

And if you thought it was cool to see your opponents waste removal spells on your Dragonspeaker Shaman, wait until they burn them on this 1/1 creature for one mana. That's right, just keep using up that removal....

Dragonmaster Outcast is a great way to get plenty of Dragons, or get abilities to kick in whenever a dragon enters the battlefield. But there is a better way. A much better way.

Dragon Broodmother gives you a 1/1 Dragon on every upkeep. Not just your upkeep, every upkeep. Play the Broodmother in a four-player game. End your turn. On your first opponent's upkeep, get a 1/1 Dragon. On your second opponent's upkeep, get a 1/1 Dragon. On your third opponent's upkeep, get a 1/1 Dragon. On your turn, get a 1/1 Dragon. You now have four Dragons and things are starting to get crazy.

The Broodmother isn't just there to flood the skies with Dragons. Each of these little Dragons has devour 2. Rather than a horde of small Dragons, you could choose to have one eat its siblings to get a single big Dragon. Remember that four-player game? You can eat the 1/1 Dragons you made on your turn and two of your opponents' turns to get a 7/7 Dragon on your last opponent's upkeep. What would you do with a 7/7 Dragon every turn?

I personally hate to encourage this sort of cannibalistic behavior. I like to run Mycoloth with my Broodmother and feed the little Dragons a steady diet of Saprolings! Four new 5/5 Dragons on each of my turns seems even better than that single 7/7!

What makes Sarkhan's Triumph awesome?

  1. It's an instant speed Tutor. Even if you can only find a Dragon creature card, getting it at instant speed is important. This lets you find it on your opponent's turn so you can have all your mana to cast it on your turn. If you happen to have a way to flash your creatures, Sarkhan's Triumph gives you that option as well.
  2. It lets you run just one copy of each Dragon you want to play. Rather than pack your deck with four copies of a single Dragon to make sure you'll see it when you want it, you can run Sarkhan's Triumph and one copy of four different Dragons. Now you can get whichever Dragon you want. Besides, when building your deck, you really don't want to limit yourself to just one Dragon. A Tutor lets you run legendary Dragons without any of the downside being a legendary permanent has.

I suspect this may be a "win more" card, but I'm running it anyway. The ability to kill all non-Dragon creatures gives you extra time to find the Dragons you need. Those Elves and Goblins multiply too quickly, so having a way to kill them all off sounds like a sound part of any Dragon-themed plan. It may also be handy later in the game if you happen to find yourself facing someone with multiple small flyers. Not all the Dragons have trample or ways to get damage to an opponent's face quickly if forced to fight through a horde of Pegasi or the like. Crux of Fate can be handy later in the game to clear a path for the big Dragons to do some real damage!

Zirilan of the Claw finds a Dragon, drops it onto the battlefield for you, and gives it haste. Admittedly, it does exile the Dragon at the end of the turn, but on your next turn, just get another Dragon! When you have the ability to get any Dragon in your deck, you can become something of a target, but you shouldn't need more than a couple of turns to find the Dragons you need to bring games to a quick end.

Sneak Attack is similar, but the Dragon needs to be in your hand, since Sneak Attack doesn't let you search your library. The benefits of Sneak Attack are twofold. One, it is hard to destroy. Zirilan of the Claw is a creature with no way to protect itself versus an enchantment. Enchantments rarely suffer from collateral damage, so they tend to stay on the battlefield longer. Two, there is no tap in the cost. You can repeat it for every creature in your hand, if you have the mana to do it. Using multiple Dragons in one turn hasn't seemed too sane, since you risk getting blown out, but with all the Dragons available in Dragons of Tarkir that give +1/+1 counters to other Dragons on the battlefield, putting several Dragons out in one turn may make more sense.

If you are looking to add some Dragons to the battlefield, Death by Dragons and Descent of the Dragons are options. Death by Dragons lets you choose one person to not receive a gift of a Dragon, while everyone else in the game eyes up the open skies around that player. Death by Dragons is a tool that can be used in a variety of ways. If one player is dominating the air with creatures, you can slow that down by giving others a way to protect themselves. If a particular opponent may be susceptible to flying creatures, you've created a way to rain terror down in them. The downside of Death by Dragons lies in player reluctance. Everyone knows that if they use their new Dragon to attack, they are now open to attack. Players tend to be reluctant, so your leather-winged gift may be used to protect the home, rather than terrorize others. You need to create the climate in the game so your opponents use your gifts in the way you want them to.

Descent of the Dragons initially appears to be a way to eliminate an enemy's army, but you are replacing it with 4/4 Dragons. Is that really helping? I see Descent of the Dragons as a better version of Death by Dragons. You can gift players, including yourself, with plenty of Dragons. Take out your Soldier tokens and replace them with Dragons. Give your friends Dragons to use against common enemies. You can load the board full of Dragons. Not sure why you would want to make every creature in the game into a 4/4 Dragon…

Oh. I see. While Insurrection takes everyone's creatures so you can use them against their former masters, Karrthus is a little more selective. However, a Descent of the Dragons, followed up with Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund is just game over, in the most dramatic fashion. Karrthus takes all the Dragons to his side, gives them all haste, and rushes in for the killing blow. I recommend dimming the lights above your game to imitate the skies blacked out by all the Dragons about to come down and feast on your opponents.

The benefit for them? They will die quickly.

These two cards make your average creature deck into the stuff of nightmares. Goblins or Merfolk suddenly become huge and take wind, wreaking havoc on everything in their path. These are the kind of Dragon decks that make your opponents believe you are running a cute little tribal deck that just hasn't found a way to make your creatures bigger.

My problem with these decks lies with them not actually using Dragons! More...bigger...Dragons! I'd rather not have tokens Dragons that could be eliminated by simply getting rid of Day of the Dragons or discovering that an overloaded Dragonshift still isn't quite enough to kill off everyone else. Real dragons don't go away so easily, and hit turn after turn. Mmmm, dragons!

This is the storm card Casual players love. Play a bunch of cards that ramp up your mana so you can afford to actually cast Dragonstorm, then cast it. My version of the deck regularly gave me four or five copies of the spell. I would find any of the Dragons in my deck, and Karrthus to give them all haste, then attack to win or set up the win next turn.

The deck is very fragile, since you are often left with nothing to do and no real path to victory if you can't get Dragonstorm to go off. On the other hand, I really didn't want a Dragonstorm deck that reliably went off every game. Where is the fun in that?

My updated version of the deck includes a few new goodies!


Download Arena Decklist

The deck runs Jungle Troll and Dragon Whelp as defense while piling up several Ritual spells. Soulbright Flamekin turns six mana of any color into eight red mana and gives creatures trample if you're interested. Even the Geothermal Crevice, an old land from Invasion, can be sacrificed to get two mana instead of one. The deck is a blast to play, but is very much a one-shot type of deck. I have only played one game where I managed to cast a second Dragonstorm.

What other Dragon support cards do you run? Drop me an email or a tweet with ways to up the Dragon quotient of the deck!

Bruce Richard




[1] Why do I feel like the Count from Sesame Street? Two, two 5/5 Dragons! Ah-ha-ha!

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