Dragons of Tarkir Hits the Modern Scene

Posted in GRAND PRIX CHARLOTTE 2015 on June 13, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

If there's ever been a slow-burner of a set, it's Dragons of Tarkir. Initially looked at as a set with some powerful-but-difficult-to-implement cards, it wasn't immediately clear when it debuted how the set would impact Constructed formats.

Three months later, those questions have all been answered. Players have experimented with ways to wield some of the most powerful cards from the set, and the verdict is in.

Dragons of Tarkir is here to stay.

The list of cards that have impacted the format — in both large and small ways — is extensive. Collected Company has stolen the headlines, but it's far from the only representative. The Commands of both Atarka and Kolaghan have found a place, Rending Volley has become the star of sideboards worldwide, Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is bolstering creatures everywhere, and Dragonlord Ojutai himself has been spotted flying through matches at Grand Prix Charlotte.

Collected Company has had the most profound impact, spawning an entire range of new decks, from sneaking out hordes of Elves to topping the curve of Abzan decks that aim to play all the best creatures with a converted mana cost less than three.

The Abzan Company build that has been popular in recent weeks is the best example of the power of Collected Company, with typically upwards of 25 creatures that can be employed by the Company. The deck also uses Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit to accomplish both of its goals: attacking with powered-up creatures and finding the combo with Viscera Seer and Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap to try and end the game on the spot. Everything is tied together with Collected Company, which can turn an empty board state into a devastating one all at the end of an opponent's turn.

"It's provided a lot of the midrange or aggressive creature strategies a way they can gain card advantage and tempo at instant speed," Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl said. "Modern has so many powerful 3-casting cost creatures, so it fits perfectly as a curve-topper in a lot of those strategies."

The range of decks made possible by Collected Company is varied. While the combo route is viable, some players are choosing to take a more aggressive stance and keep company with Wild Nacatl, while still other builds focus on dumping into play as many Elves as possible along with Heritage Druid to ramp into fatties like Craterhoof Behemoth and Regal Force.

"If you're playing creatures that synergize with each other, it turns out you can not only get a critical mass of creatures that are hard to kill on a 1-for-1 basis, but you can also try and find the creature or two in your deck that you need for the combo," added Pro Tour Magic 2015 Top 8 competitor Matt Sperling. "You can do creative things with it, or you can do synergistic things with it, or you can get just a raw power two-for-one with it."

Of almost equal import has been a card that few saw coming. Kolaghan's Command has seen some Standard play since its release, but it's truly found a home in Modern. Thanks primarily to its versatility, the innocuous sorcery has found a home in some decks and revitalized others.

The reemergence of Jund is neatly tied to Kolaghan's Command. With the ability to return Dark Confidant or Tarmogoyf from the graveyard, kill small creatures or a pesky artifact, or make the combo decks discard a card, there's very few situations where Kolaghan's Command doesn't do something useful.

The only thing better than casting Kolaghan's Command once may be casting it twice, and that's where Snapcaster Mage and the Grixis decks come in. Both the control variants as well as the Delver of Secrets builds utilize this engine, and alongside Tasigur, the Golden Fang these decks have the ability to bury the opponent under the accumulated card advantage gained from the Command.

With so many sets legal in Modern, it's hard for any one set to make a drastic impact. But with a varied mix of both role players and build-around cards, Dragons of Tarkir has done just that, and revitalized Modern Magic along the way.

Paul Rietzl - Zoo Company

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Matt Sperling - Zoo Company

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