Dragons Circling Standard

Posted in PRO TOUR DRAGONS OF TARKIR on April 11, 2015

By Josh Bennett

Everyone knew Dragons of Tarkir would be jam-packed with Dragons. Likewise, you hardly needed to be psychic to predict that some of them would be Standard-viable. However, few would have guessed just how many different varieties of winged death would shape the Standard metagame. I managed to talk to a number of pros about the dragons that made their deck, and what advantages they offer.

At the set's release, the most conspicuous of these was Thunderbreak Regent. As a 4/4 flier at a bargain price of four mana, and one that gives a little extra in the face of removal, it was no surprise that it was a big player in the new format. Teaming up with its brother from another mother, Stormbreath Dragon, it propelled red-green decks to the top of the charts in the early days of the new format.

Swedish fan-favorite Joel Larsson took this as a starting point and cranked the dragon-ness up to eleven. Two copies of Dragonlord Atarka sit atop his curve, and his removal suite features Draconic Roar. "It's actually almost the same as the list from Chris VanMeter," said Larsson, referring to the deck VanMeter played at last weekend's StarCityGames Open tournament. "It plays similar to earlier builds of Red-Green, but it has incredible damage output. I actually managed to kill Reid Duke on turn five this weekend!"

Joel Larsson's Red-Green Dragons

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Dragonlord Ojutai was also being hyped up as a tool for control decks coming into the Pro Tour. No. 23 player Josh Utter-Leyton sleeved up a Blue-Black Control deck splashing white, and it features both the Great Teacher and Silumgar, the Drifting Death in the main. "The idea is to blank your opponent's removal in Game 1," he explained. "You have a hexproof 3/7 and Ojutai protects itself. Then, once they've sideboarded out their removal, you bring in Dragonlord Silumgar."

Josh Utter-Leyton's Blue-Black Control (splash white)

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However, Ojutai wasn't limited to just control decks. White-based beatdown artist and Pro Tour Champion Craig Wescoe found room to splash it in a deck we've dubbed Ojutai Bant. "The thing about this deck is, you're playing Caryatids, and you can't always get raid on for Wingmate Roc," he explained. "The single blue mana isn't too hard to get. Also, the deck really wanted access to counterspells in the sideboard: Negate, Stubborn Denial, and Disdainful Stroke. Often your opponent needs one big spell to stabilize the game. Stop that, and you win. I'm also playing plenty of instants like Valorous Stance and Dromoka's Command, so it's not hard to protect Ojutai."

Craig Wescoe's Ojutai Bant

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Countermagic factored heavily into former Player of the Year Shota Yasooka's decision of what threats to run in his Blue-Black Control. "Silumgar's Scorn is very powerful, but you need enough dragons to support it," he said. "I started with a mix of one Silumgar, the Drifting Death and two Dragonlord Silumgar, but you can't just fill your deck with six-casting cost spells, so I'm playing three Icefall Regent. It's a very good threat and incredible against green decks."

Shota Yasooka's Blue-Black Control Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir

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Lastly, and perhaps most exciting, is Patrick Dickmann's Jeskai Dragons. It features fully ten dragons in the main: Thunderbreak Regent, Dragonlord Ojutai, Icefall Regent, and Stormbreath are all there. He put up a perfect 5-0 in Standard on Day One. "The deck actually plays a lot like post-sideboard Twin decks in Modern," he explained. You have a lot of selection with Anticipate and Dig Through Time, a lot of removal and a few counters, and then these huge threats. Of course, some games you win just by going turn-four dragon, turn-five dragon."

Patrick Dickmann's Jeskai Dragons

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It remains to be seen which Dragons will rule the day here at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, but their power and influence are undeniable.