I haven’t been this excited about a new Magic set in as long as I can remember. Not only is Dragons of Tarkir themed around my favorite creature type in
the game, but there are a bunch of other awesome cards that I can’t wait to get my hands on. Last week, even before the full spoiler was out, I tweeted out
Can Dragons of Tarkir be out yet? I feel like a kid counting down sleeps until Christmas so I
can play with all these sweet cards.
— Brian Kibler (@bmkibler) March 12, 2015
I still feel the same way, but thankfully the wait is getting shorter! The Prerelease for Dragons of Tarkir is happening this weekend, and I’m itching to
crack open some packs. I’m actually unable to go to the Prerelease on Saturday due to another commitment, and I’m very sad that I’m going to have to wait
until Sunday to play with all of my shiny new dragons. Just one more sleep…
My last few articles have looked at what I felt were the exciting Constructed cards from Dragons of Tarkir, but at the Prerelease, we’re going to be
playing Sealed Deck. So today I want to shift from looking at the flashy rares and mythics of the set to the workhorse cards that will make up the bulk of
the Limited decks with Dragons of Tarkir.
There are a few key things to keep in mind going into the Prerelease. This block uses a very different structure from any that has come before it. Rather
than simply adding a third set onto the first two in the block, the time traveling storyline of this block means that Khans of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir
are never actually played together in Limited despite Fate Reforged being played with both.
This means that you need to shift your mindset from the previous Limited format. While Khans of Tarkir was about three-colored clans, Dragons of Tarkir is
about two-color pairings that fall in line with each of the Dragonlords. You’ll more than likely be looking to build a two rather than three-color deck.
You’ll still see some of the dual lands from Khans of Tarkir in Fate Reforged packs since they fill the basic land slots, but the only common land in
Dragons of Tarkir is Evolving Wilds. Don’t expect to be able to put together the same kind of exotic manabases that Khans featured.
Thankfully, the clan seed packs should help you find a cohesive direction. If you’re looking for advice on which clan you should choose to maximize your
value at the Prerelease, you’ve come to the wrong place. I am going to discuss what I feel are the key cards in each of the different colors at the lower
rarities, which you can use to draw your own conclusions, but I feel very strongly that Prereleases should be about having fun playing whatever you enjoy
the most, not just trying to squeeze out a little more prize equity. Don’t get me wrong – I do have more fun when I’m winning than when I’m losing, but I
have more fun when I’m winning with big green creatures than anything else.
Unsurprisingly, I’ll be joining the Atarka clan at the Prerelease, and I hope to find the Dragonlord herself waiting for me in my packs so I can get some
Surrak roleplaying in and feed all of my opponents to her. If I’m not so lucky, I’ll be looking for some of these in my packs.
While six is a high price to pay to megamorph this, Aerie Bowmasters is a good deal when you’re just casting it from your hand. A 3/4 creature for four
mana is pretty solid to begin with, and Bowmasters has the added bonus of reach. Flying has long been a thorn in the side of green decks full of big
creatures, and the traditional response has come in the form of Giant Spider. This is Giant Spider with more attack and the upside of being able to get
even bigger when you have extra mana to megamorph it.
Speaking of megamorph, an important note on the cards with the ability: Much like in Khans of Tarkir, there are important mana flashpoints to keep in mind
when it comes to face down creatures fighting one another where one of them can potentially flip up to kill the other. Incidentally, that flashpoint is the
same in Dragons as it was in Khans. Until you get to five mana, there are no megamorphs that can flip up in combat against another 2/2 creature and kill
the other creature without dying itself. Once you hit five mana though, the big dogs start to come out – in some cases literally, like with our next card.
These dogs aren’t all that big themselves, although they certainly can be if they travel in packs. A 3/3 body for four mana isn’t itself exciting, but the
ability these puppies offer certainly is. Salt Road Ambushers can make all of your other megamorph creatures into huge threats. While most of the megamorph
creatures in the set have pretty high costs to flip, as we just discussed, there are exceptions like Misthoof Kirin or Ojutai Interceptor that turn into
serious evasive threats when paired with the Ambushers – to say nothing of the double striking flying Aven Sunstriker.
It’s potentially even scarier with Manifest effects from Fate Reforged. If you’re lucky enough to hit a creature off of something like Soul Summons, you
get to pay retail price to flip it and get a supercharged version – all from a face down card that your opponent was hoping was just a land.
I love this kind of card. Atarka Beastbreaker is a two-drop that can help you get on the board to start pressuring your opponent quickly, which is always
welcome. Most cheap creatures drop off and become largely irrelevant once the battlefield starts getting cluttered, and that’s exactly when you tend to
have enough power in play to activate the Beastbreaker’s Formidible ability. Getting +4/+4 is pretty huge, making the Beastbreaker a real threat in the mid
and lategame. Any card that is good early and late is worth some extra attention.
This is basically Savage Punch without the Ferocious conditional. Yes, it only gives +1/+2, but the bonus toughness is more important when it comes to
fighting since you usually care more about whether your creature survives the fight than about being able to fight a creature with slightly higher
toughness. Given how powerful Savage Punch was even with its much more conditional functionality, I imagine Epic Confrontation will be a key card in green
decks throughout Dragons of Tarkir Limited. I hope to be uppercutting many dragons at the Prerelease.
The other half of green’s anti-flying duo – the Plummet to Bowmaster’s Giant Spider. And in the same vein, Pinion Feast offers more power for a more
restrictive cost. In this case, Pinion Feast costs over twice as much as Plummet, but it comes with it a pretty big upside with Bolster 2 tacked on. In
most formats, I’d leave a card like this in my sideboard, but with the number of dragons in this set, I expect anti-flying tools to have a lot more utility
than normal, especially in Sealed Deck. I’ll likely look to play one copy of this card in my maindeck at the Prerelease.
This is a really powerful combat trick. Being able to give +2/+2 to two separate creatures for four mana would be enough to swing a lot of fights on its
own, but giving both of them trample means this will frequently be able to outright end games. This is one of the uncommon cards that I feel like I’d be
most excited to open.
The existence of these two cards along with Glade Watcher as a 3/3 defender for two mana makes me think we may very well see some highly defensive go-large
green decks in this format. Both Aerie and Vegetation offer not just mana aceeleration but mana fixing, which can lead to a whole menagerie of dragons of
every color coming out long before their time. While I’m generally someone who likes to beat down, the idea of casting every dragon in my Sealed pool is
pretty exciting too, so I’m going to be keeping an eye out for these two cards at the Prerelease.
Even if you have no dragons in your entire deck, three damage to a creature at instant speed for two mana is a great deal in Limited. If you can trigger
the conditional on the Roar, then you have Searing Blaze, which is powerful enough that it sees play in Modern Burn decks. I’d certainly be happy to play
every copy I can get my hands on. You’ll want to keep the same megamorph cost flashpoint for creature combat in mind when it comes to using removal spells
like Draconic Roar too, since most flipped creatures with a +1/+1 counter aren’t likely to die to a three damage burn spell.
This is a really interesting card to evaluate. A 3/2 for three mana isn’t all that impressive from a stats perspective, but reducing the cost on your next
spell after you attack is a powerful effect. It’s kind of like a one shot Llanowar Elf, assuming your opponent blocks and kills it, but even then playing a
five-drop on turn 4 can give you a pretty big edge. It’s worth noting that you can use the cost reduction to cast an instant before your opponent can block
as well, which is one way to ensure that you get multiple uses out of the trigger over the course of a couple turns. Our next card is one of those spells
you might like to cast on your fourth turn…
Five is a lot of damage, especially when you get to choose whether to send it at opposing creatures or at your opponent’s face. The five-mana cost means
that this isn’t going to be a spell you want a ton of. The high cost and the two damage to yourself if you don’t have a dragon make the card painful when
you’re behind, but the ability to kill a big creature or close out the game is exactly what red decks tend to want. I’d be happy to have a couple of these
in my Sealed Deck this weekend.
This card is probably going to be responsible for a whole lot of blowouts at the Prerelease. A small creature sweeper effect in a morph format is very
powerful as we saw with Death Frenzy in Khans. The three mana cost on Seismic Rupture means that it’s very likely to catch both a two-drop and a morph on
turn 3, which can be absolutely backbreaking.
I’m going to go ahead and echo the sentiments I’ve heard from others on this card’s name and functionality and wish that this card was either called
something else or had Grim Contest’s effect. That said, this front-focused butt fight is still a great card, even if it fails to live up to the
expectations of Magic slang. Unlike the unimpressive Swift Kick, Tail Slash isn’t actually a fight effect, so you don’t have to have nearly as big a
creature in play to use it effectively. In fact, Tail Slash works especially well with creatures that have no business actually fighting at all. While a
deck full of Epic Confrontations is happy to have sizable, solid creatures, a deck full of Tail Slashes is better off with a bunch of Atarka’s Efreets and
Conifer Striders – at least to maximize the spells. Just something to keep in mind when you’re building your Prerelease deck.
Two damage kills morphs and manifests, which makes Twin Bolt a reasonable card, but there are enough creatures with three+ toughness and few enough with
one that I’m not particularly excited to have a bunch of Twin Bolts. It is removal, but two damage often isn’t enough to kill anything that’s an actual
threat. If it cost one mana, it would be a great tempo option to kill a morph on turn 4 and then play another creature, but at two mana, it’s much harder
to use in that manner. Yes, it’s removal, and I’d likely play a copy if I had one, but it’s not a card I’m going out of my way to include, and I can
certainly see leaving it in the sideboard.
This is a Trumpet Blast that throws in trample for two more mana. Trumpet Blast was a strong card in some very aggressive Mardu decks in Khans Limited,
fueled in part by token generators like Ponyback Brigade, Call to Arms, and Hordeling Outburst. While we do have Dragon Fodder joining the mix, the loss of
the quality token cards from Khans is likely to make those strategies much harder to pull off. That said, the fact that Volcanic Rush gives trample makes
it much more attractive to decks with larger creatures as a finisher since your opponent isn’t able to just chump block with those same tokens.
Okay, that’s it for today! Hope you have a great time at the Prerelease!
Oh, wait, right. There are other colors that people might play! Fine, fine – let’s take a look at some of the standouts from the rest.
This is a pretty solid combat trick at +2/+2 for two mana, and the rebound certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s a little less tricky the second time around, but it
still offers the ability to force damage through. While there is no Prowess in Dragons of Tarkir itself, the rebound cards in the set do synergize quite
well with those in Fate Reforged. I’m certainly not looking forward to Lotus Path Djinns taking down my Bowmasters with an Artful Maneuver and then hitting
me in the face for five the following turn!
Another rebound trick, this can help protect one of your creatures from a removal spell or win a fight, and then potentially force some damage through.
That said, I’m less excited about Center Soul than I am about Artful Maneuver since protection from a color is more situationally good than raw stats, so
the rebound is less likely to be as effective. Also, protection from colors is also worse in formats with morph and manifest than otherwise since it’s not
always going to even be sure to win your creature a combat against a similarly sized creature. Feat of Resistance got around this in Khans by putting a
+1/+1 counter on the creature, so you could use it to win morph vs morph fights, but Center Soul has no such upside. My inclination is that this is a card
you may want a single copy of but no more.
Giving a creature +1/+2 and deathtouch is a really good deal for just one mana. It’s a cheap way to win combat between similarly sized creatures that can
be used to trade one of your small creatures for a big one of your opponent’s in a pinch. I wouldn’t want to play too many since it requires a creature in
play and can get you two-for-one’d if you play it at the wrong time, but I think I’d happily play one copy.
We last saw Death Wind in Avacyn Restored, where it was a solid card in arguably the weakest color. It was among the only instant speed removal effects in
the format, which made it especially desirable. Here, Death Wind is a totally reasonable way to kill an opposing morph in the earlygame that can also
double as a removal spell for a giant dragon late. Certainly a solid card that I’d be happy to play in multiples.
Flatten, on the other hand, is just a better version of Throttle and Lash of the Whip. I’m actually curious to see which of the two removal spells is more
desirable. My guess is that Death Wind’s flexibility is likely to come out ahead of Flatten’s efficiency, especially given how big creatures can get late
in the game thanks to megamorph and the like, but I could certainly see more aggressive decks just wanting the ability to punch through four toughness
creatures faster and preferring Flatten.
This Divine Verdict plus seems likely to be a stronger card in this format than it might elsewhere. Holding up a bunch of untapped mana in the average
format often telegraphs a card like Divine Verdict, but the fact that Enduring Victory exists in the context of morphs makes it much easier to conceal your
real intentions for your mana. Being able to kill your opponent’s biggest attacking creature and set up a profitable trade with a smaller one will lead to
a lot of blowouts with this card – it’s certainly one you’ll need to keep in mind this weekend.
This card seems a little suspect in a Limited format with so many token creatures and manifests. It may seem like a removal spell, but it’s rarely going to
kill what you want. My inclination is that this isn’t a card you want to play in many decks.
Obviously this card is great. There are no common multicolor creatures in Dragons of Tarkir, which is likely to make Ultimate Price even better than when
it last showed up in Ravnica block Limited. It’s important to note that face down creatures are colorless, so you can’t use Ultimate Price to kill any
morphs or manifests – but you can wait until they turn it face up and then kill pretty much whatever your opponent has for just two mana. Play as many as
you can get your hands on.
Even if this guy only affected himself, he’d be pretty attractive for an aggressive deck. But the fact that Blood-Chin Rager gives all of your Warriors the
Goblin War Drums effect makes him incredible for a warrior-focused deck. While we no longer have the same warrior synergy from Khans to build around, there
are quite a few powerful new warriors to pair with the Rager. The most exciting of them is probably Hand of Silumgar, which as a 2/1 deathtouch creature
for two mana, is great on its own on both offense and defense but pairs especially well with the Rager since it’s basically unblockable unless your
opponent wants to throw away two creatures. There’s nothing quite as powerful as Raiders’ Spoils or the two Chiefs to build around, but B/W Warriors
definitely seems like it has the tools to be a deck again in the new Draft format. There are a lot of generally efficient aggressive warriors, like Dromoka
Warrior, Dragon Hunter, Lightwalker, and Kolaghan Skirmisher. While you can’t choose a B/W clan at the Prerelease, you may want to look to see if the deck
presents itself if you have some of the stronger tools, like the Rager.
The second coming of Homicidal Seclusion from Avacyn Restored, Deadly Wanderings is a card that definitely has potential. It works especially well with the
exploit mechanic, allowing you to continue to play creatures and generate effects while still maintaining only a single creature in play to get the bonus.
Incidentally, it can also work well with Dash, letting you both attack and block and trade each turn as long as you dash a creature in and then play
another post combat. Being able to trigger the lifelink of Wanderings on both offense and defense can make it very difficult for your opponent to possibly
race – although more than likely they’ll just stop attacking once you get them with the combo once.
Effects that tap opposing creatures and don’t allow them to untap can generate huge tempo swings, though most don’t see play unless they either draw a card
or hit multiple creatures. Ojutai’s Breath is in the latter category, though it does so over several turns. I suspect that’s still good enough in an
aggressive deck, especially since you can cast it during your opponent’s turn and then rebound it on your own to lock down two creatures at once.
I don’t know that there has ever been a Limited format with Pacifism in which it was not one of the best cards. With huge megamorph monsters and dragons
flying around, I can’t imagine that’s about to change now. I’d play as many as I can get my hands on.
Similar to Pacifism effects, dealing large chunks of damage to creatures has always been and always will be a powerful effect in Limited. Considering this
is a card that feels specifically pointed at Constructed to kill Siege Rhino, it’s certainly good enough to make the cut in Sealed Deck or Draft, though it
is unfortunate that it can’t deal with big flying threats like opposing dragons.
In a world of morphs, the three casting cost 3/3 may not quite be king, but he’s certainly very good. The fact that this can effectively haste the +1/+1
counter onto another creature, potentially an evasive one, makes this feel like a really solid card. It’s probably one of the better white commons.
This is kind of a weird card. It’s sort of a split card between Kraken Hatchling and Void Snare, which are generally not cards you’d usually want in the
same deck. That said, Unsummon effects are notoriously bad when you’re behind, especially against decks full of cheap, aggressive creatures, and that’s
exactly where a 0/4 creature can shine to buy you a lot of time to develop. While neither “mode” is outrageously powerful, the flexibility of this card is
likely to make it a top pick for blue.
Journey to Nowhere, how far we have fallen. This seems like a pretty weak removal option since it can barely trade up curve at sorcery speed, and it’s
potentially vulnerable to enchantment removal. Still, even weak removal is still removal and can come in handy sometimes. I don’t see myself as being
excited to play this, but I’m sure it will end up in some of my decks.
Ukud Cobra is pretty unusual as far as deathtouch creatures go. Most tend to be small creatures that aren’t likely to win fights, but the Cobra’s 2/5 body
for four mana means that it can act as Moat for a whole lot of creatures in the format. Good thing there are enough dragons to fly over it so we don’t all
get bored staring at each other all day…
Five mana is a lot to pay for a bounce effect, but it’s a totally reasonable price for two of them. One of the downsides of bounce spells is that your
opponent can just replay whatever it is you returned to their hand, but with Void Squall, you just get to send it right back again. That certainly seems
like it can be a frustrating effect to play against, and I can imagine repeated bounces being the nail in the coffin in a game where you’re already
significantly behind. If you only have one creature in play, you can hopefully use your mana the next turn casting some kind of removal effect, because
otherwise you’re basically just getting Time Walked twice. This seems like a very powerful tool for aggressive decks, and it doesn’t even seem that bad
when you’re on the back foot as long as your opponent isn’t just swarming you with cheap creatures.
Okay, that’s going to have to do it. If you think I missed any key cards in the Limited format, let me know – it’s a big set, so I’m sure I glossed over
I hope you all have a blast at your Dragons of Tarkir Prerelease this weekend – I know I will!