The Dragonmaster

As promised last week, Sheldon builds a Commander deck in honor of Brian “The Dragonmaster” Kibler’s victory at PT Dark Ascension. He does a card-by-card breakdown of choices for his Dragon-themed deck.

I’ve been threatening for quite some time to take Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund off of his spot as General of a Beast deck, and honoring Brian “The Dragonmaster” Kibler’s victory at Pro Tour Dark Ascension seems like a ripe opportunity to put Karrthus where he belongs: at the head of a Dragon army. I still haven’t decided whether Adun Oakenshield or Xira Arien will pilot the existing Karrthus (and his Beasts) deck.

Before I get to that, I want to tell you about the insane play from the last time I was at Armada Games playing in some friendly games before League started. I was playing Kresh the Bloodbraided and Kyle was playing his Treva, the Renewer life gain deck. The other two players were already out of the game, I was at eleven, and Kyle was at somewhere near 100. I had Hamletback Goliath who was pretty large (+20 or so), Primeval Titan, and Mikaeus, the Unhallowed on the battlefield along with a large pile of land including Phyrexian Tower and Grim Backwoods. Kyle, with Leyline of Vitality in play, proceeded to drop Palinchron and courtesy of three bounce lands created an infinitely large amount of mana and gained an infinite amount of life. I told him that he needed to pick a number for his life total, and he said, “80 billion.” I then reminded him that Hamletback Goliath was then +320 billion, since a four-power Palinchron came into play for every life he gained. He dropped Windbrisk Raptor and Treva but then had nothing else. Kudos to him for not having lame Capsize to go with the infinite life combo.

It was still looking bad for me as I didn’t have Kessig Wolf Run (it got Strip Mined earlier) or a way to give Hamletback trample and his twelve-power worth of guys was enough to kill me. I was holding two lands in hand and nothing else. I knocked the top of my deck and got Pelakka Wurm. I felt positively Kibleresque. It was enough life to keep in me in the game, since I could cast it, gain the seven, sacrifice it to Grim Backwoods, draw two cards, one of which is Acidic Slime to take out the Leyline and the other Devouring Swarm, and go to twenty-five. It was still not a winner, but it kept me in it. I battled with Primeval Titan just to get more lands. He didn’t care about his life total, so I couldn’t Jedi Mind Trick him into blocking.

On his turn, he didn’t attack since he really had nothing to gain and everything to lose if he couldn’t kill me. The next turn, I peeled Yavimaya Elder, which turns out is a Human (so no Mikaeus shenanigans). I cast it then sacrificed it to draw a card, thinning my deck of the last of its land. The card I drew is Flayer of the Hatebound, which is the hope I needed. I cast it then sacrificed it to Grim Backwoods, drawing Inferno Titan. When it came back, I pinged the Raptor for five. I cast Inferno Titan, pinged the Raptor for three more, killing it, then sacrificed it to Phyrexian Tower, bringing it back for seven more to kill Treva. I then used the Devouring Swarm to sacrifice the Primal Titan, which came back and blew up Palinchron (technically, forced him to bounce it, but the result was the same), and came across for all that Hamletback damage. Chicken dinner.

The other insane play was while playing Lord of Tresserhorn: I activated Havengul Lich and cast Mikaeus, the Unhallowed out of someone else’s yard, thereby allowing me to sacrifice all my Zombies—which included Vengeful Dead—to Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, making corpses of the other players.

I also uncovered an unintended infinite combo in that Lord of Tresserhorn deck:  Gravecrawler, Goblin Bombardment, and Rooftop Storm (plus another Zombie on the battlefield). And in researching this deck (which was going to have Priests added—I was figuring on going with some kind of Dragon Cult theme), I discovered Spine of Ish Sah and Priest of Yawgmoth, which while not infinite, seems saucy.

I’m going to break this list down a little differently than I have in the past. I’m going to run the list in normal breakdown format and also comment on the individual cards broken down more by functionality groups. I think I might do this a little more often when building decks to keep in mind that there needs to be a number of elements to deck. Even themed decks have to have some utility and the ability to be in the games they play.

The ramp suite is obviously the collection of cards that will help us get to there being a bunch of Dragons in the skies. Board control consists of dealing with other people’s stuff en masse and removal is pinpointed destruction. It includes enchantment and artifact destruction as well as creature. Card draw is just that, and I’ve made it a separate group because sometimes I forget to include enough. Graveyard hate is required in this format. I don’t advocate dedicating too many slots to it, but you need something to keep the insanity in check. Damage is just that—the Dragons bring the hurt all the time.

One of the approaches I took to the deck was to try to be additionally thematic with many of the rest of the spells. You’ll notice aggressive language with many of the other spells:  Decree of Pain, Violent Ultimatum, etc. since I figured Dragons are, by nature, aggressive. I considered putting in the extra combat step stuff, like Savage Beating, but in the end decided to go with a little more utility. The Dragons come and sweep the landscape before them and then take to the air to dominate the land.

I wanted to make a playable deck that’s not a slave to the theme, which meant limiting the number of actual Dragons. In Jund colors there are 63 of them, so I obviously couldn’t pick them all. It’s a little mana-greedy, which is why the ramp suite is so large. Hopefully I don’t spend all my time just ramping and get killed before doing anything else. It’s also tilted pretty well towards red, which means I’ll need to be careful about the basic land balance. Having green early in the game is a must, which is why I’ll run fetch lands when I’m normally kind of ambivalent about them unless they have a purpose other than smoothing out the land (like landfall or something).

Here’s the list in raw decklist format:


Basilisk Collar
Darksteel Ingot
Gilded Lotus
Quicksilver Amulet
Scrabbling Claws
Sol Ring
Thran Dynamo


Balefire Dragon
Dragon Broodmother
Dragonmaster Outcast
Dragonspeaker Shaman
Exuberant Firestoker
Fierce Empath
Flameblast Dragon
Hellkite Charger
Hoard-Smelter Dragon
Invader Parasite
Kargan Dragonlord
Knollspine Dragon
Moonveil Dragon
Mordant Dragon
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Scourge of Kher Ridges
Skirsdag High Priest
Yavimaya Elder


Solemn Simulacrum
Steel Hellkite


Bladewing the Risen
Darigaaz, the Igniter
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre


Dragon Breath
Dragon Fangs
Dragon Roost
Dragon Shadow
Greater Good
Pernicious Deed
Warstorm Surge


Beast Within
Chaos Warp
Comet Storm
Into the Core
Momentous Fall


Sarkhan the Mad
Sarkhan Vol


Ashes to Ashes
Blasphemous Act
Decree of Pain
Fault Line
Gift of the Gargantuan
Hull Breach
Maelstrom Pulse
Rampant Growth
Skyshroud Claim
Violent Ultimatum

LANDS (21)

Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Dragonskull Summit
Golgari Rot Farm
Gruul Turf
Kessig Wolf Run
Mosswort Bridge
Overgrown Tomb
Rakdos Carnarium
Savage Lands
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Stomping Ground
Strip Mine
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills


Volrath’s Stronghold


Mountain 6
Forest 5
Swamp 4

Here’s the breakdown:


Cultivate:  Gotta get those lands.

Darksteel Ingot:  I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of mana rocks since they generally get blown up, but the Ingot is indestructible.

Dragonspeaker Shaman:  I put this in the ramp suite because it makes stuff cheaper. Obviously ramp puts stuff into play and lands generally stay around all game, but the Shaman seems both interesting and thematic.

Exuberant Firestoker:  As I was researching the fire and damage theme, I came across this guy. He’s a little ramp and a little extra damage. It’s certainly an outside-the-box choice. If he doesn’t work out, he can always become Wood Elves.

Gift of the Gargantuan:  Lands in the hand, dudes in the hand, I’m actually not sure about this since there are so many sorceries in the deck. I might eventually change this to Harmonize, but we’ll see how it runs.

Gilded Lotus:  I like this especially since there are a number of things that require three red.

Rampant Growth:  The ramp for which Ramp was named.

Sakura-Tribe Elder:  Another two-drop for getting lands.

Skyshroud Claim:  The lands coming into play untapped probably won’t be as important in this deck as it is in others (meaning Explosive Vegetation might be okay in this slot), but the fact that it can get dual lands is key.

Sol Ring:  This deck will hang it out there with the mana, so I fully expect to occasionally get blown out by an Oblivion Stone.

Solemn Simulacrum:  I get one of my ten staples, right?

Thran Dynamo:  It was this or Worn Powerstone, but I figured the extra mana is worth the extra mana.

Yavimaya Elder:  OK, staple number two. So sue me.


Balefire Dragon:  I really wanted all or most of the Dragons to do some kind of double-duty, and this one sets the standard. He’s a must-block.

Bladewing the Risen:  One of the things I (and many other EDH players) love is recursion, and this deck is quite weak in that regard (intentionally, since I do it with lots of other decks). Bladewing is a slight nod in that direction.

Darigaaz, the Igniter:  The hand reveal is a little more important than the few points of damage. Darigaaz was one of the dragons on the bubble, but his iconic status led me to keep him.

Dragon Broodmother:  Can’t have a Dragon deck without a mom.

Dragon Roost:  The card draw suite is a little weak, so I thought that having the enchantment that creates dudes would be a good idea. It’s kind of like card draw. Okay, it’s nothing like card draw, but it’s something to do with mana. Maybe I should be playing Braid of Fire.

Dragonmaster Outcast:  Boom, Dragons. No one will kill this guy with spot removal, instead saving it for more dangerous creatures.

Flameblast Dragon:  Rawr, take some to the face. This guy made me think about putting Mage Slayer in the deck.

Hellkite Charger:  I feel okay playing this guy since I’m not including Bear Umbra for infinite attacks. Getting a second attack step, however, could swing some games.

Hoard-Smelter Dragon:  Another double-duty card, you don’t really need to use this guy in combat to get value.

Kargan Dragonlord:  He’s an early drop who can get quite large. Given the small number of small dudes in the deck, it’s a nice starter. Late game, he’s either nine mana for an 8/8 trampler or something to discard to Greater Good.

Knollspine Dragon:  This could also go into the card draw suite. It’ll be nice to connect on an empty hand.

Moonveil Dragon:  I’m mostly playing this because it’s new. It’s not like I have an army of guys to fire-breathe up, but even a few points for a few big guys can be a difference-maker.

Mordant Dragon:  Another you need to block this guy scenario, the Mordant Dragon will take out annoying utility creatures.

Ryusei, the Falling Star:  I like the imagery of him hitting the graveyard, exploding, and roasting everything on the ground. Having the option to sacrifice him to Greater Good in response to an Avenger’s Landfall trigger seems like some good protection.

Sarkhan Vol:  Yeah, he has two other abilities, but I’m focused on his ultimate. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I’m not playing him in other decks. All his abilities are pretty damn good.

Scourge of Kher Ridges:  Mostly there to control the ground, but I’m sure there are situations where the other flyers might get out of hand.

Steel Hellkite:  More board control in steely flying form.


Blasphemous Act:  When you need it, it only costs R, and it kills nearly everything.

Damnation:  When other players get off to a better start than you, Damnation will save your day.

Pernicious Deed:  It’s both a downside and an upside that this doesn’t wipe out Planeswalkers.


Ashes to Ashes:  Given how gloriously good recursion is in the format, I’ve been on a bit of an exile kick lately. I’ll gladly eat five damage to get rid of (for good) two things that are plaguing me. Note that it’s one of the few targeted black removal spells that can take care of black creatures.

Beast Within:  Sometimes you just need to get rid of something good. Whatever you’re targeting with it is likely better than the 3/3 you’re giving them.

Chaos Warp:  Kind of like Beast Within, only there’s a shot that they’ll get something better and a shot that they’ll get nothing at all. It can also be key in dealing with problematic Generals. If I have this in hand early and one of those Generals like Azusa or Omanth (here’s looking at you, Michelle!) comes out, he’s getting shuffled in.

Decimate:  People avoid playing this because they think they won’t have targets. In an EDH game, I’d say you’re in the exceptional circumstance if you don’t have targets.

Hull Breach:  Usually you pay extra for the kind of flexibility that Hull Breach gives you. In this case, you don’t.

Into the Core:  Again, on the exile kick. It’s an instant, which is huge. You must have two targets since it doesn’t say up to two…

Invader Parasite:  At first blush, this seems like this is there to punish the mana ramp guys, but I’m actually intending on using to take care of the problem lands like Academy Ruins, Cabal Coffers, and friends. At one more mana than Ravenous Baboons, the one extra power and the exiling are well worth it.

Maelstrom Pulse:  I’ve recently come around to the value of Maelstrom Pulse in the format. I wanted to squeeze in both this and Sever the Bloodline, but there just wasn’t room. I have other ways of taking care of creature swarms which is what I think I fear most.

Strip Mine:  There are savagely good lands in the format, and they must die.

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre:  The deck is also weak on recursion, so I thought Ulamog the right choice to do a little double-duty.

Violent Ultimatum:  By the time I can cast this, I know there will be three things that I really want to wreck, plus it fit in with the violence theme.

Wasteland:  See Strip Mine.


Comet Storm:  I like this as a finisher, and I don’t need infinite mana to do it. I’m surprised we don’t see more of it.

Earthquake:  All your ground-pounders are belong to us. And when I say us, I mean the graveyard.

Fault Line:  A hidden gem if there ever was one. The thing is an instant! I was thinking about this vs. Inferno, but this is just better.

Kessig Wolf Run:  I put this in the damage space because the trample part will enable blocked guys to do some extra damage, and in a long game, could provide the tip over the top.

Lavalanche:  I don’t necessarily like targeting one person, but when one person gets out of hand you need to rein them in.

Sarkhan the Mad:  This is the first card that I knew I wanted to put into the deck. Boom!

Skarrg, the Rage Pits:  Again, trample means getting through to the player.

Warstorm Surge:  I will not get upset when someone blows up this thing. Especially with the giant Dragons, it will be a killer or a sweeper.


Decree of Pain:  I didn’t know whether to put this in board control or card draw, but the card draw section was looking a little weak. Don’t undervalue the cycling end of this for when those Avenger Landfall triggers go on the stack.

Fierce Empath:  Putting exactly the Dragon I want into my hand is definitely card draw. Well, I guess it’s technically Tutoring, but you get the point.

Greater Good:   I wish there was something like Greater Good that I could play instead, but there isn’t anything, and big guys mean big draws. I suspect that Greater Good will be the fate of Ulamog most of the time.

Momentous Fall:  Life gain and card draw at the same time in cheap package. There aren’t any Lords of Extinction or Hamletback Goliaths here so it won’t ever be that absurd, but then again, I won’t have to worry about decking myself with it. Stealing someone else’s ridiculous guy (The Mimeoplasm anyone?) with Sarkhan and then sacrificing it to this would be tech.


Bojuka Bog:  This and the bounce lands should provide some graveyard cover. It’s not the most robust, but it’ll do.

Scrabbling Claws:  It can eventually be a cantrip. I’m not a Relic of Progenitus fan since I like my graveyard (especially shuffled back into my deck).


Anger:  I actually don’t play this much, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. Haste wins games.

Basilisk Collar:  The Collar combos nicely with a few of the Dragons, such as Scourge of Kher Ridges and Mordant Dragon.

Dragon Breath:  Haste is an underrated ability in this format. I just have to remember that these enchantments are in my graveyard.

Dragon Fangs:  Again with the Trample.

Dragon Shadow:  Fear is probably the weakest ability among these, so Dragon Shadow’s inclusion is more about completeness than anything. While playing the deck, if I find it lacking I’ll definitely replace it.

Insurrection:  I haven’t played this card in forever, and since Karrthus Insurrections Dragons, I felt it was in flavor. Bow to the awesome might of Karrthus and his minions! Join us or die! Or join us and die!

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker:  Another card that I don’t play because I don’t like being associated with infinite combos, I chose KJ because 1) it’s good and 2) double Dragon.

Quicksilver Amulet:  A way to put really expensive stuff into play for cheap, and as an instant. It’s not a linchpin for the deck, but when I have it and keep it out it’ll be quite good.

Volrath’s Stronghold:  Sometimes you just need to get back your guys. Again, since the recursion in the deck is moderately weak, it deserves a slot. I think that it’ll be less likely to get blown up by people after they see the deck run a few times, since I don’t have lots of enters the battlefield trigger creatures.

You’ll notice no Primeval Titan, which this mana-hungry deck would probably really love in order to get out all those lands it’ll need. The primary reason I’m not including it is that we’re doing an experiment in the next iteration of the Armada Games EDH League:  we’re in-store banning Prime Time for one League iteration. This is a fact-finding mission but it is not—I repeat is not—a lead up to banning it in the format. Do not panic and sell all the copies you have. We just want to see if it actually matters and creates more fun games or if the games feel any less degenerate. I strongly suspect that neither will be true. Bomby-ness is a hallmark of the format, and the Prime Time fosters that. Some decks in some games will get slowed down a touch, and the decks that rely on early Cabal Coffers/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth will suffer, but I think that’s about it. I’ll continue to disagree that Prime Time is bad for the format, and certainly not nearly as bad as the card folks keep comparing it to (faultily, IMO) Kokusho. I’ll keep reporting back on what we find.

Karrthus and his Dragons raining fire from the sky seems like a viable way to Embrace the Chaos. As designed, I’m slightly worried about the high mana curve and its color-greediness, but we’ll see if the ramp suite can help overcome that and how it does in play.