The Many Ways To Hit Modern With Sarkhan And His Dragons

There’s more than one way to breathe fire at SCG Indy! Todd Stevens’ Skred Dragons brew took down the Classic last weekend, and he’s not finished with this exciting brand of strategies yet!

The title of this article sure is a bold claim about a card that was
printed less than a month ago and really only shines when you put a decent
amount of Dragons in your deck. However, we saw Sarkhan, Fireblood make his
first impact on the format in Skred Dragons, which won the 284-person
Modern Classic at #SCGPhilly in the
hands of Ozzy Kelly. This is by no means a small accomplishment, as Ozzy
finished the tournament 10-1-1, winning all three rounds in Top 8 as the
eighth seed with
the same 75 I wrote about
almost a month prior.

Ozzy told me he faced many favorable matchups in the swiss rounds of the
tournament, including Burn rounds one through three where the four copies
of Dragon’s Claw in the sideboard shined, but that’s a similar story to
perhaps most tournament winners in the past. I believe Skred Dragons to be
far from a perfectly tuned deck at this point, but there’s no denying the
potential after seeing Ozzy take down the Modern Classic.

The formula here is quite simple: plenty of removal for opposing creature
decks as well as hard to deal with threats that take over midrange battles
all built around one of Modern’s most powerful cards, Blood Moon. Skred Red
has been a small part of Modern for quite a while now, but the deck
struggled with the classic flaw of midrange strategies; sometimes you’ll
draw only removal spells against decks that you don’t need them against and
other times you can’t find a threat to close the game out when necessary.

This is where it’s Sarkhan, Fireblood’s time to shine.

Sarkhan, Fireblood has the exact abilities this deck is looking for. The
first plus one ability trades whichever situational spell or extra land you
don’t need for another card off the top of your deck one at a time. This
helps prevent the deck from flooding out while also finding more land drops
when necessary, meaning you’ll be competitive in a higher percentage of
games due to having the correct ratio of lands to spells.

The second plus one allows you to double spell and turn the corner faster.
We’ve seen how powerful Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is by being a “three-mana
planeswalker” of sorts by untapping two lands after playing it and ticking
up. Sarkhan can similarly play the role of a “one-mana planeswalker” if
you’re able to play it and generate mana to cast a Dragon in the same turn.
Additionally, playing Sarkhan on turn 3 allows you to play Chandra, Torch
of Defiance as well as Thunderbreak Regent or Glorybringer and a Skred on
turn 4.

Unfortunately, Sarkhan, Fireblood doesn’t protect itself from opposing
creatures, which is usually a requirement that planeswalkers must fulfill
to see play in Modern. However the deck is filled with cheap removal that
can either keep the coast clear for a turn 3 Sarkhan or pair up with
Sarkhan on the same turn later in the game to ensure you untap with it
still on the battlefield. Skred is the best of the removal spells with its
ability to take down almost any creature in the format, and everyone knows
how good Lightning Bolt is, as it’s the most played card in Modern. I’ll
admit I may have gone a little too cute with the other four-of removal
spell in the deck.

While Draconic Roar acts as a functional Searing Blaze in this deck, which
can help it win races, it’s likely the better removal spell over time will
be Abrade. Abrade gives more maindeck interaction with the artifact-heavy
decks in the format of which there are many, not to mention the individual
artifacts in Modern that demand an answer like Oblivion Stone, Ensnaring
Bridge, Cranial Plating, Aether Vial, and Hollow One.

The biggest question I’ve been receiving from people is about the exclusion
of Simian Spirit Guide and Chalice of the Void. While those two cards can
lead to some incredibly fast and powerful starts, it would lessen the
consistency of the deck too much as they’re both poor draws in the late
game. Additionally, Skred and Lightning Bolt are two of the best cards in
the deck and playing them alongside Chalice of the Void isn’t the best

The toughest common matchup for this build of Skred Dragons is the various
blue control decks that are popular on the SCG Tour. Skred Dragons doesn’t
have the density of threats necessary to fight through the counter magic
and removal spells of the control deck, especially with none of the threats
costing less than three mana. Thankfully, there are certainly cards in the
format that you can play to help these matchups, such as:

I don’t love any of these cards but they’re the kinds of cards that are
necessary to take down blue control decks. Cavern of Souls is another good
option and it’s likely the deck should be playing more than one. With these
considerations in mind, this is the newest update to Skred Dragons I’d

This is far from the only shell that I believe Sarkhan, Fireblood can
succeed in in Modern. For example, what if we try Sarkhan in a shell based
around the current G/R Land Destruction decks in Modern?

This deck is looking to be faster than Skred Dragons with access to ten
mana accelerants on turn 1 and has access to some better sideboard cards
against the blue control decks. In exchange, the amount of quality
interaction with the opponent takes a big hit, mainly with Skred leaving
the deck.

If you’re playing a seven-mana creature with the expectation to cast it in
Modern, it better be good, and Dragonlord Atarka fits the bill. Not only is
five damage divided as you choose back-breaking for decks playing creatures
and planeswalkers, an 8/8 flying trample creature ends the game incredibly
quickly. This deck even has the ability to cast Dragonlord Atarka on the
third turn of the game after playing Sarkhan, Fireblood or Chandra, Torch
of Defiance on the second turn, which is the reason I have a second copy in
the sideboard for decks like Affinity, Elves, or Humans that don’t interact
well with your early mana development.

What if we move away from Blood Moon and try to support Nicol Bolas, the
Ravager as well?

We’ve seen Nicol Bolas have a huge impact on the Standard metagame so far –
Todd Anderson did a great job of covering that today – but Modern is a
different animal. In Standard, it’s likely you’ll be able to build your
Nicol Bolas deck in such a way that getting to seven mana to transform it
into a planeswalker isn’t an issue. Unfortunately, games of Modern often
don’t last that long, making that idea not nearly as reliable.

The good thing is that you’ll still have matchups against other midrange
and control decks where getting to seven mana is incredibly reasonable, and
Nicol Bolas, the Arisen is still just as powerful in Modern as it is in
Standard and perhaps even more so with the lack of ways to deal with high
loyalty planeswalkers in the format (See: Karn Liberated). Nicol Bolas, the
Ravager’s enter the battlefield trigger of forcing the opponent to discard
a card is also potentially stronger in Modern when paired with early
discard spells to lessen the amount of cards the opponent has in hand.

We already know how powerful these one-mana discard spells are in Modern,
but this deck, in particular, takes great advantage of them. Besides the
synergy with Nicol Bolas as mentioned above, pairing discard spells with
Sarkhan, Fireblood is also beneficial because not only do the discard
spells help protect the three mana planeswalker, but in the mid to lategame
when you draw an extra discard spell, something that would normally be a
dead draw, Sarkhan can rummage it away to find a more impactful card.

This pairing makes me wonder, what if we try Sarkhan in a B/R Control shell
where we can get back to playing Blood Moon?

This deck is looking to take full advantage of the discard spells, with
both Liliana of the Veil and Sarkhan, Fireblood as follow ups that are
better when both players have less resources.

It’s usually hard to cast expensive spells in a Liliana of the Veil deck
because you won’t have as many land drops to hit when you’re discarding a
card every turn. This is where Sarkhan, Fireblood comes in to provide the
extra mana needed to cast the Dragons. While I do really like Sarkhan,
Fireblood in this deck, I’m not sold that the Dragons are the best
finishers for this archetype.

Unfortunately, these two creatures aren’t Dragons, otherwise they would be
a perfect fit. They would also allow you to play Faithless Looting, a card
that may very well should be in the deck anyway. I haven’t tried testing
this deck yet without the Dragons and with the other finishers, but I think
it’s entirely possible to play Sarkhan, Fireblood in a deck like this that
has very few to no Dragons.

That’s something that only time will tell. Sarkhan, Fireblood has only been
legal in Modern for two weekends but has already won an almost 300-person
Modern Classic in the hands of Ozzy Kelly with a rough draft of Skred
Dragons. This makes me a believer in the future of Sarkhan, Fireblood in
Modern with many possible routes to take in building a deck around it.

Looks like it’s time to start tuning some Dragons decks in Modern, a
sentence I wouldn’t have imagined writing a couple months ago!