Prerelease is upon us this weekend, and a week from now Dragons of Tarkir will be legal for constructed play. There are a ton of powerful and interesting cards coming in this set. Heck, I’m still not certain what deck I want to be playing next weekend. Perhaps you’re in a similar spot for Stanard or you just want to know what bombs to look out for this weekend? Here are a few cards to keep you eyes on that we think are exciting or interesting in some way.
Dragon Clan Hate Uncommon Cycle
Here’s a little thought experiment, think of a three color card from Khans of Tarkir block. Now compare if that card shares a color with any of the targeted colors in this cycle. Yep, due to the way the Clan color wedges work, these cards will always hit any of the clan cards.
This really helps to maximize how often you can bring these cards in and should directly correlate to how much play they see. We saw a similar cycle in Theros block that hated against its own color. Compared to those card which saw a fair amount of sideboard play, this cycle can come in more often and safely take up more sideboard slots.[mtg_card=Rending Volley] and [mtg_card=Self-Inflicted Wound] are the real standouts. I’m not looking forward to playing against a deck with both [mtg_card=Self-Inflicted Wound] and [mtg_card=Crackling Doom]. [mtg_card=Display of Dominance] is also really solid for all the mono-Green devotion shells that sometimes struggle against problematic cards like [mtg_card=Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver] that they previously only use combat damage to interact with. [mtg_card=Surge of Righteousness] is decent enough and can help a control deck to stabilize or turn a race between aggro decks. Because it’s attacking and blocking though its applications are more limited. [mtg_card=Encase in Ice] has the potential to be a blue [mtg_card=Doom Blade], but there is a fair amount of enchantment removal in Standard right now. Though it could be good against a mono-Red deck which by nature have no ability to directly removal enchantments.
This is not some clunky, but flavorful, rare. [mtg_card=Myth Realized] is aggressively costed to make it viable in a deck that can make a good supporting shell around it. It quite literally can’t be costed cheaper short of making it free or Phyrexian mana. It costs a single White to cast and a single White to make it into a creature. It can even grow, slowly, on its own.
It’s very easy to see this showing up in control decks or token heavy builds where all your spells are growing it larger. Because you get to decide when it is a creature, that means [mtg_card=Myth Realized] plays very well with and against wrath spells. You can either activate it after you wrath the board and get in for damage or you might use it to pressure an opponent to have a removal spell for [mtg_card=Myth Realized] as well as the wrath they need.
Depending on the deck, you even get to play the sideboard shuffle with it. A control deck could have them all in or all out, making it awkward for your opponent to bring in something like [mtg_card=Erase]. They could have the proper sideboard card for it, but you can potentially blank those cards by not having it in the deck.
The big question of how viable [mtg_card=Myth Realized] is hinges on how much enchantment removal and bounce sees play in the format you want to run it in. Hopefully a cool card doesn’t get hated out and fails to find a home.
[mtg_card=Sidisi, Undead Vizier]
Here’s what I wrote previously on [mtg_card=Sidisi, Undead Vizier].
A slightly more expensive [mtg_card=Diabloic Tutor] isn’t much to write home about, but it doesn’t take much either for this card to be way better than that. Whether it’s with recursion, sacrificing tokens, or finding other creatures to sacrifice for value, Sidisi, Undread Vizier starts looking pretty insane.
Basically the more this card approaches 4/6 deathtouch and draw your best card for five mana the better it looks. Hell, in an ironic time paradox, Sidisi, Undread Vizier plays pretty well with her former self [mtg_card=Sidisi, Brood Tyrant] as the later makes lots of zombie fodder for the former to exploit. I could see Sidisi, Undread Vizier finding a nice home in the [mtg_card=Satry Wayfinder]/[mtg_card=Whip of Erebos] decks.
That said, the [mtg_card=Diabloic Tutor] effect will certainly be at its best in some kind of combo oriented deck, though the value of drawing your best card, or sideboard card after Game One, can’t be understated. The 4/6 deathtouch body isn’t too shabby either, it eats everyone’s favorite bench test [mtg_card=Siege Rhino]. This will certainly see some Standard play, and Commander decks were already running [mtg_card=Rune-Scarred Demon].
While opinions have cooled a little since [mtg_card=Narset Transcendent] was first spoiled, she’s still undeniably powerful. There’s a reason she is the most expensive card in the set. What’s interesting with [mtg_card=Narset Transcendent] is how WotC has managed to balance the card around an axis we don’t typically see out of planeswalkers.[mtg_card=Narset Transcendent] has really high starting loyalty for her cost, most every other four casting cost planeswalker comes in with three or four. So even though none of her abilities protect herself, she does have some innate defense in being able to soak a hit. There’s been more than a few jokes about [mtg_card=Narset Transcendent] taking a jab from something like [mtg_card=Wurmcoil Engine] and surviving if she used her plus ability. “That all you got?”
This also means she threatens to ultimate really quickly. However part of her balancing comes from the fact that while her ultimate is good in the right match-ups, it wins the control mirror, it’s not as game ending as some ultimate tend to be.
So the real core of [mtg_card=Narset Transcendent] is her +1 and -2 abilities. Her +1 requires some very specific deck building to maximize and has been compared a lot to [mtg_card=Domri Rade], but for spells instead of creatures. Her -2 has a lot of potential for abuse and some nice synergies. It doesn’t work well with a heavy counterspell deck, but you do get to double up on removal spells and card draw as long as you’re willing to wait on the them. It’s even pretty decent with wrath spells since it forces your opponent to likely not play any creatures the next turn.
So you’re telling me it’s a better [mtg_card=Skullcrack]?
In Magic cheaper casting cost is better, in general. You don’t want to fall behind your opponent and many match-up come down to who can start making more than one action a turn. Though cheap doesn’t always mean good, *cough* *cough* [mtg_card=Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded]. However at two mana, Atarka’s Command was virtually assured a certain threshold as long as the effects we decent since it makes two actions for one spell so cheaply. ‘Your opponents can’t gain life this turn.’and ‘Atarka’s Command deals 3 damage to each opponent.’ make the floor for Atarka’s Command to be basically [mtg_card=Skullcrack].
Note that it doesn’t have [mtg_card=Skullcrack]’s damage prevention clause though, which is sometimes relevant.
The instant speed mana ramping might help you to surprise an opponent with a crucial spell, but the ‘You may put a land card from your hand onto the battlefield.’ effect is pretty weak and out of place with the other more aggressively oriented ones. This isn’t [mtg_card=Rampant Growth], it doesn’t get you the land. At best it’s an [mtg_card=Explore] and the second card is always one of these other effects. ‘Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain reach until end of turn.’ is the last one and is decent enough as combat tricks go. Where Atarka’s Command is likely to make waves is in the very aggressive or burn decks.
For instance, in Modern Burn, which is already sometimes splashing for [mtg_card=Destructive Revelry], it’s essentially a more versatile [mtg_card=Skullcrack]. If you have a creature in play you get to effectively make Atarka’s Command into a 4 damage burn spell, provided the creature connects. This gets even better if your creatures have prowess or cards that make more than one body. Maybe we’ll see a super aggressive RG deck in Standard with Atarka’s Command, [mtg_card=Goblin Rabblemaster] and [mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear].
Sorry, I can’t help but cheat a little. Even if [mtg_card=Ultimate Price] isn’t at its best with all the multicolored creatures around, getting solid two mana removal is always a plus. There’s a lot of hype that [mtg_card=Collected Company] and [mtg_card=Congregation at Dawn] might be the best option for [mtg_card=Melira, Sylvok Outcast] combo now that [mtg_card=Birthing Pod] is gone. Watch out for [mtg_card=Risen Executioner] out of control decks, it wouldn’t care about the tribal aspect just that its an threat that can be killed or milled and keep coming back. [mtg_card=Living Lore] and [mtg_card=Mirror Mockery] are just too damn interesting from a card design aspect. I’m not sure what they will do, but I hope it’s something cool. [mtg_card=Sarkhan Unbroken] is really powerful, but he matches up a little poorly against the current Standard format. He needs a shift to occur to really shine.
Casting [mtg_card=Battle Brawler] into [mtg_card=Arashin Foremost] means you’re swinging for 6 on turn three, and 10 on turn four. It means your Brawler will now trade with anything up to 6 toughness, as long as it doesn’t have first strike. [mtg_card=Siege Rhino] is particularly difficult to attack through right now, and [mtg_card=Anashin Foremost] here all but solves that problem.
My pet deck at the moment is a severely-underpowered Warrior Tribal deck. I really want it to work, but it doesn’t close games fast enough, and eventually stalls out. [mtg_card=Arashin Foremost] strikes me as a key component to putting on much more early pressure than it was previously able to, and my next pick really seals the deal for the deck.
This one’s something of a pet card for me, because of my aforementioned Mardu Warriors deck, which I’ve been trying to make work since Khans came out. It’s not been going very well, because it lacks much reach, but [mtg_card=Blood-Chin Fanatic] may well be just what it needs to close out games once Mardudes (clever, no?) stall out. It jives super well with [mtg_card=Chief of the Edge] as well, because of the power buff.
I can already envision my opponent slamming a [mtg_card=Siege Rhino] or two and shutting down Mardudes’ offense, only to have me drop [mtg_card=Blood-Chin Fanatic], swing with [mtg_card=Mardu Strike Leader], then sac it after it makes a token. That’s a bare minimum drain of 5, between the Strike Leader and the Warrior token, but could be notably higher with [mtg_card=Chief of the Edge] and [mtg_card=Raiders’ Spoils].
Given that the biggest problem I’ve encountered with Mardudes is stalling out with the opponent at less than 10 life, [mtg_card=Blood-Chin Fanatic], who is already a decent investment as a 3/3 for 3 mana, offers a bit of additional reach that would otherwise require filling the deck up with burn spells. This way, I can keep my extensive creature base, and still have enough to-the-face damage to close out a game.
Drawing cards can be hard. Sometimes, the two cards from a [mtg_card=Sign in Blood] is plenty, but other times, namely when you’re running out of gas, you’ll want the option to restock your hand. In these situations, [mtg_card=Damnable Pact] is just what you’re looking for. I frequently dabble in Black, and there are some reasonable draw options, but a [mtg_card=Braingeyser] definitely strikes me as the best of Black draw.
UB Control decks might be able to utilize [mtg_card=Damnable Pact] to some extent, but I think the real upside is in a faster Aggro or Mid-Range deck, that dumps its hand in the first several turns. Keeping the pressure on your opponent is key, and keeping your hand full is arguably the best way to do that effectively.
Heck, given how prevalent double Black casting costs are in Abzan, even [mtg_card=Siege Rhino] decks might find something to appreciate here. Offsetting the life loss with a Rhino drain might just be the key to ensuring the Rhino never falls out of favor.
[mtg_card=Shaman of the Forgotten Ways]
One of my favorite cards in the history of Magic is [mtg_card=Birds of Paradise]. Mana dorks have been a staple in the majority of decks I’ve ever crafted, and they don’t all have to be one-drops. [mtg_card=Elvish Archdruid] made my Annihilator-focused ramp deck ridiculous. Given how hard Wizards is pushing multi-colored Dragons with the Elder Dragon cycle, and the existence of [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid] in Standard, I think [mtg_card=Shaman of the Forgotten Ways] is going to be the card that enables 5C Dragons.
I’m not suggesting that 5C Dragons will win the next Pro Tour or anything, but it’s a Johnny’s dream to build a 5-color deck that includes all the badass Elder Dragons from Dragons of Tarkir, and [mtg_card=Shaman of the Forgotten Ways] is a sure-fire way to make that dream a reality.
Turn one [mtg_card=Elvish Mystic] into a turn two [mtg_card=Shaman of the Forgotten Ways] will put you to 6 mana on turn three, which is enough to cast nearly any of the new Elder Dragons, or dropping two Megamorph Dragons face down. Sure, it’s a bit of a pipe dream, but it could happen, which is what I’m most concerned with.
The new Elder Dragons, a resurrection of the classic “Elder Dragon Legend” cycle which saw the first instance of [mtg_card=Nicol Bolas] in the metaverse, bring five new Legendary creatures to bear for all your deck brewing needs. The old cycle was a bit more uniform, with CMC of 8 and 7/7 bodies across the board. The new cycle is a bit more diverse – as well as being more reasonable castable – ranging in CMC from 5 to 7, with a wide array of power/toughness. They also only have two colored mana in their casting cost, which means you can much more reasonably include more than one of them in a given deck.[mtg_card=Dragonlord Atarka] is the most expensive at 7 mana, but his enters the battlefield ability and 8/8 body make him formidable all the same. Meanwhile [mtg_card=Dragonlord Ojutai] is the least expensive at CMC 5, and can have a significant impact if he lands early without opposition in the air. It’s Hexproof when it’s untapped, which is great to ensure that it survives long enough to attack. When he does swing and hit an opponent, you’ll get your choice of the top three cards of your library.
The other three Elder Dragons are all at CMC 6, with [mtg_card=Dragonlord Dromoka] preventing your opponent from casting spells during your turn, which keeps the combat tricks strictly off limits, and makes attacking much easier for you. Also, makes your Sorcery-speed spells uncounterable, which could potentially be very important in the Control matchup. [mtg_card=Dragonlord Kolaghan] is hasty, first and foremost, and he gives all your other creatures Haste, and severely punishes your opponent for casting any creature or Planeswalker that you’ve killed or milled before.
Finally, there’s [mtg_card=Dragonlord Silumgar], which serves as a powered-up [mtg_card=Mind Control] with a 3/7 Flying, Deathtouch body. He steals creatures and Planeswalkers, so beware casting your best walker without adequate removal.
What card are you most hoping to open this weekend at Dragons of Tarkir Prerelease?