As of last Friday, Dragons of Tarkir is available for purchase at your favorite local game store, online at a vast number of wonderful Magic-specific retailers, and…er…well, Target and Walmart. (Let’s hear it for big box stores!)

Here’s the thing – you’re likely expecting a set review. And we refuse to deliver.

Well, sort-of, anyway.

After a ton of internal discussion on Team GDC, it was nearly unanimous; none of us wanted to write a proper, standard-form DTK Commander-specific set review. The reason was actually fairly unified among us (no small feat, given our team is spread out across vast expanses of social, geographic, political, and alcohol-ical landscape…)-

None of us really like them anymore.

With full apologies to our sister sites that did undertake a proper review out there (and good work!), we realized that we don’t particularly see much of a need – or want – for proper set reviews these days. We’ve all done them enough, and read them enough, to know that they’re largely not something we think we can add meaningfully to the community with. (That is, other than Mr. P’s infamous “And Now, Mr. P Reviews the Generals of [insert new set here]”; we stand by those for obvious reasons.) You all know what the set brings to the table, and you all know the cards by heart from the spoilers before the set comes anywhere near street date.

You know what affects the format, and what won’t see play. We don’t need to help you on that.

But as we talked about it more, we realized that this is all subjective anyway. Case in point – if you follow Sean (@SwordsToPlow) on Twitter, you know that he’s most excited for Qarsi Sadist – an otherwise-forgettable draft castoff. But that’s because Sean has a mean Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker deck that is built like the Sadist is player submission he sent to Wizards himself.

This is EDH. It’s not Standard or Modern. What’s garbage to one person is gold to another.

So we got to thinking – What if we left the big reviews to our friends at other sites, and instead gave you all some insight into what’s going into our own personal decks instead? It’s the whole “Teach a man to fish…” thing; we can show you want we think is awesome by example and specifically as it applies to our strategies, instead of just in a vacuum – and hopefully, we can inspire you to build something cool and new in the process.

It seemed like a good plan, so we went with it. (Well, those of us who didn’t already post up on Twitter, specialize in rules reviews, or angrily rip WotC a new one over the Elder Dragons…)

Without further ado, here are Team GDC’s thoughts on Dragons of Tarkir.

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Dave –

After doing this exercise, I realize that my most interesting decks got few-to-no options, because this was a set full of dragons and goodstuff. So I got goodstuff, and I got a zombie, and I got a cool enchantment, but a ton of the other decks with narrow themes/mechanic restrictions (and the artifact ones) got zilch.

Because I’m not organized enough to have most of my decks online (I’d rather be playing…), I’m just throwing out what I wanna add, and what it might replace. Going on gut here:

Crovax, Ascendent Hero – Little-Kid Anthem Swarm:

Sunscorch Regent – Needs more flyers anyway!
Profound Journey – I’m not sure about this card, but wanna try it out. If it weren’t a billion mana, I’d consider it in Sydri, but all the ‘eggs’ cards are just better.

 

Damia, Sage of Stone – Allies:

Clone Legion (It plays a lot of clones…)
Mirror Mockery – Double duty is great!

 

Erebos, God of the Dead – Zombies and Lifedrain:

Risen Executioner – Do I work a delve card into this deck?
Damnable Pact – This one is obvious.
Sidisi, Undead Vizier – It’s a zombie. This is a straight flavor upgrade for Demonic/Diabolic Tutor.

 

Garza Zol, Plague Queen – Control: Theft and Clone:

Clone Legion – Why not a creature based win-con?
Deathbringer Regent – Repeatable wraths are good.
Damnable Pact – I like that it doubles as a win-con and can replace Blue Sun’s Zenith.

 

Ghave, Guru of Spores – Enchantress-Tron:

Myth Realized – Duh. Enchantment. Backup threat. People won’t waste spot removal on it, and it’s another mana sink.

 

Isperia, Supreme Judge – Draw-Go & Fogs:

Dragonlord Ojutai – Decent finisher!

 

Karador, Ghost Chieftain – Reanimator:

Den Protector – A second, funny, less-good Eternal Witness seems fine.
Sidisi, Undead Visier – Powers up casting Karador again, and is cheaper than the demon one so I can cast the card I get on the same turn more often.

 

Mayael, the Anima – Toolbox Control:

Dragonlord Dromoka – Replaces City of Solitude, still works with Enlightened Tutor, but now Mayael can grab her too.

 

Prossh, Skyraider of Kher – Jundy Stuff and Cards I Like With A Sacrifice Theme:

Den Protector – See above.

 

Purphoros, God of the Forge – Obvious Tokens Deck:

Commune with Lava – This card is obviously the noodle boodles.
Descent of Dragons – Probably replacing the goblin one because I need a backup plan for flyers and don’t mind the one mana.

 

Radha, Heir to Keld – R/G Monsters:

Harbinger of the Hunt – Lets me cut a spell wrath for a flexible tool that is a mana sink.
Den Protector – Again, duh.
Dragon Whisperer – Easy to activate, fun mana sink, more interesting than Centaur Glade.

 

Teya, Orzhov Scion – Token-Sacrifice Control:

Sidisi, Undead Vizier – A little pricy for this deck, which has a pretty low curve, but I like the sacrifice and that it’s recurrable.

 

Uncle Kaka’s top picks from DTK

My first pick has to be Strongarm Monk – this madness is totally something I am going to be looking to add to any storm-style deck I run. It will be amazing with Monastery Mentor and pretty sweet with Young Pyromancer; essentially giving everything you control the prowess ability? That just turns every creature into a vertical pseudo-stormtrooper. I’m definitely squeezing that into my current “Mental Cesspool” series on the site.

Red also has some crazy shenanigans in DTKIre Shaman is the first that jumps out at me. I also am excited for Commune with Lava, as both these cards are doing something that is more blue than red (Barring Act on Impulse.) They are both possibly cards I’ll be looking at in my Riku of the Two Reflections or Intet-style ‘top-deck matters’ build.

Impact Tremors is also another little gem I am excited about. For all you Purphoros fans out there, this is basically half a Purphoros, half the cost, half the types and half the damage – but with all the same triggers. I have been toying with a Grixis Empty the Warrens storm-through-Purphoros list for a while; this gives that list a second kill card.

I’m also looking forward to Narset Trancendent. Both he planeswalkers in DTK have been copping a lot of flak – Narset more than Sarkhan. I personally think Narset is great; In a low creature count deck, Narset is a massive value engine. She gets card advantage both in additional cards to hand, but also in free spell duplication through rebound. The ultimate is also devastating if unleashed.

I don’t see this in a in a ‘superfriends’ list, nor do I see this in traditional storm. I see this more in value synergy decks that want to cast spells more than anything. I do see a lot of rebounding Wraths – prepare for the control game.

Now for something very rarely seen in blue…. Recursion! I always struggle with getting my Timetwister or Omniscience back into hand when I am playing blood-wrenching, throat-slitting combo games (sometimes my group just wants to play that way!), so Monastery Loremaster is going to be the bees knees. Get back any non-dude, non-land card? Please and thank you. And I can Evacuate and do it all over again. It’s also a morph, so now you gotta ask – is that a Spellsnatcher or a Voidmage or a Loremaster? It’s also going to be wicked in any non-creature based deck running blue; not only can you pull a wide range of toys back in mono blue, but it’s instant-speed as well.

The last sweet plaything I am loving about DTK (and yeah it’s all blue with me) is Living Lore. This one is a unique puppy as far as I can tell – is it a creature or is it a spell just waiting to go off? This to me is the ultimate Spellbomb.

What am I going to do with it? Well, I am thinking that it’s gonna be a spells-matter deck again. Yeah, slinging spells is my thing. Though I can picture this puppy in pretty much anything that wants to get free bites of the cherry. I think I’ll be jamming it in my cascade 5-colour deck.

Mr. P’s top cards from Dragons of Tarkir 

So my friend asked me the other day, “Dude, aren’t you excited about the new set?” And I told him that, honestly, I wasn’t all that excited about it. And he replied, “but isn’t this THE EDH set?” And it totally is, and that makes me feel like I should say something about why am not all that excited about it.

I’ve been playing EDH for about seven years now. When we started playing the format, it was pretty much a novelty format that a few people had heard about. There was very little online content about it, and as a result, most of the deck building that we did was based around finding cards that seemed like they were good cards, and then testing that. Some of the cards that seemed like they would be good in EDH because they were good and other formats (like Brainstorm, for example) turned out to be pretty bad. Other cards (like Goblin Bombardment) turned out to be incredible, even though they were not the sort of cards that seemed like they would be good in anything ever. One of the things that was really fun about the format, and I believe was a contributing factor to getting me totally addicted to it, was the feeling of discovery and personal expression that came out of finding rando obscure cards that were good for EDH.

Of course, EDH is now an incredibly popular format, and there is tons of information that can be found about it online. While this is awesome, and while I appreciate that Wizards now prints cards specifically for EDH, it also means that there is much less of a process of uncovering EDH Winners than before. When a new set like Theros comes out, for example, everyone immediately looks at a card like Prophet of Kruphix and says, “Hey, that’s totally an EDH card!” And of course it is, and then everyone puts it in their EDH deck, and then it becomes completely ubiquitous, and everyone is already sick of seeing it by the time the next set comes out. There are tons of cards in recent memory that fit this criteria: Cyclonic Rift, all of the Primordials, and most of the Gods are some other low-hanging fruit in this area.

[SIDE NOTE: I’d like to add that I do not have a problem with any of these cards, or with their status as “EDH staples” (I certainly run Cyclonic Rift in most of my blue decks), I just recognize that there is nothing interesting about playing cards like Prophet of Kruphix or Cyclonic Rift in your decks.]

What this means is that any new card that comes out of Dragons of Tarkir that is determined to be “good in EDH” will instantly start showing up in pretty much every deck that can run it. There’s a sense of ubiquity that comes with the release of a new set that I’m interested in pushing back against. As a result, I tend to try to avoid snap-jamming new cards that seem powerful into my decks, as I expect that everyone else will do this for me. This means that instead of me testing the card out to see if it’s good, I can instead test it out with other people’s text to see if it is annoying. If it is annoying, then I usually will not put it into my decks, as I really don’t want to be that guy, despite the fact that I already am. (A fairly recent example of this is Rise of the Dark Realms, which I successfully avoided putting in everything except one terrible deck which rarely play; I removed it shortly afterwards as a result of playing against it and understanding how boring/annoying/good it is.)  

I’m not sure if I’m the only person who feels this way; there’s potentially a longer/more serious article here, which I will almost surely never write as I find my “serious writing voice” to be deathly boring. In fact, if you’re still reading this I’m pretty impressed. Ok!

So anyways, here are the cards from Dragons that I preordered foils of. 

1) Ainok Survivalist (It’s another Nantuko Vigilante!)

2) Arashin Sovereign (This goes directly in “My 1st EDH”, the only deck I regularly update with new cards.)

3) Circle of Elders (I’ll use this in…something)

4) Defeat (It’s called “Defeat.” That’s awesome.)

5) Foe-Razer Regent (Why not?)

6) Graceblade Artisan (Another Rabid Wombat!)

7) Hedonist’s Trove (Seems OK)

8) Tapestry of the Ages (Hey look, a potential draw engine for white decks!)

Wow, that’s swell!  Nice life, Mr. P!

 

Cass – The Card-Splosion

The mail showed up today. Here’s what I picked up from Dragons of Tarkir for my decks:

DTK Card Pile 

No clue what happened here. I honestly got through spoiler season and thought that I wasn’t really all that blown away with the set. Forty-five cards later, and I’m a liar. (And that’s not counting a few missed odds and ends, and an eventual pickup on some Narset copies if it turns into a Legacy thing.)

Parsing through all of this is too big a job for one place, so I’m giving a selection of standout mentions, and then some short hits below that.

Hedonist’s Trove

This is the card of the set for me, which is a surprise; I’m not typically drawn to black cards for some reason. This one breaks the mold for me, however, as it hits high on the ‘multi-function’ level:

  • We have obvious graveyard hate, which is golden in this format. The high cost is fine…who’s casting this on turn three anyway?
  • It’s a mana-fixer. Playing lands out of your opponent’s decks is not typically something that happens in Magic.
  • The utility from the non-land cards opens up endless possibilities. If you play this card correctly, you’re literally playing with a second deck.

I love this thing. Front and center, it’s going in Tasigur, the Golden Fang – that deck is in the process of transforming from Bennie Smith’s list into something that works better and hits harder in my metagame, and this is exactly the sort of card that I want access to for all the reasons stated.

Myth Realized

This is more of a draw due to design space for me. Dave hit the nail on the head for a bunch of reasons; it’s a great mana sink if you have it to spare. In addition, it fits:

Hanna, Ship’s Navigator – Because enchantment! (That deck is all about interesting ways to win, so this should be interesting to try out.

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest – This deck is all about non-creature spells as it tries to make its general into a warrior-monk win-con through pumps via cards like Word of Seizing, Comeuppance, Swords to Plowshares and Sphinx’s Revelation. This is a great alt-win-con that takes full advantage of the spells being tossed around already.

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit

Honestly, I’ve been looking for a way to de-fang my Roon of the Hidden Realm/ Angus Mackenzie Bant Flash deck to a point that it isn’t so broken and scary for normal games. With all the flash, a big piece of the puzzle was trying to get Cathars’ Crusade out of the deck to keep it simple for book-keeping, while not losing the needed pump that makes a bunch of Aluren-able creatures scary enough to win. Anafenza 2.0 does the trick – bolster takes the guesswork away and removes the need for a mountain of dice, still helps the deck pack a punch, and can also be flashed in as well through the various methods the deck uses. This is a nice example of a card being less-powerful but a better fit.

Shaman of Forgotten Ways

No idea. Snap-buy that I thought was going to be an awesome addition to Tasigur also, until the cold medicine wore off.

Obscuring Aether

One of the ways that I’ve gotten around Karador being slow and unwieldy is by lowering the mana curve and trying to take advantage of manifest to allow the deck to play at instant speed. This card will help with that cause, and also is kind of neat, as the flip ability gives the card the ability to dodge type-specific removal.

Not that I think anyone is going to be gunning for it or anything, but you never know who else is high on cold medicine.

Ojutai’s Command

Snap-bought while at work on the day that it was spoiled. Then, I re-read the card and noted the part that says “Counter target creature spell.” Whoops.

Still, this is great utility for Shu Yun, and probably would have made the include even if I knew how to read in the first place.

 

Some Quick Hits:

-A pair of Collected Company. Karador maybe? Bant Flash for sure.

Commune with Lava. Why escapes me at the moment, but it’s cool. It might make Melek, Izzet Paragon as a good way to take advantage of the Wheel of Fortune effects, giving me a virtual second hand.

Clone Legion, Stratus Dancer. Still working on the mono-blue GenCon Anti-Meta deck featuring Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. These might make a showing there; Legion is a bomb, and Dancer is a cool, flavorful card that fits theme and strategy.

Skywise Teachings. Again, possibly Shu Yun, and possibly Melek. Fits well in both.

-Six Anticipate and four fate Forgotten. The former, mostly because they’ll likely test well in eternal formats. (Of course, I have no idea if that’s true, and I’m terrible at guesswork. Or really gauging what is good in eternal formats, for that matter.)

The latter, because I expect that I’ll want it in many EDH decks going forward. It’s that good.

-Giant Pile Of Red, White, and Green Dragons – The way I figure, if I throw enough cards that reference dragons in these colors at the wall, my Palladia-Mors deck will have to hit critical mass at some point and start to be, you know, good. Or something.

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 Until next time, folks- 

– Team GDC