Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir is behind us, so it’s time to present my pick order list for Dragons/Dragons/Fate draft. To prepare for the Pro Tour, I went to Prague and did a lot of drafts with Fabrizio Anteri, Lukas Blohon, Stanislav Cifka, David Dobis, Robin Dolar, Ivan Floch, Thomas Hendriks, Martin Juza, Marijn Lybaert, Petr Sochurek, Ondrej Strasky, and Matej Zatlkaj. Thomas and Ondrej ended up in the Top 8, so it was a success for our team.
During our practice drafts, we kept track of the records of all color combinations, and based on their performance, we ranked the colors as follows:
Black and red are the best colors: they are deep and have the most removal. Blue/black, red/black, and red/green were the best color combinations in our practice drafts. White was the worst color in our estimation, as white drafters were rarely able to muster a positive record.
To aggregate everyone’s card evaluations in a structured way, we started with an initial discussion, after which I selected the top 40 commons and uncommons. I then asked everyone in the team to sit down and rank those 40 cards independently. Finally, I took the average of everyone’s card rankings, discussed where to splice in the rares, and used that to compile the pick order list below. I made a few adjustments of my own afterwards based on my own views, but many of the rankings approximate the aggregate opinion of Team Cabin Crew.
Huey posted Team Pantheon’s list a couple of days ago, and we agree on many of the top commons, uncommons, and rares. However, as could be expected, there are a few differences, and I’ll point out the main ones along the way. I always find it interesting to see other people’s opinions on cards and the format, and the disagreements show that Magic is a complicated game where even the pros have dissenting views.
The list below ranks all cards in Dragons of Tarkir from high to low as a guide for the first-pick-first-pack decision. The monetary value is not taken into account. Multicolored cards are ranked lower because you don’t want to commit to two colors from the get-go, whereas colorless cards are ranked higher because they keep you open. White cards are ranked lower overall because we preferred to stay out of that color whenever possible.
The Best Rares
Dragons for everyone! The Dragonlords are insane, and most of the non-mythic Dragons are bombs as well. All the rares in this category have a huge, immediate effect on the battlefield, and I would take them over any common or uncommon.
Huey had several additional rares in this category. Most of them I have just below the top uncommons, which is a minor difference. The only exception is Dragonlord’s Prerogative, which I have another notch lower. Drawing four is sweet, but the format is quite fast and you don’t always have time for expensive spells that don’t affect the board immediately. I still wouldn’t be unhappy to first-pick it, but I rate Dragonlord’s Prerogative below the best uncommons.
The Best Uncommons and Good Rares
There are a lot of red and black cards in this list, which may not come as a surprise because mana-efficient removal spells are always high picks in Limited. Tied for best uncommon, in my view, are Ultimate Price and Rakshasa Gravecaller.
In contrast to Huey, I would take Rakshasa Gravecaller over Roast or Draconic Roar first-pick-first-pack because the exploit creature is more valuable for a blue/black deck than the red removal spells are for a red/black deck. In blue/black, you can sacrifice a Palace Familiar for value and use the 6 toughness to establish control. However, if blue is not open and I have already established myself in red/black, then I would take one of the red removal spells over the 3/6 because they fit most red/black decks—which have less exploit fodder and a more aggressive game plan—slightly better. So keep in mind that this is just a first-pick-first-pack ranking and that card evaluations are fluid depending on archetype.
Another key difference from Huey’s list is that I don’t have Qal Sisma Behemoth that high. The “Pacifism Behemoth,” as we liked to call it, is playable (especially in a deck with Tail Slash and a low mana curve) but two mana is a lot early on in the game. Because of the cost of entering combat, I view it more as a 5-mana 5/5 than a 3-mana 5/5, and so I don’t think there is a huge difference between Qal Sisma Behemoth and a generic fatty like Sprinting Warbrute. Accordingly, I don’t pick the 5/5 very highly.
Finally, a quick word on Sarkhan: he’s sweet, but this is a two-color format. There is not a lot of mana-fixing around anymore, so committing to one particular brood with your first pick is not ideal. I’ll still pick him up if there’s no premier uncommon in the pack, but I would be looking to go GR, GU, or UR with a small splash for Sarkhan—not a three-color deck with a horrendous mana base.
The Best Commons and Good Uncommons
Like Huey, we had Flatten as the best common. In contrast to Pantheon’s list, we have white cards ranked relatively low, and this is due to color preference—we didn’t like white, so we preferred a slightly weaker card in another color first-pick-first-pack.
Cards that I had higher or much higher than Huey include:
- Sarkhan’s Rage – I prefer to draft aggressive decks in which the Lava Axe effect can close out games, and the creature removal mode means that this card is never dead.
- Descent of the Dragons – I had a good experience with this in a draft where I combined Descent of the Dragons with Dragon Fodder and excess 2-drops for a sweet Broodmate Dragon impression. I don’t think it takes a lot of work to abuse this card.
- Youthful Scholar – Blue/black decks are often looking for good exploit fodder, and this is the best you can get. Even without exploit, you can block a 2/2 to net a 3-for-1 trade while stabilizing the board.
- Ojutai Interceptor, Aerie Bowmasters, Atarka Efreet, Stormcrag Elemental, Aven Sunstriker, Misthoof Kirin, Belltoll Dragon, Stormwing Dragon, and Acid-Spewer Dragon – We apparently liked the megamorph creatures more than Huey. As with the regular morphs from Khans of Tarkir, they’re fine on turn three, decent when played face-up, and become huge when you have mana to spare. They are the foundation of a good creature base that covers both the early and late game, and I don’t mind picking them early.
- Stampeding Elk Herd – A mid-sized creature that is bigger than most creatures of its cost while discouraging chump-blocking. Green always has plenty of big creatures, but this is among the best.
- Scaleguard Sentinels – In a deck with 2+ Dragons and 10+ Forests, you’ll have a 3/4 on turn two often enough.
- Profaner of the Dead – It’s situational and not for every deck, but in a tempo deck, it turns a spare Sidisi’s Faithful into a free Sea God’s Revenge, which can easily swing games. And hey, at worst it’s a Hill Giant, which is unspectacular but playable.
I would be rather unhappy to first-pick any of these cards, but most of them frequently make my decks.
Cards in this category that I have notably lower than Huey:
- Dragonloft Idol – I like to draft colorless cards early.
- Gleam of Authority – Good if the creature lives, but Auras set you up for unfavorable trades against spot removal spells.
- Illusory Gains – An awesome Control Magic at times, but particularly terrible against dash.
- Risen Executioner – Good when you’re ahead, but being unable to block means that it won’t help you claw back from behind.
- Assault Formation – Great in black/green decks that already care about toughness due to Grim Contest, but terrible in your Dromoka Warrior deck.
- Enduring Victory – A fine effect for 5 mana, but you can’t run too many 5+ cost cards in your deck, and it’s easy to play around.
- Narset Transcendent – Tough to get the requisite number of noncreature spells to benefit from it, and most of the white and blue spells already have rebound.
- Corpseweft – Powerful in the late game, but the Zombies coming into play tapped and the anti-synergy with Gurmag Angler make it a bit too awkward at times.
- Dragon Hunter – Decent on turn one and sometimes relevant against a late-game Dragon, but 1-toughness creatures are a liability in this format with Shambling Goblin, Updraft Elemental, Sultai Emissary, Palace Familiar, and so on.
- Encase in Ice – It’s a great sideboard cards against both of the colors, but I’m only really happy to board it in against a red/green deck, which I’ll roughly face once every 10 matches. Against, say, a black/red deck, the opponent may only have 5-6 red creatures, and I may be stuck with a dead card in hand if I board in Encase in Ice. I might still board it in, but it won’t be a huge card quality increase. When it comes to sideboard cards, I’d be almost as happy with an Ancient Carp that can be safely boarded in against any Sabertooth Outrider deck, no matter the second color. I feel similarly lukewarm about Self-Inflicted Wound and the other color hosers.
An overarching theme is that these cards are powerful, yet situational and/or mana-intensive. This may hint at a difference in draft philosophies or preferences: I prefer to take good all-round creatures because I want to guarantee a fine deck with a good curve, whereas Huey might speculate with a situational rare. Both approaches can work if you know what you’re doing. It’s also possible that my card evaluations are colored too much by my negative experiences in drafts where they didn’t make the deck or didn’t work out during the games. Perhaps it’s a little bit of everything.
Cards that I have notably higher than Huey:
- Aven Tactician – I view this creature as similar to a 3/4 flyer for 5 mana, which is fine for a 5-drop.
- Artful Maneuver – In an aggressive white deck, I love this pump spell. It ensures you are ahead in combat for two consecutive turns while triggering prowess.
- Salt Road Ambushers – Either a Hill Giant with upside or a smaller version of Pine Walker, and I’m fine with both.
- Segmented Krotiq – It’s like a Woolly Loxodon with the morph and converted mana costs switched, which I feel is an improvement because I generally try to play morphs face-up if possible to curve out.
- Butcher’s Glee – Great pump spell that allows you to win a damage race.
- Colossodon Yearling – Nothing too special, but it’s a well-sized body that blocks morphs and helps build towards formidable.
- Mirror Mockery – A flexible card that can be good on both your own exploit creature and your opponent’s Sprinting Warbrute.
These are mostly filler cards. Sometimes I cut them and sometimes they fit the deck or curve. Speaking of curve: I don’t mind picking Elusive Spellfist or Herald of Dromoka relatively early because I really want to have several 2-drops in this format. The format is aggressive and the games can be punishing if you are late to the board.
Like the previous category, I didn’t spend a lot of time painstakingly rating every single card because I’m never going to take them first pick, so the ranking is approximate at best. The cards in this category are mostly sideboard material, although I’m sure LSV will continue to try and break Skywise Teachings. I played Servant of the Scale once in a green-white deck with plenty of bolster and +1/+1 counter synergies and once had Magmatic Chasm in a creature-heavy deck that lacked ways to break through, so there are uses for everything, but I still don’t value these cards high in general.
Color Combination Synergies
In the end, this is just a list for the first-pick-first-pack decision. Once you settle in a certain archetype, things can change wildly, and that’s not even taking into curve considerations and the like. So let me go over which cards stand out in the different color combinations.
GW – I want to draft this aggressively while favoring creatures that work well with bolster, such as Conifer Strider, Champion of Arashin, and Lightwalker. The thing I want to do most in this color combination is to draft two Enduring Scalelords, put a +1/+1 counter somewhere, and end up with two 10,000/10,000 fliers. Indeed, they trigger off of each other for the ultimate overkill.
UW – In this color combination, I like to focus on flyers and high-toughness blockers. I particularly like Elusive Spellfist and Student of Ojutai alongside Center Soul and Ojutai’s Breath in this archetype. Rebound ensures that your creatures trigger multiple times, allowing you to get ahead in the damage race.
BU – This is the archetype with the most potential power, although you need to take exploit fodder pretty high. Shambling Goblin is a good example, but make sure not to block an attacking 4/4 with Shambling Goblin and a 2/2 because then your opponent’s creature can choose to deal all 4 damage to your 2/2 and live. Another thing to keep in mind with blue/black decks is to prioritize win conditions. You can sift through your deck quickly by sacrificing Jeskai Sage to Vulturous Aven, but you need a bomb rare or big flyer to close out a game.
RB – A dash deck rarely comes together, as there are simply not enough dash creatures around to abuse Ambuscade Shaman and Warbringer. Instead, I’ll try to draft a fine all-round deck with a good curve of creatures and a lot of removal spells. You can also assemble some combos like Atarka Efreet plus Coat with Venom or Hooded Assassin, which allows you to ping down any creature of your choosing.
RG – Ferocious is the name of the game, so you want to establish board presence and prefer not to trade creatures early on. I like cards like Glade Watcher and Colossodon Yearling in the deck for that reason. Tail Slash, Hardened Berserker, and Dragon-Scarred Bear are also better than usual, whereas you don’t have to prioritize 4+ drops because there are plenty of them in this color combination.
Enemy-color combinations – Generally, you prefer to be in an allied color combination because it allows you to benefit from the gold cards in Dragons of Tarkir. But sometimes enemy colors are open, and the draft forces you in that direction. White/black is the best, mainly because Harsh Sustenance is the best gold card in Fate Reforged. As for the others: blue/red can abuse Dragon Fodder with exploit creatures, blue/green is a tempo deck that can win damage races with Taigam’s Strike and Ojutai’s Breath, and red/white is an aggressive deck whose payoff is War Flare. I would stay away from black/green if possible, as that color combination never came together in our practice drafts.
I hope this was useful to you, and I’ll be back next week with a look at a sweet Standard brew!
[Editor’s Note: This article originally listed Guardian Shield-Bearer twice.]